10 Steps to Improve YouTube Search Rankings

May 24, 2018

When someone searches for a video in YouTube, you want them to find your content first. Use these 10 steps to improve your videos' rankings in YouTube search.

YouTube is a powerful player in the social media industry; 46% of small businesses use YouTube, which helps increase awareness for these businesses.

Making a high-quality video takes a lot of work but maximizing your video for high rankings does not. There are proven, targeted search engine optimization tactics to grow the number of views and popularity of your YouTube channel.

Searching with certain keywords on YouTube will include countless other search results. How do you better the chances of your videos ranking high in those results?

These 10 tips will give you the insight to maintain or improve your YouTube video rankings.

10 Steps for Improving Your YouTube Search Rankings

The 10 steps to improving your YouTube search rankings are:

  1. Appear as the Suggested Video
  2. Choose 3-5 Relevant Tags
  3. Frontload Descriptive Keywords
  4. Write Longer Video Descriptions
  5. Post Longer Videos
  6. Boost Video Engagement
  7. Design Attention-Grabbing Thumbnail Images
  8. Use Brackets and Parentheses in Video Titles
  9. Keep Viewers Engaged Longer
  10. Included Video Year in the Title

You can use this article to learn how to complete the steps necessary to improve your rankings on YouTube search.

1. Appear as a Suggested Video

The best way to make your video show up as a suggested video is to use the same tags as a current suggested video in your category.

Video tags

YouTube uses tags to know the content of the video. So, if you use the same tags as a popular video in a category you’re targeting, YouTube will see that your topic is similar to the popular video and give it importance.

A tool like vidIQ can help you with video tags.

vidIQ video tags

Tools like vidIQ can easily help you find the keywords of popular YouTube videos.

2. Choose 3-5 Relevant Tags

The second strategy is to use the TAB (targeted, alternative, broad) formula for video tags. Because of keyword stuffing and spamming, tags are not as important as they used to be. However, they still play a key role in YouTube rankings.

The purpose of tags is to help YouTube understand the content of your video. I recommend using 3 to 5 relevant tags. There is no need to have a higher number of tags because this just overwhelms sites like Google and YouTube.

Rather than using a bunch of different tags, try a small number of highly specific tags.

YouTube weighs the first tag the heaviest, so your first tag should always be your targeted keywords, such as “World’s Fastest Sports Cars.”

The next step is to create two or three tags that are simply the alternative of the main keyword such as “Sports Cars” and “World’s Fastest Cars.”

To find these alternative tags, search your main keyword on YouTube. The final one or two tags should be broad and tied to the overall topic or industry, such as “World’s Fastest Car Manufacturers.”

3. Frontload Descriptive Keywords

You should always use your target keyword in your video title. YouTube weighs words that appear at the beginning of the title more heavily.

Video titles with frontloaded keywords

Rather than writing “Top Funny Soccer Goals Ever Scored,” you would write “Funny Soccer Moments: Top Goals Ever Scored.” Here, your keyword is “funny soccer,” and it makes the keywords frontloaded.

4. Write Longer Video Descriptions

Long descriptions help rank videos better on YouTube than short descriptions because they give YouTube a sense of what your content is about.

Ancient Rome 101 national geographic description youtube

You should write about the content of the video without revealing too much, so 100 to 200 words is optimal. This means that someone will read the description and still want to watch your video to find out what happens.

5. Post Longer Videos

When it comes to SEO, longer videos tend to outrank shorter videos. In fact, the average length of a video on the first page of YouTube search results is 14:50.

Longer videos automatically rack up longer periods of watch time. The ideal video is between 8 and 15 minutes long.

6. Boost Video Engagement

A straightforward way to rank your videos is to create and use lots of engagement signals, such as shares, likes, comments, and subscribes.

Taking the time to engage with the video usually means people enjoy your video. Tests by Backlinko show that the most important engagement signal is comments.

How do you get a lot of people to comment on your video? Backlinko discovered from lots of testing that the most effective way is to put a specific call to action.

Rather than saying “Leave a comment,” ask viewers to leave a comment talking about a certain topic on the video, such as “What is your advice?” and “What do you suggest?“

7. Design Attention-Grabbing Thumbnail Images

If your video gets a lot of clicks, you should experience a ranking bump. To get more clicks, you should use effective thumbnails.

YouTube video thumbnails.png

Designing with strategy can help you get more clicks. Make sure to use video colors that are different than YouTube colors to make your video stand out.

Within the bright thumbnails, you should use big, bold text. These can get more click-through than thumbnails without any text because the viewer can easily understand what the video is about, especially when the video gets linked on a different site that does not have the YouTube title.

You should not write more than 39 characters of text because your title will get cut off on Google’s search results. Google only allows 50 to 60 characters.

8. Use Brackets and Parentheses in Video Titles

YouTube titles with additional details in brackets or parentheses can increase click-through by 38 percent.

You can add extra information in a few short words rather than having a lengthy title. As you can see in the example below, the video has “no eating for week” in parentheses to add more information about the video.

YouTube video title parentheses

This is better than having a long title such as “7 days water fast results without eating for weeks” because that is harder for potential viewers to read.

Keep the title short and to the point.

9. Keep Viewers Engaged Longer

Everyone has videos that do better than others. There are many reasons behind this, but one detail you can find is where the peak of your engagement is.

To do this, go to Google Analytics, and click on “audience retention.” This provides a report of where the attention begins to drop off.

YouTube video viewer retention time graph

This typically happens after something funny or an interesting graphic or change of camera angle. Attention drops off after this point because a pivotal moment has occurred in the video.

To keep viewer attention after the pivotal moment, make sure to keep your content attention-grabbing – and don’t go too long without another pivotal moment.

10. Include the Video Year in the Title

The final note is to include the year in your title. This also increases clicks and viewership.

People want to know they are watching a current video, especially if it is a tutorial, and adding the year in parenthesis in the title helps with that.

Improve Your YouTube Rankings

These tips should give you a great start to improving your YouTube channel and increasing traffic, engagement, and rankings.

Even if you have completed some of these strategies in the past, YouTube constantly updates how it ranks and scores videos.

Did you find that one of these strategies knocked it out of the park for your channel? If so, consider sharing that with others and creating your own sphere of influence.

About the Author

Headshot of Emin SinanyanEmin Sinanyan is social media strategist at Mellbe. In his free time, he enjoys writing tutorial- and strategy-based articles like this one to help others. He also enjoys reading books, swimming, and drawing.