Everybody who uploads even a 20 seconds video on YouTube expects it to rank #1. Is that expectation wrong? Not at all. However, if you think that merely by uploading the video and giving it a title and tags that you find attractive will do the trick, then you are utterly wrong.
Just like Google has four ranking factors namely, content, link, social and user signals, YouTube, the second largest search engine has certain ranking factors too.
As we observed, there are other factors than those shown above that also play a crucial role in ranking a video in YouTube search results. We segregated them into two categories – Direct (Content and Engagement) and Indirect.
So, let’s begin with content signals first.
Content includes the factors that you can control and alter at your will to optimize your videos as well as your channel.
The title of your video should be like a teaser for the viewer enticing him to click on ‘play’.
How to get it right: Perform a keyword research in Google analytics and Q&A forums like Quora, where you can shortlist ideas for your video and questions people are seeking answers for. Include those words/ phrases in your video’s title. Vidooly’s search term analysis tool also comes in handy in this regard.
Ideal length of a title: 60 characters
Tip: Name your file exactly in the same way as you would title its final upload.
Description of your video is displayed below the video box. As for the description of the channel, it lies on the right side. Since the purpose of the description is to give the viewer a sneak peeks into your video’s content (and also help YouTube rank it), you must devote time in crafting a great copy for it.
How to get it right: Think of it like an episode of a TV series – write in a way that leaves the reader on a cliffhanger and he has to play the video to find out what comes next. Don’t let it just be a link to your website. It should additionally include your targeted keywords, other useful links and a brief about the contents of the video. Do not forget to add why the visitor must watch your video and why he should watch it completely.
Ideal length of a description: a readable limit of 100-200 words
Tip to get it right: Include a call to action like share, embed the video or add to your playlist or subscribe to the channel. Keep keyword density less than 5%. Take a look at the example below to see how targeted keywords have been used in the description:
Image source: backlinko.com
Tags come below the YouTube video and though, not so important, still help in telling the video search engine about the content and context of your video.
Image source: Bufferapp.com
Should tags be plural or singular? It depends on video to video, but when in doubt, use singular!
Tip: Assign up to 10 tags filled with keywords that best describe your video’s content.
This is what a video transcription looks like:
This content helps your viewers not only get your words right, it also gives extra juice to your SEO rocket. Why? Because video transcription is indexed by YouTube, which means higher visibility and click-throughs.
Unfortunately, YouTube’s own machine transcription system is horrible. Following is an example:
A transcription like this can mess with your ranking probability, and hence, if you’re putting out a really good video which you expect to do well in rankings, you must take 10 minutes out to write a proper transcription.
How to get it right: Do it yourself!
Tip: Add closed caption files. If you can, then translate them into other languages too, the languages spoken in the markets you want to break into.
Image source: Socialmediaexaminer.com
#5 CHANNEL CLOUT
Elements contributing to channel authority are a number of subscribers, frequency of publications (being a regular help), the age and attendance of the channel, total views, channel optimization and growth dynamics.
The more the authority of your channel, the easier it is for your new videos to climb up to the top positions. Controlling the content of your videos means you can control your channel’s authority, to some extent. However, if one of the ten videos you uploaded does well, then it will bring you no good. You have to look at the whole picture and strive for equivalent engagement on all of your videos.
Tip to get it right: The best way to optimize your channel is to think of it like a website and perform similar optimization activities. Eventually, there will be more output for all the videos.
Tip: Stay regular with postings and consistent with your quality. Do not forget to fill out fields like channel keywords, description, associated website & links, and target country.
Delivery refers to the presentation of the content inside that video. Write a script that it engaging and deliver it in a way that is interactive and engrossing for the viewer.
How to get it right: Spread the content in the whole video. Then, view it in separate groups of frames and try to analyze if these groups look engaging. Ask yourself: Do I want to know what was said/showed before this in the video? Am I curious to know what will happen next? If your answer is yes, then you have got your script and screenplay right.
Ideal length of the video: If your keywords are less competitive, then a video of 2 minutes of length would also serve the purpose. However, if you plan to develop an authoritative video, then resort to minimum 5 minutes.
Tip: Make use of annotations and YouTube cards to make your videos more engaging.
Engagement signals are those that directly affect your YT rank but do not lie in your scope of control. However, you surely can pull some wires to fetch better results.
