Today, you’re gonna learn how to rank your videos number one in YouTube. In fact, the YouTube SEO tips I’m about to share with you have helped me rank for hundreds of different keywords. And thanks to these nine strategies, I even rank in the top three for the keyword video SEO. Now, I should warn you. I’m not gonna give you generic advice like use video tags. You already know that stuff. Instead, you’re gonna see little-known SEO tips that are working right now. I’m Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko and let’s dive right in.
When I launched my YouTube channel a few years ago, I felt great. And to get ready, I watched dozens of videos from so-called YouTube SEO experts. So, I was super excited when my channel finally went live. I thought to myself, “Self, it’s only a matter of time “before your videos rank in YouTube and get lots of views.” There was only one problem, it never happened. In fact, despite working really hard on my videos, my views barely budged.
One day I decided to stop following the advice from so-called YouTube experts. So, I slapped on my lab coat and set out to figure this whole YouTube SEO thing out myself. Let’s do this. And trust me, I tested everything. I tested different combinations of keywords, video lengths, introductions, tags, and more. It took months of almost non-stop testing for me to figure things out. But in the end, I developed a formula for ranking videos that actually worked. This formula quickly grew my rankings, views, subscribers, and traffic. Now it’s time for me to show you the nine most powerful strategies that I used.
So, without further ado, let’s kick things off with strategy number one, front-load your keyword. Everyone and their mom knows you should use your target keyword in your video title. But what you might not know is that YouTube puts more weight on words that appear in the beginning of your title. For example, let’s say you want to rank your video for cold brew coffee. Most people would use a title like this. Now, that title isn’t horrible or anything.
But you can easily make that title even more SEO friendly by front-loading your keyword. A title with a front-loaded keyword would look something like this. In fact this little tip works so well, that I tend to front-load keywords in almost all of my titles. With that, it’s time for our second strategy, boost video engagement signals. Last year, I conducted the largest YouTube ranking factor study ever. Specifically, we analyzed 1.3 million YouTube search results to figure out what makes certain videos rank higher than others. So, what did we find? We found that videos with lots of engagement signals outranked videos that didn’t get a lot of engagement. So, what are engagement signals exactly?
Engagement signals are things like shares, likes, comments, and subscribes. Basically, whenever someone engages with your video, it tells YouTube people are loving this video. Our data found that comments correlated with rankings more than any other engagement signal. The question is, how can you get more people to comment on your videos? From lots of testing, I’ve found that putting a hyper-specific call to action at the end of your video, works best. You see, most YouTubers use a generic call to action like, “Leave a comment,” or “Let me know what you think.” But I’ve found that hyper-specific call to actions work much better.
So, instead of a generic, “Leave a comment,” give your viewer something specific to comment on. For example, at the end of this video, I asked my viewers which of the two strategies from the video they’re gonna try first. Because I made commenting insanely easy, that video has racked up hundreds of comments. Our third strategy is to use the tab formula for video tags. Here’s the deal with video tags on YouTube. According to our ranking factor study, tags aren’t as important as they used to be. That said, tags still make a difference. So, it’s worthwhile to spend some time in them. Unfortunately, most people on YouTube use tags completely wrong.
Remember, your video tags are designed to help YouTube understand the content of your video. Which means you don’t need a lot of tags to get the job done. In fact, if you use lots of tags, you’re just gonna confuse YouTube and Google and they’ll have no idea what your video is actually about. For example, take a look at this video. It has a whopping 17 tags. Imagine for a second that you’re YouTube. What do these tags tell you? Well, they tell you that the video is about 17 different topics. If YouTube doesn’t understand what your video is about, they’re not gonna rank it for anything. That’s why I recommend using a small number of highly specific tags.
I call my approach the TAB formula. The TAB stands for target, alternative, and broad. Here’s exactly how it works. First, make sure that your first tag is your target keyword. Just like with your title, YouTube puts more weight on tags that appear early on, especially your fist tag. So, if your keyword is green smoothie recipes, you’d make your first tag green smoothie recipes, simple. Next, create two to three tags that are alternative versions of your main keyword. For example, you’d use variations of green smoothie recipes like green smoothie recipes for breakfast, and easy green smoothie recipes.
