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YouTube SEO: Rank Your Video Content Higher

Lesley Mailman
May 24, 2023
Last Updated On
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As of January 2023, YouTube has 2.5 billion monthly active users — and with millions of new videos being uploaded and viewed every day, it can be challenging for your video content to surface amidst the competitive noise.

Implementing SEO strategies for your YouTube content and channel is essential for increasing discoverability and improving overall performance on a platform home to billions of viewers looking for videos to watch every day. Without proper search optimizations, there’s a good chance your videos will be lost in a sea of content and your potential audience might never find them. 

In this article, we explore:

  • What is YouTube SEO? 
  • Tips for YouTube SEO.
  • How to optimize YouTube Shorts.
  • The most popular YouTube SEO tools.
  • How Dash Hudson boosts your YouTube strategy.

What Is YouTube SEO?

By this time you’ve learned how to create a YouTube channel, figured out how to make a video on YouTube – possibly more than one – and now you want to learn how to get your content in front of your target audience. 

YouTube SEO is the process of optimizing your videos with SEO practices to improve their visibility and increase their chances of appearing at the top of search results, suggested videos, and recommendations. The benefits and results of using social media SEO in your YouTube marketing strategy include more views, engagement, and potentially more subscribers for your channel. Effective SEO for YouTube involves optimizing your video title, description, tags, thumbnail, and other metadata to make it easier for both viewers and the YouTube algorithm to understand and categorize your content. 

Google indexes YouTube videos, which means they can be discovered through Google search. This highlights the importance of optimizing your videos, as it not only benefits your channel on the platform but also improves visibility across various search algorithms outside of YouTube. Before starting on optimizing your YouTube content, you should familiarize yourself with the Community Guidelines of the platform.

YouTube SEO Tips

Boosting your views and growing your channel requires more than just great content. Optimizing your videos for search engines is crucial to get discovered by new audiences. 

To help you get the most out of your channel, we've compiled some essential YouTube SEO tips and tricks, including optimizing your titles, descriptions, tags, and thumbnails, conducting keyword research, and leveraging analytics to track and improve your performance. With these tips in hand, you'll be well on your way to conquering the YouTube algorithm. 

Keyword Research

Before diving into any optimization efforts, you must perform keyword research. This initial step involves doing the necessary groundwork to find relevant keywords for your YouTube content. By picking out the right keywords that best describe your content and channel, you can strategically target your audience, increase discoverability, and improve your video's rankings in search results. 

Doing this initial research can help you understand the phrases your target viewers use, search for and are most interested in – and allow you to tailor your content to their needs and preferences. Investing time and effort into effective keyword research lays a solid foundation for a successful YouTube SEO strategy, ensuring your videos reach the right audience and gain visibility.

Optimize Your Titles and Description

When viewers search for videos, the title catches their attention. That's why it’s important to create interesting, eye-catching and clear titles for your video content. The title should address a problem and, if possible, include keywords that sound natural while also describing the video's intent. 

YouTube video titles have a character limit of 100 but to ensure your title doesn't get cut off in search results, it's recommended to keep it within 60-70 characters. 

For video descriptions, the maximum character count is 5,000, but keep in mind that viewers usually only see the first two or three lines (around 100 characters) unless they click ‘show more.’ Be concise and make sure the first few lines are optimized and mention anything that helps your content stand out.

While an optimized description may not directly impact keyword ranking, it can help your video appear in the suggested videos sidebar, which drives significant views for most channels. Aim for 1-2 mentions of your focus word in the description, along with supporting keywords. Utilizing hashtags in the description is also good practice, but stick to 2-3 hashtags maximum to avoid appearing spammy. Remember, viewers come to watch videos, not necessarily read descriptions — prioritize concise, valuable descriptions over longer ones.

Add and Optimize Tags and Thumbnails

Tagging your video will help the algorithm understand its content and context. It’s one of the most powerful SEO features for optimizing videos. By using relevant tags, you enable YouTube to make the connection between your content and other similar videos on the platform. Research the tags your competitors are using for their videos and incorporate them into your strategy if the content is similar. It’s recommended to use between 8-12 tags but avoid excessive tagging. Furthermore, make sure the tags you choose align with the topic of your video to prevent potential penalties from YouTube that could impact your content or account.

Once you’ve become verified on YouTube, you can upload a custom thumbnail image. You’ll want to pick a thumbnail image that captures the viewer’s attention because it’s the main image they see while scrolling. YouTube recommends using images with dimensions of 1280x720 pixels / 16:9 ratio and saving them as .jpg, .gif, .bmp, or .png files that are 2MB or smaller. Following these guidelines ensures that your thumbnail is viewed in high quality across different platforms. 

Categorize Your Video

After your video has been uploaded, you can then categorize it using the advanced settings in your account. Categorization, similar to tagging, allows you to group your videos with other similar creator content. This grouping increases the likelihood of you appearing in various playlists and gaining more views from audiences that have a shared interest in that type of content. 

