How We Rank YouTube Videos in Google, Search & “Up Next” [SEO]
I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.
UPDATED: 01/07/2017 [EXPANDED INSIGHTS IN (VIDEO)]
The WEBRIS YouTube Channel recently surpassed 1 million minutes of 100% organic video views.
When I originally wrote this post, I thought our “organic” views came from videos ranking in Google searches. However, our YouTube Analytics tells a different story. Our top traffic sources are:
- WEBRIS: “Suggested Videos” (34% of total views)
- Laces Out: YouTube Search (57% of total views)
So, I’ve modified this post to focus on growth from all organic sources:
- Ranking in Google organic search
- Ranking in YouTube internal search
- Ranking for “up next” and “suggested” videos
That’s a rhetorical question – I know the answer because Google is telling us by showing videos as results.
Some other query types that trigger video results:
- Tutorial videos (i.e. “dark lip tutorial“)
- How-to videos (i.e. “how to rank your ebook in Amazon“, )
- Review videos (product reviews, business reviews, product complaints)
This is incredibly important because it tells us what type of videos to focus on. Instead of videos about your business, you should be teaching, sharing, training and helping.
Now, I’m not saying this is the only thing – there’s plenty of directions you can go.
However, focusing on creating videos that inform will put you in the best position to succeed, I promise.
“But…I run a business, that needs to sell stuff to stay open. Why do I care if people are watching a ‘how-to’ video about tying a tie”?
Fair question. Let’s break this down using a funnel:
Let’s say you own an ecommerce shop that sells men’s clothing:
Top of funnel
- There’s HUGE search volume around wardrobe help – styling, fitting, outfit combinations, etc.
- While these searches have no direct purchase intent, there’s a tremendous amount of value in reaching new, relevant audiences with engaging content.
- It’s a much better first impression that an advertisement.
- When someone is about to purchase an item, what do they do? Check for reviews.
- It just so happens YouTube is HUGE for reviews – these videos can rank really, really well.
You can attack this is 3 ways:
- Have someone on your team create reviews.
- Pay a 3rd party to create reviews for you (Fiverr gig).
- Pay an influencer to do a review and post on their Channel.
Predator Nutrition is an ecommerce site that sells health and fitness supplements. They have their own private label products, but mainly they’re a retailer (meaning they sell other brands as well).
When we were doing the initial keyword research for them, we found that the #1 keyword attached to the products they sold was “reviews”.
We had their team create video reviews of the highly searched products – using the process in the rest of this post, we ranked them in Google for these keywords.
This is important as it’s really hard to rank an ecommerce product page for “review” keywords. Generally, Google is looking to rank an unbiased, 3rd party source for review searches.
Using YouTube, you can sneak in behind the power of the domain and rank for your own products.
Picking keywords for videos
I generally start by putting the website’s keywords into YouTube search. Then, I look for signs that it’s a keyword I want to attack:
- Are they showing ads? This shows that the search is popular enough to pay for.
- Do they top videos have a lot of views? If so, this tells me that keyword has a high search volume.
- Are the top results achievable? Click on the top accounts and see how many Subscribers they have, view count, etc.
- What type (intent) of videos are on top? Format (review, how to, movie), length (how long).
When I find relevant, high volume keywords with low competition, I build out a content calendar:
The calendar breaks down everything:
- Draft and go live dates
- Topics and keywords
- Video title and tags
- Video length, content type and tips
I pass this document to my offshore team who manages the uploading, graphics and formatting for me.
Before you start uploading videos, you might consider cleaning up your Channel’s appearance.
Creative and Channel branding is incredibly important – you want to customize a number of items, including:
- About section (contact, links, blurb)
- Logo (controlled through your Google+ profile pic)
- Channel cover photo (2560 x 1440 pixels)
- Individual video image (1280 x 720 pixels)
You can get quality design work done for cheap on Fiverr.
In addition, you want to setup Playlists that group your videos logically. I like to create them for display on our Channel page to help people find our top videos.
A good brand helps drive more subscribers – no one wants to follow a channel that looks like shit. Most importantly, that brand will help you stand out in the “Up next” videos, stealing clicks away from competitors.
