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Videos with high watch time and retention are more likely to outperform similar videos; however, just because a video has strong metrics doesn’t mean it’s going to show up on a user’s home or recommended video feeds. The video must be relevant to either the user’s search or their perceived interests.
YouTube SEO is the process of optimizing video content, from pre to post production, to increase its visibility both on and off of YouTube.
Other elements, like playlists and feature sections on your channel, can help build context for your videos, too.
Once you’ve published several videos to YouTube, you can monitor their performance (like watch time and retention) to determine what content is resonating with your audience. This can guide your video strategy as it expands.
There are other important metrics and factors that help determine the success of a video and how well it’ll surface on YouTube. However, these two metrics provide enough of a guide for us to understand how we need to optimize YouTube videos.
Optimizing for YouTube vs. Google.
Imagine you have a 20 minute long video. This video currently has 100 views and 500 minutes (or 8.3 hours) watch time. At 100 views, this means the average watch time is 5 minutes and the average percentage viewed is 25%. Content that retains viewers is naturally going to outperform content that doesn’t.
If watch time is the total amount of minutes users have spent watching your video, retention (also known as “average percentage viewed”) is how much of the video they’ve watched. Here’s an example:
To understand how YouTube SEO is different from Google SEO, we have to begin by discussing YouTube’s algorithm. Let’s take a look.
When performing SEO for YouTube, optimization will ideally begin with the content itself.
YouTube’s algorithm tends to favor videos (and channels) with higher watch time since those are the ones keeping the user on YouTube. But that’s only one part of the algorithm puzzle. Let’s talk about retention.
If you’re planning to produce videos or are already uploading content to YouTube, WTM can help your videos reach a larger audience and provide a better return on investment.
You would want to include this keyword, if possible, within your title, description, video tags, and ideally within the video’s script.
Already we can see there is a similar goal between Google and YouTube SEO: increasing the organic visibility of your brand’s content.
YouTube wants to recommend videos that will keep viewers on the platform. It’s not about showing the best videos; it’s about showing the right videos. Personalization is key.
What Is YouTube SEO?
In this way, optimizing your videos for YouTube should include the script, the video structure, and how it’s edited to create a compelling, cohesive experience.
YouTube is the second most widely used search engine, behind Google. It’s responsible for an estimated 37% of all mobile internet usage.
For example, if you are creating a video that educates viewers on how to properly apply compost to a lawn, a more general term like “lawn care” may be a great keyword to target.
There are additional optimizations to make once you upload video content.
Remember that YouTube wants to show relevant videos to each user, and to keep the user watching videos. This is key in establishing your channel’s voice and creating content that will keep people coming back.
For example, a possible video title could include “Practical Lawn Care Tips | Composting Your Lawn.”
YouTube has stated its algorithm “follows the audience.” What this means is YouTube’s algorithm is designed to show users videos they are most likely to watch and engage with.
The algorithm’s goal is to recommend content that aligns with searchers’ interests. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to metrics that measure video performance, such as retention and watch time.
When optimizing a blog post for a website, it’s important to consider the user experience. You have to think about the readability of the text, the language, word choice, and even the format and design. Similarly, it’s incredibly important (maybe even more so) to consider the experience you want your video content to give the viewer.
Due to YouTube’s popularity, it’s a natural “next step” for businesses that want to build brand awareness, generate demand, and reach new customers. SEO is similar to other digital content efforts in that it is very important for a successful YouTube strategy.
Unlike traditional Google SEO, where rarity is increasingly important in creating and optimizing content, focusing on a specific but general keyword within your video and its meta data is important.
Watch time can be viewed per video or (as shown above) channel-wide.
YouTube has stated its selection of home feed videos takes into account “how well the video has engaged and satisfied similar viewers, among other factors.” Again, we see how important retention and watch time are, but it’s clear establishing a connection to similar content is an important consideration for optimization. This means you want to create clear signals for YouTube to understand your video’s topic.
An optimized channel can help your videos rank better in two ways:
In many cases, these are keywords that you already know about (because you optimized your videos around them).
And check out the “About results”:
I’ve heard that to but I never got it to work. The problem is most of the links will end up on a PR n/a page which won’t pass any juice. If you can get your link on a high PR page, then that would definitely help.
Good question. I actually mix it up. But I definitely use more exact match anchors than I would for my money site.
Step #2: Publish a High-Retention Video.
Brian, Great post! You just gave me an idea for another passive income stream. I haven’t had any experience with building backlinks in to YouTube vids, but I think that the sheer authority of YT that the internal links alone makes it easier to rank for moderately competitive keywords compared to websites, the farthest I’d go is share it in social media. The key is getting it indexed.
The title of your video should be at least 5 words long. That way, you can include your full keyword without keyword-stuffing.
This is just a wow and deserve to be tried out. I will surely give my feedback of how is it going.
These suggested keywords are GREAT.
Hey again Brian,
If someone subscribes to your channel after watching your video that sends a HUGE signal that you have an amazing video.
Hello Brian i found your article very interesting informative even for an experienced internet marketer like myself. You should also be careful how many backlinks and bookmarks you send to your video each day, as too much in one day will get your video penalized and pushed down the ranking. Google and Youtube is catching up with all the SEO tricks.
If you swing for the fences and go after competitive keywords, your video is gonna get buried in the search results.
Here’s exactly how to find the right keywords for your YouTube videos:
How I Grew My YouTube Channel From “Oh No!” to “Heck Yeah!”
Glad you liked it, Mat. I like the idea of getting internal links from YouTube, but the links you get from that gig are actually only for 30-days.
Most views on YouTube come from within YouTube’s platform.
Hi, is it possible to rank on page one for a long tail keyword without building backlink.
In fact, when I analyzed 1.3 million YouTube search results, I found that comments strongly correlated with ranking highly in the search results:
Great article. However the best method to rank your videos I have found is getting backlinks from Youtube itself. Those are safe backlinks and very powerful. Here’s the Fiverr gig I use:
Finally, a bonus tip: search for your keyword in Google.
Step #1: YouTube Keyword Research.
My pleasure, Kirk! You’re right: this is a system I could have definitely charged for. But I prefer to give it away to help the most people (and to build my list :-))
Next, choose a video from the list. Obviously, you want to pick a video that you can create an awesome video around (more on that in step #2).
The trick is to optimize your videos around keywords that already have video results in Google.
All you need to do is search for one of the keywords you found in the last step.
Also, include keywords in your channel’s about section. Here’s an example:
Thank you! -Lewis.
When you find a question that seems like a good fit, answer the person’s question as best you can. Finally, link to your video at the end of your answer.