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YouTube SEO: How to improve your ranking

Optimize YouTube SEO

YouTube SEO: How to improve your ranking

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YouTube is becoming more and more targeted by content marketers – and for good reason. The video platform is generally considered to be the second largest search engine in the world and also the largest for moving images – the question of whether a company should be represented here and in a search engine optimized manner should no longer arise.

As the second most used social media platform worldwide after Facebook, no other network offers such a high potential for expanding reach. “Branded entertainment” is particularly suitable for this, ie clips produced by companies themselves with a high entertainment factor, which should by no means look like clumsy advertising. However, around 500 hours of new video content is already being uploaded to YouTube every minute, resulting in fierce competition for the attention of potential audiences. 

In this article, we reveal how you can assert yourself here and make it to the top of the search results thanks to YouTube SEO.

YouTube search engine: millions of audiences for your company

YouTube is a mixture of a social media platform and a search engine. On the one hand, users can subscribe to channels, comment on videos and discover new content thanks to the recommendations of the algorithm. On the other hand, the platform is also used specifically to make search queries: for example, to find an explanation for a topic or instructions.

In addition, YouTube videos are often displayed in Google’s search results, which further increases the reach of the content published there.

Around 47 million adult Germans use YouTube, making it the most important platform for moving images. Especially in the group of under 44-year-old YouTube is popular. So if you want to pursue a future-oriented communication strategy, you should rely on video formats. 

However, you won’t get very far with classic advertising: the audience expects entertaining content with added value. In addition, you are of course competing with numerous other channels for the attention of your target group. In order to stand out from the masses of content, it is important to focus on quality instead of quantity. We have summarized how this works in seven tips for you.

Seven tips for top rankings on YouTube

1. Design the video length and entry skillfully

YouTube not only the number of views but above all are playback time  (Engl. “Watch Time”) is critical to your ranking. Not only the playback time of individual videos is taken into account, but that of the entire channel.

Important here: Playback time does not only mean minutes seen. Rather, it is the product of the number of views and the average playback time.

That is why the maxim “the shorter the better” does not necessarily apply on YouTube. If the content of your video is complicated and requires a long explanation, you should not shorten it artificially, otherwise, the information content will be lost. 

Design your video for the first 15 seconds so that viewers do not switch off. Right from the start, it should be conveyed that what was promised in the title and description will be kept and that it is not clickbait.

At best, a preview of the further course of the video should also be given so that the audience can get an overview. In the case of longer video duration, we recommend embedding a table of contents with jump labels in the description text.

2. Use the right keywords

Using the suggestion option, you can, like Google, carry out rough keyword analysis. You can also take a closer look at the keywords for which you want to rank using various online tools. If you rely on niche keywords here, you can take advantage of a relatively high search volume when there is little competition. 

After a successful keyword analysis, you should enter your main keywords stringently. Before you even upload your video, start by adding the keyword to the filename. This is taken into account by the YouTube algorithm.

3. Set the right SEO tags on YouTube

YouTube offers the option of adding SEO tags to videos. This means that the algorithm knows exactly where your video is to be classified. With the right YouTube tags, you will greatly improve your chances of showing up in the sidebar under the related videos. Limit yourself to about ten keywords that are as precise as possible, otherwise, the individual tags will lose their relevance.

You can also use the SEO tags to react to incorrect spelling by the user. Brand names or terms borrowed from other languages ​​are often typed incorrectly. If you know which misspellings are particularly common, you can include them in the tags. You will then also be found for these terms as a result.

4. Optimize title and description

The title is the user’s first contact with a video. It, therefore, makes sense to place the main keyword here as prominently as possible. The title should not contain more than 100 characters, as it will only then be displayed in full in the search results.

The description text has a volume of 5,000 characters, of which, however, only 120 characters are displayed in the directly visible area (“above the fold”). You should therefore use this for the most important information, such as a table of contents or a link to the website. Anything beyond that is ideal for embedding long-tail or secondary keywords.

This example from the beauty brand L’Oréal shows how to do it right: The title arouses interest, promises entertainment, and does not look like an advertisement.

Even when reading the title and the description, the user should have the feeling that the video offers them added value and information content.

5. Use an appealing thumbnail

The thumbnail should already convey the tonality of the video. Often the motto “the more colorful the better” applies to the YouTube thumbnails. But too many colors and emojis quickly appear dubious and may not match the advertised product.

The following example from Opel shows how different buyer personas can be addressed through thumbnails on a brand channel, which the thumbnail makes clear: on the left, the tonality is informative and serious, on the right, thanks to emojis and bright font, it is rather relaxed and youthful.

Competitor BMW, on the other hand, relies on a uniform, extremely serious thumbnail design across its entire channel, which corresponds to the brand design and the target group.

6. Insert subtitles manually to further improve your YouTube ranking

Do not rely on YouTube’s auto-generated subtitles as the translations are mostly incorrect. Better to improve manually. The effort is worth it: The algorithm can read out the content of your video by writing it down, which has a positive effect on the ranking. It is therefore advisable to make sure that you are using appropriate keywords when writing the script.

But it is not just because of the keyword embedding that your videos benefit from well-texted subtitles. Primarily, they make the video accessible to a much larger (foreign language) target group, which has a blatant influence on the number of views and the playback time.

7. Interact with the community

Since likes and comments will improve your ranking, you should be careful to interact with your community. Be it with a call-to-action that asks the user community to answer a question in the comments or a link to the subscribe button in the video.

For the latter, the credits (the so-called end card) are available, which appear at the end of the video. Immowelt shows how this can be used effectively.

The real estate platform links your website, the song from the clip, and another video belonging to the campaign. The subscribe button is hidden behind the company logo at the top right.

Conclusion: improve YouTube ranking with SEO

The optimization of YouTube videos is reminiscent of classic SEO for websites in many ways and is therefore not new territory for marketing. However, the more video advertising becomes more important, the higher the quality standards.

This can already be seen in storytelling campaigns like Edeka’s “Eatkarus”, which have an immense production effort. But you don’t need such high-budget spots to be successful on YouTube. Those who pay attention to clever wording, the interaction with the community maintains and relies on target group-specific thumbnails, can also get into the top ranking places with a low budget.

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