YouTube SEO: 9 Actionable Tips for Ranking Videos (2019)

By | August 12, 2019


– Today, you’re gonna learn
how to rank your videos number one in YouTube. In fact, the YouTube SEO tips
I’m about to share with you have helped me rank for
hundreds of different keywords. And thanks to these nine strategies, I even rank in the top three
for the keyword video SEO. Now, I should warn you. I’m not gonna give you generic
advice like use video tags. You already know that stuff. Instead, you’re gonna
see little-known SEO tips that are working right now. I’m Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko and let’s dive right in. When I launched my YouTube
channel a few years ago, I felt great. And to get ready, I
watched dozens of videos from so-called YouTube SEO experts. So, I was super excited when
my channel finally went live. I thought to myself, “Self,
it’s only a matter of time “before your videos rank in
YouTube and get lots of views.” There was only one
problem, it never happened. In fact, despite working
really hard on my videos, my views barely budged. One day I decided to
stop following the advice from so-called YouTube experts. So, I slapped on my lab coat and set out to figure this whole YouTube
SEO thing out myself. Let’s do this. And trust me, I tested everything. I tested different
combinations of keywords, video lengths, introductions,
tags, and more. It took months of almost non-stop testing for me to figure things out. But in the end, I developed a formula for ranking videos that actually worked. This formula quickly grew my rankings, views, subscribers, and traffic. Now it’s time for me to show you the nine most powerful strategies that I used. So, without further ado,
let’s kick things off with strategy number one,
front-load your keyword. Everyone and their mom
knows you should use your target keyword in your video title. But what you might not
know is that YouTube puts more weight on words that appear in the beginning of your title. For example, let’s say you
want to rank your video for cold brew coffee. Most people would use a title like this. Now, that title isn’t
horrible or anything. But you can easily make that
title even more SEO friendly by front-loading your keyword. A title with a front-loaded keyword would look something like this. In fact this little tip works so well, that I tend to front-load keywords in almost all of my titles. With that, it’s time
for our second strategy, boost video engagement signals. Last year, I conducted the largest YouTube ranking factor study ever. Specifically, we analyzed 1.3
million YouTube search results to figure out what makes certain videos rank higher than others. So, what did we find? We found that videos with
lots of engagement signals outranked videos that didn’t
get a lot of engagement. So, what are engagement signals exactly? Engagement signals are things like shares, likes, comments, and subscribes. Basically, whenever someone
engages with your video, it tells YouTube people
are loving this video. Our data found that comments
correlated with rankings more than any other engagement signal. The question is, how
can you get more people to comment on your videos? From lots of testing,
I’ve found that putting a hyper-specific call to action at the end of your video, works best. You see, most YouTubers use
a generic call to action like, “Leave a comment,” or
“Let me know what you think.” But I’ve found that hyper-specific call to actions work much better. So, instead of a generic,
“Leave a comment,” give your viewer something
specific to comment on. For example, at the end of this video, I asked my viewers which
of the two strategies from the video they’re gonna try first. Because I made commenting insanely easy, that video has racked
up hundreds of comments. Our third strategy is to use
the tab formula for video tags. Here’s the deal with
video tags on YouTube. According to our ranking factor study, tags aren’t as important
as they used to be. That said, tags still make a difference. So, it’s worthwhile to
spend some time in them. Unfortunately, most people on YouTube use tags completely wrong. Remember, your video tags
are designed to help YouTube understand the content of your video. Which means you don’t need a lot of tags to get the job done. In fact, if you use lots of tags, you’re just gonna confuse
YouTube and Google and they’ll have no idea what
your video is actually about. For example, take a look at this video. It has a whopping 17 tags. Imagine for a second that you’re YouTube. What do these tags tell you? Well, they tell you that the video is about 17 different topics. If YouTube doesn’t understand
what your video is about, they’re not gonna rank it for anything. That’s why I recommend
using a small number of highly specific tags. I call my approach the TAB formula. The TAB stands for target,
alternative, and broad. Here’s exactly how it works. First, make sure that your first tag is your target keyword. Just like with your title,
YouTube puts more weight on tags that appear early
on, especially your fist tag. So, if your keyword is
green smoothie recipes, you’d make your first tag
green smoothie recipes, simple. Next, create two to three tags
