SEO for YouTube

18 Mar

Youtube marketing ecosystem

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SEO (search engine optimization) is the strategy involved try to get your video (in this case) appear as one of the top options in search results. There are several ways that you can optimize your page and videos to increase the likelihood of appearing in search results.

Video headlines: While YouTube gives you up to 70 characters for your title, stick to 60 that people can see the whole thing.

Video descriptions: Research keywords to get a better idea of what your target audience might be searching for. Viewers will only see the first 100 characters before having to click the read more button, so put your CTAs earlier in the text.

YouTube’s got a whole tutorial on writing helpful video descriptions. Here’s a summary of the most important points:

  • 5000 characters max (but you probably don’t need this many)
  • Front-load important keywords and use them in the title and description
  • Add a “contents page” of timestamps so viewers can find relevant points easily
  • Add up to 15 hashtags (yes YouTube uses hashtags and makes your video more searchable).

Video tag In addition to keywords, you need to add tags to your videos – research tags to find out which ones perform best. 

Video transcript: Including a video transcript is a great way to make your video more scrapable by search bots. It’s also good for viewers: if they need to check spelling of a word or can’t increase the volume to hear the video, they can still access the content.

Cards and Endscreens: Incorporate cards and end screens in your videos to poll viewers, link to external sites, or direct people to other videos.

Watch time: Your total video watch time (how many minutes/hours/etc. people watched of your videos) also counts towards your ranking. The bigger the watch time, the better!

SRT Files (Subtitles and closed Captions): Not only are these useful for viewers, its also another place for keywords and to help YouTube determine the content of the video. To add subtitles or closed captions, head to your video manager then click on “Video Manager” > “Videos.” Find the video to which you want to add subtitles or closed captioning and click the drop-down arrow next to “Edit” > “Subtitles/CC.” Then choose how you’d like to add subtitles or closed captioning.

Video Length:  There are claims that research shows that videos under 5 minutes perform best and that videos under 2 minutes have the best levels of engagement. With that said,others like this article in Search Engine Land claim that YouTube really favors longer videos, because they want to keep people on the site, and it allows more chances for ads. The more important metric to watch for is your watch time

Thumbnail Image: The thumbnail image will be visible whenever your video is indexed, so this should be compelling and relevant. 


Imagery is strong and your thumbnail is one of the bug factors in whether someone clicks play on YOUR video. You don’t want your thumbnail to look unprofessional or boring. Best practices say to go with a custom thumbnail. 

Best Practices for your custom thumbnail:

  1. Use standard video sizes – 1280×720 or 1920×1080. Smaller sizes can look blurry.
  2. Use only high-quality images.
  3. Include the video title on your thumbnail as it helps attract more views.
  4. Image formats should be JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP, or TIF.
  5. Use the 16:9 aspect ratio that works best for YouTube players.
  6. Keep a consistent look and adhere this style to all your thumbnails.
  7. Use emotion. Include excited faces and focus on the eyes.

The First 48 Hours

YouTube strongly considers views, and engagement. The way YouTube’s algorithm works, you want everything about your video to be optimized and ready when you publish. When YouTube can’t get a clear picture on what your video is about or you aren’t getting videos, YouTube won’t suggest your video and it will be hard to recover. Along with following all of the best SEO practices, be ready to push your video out on your social media, website, perhaps even your email list. You want to get as many people watching it as possible, as soon as possible. Along with getting your video seen, you want people finishing it of course, lliking, commenting, and subscribing to you after watching. This all tells YouTube its a video that people are enjoying or answered their question, and their algorithm will reflect that, .


For SEO tools you should try out TubeBuddy as it has a keyword research tool, thumbnail generator, analytics to track your keyword rank, the ability to A/B test your videos, the ability to check other popular videos and copy their tags and numerous other features.

Brand your channel by using Bannersnack to create online banner covers for your YouTube channel.

Shannon Murphy

Shannon was born in Upstate NY and received her B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience form Northeastern University. She has worked as a digital marketing freelancer for over 3 years for several different agencies and freelancing before starting her own small start-up agency, Murphy Strategic Marketing.

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