Video SEO Basics Part 2

In Video SEO Basics Part One, we talked about the SEO benefits of adding a video to a page, where to host a video, where to share it, and how to optimize the video when it’s placed on your website. In part two, we’ll talk about the basics of optimizing a video you upload to YouTube, the juggernaut of video sharing sites in the USA.

Should You Put Videos On YouTube?

Sometimes, clients will ask if they should “give” good video to YouTube. The thinking goes, “We made this great video – why should we let YouTube have it for basically nothing?” The answer is four-fold:

  1. That’s where nearly everyone goes to find video. If you have a video that you think people will want to watch, you need to take it to them.
  2. Generate visitors to your website. If you brand your video with your company name, product name, etc., you’ll get more traffic to your site from your video. Not to mention that you can include a link directly to your site in the video description (more below).
  3. Build links to your website. This isn’t a huge benefit most of the time on any specific video (with exceptions of course). However, taken in aggregate, posting dozens of videos to YouTube – each with a link back to your site in the description – is a good thing in terms of link building. There’s also a link building opportunity on your YouTube channel page.
  4. YouTube videos show up in Google results. When someone searches on Google.com, there’s a very good chance YouTube videos will appear in the top 10 results. With a little effort, users will see your video in a Google search in addition to your website.

How To Optimize Your Video Title, Tags, And Description For YouTube

YouTube video SEO

When your video title matches your target search term, and you include a link to a relevant page in your video description, you’re well on your way to ranking your video.

When your video is produced and your file is ready for upload, it’s time to optimize your video page. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. The title of the video is critical to its success. Just like a web page title, you need to think about keywords and keep the title as short as possible. Three to five keywords in your title would be great, and 10 keywords in your title is too many.
  2. Use the right keyword tags. Think very carefully about what keywords someone would type to find your video, then be sure to tag your upload with those keywords. As far as the number of keywords to use, use no more than 5 tags per 30 seconds of length, with an absolute maximum of 20 tags. Of course, less is more. Sometimes videos only need 1-3 tags to rank.
  3. Place a full link to the web page that’s most relevant to your uploaded video at the very beginning of the video description. The first thing we want people to see in any video description is a link to the page on a website that best supports the video. That’s the best way to drive traffic to a site. This link may have some search engine ranking value too (more on that below).
  4. Embed the YouTube video on your website somewhere and then watch the embedded video ASAP. Every YouTube video has stats about “views,” and those stats include links to the first website that embedded the video. This is something you’ve got to do quickly or someone else will beat you to that link.
  5. Geocode your video if it’s locally important. If your business is specific to a particular locality, it’s a good idea to tell YouTube where in the world the video was made. If you’re a local service provider, the video location should be your target local market.
  6. Use end screens. YouTube allows everyone that uploads a video to add an end screen to the video with a channel subscribe link, a website link, and a couple of related videos. While there’s probably not much SEO benefit to that website link on the end screen, there’s no good reason not to do it. What’s more, people do engage with these end screens and click on the website link.
  7. Remember that YouTube is a social network. If you can get a large following on YouTube, your newest videos will get views and ratings. Videos with a lot of views and good ratings are more likely to appear in YouTube search results, which means more visitors to your website. While it can be hard to build up a subscriber base if you’re primarily posting product videos, it’s still something to think about.
  8. Your user channel is your best link from YouTube. Every YouTube user can add a link to their website on their channel page, and that link is followed. If you can develop a high-ranking channel on YouTube, that single link can pass a lot of value to your website (learn more about the SEO value of YouTube links here).
  9. Consider adding the keyword “video” to your tags. It’s odd, but a lot of YouTube visitors type the word “video” when they search on YouTube…a website that only has videos.
  10. Get people to rate (and maybe comment) on your video. Millions of videos are uploaded to YouTube every day, and many of them are junk or spam. YouTube looks for quality indicators to figure out which videos are best, which channels are best, and so on. While the very best quality indicator is user engagement (people watching your videos beginning to end), ratings and comments matter too. A video with lots of ratings and comments is much more likely to be high quality than a similar video without ratings/comments.

NOTE: YouTube comments are, in a word, toxic. Unless you have someone who can monitor comments and engage with commentors, it’s best to disable them.

But Aren’t YouTube Video Description Links Nofollow?

YouTube “nofollows” any link(s) we add to the video description. For this reason, many SEO experts argue that the description link doesn’t matter for website rankings. While smart people can disagree about such things, we have always been of the opinion that nofollow links have some value. You can read a blog post we wrote about nofollow on SEOMoz awhile back to understand our thinking. Suffice to say, nofollow links are very valuable on sites like Wikipedia, YouTube, high profile Tweets, etc. and so on. Including a link to your website in every video description is good.

Pro Tip: Optimize For YouTube Before You Upload

Before you upload your video to YouTube, there are some things you can do to make it as “YouTube friendly” as possible. Specifically:

  1. Start your video with a brief intro, then show your branded intro, and then get into it. One of the ways that YouTube ranks video is to look at user engagement. If people drop off of your video right after it starts, that’s going to hurt your rankings on YouTube. One way to prevent that is to show a quick intro before you show any branded title card or animation.
  2. Include your target search queries in your video (both in titles and in audio). Google can recognize the words you speak in your video, which means you need to say the words you want your video to rank for. Google can also recognize text inside your video (and in images), so it’s good to put the exact query in text on the screen at some point.
  3. Assume the viewer isn’t on your website when you talk about where to find something. If you’re talking about a product and you’re telling the viewer where to find it on your website, don’t just tell them to click on “Products” and then look under “Rotors” (or whatever). Tell them to go to yourwebsite.com, then click on “products”.
  4. Think about ways to make your video engaging beginning to end. Again, YouTube rankings are heavily influenced by engagement. If you have a video with bad audio, that can reduce engagement and reduce rankings. If your video has an interview in it, try and use multiple cameras when you shoot the video to make it easy to change shots and keep things moving. etc.


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