that are alternative versions of your main keyword. For example, you’d use variations
of green smoothie recipes like green smoothie recipes for breakfast, and easy green smoothie recipes. You can easily find these variations by popping a target keyword
into the YouTube search field and seeing what YouTube suggests. These suggestions make
perfect alternative versions of your main keyword to use as tags. Finally, include one or two broad terms as your last set of tags. These tags should describe your videos overall topic or industry. The goal of these broad
tags is just to give YouTube more context about your video. For example, broad keywords
for green smoothie recipes would be things like
nutrition and smoothies. Next up, we have CTR magnet thumbnails. You probably already know
that click-through rate is an important YouTube ranking factor. In other words, if your
video gets an above-average amount of clicks in the search results, YouTube’s gonna give you a rankings bump. The question is, how
can you get more clicks. Use CTR magnet thumbnails. So, what are CTR magnet thumbnails? They’re thumbnails that
are strategically designed to get more clicks from YouTube searchers. Here’s the step-by-step process. First, use non-YouTube
colors in your thumbnail. What do I mean by non-YouTube colors? Well, the main colors on YouTube’s website are white, red, and black. So, if you use those same
colors in your thumbnail, you’re gonna blend in. Instead, I recommend using colors that contrast with YouTube’s color scheme like green, blue,
purple, gray, and orange. For example, I use green, blue, and gray in most of my thumbnails. These colors help my results stand out from the others which
brings me more clicks. Next, use big, bold text in you thumbnail. My experiments have
taught me that thumbnails with text get more clicks than
thumbnails without any text. That said, your thumbnail is pretty small. So, you don’t have a lot
of room to work with. That’s why I recommend using
30 characters of text max. For example, the thumbnail of
my video that ranks number one for e-commerce SEO, has a
grand total of 23 characters. Our fifth YouTube SEO tip
is to write many blog posts for your video descriptions. When I first started my YouTube channel, I put zero thought into
my video descriptions. This video is awesome. And description done. It turns out, this was a huge mistake. From lots of testing I’ve
found that long descriptions help videos rank better in YouTube because the longer
descriptions help YouTube better understand what
your video is all about. That’s why I recommend
making your descriptions between 100 and 200 words. For example, check out this video of mine that’s done really well. The description for
this video is 142 words. And that long description
has helped that video make it’s way to the top of YouTube for competitive keywords like SEO. You might be wondering,
“What do I actually write “in my description?” Well, you want to outline
the content of your video without giving away the farm. For example, here’s the description for my e-commerce SEO video. As you can see, I describe
the content of the video but I don’t get into the meaty details. That way, even if someone
reads the description, they still need to watch the video to see the actual content. Let’s jump right into our next strategy, boost video length. When it comes to video
SEO, what works better? Long videos or short videos? Well, when we analyzed 1.3
million YouTube videos, we discovered that longer videos tended to outrank short videos. In fact, our data showed
that the average video on the first page of YouTube
is 14 minutes, 50 seconds long. What’s going on here? Well, a few years ago, YouTube said, “We focus on those videos that
increase the amount of time “that the viewer will spend
watching videos on YouTube.” In other words, YouTube loves videos that keep people watching
for long periods of time. For example, check out
this video from my channel, it’s almost 14 minutes long. Because that video is on the longer side, it racks up lots of
watch time automatically. That simply wouldn’t be possible if my video was only two minutes. Bottom line, whenever it makes sense, make your videos between
eight and 15 minutes long. In my experience, that’s the sweet spot for ranking in YouTube search results. Moving right along to our next strategy, strategy number seven,
which is to use brackets and parentheses in your video title. Like I mentioned earlier,
YouTube uses click-through rate as a ranking factor. And, yes, your thumbnail is
a big part of the equation. But don’t forget about
your title, it’s huge. In fact, YouTube themselves, state that, “Well written titles can be the difference “between someone watching
and sharing your video “or scrolling right past it.” One of the easiest ways to increase your click-through rate is to add brackets or parentheses to your video title. In fact, a study commissioned by HubSpot discovered that simply adding
brackets and parentheses to titles boosts the
click-through rate by up to 38%. For example, let’s say
you just published a video that outlined 10 video marketing tips. And your original title looked like this. Well, according to HubSpot’s research, by changing your title to this, you can increase your
