March 19, 2024

18 YouTube SEO strategies to get more video views

Once you have your video content dialed in, it's time to help people find it. This guide to YouTube SEO will help you do just that.
March 19, 2024

18 YouTube SEO strategies to get more video views

Once you have your video content dialed in, it's time to help people find it. This guide to YouTube SEO will help you do just that.
March 19, 2024
Ayush Sood
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With over 500 hours of video content uploaded every minute, it's easy for your video to get lost amid YouTube's immense library. That's where YouTube search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. Like websites and blog posts, YouTube videos need optimizing to appear in search results. Following the right YouTube SEO strategies can attract your desired viewers and rank your videos higher in search. 

In this article, we'll share proven tips and strategies to help you rank YouTube videos higher and get more eyeballs on the content you worked so hard to produce.

TL;DR:

  • YouTube SEO is crucial for getting more views on your videos.
  • Optimizing video titles, descriptions, tags, and engagement metrics is key.
  • Use tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and TubeBuddy for keyword research.
  • Incorporate hashtags, CTAs, and playlists to improve visibility.
  • Consistently post quality content and analyze YouTube Analytics for insights.

What is YouTube SEO?

YouTube SEO is the practice of optimizing your videos and channel to rank higher in YouTube search results and search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. While YouTube content often appears directly on Google's search engine results pages (SERP), other search engines like Bing and Yahoo have dedicated video search sections where users can find YouTube videos.

Like traditional SEO, which aims to improve website ranking in SERP, YouTube SEO involves aligning video titles, descriptions, tags, and content with viewers' search queries. This helps to improve discoverability and views.

How does YouTube SEO work? 

YouTube ranks videos on elements like:

  • Video title
  • Video description
  • Tags
  • Number of views, likes, comments
  • Watch time

Optimizing these components with relevant keywords ensures your video shows up for searches around that topic. YouTube also heavily influences audience engagement signals like click-through rates and watch time. The video streaming platform gives personalized recommendations based on past interests and performance metrics. 

The most effective YouTube SEO strategy marries strategic keyword targeting with high-quality videos that are tailored to what viewers want to see.

Why is YouTube SEO important?

Creating great video content for YouTube is vital, but it's useless if no one sees it. You need to optimize your videos for search engines to attract potential new fans. Following YouTube SEO best practices improves your content's visibility and has many benefits, such as:

Increased video discoverability across YouTube and Google

YouTube SEO isn't just about YouTube. Properly optimized videos appear higher in both YouTube and Google search results when people look for related topics. So optimizing for YouTube visibility doubles as optimizing for Google—the world's largest search engine. 

Staying ahead of competitors 

Good YouTube SEO helps you outrank others making similar content. For example, if you search YouTube for "time management tips," the second video that shows up is by Ali Abdaal, one of YouTube's most popular productivity influencers. Though the video is two years old, it still ranks among the top search results.

Ali Abdaal in YouTube search results
Ali Abdaal in YouTube search results

‎A steady stream of targeted and interested viewers

Optimizing your videos for the right keywords can help attract viewers already searching for that specific topic. For example, Souped Up Recipes, a food vlogger, could drive over 3 million views to a single video by ranking on popular terms such as "chicken wonton soup recipe."

YouTube search results for "chicken wonton soup recipe"
YouTube search results for "chicken wonton soup recipe"

Cost-effective organic growth

Effective SEO allows channels to grow an audience organically over time without massive ad spend. Gaming YouTuber Dream grew to over 30 million subs this way by optimizing his Minecraft videos perfectly for his target audience.

Improved brand awareness and reputation

Showing up consistently in top results builds authority. Brands like Skillshare have cemented themselves as a go-to source for online learning partly through SEO, which keeps their course videos on top of search results. But again, none of this matters if your videos are subpar. Put audience satisfaction first, then let YouTube SEO propel your best work to the viewers searching for it.

Now that you understand why YouTube SEO is important, let's uncover a few tricks to make it work your way.

18 tried-and-tested tips to boost your YouTube SEO for more video views 

Getting your videos discovered is a multi-front effort. From strategic keyword research to optimizing every video element, these 18 proven YouTube SEO tips will get more eyes on your content.

  1. Use SEO tools and YouTube's autocomplete feature
  2. Go after the same keyword as much as you need
  3. Optimize your video title
  4. Optimize your video description
  5. Insert relevant keywords in other video components
  6. Add hashtags
  7. Add a CTA to improve engagement
  8. Use YouTube categories for better discoverability and targeting
  9. Experiment with video lengths
  10. Use timestamps
  11. Design clickable custom thumbnails
  12. Add subtitles/closed captions for accessibility
  13. Add cards and end screens to your video
  14. Curate playlists for your content
  15. Cross-promote and embed videos on your blog
  16. Post consistently
  17. Uncover unique video angles and titles
  18. Analyze YouTube search data

1.‎ Use SEO tools and YouTube's autocomplete feature 

Keyword research is foundational to any good SEO strategy, and YouTube is no exception. Finding search terms your target audience uses allows you to align your video metadata (titles, descriptions, tags) with what they're searching for.

Start your research by understanding your target audience's needs and wants—hopefully this happened before you ever started filming. Then, use keyword research tools like Ahrefs, Keywords Everywhere, or Google's Keyword Planner to identify primary, secondary, and long-tail keywords you want to rank for. In SEO, long-tail keywords target intent-rich search terms—usually long phrases—with lower competition. 

For example, suppose you're a lifestyle YouTuber who creates home improvement content. Target broad keywords like "cleaning hacks" and "home organization ideas" but also mix in niche terms like "cleaning hacks for kitchen sink" and "cleaning hacks with baking soda." Ranking for long-tail keywords like these can drive bursts of highly engaged, relevant traffic.

Youtube
Autocomplete suggestions for "cleaning hacks"

‎YouTube's search autocomplete also reveals trends and more long-tail gems. By ranking for high-intent keywords, you can drive engaged, relevant traffic to your videos.

