How to Leverage YouTube SEO to Reach Your Target Audience

Statistics show that video content is being watched more than ever before. According to Statista, around 85% of all Internet users in the US view video content monthly on a range of devices. Similar figures highlighted that users around the globe are also consuming video content more frequently.

With this in mind, it’s evident that video is a marketing funnel that should be utilized in digital strategy. One of the most popular ways to showcase video content, of course, is via YouTube.

YouTube reports that they have over 2 billion logged-in user visits each month. Plus, each day, people watch over a billion hours of video, generating millions of views. To put that into perspective, it’s about one-third of all Internet users using the platform!

So, you’ve created a video, what next?

To get your video viewed by all those people, it’s not just a case of hitting publish and crossing your fingers that it’ll go viral. However, there are some ways to boost your views and presence on the platform, and that’s by utilizing YouTube SEO. 

What is YouTube SEO?

Using an identical process to traditional SEO, YouTube SEO is a process of optimizing your videos and channel to rank better in YouTube’s search results.

While that may seem like a simple concept, there are many factors that contribute to how well your video could perform depending on how you implement SEO. YouTube describes the way it ranks video and how its algorithm works as:

‘Videos are ranked based on various factors including how the title tag, description and video content meet the search criteria of the user. After that, there are a range of analytics to delve into including the engagement of specific videos. This information also enables video production to be tailored to make it easier for viewers to find and watch them.’

Although SEO is an essential factor, the critical aspect here is engagement. YouTube wants people to keep watching videos and stay within the platform, so it’s your job to keep them there, even if they’re not watching your content. If you’re able to drive people to your channel and videos, they help you by improving your visibility.

So, to cover the basics, our guide will delve into actionable steps to implement YouTube SEO and help you get your video content performing the way you want it to.

How to Optimize Your YouTube Videos

This section covers how to optimize your videos for both the YouTube algorithm and searcher intent.

Find relevant keywords for video

The first step in optimization is researching keywords. YouTube doesn’t have a dedicated keyword research tool like Google does. Still, there are many tools that can help you put together a list of targeted search terms.

A great place to start when you’re looking at keywords is by using YouTube’s Search Suggest. Type a seed term into the search bar and different queries will appear. You can also include an * and this will behave like a wildcard to bring up different options. The reason to use this method is that this is what people are already searching for on YouTube!

search terms

You can also check out popular videos on the platform and discover what types of keywords they are focused on. You’ll spot these in the title tag, description, and tags.

Although there is no official way to look at search volumes for videos, you can use Google Trends to give you insights. However, these are based on ‘relative popularity,’ so are not always accurate.

When you’ve found suitable keywords, choose the best one for your video and check out how much competition there is. To do this, enter the keyword in the search bar and check out the snippet at the top that shows the ‘About results.’ Opt for the low competition search results, and that way, you won’t have to compete with millions of videos on the same topic.

Create a high-retention video

As mentioned before, to help you rank well on YouTube, you need to keep people watching.

This is called audience retention.

Audience retention is the amount of the video that people watch. YouTube has said that it is a significant factor in how a video and channel ranks.

To quote YouTube: ‘Your goal is to keep audience retention as close to 100% as you can (because this means viewers are watching all the way through your videos). And videos with consistently high audience retention and watch time have the potential to show up more frequently in Search and Suggested locations on YouTube’.

So, how do you get people coming back time and time again? One of the aspects is creating high-retention videos.

Many people have a misconception about what types of video perform well. Quality is always key. However, you don’t need a professional setup for videos to get excellent engagement. Your smartphone is probably sufficient, but there are a few extras that could help take it to the next level, including:

• Tripod
• Backdrop
• Lighting
• Microphone

Identify search intent

Next up, you’ll want to research why people search for specific terms on YouTube. To get an idea of this, search for your chosen keyword in YouTube and see how the top results have tackled the content and angle. Rather than trying to be completely different, it can be beneficial to try something similar.

For this, you also have to be aware that some search terms will bring up results for entirely different takes on your intended topic. If this is the case, it’s best to steer clear of creating content on that search term. Otherwise, your video will get lost in the void.

Establish Video Length

How long should a YouTube video be?

This is a tricky question to answer because there’s no right or wrong one. The length of your video will depend on the content you’re creating. If it needs to be more than 20+ minutes, then people will watch regardless, as long as it adds value.

