YouTube SEO: How to Optimize Videos for YouTube Search

Right now, YouTube holds a monopoly on online video content. Even though other video hosting platforms like Facebook, Vimeo, and Tik Tok are drawing large crowds, for now, YouTube is still the video content king.

The platform has been around since early 2005 and has seen a lot of changes since then, introducing innovative features and new algorithm changes along the way. This means that content creators have to make sure their content aligns with these changes. Creating a successful YouTube channel means more than just producing entertaining content – it’s the result of knowing the rules and implementing solid strategies.

Think SEO

Few people realize just how important SEO is when it comes to videos. Usually, SEO is delegated to websites and blog articles, but videos have keyword optimization. How else does YouTube decide what videos to rank for which searches, and how high each video ranks? The number of views for the video has an impact, of course, but there are a lot of other factors too.

Do keyword research

Finding the right keywords to rank for is essential for growing a YouTube channel. Start with identifying competitors in the same niche and looking at which keywords they target. These can be found in the title, description, and tags they use. A browser extension tool like vidIQ Vision can help show tags for videos.

Next up, also look up which keywords are the most searched overall because those are the ones that should be targeted. There are plenty of helpful tools that can help show keyword search terms for Google, like BuzzSumo.

Choose the channel name wisely

Remember, once chosen the channel name cannot be changed. So it’s important to go with something that makes sense for the content that the channel will have. It’s just as important not to choose anything that can be potentially embarrassing later on as the channel grows.

Rename the video file

Video file names may not sound like something that matters, but it actually does. Because it’s one of the only things YouTube can assess to see what the video is about. YouTube can’t “see” what’s in a video, but it can read the file name, source code, and subtitles to get an idea.

That’s why it’s important to use the keyword in the file name and to add subtitles and closed captions. All of these things together help tell the algorithm what the video is about.

Insert a keyword into the video description

Titles aren’t just important for YouTube’s search algorithm – they’re what determines whether someone clicks on a video or not. A study of YouTube rankings showed that titles with exact match keywords outperformed those that didn’t match the search phrase exactly.

Optimize the video description

Along with the title, a video’s description is one of the few things that YouTube can use to gauge what a video is about. While the same study mentioned above didn’t find any correlation between video descriptions and ranking – it can’t hurt to optimize this part anyway. Especially since this may change at any time when YouTube decides to tweak its algorithm again.

Use tags

Unlike with descriptions, YouTube admits that tags are important for its algorithm. Try to add as many relevant tags as possible and make sure to put the most important ones first. But be careful of keyword stuffing. The platform will penalize videos that add a bunch of unrelated tags simply for the sake of reaching a wider audience.

Keep People Engaged

Video retention is a major ranking factor for YouTube. Essentially, this translates to how long people watch a video before they move on. Obviously, the ideal would be to have people watch the entire video, but that’s a hard thing to do. Try to keep them engaged for at least 10 minutes or the first third of the video, whichever comes first.


Remember that no matter how many tips or tricks are out there, the key to growing a YouTube channel still lies in creating engaging content. No matter how many keywords a person stuffs into their YouTube videos, it won’t do well if it doesn’t get any views and retains viewer attention.