2.‎ Go after the same keyword as much as you need

Keyword cannibalization (when two or more blogs on the same website compete for the same keyword or search intent) can hurt website SEO. However, it's different on YouTube; creating multiple videos targeting the same topic with slightly different angles can be beneficial.

For example, when we searched for "buying Instagram followers," all three featured video results on Google SERPs came from the same YouTuber, Dustin Norris. Notice how he has cleverly optimized his videos for better rankings by ensuring each video varies in approach and length.  

YouTube results on Google search
Dustin Norris's YouTube videos showing up on Google search

The bottom line? The more topically relevant videos you can provide for any one keyword, the more opportunities you have to rank across multiple results. Just make sure each video offers unique value.

3.‎ Optimize your video title

Your video title is the first thing the viewers notice about your video. Craft attention-grabbing but accurate and descriptive titles that use your target keywords strategically.

Follow YouTube's best practices:

  • Put your most important keyword(s) at the front.
  • Keep the title under 60 characters to keep it from being cut off in the search results.
  • Avoid clickbait or excessive keyword stuffing.

For example, a video on Descript's YouTube channel, "How to repurpose video content for social media," ranks in the top results for the query "repurpose video for social media" because it follows the above best practices.

YouTube results for "how to repurpose video content for social media"
Optimized titles land you higher in search.

A quick tip: Wondering how to give viewers a compelling reason to click without being clickbaity? Here are some ways:

  • Spark curiosity: Pose questions, leave endings open-ended, or use intriguing statements to pique interest.
  • Promise value: Offer solutions, new skills, or entertainment to make viewers feel they'll gain something from watching.
  • Grab attention: Use numbers, lists, or strong emotions (like humor or surprise) to stand out from the crowd.
  • Use a call to action (CTA): Encourage viewers to click by offering a challenge, asking for participation, or inviting them to engage.

Bright Side does all of this extremely well. And their video views speak for themselves.

✏️ Land on the perfect title: How to A/B test on YouTube for better video performance

4.‎ Optimize your video description

The description provides more context about your video and a second prime opportunity to incorporate keywords after the title. While you have about 5,000 characters to tell your story, YouTube only displays the first 1–2 lines of the description in search, so make those count:

  • Give an enticing, keyword-rich overview of your video content upfront.
  • Then, elaborate on the entire video and include more keyword variations. No need to write an essay or copy-paste your video script here — keep it concise.
  • Add relevant hashtags and calls to action.

Check out this top-ranking example from TubeBuddy on "how to optimize YouTube videos." The description uses natural keyword variants, such as "how to optimize YouTube video for beginners," "how to optimize a YouTube video in 2019",and "YouTube Video SEO optimization."

TubeBuddy YouTube video screenshot
Top-ranking video from TubeBuddy

Chris Stone, content entrepreneur and Top Podcasting Voice on LinkedIn, suggests using AI writing tools like Descript's YouTube Description Generator to automatically create an initial draft description based on your video's transcript and keywords.

"Simply upload your podcast episode or video, and Descript will generate a title and description based on the content. You can even refine it to match your own voice and style," Chris said.

5.‎ Insert relevant keywords in other video components

In addition to titles and descriptions, you'll want to incorporate keywords into all metadata elements strategically:

  • File name: Name your video file something keyword-rich yet readable.
  • Video tags: Add as many applicable tags as possible, including close keyword variations.
  • Title cards and overlays: Use keyword-optimized titles for any text elements in the video.
  • Video chapters: If using YouTube's chapter breaks, optimize those titles with keywords too.
  • Captions: While you don't want to stuff keywords awkwardly, mention them naturally in your video narration where relevant.

YouTube recommends using your primary keyword and its variations as close to the beginning of your metadata elements as possible. The more consistently you reinforce priority keywords throughout all your components, the clearer the relevance signals you send to YouTube's algorithm. Just avoid going overboard into keyword spam territory.

6.‎ Add hashtags 

Hashtags may not be as powerful as titles or descriptions. However, these little metadata markers are still worth using for extra discoverability. When used correctly, relevant hashtags can expose your videos to new audiences scanning those topics.

The key is not to go overboard. Don't just stuff in #everypossiblehashtag—that comes across as spammy desperation. But sprinkle in a few topically relevant, popular hashtags that make sense for your content.

For lifestyle videos, try #organizinghacks, #cleaningmotivation, or #homedecor. Health vloggers, look at hashtags like #fitfam or #nutritionists that your target audience follows.

This cooking video on baking a cake without an oven nails the hashtag game. It has over 70 million views!


Keyword-optimized YouTube video with over 70 million views
YouTube video with over 70 million views

‎To uncover good hashtag targets, peek at what bigger creators in your space are appending to similar videos. YouTube will also suggest wide-reaching hashtags based on your video analysis.

7.‎ Add a CTA to improve engagement 

When a video ends, most viewers will click away faster than you can say, "But wait, there's more!" Unless, of course, you directly prompt them to stick around and engage further.

Well crafted calls-to-action (CTAs) make this easy. Explicitly ask viewers to show your video some love through likes, comments, shares, and subscriptions. Don't just assume they'll engage without being prompted.

Take inspiration from YouTuber Mrwhosetheboss who has linked his other social media channels in his video description and is subtly nudging the audience to subscribe to his YouTube channel and follow him on X, Instagram, and Facebook.

‎Pepper CTAs throughout your videos and descriptions. "Smash that like button if you want more editing tutorials!" Or pin an engaging comment to the top to grab their attention immediately.

Engagement signals like watch time and audience interaction are huge ranking factors for YouTube. Give viewers a gentle nudge in the right direction.

