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YouTube SEO 101 – 9 Areas to Boost Your Video Content’s Exposure

Marcel Casella May 29, 2019

If someone asked you to name the biggest search engine in the world, chances are most would answer correctly without hesitation: Google.

If someone asked you to name the second biggest search engine in the world, most would pause for a second. Some might even get it wrong.

Nope, it is not Bing – as much as Microsoft would wish it were – and it’s not Yahoo either. The second biggest search engine in the world also belongs to Google Inc., and it’s called YouTube.

Averaging around 3 billion searches and about 1.9 billion logged users per month, YouTube is just colossal in scope and potential.

Think about that size for a second. The mere potential of reaching out to such a massive pool of customers should be enough to get anybody paying attention. Yet, it is precisely that sheer size that also defines the challenges the platform presents.

Yes, there is a massive opportunity for your content there, but without effective SEO, you might as well be trying to win the lottery. After all, you are competing with 300 hours of video also being uploaded there each minute.

In this piece, you’ll learn about nine essential areas of optimization that will help to get your videos noticed. Once you are done reading, you’ll be in a much better position to start taking advantage of all the potential YouTube has to offer.

On-platform Optimization

These are YouTube SEO areas you’ll need to address when uploading your content, which relates to the more traditional channels of search optimization.


Titles are the first unit of optimization you need to mind when uploading content to YouTube.

A good title should accurately inform the platform’s algorithms about what your videos is about, while enticing viewers to watch it.

The first half should be easy. Just make sure your primary keyword features prominently in your video’s title. And yes, just like in every other form of SEO, choosing meaningful and effective keywords is crucial for optimizing on YouTube.

The second part though can be a bit tricky.

You need to find a title that appeals to the audience you are after, while accurately tied to your video’s content. A good trick to accomplish this is looking at popular videos in your niche and following their titling conventions.

Before long, once you get to know what works and what doesn’t for your audience, and you’ll be titling your videos successfully on your own.


Video descriptions are almost as important as their titles.

Not only you get the chance to further expand on your primary and secondary keywords there, but it’s the ideal place to redirect viewers. Incidentally, it is also the part of YouTube SEO that most often goes underutilized.

Contrary to what you might assume, a description section is there to do far more than merely describe your video’s content.

Yes, that can and should be there as well – Sensibly including your relevant keywords. But the last thing you want is to give a description that gives away all of your video’s content.

Use this section to introduce your video’s theme or objective briefly, and quickly move on to include other useful information. Elements like links to related content, your social media accounts, and website are all excellent examples of things you want in your descriptions.

Do keep in mind that “overdoing” a description section is easy and will reduce its effectiveness. Try and keep them around the 200 words mark, and you should have a good one on your hands.


Tags are simple to implement and really effective when done right, but hard to get down just right.

Almost anything you can think of related to your content can be a tag, but the more you use, the less effective they become. YouTube uses your designated tags as a way to track what your content is about. However, add in too many, and they lose their impact.

What’s a good balance?

For starters, your first tag should always be your primary keyword. This redundancy of keeping your main keyword on your title, description, and tags does wonders for your SEO. Next, try to use an alternate version of that primary keyword (if any) and move on to secondary and tertiary keywords. A good rule of thumb is to include five tags per video.

If you need ideas to find good related tags is to write your main one on the YouTube search bar, and see the suggestions that come up. These search suggestions will usually make for great tag ideas.


When you think about YouTube SEO, thumbnails are probably not among the first few things that jump to mind. Yet here’s why they should: Users don’t go around scrolling their video feeds reading each and every title there.

It is the thumbnail. That striking or interesting image that makes them pause and pay attention to your content. Nine times out of ten, thumbnails are the first point of visual contact users will have with your videos.

So, what makes a good thumbnail? It somewhat varies depending on your area of focus. A good idea is to browse around some of the most relevant channels on your niche, and see what’s working for them.

In general, audiences seem to respond better to thumbnails with an expressive person in them, accompanied by some text hinting at the topic.


A terribly underutilized YouTube SEO resource for sure.

Most people seem unaware that YouTube’s algorithms index your video by listening to the words being spoken in them. Uploading the transcript alongside your video leaves no room for interpretation and clearly states your video’s content – Which includes all the essential keywords you discuss in it!

Moreover, uploading transcripts helps generates captions for your content, which broadens the audience for your content.

Lastly, if your resources allow it, a bit of localization (translating captions to a different language) can significantly expand the scope of your audience.


Playlists are a neat way to give your content a bit of extra exposure that, much like transcripts, often goes ignored.

Anyone on YouTube can create public playlists that anyone can view, but what’s important is that these playlists are searchable. They provide a perfect channel to curate content that your audience finds interesting, and organically bring more eyes to your videos.

A good strategy is to create thematic playlists related to your main keywords, mixing your videos with more popular ones, creating new avenues for people to discover your content.

Content optimization

By nature of its content, YouTube allows for a few instances of optimization that aren’t directly related to its search engine, but instead tie to user behavior. While one step removed from direct algorithm influence, these behaviors can have a dramatic impact on how people interact with your videos, feeding into metrics that will influence your overall YouTube SEO performance.

Powerful Beginnings

The first few seconds of your video are arguably the most important ones of the whole piece.

Most viewers decide whether or not to watch a video based on their first impressions, usually under the 15 seconds mark. That timeframe is crucial! You need to capture your user’s attention by paying off whatever your title and thumbnail promised while enticing them to keep watching with new value propositions.

Leave suspense to Hollywood. If you demonstrate within the first few seconds that you can deliver on their expectations, they’ll stay for the rest, increasing your total watched time (TWT).

TWT is one of the metrics YouTube prioritizes the most when ranking content, and will do wonders for your video’s exposure.

Call to actions

Watch any successful YouTube channel’s content, and you’ll realize that not a single video lacks call to actions.

Be it asking for likes at the beginning, comments or opinions in the middle, or to subscribe to their channel at the end – CTAs are a cornerstone of a thriving YouTube channel.

YouTube places a lot of value on videos that people interact with, and adding CTAs will boost the chances of your audience doing so.

Recommended videos

To cap off, you should definitively take the time to set up video recommendations.

It’s a good practice to drop recommendations within your content as you talk about relevant and related topics as pop up notifications. Another effective way is to use your videos’ description to link to any other videos you mention on your content.

Doing so keeps viewers within your content ecosystem, and helps popular videos nurture less viewed ones.

Wrapping Up

Gaining a foothold and standing out on such a massive platform can be daunting at first, especially now that scales seem to be somewhat rigged.

However, with consistent uploads and careful optimization, your videos will be in a much better position to rank higher and be found more consistently by your audience.

An effective YouTube SEO strategy is one that combines on-platform and content optimization to get viewers interacting and watching your content consistently. That said, you also need quality videos relevant to your audience for it to work!

Take the time to establish a robust YouTube presence, and you’ll have a powerful platform for your branding and marketing.

It’s time to go out there and make it happen!

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