June 20, 2023

How to write an SEO YouTube description that encourages clicks

In this article, you’ll learn how to approach SEO research, as well as how to write a YouTube description that will draw users in and keep them consuming your content.
June 20, 2023

How to write an SEO YouTube description that encourages clicks

In this article, you’ll learn how to approach SEO research, as well as how to write a YouTube description that will draw users in and keep them consuming your content.
June 20, 2023
Erin Ollila
In this article
Start editing audio & video
This makes the editing process so much faster. I wish I knew about Descript a year ago.
Matt D., Copywriter
Sign up

What type of content do you primarily create?

Videos
Podcasts
Social media clips
Transcriptions
Start editing audio & video
This makes the editing process so much faster. I wish I knew about Descript a year ago.
Matt D., Copywriter
Sign up

What type of content do you primarily create?

Videos
Podcasts
Social media clips
Transcriptions

Every time you post a YouTube video, you’re shouting into a sea of voices. According to YouTube, more than 500 hours of content is uploaded to the platform every minute. You need to do something to stand out from the avalanche of choices users have. 

But after recording a video, designing custom graphics and thumbnails, and coming up with a title, writing a YouTube description is probably the last thing on your mind. Don’t let it be.

By writing an enticing title and detailed YouTube description that clearly articulates what your episode is about, you’ll be so much closer to capturing the attention of the right viewers at the right time. In this article, you’ll learn how to approach SEO research, as well as how to write a YouTube description that will draw users in and keep them consuming your content.

Start with the strategy 

A common misconception about SEO is that its rules are the same for all forms of content on all platforms. While many of the traditional SEO best practices we all use today work for various types of content, there are some platform-specific considerations to keep in mind.

YouTube is a great example of this. While traditional SEO encourages people to leave the search engine and travel to a new website, the goal of optimizing content on YouTube is to attract new users and keep them consuming the videos on your channel. And this is why it’s so important that your YouTube description and title entices people to click, encourages them to engage, and showcases more content that will meet their needs. 

That means that instead of coming up with one-off video ideas, a better way to start is with an overarching content strategy. Start by thinking big and then distilling your idea down into smaller elements. Think of the bigger ideas as categories, or potentially even future YouTube playlists. Then, when you distill it down, the smaller facets would be the videos you record. Doing this creates a natural ecosystem to keep your viewers within. Plus, it helps keep you organized as a content creator — you rarely have to wonder what your next video will be about.

Curious how this all works in real life? Let’s pretend you’re a wedding planner who sells guides and templates to newly engaged couples. A wedding can be broken down into smaller parts, such as getting ready, the ceremony, wedding photos, cocktail hour, the meal, reception traditions, and dancing. Consider these channel categories or potential future playlists.

Now, all of those parts can be broken down further into content topics you can explore as individual videos. For example, in the getting ready category, some video topics may include how to schedule hair and makeup so you aren’t late for the ceremony, how and when to feed the wedding party while getting ready, whether or not you should do a first look with your partner, and how to deliver a surprise gift to your future spouse before the ceremony. 

Can you see how some of these topics are overlapping? When recording, you can find ways to naturally reference the other videos as you speak or use cards and end screens to move them to the other content you create.

Read more: 9 tips for getting more views on your YouTube videos

Keyword research

Now that you’ve determined what you’ll talk about in your videos to help funnel people into more of your content, it’s time to research what keywords you can use in your YouTube descriptions and titles to attract more eyes to your videos.

Offsite platforms with search capabilities — like YouTube, Pinterest, and podcast players — follow most of the same rules as SEO for websites. Users will put in a few words or a phrase for something they’re searching for, and the platforms respond by sharing a selection of results that are relevant to the search.  

Because of this, I usually start my keyword research in the same way I’d approach SEO for a website. Ideally, you’re looking to find a keyword phrase that has a high amount of search volume and a low amount of competition in order to rank on YouTube. Tools such as Ubersuggest, VidIQ, TubeBuddy, and Keywords Everywhere are great places to begin looking for keywords that will drive traffic to your videos. 

Once you’re done with the traditional keyword research, it’s time to do SEO research directly on YouTube. Doing so will help you understand what people are searching for specifically on the platform. 