8.‎ Use YouTube categories for better discoverability and targeting 

YouTube uses categories to help viewers navigate its vast video library and discover content they'll enjoy. The platform personalizes the viewer experience with the:

  • Home page: Recommendations based on your watch history, subscriptions, and categories users have interacted with show up here. For example, if someone frequently watches gaming content, they'll see more gaming videos on their home page.
  • Explore page: Suggestions for trending videos, popular channels, and content based on broad categories like "Education"
  • Sidebar menu: Allows viewers to refine their search by browsing videos within specific categories, like "Music" or "Entertainment"

Choosing the correct categories for your video helps YouTube understand what it's about, making it easier for the algorithm to recommend it to viewers searching for similar stuff.

9.‎ Experiment with video lengths 

Here's a counterintuitive SEO tip: make your YouTube videos longer. At least some of them, anyway. The conventional wisdom is that snappy, skimmable videos perform best in our depressingly short attention span era. 

But, if your videos are an engaging, immersive experience that keeps viewers glued for 45 minutes instead of clicking off after 2 minutes, YouTube interprets that as a heavy seal of approval. 

YouTube's systems use the average view duration and average percentage viewed as signals to inform ranking. Just don't stretch videos out unnecessarily if it damages the experience.

10‎. Use timestamps

Even your most binge-worthy long videos are bound to have some parts that drag or don't align with every individual's interests. That's where strategically implementing video timestamps can be a powerful SEO tactic.

Timestamps section off your videos into logical chapter breaks with descriptive titles summarizing each segment. This makes your longer videos much more skimmable and viewer-friendly by allowing people to:

  • Easily jump to the sections most relevant to their needs
  • Quickly gauge whether entire videos are worth watching based on the chapter titles

Imagine someone who searches for a deep-dive video on technical analysis. The person may already know the basics of resistance and support levels in stock charts and may only need to understand advanced candlestick patterns. Timestamps can help them easily skip the irrelevant sections in the full-length video course below.

You can add timestamps manually, but AI tools like Descript's AI Chapter Generator automate the process flawlessly. Just tell it how many chapters you want, and follow the prompt. It'll instantly suggest perfect chapter names and placement.

Well-structured videos with precise timestamps decrease abandonments and increase overall watch times, which boosts their ranking. 

11‎. Design clickable custom thumbnails

YouTube thumbnails can make all the difference in getting people to choose your content. They're like a sneak peek that can determine whether your content gets clicked or ignored

That's why using YouTube's dull auto-generated thumbnails is a bad idea. Instead, create professional-looking custom thumbnails that abide by YouTube's specs:

  • 1280x720 pixels or higher resolution
  • File size under 2MB
  • Aspect ratio of 16:9
  • Acceptable formats: JPG, GIF, or PNG

There's one caveat though: you can only upload your own thumbnails if your account is verified. 

Make custom thumbnails that are visually captivating. Use contrast, dramatic imagery, text overlays, brand accents—anything that injects personality and entices maximum clicks. Take inspiration from Kurzgesagt or TubeBuddy, who do all of this really well.


And don't just settle on a single thumbnail, either. Take advantage of third-party tools for testing multiple options (YouTube has announced its own native tool, but it's not widely available yet as of this writing). Analyze the click metrics via A/B testing to double down on your biggest attention-grabbers while continuously refreshing your experiments.

12‎. Add subtitles/closed captions for accessibility

Captions make video content accessible for those with hearing impairments and allow your videos to be more easily consumed in sound-restricted environments like offices, public transit, or by night owls trying not to wake their families.

From a pure SEO perspective, YouTube can actually read the text in your captions to better understand the content and context of your videos for improved discoverability.

While YouTube can generate captions automatically, you'll get more accurate results by uploading your own. (Keywords aren't worth much if they're misspelled!) Try using AI transcription and subtitle generation features of tools like Descript. The software allows you to upload a video file and spit out an SRT or VTT caption file within seconds. Then you can review the output for quality and typos, make any necessary timing adjustments, and you're set!

13‎. Add cards and end screens to your video

YouTube's cards and end screens are great tools to prompt viewers to watch more of your content or subscribe to your channel. Cards are the little notifications that pop up during videos linking to other stuff you've published or your channel page itself. End screens function similarly but only appear once the video is over.

Use cards strategically at points in your video that connect logically to whatever you're promoting. Lauren Bateman, a guitar teacher on YouTube, links most of her lessons to other related lessons using cards. Notice the link to the Beatles song in the top right corner? You can play that song with the chords she teaches in her main video. 

Screenshot of Lauren Bateman
End cards on Lauren Bateman's YouTube video

Take advantage of end screens to showcase your latest upload, display a curated playlist, or ask viewers to subscribe. Look at how Easy German, a popular German language learning channel, does it with their end screens—they include a related video and a CTA to become a community member on Patreon. 

The more engaged you can keep viewers, the more authoritative signals you'll send YouTube about your channel's ability to satisfy audiences.

14‎. Curate playlists for your content 

Actively grouping your videos into bingeable content buckets using YouTube playlists keeps viewers watching on autopilot for longer. Curated playlists improve engagement, watch time, and also position you as an authority around the topics your playlists cover.

Descript videos, for instance, are organized into multiple playlists—one for features, one for workflows, and one for tips on making better videos, among others.


YouTube strongly rewards channels and playlists that maximize viewer bingeing and minimize dropoffs. Curating your best content into ultra-engaging playlists is an easy way to hack those signals.

15‎. Cross-promote and embed videos on your blog 

True SEO mastery means understanding YouTube exists as part of a larger discovery ecosystem. While YouTube search is a top source of new traffic, you also need to drive viewers to your channel from other high-traffic platforms like social media, your blog/website, and other cross-promotional hubs.

For social media, post every new YouTube upload across all your main channels. Don't just drop a link either—tease your latest video with eye-catching custom graphics and enticing copy to maximize clicks. You can even try running some paid promotions if your budget allows it.

