6 Easy Steps to Optimizing YouTube Videos for Search Rankings

by David Schloss

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YouTube stands out as the world’s second leading search engine, bigger than even Bing or Yahoo. It’s undoubtedly the world’s biggest video search engine.

While it is true the content of the actual video isn’t (yet) searchable, videos now gain a high position in the SERPS since Google’s addition of video into its universal search. Should you have a look at the typical search engine results, you’ll notice that videos frequently secure middle or top positions on the first page.

A highly optimized video can easily obtain tens of thousands of viewers. If you’re lucky enough for a video to go viral, expect to get hundreds of thousands or even millions of views!

Here’s how to optimize your YouTube videos for optimal search rankings:

Step 1: Conduct Video Keyword Research

Just as you would optimize an article for search engines, the first step to optimizing videos is to conduct keyword research on the potential visitor volume and competition for select keyword phrases.

By using the Google Keyword Tool, you can compile a list of potential keywords. When conducting keyword research, you should target a wide variety of keywords, both high and low competition keywords, with high and low volume traffic.

YouTube Keyword Volume Estimates

If you would like to further break down your keywords, YouTube has its own keyword tool, the YouTube Keyword Tool, which provides search data for key phrases within YouTube’s search.

Step 2: Determine Keyword Competition and Traffic Volume

Are you competing against some strong competition? When doing keyword research on YouTube, analyze the videos by the following:

  • Number of views
  • Number of comments
  • Number of replies
  • Number of likes
  • Number of video responses
  • Percentage of people who liked the video out of total viewers
  • Channel subscribers

To view the number of likes, open a video and it will appear under the total view count:

YouTube Views Like Count

To view the number of comments left for a video, click on “View all Comments” toward the bottom of the video page:

YouTube Click Comments

The comment count will be above the comment box:

YouTube Number of Comments

By analyzing all this data and mapping it out in a spreadsheet, you’re able to gauge whether the keywords you’ve researched are worth targeting for videos.

Try to see whether the number of views to a video match the strength of competition. By weeding out the weak competition keywords with high view counts, you will be able to select keywords with the best volume-to-competition ratio.

Step 3: Write an Attention Grabbing Headline

The video headline is important for two reasons:

  1. It helps get the video to rank for relevant searches.
  2. It convinces people to click on the video.

Title Tag Tips

One of the key elements in writing your title tag is to include your main keyword. Additionally, you might want to also take these factors into account:

  1. Have your video file named with a keyword-rich title.
  2. Try to incorporate keywords at the beginning of your video title.
  3. If your video is part of a series, the series title should be at the end.
  4. Include a few keywords that are compelling and describe the episode (example: crazy, awesome, coolest, love, hate, etc.).

Bonus Tip: Put the term “video” at the beginning or end of the title tag. According to Mark Dulisse, over 38% of searchers are looking for videos and will include the “video” in the phrase.

Description Tips

Having an optimized description for your video is as important as the title. Consider the following:

  1. The description should include a link to your website, blog post, landing page, etc. on the first line. When adding a link to the description, make sure to include “http://” in order to make the link clickable.
  2. The title should be included in the first sentence of the description.
  3. Include links to other YouTube videos and your Twitter, Facebook, and other social profiles.

Step 4: Gather as Many Favorites, Likes and Comments as Humanly Possible

The number of likes, favorites and comments are very important when it comes to ranking videos within universal search. Much like link diversity of websites, the more likes, favorites and comments you have, the more YouTube is going consider your video the most relevant for certain key phrases.

How exactly do you go about increasing likes, favorites, and comments on your videos?

The simplest method: ask people! One method is to send the video to friends, family, and colleagues and asking them for likes, comments, and favorites. Another method, which is much simpler, is to add an annotation within the video.

In order to add an annotation, click the “Annotations” tab when editing your video.

YouTube Annotations

By clicking “Add annotation,” there will be a drop down box with various choices of annotations.

YouTube Add Annotation

Choose a type of annotation and include a message to get people to add subscribe, comment, favorite or like your video.

YouTube Annotation Example

Extra Ideas for Annotations

  1. Add a “note” annotation asking viewers to subscribe.
  2. Add a “spotlight” annotation that links to your latest video.
  3. Add a “speech bubble” annotation asking viewers to “click like” or “save to favorites” if they enjoyed the video.

Step 5: How to Rank for Related and Suggested Videos

Two underutilized traffic sources for videos are related videos and suggested videos.

What exactly are related videos and suggested videos?

