YouTube SEO Ranking Factors: Tactics to Drive More Traffic to Your Videos

Article by: Matt Polsky

YouTube can be a great addition to just about any marketing strategy, providing the ability to offer product demonstrations, intractable content and even add a softer or fun side to less attractive niches. And embedding those videos on a site can get people to stay on pages longer, reduce bounce rates and even provide more reason to link or share a page.

The main problem with YouTube as a traffic source is that the space is overcrowded. According to YouTube’s press stats, 100 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute. So how do you get your content to shine above the 144,000 hours of content uploaded each day?

YouTube SEO Ranking Factors

Similar to web search, there are hundreds of factors that go into YouTube’s search engine. With this being the case, I’ve outlined what I see as the major pillars, but will only dig into the most important signals within those pillars to get your content in front of more viewers.

Channel Authority

Like regular search results and your domain, your channel needs to have some authority behind it if you want your videos to rank well. With channel authority, trust signals such as channel age, number of channel views, number of video views, number of subscribers, frequency of new videos, playlists within the channel, external links, social shares and channel theme (consistency of topical content) are all taken into consideration.

Keyword Relevance

Keyword relevancy is extremely important for YouTube, but don’t think keyword stuffing is going to work. Like with any site, there needs to be continuity across the board, including the video file name, video title, video description (and external links within), playlist names, keywords, annotations, transcription and keywords in comments.

User Interaction

This could almost be combined with channel authority, since these are additional trust metrics. YouTube takes into account a user’s reaction to your channel and video content, which includes number of comments, sentiment of comments, number of thumbs up, number of thumbs down, favorites and playlist additions.

Building Channel Authority

You may be thinking that building views and subscribers sounds difficult – especially with new channels, but it’s really not that hard. Online communities like Google+ communities, LinkedIn Groups, Yahoo! Answers and Quora provide awesome opportunities to funnel traffic through insightful comments followed by a relevant YouTube video.

This isn’t a tactic where you drop tons of links in a bunch of irrelevant Q&A’s, no community likes that. However, your goal is to find questions that are in your wheelhouse and where a sweet YouTube video could be the answer to the question.

Just find communities relevant to your niche and provide value through a thorough, unique comment with more information found in the link to your video. For example, an SEO guy with a video explaining how to implement could run through a digital marketing group in LinkedIn and when the question pops up, be the guy to answer it.

In short, get your videos out there. Be liberal in spreading the content on these groups, just no to the point of a negative user experience or spam.

Add Relevancy with Keywords

Continuity is fairly important when establishing what your channel is about. This means your video file should related to your video title, which should relate to your keyword tags, which should relate to the video description, which should relate to your playlists, which should relate to your channel.

If you haven’t already, the first thing you can do to start optimizing for keyword relevancy is to organize your videos into playlists. Keyword-rich playlists give YouTube a deeper understanding of what each piece of content relates to (remember continuity).

Next, look at the videos you already have and optimize the titles, descriptions, keyword tags and annotations. Tags and annotations aren’t as important, but be sure they are relevant to what you would like to rank for.

As for titles and descriptions, these are very important and you’ll want to make sure these reflect your target keyword. Like in web search, keywords in titles should be toward the front and you’ll want to keep the length ranking from five to seven words, or around 70 characters. As for descriptions, these are heavily used when determining what a video is about. YouTube can’t listen, per-say, so they rely heavily on your text description.

Video descriptions reach up to 1,000 characters and it’s smart to use as much of that space as possible, or at least 250 words of it – as long as it is unique and relevant. Keep in mind, Google understands keyword stuffing, and keyword stuffing a YouTube video isn’t going to get it to rank, it’s just going to hurt your entire channel. In addition to your description length, try to include the following:

  • Include your target keyword in the first 20 to 25 words. Your description gets cut off at around 22 words, so it is best to get those keywords upfront to show importance.
  • Link out from your description to relevant pages. Linking toward the top increases the CTR of the link, so if your goal is traffic to your website, it’s best to place the link there.
  • Use LSI terms within your description.

For future videos, do the above, but also be sure to have file names that correspond with the keywords you are shooting for. On that note, I wouldn’t recommend going back and removing any previous videos, you will lose any history and signals associated with it.

Create User Interaction

YouTube places a heavy emphasis on user-interaction and popularity within YouTube. This means you need to harvest subscribers, likes to your videos, thumbs ups on your videos and favorites.

The easiest way to beef up these metrics is to simply ask. You can use in-video annotations, as well as a call-to-action at the end of videos, asking viewers to subscribe to your channel, share the video, like the video, comment on the video, etc.

As a final thought, if you want to add even more signals to your video, embed it. Embed it in your blog posts, FAQ pages or wherever it makes sense and provides a optimum user experience. Embeds lead to more views, shares and video actions, as well as some increased on-page benefits.

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