He must be in his mid-20s. 

With a sporty pullover, he was describing small herd elephants at the zoo having “really, really, really long trunks.” 

Ladies & gentlemen, we present you the inaugural video of YouTube, officially released in 2005. And, that young man is none other than the co-founder himself, Jawed Karim

Since 2005, we’ve come a long way haven’t we? 

2 billion to be precise. 

YouTube User Growth in 2020

January 2012800 Million
March 20131 Billion
June 20171.5 Billion
July 20191.9 billion
May 20192 Billion

According to stats by Statista, YouTube has over 2 billion users worldwide. The traffic through mobile devices grows exponentially each day.

At a time where users create and upload 500 hours of video every 60 seconds, YouTube is now considered as a search engine of its own. 

However, for many marketers or businesses, this fact remains on a post-it note on their desks. 

404 in Video Marketing: Not optimizing videos for YouTube Search Engines. 

There, we have said it. 

You must be wondering what the difference is? Let’s get down to business, now. 

What is YouTube SEO?

Just like we optimize our web pages & blogs for search engines as a part of content marketing strategy, optimizing for YouTube’s search engine is equally important for your YouTube videos to fare well. 

YouTube SEO is defined as the strategy to optimize your videos to rank them within YouTube’s search engine. 

Most times, we are in a rush to make it to the top of Google’s list. This makes perfect sense when we are talking about content. However, when it comes to videos, many tend to apply the same strategy. 

Not that it’s wrong. However, it might be a misplaced effort.

Investing the same resources and efforts to optimize your videos on YouTube would bring you multifold returns. Not to mention the showstoppers of the YouTube list tend to make it to the top of Google’s SERP too! 

Cracking this strategy means millions of viewers on your way. As simple as that. 

How Does YouTube Algorithm Work?

There’s no one-liner that will pinpoint everything that the YouTube algorithm is. Nevertheless, we’ll tell you various nuances we picked up about the same. Such as this Twitter thread. 

It is not surprising, is it? Like everything else in the business solar system, this algorithm is focussed on users too. 

If you can engage with users, make content worth their time, and drive value, you’re already way there. 

Let’s dig a little deeper. Hootsuite’s blog helps us trace the evolution of YouTube’s algorithm over the decade. 

2005-12: Clicks

During this period, the ranking algorithm favored videos that were riding the ‘clicks’ waves. If your video is faring well in the CTR department, you could be sure of it topping the ranking charts. 

Problem: Click Baits 

People utilized and borderline exploited this using clickbait titles, thumbnails, and descriptions. People came searching for one thing and ended up getting something totally different. 

The frustration of the audience is totally understandable. They come looking for something and end up with something else. 

2012-16: Watch Time

YouTube was quick to pick this and vowed to deliver the best experience to users. How exactly could they approach this?

Simply by finding out what people are actually watching. YouTube Creator’s blog emphasizes this by driving their focus on videos that people spend time to watch and also have successive videos afterward. 

People spending more time on YouTube means only one thing- they love the content being consumed. In YouTube’s own words,

Primarily less clicking, more watching.

People have been trying day and night to ‘crack’ this algorithm. Shorter videos for higher watch time, for instance. However, YouTube has squashed it all by saying all these have no impact on the ranking. 

So, even if a video is shorter, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would end in better retention as YouTube also tracks and tries to understand how a video influences more watch time. 

2016-20: Neural Network

This is where things get really interesting. YouTube incorporated machine learning and neural networks on its algorithm to make the algorithm think the way a user would love. 

Their white paper talks about the effort to create a black box that figures out the way to optimize video recommendations.

One of the core ideas that YouTube has is to make users spend more time on the platform.

In this process, “Recommended Videos” delivers highly personalized content that people can consume recurrently. 

The above diagram is an excerpt from the whitepaper penned by Paul Covington, Jay Adams, and Emre Sargin. 

I need a coffee break to figure out this whole thing.  🤯

In case you do too, here’s the long story made short. 

Create engaging content that people would spend time one, enjoy, and watch. 

Along with this, YouTube has got quite a bit of heat when it comes to borderline content. Borderline content doesn’t technically violate the platform’s guidelines but is harmful to viewers. They are constantly improving the algorithms to prevent false propaganda or dangerous information from spreading. 

2020: TLDR

The algorithm is adapting. Improving continuously. 

Nevertheless, here are the factors to bank on that will help rank your videos.

