YouTube Search Engine Optimization Techniques To Improve Your Videos

By Matt LeBeau     |     February 28, 2013

Although you’ve likely watched countless viral videos on YouTube, creating popular video content is often easier said than done. And, unless your videos feature a cute kitten or horse-dancing Korean pop star, it can be even more difficult. However, regardless of your content or industry, you can create more discoverable videos by knowing and practicing some essentials of YouTube marketing.

Digital agencies like Room 214 can assist with YouTube search optimization, or if you’ve got the time and are interested in learning something new, the third edition of YouTube’s Creator Playbook is a fantastic how-to guide. Here are some of our favorite tips and links from the playbook to help you along the way:

Optimize for Search

Word of mouth marketing is ultimately what creates viral videos, but before people can start talking about your videos they need the ability to find them. Surprisingly, many otherwise savvy digital marketers fall short when it comes to taking advantage video SEO techniques. Here’s a quick checklist for optimizing your YouTube videos:

  • ALWAYS create good titles, descriptions, and keyword tags for your YouTube videos, playlists, and channel. Search for similar videos on YouTube to see what keywords are being used in other titles and descriptions. Can you make yours better or more clear? You can use the YouTube Keyword Suggestion Tool for more in-depth recommendations. Also think about naming conventions that work better in YouTube vs. Google Search. For example, “Lady GaGa Look” is not a great title for YouTube. “Easy Lady GaGa Makeup Tutorial” is closer to what people will search for.
  • Update the rest of your video, playlist, and channel metadata: This includes things like creating closed caption transcripts for videos, adding social media links, and verifying your website to improve your SEO and enable annotation links directly to your website.  As mentioned above, YouTube’s Creator Playbook includes a host of other tactics for improving the exposure of your video cotent.
  • Connect your Google properties: The continued growth of Google+ presents an even greater opportunity for improved video SEO by linking all your Google services, including YouTube, Adwords, Google Places/Google Local, Hangouts, and Calendars. By verifying and combining Google services, you can produce even greater results.

Spread the Word

Although your videos may still be a few million views away from becoming “viral,” that doesn’t mean you can’t use word of mouth marketing to your advantage. While advertising is still the surest form of distribution, there are a number of ways you can drive more organic traffic to your YouTube channel.

  • Other Social Media: Post your videos wherever you can, starting with your own social media communities. In addition to posting your YouTube links to Facebook, Google+ (brand page, events, communities)  LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Foursquare, etc., you should also include links to your profile on these networks directly from your YouTube channel.
  • Industry Forums: Identifying and posting videos to the top website forums in your industry can significantly boost your organic views. In addition to standalone website forums, third-party LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities can provide additional, targeted audiences for your video content.
  • Blogger Outreach: Although this tactic can be much more time intensive reaching out directly to the key influencers in your industry can produce dramatic results. In some cases, all you need is one prominent website or blogger to comment on your video to significantly increase your organic traffic.
  • Advertising: While paid digital advertising will definitely cost you more than these other organic tactics, if you really want to drive traffic to your video content, a pay per click (PPC) campaign is the way to go. Google Adwords provides a ton of great self-help tutorials on video advertising and YouTube.

Look Good Doing It

While good SEO will help you endear you to the Google-bots, good design is crucial to engaging your human audience. Just last week, YouTube announced the roll-out of their new channel design called One Channel. While the initial design critiques seem to be mixed, the one undeniable improvement is that your channel artwork will now be responsive, adapting dynamically to every screen size, including mobile, tablet and desktop.

Although most channels do not yet have the ability to migrate to One Channel, YouTube says it’s coming soon and that you can prepare for the new design by following their channel art guidelines.

Engage With Your Audience

In October 2012, YouTube also updated their algorithm to more heavily reward “audience retention” (aka minutes spent watching your videos) in determining search result rankings. What does this mean for your YouTube marketing? It means you should focus on developing your audience just as much as you do developing your video content.

Obviously, having interesting, engaging content helps (and we don’t mean more Harlem Shake videos!). However, you can increase audience retention for nearly any type of video content by using simple best practice tips to keep your audience engaged.

  • Provide a Call-to-Action: Whether it’s watching another one of your videos or clicking off to your website or social media properties you should always provide your audience with something to do next. YouTube call-to-action overlays and annotations can be used very effectively for CTAs.
  • Maintain an Active Channel: As YouTube continues to prioritize channel growth and audience engagement over individual video success, it’s important to remember that YouTube is itself a social network. Just like with other networks you can like, comment, and share content with your followers/subscribers. During “downtime” while you’re working on producing your next video, you can still keep your subscribers engaged by posting, liking commenting on and sharing videos from other YouTube channels.
  • Know What’s Working: A quick tour of your YouTube Analytics can quickly and easily show you which of your videos is most engaging to your viewers. By exploring the sub-menus within Analytics, you can see which videos are the most viewed and have the highest audience retention and engagement. Once you understand how your videos are performing, you can then replicate successful content, as well as diagnose ways to improve the content you already have.

Marketing your brand through video can be an extremely powerful way to find and engage customers, especially if you know and practice these four essential strategies of YouTube marketing All you need to do now is develop your video content – determine who you want to reach, what you want to say, and how you want to say it. You know, the easy stuff.

And remember, it’s not always going to make sense to do all of this on your own. You can always contact a YouTube search engine optimization expert like Room 214 for some assistance.

About Matt LeBeau

Matt's a seasoned marketer with experience across of a variety of mediums, including digital, social, TV/film, radio, print, outdoor, and events. With a near-obsessive love of strategy and planning, Matt can usually be found pacing back and forth in one of our conference rooms with a dry erase marker in hand. A caffeine junkie and late night emailer (related?) Matt is committed to delivering great work combined with passion, integrity, and a sense of humor.


  • jasoncormier says:

    Great post Matt. It’s interesting to consider how YouTube is taking measures to clearly address how the platform can be a more effective means of marketing. I was talking to a marketing automation pro a couple days ago who was telling me “white papers are dead, and now its more about making effective videos.”

    With this in mind, it’s also about how those videos are optimized and discoverable. Thanks for all the info.

  • […] on YouTube, creating popular video content is often easier said than done. Read full story on: Image source: / […]

  • […] on the street is that YouTube is making changes to their brand channels. Check out this post to learn key optimization techniques to improve your […]

  • Matt LeBeau says:

    Thanks @jasoncormier:disqus – YouTube will be really interesting to watch, especially as they begin to roll-out their new “One Channel” design to more and more channel accounts. As we’ve already seen, responsive design across multiple devices continues to be a focus for marketers, and now that YouTube is on board too, I’m guessing that even more brands will continue to look to video as a way to connect with customers wherever they go.

  • S Milliman says:

    Nice blog! Adding measurement is a crucial part of how to understand what types of video content your viewers want to see in the future.

  • […] here’s a change of pace. How about an informative post on optimizing your YouTube channel from Capture the Conversation? Oh, rats…Google owns YouTube, too. We’re under the Google spell and we can’t escape! Read: […]

  • Steve Johnson says:

    Thanks for sharing such an interesting information.

  • widestate says:

    This is interesting and can be applied for business growth for any type.

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