8 Tips to Rank YouTube Videos in Search Engines

With over 6 billion hours of video viewed each month, YouTube is a powerful marketing platform that your business needs to utilize.

This shouldn’t come as news to you. I’m willing to bet that you have an account and you’ve probably marketed your business with some videos. I’m also willing to bet those videos didn’t get watched and you gave up on your efforts.

This is a common theme on YouTube. In fact, I’ve seen too many clients spend thousands curating great content that doesn’t get viewed so they abandon their efforts entirely.

The key to YouTube marketing is getting videos ranked in both Google and YouTube searches. This creates an automated flow of people finding your videos with valuable keywords related to your business.

YouTube is a search engine (2nd most used on the planet) so ranking your videos requires an understanding of how the algorithm functions.

As an SEO expert I have a good grasp of how Google’s algorithm works. Despite that knowledge it took me a lot of time, testing and patience to figure out YouTube’s.

This article provides you with 8 tips I’ve accumulated to help you get more views by ranking your videos higher in Google and YouTube.

Video Version

Tip #1: Video Length

When YouTube first launched, part of the algorithm was based on views. The more views your video got, the higher it ranked. About two years ago YouTube changed their policy. While they still count aggregate views they do so in conjunction with engagement metrics:

  • Number of seconds viewed
  • Comments
  • Likes
  • Social shares

These additional metrics help cut back on click farms that were racking up millions of false clicks. Before it was better to pump out a ton of videos with less focus on content. Now, its better to create content rich videos that drive user engagement. YouTube doesn’t give any guidelines as to what an optimal video length is (i.e. 1 minute or more). From years of experience, I suggest you make your videos at least 60 seconds long, for 2 main reasons:

  1. The more seconds you can keep a user on your video, the higher it will rank. Therefore, having longer videos will add more seconds to your count.
  2. In YouTube’s mind, anything less comes off as spam. The longer your video, the more content (i.e. better user experience).

Bottom line: create videos with that provide great content and drive engagement.

Tip #2: Video Name

Improper naming structure is the most common optimization mistake I see. This happens in 2 places:

  1. Raw video file
  2. Video title

YouTube can’t see what your video’s about so the algorithm looks at the raw file to help determine content. If you’re familiar with optimizing items for the Amazon search engine (titles, summary, subtitles, etc) your video’s raw file is a very similar process:

  1. Right click on your video and select “Get Info”.
  2. Add tags related to your video’s keywords and synonym keywords.
  3. Name the file based on your main keyword and secondary keywords (ex: How to Rank YouTube Videos – Ranking Videos in Google – Webris).
  4. Add some comments about what the video is about.

When you upload this file to your YouTube account it will automatically pull through the raw file name. This is the same title that you want to use for your video’s title. NOTE: For the purpose of brevity, I didn’t get into keyword selection. This is a vital part of the ranking process. For more information on how to select keywords for your content, click here.

Tip #3: Video Description

First and foremost, add a link to your website. When I perform digital marketing audits I can’t tell you how many of my clients neglect to link to their website or landing page. While video views are great, YouTube is a merely a means to something larger. You videos should encourage viewers to an action. That action should be clicks to your website where you can finish the marketing process (i.e. lead capture, purchases, etc). So please, add links! In addition to links, you want to optimize the rest of your video description:

  • Make it unique! Don’t recycle content from all of your videos. Google HATES duplicate content and it will be held against you. Each of your videos are different and should be treated as such. Write a unique description for each of your videos.
  • Aim for at least 200 words.
  • Use synonym keywords throughout your description. For example, if your keywords are How to Rank YouTube Videos, synonym keywords would be How to rank YouTube videos in Google, Ranking videos in search engines, Yahoo video rank, etc.
  • Don’t use the same keywords twice – you will get slapped for keyword stuffing.
  • I generally write a transcript of the video. This can be time consuming, so I generally contract this out to freelancers on Fiverr.

Tip #4: Create a Playlist

Playlists are the final piece when uploading a new video. They add another layer of signals to tell YouTube what your video is about. For each of my videos I will create a new playlist with synonym keywords. Here is an example of tips 1 – 4 in action:

  • Keyword #1: How to rank YouTube videos
  • Keyword #2: Get More Views on YouTube Videos
  • Raw file name and video title: How to Rank YouTube Videos – Get More Views on YouTube Videos – Webris
  • Description: [Video transcript]. Synonym keywords included: ranking videos in YouTube, how to get more views on YouTube videos, YouTube marketing, video marketing, video SEO.
  • Playlist name: Video Marketing – YouTube Marketing – Ranking Videos in YouTube.