clicks by more than a third. Actually, parentheses works so well, that I tend to use them in
almost all of my vide titles. And here are some examples of things that you can include in
brackets or parentheses that work really well. Now it’s time for strategy number eight, rank in suggested video. Here’s the deal, YouTube SEO
is more than just ranking in the search results. In fact, you can get just as many views if not more by getting
your video to appear as a suggested video. Suggested video is when
your video shows up next to another video in the sidebar. So, if you can get your video to show up next to a really popular video, you’ll steal some of their views. The best way to show up
as a suggested video, use the same tags that video uses. When YouTube sees that some of your tags match the tags from a popular video, they’ll understand that your
video is about the same topic. Which means they’ll likely rank your video as a suggested video. For example, let’s say you wanted to rank as a suggested video next to this video. First, check out the tags that video uses. To see a video’s tags, you need to look at the source code of the page. To do this with Google
Chrome, just right-click on the page and click view page source. Then look at the keyword
section of the page. The keywords that appear here
are the tags for that video. You can also use a tool
like TubeBuddy or VidIQ which will show you a video’s tags without needing to look
through the source code. Next, use a few of the tags
that video uses on your video. Make sure to copy the tags
exactly word for word. If your video is high-quality and closely related to the popular video, YouTube will start to rank
you as a suggested video. With that, let’s dive
into our last strategy, turn donkeys into unicorns. The fact is this, whether
you’re a small channel or have a million subscribers,
we all have videos that do better than others. Why is that? Well, there are a lot
of reasons behind this. But from analyzing millions of videos, I’ve found that videos that do well tend to have one thing in
common, lots of watch time. We talked about watch
time a little bit before. It’s the total amount of
time that people spend watching your video. I recently discovered a great
way to increase my watch time, turning donkeys into unicorns. Here’s how it works. First, log into your YouTube analytics and click on audience retention. This report shows you how
much of a video people watch and where they tend to drop off. Then, search for a video you’ve published on your channel that’s done really well. Finally, keep an eye out for
audience retention peaks. Peaks are sections of your video that have above average
audience retention. Then, just watch that
section of your video to figure out what kept
people watching that part. Did you put a graphic on screen? Say something funny? Or maybe you did something simple like change the camera angle. Take note of that. Then apply what you
learn to future videos. For example, here’s an
audience retention report from a video I published a while back. See that peak right there? In that section of the video,
I outlined a real life example of how someone increased
their Google rankings. So, I made sure to use real life examples in the beginning of all
of my future videos. It helped those videos
go from potential donkeys to amazing unicorns. Okay, so I know I said I’d show you nine video SEO strategies. But I recently came
across a cool little hack that’s working really well for me. And I wanted to share it with you. That hack is include the current
year in your video title. YouTube users want to see content that’s current and relevant. I know, thanks, Captain Obvious. But, here’s the thing. How do you actually demonstrate that your content is useful today? Include the current year
in your video title. When you include the current year in your video title, your
result instantly stands out in the search results and in
the suggested video sidebar. Which means you’ll get
more clicks and views. Plus, as a bonus, lots of people search for keyword plus year
in Google and YouTube. So, when you add the
year to your video title and description, you’ll rank higher for these keyword plus year keywords. For example, if your
title looked like this, just add the current year and
you instantly have a title that’s gonna get you a
higher click-through rate. So, did you learn something
new from today’s video? Then make sure to subscribe to
my YouTube channel right now. Just click on the subscribe
button below this video. Also, if you want exclusive SEO strategies that I only share with subscribers, head over to Backlinko.com and sign up for the newsletter, it’s free. Now, I want to turn it over to you. Which of the YouTube
SEO tips from this video are you gonna use first? Are you gonna try
front-loading your keywords? Or maybe you’re ready to
turn donkeys into unicorns? Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now. I’m rolling, yeah. I really don’t want to say that. Do you hear that? Okay, yeah, it’s possible ’cause when I– You know what I mean? What? Button, goggles.

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