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The Ultimate Guide to YouTube SEO: Techniques and Tactics for Boosting Video Rankings

YouTube SEO is the key to improving the visibility of your videos on the platform. Just like with Google search, understanding the algorithms and implementing effective SEO tactics can greatly impact the success of your channel. At HubSpot, we have utilized these strategies to grow our YouTube channel to nearly 400k subscribers and achieve top rankings for various search queries. In this post, we will share our tried-and-tested tips that have proven to be successful, regardless of the size of your channel.

The Importance of Creating Long-Watch-Time Content

In order for your videos to rank well on YouTube, it is crucial to produce content that is optimized for longer watch times. This optimization not only leads to higher rankings, but also results in more clicks and conversions, similar to traditional SEO tactics on Google. In fact, optimizing your videos on YouTube can also have a positive impact on your ranking in Google search. With the increasing popularity of other content formats, it is essential to incorporate YouTube SEO into your overall search strategy.

Developing a Successful Strategy for YouTube

To achieve success on YouTube, it is essential to have a clear and comprehensive strategy. This strategy consists of two main components: understanding how YouTube SEO works and utilizing that knowledge to identify a target audience, plan your channel, and set growth goals.

How the YouTube Algorithm Works

Similar to Google, YouTube uses search algorithms to display the most relevant videos to users based on their search queries. Therefore, understanding these algorithms is crucial in order to increase the ranking of your videos. The algorithm also takes into consideration the performance and optimization of your video, such as watch time, likes, and shares.

Since search engine robots are unable to watch videos, it is essential to optimize the text elements of your video, such as titles, descriptions, tags, and metadata. By incorporating specific and relevant keywords into these elements, you can improve your video's chances of ranking higher.

Selecting a Target Audience and Creating a Plan

Detailed content planning is a crucial aspect of YouTube SEO. This involves having strong video creation skills, high-quality visuals, clear and concise content or voiceover, an attention-grabbing title, and a descriptive description, among others. However, it is important to note that content planning is more than just creating and posting videos. It also involves identifying the necessary resources to increase traffic, conversions, and engagement with your video content. To assist with this process, you can use our free content planning template to develop a solid plan for your YouTube strategy.

Conducting Effective Keyword Research

Just like traditional SEO, keyword research is vital for a successful YouTube SEO strategy. Knowing the search terms that people use to find their queries is crucial for optimizing your videos and reaching the right audience. When conducting keyword research on YouTube, simply type in your main search term in the search bar, and the platform will suggest a list of related keywords, similar to Google's autofill feature.

Incorporating these keywords, variations of them, and broad match phrases into your video elements can attract the right audience. SEO expert Kate Ross advises, "Think of placing your keywords in different parts of your video as leaving breadcrumbs for viewers to find it. Incorporate your keywords in the video file name, title, description, and tags. Imagine you are giving YouTube a map to understand the content of your video."

For example, if your video is about "Free WordPress Themes," make sure to include this keyword in your video's title, description, and hashtags. This will help your video appear relevant to users searching for free WordPress themes.

It is also important to note that search robots only crawl the source code of a video, not the actual content. Therefore, including your target keyword in the video file name can help the YouTube algorithm better understand the content of your video. Instead of using a generic file name like "," use your desired keyword in the file name for better optimization.

By implementing these YouTube SEO tips and strategies, you can effectively optimize your content for YouTube searches and increase your chances of ranking higher.

Maximizing Your YouTube Channel's Growth through SEO

To increase your channel's success and reach a larger audience on YouTube, it's crucial to approach it with a strong understanding of SEO. One of the most important aspects of this is optimizing your video titles, descriptions, and tags to improve indexing and ranking. Implement these tips to ensure your videos receive the attention they deserve.

1. Choose a Relevant and Keyword-Rich File Name

The first step in optimizing your video is selecting a relevant and keyword-rich file name. For example, if your video is about house painting, your file name should include relevant keywords like "house-painting-guide." It should also be followed by a compatible video file type such as MOV, MP4, or WMV. This helps your video appear in relevant search results.


  • Incorporate high-traffic and relevant keywords in your file name
  • Include the exact keyword or a broad match at the beginning of your title
  • Ensure your title accurately reflects your video's content

2. Craft a Clear and Concise Video Title

Long and vague video titles tend to perform poorly compared to short and clear titles. Keep your title simple and to the point, using relevant keywords to accurately describe your content. For instance, a video about brand positioning should have a title like "Brand Positioning - Tips and Strategies."

3. Write an Optimized Video Description

Utilize the video description to provide additional context and information about your video. Make sure to include your targeted keywords in a mix of broad matches and phrases to accurately depict your content. You can also include a call-to-action to encourage viewers to take action, such as subscribing or downloading a free ebook.


