YouTube SEO 101

If you’re interested in making video advertisements, attracting new customers via sponsorship, or simply expanding your social media presence, you’ve most certainly looked at making a YouTube account. It’s a smart move, with the site being the second most visited website globally, just behind Google, its parent company. It has more monthly users than any site besides Facebook, with a staggering 1 billion views garnered daily. It’s a marketer’s dream come true. It’s no wonder that 62% of businesses now engage with YouTube in some capacity.

However, it’s not always an easy path to success. Like in the real world, the competition for consumer attention is fierce. When making content on YouTube, you must also consider that you’re competing against independent creators as well. Standing out from the crowd requires careful attention to YouTube’s algorithm and its search engine. Like most sites nowadays, YouTube has a search function that helps users navigate its content. Such a feature is a necessity when one considers that over 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Making yourself known in this sea of content isn’t easy, but this article will help elucidate strategies you can use. We’ll be discussing YouTube search engine optimization (SEO) in particular, and how to craft your content in a way that reaches the most amount of people.

youtube seo tips

What Is YouTube SEO?

YouTube SEO is almost identical to regular SEO in a myriad of ways. The goal, like with SEO for any site, is to push your content highest on the page when consumers search for related content. When over 25% of people click on the first search result on Google, being low on the page, or not even on the first page at all, means you’re almost invisible. When doing SEO for a site like Google, your concerns lie with how your content and website are constructed, such as the placement of keywords in your headings. Your headings come to represent the “tags” on your page that Google uses to determine their relevance to the search query.

On YouTube, there are some important distinctions, but the basic rules still apply. The search engine uses “tags” to determine how relevant a video is to what’s in the search bar. This plays into their ranking on the page. This is where the first difference comes into play. Unlike with a web page, YouTube often can’t directly know what your video is about. To index it correctly, it relies on the video’s metadata — its title, description, and creator-selected tags. These identifiers are set during the publishing of the video, although they can be edited at any point later on. 

Once published, YouTube then integrates performance data into its search engine ranking. These data include views, likes, shares, and comments, which all positively correlate with performance. Highly performing videos are then placed higher on the search page and shown to even more people, increasing their performance even more, and thus creating a feedback loop of ever greater visibility. To reach this point is the goal of any video. To get there, you must handle each video with care and effort.

YouTube SEO for Channels

These concepts also apply to those looking for channels, not just videos. A channel’s ranking on the search page is determined by similar things to videos, such as tags and descriptions. In fact, you can even add keywords to apply to your channel. This way, those searching using those keywords are more likely to find you. Of course, your channel’s overall popularity and performance also factor into your search engine placement. Channels that bring in larger amounts of engagement—views, likes, shares, and comments— will naturally be higher up. The subscriber count is another factor, although less important than engagement itself. Having a high subscriber count doesn’t necessarily mean that you are performing better. In fact, many smaller channels have similar view counts to larger channels simply because of their more-engaged audiences. 

youtube channel seo

YouTube SEO Strategy

So, how does one go about doing YouTube SEO? It starts and ends with playing the algorithm. What’s nice about this is that your results are predictable. If you give it what it wants, your performance goes up, and if you don’t, you do worse. While achieving virality can often be random and difficult to replicate, operating and growing your YouTube channel at a basic level is well within your control.

If you want to grow your channel, doing the following things is essential. First, give YouTube metadata. When starting from scratch, YouTube needs something to know to who to show your videos. The less information you give, the harder this becomes. When you create your channel, give it a title that is easy to type and remember. Often, this will just be your name or the name of your organization. You should also write a clear and illustrative blurb in your channel description, giving both YouTube and potential viewers an idea of what to expect. Finally, be sure to type in keywords that are relevant to your channel in the settings page. This will serve as a starting point for YouTube to begin recommending your content to viewers.

For your videos, there is a similar process. Be thorough and clear in the video’s title, give a complete description, and tag it with relevant keywords. Combined with your channel’s metadata, this allows the algorithm to guess who might be interested in the video and recommend it to them. If you do these things consistently, you will be well on your way to establishing a pattern of content and hopefully a regular audience.

YouTube SEO Tips

The advice given above applies to everyone on the platform, but what if you want to tailor your content to maximize views and performance, rather than do better with suboptimal material? Like it or not, YouTube’s algorithm has a preference for the type of channel you run and the videos you make. Some forms of content are naturally favored over others, so if your goal is solely to drive up performance and attention, the following tips are what you’re looking for.

youtube seo

Increase Views

YouTube loves consistency, there’s no doubt about that. Channels that upload frequently unambiguously fare far better than those which upload rarely. Of course, frequent uploads usually come at the cost of production quality and video length, but that’s just fine. YouTube prefers shorter videos much of the time, as viewers can sometimes be intimidated by videos with long runtimes, making them watch nothing at all. With views comes all other forms of engagement, so the secret to success is quantity over quality.

Improve Video Components

Another tip is having professional visuals. This includes the video thumbnail and the video’s overall production quality. It’s a no-brainer that people would prefer to watch something that looks clean or pretty over something that looks more amateurish. Presentation is key, something that is true for all facets of life. It’s also important to make the visuals original. Even if your video and thumbnail have a clean look, it can be boring to watch formats that have already saturated or are no longer popular. Use whatever tools are available to make sure you are visually appealing and unique!

Interact With Viewers

In the video itself, it is often a good idea to ask viewers directly to subscribe, like, or otherwise engage with you and your content. When people are watching YouTube videos, they are often more concerned with what they are going to watch next rather than if they are subscribed to content they like. As a result, it is recommended that you remind them to subscribe, as many YouTubers have begun doing. This often results in a higher viewer-to-subscriber conversion rate for your channel. You should also remind them to click on the notification bell on your channel, so they are notified whenever you post something new.

If you’re feeling up to it, you can also talk directly to your viewers in the comment section. Doing so is a great way to foster a sense of connection between you and your community, which works wonders for retaining viewers for long periods of time. This does become harder the larger your channel grows, however, which is something you should keep in mind.

youtube seo strategy

Use Analytics

The final tip is to use the analytical tools that YouTube gives you. On every video, you can see all of the aforementioned engagement metrics, which gives you an idea of how well the video did and your overall channel trajectory. By experimenting with your videos, you can then begin to tailor your content to what your growing audience wants to see. Like how businesses listen to what their customers want, listening to your viewers, directly through comments or indirectly through metrics, is a surefire way to grow your channel.

SEO Design Chicago Can Help With YouTube SEO

If you’re struggling with improving your YouTube SEO, the team at SEO Design Chicago is happy to help! Our team of SEO experts can create a plan that puts your YouTube videos in front of even more people.


  • What is YouTube SEO?
  • Can SEO apply to YouTube channels?
  • How do you grow your YouTube channel?
  • Why is interacting with viewers important?
  • How do I find my YouTube analytics?

Contact Us Today!

Call Now