🎥 Bonus tip: Use AI-powered audio and video editors like Descript to repurpose your YouTube videos in seconds for other social media platforms. You can use Descript to create YouTube clips from your videos, generate transcripts with its video-to-text generator, and even write blog posts from those transcripts with its AI blog post converter. Start using Descript for free today.

If you've got a blog, embed your YouTube videos directly into posts centered around similar topics, as Hotjar does in its explanation of heatmaps. 

Hotjar embedding a video in a blog post
Example of embedding a video in a blog post

This accomplishes a few things:

  • It increases overall watch and engagement metrics for your YouTube videos
  • It makes the blog posts themselves more discoverable for keywords those videos rank for.

16‎. Post consistently 

"Out of sight, out of mind" applies to YouTube channels that don't maintain an active, consistent content cadence. If your channel goes radio silent for too long, your hard-earned discoverability in search results and suggestions will decay quickly.

So whether it's once a week, once a month, or just a few times per year for elaborate projects, establish a publishing cadence that allows you to continuously churn out new videos without sacrificing quality. Stick to that schedule like clockwork, the way Ali Abdaal does with his frequent tips on productivity. 

Your goal should be to become a reliable, authoritative source around your core topics and focus areas. Posting great content consistently is what ultimately builds that long-term credibility.

17‎. Uncover unique video angles and titles 

A successful YouTube SEO strategy involves more than just using keywords to create content. It's about identifying untapped areas of search demand where you can stand out and succeed.

Use Google Trends, Reddit, Answer the Public, and YouTube's search insights to identify gaps in your YouTube content strategy. Comments on your videos are also a goldmine for finding unique video ideas.  

Once you identify these gaps, pair them with unique and interesting video titles. This can help you get more SEO traffic effortlessly.

Tasty knows how to capitalize on unique video angles better than most. Their giant recipes are proof. And the viewers are hooked—these absurd, incredible videos have garnered millions of views!

18‎. Analyze YouTube search data 

Make it a recurring habit to dive into YouTube Analytics to scrutinize how your videos are actually performing from a search/discovery perspective:

  • Which videos get the most impressions and traffic from search vs. browsing vs. recommendations? Why?
  • What search terms and keywords drive the most views on your channel? Which are underperforming?
  • How do metric trends like watch time, CTR, etc., vary across videos, subjects, titles, and thumbnails?
  • What audience segments and playback locations/devices consume your searchable content most?
  • Does a specific time to post on YouTube work best for you?

Dig deep to identify patterns and opportunities for iterative tests around titles, thumbnails, content concepts, keywords, and video formats. 

Diagram of YouTube analytics
Source: YouTube Help

Over time, you can develop an increasingly refined content strategy optimized end-to-end to satisfy both viewers and algorithms.

Top YouTube SEO tools to help your videos rank higher

Having the right YouTube SEO tools in your creative arsenal can definitely make the optimization grind easier. Here are some of the most popular ones.

SEMRush

An all-in-one marketing toolkit with robust keyword research capabilities for YouTube, SEMrush can help you uncover keyword ideas, analyze competition, track rankings, and more.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is another comprehensive SEO suite with top-notch YouTube keyword exploration tools. Use it to get data on search volumes, traffic estimates, paid/organic breakdowns, and more for your YouTube content.

TubeBuddy

Research tags, monitor growth, schedule uploads, analyze transcripts, run A/B tests, and more with TubeBuddy's dedicated browser extension built specifically for YouTube creators.

TubeRanker

Laser-focused on YouTube SEO, this tool helps you research competitors, find untapped keywords, and optimize your videos for maximum discoverability.

VidIQ

VidIQ is your insights-driven YouTube toolkit to track performance, uncover audience demographics, benchmark your channel against competitors, schedule posting, and leverage predictive analytics.

Keywords Everywhere

Use this freemium keyword research tool to surface related YouTube (and Google) keyword data and metrics directly in your browser as you work.

YouTube Analytics

Don't overlook YouTube's native analytics platform packed with precious first-party data around your videos' traffic sources, audience, and performance signals.

Google Search Console

While made for websites, GSC provides invaluable video indexing data around how your YouTube embeds appear in Google's search results.

Supercharge your YouTube videos for maximum views 

As the world's biggest video streaming platform, YouTube provides a great opportunity for creators and businesses to reach new audiences. But it's also very competitive. Unless you're MrBeast or PewDiePie, it'll probably take a while to grow your channel and get your content in front of your target audience. 

But don't worry! You can reach people interested in your content by following the YouTube SEO tips and best practices shared above. 

But the golden rule remains: creating engaging videos continuously is the ultimate way to grow on YouTube. Even the most precisely optimized video will fall flat if it's not good. But creating quality content is hard.

That's where intuitive video creation and editing tools like Descript come in handy. Our vast list of video creation and editing tools like YouTube Shorts Maker, Explainer Video Maker, and subtitle generator can lighten your burden of content creation on YouTube.

Try Descript for free now. 

YouTube SEO FAQs

How can I do YouTube SEO for free?

To optimize your YouTube videos for free, follow these steps:

  • Target high-ranking keywords relevant to your content.
  • Rename your video file using keywords.
  • Include keywords in your video title.
  • Write a detailed description with targeted keywords.
  • Use hashtags to increase discoverability.
  • Add relevant meta tags for better SEO.
  • Use closed captions to improve accessibility and SEO.

Is YouTube SEO different from Google SEO?

YouTube SEO and Google SEO are similar but differ in focus. Google SEO optimizes web content for Google search results. In contrast, YouTube SEO optimizes videos to rank higher on the platform's search results and recommendations. Video titles, descriptions, tags, and engagement metrics are crucial for YouTube SEO. On the other hand, content quality, backlinks, and on-page SEO are vital factors for ranking on Google.

How do I increase my YouTube visibility?

