SEO is also important for YouTube

SEO is also important for YouTube

A significant percentage of YouTube video views come from the platform’s recommendations, including the latest feature.

That’s why you want YouTube to look good on your videos and channels. The algorithm relies heavily on viewer retention and watch time. A YouTube SEO strategy can help with those numbers along with other analytical factors.

Here are some best practices to inform your strategy. (They assume you’ve done all the work needed to find your keywords.)

Your #YouTube channel needs a #SEO strategy to get discovered by more viewers, says Veronique Wong Kai In of @Reportingeasy via @CMIContent. Click to Tweet

Video SEO

There’s a lot you can do to get the most out of every video you publish on YouTube.

Say the keyword at the beginning

Since 2014, YouTube has used the automatic English transcription feature. (This is most accurate for people with a more neutral British accent.)

This means that YouTube “hears” what you are saying. If you combine one of the keywords into the script or conversation, YouTube will better understand the topic when evaluating the video to serve as recommendations.

Better yet, upload a copy of your video that YouTube can also use.

Use a keyword in the beginning of your video script so #YouTube can “hear” it, @Reportingeasy via @CMIContent said. Click to Tweet Let’s take an example of a popular video – 5 Tips to design an impressive logo – on YouTuber Will Paterson’s Digital Channel Art Niche. In the first five seconds, he says he’ll “show you five logo design tips”. This not only introduces the topic to viewers, but also acts as a signal to YouTube.

RELATED CONTENT TO BE HAND-VIEWED: 21 YouTube SEO Tools to Boost Your Video Ranking

Write Google and YouTube-friendly titles

YouTube videos occasionally show up in Google searches, often depending on the words in the title. A well-crafted SEO title can help your video rank better on both platforms.

Here are some phrases that are more likely to show up on Google’s video carousel:

  • How to
  • Guide
  • What is that

An image showing Google video results for “How to Draw Step by Step”.

An image showing Google video results for “Guide to Digital Art”.

An image showing Google video results for “What is Procreate”.

Adding a keyword to your title can also help. If possible, place as close to the head as possible. It still has to be read naturally to potential viewers.

Aim for four to seven word titles. The required length is no more than 60 characters.

Write @Google and @YouTube headlines between four and seven words and no more than 60 characters, Veronique Wong Kai In of @ says Report easily via @CMIContent. Click to Tweet

Optimize your description

Your video description also helps YouTube’s search engines understand what the video is about. The clearer the description, the better.

These tips can help improve your descriptions:

  • Include a keyword in the first sentence.
  • Include a keyword or its variations up to four times.
  • Use at least 2 , 00 0 out of 5, 00 0 allowed characters.
  • Note chapters. (Chapters separate your video visually in the progress bar. Chapters start at 00:00. Include at least three timestamps listed in ascending order. Minimum chapter length is 10 seconds. .)

Note the “chapters” of your video – the visual separation in the progress bar – in the @YouTube description, Veronique says Wong Kai In of @Reportingeasy via @CMIContent. Click to Tweet


The tags aren’t as necessary, but they do help. They are also helpful in identifying the keywords your competitors are ranking for. Tools like Vid IQ and Tube Buddy can help keep this information secure.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your cards:

  • Use your main keyword as a starting point.
  • Include multiple variations of that keyword.
  • Use other keywords mentioned in the video.

By using all relevant keywords in your tags, you increase the chances of your video appearing in the “relevant videos” column.

Use card

Tags are little links that appear at the top right of videos recommending other videos to watch like this video with the promotional video “New Fonts”.

An image showing a video with a card in the top right corner that suggests other videos to watch such as “New Font”.

If your channel is new, adding tags can seem counter-intuitive because they link to other videos, costing viewers your watch time. However, the purpose of YouTube is to keep people on YouTube. Encouraging people to stay on the channel can help your videos look better in the eyes of YouTube.

Remember that you can always change those tags for your video after adding new content.


Search engines can’t watch video or listen to audio, but they do index text. That’s why captions are useful for SEO.

On YouTube, you can manually add captions or upload files with or without a timestamp.

While it can be a bit complicated to set them up, tools like Describe can help. If you want to transcribe your video manually, check out this video tutorial from Justin Brown .

If you don’t think adding captions (or records) is worthwhile for SEO, they are a must-have for your audience who already Auditory challenge .