People consume content in different ways and for different reasons, and because of this, they may phrase their keywords differently. To see how they search, act like a user would. Test search phrases out in the search bar and see what comes up as suggested terms. You may find different phrasing — with the same search intent, of course — that works better for your YouTube description. Pro tip: try using quotation marks around the phrase you enter in the search bar to get slightly different, and sometimes better, results.

For example, say you’ve got a DIY channel and you’re making a video about creating a built-in bookshelf in your living room. You could go with the keyword “diy built-in bookshelves,” but with a little more trial and error with YouTube’s search suggestions, you’d also hit on “diy build-ins,” “built-in bookcase,” “built-in bookcase diy,” and even “bookshelf built into wall.” 

And please allow me to blow your mind for a moment: YouTube actually has their own research functionality built into YouTube Studio. To find it, click Analytics in your side panel, and then choose the Research tab. From here, you will be able to learn more about how users across YouTube, and your specific viewers, are searching on the platform. The search can be distilled by geography, language, and content gaps.

How to write your YouTube description

Now that you know your topics and the keywords you’ll use to attract new viewers, it’s time to actually use them in the YouTube description to optimize your videos.

Similar to how podcast descriptions work, a YouTube description is limited to 5,000 characters, though not all of those characters are immediately visible to the end user. Regardless of how long it is, your YouTube description is automatically truncated after approximately 200 characters with a “Show more” link, which translates into a few sentences or about two lines of copy. 

According to YouTube Help, “You can think about the description as two parts — what viewers see before clicking “Show more” on desktop or “more” on mobile and what they see after.” This makes it vital to use your keyword phrase in the beginning of your YouTube description and include the most important details up front.

Remember, when it comes to optimization, clarity always outweighs SEO tactics. You want your YouTube description to begin by clearly describing what viewers can expect from your video — a solid hook is one way to capture attention and hint at what the viewer will get if they click on your thumbnail. Then, you have more space to explain what happens in the video after the “Show more” section.

Not sure where else to use your keywords? In addition to the intro, a YouTube description may include a bulleted list of what was discussed in the video, bios of whoever was in the video, a call to action, and links to your website, social channels, blog content, and anything else you referenced in the video. 

Writing your YouTube description doesn’t have to be difficult either. Remember, you don’t have to use the entire 5,000 characters to describe your video or encourage your viewers to convert off platform. Use only the space you need. Plus, if you’re really struggling, there are many AI tools that can help you write an optimized YouTube description for each video you upload. 

Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll be including some of the same information in every YouTube description, and YouTube makes that easy: you can make it so predetermined text automatically displays on all new videos. Setting this up is a great way to include those social media and website links or any branded statements without having to write them out each and every time you publish a new video.

Read more: 5 tips for creating a click-worthy YouTube thumbnail

Optimize for content consumption

SEO on YouTube isn’t just about initially attracting people to your channel. It’s also about keeping them there. 

This is why my suggestion to focus on content strategy first is so important. You want to make sure that you have content you can point your viewers to throughout and at the end of each of your videos. Adding cards and end screens helps, but it’s also important to make sure you’re referencing your own content in the recordings and the YouTube description.

YouTube Press reports that “every day, people watch billions of hours of video and generate billions of views.” So how do you make your channel and your videos the ones people watch?

You do it by putting effort into creating a clear and interesting title and writing a YouTube description that encourages people to click through to watch.

The YouTube algorithm presents content to its users that it thinks they’re looking for. They want people to stay on the platform, and if you’re putting in the effort to clearly indicate what your videos are about, YouTube will be more likely to include your videos in search results and as suggested videos.

Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila is an SEO copywriter, lover of pretzel bread, and host of the Talk Copy to Me podcast. Learn more and connect: https://erinollila.com
Share this article
Start creating—for free
Sign up
Join millions of others creating with Descript

How to write an SEO YouTube description that encourages clicks

Big white random letters being sliced through by a laptop bearing a YouTube logo

Every time you post a YouTube video, you’re shouting into a sea of voices. According to YouTube, more than 500 hours of content is uploaded to the platform every minute. You need to do something to stand out from the avalanche of choices users have. 