  1. Content
  2. Engagement

The Content part of things cover factors such as video optimization. 

  • Title
  • Description
  • Non-spammy, value-driven video content
  • Tags

The Engagement part of things covers how users react to the content. 

  • Watch time or retention
  • Performance during the first 24 hours
  • Views, comments. Shares
  • CTRs

Let’s dive into the details now.

How to SEO YouTube Videos

70% of people watch videos that are driven by YouTube’s AI-driven recommended algorithm. 


You see where we are going with this, right? Based on what people watch, the platform pumps in more videos that it considers could be relevant to the user. 

Let me wipe that tiny frown off your face with a little something I found today morning while writing this blog. 

Wait what? 

Did I get a low-cost New Rules remake as my recommendation? Oh, c’mon YouTube! 

I love Dua Lipa, and naturally the curious cat in me clicks on that video. I reach Jade V’s channel, see more of their stuff. If I love it, then I hit that bell icon and subscribe. Maybe share it with my friends too. 

Well done, YouTube. 

Oh, Jade V too! 

So how do we search engine optimize our videos for some YouTube magic?

Video Title: The good, bad, and ugly

The YouTube video title is what people see at first along with the thumbnail. Naturally, nailing this is crucial in two ways:

  • Catchy much to prompt people to click through
  • Optimized just right for your target keyword 

Including the focus keyword you plan to target on the title helps with the ranking and is rule A about YouTube SEO. YouTube suggests keeping your title pertaining to the video content, with relevant keywords but not in excess. 

Titles can be an exact match or broad batch. 

Exact match follows a verbatim usage of keyword in the title. The 3rd result you see is a good example of the same. Broad match is when a part of the keyword appears on the title; needn’t be the exact same. The first two results are good examples of the same. 

My tummy is rumbling and my dumbbells are glaring. Adios, ganache! 🙁

Briggsby’s study tells us that 90% of top-ranking videos had at least one occurrence of the focus keyword in the title. 

Source: Briggsby


  • Keep your title Length around 60 characters. 
  • Avoid long titles that will result in truncation. This reduces the CTRs
  • Don’t stuff keywords. Big put off.  

Description: The Video Saga

YouTube video description is not the place for you to laze around. If your competitors are fond of having a namesake description, sit back and relax. Your YouTube SEO game is way stronger than theirs and your video has more chances of outranking them. 

Video descriptions help the search engines understand everything about your video. The storyteller, if you may. 

Let’s learn it from Brian Dean, himself. 

Ensure your descriptions give a gist of the video and avoid keyword stuffing as a rule of thumb. This is helpful for users and decisive for search engine bots. 

For YouTube SEO, it’s also beneficial to add timestamps to your video. 

For instance, let’s take ChilledCow’s video. Timestamps added on the video and on the description too. 

I could have used this channel during my semester examinations. Sigh! 

When a user clicks on the 16:20 stamp, they are automatically moved to that part of the video. Neat! 

YouTube SEO: Descriptions - Takeaways
  • Try to have keep the description around 250-300 words
  • Try to include the keyword in the beginning of title
  • Add additional links relevant to the content 
  • Add CTA in the end

See how Brian adds a subtle call to action in the end for nudging users to subscribe? Bingo!

Tags: For that Xtra mile 

A YouTube tag is like the keyword you add for a video for better reach. Just like hashtags for your social media posts. 

Adding tags will give search engines an idea about the intent and content of your video. It’s always YouTube SEO  best-practice to dig a little about the search volume of keyword tags and then add them.

Backlinko’s article also encourages video creators to watch out for competitor tags and then add them. It’s a YouTube SEO best practice that’s guaranteed to bring results. 

To find the tags relevant to your video, you can make use of tools such as TubeBuddy and when it comes to tapping competitor tags, you can make use of vidIQ

Source: Briggsby

YouTube SEO: Tags - Takeaways
  • Use at least 10 tags 
  • Including tags closer to your keyword 
  • Optimize tags for recommended videos also

Transcripts: Ease it up

According to the study conducted by Verizon Media and Publicis Media, 

80% of people say that they are more likely to watch an entire video when captions are available! 

Verizon Media and Publicis Media

Subtitles or closed captions are pivotal for YouTube SEO.

Adding transcripts help YouTube to get a better understanding of your video content. You can either upload the transcript, or YouTube is now smart enough to auto-configure & add it.

