YouTube SEO: How to Rank Your Videos Effectively in 2024


Internet users don’t like waiting for websites to load, but they love spending 100 minutes daily watching online videos.

This shows how powerful videos are.

People watch 1 billion hours of videos on YouTube every day because it’s very popular.

Surprisingly, YouTube is the second-largest search engine globally, right after Google.

Even though we don’t usually think of YouTube as a search engine, it works like one. It ranks search queries, much like Google does, and you can tweak your content to make it more searchable.

Every month, 42.9% of people around the world use YouTube. These are potential customers that you could get and turn into buyers for your business. That’s why it’s a simple decision to include YouTube in your digital marketing and content marketing plans.

Now that you know the strength of video and how it can help your organization, it’s time to learn the basics of YouTube SEO. This way, you can figure out how to catch the algorithm’s attention and start winning on YouTube searches.

The following guide will teach you:

  • How YouTube ranks videos
  • YouTube SEO tips
  • How to do keyword research for videos
  • How to optimize videos to rank well
  • How to build links & promote your videos

Let’s dive in.

Understanding How YouTube Ranks Videos

Google owns YouTube, and this has made YouTube a powerful video search engine, making sure videos get quickly noticed. It has also boosted YouTube’s position in search engine results (for specific words).

YouTube, just like Google, uses a system that sorts videos using different factors.

So, relying only on keywords and descriptions for YouTube SEO isn’t enough. Instead, focus on a few areas to improve how easily people find your videos:

  • Views & frequency
  • Watch time
  • Number of subscribers
  • Annotation linking
  • Flagging
  • Likes & dislikes
  • Shares
  • Favorites

Optimizing your YouTube videos involves making your video content, playlists, metadata, and search descriptions better.

Just like with other search engines, the factors that decide how well your video ranks on YouTube keep changing. Over time, YouTube has made a lot of small changes to how it decides which videos to show. To stay competitive, you need to know and keep up with the latest SEO updates on Google and YouTube.

In the past, YouTube used to rank videos mainly based on how many clicks and views they got.

This didn’t work well because it led to a lot of ‘clickbait’ – videos with misleading titles and thumbnails just to get more clicks. The quality of these videos was often low or missing, as the main aim was for visitors to click on the video.

Next, the YouTube team started using the steps mentioned earlier. They started ranking videos mainly based on how happy viewers were.

YouTube’s algorithm has the same purpose as Google’s: to give users the best quality and most relevant content. This is beneficial for YouTube as it keeps users on the platform by recommending new content to watch. If you pay attention to each ranking factor, it can also help you by significantly increasing the visibility of your videos.

Keyword Research For Videos

While keywords aren’t the only thing you should focus on for your YouTube SEO strategy, they’re still really important.

Actually, the first thing you need to do when planning your YouTube SEO is to do research on keywords for your videos. If you skip this, you won’t know what people are searching for online. That’s why it’s crucial to begin by making a list of popular words and phrases that your audience uses.

How do you do that?

A good way to start is to go to YouTube and use the search box. Just type in a word or phrase related to your topic, and YouTube will suggest a bunch of keywords. Let’s say your company makes custom photo backgrounds.

  • Backdrop decoration ideas
  • Backdrop stand
  • Backdrop photography
  • Backdrops for YouTube videos

And there you have it! Now you’ve got four great keyword ideas to add to your list. These keyword suggestions are useful because they are the words people search for on YouTube.

As a result, you now have relevant keywords that your target audience uses. Plus, you didn’t have to spend any money to get this information.

Another approach is to find a popular video in your area of interest. Using the example above, you’d want to pick one of the top three videos that show up when you search ‘backdrop.’ From there, all you need to do is borrow the keywords used in the video, and you’ll have a proven list of video keywords that are sure to rank.

We’re going to discover some specific keywords for our chosen topic, which I’ve picked as “dog training.”

Start a search on YouTube using either TubeBuddy or VidIQ installed (I personally prefer TubeBuddy). Begin typing words related to your topic and let YouTube suggest ideas. Look for a group of words (usually at least 3-4+ words) that perform well in both competition (few other videos with the same search term) and search volume (number of people searching for that query).

Feel free to select a couple of related terms that rank well. In this instance, I’ll go with “how to teach a dog to walk on leash without pulling” and “basic dog training for beginners.”

