Make Your Videos Rank

You wonder why your videos are not ranking on YouTube? Even though your keyword appears in the title, description and file name and you have set 153 great tags? Here is the ranking factors that really matter.

YouTube is the second largest search engine and the largest video platform in the world – and this in times of steadily increasing online video consumption , goldfish attention spans and the universal demand for snackable content .

Videos are processed faster than text and the content is easier to remember. It is high time to deal with the topic of video SEO in this area as well.

Video SEO ↔ YouTube SEO

Is there actually a difference between YouTube SEO and video SEO or are they just synonyms?

Video SEO describes comprehensive video optimization. So it not only affects YouTube and all other video portals, but also video content on websites.

However, since videos are consumed via video platforms and because YouTube is by far the largest video platform (81 percent market share in USA), the term video SEO is mostly used synonymously with YouTube SEO.

What are the most important ranking factors for YouTube SEO?

1. More traffic with the right video length

The more traffic your video generates, the better it ranks – this also applies to YouTube. But the traffic is not determined by mere click numbers:

The most important ranking factor on YouTube is the watch time (playback time). As early as 2012, YouTube wrote that they are focusing on this .

The watch time is the product of the number of views multiplied by the video time consumed. A longer video length therefore ensures better watch time and brings your video forward. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should stretch your videos excessively and thus dilute the content.

In any case, make sure that the content is or remains interesting.

Brian Dean examined 1.3 million YouTube videos. His study found that longer videos actually ranked better than shorter ones. Insofar as the topic allows, he recommends a video length (from 8:20):

2. Video introduction

The first five to 15 seconds decide whether the user actually wants to see your video (further). For this reason, you should offer your visitor an optimal introduction in three steps:

  1. Confirm right at the beginning that the topic is really about the topic teased in the title. The topic is the reason the user clicked on your video. A confirmation ensures that the user’s interest is maintained or re-awakened – keyword goldfish.
  2. Explain your expertise: Provide your user with proof of why they can believe you. References to your experiences and give exact numbers here, for example: “The 12 exclusive tips that I will reveal to you have ensured that my videos on YouTube have regularly ranked in the top five results for two years. Before I applied these measures, my mother was my only subscriber. “
  3. Confirm the topic once more and emphasize the user benefit by giving a short preview of the content: “You will learn 12 tips from me that will ensure that your videos are among the top search results on YouTube within a very short time being found.”

3. Video keyword research

Before shooting the video, you should definitely find out which keywords are being searched for on YouTube and what you want to rank for. For this reason, you should first research relevant search queries.

My colleague Felix has already provided detailed step-by-step instructions for comprehensive keyword research . This essentially also applies to YouTube SEO.

The basic extensions of the YouTube keyword research compared to the “normal” keyword research are as follows:

  • Use the suggest option in the video platform (analogous to Google Suggest):
  • Use tools that search YouTube keywords (e.g. Keyword Tool , Kparser or soovle ).
  • See which keywords your competition is ranking for. Go to a competing channel that is about as successful as yours. Click on “Videos” and sort by “Most Popular”:

See the titles and descriptions of the most popular videos. You will definitely find one or the other interesting search query here.

4. Channel optimization

An important ranking factor on YouTube is the Channel Trust. The higher the frequency of publication, engagement , number of subscribers and the age of the channel, the higher YouTube rates the Channel Trust.

  • Make sure your channel description is imaginative, content-rich, and up-to-date. Set links to your website and your social media channels.
  • The channel-relevant search queries should also appear in the description.
  • Create an interesting header (recommended size: 1,546 x 423 pixels) and avatar (maximum 240 x 240 pixels) that catch the eye.
  • Create a welcome video (trailer) that will be played out to non-subscribers. YouTube also recommends this:

Non-subscribers to your channel will see a video welcoming them and introducing the channel. The video will no longer be shown to subscribers. You can customize the content in this area as you wish.

Make your channel presentation interesting and concise. Briefly explain who you are, what the user can expect on your channel and when there are new uploads. The video shouldn’t take longer than a minute. Here, too, you should pay special attention to the introduction . Give users good reasons to subscribe to your channel and encourage them to do so.

5. Product Quality

Sufficient video quality can be achieved with standard smartphones. In addition, it is worth investing a little in your equipment. The emphasis here is on “little” because each of the following products can be purchased online for 30 – 100 euros:

  1. (Tripod) tripod (for your smartphone)
  2. Studio lamps
  3. Microphone with pop filter
  4. background

6. Title

What does the perfect YouTube title look like?

A good title makes you want to watch the video. It should be concise and it should be created in coordination with the preview image. More than 100 characters are cut off: in addition to the required conciseness, another reason for short titles.

Put your main keyword at the beginning. According to the snippets of other search engines, YouTube shows that this approach pays off. In this way, the YouTube algorithm quickly recognizes which topic the video is about – this should of course also be the truth – otherwise you will of course not be able to rank for the selected keyword. (You should (of course) also name the relevant keywords in the video.)

Brackets are a tried and tested attribute. A study by HubSpot and Outbrain found that titles with bracketed explanations perform 38 percent better than those without brackets.

