To succeed in the digital age, businesses must have an effective SEO strategy in place to maintain and improve their search relevance. And optimising for search means playing Google’s game.
After all, Google is the world’s largest search engine and the main source of organic traffic for the majority of firms. If you rank well for high-value industry keywords, customers will have a far easier time finding your website.
Nevertheless, the second most popular search engine – YouTube – is often overlooked as a source of organic traffic. And, given that current predictions suggest video will comprise 80% of internet traffic by 2021, this can be a costly oversight.
No matter how big or small your presence is on the ubiquitous video streaming platform, improving your YouTube ranking is in your best interests. In this article, we list 11 of the most effective techniques for doing just that.
11 steps to improve your YouTube ranking
1. Identify your target keywords
Much like Google, YouTube’s algorithms use keywords to understand, categorise, and distribute web content. So, before we get into the minutiae of YouTube SEO, the first thing you should do is research potential target keywords to find the words that resonate most with your audience.
It’s easier to rank for clearly defined, long-tail keywords than generic phrases. For instance, you’ll get more views and interactions if you optimise your video for ‘best boutique hotels in New York’ rather than ‘New York hotels’.
These long-tail keywords should be formatted slightly differently from their counterparts on Google. Terms such as ‘tutorial’, ‘review’, ‘how-to-guide’ etc. are commonly used when searching for videos, while more formal terms like ‘best practice’ tend to be less popular.
By using carefully-researched keywords in your video content, you increase the chances that your videos will appear on the first page of YouTube and, therefore, in front of prospective customers.
2. Include your main keyword(s) in the video title
When composing a title for your video, you want to consider two things:
First, that the it’s both descriptive and engaging. Viewers and YouTube’s algorithm alike should be able to understand the purpose of your video without reading the accompanying description.
Secondly, that your main keyword(s) are included somewhere in the title — wherever it feels most natural. Apart from helping YouTube categorise your video, this will also improve its ranking potential.
3. Write an informative description
Any video uploaded to YouTube should be supported by a concise description of the content in question.
You’ll want to include both the main keywords you wish to target and a handful of suitable variations in the synopsis. According to YouTube Academy, this helps the site’s algorithm understand the purpose of your video and put it into context, while also making it easier for viewers to find it using search.
To provide further guidance for the viewer, it’s advisable to add the names of anyone who appears in the video, along with an itemised list of the topics discussed, links to related videos, and anything else that enhances the viewing experience.
4. Structure your video content
Like written content, the way your video content is structured has a profound effect on its ability to retain viewers and, ultimately, improve your ranking.
The trick is to open with a strong introduction that, while informative, doesn’t give everything away in the first minute. The bulk of your video should be broken down into clearly-defined sections, guiding viewers through each point in turn. Round things off with a concise overview of the wider discussion, culminating in a verbal call-to-action that encourages them to consume related pieces of video content.
5. State your target keyword
Both Google and YouTube’s algorithms are now sophisticated enough to process the spoken word without having to refer to a transcript. What this means for video marketers is that verbalising your main keyword(s) over the course of your video can actually help improve your YouTube ranking.
Chances are, you’ll likely be doing this anyway. Nevertheless, it’s worth bearing in mind — particularly if your main keyword is rather niche.
6. Add a link to your site
One of the simplest ways to improve your YouTube ranking is to include a link to your website in the description of all your videos. It should appear relatively early in the text. Alternatively, it could be presented on a separate line altogether to help it stand out.
As well as driving traffic to your website, this will increase the SEO strength of your domain by demonstrating the full breadth of your content and the scope of your services or products.
Additionally, you should include links to any third-party sources referenced during your videos in the description box. Apart from anything else, this demonstrates that your information is based on empirical evidence, which lends an extra air of authority to your voice.
7. Use appropriate YouTube tags
YouTube allows you to add tags to your videos. Much like tags on written content, they help search engine algorithms understand the purpose of your videos and categorise them accordingly, ensuring it only appears during relevant searches.
Opinions differ on the optimal way to format tags on YouTube. The same can be said of the number of tags that should be included. However, we’d advise using 5-10 tags per video (in order to avoid spamming your listings with superfluous keywords and confusing YouTube’s algorithm), opting for long-tail keywords over one-word phrases to improve your ranking potential in key areas.
8. Choose the right thumbnail
Choosing the right thumbnail — the image that appears next to your video in the YouTube search results page — is essential. Best practice suggests using a colourful, high-resolution image that reflects the content of the video itself and stands out from the crowd. Additionally, it can be helpful to include both the title of your video and a picture of a human being in your thumbnail.
Statistics suggest images that adhere to these guidelines improve click-through rates which, in turn, reinforces your video marketing strategy.
9. Embed your videos
Always embed the videos you upload on your website. This helps advertise your content to those that, while familiar with your products or services, aren’t necessarily aware of your YouTube presence. The result is more views and better engagement.
To really drive traffic to your YouTube channel, you’ll want to ensure your video content appears in your on-site search results pages. This type of “content search” is useful as a way of showcasing the full range of relevant content (blogs, videos, whitepapers, case studies, and everything in between) to visitors, in addition to the services or products you provide.
You should also make it possible for third parties to publish your videos on their sites. That way, you can extend your network without having to lift a finger.
10. Engage with your audience
If there’s one thing the internet isn’t short of, it’s comments. And while the toxicity of "comment culture" is a concern to some, in the professional sphere, comments provide the perfect opportunity to engage with your audience.
Thanking viewers for taking the time out of their day to express their opinion on your products or services may be the most common form of interaction you have with your audience, but you should also spend time answering their questions. Helping them understand a specific topic might be the difference between someone becoming a fully-fledged customer and choosing to take their business elsewhere.
11. Prioritise long videos
You might think that it’s more cost-effective and beneficial to your overall ranking to create short, 5-minute videos as opposed to longer pieces of content.
However, research conducted by Backlinko in 2017 found that longer videos perform significantly better — the average length of a video on the front page of YouTube clocking in at 14 minutes, 50 seconds.
So, if you’re thinking of investing heavily in YouTube as part of your wider marketing strategy, prioritise quality over quantity.
Optimise your eCommerce website
Recent studies show a direct correlation between the number of views, comments, likes, and shares a video receives, and its position on YouTube. It’s not always possible to manipulate these aspects of your video content, of course, but by employing these 11 techniques, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of making an impact on the ever-popular video streaming service. And this is becoming increasingly important.
According to a Forbes article published in 2018, product videos inform the purchasing decisions of 90% of consumers. If you run an eCommerce site, this makes it imperative that you embrace video marketing and do everything in your power to improve your YouTube ranking.
However, to succeed in an ever-crowded market place, your eCommerce site as a whole needs to be designed with best practice in mind.
To learn more about eCommerce website design and how it can help you deliver a frictionless shopping experience to your customers, download our in-depth guide.