Content Marketing Blog

The only checklist you need to get videos to rank in search

Videos are a vital part of content marketing. YouTube has 1.5 billion monthly users, according to its own stats, and the platform is preferred by Google search results over Vimeo, Facebook video and the like.

But a video is hardly a 1,500-word article riddled with desirable search terms, quality content and 10X tactics. So how does video content marketing work?

Use our checklist to fully optimise your channel for YouTube SEO. This will help you rank in both YouTube and Google.


Step 1: Choose relevant keywords

Just like regular SEO, video SEO begins with a solid keyword strategy. You can use tools such as Google AdWords, Wordstream and Moz Keyword Explorer to help identify keywords that are on-topic for your industry.

From a theoretical standpoint, the main thing you need to remember when coming up with YouTube keywords is this: Long-tail is better than short-tail. That is, using keywords that are more specific than those which are too vague. Chances are, your competition will dominate broad keywords and you won’t stand a chance. But if you are more specific, you can get a foothold in a space relevant to your audience.

Keyword examples

“Canon C300” is a short-tail YouTube keyword. There’s no way you’ll rank against, for example, Canon itself.

“How to clean my Canon C300” is a much better term – there will be less competition here, and users are more likely to click because they need the answer to this question, which you can then provide. More on creating valuable content in Step 2.

Step 2: Create valuable content

As with all content marketing, the best way to rank in search is to create valuable, high-quality content. Audience retention – that is, the length of time viewers will watch your video – is an important metric for YouTube, and viewers are more likely to watch a video that is of value to them. Additionally, interactions such as views, likes/dislike, comments and shares are all factors.

Audience retention is almost like a website’s bounce rate. According to QuickSprout, if someone watches only 10 seconds of your video then clicks away, this will contribute negatively to your SEO value. QuickSprout goes on to say that any retention above 50 per cent of the total video length is good. Anything from 60 per cent up is great.

How do I create valuable content?

The best way to create valuable videos is to follow the same advice SEOs give on creating quality articles. Figure out who your target audience is and what they are interested in watching. What are their desires, or their problems? If you can answer a user’s needs, you will inherently provide value.

Target user questions

Step 3: Optimise the raw file

Before you even upload a YouTube video, you can optimise the video file itself. YouTube reads these much like it reads the alt text of an image, trying to figure out what content is about. It seems strange that a video search engine can’t watch its own videos, but there we go.

Ensure your original file name – not just the YouTube video title – has a keyword in it. But don’t just stuff them in; keyword stuffing will always backfire on you, whether it’s a video, landing page or article.

On a Mac computer, you can also add a short description (keywords included) of the video by right-clicking on the file and choosing “Get info”. Some SEOs recommend this practice.

Step 4: Optimise the video title

After you upload your video to YouTube, it’s important to optimise its title.

The techniques here directly reflect the same as a Google title tag. At a basic level, your title should be succinct, clear and – most importantly – compelling. You need to catch your user’s eye on Google and YouTube by standing out as the best-possible result for their query.

From an SEO point of view, it’s important to have your long-tail keyword in the title, preferably at the beginning, rather than the end. Keywords perform better at the start of a title tag, says Moz.

Keyword in video title

Step 5: Optimise the video description

Additionally, writing a longer description seems to work better than a short one. A description of 200-400 words gives the Google algorithm plenty of information to figure out what your video is about. Additionally, this leaves a lot of room to include multiple keywords without being spammy.

Descriptions are also an optimum place to leave a link to your website and social channels, to help drive conversion.

Step 6: Add tags

Now, there’s some debate around how much YouTube currently uses tags for SEO, but most experts still recommend including them. If nothing else, they will help you appear in the related videos sidebar.

How do I brainstorm YouTube tags?

Treat tags like your keywords. The same tools will help you discover what’s relevant to your audience, but don’t discount plain old common sense. If you’ve created a video on “How to clean a Canon C300”, the obvious tags are going to be “C300”, “Canon”, and even “How to clean Canon C300”.

Fill up the tags bar with as many as will fit (you will be limited to 500 characters), and keep them relevant. Spammy tags will only get you penalised.

Step 7: Promote your video

Like we mentioned in Step 2, YouTube’s metrics are critical to ranking. Basically, the better your video does, the better it will continue to do. Thus, promoting your video is essential to getting a viewer and engagement boost to help on the SEO front.

There are a few different ways you can get your YouTube video in front of people:

  • Use social media: If you already have followers, this can be one of the quickest ways to get engaged viewers. However, Facebook typically prefers its own native videos to that of YouTube, so you may have better luck on Twitter, LinkedIn and so forth.
  • Tell people about it: There are a ton of Facebook groups, forums (such as Quora) and the like dedicated to knowledge sharing. Become an active participant in some of these communities and, when answering a question relevant to your video, give it a link. That will help drive traffic that has an active interest in your answer back to your video.
  • Embed your video in blog content: A great way to leverage video content in other content marketing areas is to embed the video in blog content. Our recommendation would be to make a video, then write an article on the same subject. You could also do this the other way around – write a hyper-detailed blog article, then pick a piece of it to simplify with a video.

With these seven steps, you’ll be well on your way to ranking in both Google and YouTube. Good luck!


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Duncan Pacey
Duncan Pacey About the author

Duncan has hands-on experience developing and rolling out many of our bespoke search-optimised writing products, making him the perfect Castleford blogger. When he’s not writing about SEO, lead gen, and the art of entertaining people and Google simultaneously, he crafts prose for clients in hospitality, construction and building, and the software as a service field. Current clients include SAS, Altus, Epson - and of course the Castleford website.

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