You can easily find these variations by popping a target keyword into the YouTube search field and seeing what YouTube suggests. These suggestions make perfect alternative versions of your main keyword to use as tags. Finally, include one or two broad terms as your last set of tags. These tags should describe your videos overall topic or industry. The goal of these broad tags is just to give YouTube more context about your video.
For example, broad keywords for green smoothie recipes would be things like nutrition and smoothies. Next up, we have CTR magnet thumbnails. You probably already know that click-through rate is an important YouTube ranking factor. In other words, if your video gets an above-average amount of clicks in the search results, YouTube’s gonna give you a rankings bump. The question is, how can you get more clicks. Use CTR magnet thumbnails.
So, what are CTR magnet thumbnails? They’re thumbnails that are strategically designed to get more clicks from YouTube searchers. Here’s the step-by-step process. First, use non-YouTube colors in your thumbnail. What do I mean by non-YouTube colors? Well, the main colors on YouTube’s website are white, red, and black. So, if you use those same colors in your thumbnail, you’re gonna blend in. Instead, I recommend using colors that contrast with YouTube’s color scheme like green, blue, purple, gray, and orange. For example, I use green, blue, and gray in most of my thumbnails. These colors help my results stand out from the others which brings me more clicks. Next, use big, bold text in you thumbnail.
My experiments have taught me that thumbnails with text get more clicks than thumbnails without any text. That said, your thumbnail is pretty small. So, you don’t have a lot of room to work with. That’s why I recommend using 30 characters of text max. For example, the thumbnail of my video that ranks number one for e-commerce SEO, has a grand total of 23 characters. Our fifth YouTube SEO tip is to write many blog posts for your video descriptions. When I first started my YouTube channel, I put zero thought into my video descriptions. This video is awesome. And description done. It turns out, this was a huge mistake. From lots of testing I’ve found that long descriptions help videos rank better in YouTube because the longer descriptions help YouTube better understand what your video is all about.
That’s why I recommend making your descriptions between 100 and 200 words. For example, check out this video of mine that’s done really well. The description for this video is 142 words. And that long description has helped that video make it’s way to the top of YouTube for competitive keywords like SEO. You might be wondering, “What do I actually write “in my description?” Well, you want to outline the content of your video without giving away the farm.
For example, here’s the description for my e-commerce SEO video. As you can see, I describe the content of the video but I don’t get into the meaty details. That way, even if someone reads the description, they still need to watch the video to see the actual content. Let’s jump right into our next strategy, boost video length. When it comes to video SEO, what works better? Long videos or short videos? Well, when we analyzed 1.3 million YouTube videos, we discovered that longer videos tended to outrank short videos.
In fact, our data showed that the average video on the first page of YouTube is 14 minutes, 50 seconds long. What’s going on here? Well, a few years ago, YouTube said, “We focus on those videos that increase the amount of time “that the viewer will spend watching videos on YouTube.” In other words, YouTube loves videos that keep people watching for long periods of time. For example, check out this video from my channel, it’s almost 14 minutes long. Because that video is on the longer side, it racks up lots of watch time automatically. That simply wouldn’t be possible if my video was only two minutes. Bottom line, whenever it makes sense, make your videos between eight and 15 minutes long. In my experience, that’s the sweet spot for ranking in YouTube search results. Moving right along to our next strategy, strategy number seven, which is to use brackets and parentheses in your video title.
Like I mentioned earlier, YouTube uses click-through rate as a ranking factor. And, yes, your thumbnail is a big part of the equation. But don’t forget about your title, it’s huge. In fact, YouTube themselves, state that, “Well written titles can be the difference “between someone watching and sharing your video “or scrolling right past it.” One of the easiest ways to increase your click-through rate is to add brackets or parentheses to your video title. In fact, a study commissioned by HubSpot discovered that simply adding brackets and parentheses to titles boosts the click-through rate by up to 38%. For example, let’s say you just published a video that outlined 10 video marketing tips.