To enhance your YouTube visibility:

  1. Use keyword research tools
  2. Take advantage of trending topics
  3. Optimize titles and descriptions
  4. Incorporate relevant hashtags
  5. Add clear CTAs for engagement
  6. Use relevant YouTube categories
  7. Experiment with video lengths

Create clickable custom thumbnails

Ayush Sood
Ayush is a freelance writer and marketer who loves writing about video marketing, the creator economy, and the software tools used in these industries.
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18 YouTube SEO strategies to get more video views

With over 500 hours of video content uploaded every minute, it's easy for your video to get lost amid YouTube's immense library. That's where YouTube search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. Like websites and blog posts, YouTube videos need optimizing to appear in search results. Following the right YouTube SEO strategies can attract your desired viewers and rank your videos higher in search. 

In this article, we'll share proven tips and strategies to help you rank YouTube videos higher and get more eyeballs on the content you worked so hard to produce.

TL;DR:

  • YouTube SEO is crucial for getting more views on your videos.
  • Optimizing video titles, descriptions, tags, and engagement metrics is key.
  • Use tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and TubeBuddy for keyword research.
  • Incorporate hashtags, CTAs, and playlists to improve visibility.
  • Consistently post quality content and analyze YouTube Analytics for insights.

What is YouTube SEO?

YouTube SEO is the practice of optimizing your videos and channel to rank higher in YouTube search results and search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. While YouTube content often appears directly on Google's search engine results pages (SERP), other search engines like Bing and Yahoo have dedicated video search sections where users can find YouTube videos.

Like traditional SEO, which aims to improve website ranking in SERP, YouTube SEO involves aligning video titles, descriptions, tags, and content with viewers' search queries. This helps to improve discoverability and views.

How does YouTube SEO work? 

YouTube ranks videos on elements like:

  • Video title
  • Video description
  • Tags
  • Number of views, likes, comments
  • Watch time

Optimizing these components with relevant keywords ensures your video shows up for searches around that topic. YouTube also heavily influences audience engagement signals like click-through rates and watch time. The video streaming platform gives personalized recommendations based on past interests and performance metrics. 

The most effective YouTube SEO strategy marries strategic keyword targeting with high-quality videos that are tailored to what viewers want to see.

Why is YouTube SEO important?

Creating great video content for YouTube is vital, but it's useless if no one sees it. You need to optimize your videos for search engines to attract potential new fans. Following YouTube SEO best practices improves your content's visibility and has many benefits, such as:

Increased video discoverability across YouTube and Google

YouTube SEO isn't just about YouTube. Properly optimized videos appear higher in both YouTube and Google search results when people look for related topics. So optimizing for YouTube visibility doubles as optimizing for Google—the world's largest search engine. 

Staying ahead of competitors 

Good YouTube SEO helps you outrank others making similar content. For example, if you search YouTube for "time management tips," the second video that shows up is by Ali Abdaal, one of YouTube's most popular productivity influencers. Though the video is two years old, it still ranks among the top search results.

Ali Abdaal in YouTube search results
Ali Abdaal in YouTube search results

‎A steady stream of targeted and interested viewers

Optimizing your videos for the right keywords can help attract viewers already searching for that specific topic. For example, Souped Up Recipes, a food vlogger, could drive over 3 million views to a single video by ranking on popular terms such as "chicken wonton soup recipe."

YouTube search results for "chicken wonton soup recipe"
YouTube search results for "chicken wonton soup recipe"

Cost-effective organic growth

Effective SEO allows channels to grow an audience organically over time without massive ad spend. Gaming YouTuber Dream grew to over 30 million subs this way by optimizing his Minecraft videos perfectly for his target audience.

Improved brand awareness and reputation

Showing up consistently in top results builds authority. Brands like Skillshare have cemented themselves as a go-to source for online learning partly through SEO, which keeps their course videos on top of search results. But again, none of this matters if your videos are subpar. Put audience satisfaction first, then let YouTube SEO propel your best work to the viewers searching for it.

Now that you understand why YouTube SEO is important, let's uncover a few tricks to make it work your way.

18 tried-and-tested tips to boost your YouTube SEO for more video views 

Getting your videos discovered is a multi-front effort. From strategic keyword research to optimizing every video element, these 18 proven YouTube SEO tips will get more eyes on your content.

  1. Use SEO tools and YouTube's autocomplete feature
  2. Go after the same keyword as much as you need
  3. Optimize your video title
  4. Optimize your video description
  5. Insert relevant keywords in other video components
  6. Add hashtags
  7. Add a CTA to improve engagement
  8. Use YouTube categories for better discoverability and targeting
  9. Experiment with video lengths
  10. Use timestamps
  11. Design clickable custom thumbnails
  12. Add subtitles/closed captions for accessibility
  13. Add cards and end screens to your video
  14. Curate playlists for your content
  15. Cross-promote and embed videos on your blog
  16. Post consistently
  17. Uncover unique video angles and titles
  18. Analyze YouTube search data

1.‎ Use SEO tools and YouTube's autocomplete feature 

Keyword research is foundational to any good SEO strategy, and YouTube is no exception. Finding search terms your target audience uses allows you to align your video metadata (titles, descriptions, tags) with what they're searching for.

Start your research by understanding your target audience's needs and wants—hopefully this happened before you ever started filming. Then, use keyword research tools like Ahrefs, Keywords Everywhere, or Google's Keyword Planner to identify primary, secondary, and long-tail keywords you want to rank for. In SEO, long-tail keywords target intent-rich search terms—usually long phrases—with lower competition. 

For example, suppose you're a lifestyle YouTuber who creates home improvement content. Target broad keywords like "cleaning hacks" and "home organization ideas" but also mix in niche terms like "cleaning hacks for kitchen sink" and "cleaning hacks with baking soda." Ranking for long-tail keywords like these can drive bursts of highly engaged, relevant traffic.

Youtube
Autocomplete suggestions for "cleaning hacks"

‎YouTube's search autocomplete also reveals trends and more long-tail gems. By ranking for high-intent keywords, you can drive engaged, relevant traffic to your videos.

