YouTube SEO guide to grow your channel and business

YouTube is a search engine, plain and simple.

Yes, it can provide hours of entertainment, information, and art, but YouTube was designed by the same search kings that own it, Google. That’s why you need YouTube SEO frameworks to make a video worth watching.

Uploading a video to your channel and crossing your fingers that someone will see it is like shooting at half-court blindfolded. Instead of a guaranteed miss, why not learn the basics so you can score with an easy layup?

We spoke with YouTube expert and video strategist Justin Brown and alpha m creator Aaron Marino. channel with over 6 million subscribers, about effective YouTube SEO criteria.

Before making a video

Stop recording. Why are you making a video for YouTube? Who is your audience? And what are they looking for?

The fundamentals of YouTube SEO begin with the realization that people use YouTube to solve problems, answer questions, and find solutions. They can be as timely as “how to fix a leaky pipe” or as meaningless as “why is Tom Cruise in movies?” Either way, people use YouTube to discover.

That’s what Brown calls it 2 o’clock problem. What are people searching for on YouTube at midnight?

“What are they looking for? Not what I think they need or what I know they need […] Where are they really stuck?’

Then you need to understand how your video plays out to help them. For example, a search term can tell you whether that person is a novice or an expert, a casual fan or a die-hard, so you can start to sketch out what the video content looks like. You can find them 2 o’clock problems by doing keyword research. Many tools, such as Semrush or Google Trends, aggregate the volume of search terms across Alphabet Inc.’s platforms.

But there’s an even simpler way, using YouTube’s search bar.

You can find what people are searching for and see what types of videos are ranking for that search term. Then you can replicate (not plagiarize) what those top YouTube videos are doing, so you’re not reinventing the wheel, you’re just optimizing what already works.

“If you have something to say, just say it in your own voice,” says Marino. “You don’t have to copy what they say, but look at them, look at their most popular videos and then do your own version of that theme and see what happens.”

An advanced tool to use for this type of research is Keywords Everywhere, a plugin for measuring the competitiveness and volume of queries in the YouTube search bar.

OK, now that you understand why you’re making YouTube videos, it’s time for the Xs and Os of YouTube SEO.

Do not bypass. How to grow your YouTube channel

5 YouTube SEO Strategies for Beginners

1. Write headlines that deliver results

The title and topic of your video refer to the research you’ve already done before making the video. You need to reverse engineer what people are looking for with the solution in your title. Brown provides a search term from his Primal Video channel (1.7 million subscribers).

Search term: “Handbook of Color Classification”
YouTube Video title: How to fix color grading in my video?

See how Brown’s title goes beyond repeating the search term. Instead it explains the result the viewer will get from watching the video.

YouTube ad button

2. Create competitive thumbnails

Before the title, your thumbnail will be the first thing viewers see when they search for a video on YouTube. Brown says:

“People judge a book by its cover [and will judge your] YouTube video with its cover.’

Thumbnails are all about first impressions. Whether someone watches your video or keeps scrolling, it can be disruptive or broken.

“It’s all about getting attention,” Marino says. “You’re competing with all these eyeballs for that viewing time.”

To capture these eyeballs, your thumbnail should include the following:

  • Refer to the search term
  • Links to video title and content
  • In recognizable small formats
  • Includes striking images and attractive colors (such as red, green, and yellow)
  • Keep the word count to five

Thumbnail tactics are constantly evolving. Brown says experimenting with different thumbnail ideas will help you figure out what works and what doesn’t, even if that means snapping a picture of yourself pointing, smiling, or making an animated cartoon face.

“As humans, we like to see other people,” Brown says. “I’d rather people watch our videos and feel like idiots.”

Pro Tip: For advanced thumbnail tactics, use Tube Buddy for A/B testing.

3. Tag your videos logically

Tagging your videos will help boost your channel’s YouTube SEO by helping the platform know what content categories you specialize in. Include a mix of generic and niche tags to logically describe your ideal viewer.

Using Brown’s color grading example, here’s how you can tag a video:

Video Title:How to fix color grading in my video?
Tags: video editing, video production, color grading, video color grading, color grading hack

4. Create engaging videos

You can make a video with an attractive thumbnail, an optimized title, and proper tagging, but the most important part of YouTube SEO is making a video that people watch.

The fastest way to hurt your YouTube ranking is to trick your audience into watching and not answering their question. This is because YouTube’s algorithm rewards watch and rewatch time.

“If you get very high clicks, but then [the audience] the tunes play too fast and they go away, which tells YouTube’s algorithm: “Okay, it’s not really exciting or exciting,” Marino says. “Once you have them with significant viewing time, how long can you keep them? Because that will ultimately tell YouTube that the video they’re recommending is relevant to the search.”

So here’s how you can make sure your content connects.

  • Tell your audience upfront what they’re getting
  • Have a hook or catchy intro
  • Divide your videos into descriptive chapters
  • Include demo notes with keywords that add context to your topic

5. Keep your videos fresh

A more advanced YouTube SEO strategy is to create updated and relevant content. Depending on the depth of your channel, this could be updating the topic every year or making sure you’re discussing the topic from a new perspective.

“If you’re watching content and it’s out of date, at some point YouTube will be like: “So there’s a huge opportunity for brand new content to be displayed and used [over] older content on the platform.”

Pro Tip: Back to the YouTube SEO research step, updating your theme is an easy way to compete with the top-ranking videos in your niche.

Keep learning. How to get more views on YouTube

Keep testing YouTube SEO on your channel

Brown and Marino stress that if you want your YouTube videos to rank, you should always be testing. What works on YouTube today may not be relevant tomorrow. So make sure you are constantly researching what works for YouTube SEO success.

Just type in the search bar.

Ready for more advanced strategies for using YouTube to grow your business? Then check out our free YouTube advertising tutorial and use a proven advertising strategy to gain brand recognition and new customers.

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