When you upload subtitles, you can reach out to a broader audience of multilingual tongue. You just need to upload in your native tongue and the platform takes it from there. People can switch to the transcript they are comfortable with and just watch. 

A script helps to have a streamlined idea about your video content. It also helps you have a smooth delivery of content and churn out more videos in a shorter span of time. 

Oh, in case you are curious to make money as a YouTuber, here’s the link to the above video.  

YouTube SEO: Transcripts - Takeaways
  • Even though YouTube auto-adds subtitles, it’s better if you upload them
  • Ensure to use keywords and variants in your transcripts
  • Go global & multilingual with ease

Video Thumbnail: The Cherry On Top

Along with the title, your video thumbnail is what users see at first. 

Needless to say, if that ain’t great… then 

If you don’t add one, YouTube randomly picks a frame and adds it as the thumbnail. Not quite the best option if you’re looking for insane CTRs. 

Have a personality for your channel & thumbnails. Eventually, people would connect with your channel and recognize your videos easily.

Brian Dean’s channel is a good example of personal branding. 

YouTube SEO: Branding - Takeaways
  • Don’t overcrowd with too many elements/colors
  • Maintain consistency. Make it all about you
  • Use high-resolution images

Age Restriction: Tread Carefully

Age restriction is tricky and important. 

You don’t want children or teens to chance upon content that’s meant for adults. Restrict your video in this case. According to YouTube, the following are to be considered while restricting videos: 

  • Violence
  • Disturbing imagery
  • Nudity
  • Sexually suggestive content
  • Portrayal of dangerous activities

To age restrict your video, here are the steps:

  1. Click on Upload to start uploading your video on YouTube.
  2. Add details of your video.
  3. Click the drop-down next to Age Restriction and hit Yes to restrict the video to viewers under 18.
  4. Wrap up the upload process.
Age restriction for youtube videos screenshot

YouTube SEO Tips To Rank Your Videos 

This is it. Let’s throttle ahead to know the best YouTube SEO tips and some clever hacks to get your videos to the very top. 

Time of Publishing: Is of essence

The time you publish the video, matters. 

According to Entrepreneur

The best days to post a video is on Thursdays & Fridays.

As the majority of viewers are Gen-Z or Gen-Y, the watch time starts to peak during Thursdays, peaks during Saturdays, and plunges late on Sundays. Oh, the home-ed projects & essays!

When it comes to the time, Frederator Studios advises the EST time slot between 2-4 PM from Monday- Wednesday and 12-3PM on Thursdays & Fridays. 

During the weekends, it’s all morning & sunshine- between 9-11 AM. 

If you ask why time is of essence in YouTube SEO, it’s simply because the performance of your video in the first 24 hours is very crucial. The ranking, performance, and virality depends on it too.  

YouTube SEO: Publishing Time - Takeaways
  • Best days to publish: Thurs & Fri
  • Mon-Wed: 2-4 PM
  • Thu-Fri: 12-3 PM
  • Sat-Sun: 9-11 AM

Retention: The Video Whirlpool

YouTube’s algorithm, be it complex with sorting filters or sophisticated with neural networks, ultimately has one goal- to retain people on the platform. To make them watch more videos. 

Naturally any video, YouTuber, or channel that can achieve this will be favoured and put on top. 

What are some of the ways you can improve audience retention for your channel with some YouTube SEO magic?

Create Playlists

Playlists can be that ace in your pack; but, few actually get down to create those. 

Playlists are an amazing way to retain your audience in the sense that videos line up one after the other and play automatically. Rather than watching one and going their way, people end up binging. 

It’s also smart to reach out to people who create content similar to that of yours; but not competitors though. And, add a note to include your video in their playlists to retain more audience for a longer duration. You can always return the favor. 

Win together. 

Create Series

Like your Harry Potter. Create video series to engage with people. In most cases, the autoplay feature will ensure they move on to the next video and end up watching the entire series. This retention is what we try to achieve with YouTube SEO.

YouTube SEO: Content - Takeaways
  • Group together videos of the same theme, relevance, or similar content. 
  • More playlists your video gets features, jackpot! 
  • Collaborate with other YouTubers for higher reach.

Targeting Right Keywords

Absolute no-brainer right. 

Targeting the right keywords as a part of YouTube SEO around your content will take your video places. YouTube tends to consider tutorials, reviews, descriptive how-to videos, as important. Targeting their long-tail versions will help with your rankings. 