The main thing to consider is avoid waffling on; otherwise viewers will switch off.

When you first start creating content, it’ll be an experiment to see how people respond. Once you get going, YouTube Studio provides handy insights to tell you how much of your videos people watch. This information can help you in future content creation.

Optimize video title and description

Optimizing your title tag is essential in any type of SEO. Your video title should include your keyword and provide an answer to a question or solve the user’s problem. Look at examples on the platform. You’ll see a wide selection of titles that show you precisely what you’re getting before viewing it.

Optimize video title and description

A handy tip is to try and keep your title tag under 60 characters. Keeping it short will avoid truncation in the search results.

Your description should also include your keyword. If you can, use it as close to the beginning as possible without it sounding unnatural. Fingers crossed, the algorithm crawls it immediately and helps push your ranking.

As a guide, your description should include:

• The keywords within the first 25 words
• A description of at least 250 words
• Your chosen keywords between 2-4 times

Create a thumbnail

Although your video’s thumbnail doesn’t directly impact the ranking factors, it can still have a significant effect on your engagement factors.

The thumbnail of your video is what people see alongside your title tag, so it needs to stand out. It’s also another element that tells people what’s in your video straight away.

Some people will only click on a video from what they see on the thumbnail, so making it relevant and eye-catching will ensure people click through.

Optimize video tags

To enhance your video, use tags that include your keyword and a few variations of it. It’s also helpful to feature tags that are closely related to the topic. Targeted tags can help you rank better and give you the opportunity to show up in the ‘related video’ section.

Add closed captions

YouTube has a handy function that not only makes your video content accessible to everyone, but it’s also SEO-friendly. Closed captions are a feature that benefits people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, the added bonus is that they’re crawled by search engines.

Add closed captions

YouTube does have an automatic captioning tool, but it’s not perfect, so that it might throw some odd words amongst your content. You can change these or create your own. Getting it accurate not only makes it easier for Google to understand, but it’ll reduce confusion for your audience.

Add cards

YouTube has an interactive feature called cards that encourages viewers to take specific actions. You can select one of five elements, including:

• Visiting an external link
• Discovering another YouTube channel
• Donating to a non-profit
• Answering a poll
• Watching another video or playlist

You can select the type of card you want to include in different sections (timecode) of your video. When the video runs, the title of the card appears in the corner as a suggestion. This is a great way to keep people engaged, but only use them where relevant.

Add cards

Cards can also be utilized in places where there could be high viewer drop-off points such as the end or around the middle of the video.

Add an end screen

A similar feature to cards is adding an end screen. Just like all the elements above, it’s a great way to keep people engaged and watching the platform. The end screen should feature action that you want your viewers to take. Commonly utilized suggestions include watching the next video or subscribing to your channel.

The end screen will need to be included during the editing process, but when you optimize your video, you can include the end screen elements to fill those sections.

Utilize the platform features

To optimize your channel, and encourage interactions with your content, make the most of the tools on the platform. They help to boost watch time and ultimately move you up the ranks.

Session watch time is a crucial YouTube SEO signal and this figure includes the total time a viewer watches without leaving the platform.

So, your job is to keep them hooked!

Optimize for session watch time

Much like binge-watching your favorite Netflix shows, encouraging the same on YouTube is an ideal scenario for anyone wanting to rank well in the search results. To do this, there are a few YouTube features that can help:

Create a series

An excellent way to keep people watching is to create a series. This feature is perfect for linking a range of videos to keep people interested and wanting more. While a series can improve watch time, you also need to let people know about it.

Do this by adding an end screen that points to the next episode in the series to avoid people leaving your video or the platform.

In addition to a series, you can also create a series playlist.

Series playlists

If we use Netflix as an example, it links episodes and seasons together to encourage continuous watching. The same can be done on YouTube.

Series playlists give authority to a group of videos on your channel and tell YouTube what order to play the videos. So, this will boost your chances of appearing in the ‘up next’ element after the video.

When you’ve created a series, added cards, and an end screen, the chance that YouTube will recommend your content to viewers will be much greater.

Encourage people to engage

When you’re editing and optimizing your video content, one of the main aspects to improve engagement is to give people the tools to do it. Take a look some of the ways to achieve this:

Ask people to subscribe

When someone subscribes to your channel, this is a massive indicator to YouTube that they love your content. Thus, this also sends ranking signals to boost your content.

So how do you get people to subscribe? Just ask them!