They are videos that appear after a viewer as finished watching a similar video, or the videos that appear on the right hand side of the video currently being viewed.

YouTube Related and Suggested Videos

So how exactly do you get your videos to appear under related or suggested videos? More importantly, how do you get your videos to appear with high traffic and relevant videos?

Make sure to build the credibility of your video through views, comments, and likes. The more views and comments on a video, the more likely YouTube is willing to suggest or relate your videos.

Bonus Tips: Copy down the keyword tags of videos in your industry. By having closely related (not identical) keywords in your video, this gives YouTube an idea of your video’s similarity to others. Then try to use these keywords in your title. Having a similar main keyword in your video title can help you obtain several suggested and related video spots.

Thumbnail Tips

Make sure to pick a clear, attractive video thumbnail. Besides your title, the thumbnail is what grabs the attention of the viewer. Having a visually appealing thumbnail can have a huge impact on your video’s view count. DO NOT automatically select the default thumbnail, but instead choose a thumbnail that’s more visually interesting.

Step 6: Link Building for Video

Much like you would conduct SEO for a website, obtaining rankings for videos requires backlinks. Link diversity is just as important to videos as they are to websites.

How do you generate backlinks to your videos?

Before you start building links, it’s most important to make sure your video is original and high quality. If you create a video that is informative and it’s something you feel can help others, then you know it’s a video people will naturally link to as a resource.

Though having an amazing video can help your link building efforts, there’s a need for some manual link building. Here are some easy and basic link building methods for video:

  1. Article directory websites with relevant articles linking back to your video.
  2. Link to the video from your own site(s) through a simple blog post or page.
  3. Social bookmark your video on sites like Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon.
  4. Write a press release and link to (or possibly embed) the video within the release.
  5. Post the video on other video distribution websites and link back to the original video in the description (use this method with caution).

Do you see the similarity between video SEO and SEO for websites?

If you rather have the link building done for you, I suggest heading over to Fiverr or Microworkers and pay for several gigs that include the methods mentioned above. Depending on your competition, minimum effective dose comes into play: buy 1-2 bookmarking gigs, wait one to two day, and then evaluate whether the video needs more links to move up in ranking. Considering how fast videos seem to rank organically, you can generally determine whether a video will rank on the first page in roughly 4-5 days.

Bonus Step: Boosting Related Video Ranking Factors

Using Fiverr or Microworkers, you can help kick start your video by searching for gigs that help boost the following:

  1. Comments – discussion within your video indicates that is is worth viewing. The more comments the better. Toward the end of your video or in the description, ask a question in order to engage conversation. Make sure to respond to viewer comments in your videos.
  2. Likes and Favorites – Ratings and favorites help YouTube determine a video’s popularity. Videos with tons of likes and favorites are often favored over videos with lower numbers. Use an annotation to encourage people to “hit the like button” and “save to favorites” if they enjoyed the video.
  3. Embeds – Video embedding is a key factor in increasing video views. ALWAYS allow your videos to be embedded in the sharing options. With this option available, bloggers are now able to share your video directly on their website, which can increase the view count dramatically.

It’s Time to Get Started!

It’s important to remember that many YouTubers have NEVER intentionally tried to rank their videos. If you focus on optimizing your videos with each submission, you’re already ahead of the top 1% on YouTube. If you follow the tips outlined in this post, you’re one step closer to outranking your competitors.

ABOUT David Schloss…

David Schloss is a Internet Marketing junkie! He works with clientele in various industries and helps strengthen their online presence in the search engines and social media. He’s also an mobile video blogger and documents his successes and failures while working online. David provides a wealth of information and results on his blog at Rampify.com.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Piecha September 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Awesome post and great tips, David. Super easy to read, making it simple for anyone to implement!

Leaving a video response to your YoutTube video is said to increase it’s rankings as well, even if it’s a response from your own account.

I’m working on testing that one. ;)

Have you experienced more YouTube/Google love from having video responses? Have you added your own?


David Schloss September 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Thank you for the kind words, Jay!

In my tests, video responses have helped me rank for the RELATED VIDEOS more than actual Google rankings. I’ve tried doing video responses to videos I know will get huge amounts of traffic before many others follow suit.

Simply put: I go after the big YouTube in my industry and get a video response up as soon as possible since I know they’ll get views easily.


Alan Bechtold September 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Hey — this is GREAT STUFF! And FREE? I need to spread the word. Excellent work!


