YouTube SEO Guide

Wendy Kelly
Apr 08, 2015
YouTube SEO Guide

YouTube SEO: Why Engagement is Key to Your Ranking

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Engagement. The best SEO centres around engagement. YouTube SEO is no different, and, in fact, even more dependent on social signals of engagement and likability than Google SEO.*

YouTube Wasn't Born in 1994

I may have mentioned this before, but back in 1994, I attended the W.R.I.T.E. conference which stood for the Writers Retreat on Interactive Technology and Equipment. Clever.

At that conference, we saw the unveiling of Mosaic, which crashed. We were told that in 15 years, people would be streaming video into their homes via the Internet. 

I was awed by this. You perhaps can't even imagine what the Internet looked like to most of us in 1994. That screeching sound as your modem kicked in, the blue text for miles, the ugly colours, the slow, slow pace of it all...and the expense. 

Videos streaming into my house via this? Yeah, right.

Well, here we are of course. In 2010 (5 years ago!) there were. I may have mentioned this before, but back in 1994, I attended the W.R.I.T.E. conference which stood for the Writers Retreat on Interactive Technology and Equipment. Clever. At that conference, we saw the unveiling of Mosaic, which crashed. We were told that in 15 years, people would be streaming video into their homes via the Internet. I was awed by this. 3.7 billion YouTube searches per day. NetFlix is a thing. It boggles the mind. But we must get over our state of shock because if it's searchable, it must be optimized.

YouTube Algorithm Different from Google

YouTube's algorithm is a bit different to Google's, and much more focused on engagement. My interpretation of this is two-fold.

First, as Brian Dean mentions, engagement on YouTube is similar to backlinks for Google (or at least, that is my paraphrase of his words).

Second, I can't help noticing that engagement is more and more important to Google. This leads me to ponder the future of search, and the importance of engagement moving forward. Yes, I think this is something that everyone should pay close attention to, no matter what form their content takes, or where it is hosted.

Engagement Rules

The rules for engagement in YouTube SEO is very similar to Google. I mean, that makes sense, since YouTube is owned by Google. There are a few solid guides out there already, which you should definitely read. The first is by Brian Dean, and is extremely well laid-out and comprehensive.

The next is by Sean Patrick Si over at SEO Hacker and is similarly comprehensive. Next, on Forbes, John Rampton chimes in with a shorter, but similarly authoritative guide on video SEO in general, not limited to YouTube. Finally, I want to refer you to this excellent article over on Moz, which deals with a whole litany of issues related to video SEO and hosting of videos. Much beyond the scope of this article, but very interesting and helpful to anyone looking at video content strategy.

A Crib Sheet of YouTube SEO Engagement Rules

  • Backlinks matter - And they matter going to both your channel and your video.
  • Your channel's popularity matters. This is key to overall success. Get people to subscribe.
  • Sharing, liking, etc. matters. If people like and share your video, YouTube notices.
  • Watching the whole video matters. The more people watch your video, the better. So don't go for empty "views" - Get people to watch the whole thing.
  • Comments matter - Try to create a video that engenders comments. 
  • Playlists matter. Include in your strategy ways to get people to add your video to their playlists. 
  • Views matter but they need to be "good" views. As I mentioned above, it's much more important that people watch a lot of your video than it is to rack up lots of views.
  • Social shares matter - So make sure you at least encourage people to click those "share" buttons.
  • Embeds matter - Of course, if people are embedding your video on their site, that's a huge vote in your favour.

How to Use These Rules

In a similar fashion to engagement for other types of content, YouTube video content engagement starts with making sure you make a killer video people want to watch, and then putting it in front of people you think will really like it and share it.

It starts with knowing your audience and where your audience hangs out. Brian Dean has quite a few excellent ideas (I highly encourage you to read his guide) and to my mind, they all centre around those basic tenets. 

I'll mention a few, though, to get you thinking: Post your video on Quora. These people are looking for answers and will appreciate your video (if it's good quality and appropriate). Add a link to your video in your email signature. People who email with you like you (that is totally cribbed from Brian Dean. Great quote. Completely, usually, true :) ). Finally, obviously, embed your videos in your blog posts. That is also from Brian Dean, but I think it's a pretty obvious one. Do it, though.

Sean Patrick Si has some great ideas, too. Again, I highly recommend looking over his YouTube SEO guide, but here are a couple takeaways: Try to get a video response as well as comments. This requires a high level of engagement, but it is worth it. I wonder if it isn't a good idea to ask a friend (a good friend) for a video response. Makes sense to me as part of a strategy, especially when building an audience. Another great suggestion is to analyze when people are dropping off watching your video and try to fix that. YouTube analytics is pretty darn good. You can actually see when people stop watching. It makes sense, if you see lots of drop-off at a certain point, to try to fix what might be broken.

YouTube SEO Goes Beyond Engagement

Of course, there is more to YouTube SEO than simply engagement. Factors like the title, description, keywords, and more are all part of the picture. I plan to dive into the other factors in later posts, but again, the links I have provided above are a great place to start. Make sure that you have optimized your video for both YouTube search and Google search. Both are important, and they work symbiotically, too. Do well in one and you'll most likely see a bump in the other.

So - What has your experience in Video SEO been? Have you seen results from any of the strategies I have mentioned here? Anything I haven't mentioned? Let me know in the comments below. I'm really interested in this subject for a variety of reasons, so I'd love to hear works and what doesn't. 

*(A thought I had, which I feel I have to interject here, is that, since Google owns YouTube, will they learn from the search at YouTube and will that influence their algorithm? I would love to hear your thoughts.)

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