SEO For YouTube – Are You Harnessing the True Power of Video?

Updated: May 15, 2023 | Nick Ainge Roy | 3 mins. read

When it comes to SEO, most businesses focus their efforts on things that will help their website rank on the front page of Google, and understandably so, as search is the place where most customers will begin their journey. However, there is one search engine that businesses frequently overlook in their SEO efforts: YouTube.

While most people view YouTube as a video hosting service, it is really a video-based search engine. If Youtube was a stand alone business it would be the worlds second largest search engine! In addition, video is actually the third most influential touchpoint on the path to purchase after traditional search engines and brand (OEM) websites.

Think with Google The path to purchase for new car buyers: Why Aussie brands and OEMs need a digital-first strategy

Most businesses do have a YouTube chanel, but they simply use it to host videos and hope the Youtube Gods pick up their content and show it to users.

There is a better way.  

Today, we’re going to walk you through some tips that will help you harness the power of YouTube and video more broadly, by building a strategy that targets algorithms (to help Youtube understand and rank the content) and end-users to outperform your competitors.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Whether you’re optimising for Google or YouTube, one of the most fundamental aspects of SEO performance are the keywords you use. Targeting the right keywords will help get your business in front of as many eyes as possible, but how do you know what to target? There are several approaches to finding out what keywords people are looking for, but one of the best ways is to just start searching.

Suggested searches tell you what other YouTube users are searching for and are a launching point for deciding what keywords to target. In the example below, we started our search with a very open-ended ‘buying a new…’ – as you can see, the top three suggested searches are all related to buying a new vehicle, indicating that these are popular queries for YouTube users.

It is worth remembering that there are other factors that contribute to the suggested searches we are shown, including your own search history, but suggested searches remain a good general indicator of what other users are looking for.

Include Your Target Keywords Wherever Possible

Keywords play a large part in helping the YouTube algorithm determine what videos to display in search results, and targeting them in both your video titles and descriptions is one of the best ways to improve your search ranking, as it tells the algorithm that your content is aligned with what people are searching for.

However, as with SEO for Google, you want to avoid keyword stuffing (using the same keywords over and over again) in an attempt to game the algorithm, as attempts to do this will often result in a penalty that will hurt, rather than help, your performance.

Don’t Neglect the Importance of Tags

Tags are a back-end function that helps YouTube to categorize your video and display it to the right audience. Tags can be single words or even phrases (such as ‘tips for buying a caravan’) that allow you to provide greater context around your video’s content. YouTube weighs the first few tags heavily, so make sure your target keywords are included here, as well as more general keywords, such as ‘automotive’ or ‘caravans’, for a video about caravan buying tips.

As with keywords, you don’t want to go overboard with your tags or include irrelevant tags because you believe they will boost your ranking. Although you won’t be actively penalised for doing so, including excessive or irrelevant tags can confuse YouTube’s algorithm and stop your videos from reaching the right audience.

Tags can be found in the settings section of your account.

Choose The Right Category

Like tags, categories signal to YouTube what your video is about and help it to be grouped with other, similar content – in a playlist, for instance – that will expose it to more viewers. There are 15 categories on YouTube, including music, travel, sports, autos and vehicles, and more. For almost everyone reading this, that category will be ‘Autos and Vehicles’, although some of your videos may fall under ‘How-to and Style’ or even ‘Education’ depending on their content.

The most important thing is to choose the right category for that specific video instead of using one category for everything you publish.

Think About the Viewer: Using A Custom Thumbnail

With YouTube, it is sometimes the smallest things that can make the biggest difference in how a video performs, and having the right thumbnail is one of these. While you have the option for YouTube to automatically select a thumbnail from your video, you will likely see far higher engagement (and, thus, a higher search ranking) if you take a few minutes to optimise your thumbnail.

As we mentioned earlier, this means optimising for both the viewer and the platform itself. Optimising for YouTube means using a thumbnail in a 16:9 ratio (or 1280×720 resolution), while for the user, it means choosing a thumbnail that includes your video’s title and offers a snapshot of the video as a whole. The example below shows several results for the search ‘car buying tips’ – if you were someone looking for tips or advice, which video would you be drawn to?

If we had to guess, it would probably be between the first two. While the first video’s thumbnail is ultimately sleeker and more professional than the second, both of them clearly communicate the video’s topic to the audience and will ultimately lead to more views and engagement. By contrast, the third video’s thumbnail doesn’t match its title and fails to mention the word ‘tips’ anywhere, while it is also the messiest and most poorly designed thumbnail of the three.

Add Hashtags To Increase Reach

Hashtags are a fairly recent addition to YouTube but serve the same purpose as on any other platform, allowing users to find content based on its hashtags. Some businesses prefer to use hashtags for branding purposes by including their business name, while others will use them to piggyback on the wider reach of an event or expo. 

However you choose to use them, the crucial point once more is not to overdo it, as YouTube will flag videos with excessive numbers of hashtags – choose two or three and leave it at that.

Create Playlists of Your Own Videos

Views are one of the most important metrics when it comes to determining your ranking on YouTube, and the simplest way to improve your position is to increase your views. As you grow your channel and publish more content, organizing your videos into keyword-targeted playlists is one of the best ways to keep your audience watching and bump up your views.

Remember, simple is best: if you publish a lot of how-to videos, create a playlist that targets keywords like ‘Tips & Tricks For Owners’, or ‘Video Reviews & Walkthroughs’ in the case of an OEM or dealer. The exact keywords will depend on your research but try to keep them fairly general: the aim is to keep viewers engaged with your videos for as long as possible and have them watch as many as possible while also trying to appear to an audience that hasn’t searched for your content specifically.

What To Do After Publishing: Keeping Engagement High

If you’ve followed these steps correctly, you will be giving your videos the best chance at success – but just because they have been published, it doesn’t mean that their fate is suddenly out of your hands. Responding to user comments is one of the best ways to improve your video’s performance after it has been published, as it signals a high level of engagement to YouTube. 

Additionally, you can pin one of your own comments to the comment section as a way of driving additional engagement with your audience. Again, this doesn’t need to be complicated, and simple prompts, such as asking them what they want to see more of or what they enjoyed the most, can be the best way to get high levels of engagement.

If You’re Looking to Harness the Power of Video, We Can Help

As online video continues to grow and play a larger role in brand awareness and lead generation, careful strategy and best practices are needed in order to keep you ahead of your competitors. 

At Retain Media, we specialise in SEO for the dealers and OEM and possess an intimate understanding of how and where your customers are searching for you online. With so many in the industry yet to realise the full potential offered by video, now is your chance to get ahead and stay ahead when it comes to YouTube.

If you are looking to expand your SEO beyond search engines and websites, we can help. To learn more about our SEO service and how we can make YouTube work for your business, get in touch with one of our team for a free, no-obligation consultation. For more industry information and tips to improve your digital marketing, read our Insights today.

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