Keyword research is your answer, here. Keep in mind that YouTube keyword research is a tad different from the normal one which you do for search engines like Google. 

There’s no dedicated tool as such for YouTube keyword research. But that’s no reason to get demotivated. Here’s how you can go about with the process, namely in 4 ways. 

YouTube Suggest 

The pandemic aint kind. But, that’s no reason to diminish your wanderlust. Just to do some research on the place you can visit post-Covid, you hit up YouTube. 

The moment you start typing, YouTube opens a drop-down and tries to complete your sentence. Talk about comradeship. 

Friends, this is your first source of keyword research-YouTube suggest. You’ll have an idea about what people are searching through. Use it well! 

As YouTube itself has suggested these, you can close your eyes, trust blindly, and target those. 

Google Trends & SERP

Google has a dedicated tab for video results, compiled from multiple sources. Over there, you would definitely find a YouTube listing, probably topping the list. 

This will help you get an idea about what’s happening in your domain and whom you’re locking horns against. 

Club this with Google Trends. Voila! 

It will help you know the user search behavior over any time, any country. And, the best part? It has a dedicated YouTube Search for you to get a pulse of what users are searching for currently. 

Research is key. Be it YouTube SEO or traditional SEO. 

Keyword Search Volume Tool 

Once you get an idea about the keywords, the next step is to find their search volumes. You can use Ahrefs or Google Keyword Planner for the same. 

It’s also wise to target keywords with high search volume and spin a long-tail version of it to increase your chances. 

Competitor Keywords & Analysis

Instead of the Kardashians, we should be keeping up with our competitors. In that way, you needn’t run North or West for keywords! 🙂

Take a good look at the title, description, and keywords used. Like we said before, vidIQ will help you out regarding this aspect of your  YouTube SEO-quest. 

Source: vidIQ

Use Keywords In Your Video


For many people out there, the first reaction to this YouTube SEO hack could be, “I was today years old when I came across this.”

Include your keywords naturally. When it’s best suitable. 

YouTube generates transcripts automatically in addition to the option for you to upload. When the keywords surrounding your content is a part of your transcript, its relevance increases. 

We know what that means in YouTube SEO! Better ranks.

But wait, that doesn’t mean you should add your keywords like Eminem raps in Godzilla. *Takes a deep breath*

Engage with your Audience

Any YouTube SEO enthusiast can stress on this point enough. The way the audience engages with your video is crucial for its performance. 

Add nuances in your video that prompts an action-a comment, like, or subscribing. 

When they do comment, ensure you respond to them; this could increase the possibility of more comments. Not just that, it also helps you to have a good rapport with your audience. Word of mouth marketing is the best you can get. Open the portal to more subscribers, thus.

Make The 24 Hours Count

YouTube SEO is quite different from the traditional one when it comes to the period of time & the corresponding performance.

While the impacts of traditional SEO can last over months or years, the success of your YouTube video is largely attributed to how it performs in the first 24 hours. 

If it does, bingo! 

How do you do it? Here you go! 

Promote Like It’s The Apocalypse

To ensure success in the first 24 hours, it’s crucial that you promote it left, right, straight, and center. 

Think of it like launching a probe to space. It would be there for quite a long time (I know, without a meteor shower or such of course!). Similarly, creating a good video and then promoting it will help you reap benefits for a very long time. All hail YouTube SEO & its algorithms. 

Communities: Quora & Reddit

YouTuber Reddit Community

Not just Quora & Reddit, there are a gazillion communities out there to promote your videos. Search for relevant topics & discussions and post the link to your video. 

Keep in mind that if you plan to spam, you’ll end up with some really bad karma and get blocked. Let’s not do that. Offer something to that topic/discussion/user and then add the link at the end, as a gesture! 

If you have a community of your own, be sure to keep your audience engaged & up-to-date with the same. 

Webpages & Blogs

Embedding videos on your web pages and blog posts not just helps your videos but pages too. It boosts the ranking for your blogs and at the same time an effortless solution when it comes to video promotion. 

You can either use an existing page that’s relevant or even spin one for this purpose. 

Engage with Young YouTubers

There are many tools out there that can help you connect with young YouTubers. Like Channel Crawler.

You can use it to find YouTube channels by subscriber count, channel category, number of videos etc. Probably a good idea to connect and engage with similar folks like you.

