No-Tool YouTube Video Optimization

YouTube has over 2.3 billion regular users performing around 3 billion searches per month, making it a prized resource for creators, organizations, and businesses to show up for their communities with creative entertainment, useful information, and relevant products. In fact, 62% of businesses hold accounts on YouTube for posting video content. That number is not likely to slow its pace anytime soon — so how do organizations compete for viewers’ attention with so many businesses on the platform?

To meet the needs of its content creators, YouTube has provided its own online learning source, the Creator Academy. The learning platform houses a multitude of courses demonstrating how users can create and optimize videos for their specific audiences. To take full advantage of their expertise and resources, we recommend starting with their Get Discovered course.

In this post, we’ll focus on optimizing your existing videos and break down how to use Google and YouTube as your sole sources for effective titles, descriptions, hashtags, tags, and chapters.

YouTube Keyword Research

The first consideration you will need to make when optimizing your video is: what are people searching for to find your content? By that, we mean what are the keywords your audience is typing into YouTube and Google that surface your videos and videos like yours in search results. If you have an existing channel with a decent amount of view engagement, you can start by looking at Traffic Sources in your YouTube Analytics. However, if you only have a few videos or don’t get many views on the videos you do have, there are two very simple ways to find relevant terms quickly without costly or time-consuming keyword tools.

Internal YouTube Search Suggestions

The first and most obvious way to find terms is by searching topics relevant to your content into the YouTube search bar. When you input a particular topic or question, you will see a list of suggested searches show up (see above). These suggestions can be somewhat tailored to the user searching them, but are also influenced by what users across YouTube are searching. Pay close attention to what those searches are and write down ones that seem relevant to your content and industry. Once you have those keywords and phrases, enter those into YouTube to see what kinds of videos come up. Think about whether these videos are similar to yours and — most importantly — do they provide what the viewer is looking for, and do they provide it well?

Videos in Google SERPs

Some users will be searching on YouTube right out of the gate; however, many users may select a link to a YouTube video from the Google SERPs, so it’s important you consider what Google is showing relative to the query and to your video content. Take note of suggested search terms, People Also Ask, and Related Searches at the bottom of the page that are relevant to your video content.

Once you have a sense of the terms people are searching for that are relevant to your videos, you can then use them to inform how you edit your video titles, descriptions, and other video information in the YouTube Video Editor.

YouTube Video Titles & Descriptions

YouTube video titles should be simple and indicate what your video is about using your keywords. YouTube recommends that descriptions be 1-2 paragraphs in length; however, the first 1-3 lines are by far the most important, as that portion is visible to users when they view your video. The remainder of the description will be beneath “Show More.” This is even more important if you are demonstrating relevant products, as you may want to present the product links above the “Show More.”

When deciding on your titles and descriptions, only use terms that are relevant to the content of your video. Using terms that are not relevant not only provides a poor user experience that can tarnish your channel’s reputation, but it can also get you in hot water with YouTube’s Community Guidelines.

YouTube Video Tags & Hashtags

YouTube provides content creators with the option to include video tags and hashtags. Video tags, which are added into the Tags field and are not user-facing, provide YouTube more context around what your video is about. These are most similar to your keywords, the quantity of which is only limited by the number of characters at 400.

Hashtags, on the other hand, are added directly into your video descriptions to help your audience find your videos when searching with a specific hashtag. Note that YouTube ignores all hashtags on a video if there are more than 15, so only use 15 hashtags at most! To understand which hashtags will be most relevant to your video, enter them into the YouTube search bar using broad variations of your keywords. Think of them more like categories as opposed to search queries. For example, if your video is about how to train your dragon in Minecraft, your hashtags may be #gaming #minecraft and #minecraftdragons. When it comes to narrowing down your hashtags, look at any minor variations such as the number of videos that show up for #minecraftdragon (around 300) versus the plural #minecraftdragons (over 800). The latter puts you in front of a larger audience, but the former may give you a better opportunity to win a view if your video has a hard time competing in the larger pool.

Custom YouTube Chapters

At the end of 2020, YouTube rolled out video chapters to allow creators to add key moment markers (visible in SERPs) for their content. These chapters allow viewers to see the main moments in videos and easily skip ahead or return to certain parts of the video. YouTube recently made this an automatic feature on all eligible videos through the use of machine learning. Automated chapters are available to all channels; however, creators have the ability to turn off the automated system and also override the automatic chapters. As videos with chapters are eligible to as rich results on Google SERPs, one reason to consider customizing your chapters is optimizing them with keywords. This will allow you to further target more topics in the titles of your chapters. This is not only great for your existing videos but can help you plan out the flow of future videos in your channel. For instance, if you search “YouTube SEO,” you could then plan out and name each chapter after Related Searches or People Also Ask with questions like:

  • Is YouTube good for SEO?
  • How do I increase my SEO ranking on YouTube?
  • Why is YouTube SEO necessary?

Once you know what you want your chapter titles to be, adding them to your video is surprisingly straightforward and fairly easy to implement. To add your markers, impose links of the corresponding moments in your video over timestamps with descriptive text using this format:

00:XX – Text

00:XX – Text

Add these directly into the description of your video and it will look something like this:

Note that the text is not highlighted in blue when adding into the description, so, be sure to check your video after saving your changes to ensure the links work.

YouTube SEO Tools

There are a number of free and paid YouTube Optimization tools available to help your videos reach and keep the attention of your audience. Resources such as Keywords Everywhere, vidIQ, and TubeBuddy can help you with various aspects of your YouTube channel; however, it’s important to understand how users interact with YouTube naturally and organically. Oftentimes, the best insight you’ll have on user interaction is to be a user yourself and get familiar with the content platform. This first-hand knowledge and experience will help prevent inaccurate or forced relevance to your audience when optimizing your content. Although tools can help you in a lot of ways, they aren’t always the first step you should take in optimizing your content.

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