How to do YouTube SEO in 2018

How to do YouTube SEO in 2018
By: Alexandra Pautaran
June 4th, 2018

Now that video format is spreading across the Internet like a plague, ignoring it will make you look like an ostrich hiding its head in the sand. Yes, all the hype surrounding video format is actually quite reasonable. So, if you still haven't implemented it in your marketing strategy, you are really missing out on life, let me say. If still in doubts, have a look at this:

  • 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others — RendrFx
  • YouTube reports mobile video consumption increases 100% every year — Hubspot
  • A video in an email leads to 200-300% increase in click-through rates – Hubspot
  • 55% of people watch videos online every single day — Digital Information World
  • By 2019, global consumer Internet video traffic will account for 80% of all consumer Internet traffic — SmallBizTrends

Given this, YouTube has all the legitimate rights to be called the web's largest search engine after his majesty Google, of course. Yes, YouTube is a search engine, full stop. However, even nowadays a lot of digital marketers do falsely think of it as of a social media site.

In real life, video content needs optimization just like any other website. In addition, by optimizing your YouTube videos, you can significantly increase the chance of appearing in organic Google's search results, because YouTube operates as one of Google's subsidiaries. So, without further ado, let's get down to the list of techniques that I personally consider life-savers when it comes to YouTube search optimization.

1. Keyword research

Bearing in mind that YouTube is a search engine, it's only right to kick off with proper keyword research. By doing that, you will get an idea of what your target audience is interested in and how it talks about it on the net. Think of giving Google Keyword Planner a massive try, the tool will kindly supply you with topically-relevant keywords as well as with their competitiveness rates.

Surprisingly enough, a lot of SEOs out there do tend to underestimate the power of Google Trends. The tool has a separate "YouTube search" feature, which hides under the "Web search" option. This tool can be of the greatest use when you've already come up with the list of keywords and need to compare them to each other in order to leave the most potentially profitable ones.

Now let's move on to searching for so-called "video keywords". These keywords are also of the greatest value for you, because these are the ones that can make your video appear in the regular organic results in Google. In my admittedly biased opinion, Rank Tracker keyword tools is simply a must-have when it comes to hunting for such keywords. There you'll be able to check rankings of as many keywords as you want. On top of that, the tool allows you to see if the result pages include any videos. With that in mind, you can spot the keywords that have greater chances of bringing up a video.

Another thing I can highly recommend using while carrying out keyword research is YouTube’s Search Suggest feature. I'm sure you know what I’m talking about. It occurs when you start typing a query and then, in the drop-down list, you are suggested to pick from the most popular searches. The good news is that now you can evaluate the popularity dynamics without leaving Rank Tracker.

Just go to the "Keyword Research" dashboard, pick "Autocomplete Tools" , and then select "YouTube Autocomplete" . Start typing your keywords just like you would normally do in YouTube. After that, the tool will nicely supply you with the list of the most popular search queries.

I personally think this feature is super cool, because it really gives you clear understanding of what your potential customers type into YouTube while searching for some products or services related to your business, and, which is by no means less important, how they call it.

2. Video Metadata

As a rule, when we refer to metadata with regard to a video, we mean all the textual and visual information that assists it. Interestingly enough, the times of metadata being the major factor that determines a video's relevance to a certain search query are melting away. Internet is getting smarter, and now Google and YouTube are turning their heads to machine learning for object recognition. Basically, it means that YouTube can now recognize objects in videos and understand their content. That brings us to a conclusion that metadata may no longer be as important as it used to.

On the other hand, metadata is exactly what users see first when come across your video. So, your task here is to arrange it in such a way that it's appealing, relevant, and, what is even more important, clickable.

Remember that first 48 hours of your video's life are the most crucial. So, for the sake of YouTube SEO, don't publish a video thinking you'll optimize metadata later. It is incredibly hard to recover it once the algorithm has marked your video as unworthy.

Ok, enough for scary stories, let's get to the meat of the question and see how you can optimize metadata components to conquer YouTube.


