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SEO Your YouTube Videos in 10 Steps

This guest post is by Deepak of VideoMarketing.net.

In this article we are going to have a look at the various strategies and tactics that will help you rank your YouTube videos inside the YouTube video search engine.

YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, according to Alexa.com. A lot of people are looking for information online in the form of videos and they will come to YouTube directly to search for “infomovies.”

Just like infographics, infomovies are articles in the form of a video. An infomovie can be defined as the audio visual representation of information (while an infographic is a visual representation of information). Infomovies usually include slides accompanied by text and images, and a voiceover too.

Right now there is not as much competition for video rankings in YouTube as there is for article rankings in Google’s index, but as more and more people convert their articles to infomovies, it will become harder to rank your videos in the first page of YouTube search results.

And that brings us to the purpose of this article: the process for optimizing your YouTube videos for search.

1. Use a suitable video filename

The name of your video file should reflect the topic of the video itself.

So, if you’re uploading an infomovie about dog training, your video’s file name should be something like “dog-training.avi.”

This sounds obvious, but many people upload video files with names such as “untitled.mov” or “MOV123.MP4.” Although this file name is not visible to the YouTube user, YouTube will give search preference to video files whose names include topic keywords.

2. Put your keywords first

Put your main keyword first in the video’s title, description, and tags. Your brand name or website’s name can be included at the end of the title, but put your topic keywords up front.

The title should, of course, be compelling and entice users to click on it. The rules of copywriting which you apply to blog titles and sales pages also apply to YouTube video titles. If you have an effective title, you will have a better clickthrough rate, and the YouTube search algorithm will take that into account in ranking your video.

Some videos that you upload will not get a lot of viewers in the beginning, but will gain traction and traffic in the long term—so there are long-tail possibilities with YouTube search!

3. Include keywords in your video voiceover

When you’re creating an infomovie, you’ll likely include a script from which the video’s voiceover was made.

This script is nothing but an article with small modifications to make is suitable as a voiceover for a video. And, just like a search-optmized text article, your video script should include the main keywords for your topic.

Here’s an example of a video with a voiceover.

Google has developed speech-to-text conversion technology which will try to convert your infomovie’s voiceover into captions—you can see the captioning in the video above by clicking the “CC” button at the video’s bottom-right corner.

Voice conversion

“CC” Stands for closed captions. Although YouTube cannot always transcribe your voiceover accurately, the technology is good enough to get an idea of the keywords you’ve used in the voiceover. And Google is improving it every day.

Accessing video captioning

This technology was originally developed for the free-411 service—a technology whereby users can call 800-GOOG-411 to get free, automated directory assistance. But Google has further developed this system to understand what videos mean and to improve video search technology, as Google’s Marissa Mayer explained back in 2007:

Whether or not free-411 is a profitable business unto itself is yet to be seen. The reason we really did it is because we need to build a great speech-to-text model that we can use for all kinds of different things, including video search.

Google—through YouTube, which it owns—is constantly trying to deliver the most relevant results for customers and users. This is particularly useful for those of us who create infomovies packed with content.

If we include keywords in our voiceover scripts, Google’s voice-to-tect technology will pick them up and use them, along with the other factors mentioned here, to rank your video in the youTube search results.

4. Upload a transcript file for video captioning

YouTube also gives us the option to upload transcript files for our videos. It has been confirmed through experiments that YouTube indexes the captions file of a YouTube video, and uses this information to help determine the video’s keyword relevancy.

In the experiment, a unique text string was included in the captions file. After a day a search for that string in Google returned that video. It couldn’t have been possible unless Google indexed the text in the captions file that was uploaded.

Uploading your own caption transcript is a better option than letting YouTube transcribe the audio itself, as you get total control over what appears in your video captions.

The original caption uploading feature required us to include the timing for each sentence or line in the video. This was a tedious process. It would take hours to create a captions or subtitle file if you included the start and stop timing for every single line.

But recently YouTube has refined its speech-to-text technology so that if you simply upload the transcript file without timings, it will automatically set the timings. This feature is still in beta testing, but I have never seen it make a mistake.

Google describes the difference between captions and transcripts like this:

A caption file contains both the text and information about when each line of text should be displayed.

A transcript file, on the other hand, just contains the text of what was said in the video. If the video’s in English, YouTube can use speech processing algorithms to determine when the words in a transcript should be displayed.

To upload a transcript file, click on Edit for the video in your YouTube video manager. Click on the Captions tab. Under the Add New Captions or Transcript header, select Transcript File as the Type, and upload your script file—the article from which we created the audio file for the infomovie.

