Beginner’s Guide to YouTube SEO

November 13, 2019   /   by  Cassie Shukitis

One third of the internet uses YouTube every month. 1.9 billion people across the world. As in, a third of all internet users visit YouTube for video content every single month. Each day, these users consume a billion hours of video. This means that little Timmy down the street is watching YouTube videos after school, while your tech-savvy Aunt Gertrude is also raking through pages of knitting how-to videos. Every corner of the internet, from the dial-up veterans to the fiber optic bros cross paths with the Google-owned video search engine. Basically, if you’re not using YouTube for business – you should be.

YouTube is essentially a search engine for video content – but the platform is going through a bit of an identity crisis. Since 2017, YouTube has been dipping its toes in the social media pool – introducing features like status updates, polls, stories, and contacts for creators to keep in touch with each other and their subscribers. These features haven’t gotten the same ubiquity as their Facebook or Twitter counterparts – and instead set YouTube in a state of flux where SEO and engagement are equally crucial in the textual and video aspects of video publication.

Roger West has spoken before about the importance of picking the best keywords for YouTube, but SEO best practices are forever evolving and it’s time to dive even deeper into search engine optimization for this internet behemoth.

Mastering YouTube SEO

When mastered, SEO for YouTube is an indispensable ally to any digital marketer, as it simultaneously delivers the benefits of video marketing and high search engine rankings – feeding the sales funnel with sweet, sweet clicks. There are two ways to approach YouTube SEO, too, and both roads are worth traveling. The first is by improving channel ranking within YouTube. The second involves getting your YouTube channel to rank high in Google searches. When efforts are combined, you are effectively spreading awareness of your channel across the two biggest search engines on the internet.

After that, there’s nothing standing between you and total world domination.

Keyword research is still integral to SEO for YouTube, but it’s what you do with the research that truly makes or breaks the success of your channel. Figure out the terms that you want to rank for. These keywords (or phrases) will differ from the standard Google or Bing keywords, and will mimic what people search for in YouTube. You’ll see a lot of:

  • How-to videos (Ex. How to change a tire)
  • Tutorials (Ex. Learn long division)
  • Reviews of products (Ex. Nikon D3400 review)

Once you get this all worked out, you can research your chosen keywords on SEO tools like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush to see how many searches the words get on a daily or monthly basis. This step in the YouTube SEO process mirrors what you’d do for standard SEO.

The 3 Ts of YouTube SEO


YouTube offers a number of opportunities for creators to optimize their individual videos and channels. An effective YouTube video is more than just a well-produced video. Without SEO, even the best videos won’t be seen by the masses.

Every YouTube video needs a title. Think of the video title as a headline on your blog. It needs to be optimized to include your focus keyword and the intention of your video. Recall the phrases that users often search in YouTube. This might be a how-to, a review, or some kind of solution. To get the hang of video titles, try searching for similar content and see how successful competitors name their videos. Titles can be up to 100 characters, which is truncated at 66 characters. Keep your title informative and succinct.

Don't forget to optimize your title by using metadata here, as well as in your titles, descriptions, tags, and closed-captioning.

Title – check. Next stop, tags.


Tags are among the most powerful YouTube SEO tools and allow creators to get more views by entering relevant keywords that are related to the focus keyword. Aim for 10-12 latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords, which work with Google’s algorithm and align with colloquial or semantic keywords. LSI keywords are able to expect related keywords that deal with the topic at hand and help boost rankings on YouTube and Google.

Tags can accommodate up to 120 characters. It is advised that you use double-quotes (“) to insulate your phrases to facilitate long tail keywords. Always think like a YouTube user when creating your tags. Example: “cooking tutorial” instead of “cooking” and “tutorial”.

While we're on the topic of tags - let's briefly discuss the video's description. The description is yet another way to tell viewers about the video's content. Similar to tags, should include keywords to optimize the video. Descriptions should include links on where you'd like viewers to go after viewing the video (sales pages, products, content assets, etc.) and employ metadata for maximum efficacy.

The third “T” of the YouTube SEO trifecta is…transcriptions.


Transcribing your videos for the purpose of generating closed-captions or accessory content is a great way to enrich SEO and keyword presence for every single video produced by your channel. You can include transcriptions within the description of your video (search engines will crawl and index from here!) that is naturally keyword optimized, and most likely steers away from keyword stuffing.

Creating transcriptions for your YouTube videos will also allow you to create other mediums for your content marketing, as they can easily be repurposed into blog posts, white papers, case studies, infographics, and website copy.

Don’t Forget the Meta Description

The meta-description of a YouTube video is another prime spot to make the most of SEO and keywords. The video’s meta description is an HTML attribute that gives searchers a brief summary of the video’s content. YouTube allows for a truncated 166 characters – so space is precious. Be strategic. If your video is about a product, be sure to include a link that contains clickable https://.

Best Practices - A Proper Send Off

If you're optimizing branded content, thought leadership, or new videos, always encourage viewers to like or comment and subscribe to the channel at the end of each video. This will send a signal to Google that people are subscribing to the channel and the video will appear in other search results. This leads to more impressions and plays, which ultimately raises awareness for your channel and content. Subscriptions are the pot of gold all YouTubers are chasing.

If your videos are related to thought leadership or subject matter - using YouTube cards can promote and support your content for greater appeal.

Once you combine these elements, you can monitor your video and channel's analytics at

If you’re interested in producing and optimizing great videos for your business, Roger West can help. Let’s talk.

Cassie Shukitis

Cassie Shukitis

Account Manager

As an Account Manager for Roger West, Cassie worked with a variety of clients to develop SEO-based strategies that generated leads and increased brand awareness in their respective markets.