2.‎ Go after the same keyword as much as you need

Keyword cannibalization (when two or more blogs on the same website compete for the same keyword or search intent) can hurt website SEO. However, it's different on YouTube; creating multiple videos targeting the same topic with slightly different angles can be beneficial.

For example, when we searched for "buying Instagram followers," all three featured video results on Google SERPs came from the same YouTuber, Dustin Norris. Notice how he has cleverly optimized his videos for better rankings by ensuring each video varies in approach and length.  

YouTube results on Google search
Dustin Norris's YouTube videos showing up on Google search

The bottom line? The more topically relevant videos you can provide for any one keyword, the more opportunities you have to rank across multiple results. Just make sure each video offers unique value.

3.‎ Optimize your video title

Your video title is the first thing the viewers notice about your video. Craft attention-grabbing but accurate and descriptive titles that use your target keywords strategically.

Follow YouTube's best practices:

  • Put your most important keyword(s) at the front.
  • Keep the title under 60 characters to keep it from being cut off in the search results.
  • Avoid clickbait or excessive keyword stuffing.

For example, a video on Descript's YouTube channel, "How to repurpose video content for social media," ranks in the top results for the query "repurpose video for social media" because it follows the above best practices.

YouTube results for "how to repurpose video content for social media"
Optimized titles land you higher in search.

A quick tip: Wondering how to give viewers a compelling reason to click without being clickbaity? Here are some ways:

  • Spark curiosity: Pose questions, leave endings open-ended, or use intriguing statements to pique interest.
  • Promise value: Offer solutions, new skills, or entertainment to make viewers feel they'll gain something from watching.
  • Grab attention: Use numbers, lists, or strong emotions (like humor or surprise) to stand out from the crowd.
  • Use a call to action (CTA): Encourage viewers to click by offering a challenge, asking for participation, or inviting them to engage.

Bright Side does all of this extremely well. And their video views speak for themselves.

✏️ Land on the perfect title: How to A/B test on YouTube for better video performance

4.‎ Optimize your video description

The description provides more context about your video and a second prime opportunity to incorporate keywords after the title. While you have about 5,000 characters to tell your story, YouTube only displays the first 1–2 lines of the description in search, so make those count:

  • Give an enticing, keyword-rich overview of your video content upfront.
  • Then, elaborate on the entire video and include more keyword variations. No need to write an essay or copy-paste your video script here — keep it concise.
  • Add relevant hashtags and calls to action.

Check out this top-ranking example from TubeBuddy on "how to optimize YouTube videos." The description uses natural keyword variants, such as "how to optimize YouTube video for beginners," "how to optimize a YouTube video in 2019",and "YouTube Video SEO optimization."

TubeBuddy YouTube video screenshot
Top-ranking video from TubeBuddy

Chris Stone, content entrepreneur and Top Podcasting Voice on LinkedIn, suggests using AI writing tools like Descript's YouTube Description Generator to automatically create an initial draft description based on your video's transcript and keywords.

"Simply upload your podcast episode or video, and Descript will generate a title and description based on the content. You can even refine it to match your own voice and style," Chris said.

5.‎ Insert relevant keywords in other video components

In addition to titles and descriptions, you'll want to incorporate keywords into all metadata elements strategically:

  • File name: Name your video file something keyword-rich yet readable.
  • Video tags: Add as many applicable tags as possible, including close keyword variations.
  • Title cards and overlays: Use keyword-optimized titles for any text elements in the video.
  • Video chapters: If using YouTube's chapter breaks, optimize those titles with keywords too.
  • Captions: While you don't want to stuff keywords awkwardly, mention them naturally in your video narration where relevant.

YouTube recommends using your primary keyword and its variations as close to the beginning of your metadata elements as possible. The more consistently you reinforce priority keywords throughout all your components, the clearer the relevance signals you send to YouTube's algorithm. Just avoid going overboard into keyword spam territory.

6.‎ Add hashtags 

Hashtags may not be as powerful as titles or descriptions. However, these little metadata markers are still worth using for extra discoverability. When used correctly, relevant hashtags can expose your videos to new audiences scanning those topics.

The key is not to go overboard. Don't just stuff in #everypossiblehashtag—that comes across as spammy desperation. But sprinkle in a few topically relevant, popular hashtags that make sense for your content.

For lifestyle videos, try #organizinghacks, #cleaningmotivation, or #homedecor. Health vloggers, look at hashtags like #fitfam or #nutritionists that your target audience follows.

This cooking video on baking a cake without an oven nails the hashtag game. It has over 70 million views!


Keyword-optimized YouTube video with over 70 million views
YouTube video with over 70 million views

‎To uncover good hashtag targets, peek at what bigger creators in your space are appending to similar videos. YouTube will also suggest wide-reaching hashtags based on your video analysis.

7.‎ Add a CTA to improve engagement 

When a video ends, most viewers will click away faster than you can say, "But wait, there's more!" Unless, of course, you directly prompt them to stick around and engage further.

Well crafted calls-to-action (CTAs) make this easy. Explicitly ask viewers to show your video some love through likes, comments, shares, and subscriptions. Don't just assume they'll engage without being prompted.

Take inspiration from YouTuber Mrwhosetheboss who has linked his other social media channels in his video description and is subtly nudging the audience to subscribe to his YouTube channel and follow him on X, Instagram, and Facebook.

‎Pepper CTAs throughout your videos and descriptions. "Smash that like button if you want more editing tutorials!" Or pin an engaging comment to the top to grab their attention immediately.

Engagement signals like watch time and audience interaction are huge ranking factors for YouTube. Give viewers a gentle nudge in the right direction.