Within a minute, YouTube will do its magic. You can see it work by watching your video. Click the CC button on the video and YouTube will display the words in exact sync with the audio. And your keyword-rich transcript file will be used by the YouTube search engine to rank your video appropriately in user searches for those terms.

5. Build an authoritative YouTube channel

If you are uploading your video to a brand new channel, your videos may not have a good ranking to start with. However if you have an established channel with lots of videos and subscribers, your videos will rank more highly in the search results as competition grows.

So try to create a channel for each niche you’re serving through YouTube.

6. Upload videos regularly

If you upload a bunch of videos to a channel and never touch it for years, then those videos may not have as much SEO power as the videos in the channel which are updated regularly.

This is just like blogging—if a blog is not updated for a long time then it will lose its rankings in Google. Freshness is seen to indicate relevance, at least to some degree. So keep your channel fresh with recently uploaded videos.

7. Respond to comments on your videos

YouTube tells us to “Respond to comments in the first few hours after you publish a video. These first viewers are your core audience and building comments early helps increase the video’s ranking in search.”

8. Create and use playlists

YouTube has a feature called Playlists that allows users to group videos spread across YouTube into a single list or collection. If your video is added to a Playlist, it can increase the SEO power of your video. We can see Playlists as social signals about videos that are popular or valuable to YouTube users, and well all know that Google’s working hard to integrate social signals into its search algorithms.

The playlist

9. Encourage other social signals

In a similar vein, your video’s search rank will benefit the more comments, favorites, likes, and video responses it receives. To attract these social signals, you’ll need to create a high-quality video and ask people to take those actions on it.

However, be careful not to incentivize users to like or comment on your video. For example, if you offer to give away a random prize for the commenters on your video, your channel may be terminated. YouTube does not like playing games with their algorithm and this kind of activity is against their terms and conditions.

10. Encourage off-site backlinks to your videos

Just like any web page, backlinks from other sites will help your videos to rank better in YouTube search.

Submit your video URL to social bookmarking sites, blog about it, and share it on your Twitter and Facebook profiles. The more backlinks you can get for your videos, the better.

Are you optimizing your videos for search?

With these ten tips, you’ll be on your way to much better YouTube search rankings for your videos. Have you created an infomovie yet? And are you using any of these techniques on your videos? Let us know how your videos are ranking in the comments.

Deepak blogs about video marketing for bloggers at VideoMarketing.net. He has 5 years of experience in using web videos to drive traffic. You can grab his 14 day free video training program on video marketing from this page.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. Hey Deepak,

    This is a great article. One question I did have is how much weight do the tags carry? I’ve heard several times before that YouTube uses tags to suggest similar videos. I’ve heard of people using similar tags to very popular videos and being able to get some traffic that way. What is your take on this? Thanks!

    Brock Taylor

    • Earlier when people used similar tags to very popular videos, it worked, but now the algorithm is more sophisticated and it doesn’t happen that easy. But still it makes sense to include related tags from other videos as long as it is not misleading and deceiving.

  2. Great post. We’ve been using this strategy for client’s videos for several years, and it works amazingly! One other tip is to include the URL of the page you want a visitor to go to after viewing the video, but make sure it’s place above the content, and in with the ‘http://’ prefix, not just ‘www.’ That way the link will actually embed and can be clicked on.

  3. Videos are stating to be more and more accepted and viewed as a legible way of communication.

    All of these paragraphs have taught me to take advantage of this wonderful way of communication. Try to add as many videos as you can and try to optimize them with a good title, like you have mentioned here. Excellent article.

  4. Hi,

    Firstly thanks for great tutorial.

    However, I am new here (for video marketing).
    I’ve create and upload the video to YouTube, adding related keyword for my video, short description included synonym for that keyword. It’s my first video until now ( It’s about 2 weeks ago). What I wonder is, it looks like my video was not indexed by search engines, even by typing the exact title I used.

    Another thing I do not know the reason is, that I found a lot of irrelevant video appears as a “video suggestions” in the right side. I think I have used the relevant tag.

    I am very grateful for your tutorial above, some I have not done (regularly video, build channel). And very grateful if aid sent for this comment. ;-)

  5. Hi Deepak, I’m optimizing my videos, but I’m not very good to get well rank. Thanks for the informative post.

  6. While SEO does help, i believe there is something else that is working on YouTube. I have a instrumental channel and I have some instrumental video. My first video was a common thing and I was a kid that time. I didn’t use any tag or anything but I have 1 million views on it.