In most videos, you’ll see people often include a snippet at the end that asks viewers to subscribe. It can be an effective way to increase the subscription rate and keep them coming back for more. It’s all the better if they activate the notifications feature too, so they’ll be informed every time a new video is uploaded.

Offer to answer questions in the comments

The comments section is also an important ranking signal for YouTube. If people comment, it sends a message that they are interacting and like your content (even those negative ones!).

If people are commenting, then make sure you’re also replying. This also helps to show YouTube that you’re engaging with your audience.

A great way to encourage comments is to ask questions in your video that spark some conversation. Just include ‘leave your thoughts in the comments below’ or something similar to get people talking and interacting.

Thumbs up/thumbs down

This one might seem obvious, but it’s another thing that can help improve your visibility on YouTube. It’s basically asking people to rate your video. So just add a quick ‘if you like my video, give it a thumbs up’.

Thumbs up/thumbs down

On the flip side, getting a thumbs down tells YouTube people don’t like your content, so try to avoid these.

Optimize your channel page

While it’s important to optimize your videos, many people will come straight through to your channel page. When this happens, what will they see?

Featured video section

The featured video section shows content that you want people to basically click on first. It’s natural to put the most important videos or ones you want to rank at the top, but you could try other techniques.

Some people have found success in creating an introduction video to showcase what the channel is about and what visitors are likely to see if they keep watching. This drives engagement for some channels but not others.

Another way to utilize this spot is to use YouTube Analytics to pick the best one for your audience. By looking at the ratio of subscribers to unique viewer rates, you can opt for a video that showcases your top content and that viewers are already enjoying.

Finding the balance is key and you can swap these featured videos and experiment to get the best results.

Add your playlist to the channel page

YouTube offers a range of options to customize your channel, and the playlist or series (mentioned above) that you created is a great element to add to it.

A series gives viewers the opportunity to watch videos in order. This is more likely to keep them engaged and improve overall session watch time.

Promote your videos

To help get your videos seen across the Internet, the power of sharing it is an essential tool. In today’s world, everyone is on social media, so although it sounds obvious, getting it on every available platform will boost your views.

Get Social

There are several ways to share your video, which will encourage people to interact and share it with others. Below, we look at some of the most prominent ways to share your content:

Share your video on Facebook

Video is fast becoming one of the most consumed types of media on Facebook. You’ll probably notice your feed is constantly filled with short clips and longer videos. Although native Facebook videos get more impressions than YouTube videos, it’s not something to ignore.

The traffic that is driven through this platform can give your videos a boost. Cross-posting content is one of the most significant ways to create visibility and drive people to your channel.

It also provides an affordable way to advertise. So, if you have a video you want to push, it could be a great tool to get it in front of a target audience.

Share on Twitter

Twitter is still a great way to encourage engagement with your videos. Insights have shown that videos get higher engagement rates and views when shared on the platform, as simple retweets are easy to do.

Research suggests that around 90% of Twitter video views happen on mobiles and 82% of users watch video content on the platform, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get your content out there.

LinkedIn shares

LinkedIn is one of those platforms that often gets pushed to the back of the queue, and everyone assumes it’s just corporate. However, although business-related content does well here, any type of material could have potential as long as you have the relevant audience.

LinkedIn users are often more engaged with people they have common interests with. If the video provides value, it’s even more helpful to these people and their connections.

You can also add videos to your LinkedIn profile for more visibility.

Share videos on Quora

Quora is a great place to share videos. People that use this platform are looking for ways to solve common problems, so providing value in this area is a great way to boost engagement.

This platform has other benefits for sharing your videos too; it helps you build links to your channel and improves your social presence. Just don’t spam the site too much with links. Balance is key!

Use email marketing

If you have an email marketing database, utilize it. Emails are one of the best ways to get click-throughs as the people receiving them are already interested in what you offer.

This funnel enables you to target specific segments of your list, depending on the content.

More views and engagement driven through emails ultimately means more chances of visibility in rankings on YouTube. You can also add your YouTube channel link to your email footer to encourage click-throughs.

Build links to your YouTube channel

Sharing on social media is just one way to get other sites to link to your video content. Another element to consider is general link building to other websites and embedding content on your own site.

When building links via guest posts or similar methods, don’t forget to plug your channel URL and individual video URLs. Getting inbound links will help you build up an authority on YouTube, which sends all the right ranking signals to the platform.