8.‎ Use YouTube categories for better discoverability and targeting 

YouTube uses categories to help viewers navigate its vast video library and discover content they'll enjoy. The platform personalizes the viewer experience with the:

  • Home page: Recommendations based on your watch history, subscriptions, and categories users have interacted with show up here. For example, if someone frequently watches gaming content, they'll see more gaming videos on their home page.
  • Explore page: Suggestions for trending videos, popular channels, and content based on broad categories like "Education"
  • Sidebar menu: Allows viewers to refine their search by browsing videos within specific categories, like "Music" or "Entertainment"

Choosing the correct categories for your video helps YouTube understand what it's about, making it easier for the algorithm to recommend it to viewers searching for similar stuff.

9.‎ Experiment with video lengths 

Here's a counterintuitive SEO tip: make your YouTube videos longer. At least some of them, anyway. The conventional wisdom is that snappy, skimmable videos perform best in our depressingly short attention span era. 

But, if your videos are an engaging, immersive experience that keeps viewers glued for 45 minutes instead of clicking off after 2 minutes, YouTube interprets that as a heavy seal of approval. 

YouTube's systems use the average view duration and average percentage viewed as signals to inform ranking. Just don't stretch videos out unnecessarily if it damages the experience.

10‎. Use timestamps

Even your most binge-worthy long videos are bound to have some parts that drag or don't align with every individual's interests. That's where strategically implementing video timestamps can be a powerful SEO tactic.

Timestamps section off your videos into logical chapter breaks with descriptive titles summarizing each segment. This makes your longer videos much more skimmable and viewer-friendly by allowing people to:

  • Easily jump to the sections most relevant to their needs
  • Quickly gauge whether entire videos are worth watching based on the chapter titles

Imagine someone who searches for a deep-dive video on technical analysis. The person may already know the basics of resistance and support levels in stock charts and may only need to understand advanced candlestick patterns. Timestamps can help them easily skip the irrelevant sections in the full-length video course below.

You can add timestamps manually, but AI tools like Descript's AI Chapter Generator automate the process flawlessly. Just tell it how many chapters you want, and follow the prompt. It'll instantly suggest perfect chapter names and placement.

Well-structured videos with precise timestamps decrease abandonments and increase overall watch times, which boosts their ranking. 

11‎. Design clickable custom thumbnails

YouTube thumbnails can make all the difference in getting people to choose your content. They're like a sneak peek that can determine whether your content gets clicked or ignored

That's why using YouTube's dull auto-generated thumbnails is a bad idea. Instead, create professional-looking custom thumbnails that abide by YouTube's specs:

  • 1280x720 pixels or higher resolution
  • File size under 2MB
  • Aspect ratio of 16:9
  • Acceptable formats: JPG, GIF, or PNG

There's one caveat though: you can only upload your own thumbnails if your account is verified. 

Make custom thumbnails that are visually captivating. Use contrast, dramatic imagery, text overlays, brand accents—anything that injects personality and entices maximum clicks. Take inspiration from Kurzgesagt or TubeBuddy, who do all of this really well.


And don't just settle on a single thumbnail, either. Take advantage of third-party tools for testing multiple options (YouTube has announced its own native tool, but it's not widely available yet as of this writing). Analyze the click metrics via A/B testing to double down on your biggest attention-grabbers while continuously refreshing your experiments.

12‎. Add subtitles/closed captions for accessibility

Captions make video content accessible for those with hearing impairments and allow your videos to be more easily consumed in sound-restricted environments like offices, public transit, or by night owls trying not to wake their families.

From a pure SEO perspective, YouTube can actually read the text in your captions to better understand the content and context of your videos for improved discoverability.

While YouTube can generate captions automatically, you'll get more accurate results by uploading your own. (Keywords aren't worth much if they're misspelled!) Try using AI transcription and subtitle generation features of tools like Descript. The software allows you to upload a video file and spit out an SRT or VTT caption file within seconds. Then you can review the output for quality and typos, make any necessary timing adjustments, and you're set!

13‎. Add cards and end screens to your video

YouTube's cards and end screens are great tools to prompt viewers to watch more of your content or subscribe to your channel. Cards are the little notifications that pop up during videos linking to other stuff you've published or your channel page itself. End screens function similarly but only appear once the video is over.

Use cards strategically at points in your video that connect logically to whatever you're promoting. Lauren Bateman, a guitar teacher on YouTube, links most of her lessons to other related lessons using cards. Notice the link to the Beatles song in the top right corner? You can play that song with the chords she teaches in her main video. 

Screenshot of Lauren Bateman
End cards on Lauren Bateman's YouTube video

Take advantage of end screens to showcase your latest upload, display a curated playlist, or ask viewers to subscribe. Look at how Easy German, a popular German language learning channel, does it with their end screens—they include a related video and a CTA to become a community member on Patreon. 

The more engaged you can keep viewers, the more authoritative signals you'll send YouTube about your channel's ability to satisfy audiences.

14‎. Curate playlists for your content 

Actively grouping your videos into bingeable content buckets using YouTube playlists keeps viewers watching on autopilot for longer. Curated playlists improve engagement, watch time, and also position you as an authority around the topics your playlists cover.

Descript videos, for instance, are organized into multiple playlists—one for features, one for workflows, and one for tips on making better videos, among others.


YouTube strongly rewards channels and playlists that maximize viewer bingeing and minimize dropoffs. Curating your best content into ultra-engaging playlists is an easy way to hack those signals.

15‎. Cross-promote and embed videos on your blog 

True SEO mastery means understanding YouTube exists as part of a larger discovery ecosystem. While YouTube search is a top source of new traffic, you also need to drive viewers to your channel from other high-traffic platforms like social media, your blog/website, and other cross-promotional hubs.

For social media, post every new YouTube upload across all your main channels. Don't just drop a link either—tease your latest video with eye-catching custom graphics and enticing copy to maximize clicks. You can even try running some paid promotions if your budget allows it.

🎥 Bonus tip: Use AI-powered audio and video editors like Descript to repurpose your YouTube videos in seconds for other social media platforms. You can use Descript to create YouTube clips from your videos, generate transcripts with its video-to-text generator, and even write blog posts from those transcripts with its AI blog post converter. Start using Descript for free today.