  • Incorporate a variety of keywords in your description
  • Add timestamps with relevant keywords
  • Optimize for the suggested videos sidebar

4. Utilize Popular and Relevant Tags

Tags are essential for viewers to understand your video's content, but they also help YouTube's algorithm categorize and recommend your video to a wider audience. Use tags from popular competitors to improve your video's visibility and relevance. Additionally, ensure your tags are similar to but different from your video's hashtags.

5. Choose the Right Category for Your Video

Categorizing your video helps YouTube's algorithm understand its content and context. Make sure to choose the most relevant category from YouTube's list of options, which includes categories like gaming, education, music videos, pets & animals, fashion, and more.


  • Research top creators and patterns within your selected category
  • Consider production value, length, and format when selecting a category

6. Create a Custom Thumbnail Image

Although thumbnails do not directly impact video SEO, they play a significant role in improving click-through rates. By creating a custom thumbnail with your company logo, your video will stand out and be more memorable among other search results. Avoid using auto-generated thumbnails provided by YouTube, as they tend to generate fewer clicks.

By following these tips and optimizing your YouTube video titles, descriptions, and tags, you can increase your video's visibility, reach, and engagement. Remember to use relevant keywords, accurately describe your content, and choose the right category to ensure your video stands out in the crowded world of YouTube videos.

Tips for Designing an Eye-Catching Thumbnail for Your YouTube Videos

In the words of Joshua Uebergang, director of Digital Darts, the thumbnail of a video is the first point of contact for viewers on YouTube and in search results. That's why it's crucial to make it visually appealing and eye-catching.

According to Uebergang, the key to an excellent thumbnail is creating it before making your video, rather than trying to come up with one during the upload process. This allows you to ensure your video delivers on the thumbnail's promise. He also recommends looking at competitors or similar videos for inspiration, but never copying their ideas.

Optimizing Your YouTube Videos for Maximum Visibility and Engagement

When it comes to creating successful YouTube videos, having an eye-catching thumbnail is key. YouTube recommends using images with a 1280x720 pixel size and 16:9 aspect ratio, saved as a .jpg, .gif, .bmp, or .png file that is 2MB or smaller. By following these guidelines, your thumbnail will appear high-quality on all viewing platforms.

Take a look at the thumbnails on our HubSpot YouTube channel for inspiration. Notice how we use text and a presenter's face to create intrigue and interest.

Text in the thumbnail should give viewers an idea of what to expect from your video, while featuring a real person adds a level of authenticity. Insider Science also utilizes custom thumbnails that relate to the content and include text that piques curiosity.

Increase YouTube SEO and Engagement with Subtitles and Closed Captions

In addition to using text in your thumbnail, adding subtitles and closed captions can also boost your YouTube search optimization. The YouTube algorithm can read text from your video's source code, so including keywords in your subtitles and closed captions can help increase your video's visibility.

Not only do subtitles and closed captions help with YouTube SEO, but they can also increase viewer engagement. In fact, videos with captions typically experience a 12% increase in watch time. However, the type of text you use depends on your video's purpose.

Provide closed captions or transcripts for viewers with hearing impairments and include video subtitles in different languages to make it accessible for non-native speakers. The HubSpot team adds subtitles in multiple languages to make our videos reach a wider audience.

To add subtitles or closed captions to your video, upload a supported text transcript or timed subtitles file. You can also directly enter the transcript text to sync it with your video. Simply go to your video manager, click "Videos," and select the video you want to add subtitles to. Then, click the drop-down arrow next to the edit button and choose "Subtitles/CC."

Watch the video below to learn how to add closed captions to your YouTube video.

Increase Viewership with Cards and End Screens on Your YouTube Channel

Utilize Cards

Have you ever seen a small white, circular icon with an "i" in the corner while watching a video? Or a translucent bar of text asking you to subscribe? These are called info cards, and they are preformatted notifications that appear on both desktop and mobile devices to promote your brand and other videos on your channel.

You can add up to five cards to a single video, and there are six types to choose from:

  • Channel cards that direct viewers to another channel
  • Donation cards to encourage fundraising for U.S. nonprofit organizations
  • Fan funding to ask viewers to help support the creation of your video content
  • Link cards that direct viewers to an external site, an approved crowdfunding platform, or an approved merchandise-selling platform
  • Poll cards that pose a question to viewers and allow them to vote for a response

Add End Screens

You can also add end screens to your videos to encourage viewers to take specific actions, such as watching more videos, subscribing to your channel, or visiting your website. End screens appear during the last 5-20 seconds of your video and can help increase viewership and engagement on your channel.

