Every creator wants their content to rack up mega views, but what if we told you there was a free and simple way to get your videos in front of more viewers? YouTube SEO is your ticket to ranking higher in people’s search results and getting more eyes on your videos!

For any YouTube search, there are thousands of videos trying to get to the top spot. It’s not always clear what’ll help you rise through the rankings or sink like a stone. Take the guesswork out of YouTube SEO and set your videos up for success with eight search engine secrets that are proven to work.

Whether you’re brand new to SEO or just looking for that extra edge to improve your channel, familiarize yourself with keywords, involve your audience, and score tons more views for your awesome content.


What is YouTube SEO?

Illustration of search engine with the question 'What is YouTube SEO?'

In a nutshell, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is all about improving your content so that it has the best chance of appearing high up in search engine results. YouTube is the world’s second most popular search engine so getting to grips with SEO can make a huge difference to your video views.

The YouTube Algorithm

Lots of people talk about the YouTube algorithm as though it’s some kind of mythical beast to be tamed, or a complicated equation that only the greatest minds can decipher. In reality, it’s simply how YouTube chooses which videos to suggest to people on its platform.

From YouTube’s perspective, it wants to help viewers find videos they want to watch, and get them watching more of what they like. What’s actually in YouTube’s algorithm is genuinely a mystery (and don’t believe anyone that says otherwise) but there are some things that we know YouTube likes, and there’s an easy way you can split them:

  1. Things creators can affect, like titles, descriptions, tags and thumbnails.
  2. How people engage with your videos, such as comments, likes, and how long viewers are watching for.

They’re the two sides of the YouTube coin that deliver success to creators. While you have less control over how people watch your videos, you can use SEO tips to perfectly optimize your videos and give your channel a better chance of blowing up.


Fly up the rankings with keywords

Illustration of SEO helping a YouTube video rank higher in search results.

Think about any time you use a search engine, they’re scarily good at finding content that’s relevant to what you want to see!

Say you were searching for the best cameras for filming vlogs, it would be pretty strange if a search engine came back with loads of results about Tibetan monks or South American beaches.

YouTube uses titles, tags, descriptions and a whole host of other information to identify keywords that match what people are searching. It’s to make sure they’re not serving content that’s wide of the mark.

That's why the first few secrets on our list are all about how you can find the best keywords for your videos, and the best ways to add them to your content. You want to give YouTube those vital signs that your content should be ranking higher.

Secret #1. Find the right keywords for your video

The most important step is finding the right keywords. You want to identify as many relevant terms that people might search to give your video the best chance of ranking.

Think about what you would type into a search to find content on a particular topic. Then look at the title and description for the most popular results. They’ll almost certainly be super relevant because the search engine thinks these keywords are the most important!

If you’re struggling to think of relevant keywords for your particular niche, you can always use the search bar in either YouTube or Google to help. They’ll suggest related terms and phrases when they autocomplete your search. These are based on what other people are searching too.

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Try typing a query into a Google search and see what comes up in the People Also Ask section of the search results. It’ll give you lots of relevant suggestions for questions and search terms that you can use as keywords.

A great way to get a comprehensive list of both keywords and related questions is through free sites like Answer The Public which gather keyword research for any given topic and create a clear visual of exactly what people are searching. All you need to do is type in the most relevant word for your video and you’ll get a heap of keyword suggestions you can use.

Now you’ve got a list of keywords that will be relevant to your video, you want to find the ones that people are looking for and that have the highest search volume. The more people are searching for your keywords, the more potential viewers you’ll have!

Popular keywords that feature in people’s searches the most are likely to be more competitive as well. Consider prioritizing keywords that are less popular as you’re more likely to rank higher.

You can use free tools like WordStream and WordTracker to see how many times each of your terms has been searched, so you can choose the most popular keywords that relate to your videos.

To get an idea of how popular your niche is, use Google Trends to see how much search interest your keywords have over a set period of time. It’s the only tool that can show you how popular your searches are on YouTube through accurate data directly taken from the platform.

Secret #3. Use your keywords in the right places

Once you have a list of keywords that can help power your videos up the search rankings, you need to know where to use them. Make sure you follow these steps every time you upload a new video.

  • Optimize your title and description so that YouTube knows that your content is relevant. Don’t be mysterious when labeling your videos, get straight to the point!
  • Include a keyword in your video’s file name to give YouTube an extra clue to what your content is about. It could make the difference when trying to rank higher.
  • Add relevant keyword tags when you upload your video so that YouTube can show people your content when they search for those terms.
  • Add closed captions to your videos to improve accessibility for your viewers, with the added benefit that YouTube can trawl through the transcript to get more context for your content.
  • Creating timestamps and chapters for your videos not only helps viewers find what they need from your videos quicker, it also gives search engines like Google easy-to-find sections that they can use in their search results.