Social Media

Share your YouTube video across social platforms and boost the post for a couple of dollars to reach a broader audience. 

Make use of Instagram & Facebook Stories, Twitter Fleets, and even LinkedIn. 

Oh, don’t forget YouTube’s Stories and posts as well. It’s crucial for YouTube SEO and video performance & engagement. 

Get Backlinks

Your blogs need backlinks, so do your videos. 

Traditional SEO aims at backlinks and search engines take them seriously. So does YouTube SEO & its search engine.

Getting backlinks shouldn’t be a rushed process; it often ends it spamming. 

Like we mentioned above, you can always make use of communities to hope for a backlink. Guest blogging that’s relevant is yet another source of quality backlinks. 

If you need a little help with doing guest blogging the right way, we have a video for you. And, we got a backlink for that YouTube video! 🙂  

Engage with Your Existing Audience

If you already have an existing audience base, it’s important that you promote the video in that circle. It not only helps to boost the visibility of the video but also engage with them. 

It can be through newsletters or emails. Add relevant CTAs to direct them to YouTube. If you’re practicing this YouTube SEO hack, excellent. No? Well, it’s best to start yesterday. 

What if you don’t have an audience? 

YouTube Ads

Not an Organic-fan? Or, don’t have enough audience. Buy it!

Overcome that initial inertia. Once the channel picks up, you can switch to YouTube SEO and monetize your content well. 

It’s easy to set-up and you can target a global audience with just a couple of clicks, and is suited for your budget. 

Top YouTube SEO Tools You’ll Need 

Here a neat but not exhaustive list of YouTube SEO tools that will come handy for your video conquest. 

Keyword Research Tools

Once you identify the keywords using one of the ways we’ve covered above, keyword research tools will come in handy to ensure you don’t burn up efforts & time over keywords with negligible search volumes. 

Tools: Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest

Ahref has a dedicated section that covers the trends & search volumes dedicated for YouTube. 

Source: Ahrefs

Video Analytics & Performance

Analyze how well your video is performing using analytics tools. 

Tools: Youtube Analytics, Rival IQ

There’s an inherent analytics section in YouTube to track not just your video but the overall channel performance. It’s free and comprehensive even though it’s easy to use. With YouTube analytics, you can track:

  • Overview
  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Audience
  • Revenue

Rival IQ is a social media analytics tool that helps you dig deep about your competitor presence & performance. 

Source: Rival IQ

YouTube Tags & Metadata

Identify & target the best tags for your video and also get an idea of what your competitors use to get that extra edge.

Tools: TubeBuddy, TagsForYouTube, TagsYouTube

TubeBuddy is an extension that you can add to your browser. Once integrated, it provides insightful data & metrics about any video you open. Use it to optimize your YouTube SEO strategies better. 

You get to track: 

  • Video analytics such as views, comments, likes. 
  • Whether the video follows best YouTube SEO practices. 
  • SEO score computed by the tool
  • Shares and presence in social media 
  • Tags for which the video is ranking 

Something like this. 

Thumbnails & Media

If your thumbnail is visually appealing and convey briefly what the video is about, then expect good CTRs. 

Tools: Canva, Snappa, FotoJet

Canva comes with both free & paid versions. It comes with a wide range of elements, templates, and designs to get you started. 

PS: I’m a little biased here. Canva is an amazing tool that made me switch to the paid plan with just a month’s trial. 

Rank Tracker

Tools that track the video rank will help you have an idea about how you fare with competition and get a daily pulse about the performance. 

The blog post by Search Engine Land, tells us some handy YouTube SEO tools when it comes to checking ranks. 

Tools: RankTrackr, SE Ranking, YTRank

YTRank is ridiculously easy to use. 

Once you land on their site, enter the YouTube video URL and the keywords you wish for it to rank. 

Hit Enter. 


If you love the tool, do buy a coffee for Antonio Santos, who’s developed the tool and is improving it. 

Is YouTube SEO worth it?

How about a stat first? 

In the U.S. alone, YouTube will make 5.5 billion dollars in advertising revenue in 2020


More and more is pumped into the platform today and YouTube is considered the 2nd largest search engine in the world. 

A little bit of work is needed to get the best out of video marketing & YouTube. Why? Simply because the competition is getting tougher each day. 

Nod Yes GIF by Captain Obvious - Find & Share on GIPHY

I hope this guide was handy. Would love to know your thoughts in the comments. 

Until next time, 


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