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SEO Best Practices for YouTube

Kerry Guard • October 1, 2013 • 4 minutes to read

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a billion.

In this day and age, everyone is getting into video marketing. And why not? It's a great way to demonstrate products, to showcase your business or to help share what your company culture is all about.

That being said, most people use YouTube to upload and host their videos. How many? Some quick stats for you:

  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network

In fact, YouTube is actually the second most used search engine (after Google) processing more than 3 billion searches per month.

That being said, uploading your video to YouTube and expecting people to find it and watch isn't a realistic expectation. You need to position your video in a way that allows it to potentially show up for searches and in related videos of other videos people are watching.

In fact, it was revealed at SMX East on October 1, 2013 that watch time, comments, likes and dislikes now factor into YouTube ranking algorithm. So it's important to not only get your videos positioned to be watched... but to produce a video that is exciting, matches the user's expectations and gives them additional information if they choose to bounce away from the video.

Below are three things you can do to search engine optimize your YouTube videos.

Maximize Info Space

YouTube gives you a lot of space to add information about your video. Use it to your advantage! This space is to not only let those watching your video know about what they are going to watch... but the YouTube system takes what you write into account when ranking where your video will show in search results on any given search query.

This is what that field looks like as well as some recommended advice on how to fill each form element out:

You also need to remember to make your privacy settings public as well as select the most relevant category for your video.

Quick tip: we like to use shortened URLs in each video description so we can see website referrers by specific video. It helps us see what videos are generating site visitors more than others. This informs us what video content is working best and allows us to tie back conversion performance / revenue to specific videos.

Make Relevant Annotations

Annotations are a great way to show quick links that users can click to go to another video of yours or even to a link.

Most of the time, you'll see annotations at the end of videos, like this:

But remember - you can definitely use annotations in the middle or beginning of your video. One thing that you need to be careful of is overwhelming your video viewer; they are viewing a certain video because they want to watch what it's about. If you're bombarding them with annotations, they may actually just leave since it's disrupting their viewing experience. So only use them when it's a great cross promotion opportunity or otherwise.

Quick tip: YouTube has recently updated their annotation toolkit to allow you to link to external websites. So feel free to link to other content that the video user may like on your website in an annotation!

Add Captions for Quote Opportunities

If you present information and data in your video, make sure you add captions so people can easily read the information you're presenting in your video to be able to take and quote.

You can add captions one of two ways:

  1. Caption file - a file that contains the text and time codes for when each line of text should show up for your video.
  2. Transcript file - a file that contains only the text of your video.

Is there relevancy between getting a better ranking for your video and adding captions? No. But SEO in general also means that you're helping the effectiveness of your content for all types of audiences. Adding captions is simply giving a user an option of how they would like to watch and review your video.

Quick tip: it's best to supply a transcript to your videos. You don't want to be known as that company with "that screenshot" of your video on one of the many dozens of YouTube caption fail websites (like this one - Incorrect YouTube Captions).


SEO for your YouTube videos isn't rocket science. What it does take is a detailed eye and a willingness to be thorough with adding full headlines, descriptions and adding annotations to all of your videos.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let us know below.

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