Why is ranking in YouTube search so important?
In seven and a half months, we focused our
efforts on YouTube SEO and ranked our videos
for some of the most competitive keywords
in our industry.
SEO, Ecommerce SEO, local SEO, SEO tips, and
the list goes on.
This led to an almost 400% increase in YouTube
search traffic and growing.
Our channel isn't huge.
Our industry isn't exactly "exciting" either.
And compared to our top YouTube competitors,
our subscriber count is microscopic.
But that's what I love about YouTube.
Anyone and everyone has the opportunity to
entertain, engage, and rank their videos fast.
So in this video, I'm going to show you exactly
how to rank YouTube videos, from start to finish.
What's up creators?
Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that
helps you grow your search traffic, research
your competitors and dominate your niche.
Now there's a lot to video SEO, so rather than
trying to dip into every single traffic source in
YouTube analytics, I'll be focusing on ranking
in YouTube search and sprinkle a few tips
to rank your videos on Google too.
Let's get started.
First, what is YouTube SEO?
It's the process of optimizing your videos,
playlists, and channel to rank high in YouTube's
organic search results for a given search
YouTube explains their discovery and search
ranking algorithm in two sentences.
"Videos are ranked based on a variety of factors
including how well the title, description,
and video content match the viewer's query."
So there are three important points here.
First, keywords matter in your title and description.
Second, you need to match the search intent for
a viewer's query.
And third, you need to drive engagement for
a query in order to rank on YouTube.
But of all these things, the key point to
effective video SEO is creating high-engagement videos.
So if you can't engage your audience, your
chances of ranking your YouTube videos for
a meaningful keyword will be slim to none.
So the first step is to do YouTube keyword
Unlike traditional Google search engine optimization,
YouTube doesn't have an official keyword research tool.
And a lot of these third party tools are just pumping
out arbitrary numbers from Google Keyword Planner.
Find out ways you can get estimated search volumes.
But there are ways you can get estimated search
The first is to use YouTube suggest paired
with Google Trends.
Just type a keyword into the search bar, and
you'll see a list of relevant queries that
contain your keyword.
You can also add a star before or after your
target keyword, which will act as a "wildcard."
Now, since we don't have an official tool
to see search volumes, we can throw a few
of YouTube suggestions into Google Trends.
But remember, Google Trends uses "relative
popularity" to compare keywords.
So take these estimates with a grain of salt.
The second way to get keyword volumes is to
use Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer.
Recently, we've released our latest version of
Keywords Explorer, which includes search volumes
and metrics for search engines like Google,
YouTube, Bing, Amazon, Baidu, and more.
Just select YouTube as the search engine and
enter a keyword or a list of keywords.
Right away, you'll see country-specific search
volumes, clicks data, global search volumes,
and have access to five keyword idea reports.
You can also enter a list of up to 10,000
keywords you want to analyze.
The best way to get a list of keywords is
to use TubeBuddy or VidIQ's Chrome extension.
Just run a search in YouTube, and look to
the right sidebar.
You'll see VidIQ's "Related Queries," or TubeBuddy's
"Most Used Tags" sections.
Just choose all relevant keywords you want
to analyze, click the Copy button, and paste
your list into Keywords Explorer.
We'll then show you all keywords that have
YouTube search volume according to our database.
Now, search volumes are great and all, but
the power of Keywords Explorer is in generating
new keyword ideas.
Let's say you want to start a channel on makeup
Just type "makeup" into Keywords Explorer.
And I'll also include a couple common variations
like make-up and make up.
Then go to the Phrase match report, which
lists all keywords in our database that contain
your seed keywords.
And you'll see over 202,000 keyword ideas!
Let's narrow in on some more focused topics.
So I'll click on the "include" dropdown and
type in a list of related keywords like eye,
face, halloween, wedding, and bridal.
Finally, choose the "Any word" tab, which
will show us all keywords that contain any
Maximize your views by ranking your videos on Google.
of these keywords.
And we have over 17,000 relevant topics to
create videos on.
Bottom line: there is no shortage of great
We have an in-depth video on YouTube keyword
research, so I'll leave a link to it in the description.
Now, YouTube search is great and all, but
why not maximize your views by ranking your
videos on Google too?
Don't think it's that important?
Google search is one of our top external traffic
sources and sent us over 7,400 views in the
past 28 days.
