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What is YouTube?” Punch that question into Google, and the most common answer you’ll find is “a video sharing website.” While that is true in a sense, it’s actually a little misleading.
Yes, YouTube is a website where you can share videos. It also happens to be the second-largest search engine on the internet right now.
Calling it a “video sharing website” makes it sound like a social network akin to Instagram or Vine. And who talks about SEO for Instagram? Content is so ephemeral on these platforms that trying to optimize for a hashtag or search term is almost pointless.
Unfortunately, many people seem to mentally place YouTube in the social media bucket. In fact, YouTube has much more in common with Google than other social sites (it’s no coincidence that it’s owned by the same company).
Thus, when you create content for YouTube you need to be thinking about rankings, not just likes and views. People use YouTube by typing in keywords. Its algorithm then uses a number of factors to rank them in search results, just like Google.
The case for creating video content is obvious. One HubSpot study shows that 45 percent of people already watch an hour of video each day. Media agency Zenith reports that video consumption is likely to grow on average by nine minutes per day each year until 2020.
With over a billion users (around one-third of the internet’s total users), YouTube is likely to be the most popular video platform for the foreseeable future. If video content is part of your marketing plan, you also need to be thinking about YouTube optimization.
The good news is that optimizing a YouTube channel is much simpler than optimizing a whole website. In fact, YouTube basically provides you with a template. In addition, optimizing your videos for YouTube gives your videos a higher chance of ranking in regular Google searches.
First off, you’re going to want to associate your video with a keyword, preferably one with a lot of traffic. There are many tools that will give you YouTube search data, but the two I prefer are Ubersuggest and Google Trends. Just make sure you’re looking at YouTube search data specifically. You can also use this data to get content ideas for new videos.
Once you’ve found a keyword, type it into YouTube, and take a look at the top few videos. In order to compete, you’ll need to create enticing titles and thumbnails that are just as engaging (but hopefully more so).
Make sure you include your keyword prominently in both the title and the video description. Also, make the description as detailed as possible and include background information on the video, bios, links to social accounts and anything else you think is relevant.
Always remember that despite being a video platform, YouTube still uses the text you provide to understand and categorize your content.
The more information YouTube has, the better. Create a full and accurate transcript of the video. If you use YouTube’s automated transcript tool, make sure you manually check that the transcript is free from errors and correctly time stamped.
If possible, upload transcripts in other languages to increase your reach to non-English speaking audiences.
The most important metrics for YouTube are watch time and subscriptions. If people subscribe to your channel based off a particular video, it’s a sure signal that it’s quality content. Use YouTube’s card feature to add a call to subscribe to all your videos, along with links to landing pages if appropriate.
There’s a common misconception that videos should be around one and three minutes. While short-form videos work for some content types, don’t be afraid to stretch out and create longer videos.
Watch time is a key metric that YouTube uses to evaluate your channel. When you consider that YouTube’s overall goal is to get people to spend more time on the site and watch more ads, you can understand why YouTube’s algorithms tend to reward long-form content.
Another trick to boosting your channel’s watch time is to create playlists. As you probably know, when people find a curated playlist of content they like, they tend to stay on the site longer.
Your playlists can include other people’s videos or be made up entirely of content from other channels. Any playlists you create will contribute to your channel’s watch time and raise its standing with YouTube’s algorithms, so go crazy.
There are other things you can do with your channel to ensure YouTube regards it favorably. For example, if you post high-quality content consistently (weekly or even daily), you’ll likely be rewarded by YouTube’s algorithms.
You’ll also want to make sure that your channel is properly branded, looks appealing and has an engaging banner. Fill out the About section with as much detail as possible, and make sure you include links to all relevant sites and social media accounts.
Of course, a big part of optimization is tracking your rankings. One trick that most people don’t know is that you can add your YouTube homepage to Google Analytics.
As people consume more video on the internet, YouTube is likely to become more important for brands looking to engage with their customers. Those who begin optimizing their video content and channels now will benefit in the years to come. Those that ignore the opportunity are likely to be left languishing in the backwaters.