I guess I hardly need to explain you the importance of a YouTube video title or any other title really. It goes without saying that a title should reflect the topic of your video and include the keywords that you want to rank for. According to the research conducted by Backlinko, videos with an exact keyword match in the title do rank better.

And please don't forget to fit into a 60-characters limit to avoid being cut off in result pages. Try not to overhype your title (nobody likes that), don't make false promises, and omit ALL-CAPS letters.


Bearing in mind that YouTube allows descriptions of 1,000 characters long, it doesn't necessarily mean that your mission is to take up all the space. Firstly, only two or three lines of text will be displayed. So, try putting relevant keywords from the title closer to the beginning of your description. And secondly, YouTube is the place where people go to escape from reading, so don't force them to.

I would suggest making the most of a couple of lines a user sees initially. Anyway, there's always a "show more" option to go for. Including links to your website and other social networks is also good practice as well as adding some relevant #hashtags to it.


A thumbnail is what I want you to take especially seriously, because this is exactly what is going to catch a viewer's eye first. But while YouTube can do all the scutwork for you and generate a selection of thumbnails to pick from, I strongly suggest creating a thumbnail of your own. In terms of technical characteristics, the best practice is to upload an image, which is:

  • 1280x720 pixels
  • 16:9 ratio
  • < 2 MB
  • .jpg, .gif, .bmp, or .png format

Sticking to these parameters will make your thumbnail look equally good across multiple viewing platforms both in large and small sizes.

Obviously enough, a thumbnail should be attention-grabbing, tease potential viewers, and reflect a video's subject. I guess I don't need to tell you that inappropriate, unprofessionally looking, and spoiler-alerting thumbnails are not our bros.

Here is quite a good example of a thumbnail. The search query for this video was "how to make a vegan cake".

The thumbnail above is cool for quite a number of reasons. First of all, the picture includes a human, which instantly makes it more attractive and "alive" in comparison with other thumbnails with cakes on them only. What is more, text takes up about 30% of the picture, which is also good, because it makes the image more informative but, on the other hand, doesn't overwhelm it. And on the whole, the image looks quite professional and complete.


Tagging is probably the easiest part of metadata optimization. Although, YouTube is not restricting the number of tags, try not to overuse them. Give your preference only to relevant ones, up to 10-12 tags will be more than enough. If lacking ideas, use the autofill to find tags.

3. YouTube Analytics

Trying to improve YouTube SEO without knowing your audience is like cooking a soup without water – impossible. In other words, YouTube Analytics is simply irreplaceable when trying to figure out who your viewers are and what their watching habits are. It supplies you with a whole bunch of useful metrics like: demographics, traffic sources, CTR, the number of unique viewers, etc.

By thoroughly analyzing these stats, you will get a clear idea of what deserves focusing on and what is a waste of your time. What is more, I cannot but admit that by linking YouTube Analytics to Google Analytics you will unlock even more sophisticate features. Here is how it can be done.

4. Consistency

In harsh YouTube reality of 2018, high quality content is not a "wow" thing anymore, it's something that goes without saying. Now YouTube is all about building serious long-term relationships rather than short random romances with its viewers. What I mean is that consistency is a crucial thing here. Not sticking to your plan will immediately influence the number of your subscribers and views, negatively of course.

However, the good news is that you don't necessarily need to sit in front of your computer with your eyes glued to YouTube's processing graph to upload a video. Now you can make your videos upload automatically without even touching your PC. This feature has been around for ages now, however, for some reason, a lot of people still refuse making the most of it. Going through some simple steps will allow you to have regular releases on your channel, which is exactly what YouTube wants you to have.

The only difference in comparison with a regular video upload is that you need to go for the "Scheduled" option.

Then you just set the day and time, fill in all the necessary metadata, and click on "Publish". If you have a sequence of videos to go on your channel one by one, just go through the same steps picking the time you want each video to go live and forget about it for good.

