With a little bit of legwork, you can optimize your videos so they’re easier to find on YouTube, just as you’d optimize a website for Google.

1. Video Keyword Research

First thing’s first, do your research—it’s important to know what people are looking for. This information will help you determine how to describe your videos, and can even help guide your content ideas. Popular YouTube searches tend to fall into these categories:

2. Watch Videos

It’s easy to get sucked into the YouTube rabbit hole, but it can be an important stage of the research process. User engagement metrics are an extremely important YouTube ranking factor, so you’ll want to know what your competitors are doing that’s getting them views, likes, and comments.When doing competitive video research, ask yourself:

  • How long are your competitors’ videos?
    • There are no hard and fast rules regarding video length,, but studies have shown that longer videos tend to perform better.
  • What kind of videos are your competitors making for the keywords you want to rank for?
  • How long are their video descriptions and what do they include?
  • What are their video titles like?
  • What feedback are viewers leaving in the comments, and can any of it inform your video?

3. Make the Video

We’ll leave this part to you.

4. Optimize Your Video Metadata

Once your video is ready, there are a range of things you can do to help people find it. Pay attention to your:

  • Video filename: Include your primary target keyword in the filename, and separate words with dashes.
    • e.g. if you want to rank for “BRAND NAME + reviews,” name the filename brand-name-reviews
  • Video title: Include your primary keyword at the beginning of the video title, and make sure it’s compelling enough to draw clicks. Don’t stuff keywords in the title.
  • Video description: As with to on-page content, the video description is extremely important to SEO. Make sure to:
    • Put links to your landing pages near the top of the description so that they’re always visible
    • Include your primary keyword within the first 25 words of the description
    • Write a description that’s at least 250-words
    • Include your primary and secondary keywords 3-4 times within the copy
  • Video tags: Tagging is an important way to help your video get found.
    • Pro tip: To see how your competitors are tagging their videos, view the source code of their video and search for og:video:tag
  • Custom thumbnail: Choose something that will entice users to click.
  • Subtitles & CC: Captionshelp with accessibility, and they’re crawlable by YouTube search, as long as you create them within YouTube or upload them as a separate file. If they’re baked into your video as subtitles, they won’t be accessible by crawlers.

5. Socialize Your Video

Finally, be sure to get your video out into the world. The more views you can rack up, the more likely it is that your video will rank well on YouTube.

Which video metrics are important to rankings?

YouTube takes these things into account when ranking videos:

  • Fresh content: YouTube prioritizes new videos, because users love fresh content.
  • Video Retention: This refers to the percentage of a video people tend to watch—the more of a video people watch, the better signal it is.
  • Comments: These demonstrate that people are actively engaging with your video.
  • Subscribes after watching: It’s a strong positive signal if someone subscribes to your channel directly after watching a certain video.
  • Shares
  • Favorites
  • Thumbs up/thumbs down

Optimizing your watch time metrics:

To help attract views and increase viewer retention, you should take a close look at your video metrics. Careful analysis can help you find ways to optimize your video and keep people watching longer. Google also has a few watch time optimization tips of their own.