Find out how to add closed captions, create timestamps, and divide your videos into chapters by checking out our guide to uploading videos to YouTube.

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Chapters are like mini-videos within your content which can be selected by Google as featured videos in searches. A skateboarding tutorial with sections on different stances, what gear to wear, and how to kickflip could have each of these chapters feature on Google, driving more traffic to the original video.

Making sure to use keywords correctly will help your videos rank higher, but how high they go does depend on a few other factors too.

💪 Keyword difficulty

The keyword difficulty of a term shows how hard it will be for you to climb the rankings for that particular term, even if you’re spot on with your SEO. If you’re after quick wins, you’ll want to hunt down terms that have a lower keyword difficulty, which you can do with tools like the free Keyword Difficulty Checker from Ahrefs.

🥇 Competition for keywords

The more videos are trying to rank for one of your keywords, the harder it’s going to be for you to feature high up YouTube’s search results. A neat way of seeing exactly how many videos there are already is by entering your keyword followed by ‘site:youtube.com’ into Google.

🤺 Other channels

The size of a channel often plays a big role in how well a video ranks. For instance, a drone review from Sam Kolder is more likely to perform better than Jane Doe’s tech reviews. But that’s not to say you can’t beat bigger YouTubers! You just need to use all the SEO secrets to give yourself the best chance.


Build an active and engaged community

Illustration of a YouTube channel getting strong engagement to boost SEO.

We mentioned that YouTube prefers videos that drive more engagement and keep people watching for longer. That’s because these are signs that viewers are having a more rewarding experience when they watch your content.

Why is that important? Well, it indicates to YouTube that real people are finding your videos helpful. And if that helps YouTube rank your videos higher, you’ll want to get your viewers interacting with your content even more!

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Google and YouTube both use something called E-E-A-T to influence their rankings. It stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, and basically means that if your content is accurate, reliable and well-informed, you’re likely to rank higher.

Secret #4. Interact with your audience

YouTube loves a video with a lively comments section and lots of likes. It’s a surefire sign that the content is popular and worth bumping up its search rankings.

Don’t be shy about starting some debate in your videos and getting people to respond in the comments. Consider pinning a comment to get the conversation started, as this can also be an opportunity to include a link to your channel or other videos.

Secret #5. Encourage sharing of your content

It doesn’t hurt to ask people to share your video if they’ve found it useful. It gives you the twin benefits of spreading word of your content even further, while also showing YouTube that you’ve created something shareworthy!

People linking to your content, also known as backlinking, is one of Google’s biggest signs that a piece of content is worthy of a higher spot in search results. Simply asking your audience to share your video could help send all the right signals to get you flying up the rankings.


Attract more viewers and keep them watching longer

Image of a YouTube video thumbnail standing out in search results.

A big part of YouTube SEO is getting your videos to rank higher when people are searching for relevant topics. But, while it’s mostly about getting your videos in front of new viewers, you’ll want to make sure you’re optimizing your content to get more views from your existing audience too.

Secret #6. Make your video stand out

When you’re going up against countless other videos on YouTube, it pays to create the best possible content and then make it stand out from the crowd. It’s worth seeing what other videos are already ranking highly and seeing how you can beat them.

Your thumbnail should be eye-catching enough to lure people in to click on your video. While it’s important to include keywords in your title, you also need to remember that it should convince people they need to watch your content too.

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Make sure your title and thumbnail are on point before you post your video by uploading them into Thumbs Up TV for free. It's one of the best free tools for YouTubers featured in our must-read guide.

Secret #7. Check out YouTube Analytics to increase watch time

YouTube is a gold mine of information that can help you improve your videos. You can find out which of your videos is keeping people hooked for longer and use those insights to make even better content by checking out our guide to YouTube Analytics.

Secret #8. Keep people watching with playlists

If you’ve got several videos on a similar topic, create a playlist and direct viewers to the other videos too. Remember, a direct call-out in the video itself is more effective at convincing people to watch the next video than if you only use an end screen.

Not only will an effective playlist mean you get extra views for your content, you’re also showing YouTube that your videos are super relevant for people’s searches. The more signs you can give that your content answers people’s questions, the better you’re going to rank!


Grow your channel with SEO!

Illustration of a YouTube channel shining thanks to strong SEO.

As you can see, YouTube SEO is a straightforward and free way to get your videos in front of more people. It’s definitely not rocket science, but it can help launch your channel into the stratosphere!

It’s a simple equation. Find the perfect set of relevant keywords and sprinkle them across your content. Add in strong engagement and strategies for getting more views. Do all of that and it adds up to YouTube moving your videos higher up in people’s search results.

Using these YouTube SEO tips in combination with our guide to getting the most out of YouTube Analytics is the smart way to get your content seen by more people, rack up more views, and ultimately grow your channel.

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