SEO for YouTube

YouTube is the second largest search engine, with over 1 billion unique users each month. How can you leverage YouTube for business growth? Let’s take a look and some important SEO tips for YouTube. 

Keys to Success

If you’re an SEO and know how to optimize websites to rank well in Google, then you’re in luck. Google has owned YouTube since 2006, and many of your Google optimization skills will be of great use while improving your YouTube SEO. YouTube’s algorithm is a little different, but nonetheless, many of the same tactics that work well in Google’s organic search apply to YouTube, as well.

Video Optimization Tips

In order for viewers to engage with your videos, they first have to find them. Making sure your titles, descriptions, and tags are optimized are incredibly important for ranking. Here’s a list of optimization tips for video.

Keyword Research

Keywords matter from both on‐page and “in‐video” perspectives. Matching search intent is just as critical for YouTube as it is for the Google search engine results pages. This is an area where you can use the same techniques for researching keywords for your blog posts as you do for your YouTube videos. 


The title may be the most important aspect of video optimization. While your titles can go up to 100 characters, make sure to remember that Google will cut them short at around 66 characters in the search engine results pages. We recommend not making your titles any longer than 66 characters so your full title is always in view.


Descriptions can get long on YouTube — thousands of words long. However, it’s important to note that your descriptions will get cut off in the YouTube search results after the first one or two sentences. Make sure these first sentences are compelling and have a clear call-to-action, enticing the click.

YouTube description example

The descriptions above get cut off in the YouTube search results

The more information you give about your video in the description area, the better. Similar to meta descriptions on web pages, the descriptions of your videos will show up in search results and can affect click-through rate, so make these descriptions engaging, with a call to action, while including your target keywords. 

Video Transcript

Take the effort to make sure your videos are transcribed. Google still needs text to understand what a video is about: since search engine bots cannot watch videos, Googlebot relies on accompanying text data to index them properly. YouTube will index your text and use transcripts as a way to understand what your videos are about. 

While YouTube will automatically transcribe videos, they don’t do it very well. If you have the time and resources, make sure to transcribe the videos yourself so you don’t have to deal with poor transcriptions. YouTube’s attempts at transcribing can be amusing, but more importantly, they’re insufficient for those viewers that are deaf and hard of hearing. 

(A conversation on grade 12 turned into a conversation on whole grains)

Thankfully, if you want to improve the automatic captions, you have some options. Use the captions editor to remove captions or to make changes to the text and time codes of your captions. Or, you can simply create your own transcripts and upload them to YouTube. 

Foreign Language Translations

Don’t stop at transcriptions. If you have an international audience, think about adding foreign language translations. Subtitles will not only help expand your audience, but search engines will index your translated caption files and include your video in search results in those languages. 


While meta keyword tags are a no-no for optimizing websites, using tags for YouTube is an absolute must. You’ll want to use at least 10 tags for each video, making sure they are relevant to the topic. Take note, tags on YouTube are plural and non-plural specific, so if your video is talking about hiking backpacks, make sure to include “hiking backpacks” and “hiking backpack”. 


Creating playlists can help boost user engagement by guiding viewers to watch the next video in a series, or watch videos with similar themes or subjects. Keeping viewers on your channel helps increase overall watch time.

User Engagement

Last, but not least, the key ingredient for effective video SEO is high engagement. If people aren’t clicking, viewing, commenting, or engaging with your videos, YouTube will see it as a waste of advertising dollars to keep your videos ranking high. Creating great content is important to the long term success of your YouTube videos. Make sure to pay attention to watch time, likes, and the number of subscribers to your channel. This will help you understand how users are engaging with your videos and allow you to create more popular content. 

YouTube has been around for a long time, and if you aren’t harnessing the power of the second largest search engine in the world, the time is now. Google loves videos, so if you want a piece of the action, don’t be afraid to start adding video to your content strategy.

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