  7. This post was incredibly insightful. I knew of the importance of backlinks to your video, but I don’t think I’ve been paying attention to the filename. The program I use for making videos names the files on its own. I think I’ll have to pay more attention to that. Thank you.

  8. Thanks guys,
    this is very timely since I’m just getting to grips with YouTube as a marketing and traffic channel.

  9. Great insight. It take video SEO to a whole new level. Always love the content here.

  10. Youtube traffic is vastly underrated. Great tips!

  11. what about video sitemaps? I thought those were fairly important to video seo especially if you are embedding the video on a website?

    • Video sitemaps are not really going to help you if your videos ‘live’ on YouTube and are simply embedded on your site. If you were to Host your own (not use YouTube to do the hosting) then that is a different story!

  12. Hi Deepak,

    Tremendous post! I am going to re-digest now.

    Some real gems within, including placing keywords first. I did this a while back from moved away from the strategy for some reason. Lesson learned.

    The more you help people with videos and get your SEO down the more you build your brand. Simple. Teach. Instruct. Target with these little goodies. Prosper.

    Avoid rushing the video creation process. I received plenty of practice with over 800 videos created but only recently paid strict attention to detail. Create and fine tune your SEO to drive leads to your site.

    Thanks Deepak!


  13. Wow, perfect timing Deepak. I just uploaded my first video to YouTube today. I didn’t know you could upload transcript files, which will be important for me because I added my own background music track, and that will probably interfere with automatic transcription. Now I’m really glad I wrote a script ahead of time. Thanks for the great reference material.

  14. This was a fantastic article! I never did think about the file name. I, too, have been guilty of uploading videos with 123mov.mp4 or something similar. I’m going to take all these tips to heart for the next video review I post. Thanks so much!

  15. Nice, I wouldn’t of thought that the file and would matter that much. Now I know differently. Thanks

  16. I’ve been looking for the right way to optimize YouTube videos and thanks for having this kind of post. Having videos on YouTube can also increase blog traffic by means of proper video marketing.

  17. Great advice… you really got me thinking more about video optimization than I ever have. I think mainly because when I’ve been approached with a video optimization tasks it’s been with fairly non-competitive keyword phrases. Typically in this case they just need to use the keywords in the title and description of the video and they’ll get some decent views. Around step 5 you got me thinking about video optimization in more detail. It makes perfect sense for Google to favor regularly updated channels, just how they like regularly updated websites.

    As far as responding to comments I couldn’t agree more. Over this past year I’ve been thinking about engagement more and more because I think Google is thinking about this more and more and when you think about it what better way to measure the importance of something than how often it’s talked about.

  18. Very good tips, thanks..

  19. Thank you SO much for this valuable post. I’ve been thinking of creating info-movies but wasn’t at all sure how to market them effectively for SEO. Now I have a solid place to start!

  20. Good Post here Deepak… of course you can never cover all the angles in a single post can you?
    I would encourage people to also use YouTube Annotations. Annotations can encourage viewers to watch another video you have uploaded. Annotations can be clickable and they can help viewers jump from one of your videos to another with a click of the mouse!
    YouTube ranks us higher if our videos get more ‘engagement’ and using Annotations as a way to keep people engaged with our stuff is very helpful, IMO.

  21. Some excellent tips, I never knew adding videos to a playlist was good for SEO. Guess what I will be doing tomorrow :-)

    • Same here! I never knew that too :D This article really helped me learn about Search Engine Optimizing my website!

  22. Great tips! Now I’m going to use all these tips to optimize my Youtube Videos. Playlists, here I come!

  23. Thanks for the post. I was reading that some people submit their youtube channel to different rss readers & directories. Is this really necessary since it is Youtube we are talking about? I use several different forums & sites to post my videos – reddit – my own site, but I didn’t know if submitting the channel to RSS readers was 1) Okay under tos 2) made any difference.

  24. Right now, I’m using this article to SEO a YouTube video. Hopefully, this will be a reference I’ll be going back to again and again.

  25. Undeniably imagine that that you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be at the internet the easiest
    thing to take into accout of. I say to you, I definitely get irked at the same
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    don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the entire thing with no need side-effects , other people could take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thank you

  26. Thanks for the post – I’ll definitely have a look at it next time I publish a video

  27. Thanks for your informative post. Adding videos to a playlist to optimize my Youtube Videos was new to me, but it does make sense. Got to get my playlist together now ;)

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