But after recording a video, designing custom graphics and thumbnails, and coming up with a title, writing a YouTube description is probably the last thing on your mind. Don’t let it be.

By writing an enticing title and detailed YouTube description that clearly articulates what your episode is about, you’ll be so much closer to capturing the attention of the right viewers at the right time. In this article, you’ll learn how to approach SEO research, as well as how to write a YouTube description that will draw users in and keep them consuming your content.

Our full-featured video editing tool is as powerful as it is easy to use.
Look for our all-in-one audio & video production that’s as easy as editing a doc.

Start with the strategy 

A common misconception about SEO is that its rules are the same for all forms of content on all platforms. While many of the traditional SEO best practices we all use today work for various types of content, there are some platform-specific considerations to keep in mind.

YouTube is a great example of this. While traditional SEO encourages people to leave the search engine and travel to a new website, the goal of optimizing content on YouTube is to attract new users and keep them consuming the videos on your channel. And this is why it’s so important that your YouTube description and title entices people to click, encourages them to engage, and showcases more content that will meet their needs. 

That means that instead of coming up with one-off video ideas, a better way to start is with an overarching content strategy. Start by thinking big and then distilling your idea down into smaller elements. Think of the bigger ideas as categories, or potentially even future YouTube playlists. Then, when you distill it down, the smaller facets would be the videos you record. Doing this creates a natural ecosystem to keep your viewers within. Plus, it helps keep you organized as a content creator — you rarely have to wonder what your next video will be about.

Curious how this all works in real life? Let’s pretend you’re a wedding planner who sells guides and templates to newly engaged couples. A wedding can be broken down into smaller parts, such as getting ready, the ceremony, wedding photos, cocktail hour, the meal, reception traditions, and dancing. Consider these channel categories or potential future playlists.

Now, all of those parts can be broken down further into content topics you can explore as individual videos. For example, in the getting ready category, some video topics may include how to schedule hair and makeup so you aren’t late for the ceremony, how and when to feed the wedding party while getting ready, whether or not you should do a first look with your partner, and how to deliver a surprise gift to your future spouse before the ceremony. 

Can you see how some of these topics are overlapping? When recording, you can find ways to naturally reference the other videos as you speak or use cards and end screens to move them to the other content you create.

Read more: 9 tips for getting more views on your YouTube videos

Keyword research

Now that you’ve determined what you’ll talk about in your videos to help funnel people into more of your content, it’s time to research what keywords you can use in your YouTube descriptions and titles to attract more eyes to your videos.

Offsite platforms with search capabilities — like YouTube, Pinterest, and podcast players — follow most of the same rules as SEO for websites. Users will put in a few words or a phrase for something they’re searching for, and the platforms respond by sharing a selection of results that are relevant to the search.  

Because of this, I usually start my keyword research in the same way I’d approach SEO for a website. Ideally, you’re looking to find a keyword phrase that has a high amount of search volume and a low amount of competition in order to rank on YouTube. Tools such as Ubersuggest, VidIQ, TubeBuddy, and Keywords Everywhere are great places to begin looking for keywords that will drive traffic to your videos. 

Once you’re done with the traditional keyword research, it’s time to do SEO research directly on YouTube. Doing so will help you understand what people are searching for specifically on the platform. 

People consume content in different ways and for different reasons, and because of this, they may phrase their keywords differently. To see how they search, act like a user would. Test search phrases out in the search bar and see what comes up as suggested terms. You may find different phrasing — with the same search intent, of course — that works better for your YouTube description. Pro tip: try using quotation marks around the phrase you enter in the search bar to get slightly different, and sometimes better, results.

For example, say you’ve got a DIY channel and you’re making a video about creating a built-in bookshelf in your living room. You could go with the keyword “diy built-in bookshelves,” but with a little more trial and error with YouTube’s search suggestions, you’d also hit on “diy build-ins,” “built-in bookcase,” “built-in bookcase diy,” and even “bookshelf built into wall.” 

And please allow me to blow your mind for a moment: YouTube actually has their own research functionality built into YouTube Studio. To find it, click Analytics in your side panel, and then choose the Research tab. From here, you will be able to learn more about how users across YouTube, and your specific viewers, are searching on the platform. The search can be distilled by geography, language, and content gaps.