Use @DescriptApp to help add subtitles to your videos. Veronique Wong Kai In of @Reportingeasy via @CMIContent says they’re a must-have for your audience who has hearing challenges. Click to Tweet


First, let’s talk about your video’s click-through rate on search – the percentage of clicks on your video from their query results. YouTube pays close attention to this behavior, rewarding videos with a higher CTR. That’s why you want the video’s thumbnail to stand out for searchers to click on and see.

Here are some tips for great video thumbnails:

  • Single use color
  • Include a face to make it more human (i.e. personal)
  • Away clickbait

In these examples, the third video and below stand out with color selection, while the last video distinguishes itself by including a person.

Image showing video thumbnail examples that use color and a person to differentiate.

Note: To customize thumbnails, you need to verify your account. More on that in the next section.

End screen

Your video end screen measures five to 20 seconds to let viewers know what they can do next. Here are the five options allowed by YouTube:

An image showing the five end screen options allowed by YouTube: Video, Playlist, Subscribe, Channel, and Link.

The affiliate feature is only available to YouTube partner program members. (Eligibility requires the channel to have at least 4.00 0 hours of watch time over 12 months and at least 1.00 0 subscribers.)

Video recording of Will Paterson. He publishes a clear call to action and provides links to two related videos as well as a subscription feature. While the inclusion of the check-in feature on the end screen may seem overused, it works.

An easy free tool to create your end screens (and thumbnails) is Canva . Search for YouTube outro or YouTube thumbnails to get access to properly sized templates.

Use the free @Canva tool to create #YouTube thumbnails and end screens, says Veronique Wong Kai In of @Reportingeasy via @CMIContent. Click to Tweet

Channel SEO

You should optimize each video, but don’t forget to optimize your YouTube channel.

Channel Verification

You should verify the channel first. Verification allows your channel to publish videos longer than 15 minutes, create custom thumbnails, go live , and appeal any claim challenging the identification of content.

Follow these Instructions for verifying your YouTube account .

Fine Arts Banners

When someone clicks on your YouTube channel, the first thing they’ll likely see is its banner. Creating a professional banner with the right size and with your keywords is a great way to increase views.

Here are two great examples of banners:

Both of these banners personalize the channel, including their photo and targeted keywords. They use arrows to direct people to their links. Such eye-catching banners can really show that your video comes from a professional.


If you include links – and you should – decide before or when the banner art is created.

The links are only visible in desktop mode, appearing in the lower right. Many YouTube channels use the space to link to social channels. In this example, Marketing TV is associated with it Free resource guide along with their social channels.

An image showing a banner from Marketing TV that uses links in the bottom right corner to social channels and its free resource guide.


People can learn about your channel in the description. It will show what the channel does and who is involved. That information is more likely to drive people to subscribe to the channel.

Your channel can also rank in YouTube search. Add both keywords into the description.


Playlists are very helpful in channel optimization. Viewers who use your playlist increase their watch hours – and keep them on YouTube. That makes your channel more interesting on YouTube.

Create playlists on #YouTube to optimize the channel, said Veronique Wong Kai In of @Reportingeasy via @CMIContent. #SEO Click to Tweet In the case of Will Paterson, his well-designed playlists make it easy for new viewers to see the different content he has to offer.

An image showing Will Paterson's YouTube playlist.

Some more tips

While those on-page and off-page video tips are specifically designed for SEO, it’s constantly working to improve two of YouTube’s favorite metrics – viewer retention and watch time.

Here are some other ways to do it:

  • Create open loops: Regularly talk about what’s coming next in videos and about upcoming videos. Serialize your content into multiple videos. For example, talk about a topic in one video and let your viewers know you’ll talk more about that topic in the next video.
  • Include brief CTAs in the video: Ask your audience to interact within the video itself. For example, ask them not to forget to “like, comment, and subscribe” or it could be a small text pop-up.

Make the most of video optimization

YouTube strategy must address on-page and off-page video search. For individual videos, don’t forget to properly format your title, description, and thumbnail. Take advantage of tags, cards and end screens. For your channel, verify your account and customize your banner, create helpful descriptions, and add playlists to fit your audience’s needs.

And never forget, it’s all about audience retention and watch time.

All note tools have been selected by the author. If you have a tool to recommend, feel free to include it in the comments.

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Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute

By Nguyen Manh Cuong

Nguyen Manh Cuong is the author and founder of the nguyendiep blog. With over 14 years of experience in Online Marketing, he now runs a number of successful websites, and occasionally shares his experience & knowledge on this blog.

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