YouTube SEO: Top Tips and Tricks to Rank on YouTube Search

YouTube SEO: Top Tips and Tricks to Rank on YouTube Search

YouTube has become the go-to platform for both entertainment and education. Over 2 billion logged-in users visit YouTube every month, drawn in by the platform’s endless array of video content. For creators, YouTube presents a massive opportunity to inform, inspire, and engage global audiences.

However, simply uploading videos is not enough. With over one billion hours of content watched daily, standing out requires optimizing your YouTube SEO.

This guide will walk through what exactly YouTube SEO entails, from keywords to thumbnails to analytics. Follow these best practices to rank higher and drive more views, subscribers, and opportunities for your YouTube channel.

What Is YouTube SEO

YouTube SEO refers to optimizing YouTube videos to rank higher in YouTube and Google search results. By improving a video’s YouTube SEO, creators can drive more views and subscribers.

Why YouTube SEO Matters

  • Over 2 billion logged-in users visit YouTube every month
  • People watch over 1 billion hours of YouTube videos daily
  • 70% of YouTube watch time comes from mobile devices
  • The first 5 suggested videos drive over 20% of YouTube views

Optimizing your YouTube videos to rank well in search and suggested results is key to driving views and growing an audience.

Best Practices for YouTube SEO

Here are key tips to improve YouTube SEO:

Choose an Accurate Video Title

  • Include the primary keyword target in the first 60 characters
  • Write titles readers will understand and click on
  • Avoid over-optimizing with multiple keywords

Write a Detailed Video Description

  • Elaborate on the title with a multi-sentence description
  • Include secondary keywords and long-tail keyword opportunities
  • Add links to other videos and playlists when relevant

Add Video Transcripts

  • Auto-generated transcripts ensure videos meet accessibility standards
  • Transcripts also help search engines better understand video content

Tag Videos Thoroughly

  • Include keywords and keyword variations in the video tags
  • Avoid spammy tags unrelated to the video
  • Separate tags with commas

Optimize Thumbnails

  • Choose a compelling image that represents the content
  • Use bright contrasting colors that attract attention
  • Include text like the title to convey context

Promote Authority and Trust

  • Link channel homepage to website to indicate domain authority
  • Verify channel through YouTube partner program for trust signals

Encourage Viewer Engagement

  • Ask viewers questions to increase comments
  • Include calls to action to have viewers like, share, subscribe

Analyze Performance and Iterate

  • Use YouTube Analytics to identify top-performing content
  • Double down on what succeeds and improve what doesn’t

Elements of YouTube Video SEO

There are several key elements that contribute to YouTube SEO success:


The title is displayed below the video thumbnail as the main headline. Include your target keyword and compelling title phrasing that makes viewers want to click.


The description appears below the video title and is your opportunity to include details about what viewers will see and find in your content. Optimize it to help search ranking.


Tags are keywords and short phrases that classify your video content so the right viewers can find it in search. Include a mix of main topics and long-tail keywords.


Custom thumbnails showcase visuals from your videos. Use bold colors, contrast, and text to make them stand out against other results and entice clicks.

Closed Captions & Transcripts

Enabling auto-generated captions not only aids accessibility but allows YouTube to better index and rank your video content.

Watch Time & Audience Retention

YouTube algorithmically ranks videos based on metrics like average percentage viewed and audience retention rates. Creating engaging content improves those metrics.

YouTube SEO Keyword Research

Identifying the right keyword targets is crucial for YouTube success. Here are best practices for researching YouTube SEO keywords:

  • Leverage YouTube Suggest & Autocomplete – See what display suggestions appear as you type keywords into YouTube search. This shows what people are searching for.
  • Use Keyword Planner – Google’s Keyword Planner provides YouTube monthly search volume data to quantify demand.
  • Analyze Competitors – Study keywords ranked videos are targeting in your niche. What is working for competitors indicates potential.
  • Optimize for Long-Tail Keywords – Include longer, more specific phrases in your video optimization targeting less competition.
  • Consider Search Intent – Are users searching to learn something, be entertained, research a purchase? Optimize for keywords aligned with your content purpose.

Ranking Factors: How YouTube Ranks Videos

YouTube utilizes machine learning algorithms to analyze a variety of ranking factors. These include:

  • Video watch time and audience retention rates
  • Video title, description, and tags optimization
  • Previous viewership history and user preferences
  • Channel authority, subscribers, and past performance metrics
  • Click-through-rates from video suggestions, YouTube search, etc.
  • External links and social shares driving traffic to videos
  • Comment quantity and sentiment analysis

Understanding these key ranking factors allows you to focus optimization efforts accordingly.

YouTube SEO Tools

Here are some of the top tools available to analyze YouTube SEO:

YouTube Studio & Analytics

YouTube’s built-in free analytics provides creators data on views, watch time, traffic sources, audience geography and demographics, most popular content, comments, likes/dislikes, and more. This should be your go-to resource.


VidIQ is a browser plugin and mobile app providing detailed keyword rankings and optimization recommendations to improve video performance. Paid plans unlock competitor analysis and other premium features.


TubeBuddy similarly integrates with YouTube to offer keyword and competitor analysis, A/B testing thumbnails, bulk video editing and optimization, and more. They also offer paid pro plans.


MorningFame focuses specifically on YouTube audience analysis and tracking daily video performance. Creators can benchmark metrics against competitors. They offer a free trial period.

Google Trends

While not YouTube-specific, Google Trends showcases rising and falling search popularity which can uncover timely trends and topics to optimize videos around.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Implementing an effective YouTube SEO strategy takes research, planning, iteration, and persistence. But the payoff of increased viewership and growing a loyal audience makes it well worth the effort.

Be sure to analyze your performance data regularly and double down on what succeeds. Tap into the analytics to uncover more opportunities to optimize.

The best YouTube SEO strategy combines top creator best practices with actionable performance data and competitive analysis. Start optimizing elements like titles, descriptions, and thumbnails for target keywords. Pay attention to analytics and iteration.

Contact 427 Digital for more!