Optimising for YouTube: Using Keywords


We’ve heard it before. 'YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world,' 'YouTube is bigger than Facebook' and 'YouTube reaches more 18–34 year olds than cable TV'. Yet, in the land of opportunity that is YouTube, very few of us actually take the time to give our videos a fighting chance. In the first part of our two part ‘Optimising for YouTube’ series, we are looking at how you can use keywords to help your business get the biggest bang for its buck.

1. Identify your Keywords

There’s no question that the best way to be found on YouTube is to have great content. While engagement and view count play a major role in the search rank of your videos, it’s also not the only way to get in front of your target audience.

If you’re a digital marketer, chances are you already have a pretty trusty set of keywords you use for SEO and SEM. If you’re new to the digital space, or focusing specifically on video, it’s a good idea to take the time to really understand the phrases that your target audience will be searching for. A great place to start is by looking at what your competitors are doing – there’s a good chance they’ve already done all your research for you. Alternatively, you can use Google's Keyword Planner which is available within your Google AdWords account.

Once you have your list, choose one main keyword or phrase that will be the focus of your video. You can also pinpoint a couple of others that you think your target audience might be searching for (because really, they just want to see your videos, right?)

2. Consider your Filename

Now that you have your keywords, make sure they’re in the filename of your video. YouTube doesn’t have the luxury of watching every video that’s uploaded to their servers. Instead, they use whatever information they can to see what content you’re uploading.

Here’s an example of a good filename:


And a some examples of bad filenames:


3. Write a Great Title

You don’t have to be Einstein to know that putting your keyword in the first few words of your title is important to ranking for that search query, however that is not everything. The primary task of your title is to convince someone to spend their valuable time watching your video. It’s also a good idea to keep the whole thing under 70 characters if you can, otherwise it will be cut off in the search results.

4. Entice with your Description

Now for the description. What better place to start than with your company URL? Placing your URL at the top of your description allows your viewers to quickly get to your site if they want more information than what’s available in your video.

Next, make the most of what’s left of the characters (approximately 120) that will be visible in search results. Work your keywords into the copy and don’t forget to make it enticing. This could be the difference between someone choosing to watch your video over your competitor’s. It’s a good idea to try and get your keywords, as well as any other targeted search phrases in there, while keeping it readable. As a general rule, don’t use any keyword more than three or four times because it might look like you’re keyword stuffing and nobody’s got time for that.

1 GA coffee
1 GA coffee

5. Add Tags

Tagging doesn’t do as much as it once did for search rankings, but it’s still worth taking the time to add them to your videos. Back in August 2012 YouTube stopped showing tags on video watch pages because too many people were replicating the tags of highly ranked, highly viewed videos to help their content rank and appear as suggested viewing for specific keywords.

While it’s not recommended to copy the tags of another video verbatim, looking at how others are tagging is still a great place to start. You can still easily see the tags of other content by right clicking on the video watch page and selecting 'view page source'. Once in the source, search the page for “keywords” which will return two results. The first will be the keywords meta tag which is populated with a truncated version of the list:

<meta name="keywords" content="Universal Analytics, Google Analytics, Tracking Offline..."

The second will be the full list of tags used, each separated by a comma which can help you with your keyword research needs:

"keywords": "Universal Analytics, Google Analytics, Tracking Offline, Loves Data"

That’s part 1 of our ‘Optimising for YouTube,’ series. Next time we’ll look at branding your YouTube channel.

How do you optimise your videos for YouTube? Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comments!