Also, a study done by GetSTAT shows that Video
SERP features increased by around 75% in 2017
for their sample list of keywords.
Now in 2019, it's tough to browse Google for
more than ten minutes without seeing a video result.
There are a few ways to find videos that get
search traffic from Google.
The first is to search for your target keyword.
If you see a video carousel or another video
SERP feature, then you have an opportunity
to rank in that position too.
Pay attention to video length and titles to
get an idea of what Google wants to show.
The second way is to use Content Explorer,
which lets you search for any word or phrase
and get all relevant pages with their SEO
and social metrics.
To find YouTube videos that are ranking in
Google, I'll search for:
site:youtube.com inurl:watch title:unboxing,
assuming that's the topic I wanted to search for.
Then, I'll sort the result by search traffic
and you can immediately see the estimated
amount of Google search traffic these videos
get each month, as well as the titles, descriptions,
and social stats.
Once you find a video that interests you,
click on the Details button, and then the
Organic keywords tab where you can see all
of the keywords and the ranking position for
the video on Google.
Looking into both Google and YouTube search
lets you double-dip your traffic sources and
get more views to your videos.
Alright, step 2 is to identify search intent.
Search intent (or keyword intent) refers to
the reason why a user searches for a query
in a search engine.
Now, search engines are usually good at doing
this for you.
Just search for the keyword you want to rank
for in YouTube and analyze the content and
Plan your video.
angle of the top 3 results.
For example, if you want to teach people how
to make a website, then you would probably
give them a step-by-step tutorial.
But what if you want to rank for "Nintendo
YouTube will tell you that people want to
see a "listicle-type" video.
Now, let's say that you're a florist and you
want to rank for "viola."
All of the results show that someone searching
for this term wants to know about the instrument.
Not the plant or the actress.
Let's move on to step 3, which is the most
And that's to satisfy search intent with a
YouTube says that their goals are to help
viewers find the videos they want to watch
and maximize long-term viewer engagement and
And if you're matching the reason for a user's
query, then your chance of having higher watch
times for the video increases.
Here are the exact steps we take to create
First and foremost, plan your videos before
you create them.
If you're creating how-to videos, the last
thing you want to do is stumble over your
words or show sloppy demonstrations.
Proper planning helps keep your ideas on point
and gives you the advantage of intentionally
including keywords within your video, which
people believe YouTube uses in their ranking algorithm.
Second, you need to start with a strong hook.
The first 10-15 seconds are critical for your
Hook your readers, and you'll have audience
retention graphs that look like this.
Forego the hook and lose the majority of your
viewers before you even get a chance to deliver value.
Every niche is different and unfortunately,
there isn't one formula that works for everyone.
Being in the how-to and informational space
for a B2B audience, I like to start off with
stats or proof so that's worth your time to keep watching.
Like in this video on YouTube SEO, I started
off by showing you how we rank in the top
3 for a lot of competitive keywords.
I also showed you that our search traffic
grew by almost 400%.
And most importantly, I tell you that I'm
going to show you the exact steps we used
so you can try and replicate our results.
Drop-offs in the first 15 seconds is inevitable.
But you can minimize the damage by connecting
with your audience's reason for watching and
Do edit videos the right way!
showing that you have a solution to that problem.
Third, you need to edit your videos strategically.
For every single video we create, our focus
isn't to impress you with cool tricks.
We care about engagement.
So rather than getting into a full-out editing
tutorial, I'll leave you with a few power tips.
First, use jump cuts.
A jump cut is a transition between two shots
from the same position.
It creates the effect of the scene "jumping,"
hence, the name, "jump cut."
These add dynamics to a video and help polish
Second, draw your audience's attention to
what you want them to see.
Pay attention for a second.
If you've never used our Site Explorer tool
before, and I say something like:
"Click on the Linked domains report."
Did you see it?
But I could easily draw your eyes to the linked
domains report by doing this, this, this,
or even this.
The effects don't need to be fancy, but they
should help your audience follow along to
avoid drop-offs due to confusion.
The last tip is to entertain with stories
YouTube is an entertainment platform.
But entertaining isn't easy.
So while our primary focus is to teach SEO
and marketing, we do our best to make it somewhat
entertaining without trying too hard.
If you've watched up to here, then you've
probably seen some examples, so I won't go
deeper into that.
