YouTube SEO: 3 Steps to Rank YouTube Videos

There’s a really large search engine owned by Google that’s visited daily by billions of people – but it might not be the one you’re thinking of.

That’s right, I’m talking about YouTube!

YouTube SEO - Video snippet

When you create video content for YouTube and optimise your YouTube SEO, you’re tapping into a powerful video search engine that can direct a lot of traffic to your website. On top of that, there’s potential for additional exposure if your video appears in the video snippets feature displayed in the Google SERPs for certain search terms.

Video watch times are up, which means Google is prioritising video more than ever! Here’s how to optimise your YouTube videos for maximum SEO results.

Picking a Topic for Your YouTube Videos

First things first: what business are you in? Before you even think about recording a video, you should understand your business goals and how video content plays into that.

For example, if you own a gym, you may want to get more foot traffic to your gym locations, sell an online video course you’ve created, or build your personal brand. It’s always helpful to define what you’re trying to achieve first, because creating content that ranks won’t matter if the videos are reaching the wrong type of audience.

Types of Videos

In most industries, you can use video to inform and educate viewers. Yes, people still read long-form blog posts, but it’s often much easier to watch a video on the same topic.

This helps make your business more visible to potential customers online, while doubling as a way to build authority in your space. Here are a few types of videos you might try to make:

  • A how-to video
  • Product review
  • Industry news roundup
  • Expert interview
  • Product demonstration
  • Q&A

If you sit down and think about what your potential audience would want to know, you can probably come up with dozens of topics.

One great technique is to get a pad of Post-It notes, set a timer for five minutes, and just write down one idea per Post-It until the time is up – no filtering! Transfer those ideas to a project management tool, and you’ll have weeks’ worth of video ideas to draw upon.

The Buyer’s Journey

Don’t forget to align your topics to the different stages in the buyer’s journey. While the exact stages vary depending on who you ask, you generally want to create content for people in these stages:

  • Awareness. Prospects know they have a problem and they’re searching for a solution. This is perfect for “how-to” video content.
  • Consideration. Prospects know they want the type of solution your company offers. Product comparisons and reviews are great for this stage.
  • Decision. Prospects are trying to decide which company to purchase from. At this point, your content is geared toward making the viewer buy from your company.

Of course, not all of your work in these stages will be video content – but it’s invaluable to know which buyer’s stage a video is targeting. Ultimately, your videos should be designed to move people through your funnel toward a purchase.

Researching YouTube Video Keywords

In general, long-tail keywords will be less competitive and easier to rank for, even if total traffic for these terms is lower. YouTube is still a search engine, so more specific keywords can work better.

When it comes to thinking of keywords, one of the best techniques is just to start typing your topic ideas into the YouTube search bar. It’ll start giving you suggestions of search terms.

YouTube SEO autocomplete

These search predictions tell you what people already search for! Now, you just need to start checking different terms to see what kind of view counts and subscriber totals show up.

What you want is a sweet spot where there’s quite a few views (high search volume), but not necessarily from the most popular YouTube channels. Your goal is to see high demand for the content without saturation: high search volume, low competition.

It’s also a good idea to see if the top videos have any ads – this indicates that the term is valuable. You may not need all of these things to have a video that ranks, but when you’re taking the time to create a quality video, you want to put the odds on your side that you’ll get the most value possible from it!

Optimising YouTube Videos for SEO

Channel Branding

Before worrying about YouTube SEO for individual videos, think about your overall business image. If you’re trying to build a following, your channel branding will play a major role in your success with YouTube.

Why? Because it establishes your credibility and professionalism.

This means you’ll need to create a quality about page, logo, and cover photo for your channel. There’s also the overall branding to think about – will every video have a thumbnail image with your brand colours?

Throughout your channel, adding quality images and descriptive text will help drive subscribers.


For each video, you NEED a great title that will work for YouTube SEO – and still attract human viewers too! Titles are one of the most important SEO ranking factors on YouTube.

The best way to come up with good titles is to focus on a primary keyword that you’ve uncovered through your research, then include variations and some kind of clickbait phrase when possible.

This is a step you don’t want to neglect – your traffic depends on great video titles. If you’re trying to figure out what works, check out what your competitors’ titles are.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to change the file name of your video to optimise it for search. You can even include tags and a brief description within the video file itself.


Tags are keywords and phrases that help identify your video’s topic for YouTube’s algorithm. If you’e done your keyword research, you can use the primary and secondary keywords you found here.

It’s also possible to steal tags from your competitors? Plugins like TubeBuddy make it possible to see the tags of the top-ranked videos for your topic.


Don’t neglect the description! It’s true that the description is not much of a ranking factor for YouTube SEO, but it’s definitely a great place to engage with viewers. You should describe what the video is about for anyone who’s scrolling down the page, in roughly 200 – 300 words.

It’s also a great place to include links to other related YouTube videos you’ve done, as well as to your website and social channels.

Why YouTube SEO is Unique

In a lot of ways, YouTube is more user-friendly than Google. There’s no easy way to “subscribe” to blogs in Google’s search results, but users can effortlessly subscribe to content creators they enjoy on YouTube to boost stay in their orbit for future videos.

Aside from the fact that you’re dealing with video, the other key difference between Google and YouTube is the “suggested videos” feature.

If you’ve ever noticed, there’s a column of suggested videos on YouTube for related videos to the one you just watched. Because of the discoverability of these “Up Next” videos, you may be able to get away with more compelling titles than you would for a blog post listed in Google – because even if your title isn’t easy to find via keywords, the suggested videos are displayed to people and can get you a good amount of viewership.

For example, if you had a video about how to install a hot water heater, your Google blog post would probably be titled something like: “How to Install a Hot Water Heater: The Beginner’s Guide.”

On YouTube, it could be more like this: “I Installed My First Hot Water Heater. Here’s What I Learned!” This is a little more accessible for viewers and more likely to get their attention, especially if it’s paired with a great thumbnail!

YouTube SEO Wrap-up

Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into any YouTube content strategy, but hopefully this quick guide has given you an idea of what you need to consider for your approach.

Just remember that YouTube videos are only part of the content marketing puzzle. It’s still important to promote them if you want to maximise your SEO, because engagement is a top factor in whether your videos get found on the platform.

With time and focus, you can utilise YouTube SEO to grow your business’s online presence to new heights.

Digital Marketing

Daniel Thrasher

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