YouTube SEO: What it is (and Why You Need It)

Unless you are already in the field of online marketing, you may not think of YouTube as a search engine. Most people just think of it as a place to watch videos and nothing more.

But look at the fact that YouTube has over one billion users who watch 5 billion videos a day.

And the total number video hours on YouTube results in 900 million hours. You need some sort of engine to search and navigate all of that content.

Google, now Alphabet Inc, did just that. They created a way to post, share, subscribe to and, yes, search a massive database of video footage.

And that search engine has ways of parsing out good content from not so great content. And you can optimize your video content on YouTube so that it rises to the surface as the cream. This, my friends, is YouTube SEO

YouTube SEO Content Strategy Starts With An Audience

Just like blogs and other online marketing strategies, YouTube video demands an audience. Before you even begin to think about working on your YouTube SEO, you need to figure out who your audience is.

There are three things you need to consider when looking at your audience:

Person Type

Who buys your products? Who will visit your channel?

If you are a freelance writer wanting to add YouTube video to your blog, who is your main audience on your blog?

Most likely if you run a meta-freelance blog, your audience will be other freelancers or new freelancers looking to jump into the game.

Now, we just narrowed that audience down to two types of people. Veteran freelancers and new freelancers.

But, you really want to narrow it down even further.

If you create videos for beginners but have mostly veterans on your site, you will lose your audience. And vice versa if you have mainly beginners in your audience.

So pick one or the other. You won’t have great YouTube SEO if you can’t attract an audience.

Wants And Needs

Now that you’ve determined that your audience is beginning freelance writers, ask yourself what would they come to your channel for?

What do beginning freelance writers need?

Do they need to know how to spend the money they haven’t earned yet? Should we start making videos titled, “How To Spend Your Freelance Cash On An Awesome Ski Vacation In The Alps”?

Or would we be better off with “How To Land That First Pitch”?

The first one might be more fun to produce, but the second one will probably get more views and engagement. And your YouTube SEO depends on those views and engagement.


In what format are you going to present your information. When an audience subscribes to something on YouTube, they expect a certain style and a certain format.

Basically, if you can stick with one format that’s successful, you can grow a great audience.

Are you looking to do a tutorial? An overview of strategies?

Are you being educational? Step by step instructions? Listicles?

Choose one and stick with it.

How To Affect YouTube SEO Through Long Detailed Descriptions

If you want to get discovered on YouTube, which is what YouTube SEO is for, you have to tell the search engine what’s in your video.

YouTube’s search engine isn’t some A.I. that sits inside a server farm watching all of YouTube’s videos. It can’t sort your video by the actual content of the video – yet.

Just like with Google’s search engine, YouTube crawls video descriptions for content.

Now, YouTube does have other signals like engagement it considers, but it also considers words.

And if you have a quality long and detailed description that includes contextual keywords.

You need to rank in their search engine. You’re not going to do it with just one long-tail keyword. You’re going to rank with a lot of loosely related keywords.

Another reason YouTube SEO includes long detailed descriptions. It’s not just a search engine, it’s a social network.

That’s right. YouTube fancies itself the Facebook of the video hosting world.

You have a “profile” just like Facebook, with a “wall” just like Facebook. You can’t post videos on other people’s profiles, but you can interact with their videos through comments and likes/dislikes.

People love to know what’s in a video before they watch it. They also like to know where you come from.

So adding in information like your social media links and blog links is a good thing.

YouTube SEO Requires Research

Did you think you would get away with doing no research?

SEO always includes some research.

For YouTube SEO, you have to optimize for both YouTube and Google.

Why? Because YouTube’s videos are searchable on Google.

Google is the President of search engines while YouTube is the Vice President.

So, you want your videos to rank on Google too.

How do you do this?

Use Google AdWords Keyword tool to find some quality keywords.

Conduct searches for single and long-tail keywords.

Don’t forget to optimize your video titles, descriptions and tags. You have 5000 characters to use in the description box. Use it wisely.

Don’t forget to add transcripts, captions, and annotations. These give the search engines something to look at. If you can give them a script to read, they are going to rank your content much higher.

YouTube SEO Requires Embedding and Sharing

When you create your video, and this might seem like a strange thing to call SEO, you need to invite people to share your content.

Remind people that they can both share through social media and embed the video in their very own blogs and websites.

If they like your content enough, they are going to do this automatically. But the people who don’t already want to share your content might actually consider sharing if you ask.

Does it hurt to ask, right?

Another thing you need to do for YouTube SEO is embedding your video on your blog.

This does two things. It gives you backlink juice on your own blog, and it creates another place for Google to analyze your video content.

This will link back to your video content and help YouTube rank your content as well through those signals.

YouTube SEO Requires You Create Playlists

Not only is it important that you have as many minutes watched on a single video for YouTube SEO. But it’s also important you have channel minutes as well.

Your overall minutes count. And if you have people consecutively watching your videos, that’s an amazing signal for YouTube to consider for YouTube SEO and ranking.

You want to tailor your playlists so that they are watchable and connect to each other. If you create a whole series, spend some time building your playlist in order.

Your content is also more likely to be viewed if it’s in playlist format. YouTube promotes playlists more than single videos.

YouTube SEO Requires You Pay Attention To Your Metrics

One of the best ways to increase views in YouTube is to increase your Subscribers. If you can get people to subscribe to your content, they are more likely to see it and decide to click on it.

But, YouTube allows you to see things like bounce rate and engagement. They seem to love their metrics and are absolutely willing to let you see every aspect of your video impact.

So, make sure you encourage people to subscribe during the conclusion of your video. And Don’t forget to check out the metrics, you’ll learn a lot about where your audience is, how much time they spend on your site, and how much they like your content.

In YouTube SEO Length Matters

How long are your YouTube videos?

YouTube SEO demands that your videos aren’t too short and aren’t too long. You need to goldilocks your videos to make sure they are “just right” in length.

Your ideal length should be around 5-10 minutes. Too short and people will feel ripped off. Too long and you will lose people.

If you lose people too early in a video, this kills your retention numbers. If you have a twenty-minute video and people get bored two minutes in, that’s only a ten percent engagement statistic.

And if you are really serious about YouTube SEO, you’re going to be about quality. Just like in the content marketing world for other search engines, quality matters here.

In fact, quality matters more. People might be less discerning when it comes to the written word. But when it comes to video, anybody can see poor quality when it crops up.

Get a good DSLR camera that shoots at least 1080p (4K if you want to be really fancy) and a good microphone, and invest in some lighting and a backdrop.

There are plenty of videos out there about technique. There is absolutely no excuse for poor video quality in today’s low-priced tech age.


YouTube SEO can be a very different beast than regular search engine optimization.

Make sure you have all the facts before you dive in.

Are you interested in getting a jump start on YouTube SEO? Contact us and let us know!

And, as always, keep converting.

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