YouTube SEO for Small Businesses

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Over its 10 years global dominance as an online video host, YouTube has also become the second largest search engine in the world. Having a strong brand presence on YouTube could mean a great deal for your business.

However, just creating great content for your videos will not be enough, and your success on YouTube will crucial to properly implementing YouTube SEO.

Why aren’t my YouTube videos found?

More than 100 hours’ worth of video content are being unloaded to the website every single minute, and this is only going to increase! The highly popular video platform has become a very crowded medium for content creators, and has become increasingly difficult for new creators like a small business to have their content found by potential customers.

So unless you were one of the early adopters of the platform, that has a pre-existing following, you are at a large disadvantage as a newcomer.

How can I have my YouTube videos found?

As an early adopter of YouTube, I have watched the search algorithm change dramatically over the years and seen how YouTube made it increasingly difficult for new users to have their content found. Luckily there are still ways to have your content surface through all the clutter of the search results, and that is through video SEO.

The YouTube search results ranking algorithm is very complex, and to some degree more complex than Google’s search engine rankings. The reason I make this statement as an SEO specialist, is that there are more factors outside of your control in video SEO. I will make note of these factors later on.

Before I discourage anyone from joining such a great platform with boundless opportunities, let’s go over what is actually IN your control. I will cover everything you will need to know to make your content more search engine friendly and ultimately be found by your target market.

As a small business owner, who is just starting off creating YouTube videos, these are some best tips I can provide you with, to make your videos more discoverable.

1.  Learn How To Do Keyword Research: Whether you’ve had some experience with doing SEO for Google or not, I recommend investing time into learning keyword research. Keyword research will give you great insight in what users are searching for and allow you to effectively implement three of the most important optimization factors in video SEO. There are many great resources in the industry to learn this from, I would recommend starting with


  1. The trifecta of keywords: This next part is what I call the trifecta of keywords. There is a strong correlation between keywords found in three elements of your video, and the more that the keywords relate to what the users are searching, the likelier it is that your video will rank in the search results. This trifecta of keywords are the: video titles, video Meta descriptions, and keyword tags. After learning keyword research to identify the kind of phrases users in your target market are searching for, these next few steps will be much easier. Keep a close eye to what your competitors are doing and use it as a benchmark to make sure your content is just as well optimized, if not even better.

Optimizing Video Titles: Titles should generally include keyword phrases that are very specific, but have lots of search volume (insights you would have learned from the3keyword research). You should also try to include secondary keywords that relate to your videos to make different combinations and permutations of keyword combinations.

For example: Let’s say I am making a video on baking homemade cookies, and I want to share a recipe through a video. A highly optimized title would be “Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe – Fast, Healthy & Easy”. When adding the secondary keywords such as “Fast, Healthy & Easy” you’ve just given your video a chance to rank for addition keyword phrases that include those. An ideal title should have around 120 characters. Keep in mind your highest search volume keywords which is relevant should be as close to the beginning of the title as possible. The word fast might have a higher search volume than homemade or cookie, but it is less relevant to the main message of the video.

Bonus Tip: Google likes to display videos which have the following types of keywords in the title: How-to keywords, reviews, tutorials and funny videos.



Optimizing Video Description: Your video description should be as long as possible, with relevant information, but don’t make it too long where the users gets overwhelmed


You still want them to get to the end of the description where you might include links to your website, other videos or social media profiles.


The above images are great examples highly optimized video Meta descriptions, with plenty of keyword inclusions, links to other videos, a subscribe link, social media profiles, all things that you should consider putting in your videos. Include as many relevant keywords that connect directly to your title, but also make sure you make the content make sense.

Don’t stuff keywords just because it might help you rank better. Remember to use variations of your targeted keywords, buy using plurals, synonyms, etc. Also, keep in mind that a Meta description snipped displayed in the search results only shows the first 120-135 characters. Make sure you’re main message goes out at the beginning of the Meta description, to entice users to click on your video.

  1. Keyword Tags: You have 500 characters of space here, so make sure to include as many relevant keywords to complete they keyword trifecta. As of 2012 tags have become hidden from users and you can no longer “spy” on your competitors’ keyword tags, enforcing my first recommendation of learning keyword research, to develop your own tags.


  1. Video Thumbnails: Your video thumbnails should be treated like an advertisement. You will want to create custom thumbnails that will entice users to click on your video. This is the example of a first-page result thumbnail. Great thumbnails will increase your click through rates (the amount of times your video has appeared in the search results divided by the amount of clicks it actually receives) which will ultimately help increase the visibility of your video by increasing in its rankings for the keywords the users had used to reach your video.


What else can you do I increase my video rankings?

These are some of the ranking factors that you can improve on to further your chances for rankings.

  1. Video Length: Generally longer videos tend to rank better. The golden rule is to have a video longer than 5 minutes.
  2. Uploading a video transcript: The closed caption files are searchable content and it helps with indexing and ranking of videos.
  3. Production value: The quality of your video is important, so upload your video in HD quality with at least a resolution of 1920×1080. The search algorithm prefers higher quality content.
  4. Categories: Choosing the right category for your videos is crucial, and also make relevant playlists for your videos to further help your rankings.
  5. Leverage your existing assets: Embed your YouTube videos on your branded website, and share it across social media, email list, etc. View counts, frequency and time watched are very important factors to rankings.
  6. Annotations: Add these in the video with hyperlinks for the viewers to engage with, and promote the sharing, liking and subscription to your videos.
  7. Build backlinks: Much like Search Engine SEO, links that point to your video will help the video’s ranking. Post your video as a resource on forums, Q&A sites like Quora, reach out to bloggers in your industry to feature your video, etc.

Metrics that affect your rankings, which you have less control over

The following are some of the metrics which are ranking factors that are a little more out of the creator’s control, but by implementing some of the above recommendations over time you improve these metrics.


  1. Video view count: As you build a following over time by creating great content, your viewership will grow.
  2. Likes/favourites/comments/social shares: This is self-explanatory, but these help send signals to YouTube as what is liked by the users, giving it a higher likelihood of ranking.
  3. Channel subscriptions: YouTube respects its most credible content creators, and one of their best measure of this is the amount of subscribers they have.
  4. Video Retention: A very important yet overlooked metric. Study your videos retention rates and strategize how to improve them. If users are going to your video, but are immediately leaving the page because the video is not what they were expecting, it will affect your rankings negatively.
  5. Click-through-rates (CTR): As previously mentioned, CTR (CTR= amount of impressions/actual clicks) has a large impact on your rankings. While a low CTR won’t directly affect your rankings in a negative way, it will positively impact videos with better CTR, ultimately pushing down your video in the search results.

It will take some work, but if you implement every recommendation outlined in this guide, your videos will be more likely to rank for your targeted keywords, and by following these best practices, many if not all of the metrics which you have little control over will improve as well, which will further help your rankings and visibility.

Tudor Stanescu is a passionate Digital Marketer from Toronto at 80 Proof Digital. When he is not working on a marketing campaign he enjoys spending time with friends, playing video games or taking photographs for his personal photography blog. You can follow Tudor’s internet adventures on his Twitter or Instagram.


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