When choosing the appropriate categories for your videos, it's beneficial to look at the top videos within those group types to identify common characteristics and see if and where you fit. Consider factors such as length, format, audience overlap, and the logical grouping of your content with that group. By analyzing these elements, you can make informed decisions about the categories that best suit your videos.

Add Subtitles And Video Captions 

Adding subtitles and closed captions to your videos not only makes your content more inclusive but added bonus, it can improve your YouTube SEO ranking by emphasizing important keywords. 

To do this, you’ll need to upload a supported text transcript or timed subtitles file. Another option is to directly enter the transcript text for the video, which will automatically sync with the visuals. The process for adding subtitles is similar, but you have control over the amount of text displayed. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Go to your video manager and click on ‘Videos’ under ‘Video Manager’.
  2. Locate the desired video and click the drop-down arrow next to the edit button.
  3. Select ‘Subtitles/CC’ from the options.
  4. Choose how you want to add subtitles or closed captions.

Note: Closed captions are searchable by search engines, giving you an extra SEO benefit.

Don’t Forget Hashtags

As we’ve mentioned previously, less is more when it comes to using hashtags, around 3-4 is enough to get your point across. Although your character limit is as much as your video title or description allows, YouTube states that if your video has more than 60 hashtags, they will ignore every hashtag on your video. This includes playlists. Overuse of hashtags can actually have a negative impact, which can include the removal of your video altogether, or from search results. 

Optimize & Customize Your YouTube Profile

YouTube profile optimization starts with customization. In the customization section of the platform, you’re able to edit and personalize your basic information, the layout, and your channel branding – even customize your channel URL. Having the ability to differentiate these elements with a focus on your keywords, your viewer's interest and what you want to be known for is a great opportunity for implementing your YouTube SEO strategy. To ensure you have full access to these features, it's recommended that you optimize your profile using a computer as limitations may exist when using Android, iPhone, or iPad.

Customize Layout

Customizing your channel layout to be unique from others is a great way to catch user's attention, and possibly increase subscribers. Increasing engagement with your page is a signal to the algorithm that your channel is interesting, popular and worth sharing with others. 

In this tab, you’ll be able to add in your:

  • Channel trailer – essentially a preview video that allows viewers to learn what to expect or what’s offered by your channel
  • A featured video – Spotlight your best content, or any YouTube video for your returning subscribers.
  • Featured sections – YouTube will default to 4 sections, but you can customize the layout of your homepage and add up to 12 sections.

Customize Branding

In addition to keyword placement, optimizing the imagery of your channel indirectly enhances your YouTube SEO. Clear, properly displayed, eye-catching profile and banner images attract viewers and increase their interest in staying and watching videos on your channel. Which can have a positive impact on how the algorithm views your channel. In this section, you can customize your profile and banner image as well as add a video watermark. Your profile picture should be formatted as:

  • A JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG file.
  • It’s recommended that your profile image be 800 X 800 px square or round.
  • Rendering at 98 X 98 px for desktop and 4 MB or smaller if uploaded on Android or iPhone/iPad.

Although your banner image will display differently on desktop, mobile and on TV displays, the image guidelines for uploading on desktop or mobile are the same.

  • The minimum banner image dimension is 2560 X 1440 px 
  • An aspect ratio of 16:9
  • To ensure proper display when using minimal dimensions, add text and logos at 1235 X 338 px.
  • Your image file should be 6 MB or smaller.

If adding a watermark to your videos, make sure to read the guidelines. Watermarks can encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel and if videos are watched on desktop they can subscribe directly. They are viewed on desktop or mobile devices in landscape view.  Watermarks can only be added using a desktop and must meet the following requirements.  

  • It must be a minimum of 150 X 150 pixels
  • Be a square image that is less than 1 MB 

Customize Basic Information

Customizing your basic information is not only beneficial for speaking to your audience, but also an opportunity to add key terms whether in your description, channel name or even hand that you want to rank for. If viewing this feature on Android, iPhone or iPad, you’ll only be able to access your channel name, description and handle customization via the app or YouTube Creator Studio app. The basic information tab available on desktop lets you customize the following elements. 

  • Channel name – This can be updated twice within a 14-day period but it’s very important to note that changing your channel name will remove your verification badge.
  • Handle – This can be updated twice within a 14-day period and will update your handle/channel URL, so beware. 
  • Description — YouTube allows you to add up to 5000 characters, but YouTube truncated the description at 100 characters, so include your most relevant information within this range.
  • Email contact information — Input the email address users can contact. 
  • Links — You can add up to five links on your channel, which will be visible in the banner image on desktop.

You can also translate your channel name and description in this area to help your videos reach a global audience.

How to SEO YouTube Shorts

Although similar to YouTube, when building an SEO strategy for YouTube Shorts greater emphasis should be placed on understanding your target audience's preferences and catering to their specific interests. This forms the foundation of your strategy, ensuring that you deliver the content your audience wants to see. Once you know who your audience is, consider these three main elements in your strategy. 

