A CMO’s Guide to YouTube SEO in Less Than 5 Minutes

This article is part of a series where we summarize SEO topics in less than five minutes.

YouTube video search results.

YouTube is the second most visited website according to Alexa. With 2 billion active users, the platform uploads more than 500 hours of video content per minute.

Statista graph of social networks by traffic.
Most popular social networks worldwide as of April 2020, per Statista

It’s safe to say that YouTube is a marketing channel worth exploring, but for more reasons than just being found on YouTube. Google also integrates YouTube videos into its search results. Quite often, actually.

As you can see with this snapshot of the SERP Features Monitor, videos show up more than most other features on the search results page:

SERP features chart showing frequency.

And you can bet that those videos will be YouTube videos. Google owns YouTube, and videos from the platform tend to find favor in the search results.

This data is five years old now but shows that even back then, YouTube videos accounted for more than 80% of videos displayed in the search results.

Of course, videos show up more for some queries than others. Searches for how-to instructions, tutorials and reviews can often trigger videos as part of the search results. If your website contains this type of content, then YouTube SEO is especially important.

In some cases, these videos will claim a featured snippet at the top of the page, aka “Position 0” — like this one on how to tie a shoe:

Google results with videos from YouTube.

In 2018, Google began showing video carousels for desktop searches. With a video carousel, searchers are presented with a video box that prompts them to scroll horizontally in order to view all the results.

You’ll first see the top three video results without having to scroll. This is like the top three organic blue links on a page — the coveted positions.

Video carousel shown in Google search results.

YouTube SEO in a Nutshell

You may think that ranking well within the YouTube platform means that you will automatically rank well in the Google search results for the same query. Not so. In fact, there has been a lot of research on this, which you can view here and here.

So how do you increase the chances of your YouTube videos showing up for a Google search?

It starts with understanding that you should research and optimize a YouTube video as well as you would a webpage. Here are some basic steps:

1. Target the queries that most often show videos results and then make videos for them.

The success of your video marketing first relies on your targeted keywords. In a conversation a few years back at PubCon, Google’s Gary Illyes suggested that if you see video results for a target query, you should consider making your own video for it. Do thorough research to identify keywords and trends.

2. Use optimization techniques that signal to the search engine that the video is relevant to the search.

YouTube SEO includes things like:

  • Using your targeted keyword(s) in your video file name
  • Optimizing the video’s title with targeted keywords
  • Creating a detailed video description and optimizing it with targeted keywords
  • Using the “tags” feature in YouTube to categorize the video with targeted keywords in it

If you’re not making videos for YouTube as part of your marketing strategy, you’re certainly missing out on the chance to be found on YouTube. But perhaps more importantly, you’re missing out on another chance to rank in the Google search results.

For more details, see our article on optimizing videos for SEO. If you found this post helpful, please share it! You can also subscribe to our blog to receive all our posts.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (8)
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8 Replies to “A CMO’s Guide to YouTube SEO in Less Than 5 Minutes”

It’s important to note that YouTube is always testing end screens to try to optimize the viewer experience, so there are times when “your end screen, as designated by you, may not appear.”

Good tips for Youtube SEO. It was very useful to know that targeting the correct keywords (which already shows videos in SERP) and optimizing the title and the video file name will give better results.

You have to optimize your YouTube channel & videos according to Google to increase view & likes.

Definitely still relevant data, seen many more videos popup so certainly something worth implementing for all videos.

very helpful blog and great tips.

Wow these are some great tips! We just started using YouTube for the first time and these tips will definitely come in handy.

Great read Mr. Clay! I kind of had given up on YouTube cause it is extremely hard now to get viewers. It seems if your subject isn’t news, race or political related, you don’t get attention. Maybe I may give in one last try.

Hey – This is a very helpful guide to include YouTube SEO in over all SEO strategy. In today’s time audio visual content is highly important. It shall be very helpful to integrate YouTube with overall marketing. Thanks for sharing.


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