If you skip this step, you might end up creating a video on a topic that either everyone has already covered extensively, or that no one is searching for. Save yourself time by doing this part first.

Ranking on YouTube and Google 

Getting your videos to show up on YouTube is great, but you know what’s even better? Getting them to rank on both YouTube and Google!

While Google gives YouTube special treatment in search results, it only happens for certain words. These words are usually called “video keywords.”

Before you start working on your next video, simply search your chosen term on Google. Check if any videos pop up in the search results. If they do, you’re seeing your competitors. Now, you have two options.

You can either look for a different term that doesn’t have videos on Google, or you can try to beat them with better content. Both methods get the job done, but the second one needs a bit more work.

However, understanding how to beat other content will give you a big advantage. If you create a video with the same keywords but more likes, shares, and subscribers, you’ll be on top. Beating content also supports other parts of SEO, like building links.

Usually, video keywords matter only for certain subjects. Not every keyword will show videos, so do some research.

Google usually shows “video results” for these keywords:

  • Product or software reviews.
  • Tutorials (e.g., “how to install Adobe Photoshop CS6”)
  • How-to keywords (e.g., “how to make a YouTube video”).
  • Funny videos (e.g., “funny cat fails”)
  • Anything sports, fitness, or fashion-related.
  • Current news events

My search-optimized videos began appearing in recommended lists only after receiving tens of thousands of views from searches. Unless you can boost the number of views and watch time on your videos, you won’t get any support from the algorithm.

Alternatively, you need a large number of subscribers, preferably in the hundreds of thousands, who can contribute initial watch time and views for your videos to be recommended and promoted by the algorithm.

This is quite clear, and it’s also the reason why small creators who haven’t gone viral face an extremely slim chance of becoming successful

In simple terms: Before you put money into videos, make sure to look at search engine results and figure out if it has the potential to naturally attract viewers. The key is to avoid spending your budget on a video that won’t show up in search rankings.

On-Page YouTube Ranking Signals

Now that you know how YouTube decides which videos to show, let’s start making your own. If you don’t have a YouTube channel yet, make one. Use your company name and add any needed branding to your channel name.

To make your content more likely to be seen, you can improve several on-page elements:

Name your video file using a keyword.

Now that you have a list of relevant keywords, use them in your video. First, change your video’s filename (not the title; we’ll talk about that later) to the keyword you’re targeting.

Why do this?

Because it’s the first thing YouTube will notice when checking out your video.

You see, YouTube’s computer system can’t actually watch your video. It can’t tell if your content matches your main keyword. But it can read your video’s file name. So, if your target term is in the name, YouTube will know your content is related.

Do yourself a favor and change the file name from ‘’ to ‘’

Now, YouTube knows your video is about ideas for decorating backdrops—the top keyword you wanted.

Additionally, ensure that your video is in one of the three most commonly supported formats by YouTube: .mov, .mp4, or .wmv. If you record in a different format, you can always use a free converter like Handbrake.

Giving your video file a clear name will increase its natural visibility, just like saving a picture in code.

Organically Place Your Keyword In The Video Title

Besides the file name, make sure to use your target keyword in the video title. Integrate it naturally, so it doesn’t seem forced or added on. Your title needs to be grammatically correct and clearly express the video’s content.

Let’s look at an example of a poor YouTube video title:

“Background Photos for Ideas on Decorating Background Stands”

It’s confusing and tries to incorporate too many keywords. Keep in mind that you’re titling your video for both YouTube and your audience. So, steer clear of keyword overload and, instead, create a brief and helpful headline.

“Top Backdrop Decoration Ideas for 2023”

Today, we focus on one key term: ‘ideas for decorating backdrops.’ It’s easy to understand, flows naturally, and makes perfect sense. You can see that creative backdrop decorating ideas are on the way.

YouTube likes names like this that come naturally. Although using your main word in your title is suggested, its impact is less than the video itself. What matters more than the keyword is making sure the title clearly explains what the video is about.

Think of it this way: the file name is for YouTube, and the video title is for your viewers.

Lastly, pay attention to the length when giving your video a name. Generally, limit your title to 60 characters or less to prevent it from getting cut off in search results.