Understand the Algorithm 

The Shorts algorithm is fundamentally the same as the regular long-form YouTube algorithm – wherein the algorithm recommends content that you may be interested in, based on what you’ve already shown interest in. When it comes to YouTube and Shorts, the algorithm can differ based on viewer preferences for each platform. This means that if your audience prefers alternative content on YouTube compared to Shorts, the algorithm will reflect this. Therefore, it becomes really important to understand your Shorts audience separately, as you may be surprised to discover that it varies from your YouTube viewers.

To test this, try taking pieces of your popular long-form content and creating interesting Shorts, monitor their performance, and see how they compare. If you have low engagement, it might be time to test out a new short-form video content strategy.

Conduct Keyword Research 

Keyword research plays a vital role in optimizing YouTube Shorts for searchability. Start by brainstorming relevant topics and keywords that are popular within your niche, you can use the keywords you’ve already identified for your YouTube SEO strategy as they shouldn’t differ too much. Utilize tools like Google Trends, YouTube's autocomplete feature, or one of the dedicated keyword research tools listed below in the following section to identify high-ranking and trending keywords. Try to use keywords that align with your content and have a decent search volume. By using these keywords in your Shorts' titles, descriptions, and tags, you can increase the chances of your videos displaying in relevant search results.

Optimize Your Shorts Description 

Your YouTube Shorts description is an opportunity to give additional context and information about your video. Optimize your Shorts description by incorporating relevant keywords naturally. However, make sure to provide an engaging description that accurately represents your video's content while keeping it concise. People don’t come to YouTube to read a novel. And always avoid keyword stuffing,  It can negatively impact the viewer's experience and could possibly lead to penalties from YouTube for your channel. Focus on crafting a clear and compelling description that entices viewers to watch your Shorts.

By understanding the algorithm, conducting thorough keyword research, and optimizing your Shorts description, you can enhance the SEO of your YouTube Shorts and increase their visibility and engagement. Keep in mind that consistently creating high-quality and engaging Shorts content is equally important in growing your audience and attracting more viewers to your channel.

The Most Popular YouTube SEO Tools

Discovering and utilizing effective SEO tools can help maximize the visibility and success of your YouTube channel. To stay ahead in the competitive YouTube landscape, you need a strategic approach. Luckily, many YouTube SEO tools can help you analyze keywords, optimize your content, and track performance. Let's explore some popular YouTube SEO tools that can help you reach a wider audience.

  • TubeBuddy is a YouTube SEO tool that provides a range of features to improve channel performance. It offers insights, keyword research, video optimization suggestions and analytics. Utilizing elements can help creators streamline their YouTube strategies and grow their audience. TubeBuddy offers both free and paid versions of its tool. The free version provides access to basic features, while the paid versions offer advanced functions and capabilities.
  • TubeRanker is a YouTube SEO tool designed to help creators improve their video rankings on the platform. It offers features such as keyword research, competitor analysis and optimization recommendations, which enables users to optimize their content and increase their visibility in search results. TubeRanker is a paid tool that offers various subscription plans and doesn’t have a free version. 
  • SEMRush for YouTube is a powerful SEO tool specifically tailored for YouTube channels. It offers comprehensive analytics, keyword research, competitor analysis, and optimization suggestions to help creators enhance their video performance, increase visibility and drive organic traffic to their content. SEMRush for YouTube is a premium SEO tool that requires a subscription to access its features and capabilities.

Dash Hudson Can Help Boost Your YouTube Strategy

Gain valuable insights and unlock the full potential of your YouTube channel with Dash Hudson's YouTube Insights. Discover in-depth analytics and track key metrics while uncovering actionable data to optimize your content strategy, maximize engagement and drive meaningful results on YouTube. With the help of robust analytics, Dash Hudson empowers brands to track and improve their performance, providing the insights brands need to optimize their YouTube presence and achieve greater success.


Does embedding YouTube videos help SEO?

Yes, embedding YouTube videos can improve SEO. By adding multimedia content to your website through embedding videos, the content becomes more engaging for users and more relevant to search engines. This can result in higher search rankings, increased and longer website visits,  improved bounce rates, and user engagement metrics.

Is SEO important for YouTube? 

Yes, just like with other search engines, optimizing your YouTube content helps your videos rank higher in search results, increasing visibility and attracting more viewers. Not to mention, your brand becomes easier to find. 

By implementing effective SEO strategies, such as keyword research, video optimization, and attention-grabbing thumbnails, you can improve your video's chances of being discovered and grow your YouTube channel. 

Does SEO work for YouTube? 

Yes, SEO does work for YouTube. Implementing effective SEO strategies can significantly impact the visibility and success of your YouTube channel. Additionally, engaging with your audience, encouraging likes, comments, and subscriptions, while also promoting your videos on other platforms can also boost your YouTube SEO. Consistently applying SEO strategies and providing high-quality, relevant content can lead to increased views, subscribers, and overall channel growth.

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