To add these features to your videos, go to your video manager, click "Videos," and select the video you want to add them to. Then, click the drop-down arrow next to the edit button and choose "End screen & annotations" or "Cards." From there, you can customize and add these elements to your videos.

By following these tips, you can optimize your YouTube videos for maximum visibility, engagement, and ultimately, success on the platform. Happy creating!

Maximizing Your YouTube Video's Potential: A Comprehensive Guide

YouTube is a popular platform for sharing videos and reaching audiences, with over 37% of millennials engaging daily. With a plethora of content available, it's crucial to optimize your videos to improve your chances of being discovered. Enhance your YouTube SEO and expand your viewership by implementing the following tips.

1. Utilize Video and Playlist Cards

Clickable video and playlist cards can direct viewers to your other YouTube content. These are ideal for enticing viewers to watch related videos or playlists. Follow Google's official instructions to add a card to your video. Alternatively, end screens can also showcase similar information as cards, but only appear after the video ends. They offer more visual detail and are a prime opportunity to include a call-to-action.

HubSpot, for instance, utilizes end screens to urge viewers to subscribe to their channel or watch another video. Do note, YouTube frequently tests and improves end screens, so your designated end screen may not consistently appear.

2. Create Keyword-Optimized Playlists

Organize your videos into playlists for better YouTube comprehension and to encourage viewers to keep watching multiple videos, ultimately increasing your overall view count. When crafting playlists, incorporate relevant keywords in the title and description. For example, "10-minute yoga classes" or "bedtime yoga routines." At HubSpot, we segment our videos based on viewer interests using playlists.

3. Experiment with Longer Videos

Just like longer blog posts usually perform better, longer videos tend to outrank shorter ones on YouTube. Longer videos suggest more engagement and signal to the algorithm that your content holds more value. Don't shy away from longer videos, especially if you're providing an in-depth answer to a common query. The ideal video length is around 11 minutes, but this may vary depending on your niche.

Mr. Beast's videos, which typically range from 13 to 20 minutes, are well-received by their audience.

4. Add Timestamps to Longer Videos

If your videos are on the longer side, consider adding timestamps to mark different sections. This allows viewers to easily find specific information within the video and helps YouTube understand the content better. Use relevant keywords in your timestamps to enhance your video's chances of being discovered.

You can manually add timestamps or use YouTube Studio to add and edit automatic video chapters. Various automation strategies and tools are also available to streamline this process.

5. Monitor Your YouTube Search Analytics

Take advantage of YouTube's search analytics to track and improve your YouTube SEO. If you notice a sudden spike in views for a particular video, dive into the data to determine why. Perhaps your video is ranking for a prominent keyword or was featured on a popular website. Utilize this information to optimize other videos and replicate your success.

Paying attention to metrics like impressions and click-through rate can help gauge the effectiveness of your efforts.

In Conclusion

Optimizing your YouTube videos is crucial for standing out among the abundance of content available. Incorporate CTAs using cards and end screens, create keyword-optimized playlists, experiment with longer videos, add timestamps for better organization, and keep an eye on your search analytics to continually improve your YouTube SEO. With a well-crafted strategy, your videos can reach a wider audience and increase your chances of being discovered on this popular platform.

10 Essential Steps for Optimizing Your YouTube Videos for SEO

YouTube is an incredibly powerful platform for businesses and creators, and optimizing your videos can greatly improve your success and reach a larger audience. Here are the 10 essential steps to optimize your YouTube videos for SEO:

1. Use Your Target Keyword in the File Name

Including your target keyword in the file name of your video can help with SEO. Instead of using spaces, use dashes or underscores between each word to improve readability.

2. Incorporate Your Keyword in the Title

The title of your video is the first thing potential viewers will see, so it's important to be creative and enticing while also naturally incorporating your keyword. Avoid simply using the keyword as the title, and instead, use it to create intrigue and promise to help the viewer in some way.

3. Write a Natural Description with Your Keyword

Your video description is a crucial part of your YouTube SEO strategy. Write a natural description and include your target keyword 1-2 times, along with variations of the keyword.

4. Add Relevant Tags

While most users don't search for videos using tags, they can still help the YouTube algorithm categorize your video and show it to the right audience. Aim for 5-8 relevant tags, but be careful not to overdo it and risk being flagged as spam.

5. Choose a Video Category

Selecting a video category helps users find your video and also gives YouTube a better understanding of its content. Categories are important for showing up on the homepage, explore page, and sidebar menu.

