YouTube Search Optimization

Video Optimization for YouTube Rankings

YouTube Video OptimizationIn November 2008, YouTube surpassed Yahoo as the world’s #2 search engine behind its parent Google. Since that time YouTube has accounted for 25% of all searches from Google sites. As 48 hours worth of video are uploaded every minute (8 years of video uploaded every day), getting found in the murky depths of video uploads is becoming increasingly difficult. However, video as a medium is likely the best for story-telling, education and entertainment from brands to consumers.

How can you get your videos to rank well in YouTube search? The following provides some guidance on how to optimize video for YouTube rankings plus some of my own investigation efforts to determine what really matters in the YouTube rankings game.

(Entertaining) Content First
Before we dive into the technical trappings, let’s talk content as the priority. Think about your own YouTube watching habits. I’m going to take a wild guess that you are not spending your quality time viewing episodes featuring actuary scientists in action, instructions on how to be a Walmart greeter, highlights from the local academic decathlon or a series on the finer points of quilting. On YouTube boring never wins. Your goal with every YouTube video should be to entertain and if you attempt to educate, please do so in an entertaining and enlightening fashion. Like this gentleman:

Will It Blend?
Tom Dickson makes blenders interesting. No, really.

Find Your Keywords
When clients ask me about my preferred keyword research tool, I tell them to go straight to the source. The Google Keyword Tool offers reliable data and excellent filtering options to help marketers uncover origins of consumer demand. Similarly, YouTube offers a keyword tool. Simply enter a phrase and get search volume metrics back.

When selecting keywords consider choosing those that are already working or have a proven track record for generating leads and/or sales from other search marketing campaigns.

Optimize Videos Like Individual Web Pages
Search engine optimization at its most basic fundamental stage involves including target keywords in web page titles, meta data and page content. Every web page should be considered a destination and can and should be optimized with a keyword phrase. Videos are the same way. Select a target phrase to incorporate in each of your videos.

If you are familiar with basic web page optimization practices, think of it like this:

Web Page Title = Video Title
Web Page Meta Description = Video Description
Web Page Meta Keywords = Video Tags

Video Titles – After 60 characters (letters and spaces), the title gets cut off, so that should be your maximum. Use your keyword target in the title. Consider using “Video” in the title as this might help you in Google Search results pages.

Video Description – Provide a detailed description of your video and include your target keyword phrase. You have a 5000 character limit so the feel free to extrapolate without stuffing keywords. Include a link back to relevant content on your website or blog as this will help with search engine optimization efforts.

Video Tags – Unlike meta keywords which are ignored by Google’s search engine, video tags are quite important. However, you don’t need to over do it. Repeat important keyword phrases found in your video title and description. Wrap multi-word phrases in quotes to ensure the entire phrase is listed as a tag (e.g. “chicken fajita pita”).

Other Optimization Tips
YouTube Sharing OptionsVideo Sitemaps – If you plan to embed videos on your website, help Google find and index them by placing a video sitemap on your website. The always impressive community at SEOMoz provides direction for creating video sitemaps.

Sharing and Syndication Options – Within your video settings on YouTube, you’ll have a number of sharing and response settings. Open it all up to the community. Allow comments, ratings, embedding and syndication. By doing so, you give your video a greater opportunity to be seen and to rank in YouTube search.

A Tiny Research Experiment
While I hope you find the above useful, for me it didn’t seem like enough to ensure success in YouTube search. I conducted a few searches on my own for three different keyword phrases all with decent popularity based on results in both the Google & YouTube Keyword Tools. In my little research experiment, I also recorded qualitative and quantitative metrics for the top 10 videos appearing in YouTube search results for each query.

Metrics Captured

  • Keyword in Video Title (Yes, No)
  • Keyword in Video Description (Yes, No)
  • Keyword in Video Tags (Yes, No)
  • Total Views
  • Video Age (Months Since Upload)
  • Total Ratings, Both Positive & Negative (i.e. Thumbs Up or Down)
  • Positive Rating Percentage (Positive Ratings / Total Ratings)
  • Total Comments

And here are the results:

Keyword #1: marlin fishing
YouTube Keyword Results

Keyword #2: adobe fireworks tutorial
YouTube Keyword Results

Keyword #3: bbq pork ribs recipe
YouTube Keyword Results

As you can see from just a cursory glance at the data, really the only consistent trend in each data set is the high percentage of positive ratings. Neither keyword inclusion nor views nor amount of ratings and comments was the determining factor. Please see the graphs below. Very few listings in the top 10 results for each query dipped below an 80% approval rating. Those that were at 0% simply didn’t have any ratings. However, each of those with no score did include the keyword in the Title, Description and Tags.

Positive Rating Percentage for Each Keyword Results Set Analyzed
Youtube Rankings

Results Explained

YouTube Like Dislike
Ratings Reign Supreme
Just like old school website search optimization, YouTube video optimization is not based solely on one element. The combination of excellent meta data and fascinating content that people want to watch seems to be the “secret sauce.” With traditional SEO, inbound links are currency. It appears that positive ratings can drastically improve results within YouTube’s search engine.

Final Recommendation:

  • Create entertaining video content
  • Optimize key elements of the video with popular keywords and phrases
  • Aim for positive ratings on YouTube

For additional reading, the concepts of “Audience Approval” and “Relevance to the Query” are explained in detail in this article penned by Terry Van Horne of, which also references the YouTube Creators Playbook.

If your next question is “how do I earn positive ratings?”, I really don’t have the definitive answer. This goes back to the idea of creating entertaining content as a priority. I can say that earning positive ratings is impossible without first getting your video played multiple times by your audience. Here are some final thoughts on how to increase views for your YouTube videos.

Increase Views for YouTube Videos

  • Embed on owned online properties (i.e. your website, blog)
  • Promote video on social media venues (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and via online press releases
  • Plan to promote or include partner content within your video and allow partners to embed your videos
  • Video Distribution Services: TubeMogul seems like the most reputable in the industry. Submit and distribute videos to over 20 video content sites. There is no fee for non-commercial videos.
  • Google Adwords for VideoUse Google Adwords for video. This service is very similar to Google Adwords and provides the advertiser with the choice to appear in search results, as a featured video on the right-hand side of the watch page or in-stream as pre-roll as part of their TrueView program.

Does this help? What other YouTube or video optimization tips can you share?

3 thoughts on “Video Optimization for YouTube Rankings

  1. Pingback: Meet Ryan Johnson
  2. This was extremely insightful and helpful. Video marketing is something that more and more small businesses and entrepreneurs need to become competent at. Even local marketing efforts can benefit greatly from great video marketing efforts.

  3. Thanks, Edwin. I appreciate it. Good to connect with you on LinkedIn as well.

Comments are closed.