We have a full video on the workflow we use
to edit our videos for YouTube, so I highly
recommend watching that, which I'll link up.
Alright, step 3 is to do on-page video optimization.
On-page optimizations for YouTube boils down
to 4 things:
We have the Title, Description, Tags, and Thumbnail.
Each of these help provide context to your
video and/or will influence your bottomline:
After all, no clicks = no views.
Here are a few best practices to craft searchable
and clickable videos, according to YouTube.
Tip 1 is to use your keyword in the title.
YouTube suggests using the most relevant search
terms in your titles and descriptions as
long as they're accurate and not excessive.
A study from Briggsby also shows that more
than 90% of top ranking videos included at
least part of a target keyword in their title.
While it seems important to include at least
partial matches of your target keyword in
Get advantage of these title advices.
your title, you don't want to sacrifice the
"click-worthiness" of it.
Tip 2 is to keep your titles under 60 characters.
YouTube recommends keeping your titles concise
with the most important information up front.
From an SEO perspective, that will often mean
using your target keyword near the beginning
of your title.
For example, our target keyword for this video is YouTube SEO.
And you'll see that we added the phrase right
at the beginning.
Keeping your titles short will also prevent losing
clicks from truncation in search, suggested,
and browse features.
Tip 3 is to write catchy titles that evoke
curiosity or highlight a benefit.
If you were to create a tutorial on tying
a tie, a keyword rich title might be, "how
to tie a tie."
But that's uninteresting at best.
There are numerous angles you could take like:
How to tie a tie with the "007 technique;"
How to tie a tie in 11 seconds flat;
My 3-year old teaches you how to tie a tie.
The point is that boring titles are less likely
to stand out in a competitive landscape.
Tip 4 is to create a thumbnail that complements
In my opinion, this is the hardest part to
Here's the thumbnail for our SEO mistakes
The thumbnail text describes the video since
91% is the majority.
And if you look closely, there's a picture
of Google's page numbers with the third part
circled stating, "You are here."
You can also draw inspiration from things
around you and use your image to speak undeniable
truths like our video, "How long does it
take to rank on Google."
And if you're stuck, try and get ideas from
Google images or stock photos.
For example, I searched for the word "system" in Adobe
Stock, and was inspired by this image.
So I used the idea to create our thumbnail
for our link building system video but cooler.
The next video optimization tip is to write
YouTube says using the "right" keywords can
boost views and watch time because they help
your videos show up in search results.
But what are "the right" keywords?
For starters, we include our target keyword
in both the title and description.
But we also include related keywords by analyzing
the descriptions of the top ranking videos.
Just type in the keyword you want to rank
for, then look through the description for
keywords that have relevance to your topic.
For example, this video uses language like
"free traffic" and talks about traffic in the
context of a blog. Another phrase used is "increase website traffic."
These might be keywords that I want to include
within my description or other closely related
keywords where my video matches the content.
Next up are Tags.
And tags are another way to give context to your
video, which can help you rank in YouTube
search and suggested.
YouTube simplifies this by recommending to
add keywords and phrases that are most descriptive
of your video.
You can also use tools like VidIQ or TubeBuddy
to see the tags for competing videos in the sidebar.
Look for common tags within competing videos,
and add them to your video when it makes sense
to do so.
And as an extra measure, I'll normally copy
all of the tags from the top ranking videos,
and paste them into Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
to see the search volumes on these tags.
Step 4 are In-Video Optimizations.
Creating the video is 80% of the battle.
There are additional optimizations you can
do to increase retention rate and create a
better user experience for your viewers.
The first thing is to add subtitles or closed
Many creators, including myself, believe that
YouTube reads closed captions to better
understand the context of videos.
And chances are, your viewers come from all
over the world with a different native tongue.
So it's worth using a transcription service
or if your videos are scripted, just go to
the CC tab of your video, select your language,
and create your closed captions file.
To give you an idea, around 17% of our viewers
use our English subtitles when watching our videos.
The second thing to do is to add cards to
These are an interactive feature that encourages
viewers to take one of these 5 actions.
Just select the timecode where you want the
card to trigger, select the type of card you
want to use, choose an appropriate option,
and you're all set.
Now, when a viewer hits that timecode, the title
of the video will slide in as a suggestion.
Finally, use end screens.
End screens are similar to cards.