Rename your raw video’s file
YouTube is pretty damn smart, but they can’t see what your video is about (yet…). Much like image SEO, YouTube sees your video’s file name.
It’s easy to do:
- On your desktop, find the video file.
- Right click on the file and select “Get Info”.
- Add some tags to your video that are related to the content.
- Under “Name & Extension”, name the file after your #1 an #2 keywords. For example: How to Rank YouTube Videos – Ranking Videos in Google.
- Throw in a brief description of your video in the comments field.
Now you’re ready to upload your file to YouTube.
When you dump the file in the upload section the raw video name will pull through – leave it as is. This is the title you want for your video.
Optimize the Title
Titles are incredibly important – they’re a major ranking factor. When I write titles, I include at least 3 of the following in each:
- Biggest keyword
- Intent modifier
- Secondary keywords
Create the Tags
While some think tags have no affect, I kindly disagree – they’re there for a reason.
I like to steal my tags from the competition.
- Install TubeBuddy browser plugin
- Type your main keywords into YouTube search
- Click on top ranked videos
- Click “tags” by TubeBuddy to view competitor tags
- Copy and paste these into your video’s tags
Tags are used by search engines for classification – I believe using the same tags as the top ranked videos helps to associate you with their keywords.
Write the description
I’ve seen plenty of videos ranking high with NO descriptions, so I don’t image it’s something that even gets crawled by YouTube anymore.
YouTube is not a conversion channel – that action needs to take place elsewhere. The description is a great place to push people to owned platforms.
In the description, I like to:
- Write at least 200 words of unique, descriptive wording. I like to summarize what the video is about (don’t keyword stuff).
- Add links to other videos on your Channel.
- Add external links to website and social profiles.
Now, we’re ready for the next section.
From my data, the #1 ranking factor is user engagement.
That means things like:
- “Dwell time” (how long people are watching your videos for)
- Share rate (social)
- Links and embeds on other sites
- Channel Subscriber count (real ones)
The problem is, how can you get engaged views with no audience and no organic rankings?
It’s a pain in the ass, but as I mentioned before, building a YouTube Channel takes commitment. If you don’t have an audience, you have to build one.
Tactics to get views
When I first got started on YouTube, I had a promotional process. Every time I published a video, I did the following:
1. Post to a Facebook Group
Facebook Groups are awesome, but you have to be careful not to spam the group and get booted (CHECK OUT OUR GROUP). I always recommend spending some time building a presence before dropping links bombs everywhere.
2. Find a relevant Quora thread
Straight forward – search for a relevant thread, write a good answer and embed your video for further info.
3. Post it to LinkedIn
I’ve always had a good sized audience through connections on LinkedIn (which can be built manually also, by the way). I create a new post on my personal page about the YouTube video and embed it there.
4. Embed in the blog
We re-built our blog posts to include an embeddable YouTube video in the header. It’s an extra place to capture views, easily.
5. Hit some Google+ Communities
They say Google+ is dead, but Communities are still hanging on. You can drop a link to your videos in there, the key is finding engaged Communities, which is becoming a challenge.
6. Send to email list
Email is by far the best promotional tactic – you can send a steady stream of engaged views right away, which is a huge ranking and quality signal to YouTube.
The ultimate goal is to build your Channel into a reputable source for YouTube – this comes through building engagement on your videos.
If you can do that, YouTube will do all the promotional work for you.
Tactics to get links and embeds
If you do everything up to this point, your videos will rank well within YouTube. To rank in Google organic Search you need to build links to your videos.
YouTube is a Domain Authority 99 site, meaning the domain has a massive spam tolerance. This allows us to build lower quality links, safely.
1 or 2 quality contextual links will rank just about any video. I like to use guest post and sponsored posts, as often times you can get a nice embed in there as well.
If you find the right SubReddit, and you have the right video, you can get some great links and engagement from Reddit. Read my guide to Reddit.
When done properly, you can get pretty good links from blog comments. Our team is instructed to find opportunity by searching Google for articles about our video, commenting and adding a link or embed for reference.
In certain niches, forums are active and great sources of traffic. They’re also a solid source of links for YouTube videos.
That’s all I got – I’m happy to answer questions if you leave them in the comments!