How Keywords Influence the Success (or Failure) of Your YouTube Channel
Whether you’re interested in selling a product or service or simply want to do a better job promoting the brand of YOU, you can’t just throw up a YouTube video and expect the world to flock to your doorstep.
There are too many videos out there to rely on accidental traffic. The thing working in your favour, though, is people love to watch videos.
The numbers are astounding. A recent Cisco study projects that 80 percent of all internet traffic will be video in nature by 2020.
Sorted by market share, YouTube is already the second most popular social platform, and people that watch the channel watch it a lot.
So how do you go about getting your video in front of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of eyeballs? It all comes down to old-fashioned keyword research and the same SEO strategies we’ve taught you to use with other social media platforms.
It’s a Search Engine, By Gum
It’s no secret, but we suspect the vast majority of internet surfers don’t think about the reality that YouTube is primarily a search engine. A very large search engine.
In fact, next to Google, it’s the most used search engine in the world. Now it should make sense why you need to employ search engine SEO-style tactics to have your video appear on the first page of results.
Like Google, YouTube runs on the foundation of a sophisticated ranking algorithm that decides - based on specific SEO criteria that we’re about to talk about - in which order videos will be presented when someone types words into the search field. Before drilling down into the minutia of tactics, let’s talk about the overall strategy. The YouTube search engine likes many of the same factors that Google does. There are a few things you can do right off the bat to get your video’s visibility to rise.
Keep it fresh: The YouTube algorithm likes fresh content. This doesn’t mean you need to put up a new video every day but at least every week or two would be a good idea. Fresh stuff has a better chance to rise. Old stuff will likely sink unless it secures a toehold.
Don’t be boring: Watch time is a critical metric. If you’re throwing up videos that people only watch a tiny portion of and then leave, well, YouTube will assume your videos are boring and won’t display them high in the results. The bottom line here is not to throw up half-effort vids. Make them entertaining, educational, and informational; in other words, something you’d want to watch.
User opinion: Like other social platforms, YouTube allows users to give each video a thumbs up or thumbs down. Yes, to some extent you are at the mercy of your audience, and perhaps that’s the way it should be, like it or not. The algorithm takes into account this public opinion, and it can affect your search engine rank.
Effective Keyword Research
The big picture goal here is to uncover words or phrases that might be typed into the search bar that is associated with the topic of your video.
In this sense, keyword research on YouTube is the same as for any other online outlet like a web page or blog post. YouTube uses the word ‘tag’ to indicate keywords. Don’t let it throw you off. Just another word to mean the same thing. Your mission is to uncover the keywords or tags that most accurately reflect what your video is about.
How do you choose tags?
Keep in mind you can’t go crazy here and throw in any tag that’s even tangentially related to your topic.
YouTube limits tags to 120 characters, so you can figure that about ten will fit.
While it’s a good idea to come up with a list of single-word tags (like dating or kayaking), as you might expect, there is a lot of competition for those terms. Your best bet will be to find multi-word phrases that target what your video is specifically about. An example of this might be ‘dating for single moms after 50’ rather than just ‘dating.’
One of the tried and true ways to come up with effective keywords is to see which ones are working for other top videos related to yours. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Don’t worry. There’s nothing black hat or sketchy about looking to see what tags your competitors are successfully using. The trick is in actually finding them. For whatever reason, YouTube doesn’t make it easy.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Pull up a top-ranking video similar to yours on YouTube (watch it or not)
Step 2: Right-click anywhere on the page and choose ‘view page source.’ It brings up a lot of gobbledygook looking code but don't worry about that.
Step 3: Hit ‘CTRL F.’ This brings up a field that allows you to search the code
Step 4: Type in ‘keywords.’
This should bring you to the spot in the document that lists the keywords the video creator chose. If the video, has lots of views and shows up high in the search results, you can bet that these keywords would be good ones to use. Borrow them all or just pick a few. As long as you don’t use trademarked or copyrighted terms, you’re free to use them as yours.
The other way to come up with likely keywords is good old-fashioned brainstorming. For those who grew up in the computer age, this is where you sit down with a notebook and pen and think real hard, writing down the results.
Don’t Panic - It’s Just Metadata
Don’t be afraid of the term ‘metadata.’ It might sound all complex and science-fictiony, but it’s not. Metadata simply refers to information embedded with the video such as the title, description, and tags. Think of it as the cover and table of contents of a book. Without having to read the book first, you know at a glance what it’s called (title), what it’s about (description), and - well, there’s not a perfect correlation between tags and the table of contents, but hopefully, you get the idea.
Metadata will be added when you upload the video, but it’s a good idea to already have it written down and ready to go beforehand.
The time to research tags and write a compelling description is not when you’re in the midst of the actually adding it to YouTube. To bring the idea full circle, the algorithm looks to the specific metadata fields of title, description, and tags when it evaluates where your video should be presented in search results.
Title: Don’t be cute or vague here. Your title should be descriptive of what the video is about and include a keyword. This is what shows in search results and is one of the first places someone will look when deciding whether or not to watch it.
Description: This is the place to describe a bit more about the video in a sentence or two. Remember to use keywords here too. When your video shows in Google results (which is a good thing), the description and title are your chance to lure idle searchers in.
Tags: We may have already covered this topic to death but to reinforce the idea: some of the keywords here will be the ones you use in the title and description. There should be others to make maximum use of all the characters YouTube permits.
Keep in mind that YouTube has 15 broad categories. It is vitally important that you get your video placed in the right one. You don’t want to accidentally put your latest effort into Pets and Animals when you meant to be in News and Politics. If YouTube deems your video to mis-categorised, expect that it will be sent to the very bottom of the list beneath a few trillion other videos. Your video deserves better so pay attention!