The purpose is to keep viewers on the YouTube
For our channel, we have a Subscribe button
as well as a suggested video the viewer should
This can help you get more subscribers, keep
viewers consuming your content, and increase
one of the metrics YouTube uses in their ranking
algorithm, session time.
I'll expand on this in a bit.
For now, let's move on to step 5, which is
to publish and promote your video.
The first 24-48 hours from publishing can
make or break your video.
So you need to promote your video as hard
as you can right away.
Here are some rapid-fire tips to do that.
First, promote to your existing audience.
At Ahrefs, we publish at around 8:00 AM Eastern
time on Wednesdays.
We then use an inapp alert to notify our customers
about a new piece of content we created.
At noon, we tweet out our video link, which
sends us more viewers directly to our video.
And of course, we send an email newsletter
to our blog about 24 hours after the video
Now, if you don't have an existing audience,
a few things you can do are to post on relevant
niche forums like Quora.
Just search for the topic of your video, provide
a helpful answer and include your video in the mix.
You can also post on other platforms like
Reddit, Facebook, or wherever.
The point is that you need to get involved
where your audience hangs out.
Last but not least is to use YouTube ads.
Right now, from our experience, YouTube ads are super cheap.
You can target by interest, keyword, or custom
If you have a great video, set up some search
ads based on your target keyword with the
intention to earn their subscription.
As your subscriber base grows, they'll begin
to get notified with your future videos and
help accelerate your growth without breaking
The last and final step is to optimize your
videos for session watch time.
Session watch time is the total time a viewer watches videos on YouTube without leaving the platform.
YouTube said in its Creator Blog:
"We've started adjusting the ranking of videos
in YouTube search to reward engaging videos
that keep viewers watching.
As with previous optimizations to our discovery
features, this should benefit your channel
if your videos drive more viewing time across
Here are a few more ways to improve session
First, create series.
Think of series like #AskGaryVee or 490 episodes
of Casey Neistat's Vlog.
Series hook people and if they like what they
see, they keep watching, which increases your
total session watch time.
We've created 3 series in total.
One on keyword research, another on link building,
and a shorter one on WordPress SEO.
The first two were made to educate our customers,
while the WordPress SEO series was meant to rank.
And rank we did.
To encourage viewers to watch the next video
in the series, add it as an end screen or
add a card to the next video near the end.
This will make it easy for viewers to find
the next video in your series.
Now, the next part is where the magic happens.
And that's to turn your playlist into series
A playlist is a list of videos that plays
in the order they're set.
Whereas a series playlist is everything I
just said, but it's also a creator's way to
tell YouTube that your group of videos is
an "official" list of videos.
Think of how Netflix does it with seasons
and episodes of your favorite show.
They're in a specific order and skipping a
couple episodes probably wouldn't be a good idea.
Using series playlists helps YouTube understand
order and increases your chances of claiming
the "up next" spot.
If you've done the card, endscreen, and series
playlist, you now have 3 places where your
next video will be recommended to viewers.
The last and final tip to boost your video
SEO is to use my channel page hack.
Your channel page will likely be one of your
most visited pages so it's worth optimizing.
Here's how the channel page hack works.
If you look at our channel, the first 4 videos
in this stripe look kind of random.
But they are not.
Each of these videos is the first series in
one of the 3 series we have on our channel.
And the only reason the fourth video is in
the same series as this video is because we
don't have a fourth series.
Now, since all of these videos are separate
series playlists, look what happens when I
click on them.
The up next video is always the next video
in the series.
So no matter which video you click, it heightens
our chances of getting viewers to keep watching
videos on our channel.
While YouTube doesn't have a "session watch
time" metric in their analytics, I'm a strong
believer that my channel playlist hack contributed
to our massive increase in overall watch time
since the day I added it.
Don't overcomplicate! YouTube SEO from a technical perspective is easy!
YouTube SEO from a technical perspective is
Optimize your titles, descriptions, and tags.
Then add relevant cards, endscreens or description
links and you're good to go.
But the most challenging part of video SEO
is engaging your audience.
So take these processes and tips and focus
your attention on these 3 things: entertain,
engage, and rank.
Now, if you enjoyed this video, make sure to
like, share and subscribe, and if you have
any questions about our video SEO process,
leave a comment below and I'd be happy to help.
So keep grinding away, create your videos
strategically, and I'll see you in the next tutorial.