YouTube’s Header Section

In the top part of the video, you can add links to other pages related to it, like a look at how the video was made or links to your social media profiles. This doesn’t just get you more views but also makes it easier for people to enjoy your content.

There are many ways to make more people see your videos.

You can also use the top part of your YouTube channel. Here, you can use keywords, add social media buttons, and connect with digital marketing. People often forget about YouTube headers, but they are great for improving your search ranking.

Write Long, Keyword-Rich Video Descriptions

Like mentioned before, YouTube and Google can’t watch or listen to your video. So, they mainly rely on the text around a video to get what it’s about. A short 30-word description won’t help much.

Just like with long form content, the better YouTube understands your video, the higher it will rank for your chosen keywords.

Remember, your description can only be up to 1,000 characters. It’s good to write more than 30 words, but don’t write a whole book.

Instead, go for descriptions that are 200-400 words long. That’s the ‘sweet spot’—not too long or too short. A description of this length will tell your readers important things and also help you rank for many versions of your keyword. While you’re doing that, add some related keywords if you can.

Another thing to think about is that after the first 100 characters, users have to click the ‘show more’ button.

So, put the most important information first in your description. If you have an important affiliate link or a CTA (call-to-action) to include, make sure it’s right at the beginning.

SEO will always be important for search but for CTR you need engagement by humans.

Lastly, add a written version of your video for people who may have trouble hearing. This will make your videos easier to use and understand.

#2 Description Writing Strategy

Craft your title using the search term (or terms if you’ve chosen two), and present it in an attractive format.

For example, our search terms ‘how to teach a dog to walk on a leash without pulling’ and ‘basic dog training for beginners’ can be combined as:

‘How to Teach Your Dog to Walk Without Pulling – Basic Dog Training for Beginners’

Great. Now, compose a brief paragraph or two in your description outlining your video. Crucially, integrate your chosen phrases naturally into the sentences. Avoid merely inserting the phrases without context, as Google can detect this and may penalize your content.

While tags don’t significantly impact SEO ranking, they offer valuable insights in tools like Tubebuddy and VidIQ on your editing page. For your tags, include your phrases as individual tags, along with a few slight variations. TubeBuddy and VidIQ will aid in monitoring your rank by showcasing your search rank on these tags when you review them later in the Details page of the video.

Strategically Use Keyword Tags Related To Your Video

Video tags help YouTube understand what your video is about. They tell the algorithm the content and context of your video. It’s important to be specific when adding tags. Make sure to include your main term and its variations. Also, use relevant keywords and variations.

But should you overload your video with lots of tags, even if they’re not directly related?


Resist the temptation to add countless tags to your video. Be cautious about them.

Avoiding spam is crucial, especially in the realm of SEO. Refrain from overloading your videos with keywords or keyword tags.

After incorporating your main keyword, related keywords, and their variations, it’s best to conclude your use of keyword tags.

Additionally, examining the tags your competitors employ for their videos is a wise move. Discovering these tags can be done by inspecting the HTML under meta keywords or utilizing a plugin.

Create A High-Quality Video Transcript

Crawlers can’t understand videos the way people do. Using transcripts for videos is helpful for search engines to know what’s in the video.

You can make transcripts better by including your important keywords. This helps crawlers understand the video content.

Many YouTubers use automated transcripts at the beginning. It’s a good idea, but you’ll need to fix errors to make the text clear. Automated transcribing isn’t perfect, so there might be mistakes and complex words.

Another option is making transcripts by hand before creating the video. If you write your video scripts, this is the best way to do it. Because the script already has all the things you’ll say, it works like a written record. You’ll just need to make a few changes, like adding timestamps after you record the video.

If you don’t write scripts for your videos, preparing a written record ahead of time would be inefficient.

The SEO benefits of including brief written records can be seen within the first few days. While both ways of making written records need a good amount of work, the results can be really good. If you have the means to make a written record, it’s a good investment.

Another benefit of making a written record is that viewers can watch your videos with subtitles. It’s useful for people who have trouble hearing and for those who watch without sound. This can boost your views and get more subscriptions.

Upload A Custom Thumbnail For Your Video

Think of your video’s thumbnail as its friendly wave to viewers. It’s the first thing they’ll notice about your content, so let’s make it impactful.