6. Create a Custom Thumbnail

A visually appealing thumbnail with a variation of your keyword or a short, attention-grabbing phrase can increase clicks and your video's visibility. Be sure to verify your YouTube channel to have access to custom thumbnail uploads.

7. Include Subtitles and Closed Captions

Not only are subtitles and closed captions important for accessibility, but they also indirectly help with YouTube search by providing a text version of your video's content.

8. Utilize Cards and End Screens

Cards and end screens act as internal and external links and can help engage viewers during those critical last few seconds of a video. Be sure to include cards and end screens that tie into the topic of your video.

9. Add Hashtags

In addition to tags, hashtags can help increase your video's reach and authority by signaling its topic. Add relevant hashtags above your video title.

10. Create Playlists

One of the best ways to optimize your videos is to create playlists related to your overarching topic. This not only attracts more viewers, but also helps the YouTube algorithm understand how your videos relate to each other.

Using SEO Tools for Video Optimization

In addition to these checklist items, there are several SEO tools you can utilize to make the most out of your YouTube channel and content.

1. HubSpot SEO Marketing Software

Utilizing our SEO marketing software at HubSpot, you can find popular keywords and organize them into "topic clusters". This allows you to oversee which pieces of content are related and what you've already created. By linking from your videos to blog posts, and vice-versa, you can improve your authority and capture more traffic.

2. Ahrefs Keywords Explorer

Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO platform that allows you to monitor website rankings, estimate organic traffic for keywords, and research keywords for new content. Their Keywords Explorer feature is particularly helpful for YouTube video optimization.

Boost Your YouTube Success with These Essential Tools

In addition to the steps above, there are also helpful tools specifically designed for optimizing your YouTube channel and videos. These include Ahrefs, Canva, vidIQ Vision, TubeBuddy, and Cyfe. Let's take a closer look at each one and how they can benefit your YouTube channel.

1. Ahrefs Keywords Explorer

A popular feature of Ahrefs is their Keywords Explorer, which allows you to research and analyze keywords related to your content. With the ability to filter results by search engine, including YouTube, you can easily see a keyword's monthly search volume, clicks for videos ranking for that keyword, related keywords, and more.

2. Canva Thumbnail Creator

Canva, known for its design templates, also has a Thumbnail Creator specifically for YouTube videos. It allows you to easily create visually appealing thumbnails for your videos, helping to increase clicks and visibility.

3. vidIQ Vision

vidIQ Vision is a YouTube Certified Chrome extension that provides valuable insights and data for your YouTube channel and videos. It allows you to analyze the SEO of your videos, track video performance, and discover new strategies for growth.

4. TubeBuddy

Similar to vidIQ, TubeBuddy is a YouTube Certified browser extension that offers helpful tools for optimizing and managing your YouTube channel. It provides keyword research, video optimization tools, and analytics, among other features.

5. Cyfe

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard and marketing analytics tool. It allows you to track your YouTube channel's performance, as well as other social media and website data, all in one place.

By following these tips and utilizing helpful SEO tools, you can optimize your YouTube videos and reach a larger audience with your valuable content.

The Importance of Thumbnail Images for YouTube SEO

Thumbnail images play a crucial role in promoting your content and attracting viewers to your videos. With Canva's Thumbnail Creator, you can easily create the perfect preview image in the required 1280 x 720 pixels for your video.

1. vidIQ Vision

VidIQ Vision, available as a Chrome extension, allows you to analyze successful YouTube videos and their ranking factors. This tool provides an SEO "score" by evaluating various elements such as tags, average watch time, and traffic growth rate. Utilizing this information, you can create high-performing content for the platform.

2. TubeBuddy

Streamline your video production, optimization, and promotion with TubeBuddy's all-in-one platform. This tool offers features such as automatic language translation, keyword explorer, tag suggestions, and a rank tracker, making it a must-have for managing your YouTube content.

3. Cyfe

Cyfe is a comprehensive software suite that includes a YouTube analytics platform. It not only tracks your performance on the platform but also monitors website traffic and keywords. Similar to Google Analytics or Moz, Cyfe provides valuable insights from various sources.

Now that you are equipped with these essential tools, it's time to start optimizing your YouTube videos. Keep in mind that quality content is the key to a successful channel, so always ensure that your videos are relevant and engaging for your audience. By understanding the YouTube algorithm and utilizing these tools, you can attract more views, build a community, and potentially increase conversions and sales.

Incorporating Video Marketing and YouTube SEO

Incorporating video marketing and YouTube SEO is crucial for success on the platform. By utilizing these tools and strategies, you can effectively plan and manage your content to attract more viewers and grow your channel. Don't wait any longer, start implementing these techniques today and watch your YouTube channel thrive.

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