David Schloss September 26, 2011 at 7:37 pm

It’s absolutely FREE to you, Alan! ;)

I appreciate spreading the word. Couldn’t have asked for anything more!


Damien Rufus September 26, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Great post David. We rank videos for our clients and ourselves every day and I try to consume all info when it comes to that.


David Schloss September 26, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Thank you, Damien! Video marketing is definitely a very time and knowledge consuming task. When done effectively it is deadly!


Matt September 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm

What are your thoughts on services like viewet.com and view sharing or sub for sub services? Thanks!


David Schloss September 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I have used Viewet in the past for various tests. It’s very easy to get a video banned for “bot-like views” (had a video taken down running solely off Viewet views).

Here’s what I have done with Viewet:

1. Video goes out; setup Viewet to run until the 250-300 view mark.
2. Let video naturally get videos through video response postings OR organically through YouTube/Google
3. Once the video has surpassed the “freeze point” in YouTube, I turn it back on for another couple hundred views.

I’ve used this tactic for friends and clients to give their videos a little boost. I’ve noticed my client videos getting more views simply because the initial view count was high enough to get a video searcher’s attention.

A video can have 10 views and be the most outstanding video ever, but another video can have 1000 views, suck, and get much more attention. Combine the best of both worlds and you’re gold, so use Viewet WISELY!


Drew Laughlin September 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Wow David this is great stuff! I must shamefully admit that I am one of those people who rarely optimizes their videos. But this article is super helpful so I will certainly change that. Thanks for sharing!



David Schloss September 26, 2011 at 10:44 pm

It was my pleasure, Drew! I’ve been one of those people that forgets to optimize videos, but as of late I’ve been going back through all my videos and making the changes. The results: more views! =)


Jimmy Wrex September 27, 2011 at 10:39 am

This is really great stuff David! I’ve been experimenting more and more with video and the results are great. I’ll definitely be putting some of your suggestions into practice.


David Schloss September 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

Appreciate it, Jimmy! Video is definitely worth testing. It just takes a lot of practicing and tweaking, but the results can be huge!


Cullen Kernan September 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

These are great tips David. I would have never thought about building links for a video. I’ll definitely be putting these to work on my upcoming videos.


David Schloss September 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Thank you, Cullen! In my opinion, video marketing is still “new” to many people. Think of your videos as a website: you must build links to quality content to get maximum rankings and exposure.


Al Williamson September 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Ok, such a great piece I have to say “thank you”. You’ve saved us all a lot of work and provide great value.


Jeanne Mayeux October 1, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I really like your tip on putting in an annotation that says best comment of the month gets a free…
I do this for a living but hadn’t thought of that.


David Schloss October 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Glad I could provide a useful tip, Jeanne! =)


Jeanne Mayeux October 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Thumbnails: One more tip. You can insert a single frame at the exact midpoint of the video that will be amongst your selectable thumbnails. So you get to choose what the cover of your video should look like and not just pick from 3 thumbnails. A lot of idiots made it a picture of a sexy girl. Wow that one got old fast.


David Schloss October 1, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I still use that tactic strategically for certain types of videos. I’ve been lucky enough to have videos that have great thumbnails available without having to go back and place images in the middle of the video.

Just so you know, the “sexy girl” tactic is still being used and STILL works for certain types of videos. I know this because my YouTube partner friends have tested different thumbnails with their audience, and surprisingly the image of themselves + a girl in the background = more click throughs (weird huh?).


Brett Burky October 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I was reading through this and very intrigued. Then I get to the bottom and I’m like “what I know that dude”!!

Like the related videos idea. Have tried to do that but doesn’t the person that has the original have to approved it is related? I thought that was the case.


David Schloss October 19, 2011 at 3:53 am

@Brett the account holder only has to approve video responses. For related videos, it all relates to proper tagging and title of your video. If tagging and your title are in close relation to a certain topic, your chances of showing up as a “related” video are much higher.

For example, if you take the exact same tags as a popular video and create a similar video to it with the same tags, you’re more than likely to show up as a related video (from my testing).


wilson modi January 7, 2012 at 1:44 pm

This is such an excellent post.

Great stuff.

Now it is time to implement.


JP Maroney aka "Mr. Monetizer" November 5, 2012 at 7:50 am


Really great stuff. Just found out in FB that you’re somewhat a youtube “jenius” :)

I’ll help spread the word. Hope we can connect for an interview. Would be fun to share you stuff with my peeps.

JP Maroney
aka “Mr. Monetizer”


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