Another tried and tested strategy for making your video title even more attractive is to signal that it is up to date to the user. You can do this very easily by including the year in the title.

7. Description

The first one to two lines of text (100-120 characters) of your video description will appear in the search results. Everything else only appears after clicking on “Show more”. This means that you should use the very beginning of your description to convince users that they should watch your video. Avoid at all costs wasting this valuable space with a note like “You can find the complete article here: ” or something similar. Instead, present your video topic here and include your main keyword, important secondary keywords (including longtail) or W-questions.

In general, you should formulate your descriptions in more detail. This helps YouTube (and other search engines) understand the context of your video. Your description can contain up to 5,000 characters – as a guide, you should aim for 100-250 words. However, avoid filling your description unnecessarily. In this way, spammy-looking texts are created without great charisma. If you are actually missing the content for such a description, opt for a (natural) description that is not that long.

Use jump labels for long videos

In the case of particularly long videos, jump labels are available that lead the user directly to the point that interests him. It may be argued here that watch time suffers as a result. However, I am of the opinion that users who use jump labels in long videos would not even watch the video without these jump labels, but would rather look for a shorter or more suitable video. So: Use jump labels in the descriptions of comprehensive videos.

Arouse curiosity without giving too much away

You should also describe the content without revealing the details. If the user has already read everything there is to know in the description, he may no longer need to watch the video. Of course, you should avoid that.

In the description, too, you should make sure that your main keyword appears relatively far up front: if possible, under the first 25 words. It should appear two to four times in the entire description without affecting legibility.

You should also use your description to link other of your videos (keyword: watch time ).

8. Thumbnail (preview image)

The click-through rate (CTR) is also an important ranking factor on YouTube. So that users click on your video straight away, you should make sure that you stand out from the YouTube environment. Use colors that contrast with the white, red, and black mostly used on YouTube (for example, blue or green). It is also helpful to contrast the foreground and background: in terms of color and / or brightness.

Use a uniform channel design for your thumbnails (channel identity).

Whether or not you should add text to your preview image depends on how entertaining your preview is and the topic of your channel. Vlogging can do well without additional writing if the preview is interesting. Tutorials, on the other hand, perform better with writing. In principle, you have another option with additional writing on the preview image to inform your audience and arouse their interest, so I advise you: Use it.

“Font on preview images works best when they’re large and in bold. You shouldn’t put more than 30 characters, but make sure that text and image (elements) harmonize well and that the balance is right.”

9. Tags

Tags are important. They signal YouTube what your video is about.

Don’t make the mistake of setting too many tags, however. This just means that the video portal receives contradicting information and does not recognize what your video should rank for.

Instead, use a few (four to ten) specific tags: Your main keyword should be the first day. Set two or three tags in which you specify your main keyword a little and describe it in more detail.

Optionally, set two or three LSI keywords. LSI keywords (LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing) are search queries that have a content-related relationship to the main keyword.

Last but not least, add one or two tags that describe a slightly wider context.

An example:

Your video introduces the care of moth orchids (Phalaenopsis).

The main keyword is “moth orchid care”. Further more specific keywords are “moth orchid care tips”, “moth orchid care irrigation”, “moth orchid care moisture”.

The following LSI keywords are suitable: “Malay flower care” and “phalaenopsis care”.

You can describe the larger context with the following tags: “orchid care”, “flower care”, “floristry”.

10. Filename

This is certainly not the greatest lever to bring your videos forward. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that the file name should contain the main keyword, because this sends another sign to YouTube that it is the respective topic.

11. Category

The setting of categories is not SEO-relevant, but it does decide which users your video may be displayed on the start page. You shouldn’t miss this chance.

12. Subtitle / transcript

Subtitles or transcripts are actually intended as an aid for the hearing impaired. However, they can also be read by search engines. YouTube usually creates quite good subtitles. As the speech recognition is not yet fully developed, you should check the transcript and correct it if necessary.

Make sure your content is understood by both your audience and YouTube.

13. YouTube engagement

If users interact with your video, this is a sign for YouTube that they like your video. This ranking factor is becoming more and more important on YouTube. If your video is liked, commented on, shared by many users and subscribed to your channel after watching the video, YouTube will register and honor this.

Many users would like to subscribe to your channel, but they don’t always think about it. So definitely call on your users to do this. Do not just do this at the end of your video, but also in between fade-ins. At the end of the video you should also verbally ask for it. Let me give you a reason why a subscription makes sense.

You should also display requests for likes and shares during your video.

Above all, you should call for comments. Brian Dean also examined Engagement Signals in his study mentioned above: The number of comments had the greatest impact on the ranking. You can encourage comments with topic-specific questions such as “Which of the strategies presented will you try out first?”


YouTube SEO isn’t rocket science. If your videos don’t rank well yet, that doesn’t mean they will stay that way. You can apply some tips to existing videos afterwards, some you should include in the preparations for your next video.

If you produce good videos with added value – and, as we have learned, you don’t need a big budget for this – then you only need to heed the tips presented here and nothing stands in the way of your YouTube happiness.


Image Source: Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

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