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Just as you can use traditional Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques to make your web pages more visible in online searches, you can optimise your videos to make them more visible on YouTube.

This is certainly a desirable goal. Research has found that video is the universal search category that is most visible in Google searches, and YouTube content was found to be most prominent when video integrations do appear on Google.

And of course, as the most important video platform and video search engine in the world, YouTube has the potential to be a powerful marketing tool. So what factors do you need to consider? 

As with traditional SEO, elements such as titles, descriptions and tags all play a role, as do the quality and volume of incoming links. YouTube also measures and evaluates user signals (such as click-through rates, bounce rates, feedback etc.) among its important ranking factors.

Titles, descriptions, tags and links

Here are my thoughts on some of the key YouTube optimisation issues when it comes to your titles, descriptions, tags and links.


It goes without saying that you should try to include the important keywords related to your subject in the title of your video (try to arrange for the most important ones to appear first if possible).

Ideally you should also include your main keywords in the filename corresponding to the title, but remember that titles are generally cut off at around 60 characters in YouTube searches.


When drafting your video’s description, you should try to include the main keywords more than once and also bring in additional, semantically related words (while avoiding keyword stuffing, obviously).

While it’s true that only the first 55 to 70 characters of the description are actually displayed by YouTube, you should aim to write four to five sentences (there’s evidence to suggest that even the parts that aren’t visible to the user, are still evaluated). 

Remember that external links (for example, affiliate links) can also be integrated into the description.


 You should try to assign up to 10 tags, reflecting the most relevant keywords.


External links are an important factor in YouTube video optimisation. And similar rules apply here as with traditional link building.

The construction of a good link profile with thematically relevant links is crucial, with most experts agreeing that links from social media are also assessed.

User Signals

In general, YouTube wants to make videos that are relevant and engaging more visible, and it evaluates signals from visitors/users to work out which these are.

So, for example, YouTube tracks how long users have stayed watching a video and at which point they left, which is why it has been able to make click-through rates (CTR) and bounce rates an important factor for determining video rankings.  

If you’re sneaky and try to use misleading or irrelevant keywords and/or titles to attract visitors, then high bounce rates will tell YouTube to make your content less visible.

Here’s a list of some of the other important user signals that YouTube takes account of:

  • The number of times the video has been viewed (within a set time frame). The more often it’s viewed, the more prominently it will be displayed. And in an ideal scenario it will land in the YouTube’s top lists.
  • User feedback in the form of comments.
  • The number of times the video appears in user playlists.
  • The number of positive ratings the video has received.
  • The number of blogs that have posted the video (which obviously also increases video impressions).

Research with the YouTube Keyword Tool and YouTube Suggest

In a similar way to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, the YouTube Keyword Tool provides the opportunity to examine search volumes for individual keywords.

Using this, you can quickly understand which keywords are suitable for optimising your video.

Keywords that have a high search volume within YouTube are also often displayed right at the top of the Universal Search integrations within the normal Google search engine rankings pages (SERPs) and therefore have a higher CTR.

Thumbnails optimisation

 A good preview image (thumbnail) increases click-through rates enormously, so it’s important to try to make YouTube select an eye catching and distinctive image from your video.

YouTube will tend to take the thumbnail image from one of three positions within your video. So after you have uploaded the video, you can use ‘Edit’ to select between one and three thumbnails to be made available by YouTube.

A rule of thumb for calculating where in your video YouTube will look to capture your thumbnail is:

  • X = Length of video in seconds.
  • Y = X divided by 4.
  • Thumbnail 1 = Y.
  • Thumbnail 2 = Y x 2.
  • Thumbnail 3 = Y x 3.

In other words you need to edit your video so that you have the optimal thumbnail in the right position.

Marcus Tober

Published 31 August, 2011 by Marcus Tober

Marcus Tober is CTO at Searchmetrics GmbH and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

14 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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Mike Essex

Mike Essex, Marketing & Comms Manager at Petrofac

Good post Marcus. My tip would be to get there first with any newsworthy videos. So if something in your niche happens that people want to watch a video on, film it right away.

We did one on Google+ the day it was announced and it's had thousands more views than anything else we've done. Because the video was first it got viewed when people were interested in the topic, and then had the authority to stay high at the top as other videos were made.

about 5 years ago

James Carson

James Carson, Founder at Made From MediaSmall Business Multi-user

Agree with all of these points - think Channel stats need to be in there too. YouTube state in the YouTube playbook that frequency of Channel upload affects ranking algorithm and I would assume Channel Views and Subscribers would also be indicators.

about 5 years ago


Matt Chandler

I'm not sure I even knew there was a YouTube keyword research tool...!

about 5 years ago



Internal links also help and its easy to get links from other YouTube channels. Just subscribe to some other channels and/or add some comments on individual video clips. Every comment comes with a link back to your own YouTube channel.

about 5 years ago


Travis Pavlik

A lot of money will flow into this VSEO in coming years. Will be interesting to see the future unravel

about 5 years ago


Clive Roach

Great advice. Nice to see specific YouTube advice for SEO

almost 5 years ago



Thanks for the tips. I can't believe how many people don't even do the basics when it comes to optimizing your video.

over 4 years ago



Marcus, thanks, I love these tips. Hope they still are useful!

over 4 years ago



We had a lot of trouble with the last SEO company, I have been researching it in my spare time and next time we are going to
employ temp staff to have a go
p.s Stay away from the Warrior Forums :)

about 4 years ago



Appreciate the recommendation. Will try it out.

almost 4 years ago

Chandler Nguyen

Chandler Nguyen, Consultant at Digital Marketing

This is an useful piece of CONTENT I must say. Thanks Marcus!

over 3 years ago


Andy Black, Director at Black Web Solutions Limited

The tip about optimizing your thumbnails is "golden". By choosing the right thumbnail you can double or even triple your views.

It's one of the first things that the user will look at after searching.

Another way of gaining more traffic is by using plenty of tags. I recently developed a simple desktop tool that allows me to uncover the tags use din other high rankin videos. It lets me see what keywords they have targetted.

This is actually a free tool so if you don't mind me sharing this with your readers they can get a free copy here...


I've used this tool on not only new videos but also on existing videos and I have seen an increase in rankings for almost all of them. It's pretty neat and useful.

over 3 years ago


Sachin Karpe, Director of Business Development at Business Consultant

Thanks for sharing the youtube keyword tool, I was not aware about it. Even I was not knowing that we can edit the thumbnail.

over 2 years ago

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