Although YouTube offers automatic thumbnails, it’s better to skip them. They’re usually boring and may not truly show what your video is about. Crafting your own thumbnail is the top way to boost your video’s success.

And guess what? There’s proof to back this up. The Creator Academy found that 90% of the most popular YouTube videos use custom thumbnails.

A good-looking thumbnail can also increase the chances of people clicking on your video. More people are likely to click on a video with an engaging image than one without.

So, how can you create a custom thumbnail?

If you know how to use Photoshop or a similar tool, you can do it yourself. Alternatively, you can hire various experts online through websites like FreeUp. They’ll create an attractive thumbnail for your video for a fee.

If you choose to do it yourself, there are a few important things to keep in mind, like the right formats. The thumbnail should be:

  • 1280 x 720 pixels
  • 16:9 ratio
  • 2MB or smaller in size
  • .jpg, .GIF, .bmp, or .png format 

If you stick to these rules, your thumbnail will show up perfectly when people search on YouTube.

Promotion & Link Building Techniques For YouTube Videos

After you’ve improved your video following the steps mentioned earlier, it’s time to begin promoting it through video marketing.

Since YouTube cares about numbers, it aims to rank videos with many views, links, and embeds. Take advantage of this.

If you can, bring notice to the video right after publishing. Here’s what to do:

Get As Many Natural Views As You Can As Quickly As Possible

After making your video, the next step is to get as many natural views as possible. Start by sending it to your email list and sharing it on all your social media platforms. Additionally, here are some real suggestions on how to get more first views:

Create Compelling Content That Outdoes The Competition

The final thing you don’t want is to create a video that looks like everyone else’s. Simply put, offer viewers something valuable they can’t find in other similar videos.

Before making a video, thoroughly check top-ranking competitors’ videos. Where do they lack substance? How can you share more information and provide extra details? A unique video with helpful content will always get more views than a generic one.

Encourage Your Viewers To Like, Share, And Subscribe 

If you’ve seen any YouTube videos lately, you’ve probably heard the routine, ‘Remember to like and subscribe.’ It might sound repetitive, but there’s a good reason for that – it works.

Encouraging your viewers to share your video can bring in more natural views. Try to give your own twist to the request to make it stand out and show that you genuinely care. This way, your viewers will sense your sincerity, and it won’t feel like you’re just going through the motions.

Create Relevant Playlists For Viewers

Creating playlists of videos that matter requires effort, but it pays off in getting more views. According to YouTube stats, the best channels make more playlists compared to the bottom 25%.

This clearly indicates that viewers appreciate playlists and watch them often. Ensure your playlists have only related videos, as random ones won’t be effective and can harm your brand image.

These are dependable methods to boost your initial views, aiding in a higher ranking on search results. 

Start Building Links To The Video And Get Embeds

As mentioned before, building links is a crucial part of any SEO strategy, and this holds true for YouTube too. The more links pointing to your video, the higher the likelihood of it ranking better.

Apart from making links to the video, you’ll also want embeds. An embed happens when someone directly includes your video in their stuff. Embeds can show up in a social media post, a blog post, a landing page, or another place.

How do you obtain embeds?

A great way to achieve this is by reaching out in a simple manner. Look for online articles about your video and get in touch with the creator. Let them know you’ve made a useful video related to their topic and ask if they could include it in their post.

Chances are, they’ll say yes because your video can enhance the strength of their content and assist them in surpassing their competitors in terms of SEO strategy.

In other words, it’s a win-win situation for you both. 

When it comes to adding links inside or outside, YouTube can manage almost any type of link you give it.

Final Thoughts

Getting more people to see your brand through video ranking is great. Video SEO has a lot in common with regular SEO, which is useful.

To make your videos show up well on YouTube, you need to do clever keyword research, make excellent content, and use links and tags smartly. Just follow the steps here, and you’ll do well in making your videos better for YouTube.

Feel free to share this guide on social media if you find it useful!

Christopher Smith
Author: Christopher Smith

SEO and linkbuilding expert. More than 7 years of work in the field of website search engine optimization, specialist in backlink promotion. Head of linkbuilding products at GREAT Guest Posts, a global linkbuilding platform. He regularly participates in SEO conferences and also hosts webinars dedicated to website optimization, working with various marketing tools, strategies and trends of backlink promotion.

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