**Note: Credit for this tip goes to CASEO**

Tip #5: Custom Thumbnails

What are you more likely to click on:




Screen B, right?

When you upload a new video YouTube will give you 3 random screenshots from your video to choose from. As you can see, that screenshot can be an unsavory pose that pushes users away from your video.

By adding a custom thumbnail you can control the first impression of a user. I suggest adding a thumbnail that tells the user exactly what your video is about and why they should click on it.

Doing so will have a drastic increase on the Click Through Rates (CTRs) of your videos. To add a custom thumbnail, simply click on the “Custom thumbnail” button which is located on the “Upload” screen A few things to note:

  1. Optimal size for the image is 1280 x 720.
  2. Must be a .JPG, .PNG, .BMP or .GIF.
  3. Must be under 2MB.
  4. Use bright colors like Yellow, Red or Orange. This helps to standout against the white backgrounds and blue links in Google.

Tip #6: Optimize Your Channel Page

Your channel page is another often great opportunity to alert the algorithm about your content. Make sure that you fill out every aspect of your page. There are millions of YouTube accounts whose sole function is to ‘rip, flip and repost’ videos for profit.

More often than not, these profiles are created spammer SEOs who leave them blank (see in depth article from SEOPlus). Optimizing your channel page will trickle down to your videos and help them rank. Make sure to fill out the following 4 aspects of your profile:

  1. Channel art. Having a profile picture and background helps users understand your page – Google’s one and only goal is to increase the user experience. When uploading your images, be sure to follow SEO best practices for images (i.e. your-business-name-channel-name-keywords.jpg or webris-miami-seo-youtube-profile-web-marketing-help.jpg).
  2. Links. Adding links to your social media pages and websites not only will drive valuable traffic, but will also help search engines associate them with your business/website. This is valuable for brand SEO – when users search for your business, the first page of results will populate with your website and social media pages.
  3. Description. A great opportunity to explain what your channel is about and send text signals to search engines as well. Be thorough and sprinkle in those synonym keywords wherever possible.
  4. Subscribe. Remember when you were a kid and your friend got in trouble, but you got punished as well? Guilt by association – in this case, you can use it to your benefit. By subscribing to powerful YouTube channels with similar content you are sending small signals of association to YouTube.


Tip #7: Push to Social Platforms

Traditional SEO has 2 main aspects:

  • On page. Code, site structure, site speed, content, keyword density, etc.
  • Off page. Links.

Social media has changed human behavior (literally) and forced Google to take notice. Now, there is a third ranking factor:

Google always takes the side of the user – from a user’s perspective, do you want to see search results that aren’t up to date and relevant? No, you don’t. The main way that Google measures this is through social signals. At a very basic level, if people are talking about something on social media, then it’s relevant. If you want to get your videos to those top positions you have to get the link out there on social media. I always do the following:

  • Auto sync my YouTube channel with my Google+, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Every time I post a new video it will auto push to these accounts.
  • Post to my personal accounts.
  • Post to LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ groups. Social media groups are an amazing way to get likes, shares , +1’s, etc.
  • Buy signals. I’ve used a number of services, but this one by Serp Champion is by far the best: http://www.serpchampion.com/social-signals/

Tip #8: Build Links and Embed

If you follow tips 1 – 7 your video will get indexed in Google within a matter of minutes. If you want to rank for competitive keyword searches (i.e. ‘Miami SEO company’) then you will have to build links to your video URL and embed the HTML on other websites. Link building is a tricky endeavor and it’s a double edged sword.

If you build the right links, your video will rank for whatever keywords you want. If you build the wrong links, your video will get flagged as spam and removed. I recommended building a small amount of links over a long period of time. Some great sources of links for YouTube videos are:

  • Blogs
  • Web 2.0s (.Wordpress, .Weebly, etc)
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest
  • Email signatures

And of course, don’t forget to add each videos to your own blog!


YouTube is a powerful platform when utilizing properly. Video marketing is still in its infancy and will continue to become more important as we progress. Getting your content in front of the right people at the right time is essential for success. Follow the steps laid out above and your videos will start ranking in both YouTube and Google search engines.


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