How to write your YouTube description

Now that you know your topics and the keywords you’ll use to attract new viewers, it’s time to actually use them in the YouTube description to optimize your videos.

Similar to how podcast descriptions work, a YouTube description is limited to 5,000 characters, though not all of those characters are immediately visible to the end user. Regardless of how long it is, your YouTube description is automatically truncated after approximately 200 characters with a “Show more” link, which translates into a few sentences or about two lines of copy. 

According to YouTube Help, “You can think about the description as two parts — what viewers see before clicking “Show more” on desktop or “more” on mobile and what they see after.” This makes it vital to use your keyword phrase in the beginning of your YouTube description and include the most important details up front.

Remember, when it comes to optimization, clarity always outweighs SEO tactics. You want your YouTube description to begin by clearly describing what viewers can expect from your video — a solid hook is one way to capture attention and hint at what the viewer will get if they click on your thumbnail. Then, you have more space to explain what happens in the video after the “Show more” section.

Not sure where else to use your keywords? In addition to the intro, a YouTube description may include a bulleted list of what was discussed in the video, bios of whoever was in the video, a call to action, and links to your website, social channels, blog content, and anything else you referenced in the video. 

Writing your YouTube description doesn’t have to be difficult either. Remember, you don’t have to use the entire 5,000 characters to describe your video or encourage your viewers to convert off platform. Use only the space you need. Plus, if you’re really struggling, there are many AI tools that can help you write an optimized YouTube description for each video you upload. 

Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll be including some of the same information in every YouTube description, and YouTube makes that easy: you can make it so predetermined text automatically displays on all new videos. Setting this up is a great way to include those social media and website links or any branded statements without having to write them out each and every time you publish a new video.

Read more: 5 tips for creating a click-worthy YouTube thumbnail

Optimize for content consumption

SEO on YouTube isn’t just about initially attracting people to your channel. It’s also about keeping them there. 

This is why my suggestion to focus on content strategy first is so important. You want to make sure that you have content you can point your viewers to throughout and at the end of each of your videos. Adding cards and end screens helps, but it’s also important to make sure you’re referencing your own content in the recordings and the YouTube description.

YouTube Press reports that “every day, people watch billions of hours of video and generate billions of views.” So how do you make your channel and your videos the ones people watch?

You do it by putting effort into creating a clear and interesting title and writing a YouTube description that encourages people to click through to watch.

The YouTube algorithm presents content to its users that it thinks they’re looking for. They want people to stay on the platform, and if you’re putting in the effort to clearly indicate what your videos are about, YouTube will be more likely to include your videos in search results and as suggested videos.

Featured articles:

Video

How to A/B test on YouTube for better video performance

A/B testing can help boost your video's stats long after it's published. This guide share which tools to use and how to avoid common mistakes.

Video

How long can YouTube Shorts be? YouTube's guidelines, explained

Discover how long YouTube Shorts can be, and learn the ideal duration, resolution, and strategies for successful Shorts.

Articles you might find interesting

Video

4 ways to hone your tone of voice

We talked to a handful to get some advice on finding a voice that works for you and your audience. Here are the best things we heard.

How They Made It

Answer in Progress on how their creative outlet made it big

The creators of Answer in Progress were just high school students when they launched their YouTube channel. Nearly a decade later, they've become a well-oiled machine. Here's how they did it.

Podcasting

The complete history of podcasts

From the RSS feed to the iPod to the success of Serial, dive into the fascinating history of podcasts and how they became such a global phenomenon.

Podcasting

Submitting for podcast awards and festivals? Here's what to have on hand

The best way to get through awards season is to have everything you need at your fingertips, clearly organized and optimized for what awards and festival submissions usually ask of you — plus a little something extra.

Podcasting

From tech frustration to podcasting success: a #MadewithDescript Q&A

A new podcaster overcame her frustrations with complicated editing tools when she discovered Descript — and produced a better podcast as a result.

Podcasting

The Best Video Game Podcasts You Can’t Miss Out On

Good video game podcasts help listeners stay up to date with the latest games and trends. Gaming is a community oriented for listeners and creators alike.

Related articles:

Share this article

Get started for free →