And your original title looked like this. Well, according to HubSpot’s research, by changing your title to this, you can increase your clicks by more than a third. Actually, parentheses works so well, that I tend to use them in almost all of my vide titles. And here are some examples of things that you can include in brackets or parentheses that work really well. Now it’s time for strategy number eight, rank in suggested video. Here’s the deal, YouTube SEO is more than just ranking in the search results. In fact, you can get just as many views if not more by getting your video to appear as a suggested video.
Suggested video is when your video shows up next to another video in the sidebar. So, if you can get your video to show up next to a really popular video, you’ll steal some of their views. The best way to show up as a suggested video, use the same tags that video uses. When YouTube sees that some of your tags match the tags from a popular video, they’ll understand that your video is about the same topic. Which means they’ll likely rank your video as a suggested video.
For example, let’s say you wanted to rank as a suggested video next to this video. First, check out the tags that video uses. To see a video’s tags, you need to look at the source code of the page. To do this with Google Chrome, just right-click on the page and click view page source. Then look at the keyword section of the page. The keywords that appear here are the tags for that video. You can also use a tool like TubeBuddy or VidIQ which will show you a video’s tags without needing to look through the source code. Next, use a few of the tags that video uses on your video. Make sure to copy the tags exactly word for word. If your video is high-quality and closely related to the popular video, YouTube will start to rank you as a suggested video. With that, let’s dive into our last strategy, turn donkeys into unicorns.
The fact is this, whether you’re a small channel or have a million subscribers, we all have videos that do better than others. Why is that? Well, there are a lot of reasons behind this. But from analyzing millions of videos, I’ve found that videos that do well tend to have one thing in common, lots of watch time. We talked about watch time a little bit before. It’s the total amount of time that people spend watching your video. I recently discovered a great way to increase my watch time, turning donkeys into unicorns. Here’s how it works. First, log into your YouTube analytics and click on audience retention. This report shows you how much of a video people watch and where they tend to drop off.
Then, search for a video you’ve published on your channel that’s done really well. Finally, keep an eye out for audience retention peaks. Peaks are sections of your video that have above average audience retention. Then, just watch that section of your video to figure out what kept people watching that part. Did you put a graphic on screen? Say something funny? Or maybe you did something simple like change the camera angle. Take note of that. Then apply what you learn to future videos. For example, here’s an audience retention report from a video I published a while back. See that peak right there?
In that section of the video, I outlined a real life example of how someone increased their Google rankings. So, I made sure to use real life examples in the beginning of all of my future videos. It helped those videos go from potential donkeys to amazing unicorns. Okay, so I know I said I’d show you nine video SEO strategies. But I recently came across a cool little hack that’s working really well for me. And I wanted to share it with you. That hack is include the current year in your video title. YouTube users want to see content that’s current and relevant. I know, thanks, Captain Obvious. But, here’s the thing. How do you actually demonstrate that your content is useful today?
Include the current year in your video title. When you include the current year in your video title, your result instantly stands out in the search results and in the suggested video sidebar. Which means you’ll get more clicks and views. Plus, as a bonus, lots of people search for keyword plus year in Google and YouTube. So, when you add the year to your video title and description, you’ll rank higher for these keyword plus year keywords. For example, if your title looked like this, just add the current year and you instantly have a title that’s gonna get you a higher click-through rate. So, did you learn something new from today’s video? Then make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel right now. Just click on the subscribe button below this video. Also, if you want exclusive SEO strategies that I only share with subscribers, head over to Backlinko.com and sign up for the newsletter, it’s free.
Now, I want to turn it over to you. Which of the YouTube SEO tips from this video are you gonna use first? Are you gonna try front-loading your keywords? Or maybe you’re ready to turn donkeys into unicorns? Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now. I’m rolling, yeah. I really don’t want to say that.
Do you hear that? Okay, yeah, it’s possible ‘cause when I— You know what I mean? What? Button, goggles.