#7 VIEWS, ATTENTION and WATCH TIME
For YouTube, there is chicken and egg analogy when it comes to video views and ranking – having more views means sitting at a better rank, and showing up at a good place means getting more views. Similarly, how many times a video has been viewed in a certain period of time, the duration being known as the Watch Time, also matters as they both together determine the virality of the video’s content.
What exactly is counted a view? Google Ad Sense considers only those video views that exceed 30 seconds in length. So, does this mean that video that is just 30-second long ad to be watched completely to be regarded as viewed? Absolutely not! The ‘view’ is actually a threshold percentage of the video’s length. This means that one video with watch time of 10 seconds is as eligible as another with that of 40 seconds.
How to get it right: Don’t try to game the system. Edit your videos wisely to make them crisp and gripping. YouTube understands human behavior well enough to make out whether the view was intentional (with the interest of the viewer) or just a spam hit.
#8 INBOUND LINKS, SOCIAL SHARES, and EMBEDS
Inbound links include all links pointing to your channel, its videos, and playlists. To get your video good shares, you first need to promote it heavily yourself and ask your friends and acquaintances to do same too.
Sometimes makers turn off the option of video embedding for other people. This may be a right move for a brand who wishes to make its channel an exclusive source of that content. However, for the rest of us, it could prove detrimental to ranking, as embeds are a clear proof of the usefulness of the video. The higher the number of embeds, the better will be your rank. So it’s a tradeoff that you need to do.
How to get it right: Team up with a fleet of independent bloggers and get them to post articles related to your video/ channel content and post links to redirect their readers to them.
Tip: Share your videos’ links in forums and Q&A sites, at times embed them too, where people are hungry for information that your video can provide. You’ll witness high retention rates and engagement.
#9 COMMENTS, VIDEO RESPONSE & RATINGS
If you had been gaming this process by posting spammy comments then you know you have got it all wrong because there would be no increment in your search position as both Google and YouTube can identify spam easily.
In this regard, video responses contribute heavily to your rank as they are a proof of an extreme level of engagement. A video comment, thus, is given higher preference than any other text comments.
Ratings comprise of likes, dislikes, and favorites. Although, the impact of a ‘thumb up’ is twice as influential as a ‘thumb down’, there is absolutely no need to feel that a thumb down is a kiss of death, because it is not. Of course, it shows negatives on your video scorecard, it still depicts the video search engine that people are engaging with your video content and responding to it.
How to get it right: Create a content that by virtue drives engagement and response.
Tip: Team up with fellow video makers to swap video responses to your videos.
#10 CHANNEL ICON & ART
The small square image appearing on top-left of your channel and below your videos is your icon, while your banner (header image) is your channel art.
Image source: Searchengineland.com
These two things act like your calling card for video seekers. If it is attractive and looks in-sync with the keywords that they are searching for then you can get great clickthroughs.
How to get it right: Channel icon and art look different on different devices. So choose one that would fit on all devices without losing its essence.
Image source: Bufferapp.com
Tip: If you have a posting schedule or want your viewers to inform about something, this is a great place to make it unmissable.
#11 GETTING ADDED TO OTHERS’ PLAYLISTS
This is similar to bookmarking a site at a place where Google can crawl and index it. Akin is the case of YouTube, as a playlist is compiled on a certain theme and a presence in that list notifies the search engine that the subject of the video matters. Another aspect of this is the number and authority of users who create such playlists, as their (users) metrics also contribute to your channel’s authority.
Thumbnail is the preview image of every video. A good thumbnail dramatically elevates your clickthrough rate. Hence, having an eye-catching and characteristic image for your video becomes a must.
How to get it right: YouTube selects a thumbnail from 1-3 frames from your video. So after uploading the video, use the ‘Edit’ button, to select 1-3 shots that will be available to use.
Tip: Use clickable thumbnails (end cards) to encourage multiple video views in one session.
Over to you
While we return to you with more comprehensive and actionable information on each of the above-discussed metrics, you focus on creating high-quality videos (minimum 720p HD) and uploading it in the appropriate format.
The fact that you have reached the bottom of this long article means you’re serious about optimizing your YouTube videos. And we hope that you wouldn’t like if you missed any of the posts in this series. So why not subscribe to our newsletter?
Being an artist, movie buff and a media enthusiast, content writing is my career train. I am a proud alumni of Symbiosis Institute of Media Communication (Pune) and currently working for Vidooly.