Youtube SEO: How to Rank Your Videos and Drive More Traffic

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According to SEOexplode, 87% of smartphone users use search at least once a day. So, if you’re a video creator, it makes a lot of sense to optimize your YouTube videos for SEO. 

But, how do you go about using YouTube for SEO? And what makes Youtube SEO different from regular SEO? In this video by Ahrefs, we have the 411 on how to SEO YouTube Videos and get more organic traffic.

What is YouTube SEO anyway? 

Just like regular SEO, YouTube SEO’s goal is to rank high in the SERPs. It involves optimizing your content (videos, playlists, and channel) in order to appear in the search results for a given search query. 

How to do Youtube SEO the right way

YouTube SEO ensures that your videos get the attention that they deserve. Luckily, you can get your videos to rank in seven easy steps.   

1. Perform YouTube keyword research

Unlike doing SEO for Google, YouTube doesn’t have an official tool that can help you in your keyword research. While there are 3rd party tools that you can use, these tools are only basing their numbers on Google data.

To get the closest estimate for keyword volume, you can try using YouTube Suggest with Google Trends. 

Just type in your main keyword in YouTube’s search bar and take note of the suggested keywords. Then use Google Trends to compare keywords.

google trends for youtube

Keep in mind that Google Trends only estimates using “relative popularity”, so take the information you get with a grain of salt.

Another way you can get keyword volumes is by using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

ahrefs keyword explorer for youtube

This tool allows you to get metrics for search engines other than Google, like YouTube, Amazon, Bing, and more. Select YouTube and enter your list of keywords to see country-specific search volumes. 

Know your audience intent for searching

In order to get 4000 YouTube watch hours, you need to know why a user is searching for a specific query on YouTube. Or in other words, what content is your audience expecting to see when they type in their search query in the box. 

This step is pretty easy. Just type in the keyword you want to rank for in the YouTube search box and take a look at the top three results. Watch these videos and analyze the content. Notice the title, description, and take a quick look in the comments section to see what people are saying about the videos. 

So, if you type in  “how to build a website” for example, you’ll see that the most-watched videos are step-by-step guides to building one.

how to build a website youtube results

If you want to rank for that keyword, you’ll need to create videos that will teach people to build their websites fast. 

Create a video that sticks

One of the most important SEO tips for YouTube is to create a video that will ultimately provide value to your target audience. Engagement is still the most important factor when it comes to ranking on YouTube. If your videos are dull and boring, then they probably won’t rank. 

YouTube is very clear about their goal to help viewers find the videos they want to watch on the platform. So, in order to maximize viewer engagement and satisfaction,  you need to match your users’ search query, as well as meet their expectations. 

You don’t need a full-production crew to create high-retention videos. And while video and sound quality matters in satisfying viewers, your content needs to deliver on your promises. So, if you promise to teach your audience how to speak English fluently in less than 30 days, you can’t have content that’s focused on politics or history. 

A few tips on how to create videos that stick: 

  • Plan your videos
  • Hook your audience in the first 15 seconds of your video
  • Edit your videos (use jump cuts, highlight specific areas in your video that you want your audience to see, and present your topic with an entertaining narrative)

Do on-page video optimizations

On-page optimizations on YouTube is comprised of four things: Title, description, tags, and thumbnail. All these give your video context, thus influencing how YouTube ranks you on the search results page. Before viewers can click your video, they first need to find you. 

Here are some tried and tested tips to help improve YouTube SEO:

  • Include relevant keywords in the video’s title and descriptions
  • Keep titles concise. Deliver your idea in 60 characters or less
  • Use catchy titles that deliver a benefit or pique curiosity
  • Create thumbnails that creatively represents the video title
  • Write searchable video descriptions 
  • Add keywords as tags to your videos

Do in-video video optimizations

If on-page video optimizations help viewers find your videos on YouTube, in-video video optimizations enhance their viewing experience. These not only increase your video’s retention rate, but they also help turn viewers into subscribers. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Add closed captions or subtitles
  • Add cards to your videos to direct viewers to other related videos
  • Use end screens to suggest videos to viewers or remind them to subscribe to your channel 

Publish your video and promote it to get views

The first 24-48 hours after you’ve hit the publish button is crucial in increasing your view count. Since views count as social proof, you need to promote your video hard once it’s published. 

If you have a decent social media following, promoting your video on your accounts can rake in the views quickly. Or if you have an email subscribers list, make sure to update them of your new content immediately. 

Optimize your channel for session watch time

Lastly, optimize your channel and videos for session watch time. This is the total amount of time that a viewer spends watching videos on the platform without leaving it. Youtube prioritizes content that keeps the viewers watching so if you want your videos to rise the ranks, you have to figure out how to keep your audience interested in your channel. One effective way to keep people on your channel is to create a video series and arrange them into playlists. 


If at this point, you’re still asking yourself what YouTube SEO is, then here are the three important words that you need to remember:

  • Entertain
  • Engage
  • Rank

Make this your goal and your videos will rank in no time!



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