So you’ve been creating awesome content for YouTube and you’re looking to take your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to the next level! Look no further – here are 5 solid ways to get you started and think more critically about how your video is presented and searched for.
So how does this work? 💡
In a nutshell, SEO helps your video be searchable and accessible to users.
YouTube WANTS to promote your videos to new viewers. It wants people to stay on the YouTube platform! If your video is doing well in terms of watch-time (how long people are watching your video) and engagement (comments, subscriptions, likes/dislikes), YouTube will want to recommend and share your video around for others to see it.
I’ll be going over:
So how do we make your video searchable and clickable? Keep reading!
1. Keywords ⌨
Before even getting to the title of your video, let’s talk about keywords. Keywords are a pillar of making your video searchable.
Having good keywords that you use throughout your optimization process confirms with YouTube that your video is about said topic/keyword. TubeBuddy is my go-to search engine optimizer (SEO) application! It helps me find keywords that are searched for but not too saturated. TubeBuddy also aids in discovering trending topics and niches that will allow you to be more easily searched!
TubeBuddy offers a super helpful, unlimited, free version of the application and 3 different levels of paid versions if you want to upgrade.
If you’d like to support my work, my affiliate link (which transparently gives me a commission only if you voluntarily use money!) can be found by clicking here.
A good tip is to figure out keywords prior to even filming your video. This way, you can keep in mind what you want to say about the topic and ensure your keywords are thoughtfully being used.
For example, if my newest video is about teaching your cat to do a trick, here’s an example of what my optimization could look like:
Video file name: Teach Your Cat Tricks.mp4
Title: How to Teach Your Cat Tricks (and 3 easy tricks to start with)
Description: Today I’ll be teaching you how to teach your cat tricks, including 3 easy tricks to start with! I recently got asked how to teach cats new tricks like how my cat Ginger does in a lot of my videos. I’m super excited to share these with you – if you enjoyed, we’d appreciate a subscribe and a thumbs up! [Add links to types of cat treats, time stamps with the different tricks taught, etc.]
Thumbnail (photo by Yerlin Matu on Unsplash, simple edit by yours truly):
Keywords (with the help of TubeBuddy): easy cat tricks, simple cat tricks, simple tricks to teach your cat, tricks cats like, teachable cat tricks, can cats be taught tricks
The words teach, cat, tricks, and easy, were used throughout my optimization process. I also used phrases around the words “how to teach your cat tricks”. This shows YouTube that the topic is consistent throughout my video and will improve how searchable my video is!
Now that we understand more about keywords, we can use those keywords within all other aspects of the optimization process!
2. Title and description ✍🏽
Onto some things that can be easily overlooked with SEO – your title and description! Make sure you’re keeping your title relevant to your video – tell the viewer what they can expect. As mentioned, use those pre-created keywords you prepared to help you out.
Some popular ways of formatting videos are How To’s, lists, a question, a mysterious/compelling statement (“hook”), or your thesis statement. Here are some examples of titles that grab the viewer’s attention and set their expectations:
These titles explain what the viewer is going to watch, but are catchy, impactful and urges the viewer to click on them. Try to stay away from vague titles (I’m guilty of this), and clickbaits that promise the viewer something that your video cannot provide. Show the viewer why your video is of value to them!
Regarding your description, consider it an extension of your title. Especially within the first 200 characters of the description (which is what the YouTube algorithm is looking at), make sure you’re repeating your keywords. Extend on your topic and keywords, use a Call-to-Action (CTA) and link your viewers with relevant links from the video or to other videos they may like!
I like to link my social media pages as well as credits to the font I use, music credits, equipment used and more.
Here are two different descriptions I’ve used for different types of videos, one being an informational video with timestamps and the other being more of a vlog-style “What’s In My Bag?” type:
3. Thumbnails 🖼
As your title is your first text impression of your video, the thumbnail is a first visual representation of the video. Again, keep this relevant – it should complement your compelling title. I would recommend scrolling through your “recommended” portion of YouTube and noting which thumbnails catch your eye.
Here are some from my scroll right now!
These thumbnails complement the title and help bring more attention to your video. Make sure that the thumbnail is accessible and if you have any words on it, ensure the contrast is high enough that you can see what is on the thumbnail.
This is low contrast (not accessible).
This is high contrast (accessible!).
Tip: if you decide to use multiple words or a phrase, try to place the words sequentially top left to bottom right as this is the easiest way to read for North American literature (I want to acknowledge that it’s different in different countries).
You can create thumbnails with the following programs:
- Canva (free)
- TubeBuddy’s thumbnail generator (free)
- Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (not free, and for the more advanced folks!)
4. Captions 👁🗨
Captions are SO important to optimization and more importantly, accessibility. Accessibility is overlooked in most spaces and should be taken more seriously.
Captions increase your SEO score as well as inviting people into your circle of viewers. Those who aren’t able to hear your video will be looking towards captions to enjoy the excellent work you create! Make sure they’re able to enjoy it too.
Captions also help you thread your keywords throughout your video. As mentioned above, it’s another way to show YouTube that your video topic is consistent and will bump up that SEO.
Here are 3 ways to caption your videos:
- Type it out in a text document/make your script into a .txt document and upload it into YouTube (free)
- Edit the auto-generated CCs to be accurate (free)
- Use a 3rd party closed caption generator of your choice, such as REV ($1.25 USD per minute of transcription)
5. Info and end cards ℹ
Info cards are those little links that pop up in the top corner of your video. They expand to show more info cards in the video or if you want to learn more:
During your filming process, shoutout other videos, recommend other YouTubers, etc. to keep viewers intrigued on what to watch next. For example, if you have a multi-part video series, maybe you want to link past videos in that series within an info card. When you shout it out in the video, you can program the info card to pop up as a Call-to-Action.
End cards are link buttons that show up during the last 20 seconds of your video. These include a subscribe button, a recommended next video/playlist and more.
Here are some of mine from various videos I’ve created:
When people click on your info and end cards, it circulates them on your channel, and keeps them on the platform longer. Your video will be in favour of being recommended to new users by the YouTube algorithm and you’ll have a higher chance of being seen in other people’s recommendations, side bars and home pages!
Tip: You can create a fun title card for the ending of your video in Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Canva or even purchase one on Fiverr (this is another affiliate link).
Concluding thoughts 💭
You’re not alone in this! I’ve been on YouTube on-and-off for over 10 years and it’s definitely a platform I am continuing to learn and understand as it evolves. Understanding these algorithms to optimize Youtube videos takes time, patience and a lot of trial and error. Embrace the ups and downs of your own creative journey – that’s what creation and experience is all about!
Thank you for taking the time to read my article!
If you’re interested in supporting my work, please consider throwing a follow/subscribe my way, checking out my website/YouTube channel or even just DMing and saying hello. Excited to hear your thoughts and answer any questions! 😊
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cal Campos (they/them) is a Photographer and Videographer from Toronto, Canada with a background in social media marketing and multimedia production. They are passionate about the humanities, and elevating LGBTQIA+/BIPoC folx and small businesses. They also really love video games.