It’s well known that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Still, video SEO is often overlooked by local businesses who are just trying to get customers in the door. Even if you’re in a niche or “boring” industry, there is plenty of opportunity to gain targeted traffic! Read on to find out why you need to take YouTube SEO seriously, and learn 10 steps you can take now to get started.

In the same way you would research keywords when building a website and creating content, to get great results you should be doing it for videos too (think ongoing, relevant traffic that builds as time goes on). Keep in mind that a lot of your views may come from YouTube suggesting your video to users watching similar videos, while most channels get 15-25% of their video traffic from YouTube search. So you need to plan to capture both traffic sources.

Here are 10 steps to help you get the basics right:


Just like you would when building a website, creating content or starting a business, do your keyword research before deciding on a topic. Talk to your existing customers, discover their problems, understand how you can package the solution, find out what language they use when talking about your product, service or industry. Pop these phrases and keywords into your chosen keyword planning tool, then test what you find with them on YouTube and search engines. Based on the results, choose which keyword or phrase you’d like your video to focus on (we suggest focusing on one). If you’re using an organic-only strategy, you’re best to focus on longer tail keywords with less competition.


It’s important that your video is a cohesive experience for the user. Where does it fit into your brand? Your funnel? What is the purpose? Is it a product video or a how-to video? What will the call to action be? Decide where it fits and make sure you stick with it.


Now you know what your audience wants, build your video structure for capturing their attention and encouraging action. The more users interact with your video and the longer they watch it results in a higher ranking video, and a boost on the suggested video side. YouTube recently released a guide outlining plenty of ways to ensure your video is captivating, engaging and results in action. Use a filter when applying it your own audience though. The stats in this guide may not necessarily apply to them, so use common sense.


An easy win: name your video file using your target keyword or phrase. eg. “The Best Way To Eat Chocolate”, rather than “finalvideoedit12345”.


Name the video using your target keyword or phrase at the front end of the title eg. “The Best Way To Eat Chocolate (A Guide By ChocolateBrandABC)” is better than “ChocolateBrandABC: A Guide To The Best Way To Eat Chocolate”. Keep the title natural, and avoid “keyword stuffing”, keep the focus on the same keyword or phrase you’ve chosen for your YouTube file name.


The description is important because YouTube will use this to find out what your video is about, what’s in it, and what the context surrounding it is (think related phrases). It’s best to write 150+ words that provide an in-depth overview of the video and plenty of information. Remember to front-load the target keyword in the description, this should be in the first 2-3 sentences.

The first sentence also appears in the YouTube search results, so imagine you’re talking to the end-user, telling them why they should click on the video in a non-salesly, conversational tone. Avoid putting links right at the start of the description as they take up valuable space, leave them at the end. Repeat the chosen keyword or phrase a few more times throughout the description, with some closely related keywords in there too for context.

It’s also important to make sure that the description you use is unique, much like website SEO.


Use tags to let your viewers and YouTube know what the video is about. YouTube uses this to link your videos with other videos that are similar. This can help with suggested video and lead to increased traffic because of it.


Under the “advanced settings” section, choose a category. This helps gain exposure with more viewers similar to your audience. YouTube’s Creator Academy outlines a process to figure out what category your video should be in.


The video thumbnail is so important. It’s what viewers see before they click play when they’re choosing which video to play from an unlimited number of options. Make it count and design it properly using an aspect ratio of at least 1280x720 (16:9). We suggest including an image of what’s in the video (the person presenting, or if no-one is on camera, the product), the brand and a title (as long as it doesn’t take up too much room).


As we mentioned at the start of this article, suggested video is a powerful source of traffic volume. Your video metadata (description, title, file name, tags, category) affects this. Research similar videos that are getting plenty of traffic that you could benefit from. Then build your video around that.

SEO can seem like a rabbit warren of detail, but it’s well worth learning properly or engaging a professional who can do it for you (hi, give us a call). If you’re up for some DIY, a good place to start learning is Backlinko, Brian Dean is an absolute whiz and is great at communicating SEO in a straight forward way.

We start each project by asking our clients a series of questions which can probably seem a bit much for a first meeting. * But * trust us, they’re worth it. The aim is to get really clear on what you want to achieve (saaales), who you’re trying to target, what actions you want them to take. We can then create a content strategy that is geared towards their wants, using the aesthetic they want to see. Confirming the subject matter of the video is appropriate for your audience is also important. If we don’t think they’ll be into it? We’ll tell you straight, so buckle up. We’ll also talk through whether YouTube is the most appropriate platform and make sure we have the target keywords taken into account before we start. That way everything is optimised for you achieving the best result i.e. ROI ROI ROI.