How to Optimize Videos for YouTube Search

by | Last updated Mar 19, 2024 | SEO

Read Time: 6 min read

Summary: TL;DR: To rank higher on YouTube searches, optimize your videos by conducting keyword research, uploading high-quality content, and finding the ideal video length. Edit the file name, optimize video titles, create custom thumbnails, write good video descriptions, credit courtesy content, provide accurate closed captions, identify the video's location, tag your video with relevant keywords, utilize cards & end screens, add video chapters, choose a video category, make YouTube playlists, encourage engagement, and embed videos on your website. These practices can boost visibility, engagement, and search ranking on YouTube. Complete sentence: Implementing these YouTube video optimization strategies can help increase your video's reach and engagement on the platform.

YouTube is one of the largest search engines in the world, and it’s a great place to get your video content discovered. However, simply uploading a video won’t put it at the top of YouTube’s search results. In order to rank higher in YouTube searches, you’ll need to optimize your videos using a variety of techniques. From video descriptions and tags to playlists and more, here are the best practices for YouTube video optimization!

YouTube video

Do Research on Your Topic

Much like the keyword research you’d do before writing website content, you also need to conduct keyword research for YouTube videos. This research will be the basis for your video topic and can ultimately help you determine which keywords and phrases to use in your video title, description, tags, file names, and more.

Upload High-Quality Content

Quality content is crucial for search engine optimization efforts, and YouTube videos are no exception to this. Shooting video content in 1080p is important because 68.2% of videos on the first page of YouTube are in HD. Also, videos that are thoughtfully shot, edited, and that tell a good story can help you get more video views, likes, comments, and shares, all of which contribute toward higher ranking in YouTube searches.

Find the Ideal Video Length

The type of content you’re filming will help you determine how long your video should be. Any video you upload should be as informative as possible and keep your audience engaged the entire time. Depending on your topic, this can mean that your ideal YouTube video length could be as short as a few minutes or longer than ten minutes. Regardless, try to avoid filling your video with fluff that isn’t beneficial to viewers. After all, you don’t want viewers clicking away from your video before it’s over, as this could impact your ranking.

Edit the File Name

When you upload a video, YouTube will read the file name and code of the video to get an idea of what it’s about. While your video file may default to something like 983424.mp4, renaming the file to something more specific like optimized-youtube-video.mp4 can help YouTube understand the main topic of your video through the incorporation of keywords into the file name.

Optimize Video Titles

One way to potentially help your YouTube videos rank higher in YouTube search is to naturally use valuable keywords into the video title. This is the first thing that many viewers see, and it often determines whether or not someone clicks on your video. Aim to make your video title as clear as possible so the viewer immediately knows what to expect. Also, consider keeping your video title fairly short (typically less than 70 characters) to avoid it getting cut off in search results.

Create a Custom Thumbnail

The video thumbnail is another big thing viewers see before clicking on a YouTube video. Like the title, the thumbnail gives them an idea of what your content is about. YouTube automatically generates a thumbnail for you when you upload a video, but it’s best to create and upload your own custom image that’s clear and that can stand out from other video results.

Write a Good Video Description

Video descriptions are an important aspect of YouTube optimization. YouTube only displays the first three lines of a video description before a viewer has to click “Show More” to see the rest. That’s why it’s a good idea to include the most important information right away like your main keyword, CTAs, or any important links. A well-optimized video description may also help your video show up in the suggested video sidebar on YouTube, which can possibly lead to more views.

Credit Courtesy Content

If you use any courtesy content in your YouTube videos like music, statistics, video clips, or any other media it’s good to credit the original source. You can do this by adding a credits reel to the end of your video, but the best way is to mention these sources in the video description. This helps make the information searchable and boosts your credibility.

Provide Accurate Closed Captions

Though YouTube automatically adds captions to your videos, they aren’t always correct and sometimes contain words that are incomprehensible, which can end up hurting your video ranking. Instead, it’s best to provide your own to ensure accuracy and improve accessibility. Captions have the potential to increase user engagement and can be read by search engines like Google.

Identify the Video’s Location

Tagging your video’s location allows viewers to find content based on specific location searches. You can add a location tag to your video in YouTube Studio, as well as mention the location in the video description. This is an important step because it helps your videos be discovered in more local video searches.

Tag Your Video with Keywords

Using tags on YouTube videos can tell both viewers and YouTube what your video is about. This helps YouTube associate your video with similar content and possibly widen your video’s reach. However, you don’t want to tag anything that isn’t relevant to your content because YouTube may see that as a form of keyword stuffing. And while there’s no limit to how many tags you can include, YouTube does cap tags at 500 characters, so try to be selective with your final list of tags.

Utilize Cards & End Screens

Cards and end screens are small notifications that appear in the middle and at the end of your videos to help you promote your brand. Cards appear during your video, and end screens appear once your video has ended. They’re used to send viewers to other videos, take them to a YouTube playlist, redirect them to your website, and more. Using these can help increase your channel’s overall viewership.

Add Video Chapters

YouTube video chapters are a fairly new feature to the video sharing platform and can play a big role in video optimization. Chapters help you break your video into subtopics, which can help viewers preview the content and easily find the information they’re looking for in the video’s progress bar. Ultimately, YouTube chapters help improve user experience and can lead to more engagement and better placement in search results.

Choose a Video Category

YouTube categories can help your video end up on playlists with similar content and increase your overall viewership. When choosing a category for your YouTube video, pick one that best fits what your video is about. That way, YouTube can better understand what your content includes. This is also helpful for appearing in related video recommendations.

Make YouTube Playlists

By grouping similar videos together in playlists, you can help YouTube recognize your video content topics. Have a lot of posts covering DIY ideas? Add them to a “DIY Projects” playlist. Or maybe you have a travel vlog? Group things like “International Travel” together. These little groupings make it easier for YouTube to know what types of videos to deliver with different search queries. Additionally, playlists can drive more traffic to your other videos since videos play one after the other within a playlist.

Encourage Engagement

Be sure to encourage viewers to like and comment on your videos, as well as subscribe to your channel. You can mention these calls-to-action in your actual video, as well as in the video description. The more engagement you get from viewers, the more it tells YouTube that your video content has been well received and is popular, thus helping to improve your YouTube search ranking.

Embed Videos on Your Website

YouTube videos and SEO go hand in hand. If you want to get more views on your videos, improve overall visibility on YouTube, and appear in relevant Google searches, embed your videos on your website! This can help both your website and YouTube content get discovered by search engines.

Need help creating video content and optimizing your YouTube channel? Hurrdat Marketing uses a comprehensive approach to content marketing and SEO to improve your online visibility. Learn more about our search engine optimization and content marketing services today!

Kennedy Martinez


Kennedy is the Content Director at Hurrdat, where she works to develop content marketing strategies for local and national clients. She manages a team of content strategists and editors who write compelling, web-optimized copy and conduct thorough competitive analyses and keyword research. Kennedy works to reach target audiences at various points in the sales funnel through evergreen blog strategies, SEO-focused website builds, optimized landing pages, and content repurposing.

Kennedy is originally from Grand Island, NE and has a Master of Science in Digital Marketing from the University of Colorado Denver. In her free time, she enjoys reading, crocheting, and watching cooking competition shows.

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