Optimising Videos for YouTube and Google Search
Search Engine Optimisation

Optimising Videos for YouTube and Google Search

22nd March 2017

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google and the second most visited website on the planet as of December 2016. YouTube’s reach is further expanded by its direct inclusion in Google search.

google video results


This search volume and traffic presents a huge opportunity for brands looking to increase their visibility by ranking videos on both YouTube and Google.

Optimising a video for YouTube is a little similar to optimising a web page for Google, however YouTube uses different ranking factors and has been proven to place much more weight on engagement metrics such as comments and likes.

With this in mind, how exactly can you optimise a video for increased visibility in YouTube and Google search?

Do Your Research

If you’re looking to boost visibility on YouTube and Google search, researching search queries that typically trigger video results should be your first port of call.

Google gives YouTube videos an edge in the SERPs for certain keywords, and the majority of the queries that tend to trigger video results are often informational in nature.

keyword funnel

For example, searches that include the words “how to” will almost always return a few video results.

how to video resylts

This makes perfect sense when you consider that video is processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text. Google clearly recognise this and will almost always trigger video results for informational search queries.

On the other hand, someone searching for “phone repair Nottingham” clearly wants to find the nearest place they can fix their phone. Google understands this and will show a range of local results for this type of query.

navigational queries

It’s clear from these examples that you will likely find that a lot of the searches triggering video results on the first page are informational in nature, and I would strongly recommend reading up on how to research these types of keywords as part of your video marketing strategy.

Once you’ve picked a topic that has the potential to rank in Google, it’s time to consider how to optimise your video specifically for YouTube as this will in turn improve the videos chance of ranking well amongst similar (video) content in Google search.

Optimise Video Titles

Much like Google, YouTube uses page titles as a key ranking factor.

Adding descriptive titles will help users find and decide whether to click through to your video.

There are a few things you should pay attention to with your video titles on YouTube:

  • Include your target keyword within a descriptive title.
  • Limit your title to 100 characters.
  • Maximise click-through-rate (CTR) by creating engaging titles.

Optimising for CTR

Engagement metrics such as CTR are crucial ranking factors used by YouTube, especially for competitive searches.

There are a few ways of boosting CTR on YouTube:

  • Write compelling titles – Once you’ve included the target keyword in your title, the rest should be dedicated to attracting more clicks.
  • Use eye-catching thumbnails – This is a tactic employed by all the pro YouTubers and it works. Be sure to create a custom thumbnail that stands out. Thumbnails with a 1280 x 720 px resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio generally perform best.

ctr results

  • Write attention grabbing descriptions – YouTube displays the first 125 characters of your description in the search results so make the most of these characters and use them to boost CTR.

Optimise Video Descriptions

YouTube allow up to 5000 characters for video descriptions and I would always recommend writing 200+ word descriptions for each video you upload.

Longer video descriptions will give YouTube a better understanding of the video’s topic and can hep boost your chances of showing up as a suggested video on related channels:

suggested videos

Here are my top tips on optimising video descriptions:

  • Include keywords in the first 120 characters (YouTube and Google provide a 120 character snippet of your description in their search results)
  • Aim to write at least 200 words in each video description
  • Provide clear CTA links to on-site content

Upload a Transcript

A transcript can help YouTube to understand your video’s topic and a better user experience.

Best Practices:

  • Use manual, word-for-word transcriptions and/or subtitles where possible
  • Write transcripts in the same language that is spoken in the video


Encourage Subscribing and Liking

YouTube puts a lot of weight on user experience signals, and subscribing and liking are two of the most important user experience signals that YouTube use.

User experience metrics such as comments, subscribes after watching, likes and dislikes, and shares are used to determine the quality of your content. Thus if YouTube sees that your video has lots of comments, likes and shares, it will rank better than a video with barely any engagement.

Top tip: Ask people to like, comment, and subscribe in every single video you upload to YouTube.

Focus on Watch Time

Watch time refers to the total length of a viewing session. YouTube places a lot of value on watch time. Its algorithm prioritises videos that lead to a longer overall viewing session over those that get more views in isolation.

If people aren’t watching your videos for longer than a few seconds, then clearly your video isn’t going to rank well. If you make videos that people are watching much longer, your videos will be suggested more frequently and rank better as a result.

Here are some more tips on prolonging watch time on YouTube:

  • Create descriptive and eye catching video thumbnails
  • Build up interest in the early stages of a video
  • Use annotations in videos and links in the description to encourage users to view more content and prolong their watch time
  • Check out your View and Audience reports to determine which videos are doing well and replicate these formats on other videos where possible


Producing videos is often overlooked due to the perceived time and equipment required. However, YouTube are doing their best to help small businesses make their first foray into video marketing with releases like the YouTube director app meaning effective videos really can now be produced on the smallest of budgets.

To get the full SEO potential of your videos, ensure you firstly research the types of search query that tend to trigger YouTube videos in Google search and pay close attention to the tips outlined in this post to boost performance on YouTube itself.


Written By
Ben Wood is the Marketing Services Director at UK based digital agency Hallam and has previously gained extensive client-side experience at a well known FTSE100 company. Ben specialises in SEO, PPC and Web Analytics.
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