If you've got a blog, embed your YouTube videos directly into posts centered around similar topics, as Hotjar does in its explanation of heatmaps. 

Hotjar embedding a video in a blog post
Example of embedding a video in a blog post

This accomplishes a few things:

  • It increases overall watch and engagement metrics for your YouTube videos
  • It makes the blog posts themselves more discoverable for keywords those videos rank for.

16‎. Post consistently 

"Out of sight, out of mind" applies to YouTube channels that don't maintain an active, consistent content cadence. If your channel goes radio silent for too long, your hard-earned discoverability in search results and suggestions will decay quickly.

So whether it's once a week, once a month, or just a few times per year for elaborate projects, establish a publishing cadence that allows you to continuously churn out new videos without sacrificing quality. Stick to that schedule like clockwork, the way Ali Abdaal does with his frequent tips on productivity. 

Your goal should be to become a reliable, authoritative source around your core topics and focus areas. Posting great content consistently is what ultimately builds that long-term credibility.

17‎. Uncover unique video angles and titles 

A successful YouTube SEO strategy involves more than just using keywords to create content. It's about identifying untapped areas of search demand where you can stand out and succeed.

Use Google Trends, Reddit, Answer the Public, and YouTube's search insights to identify gaps in your YouTube content strategy. Comments on your videos are also a goldmine for finding unique video ideas.  

Once you identify these gaps, pair them with unique and interesting video titles. This can help you get more SEO traffic effortlessly.

Tasty knows how to capitalize on unique video angles better than most. Their giant recipes are proof. And the viewers are hooked—these absurd, incredible videos have garnered millions of views!

18‎. Analyze YouTube search data 

Make it a recurring habit to dive into YouTube Analytics to scrutinize how your videos are actually performing from a search/discovery perspective:

  • Which videos get the most impressions and traffic from search vs. browsing vs. recommendations? Why?
  • What search terms and keywords drive the most views on your channel? Which are underperforming?
  • How do metric trends like watch time, CTR, etc., vary across videos, subjects, titles, and thumbnails?
  • What audience segments and playback locations/devices consume your searchable content most?
  • Does a specific time to post on YouTube work best for you?

Dig deep to identify patterns and opportunities for iterative tests around titles, thumbnails, content concepts, keywords, and video formats. 

Diagram of YouTube analytics
Source: YouTube Help

Over time, you can develop an increasingly refined content strategy optimized end-to-end to satisfy both viewers and algorithms.

Top YouTube SEO tools to help your videos rank higher

Having the right YouTube SEO tools in your creative arsenal can definitely make the optimization grind easier. Here are some of the most popular ones.

SEMRush

An all-in-one marketing toolkit with robust keyword research capabilities for YouTube, SEMrush can help you uncover keyword ideas, analyze competition, track rankings, and more.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is another comprehensive SEO suite with top-notch YouTube keyword exploration tools. Use it to get data on search volumes, traffic estimates, paid/organic breakdowns, and more for your YouTube content.

TubeBuddy

Research tags, monitor growth, schedule uploads, analyze transcripts, run A/B tests, and more with TubeBuddy's dedicated browser extension built specifically for YouTube creators.

TubeRanker

Laser-focused on YouTube SEO, this tool helps you research competitors, find untapped keywords, and optimize your videos for maximum discoverability.

VidIQ

VidIQ is your insights-driven YouTube toolkit to track performance, uncover audience demographics, benchmark your channel against competitors, schedule posting, and leverage predictive analytics.

Keywords Everywhere

Use this freemium keyword research tool to surface related YouTube (and Google) keyword data and metrics directly in your browser as you work.

YouTube Analytics

Don't overlook YouTube's native analytics platform packed with precious first-party data around your videos' traffic sources, audience, and performance signals.

Google Search Console

While made for websites, GSC provides invaluable video indexing data around how your YouTube embeds appear in Google's search results.

Supercharge your YouTube videos for maximum views 

As the world's biggest video streaming platform, YouTube provides a great opportunity for creators and businesses to reach new audiences. But it's also very competitive. Unless you're MrBeast or PewDiePie, it'll probably take a while to grow your channel and get your content in front of your target audience. 

But don't worry! You can reach people interested in your content by following the YouTube SEO tips and best practices shared above. 

But the golden rule remains: creating engaging videos continuously is the ultimate way to grow on YouTube. Even the most precisely optimized video will fall flat if it's not good. But creating quality content is hard.

That's where intuitive video creation and editing tools like Descript come in handy. Our vast list of video creation and editing tools like YouTube Shorts Maker, Explainer Video Maker, and subtitle generator can lighten your burden of content creation on YouTube.

Try Descript for free now. 

YouTube SEO FAQs

How can I do YouTube SEO for free?

To optimize your YouTube videos for free, follow these steps:

  • Target high-ranking keywords relevant to your content.
  • Rename your video file using keywords.
  • Include keywords in your video title.
  • Write a detailed description with targeted keywords.
  • Use hashtags to increase discoverability.
  • Add relevant meta tags for better SEO.
  • Use closed captions to improve accessibility and SEO.

Is YouTube SEO different from Google SEO?

YouTube SEO and Google SEO are similar but differ in focus. Google SEO optimizes web content for Google search results. In contrast, YouTube SEO optimizes videos to rank higher on the platform's search results and recommendations. Video titles, descriptions, tags, and engagement metrics are crucial for YouTube SEO. On the other hand, content quality, backlinks, and on-page SEO are vital factors for ranking on Google.

How do I increase my YouTube visibility?

To enhance your YouTube visibility:

  1. Use keyword research tools
  2. Take advantage of trending topics
  3. Optimize titles and descriptions
  4. Incorporate relevant hashtags
  5. Add clear CTAs for engagement
  6. Use relevant YouTube categories
  7. Experiment with video lengths

Create clickable custom thumbnails

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