Video Optimizing 101

With millions of users and viewers on YouTube DAILY, it’s no wonder why SEOs have increased their video optimization efforts. When video optimization was a “new” SEO tactic, it was very basic. Optimize the title, description and tags and you’re done. Now, it can be a lengthy process with a large focus on the content and how the videos interact and engage with viewers.

If you or your client has videos, don’t overlook optimization as not worth your time. Videos are a great way to drive traffic to your website and a great way to engage with people to build brand awareness. Videos are very popular and it’s for the same reason why a lot of people have watched a movie-version of a book.

So there are two things that come to mind when I think about video optimization:

  1. Ranking in natural search results

    Video rankings in natural search results

    Search Results in Google

  2. Ranking in YouTube

    Video search results in YouTube

    Search results in YouTube

Optimizing Videos to Appear in Natural Search Results:

In my experience, I have found this to be tricky to accomplish. I haven’t been able to discover an exact method to have videos appear in natural search results. However, here are a few tips that I’ve noticed help videos appear in search results:

  • Have a channel that is well established and engaging
    • This includes large number of views, followers, thumbs up or down, multiple videos (This is explained further down)
    • Long-tail keyword phrases in titles and description
      • I think this is key for videos to appear in search results. Videos that utilize very specific long-tail keyword phrases seem to appear much more easily than general searches (even for brand names)

Let’s take a look at a search for “Gabby Douglas” for example:Search for Gabby Douglas in Google

For a general search of “Gabby Douglas,” no video or video links appear.  Despite having several videos of her on YouTube, and especially with the Olympics going on right now, you expect that many videos of her gymnastics are being watched. So, I’d imagine videos on Gabby Douglas are engaging and popular, yet none show up in a general search.

However, once you search for “Gabby Douglas Floor Routine”… Voila! several videos appear. Once you search for a very specific phrase, more videos appear in the search results. Based on that, I can speculate that in order for your video to show up in search results (more easily), not only do you need a well-established and engaging channel; you need to be very strategic in how you title your videos.

Ranking in YouTube:

Recently, SEOmoz released a Whiteboard Friday on YouTube ranking factors. While his suggestions are almost synonymous to best SEO practices, there are a few ranking factors that are specific to YouTube. I also believe that Jeff McRitchie’s suggestions are overall good tips for video optimization to rank in both search results and YouTube. The take away from his Whiteboard is that your video needs great and creative content and it needs to be engaging. How many times have we heard this? Well, whether it applies to a web site, infographic, copy, and now videos, GREAT content and ENGAGING content is absolutely relevant for just about everything.

So let’s say you have the video, and its very interesting content and it could be a viral success, what now?

I’m going to break it down into two parts: 1) On-site video optimization and 2) Off-site video optimization.

Well as mentioned above, you have to be strategic in what keywords you use for the title, description, and video tags.

On-site Video Optimization:


Just like the title of a page, you don’t want to name your video “KEYWORD KEYWORD KEYWORD.” You want to be able to come up with a creative and relevant title that incorporates a keyword or two. I don’t know how many times I’ve stumbled upon a video that had an interesting title, but the video wasn’t great or relevant. (Or I get Rick Roll’d) Don’t make this mistake! It seems like this will affect how your video ranks. If viewers are only a few seconds into your video and exits, this could hurt your video and make it lose its visibility in the search results.


I’ve been guilty and have committed a SEO faux-pas, I’ve inserted a link back to the web site and that was it. I know, shame, but I happily report that I no longer am guilty of such a crime. However, do I think you should eliminate adding a link back to your web site all together? Absolutely not, but on the flip side, I do think it is important to actually accurately describe the video. Viewers will always appreciate descriptions (especially short ones) and if your video is engaging, they will be more likely to click-through to your website.

Now, Mr. McRitchie mentions of adding your own transcript, and if you have the time, I say do it. It certainly wouldn’t hurt and also viewers could “skim” through the video more quickly if they’re searching for something specific.

You’re able to add your own captions or transcript by going to your video manager, click on the specific video, edit, and then captions will appear at the top next to annotation.

Here’s what it should look like:Upload captions in YouTube video


It also looks like in YouTube, you have to be exact when it comes to what keywords you use or it doesn’t rank in YouTube search results. So, be exact and use keywords that are relevant to your video.

Off-site Video Optimization:

When I say “off-site video optimization,” I’m referring to what you should do after you have optimized the title, description and tags. Optimization shouldn’t stop there. With any great content, you have to share with the community and engage with your audience.


Ultimately, for your video to rank well, you have to a “good” video. What indicates to YouTube and the search engines that you have a “good” video? User engagement metrics such as the number of views, how long someone watches your video, thumbs up or thumbs down, commenting, sharing, etc. You want your video to be able to achieve all of those.


But how do people find your video if it’s brand new and has zero user engagement metrics? It’s up to you to share it. Put it on all your social networks, your blog, websites, share it with people you think will find your video interesting and helpful. If it’s a viral success, you’re almost guaranteed that your video will rank well.


A great way to build relationships with viewers is comments. It’s a very similar process in how you manage facebook comments, tweets, and Google+ comments. If there’s a question lingering or any sort of feedback, it’s always a great idea to respond. That’s an easy way of building a follower base is if you engage with your viewers and actually interact with them. It potentially could lead to a domino effect where one person shares your channel and video, and then share it with their friends, and so on and so forth.


Something that isn’t completely new but I think people overlook is the access to analytics for their videos. It’s the perfect way to see whether or not viewers are responding well to your videos; or if your videos are able to retain their attention.

You have access to a multitude of data to assist you. Probably one of the most useful reports is “audience retention.” You’re able to see at what point for each video a user exits. This is handy and will help you understand where you need to edit and how to not make the same mistakes in the future. All other reports are fairly self-explanatory.

So if you’re working on a campaign and have access to videos, don’t overlook video optimization as a tactic. And don’t forget these key tips:

  • Create a video that has great content, is creative, and interesting
  • Be very strategic for the title, description, and tags
  • If you have the time, add a transcript to your video
  • Don’t be shy, share your video with the whole world if you can
  • Engage and communicate with your viewers

If you have any questions about video optimization, feel free to comment below.

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