5. Watch time optimization

Basically, watch time is the amount of time a viewer spends on watching your video. Bearing in mind that YouTube has an evil plan of destroying and replacing television, it's only logical that long videos are getting more and more prioritized. That allows YouTube running more ads and keeping viewers' attention for more. In addition to that, our beloved research by Backlinko proves that longer videos do actually beat shorter ones.

So, the best thing you can possibly do is creating a video that would keep viewers' attention from the very start till the end, make them want to watch more of your content, subscribe to your channel, and comment. No, you don't need to film "Game of Thrones" for that, just consider this:

  • Think of combining videos of similar topics into a playlist. This will make your videos pop up when someone has watched even a single video from the series.
  • Don't make a mistake of giving too much context in the beginning of your video. Catch your viewer's attention straight away and get to the meat of the question without empty chatter.
  • Make sure to give your "Watch Time" reports a big old check. By doing that, you can spot an Achilles' heel of your strategy and fix it on time.
  • Encourage viewers to watch other videos of yours by mentioning them directly in a video or in description below.

6. Interaction encouraging

The first things to check when aiming to encourage interaction are Interaction reports. They are of the greatest help when it comes to understanding what your audience likes and what, on the other hand, causes unsubscriptions and dislikes. Once you've spotted strong and weak sides of your channel and done correction work, your videos are more likely to gain love and support. And that's exactly what our ultimate goal is, because audience's engagement and subscriptions are what your YouTube SEO would absolutely love.

Since we're talking about interaction encouraging here, creating and adding an End Screen can be a good idea. By placing it in the end of your video, you can remind your viewers to subscribe or, for instance, suggest watching another video of yours just like in an example below.

Nothing can probably provoke a conversation better than a direct question, so go ahead and ask one. Consider asking your audience's opinion on a subject to your liking or, on the other hand, encourage them to ask you any questions.

Don't forget to be a role model yourself, be active in comments, and show appreciation to your viewers. Naturally, people are more willing to interact when they have a feeling of some kind of community. So, show your audience you are on the same level and talk to people.

Another thing I can highly suggest you to do is adding Cards to your video. It's a great way to raise your video's interactivity and promote your brand as well as other videos right on the go. I'm sure you have seen this small "i" icon right in the upper right corner of a video. The point is, after hitting the icon, a user may see up to five cards. They can be of 6 various kinds, those that:

  1. Promote a video or playlist
  2. Encourage viewers to participate in a poll
  3. Link to an approved website
  4. Promote another channel
  5. Feature a nonprofit organization
  6. Encourage your viewers to support the creation of video content.

If you want to learn more about cards and how to set them up, go check out this video of Derral Eves, the founder of VidSummit, a video marketing strategist and consultant.

7. Promoting via social media

The Internet of today is social. I know that the concept of sharing a video across social networks is pretty obvious and hackneyed, but I couldn't omit it. Cross-posting YouTube videos still remains the most powerful strategy for maximizing visibility and traffic. In January 2016, Facebook announced that people watched about 100 million hours of video daily. So, reasonably enough, Facebook can be the best advertising platform for your videos.

On top of that, I would also highly suggest tracking and analyzing your social media presence. By setting up an alert in Awario, you can see how people interact with your video across various social networks. Or you can go further and create an alert to track how your competitors' videos are being shared and promoted. That's how you can get yourself some ideas of what kind of content is worth creating next.

What makes the strategy win-win is its side effects in form of links' and social presence growth.

Extra Tips

  • Think of switching to HD format. Multiple studies prove that HD videos do get higher positions more often.
  • Consider featuring and embedding a video in your blog post. By doing this, you can significantly increase the chance of appearing in Google's organic results and earn links. By the way, if you're interested why videos in Google and YouTube rank differently, check out this study conducted by Stone Temple.

Well, that's it for YouTube optimization for today. Remember that you're going to get as much out of your SEO as you put into it. Hope you enjoyed the article. Please feel free to share your YouTube SEO experience and ask any questions in the comments below. Stay tuned for our next articles! And may the force of SEO be with you.

By: Alexandra Pautaran