How to Monitor the Performance of YouTube SEO

Once you’ve created your video, optimized it, and hit the publish button, what next?

Unfortunately, once you’ve uploaded it, you can’t go back and edit the above elements, so getting it right before publishing is vital. However, you can delete it if required.

So, once it’s up and running, the next step is to analyze its performance.

To do this, use YouTube’s analytics.

There are several handy elements to this tool. It has everything you need to drill down to what actually works for your video content.

Take a look at the main sections in YouTube Analytics:

YouTube’s analytics

Overview

In YouTube Studio, head to the Analytics tab, and you’ll find the main overview of your performance. This helps give you a guide on how your channel is performing. In this section, you’ll see four reports:

• Top videos – this shows your videos ranked by views.
• Real-time activity – your video performance in the last 60 minutes or the last 48 hours.
• Latest videos – this shows the performance of your last ten videos.
• Typical performance – a helpful insight into how your last video performed compared to your channel’s typical performance.

This overview is only available if there is sufficient data available.

Next up is the Reach tab

This tab shows you the overall reach of your videos. There is a main graph highlighting how many people saw your content (impressions) and how many clicked through. This feature also provides information on:

• Traffic source types – data that shows where people found your videos.
• External sources – this includes traffic from sites linking your videos.
• Impressions and how they led to watch time – an important metric that shows how many people saw the video on YouTube and who click through to view it.
• Top search terms on YouTube – search terms that your viewers used to find your videos.

Engagement tab

Engagement is an essential metric as it helps YouTube determine how popular your videos are. This tab shows the data on several aspects of engagement to help improve watch time. Here you’ll find:

• Overview – a graph that shows watch time and average view duration.
• Top videos and playlists – a list of your top videos and playlists with the most watch time.
• Top cards and end screens – a list of your top cards and end screens in the last 28 days.

Audience data

It’s helpful to find out who is watching your videos and the audience tab can show you these key metrics. The information included here is:

  • Overview – the graph shows unique viewers, the average number of videos watched per viewer and subscriber numbers.
  • Top countries – data shows your viewers by country and is based on IP address.
  • Top subtitle/CC language – this indicates subtitled languages used and is based on usage data.
  • Age and gender – this shows your audience by age and gender and is based on signed-in users.
  • When viewers are on YouTube – a handy insight into your audience’s online activity across your channel and the whole platform.

This information is only available if there is sufficient data. For all sections, most data can be analyzed for different time periods by using the filter.

The above information gives you an overview of your channel and videos. Still, there is also a range of similar analytics to drill down into individual videos.

How you analyze these will also enable you to understand your audience. One of the main areas to look at is your audience retention graphs.

Analyze Audience Retention Graphs

To see this information, select a video you want to analyze, and click on the audience retention graph.

This graph highlights the views for every second of the video and plots the retention rate as a percentage. The line presented in the chart shows how popular different parts of it were. There will also typically be bumps in the data that are said to show ‘True Engagement’.

Go to these bumps and see what parts of the video sparked an interest. Try and identify why these aspects of the content would have performed better compared to others.

In contrast, check out any significant dips in the graph. This can identify why people leave the video, and it can be a great idea to add cards in these places to help engage people more.

Another element is how people respond to the intro. If you see a significant fall here, then it probably means you need to work on it. Adding a card can also improve engagement.

Analyze Audience Retention Graphs

Did you satisfy user intent?

As discussed above, keywords are a major factor in determining where you might rank and also what searcher you appeal to. Tailoring your content to searcher intent is vital and you can identify whether you fulfilled this by checking out YouTube Analytics.

To see keywords and traffic data, select your video > analytics > reach viewers tab > Traffic source: YouTube search.

Take a look at what performed well, including keywords that produced a high view duration. To gauge how it performed in comparison to other videos, benchmark the numbers against your average data.

Videos that received a low engagement might not be hitting the searcher intent at the right angle. So, if you’re looking to target a specific keyword, re-film the footage from a different perspective to see if you can up the engagement rate.

Final Thoughts

That concludes our guide on leveraging YouTube SEO to improve your audience reach. YouTube SEO is technically one of the easiest methods of search engine optimization to implement. However, it is a learning curve to ensure you modify and optimize all the different elements to keep people engaged on the platform.

By using the tips above, you will be able to harness the reach that YouTube offers and start ranking for relevant and enriching content to boost your company growth.