Table of contents
Author: Ibrahim Dar
To some, it might seem like video is to SEO what chocolate is to onions: completely unrelated. But when it comes to content discovery, search engine optimization is crucial to a video's success. If you make the best video in the world but put it in a flash drive that you keep under your bed, no one will find it. Well, the third page of Google is visited less often than the underside of your bed.
Getting your video's SEO right entails optimizing its description, title, and tags, at the very least. Then, you must polish its transcript and solicit signals (get the right links from the right sources). These steps create a solid SEO foundation for your video's discoverability.
In this resource, you will find advanced tips and tricks that can help your videos rank higher. Don't worry if you do not know much about SEO because this post is written to be understood by anyone who can add two and two without a calculator.
Top 5 Video SEO Tips:
Optimize the script alongside the description and the title
Focus on human-friendly signposting
Add a transcript for better algorithmic reach
Use section headings and timestamps
When in doubt, do more keyword research
Why Read Any Further?
Despite getting the top five video SEO tips, you should continue reading this post because it covers hidden hacks, original framing, and valuable examples. So carry on reading if you want more video ranking leverage and insider knowledge.
Conduct Keyword Research Before Filming
Conventional wisdom suggests that we delay Keyword research until it is time to upload the video. That's where the creator should (in theory) engage in keyword optimization and come up with the best content description. But the fact is that keyword research should take place long before a video is filmed.
If we look at video content as a business, then keyword research is literally market research. Apple doesn't create AirPods for frogs and then see if frog owners are interested in buying them. 3M doesn't make a self-operating sledgehammer before figuring out whether anyone would buy them. Market research comes first.
Gone are the days when companies would manufacture anything and slap marketing on top to generate demand. Nowadays, businesses are built on identifying needs first. You cannot even use dating apps without disclosing your needs. So why would you use a video distributing service without considering viewer needs?
Keyword research allows you to figure out what people are looking for (demand) and what’s available to them (your competition). Without understanding demand and competition, you have to rely on luck. And luck is not a reliable factor.
Target Content Gaps
The holy grail of content creation success in the mid-2000s was an “underpopulated niche.” If you could start a blog or a website in an underserved category, search engines would have no option but to place you on top. But in the 2020s, no niche is underserved.
Recall the worst traffic you have encountered this year. It's the result of less than a thousand cars. Today, there are over one billion content creators. Unless there are one billion niches, it is fair to say that every niche is taken.
The good news is that not every keyword in every niche is taken. With millions of people looking for content, you need to get just a few percent of the total web traffic in any niche to be successful. Category and niche gaps are non-existent, but content gaps and underserved keywords do exist. You just need to do your research.
There is no exact formula to come across an underserved keyword except betting on volume. Betting on volume is best illustrated by the fact that the guy who gets more dates isn't the better-looking one. He's usually the one who asks more women out. Volume leads to luck.
If you do enough keyword research, you’ll come across the right keywords. And if you’ve not come across the right ones, then you’ve probably not done enough research. The key isn’t to find keywords with no content. It is to find keywords without high demand and little to no content.
Optimize The Video Title For Viewer Query And Content Substance
Once your keyword research is complete, you can script, film, and position your video based on your findings. The keyword would ideally go into the video title in a way that not only inspires ranking but also generates clicks. Aside from putting the right words in the title, you also need to put the right content in your video.
If your video title is perfectly optimized for massage therapists, but the content is an underground rap battle, it will not be long before you lose any ranking you may have received with SEO optimization. In the post-clickbait age, almost all discovery algorithms have wisened up to misleading titles. Content cohesion is essential.
That's why Google factors your content transcript alongside user comments in its ranking decision. If your video script features the right words, it is far likelier to be ranked favorably. Of course, that doesn't mean you start speaking like an SEO bot. It just means that you start aligning your content substance with your video titles.
Write A Long And Helpful Video Description
Video descriptions are missed opportunities for SEO optimization and user engagement. There are three ways creators handle video description boxes. Let’s go over them.
The first category of creators uses it as a box that must be filled. These content creators often put a lengthier rewrite of the title in the description. For a video titled "3 tips for applying makeup with your eyes shut," they would pitch a description like "3 amazing tips that will help you apply your makeup without opening your eyes.
Here's the problem with this kind of description: it is useless. A creator who posts a redundant, repetitive description misses out on the SEO benefit as much as one who leaves the description box blank.
The second category of creators uses the box as an SEO keyword-stuffing opportunity. If one of them were to upload a video titled, "3 tips for applying makeup with your eyes shut," they would write an incomprehensive description along the lines of "3 makeup tips eye shut makeup tips blind makeup hacks apply makeup quick without looking makeup."
Such obvious keyword stuffing puts off human users and signals to Google that the creator is attempting to game the system.
The third category of creators uses the box as an opportunity to engage both the user and the search algorithm. This is the category you should belong to.
For a video titled " 3 tips for applying makeup with your eyes shut," the description should go over the tips alongside some elaboration. As long as the tips and elaboration are relevant, they will contain relevant keywords.
The hidden benefit of a good description: Often, viewers like to do two things at once, especially when watching videos. If they browse the suggested videos tab as their secondary activity, they’ll switch to another video at some point.
But if they are busy reading an engaging and useful video description, they’re more likely to stick with the video longer. But again, cohesion is crucial.
Add A Content Transcript
Video transcription is at the forefront of the next decade's content-sorting practices. Youtube and Meta, alongside other content distribution companies, are getting better at extracting transcripts from video and audio content. This helps search and discovery algorithms prioritize content by relevance and interest.
So, adding a manually polished video transcript is not an exercise in offering a text alternative to a video viewer. It is an exercise in giving the search algorithm access to the core of your content. Of course, the core of crap is still crap, so this practice doesn’t give you the license to make poor content.
But if you make genuinely useful videos, then uploading a polished transcript helps the algorithm understand and place it better. And once it matches your content to a market, you'll be surprised by the sources from which the algorithm sends you the traffic.
The best way to approach a text transcript is to make it as if it would be read like a book by a human. Obviously, humans don't even read books like books anymore, so that's **not how your viewers will interact with **it. But the faithfulness of the transcript to the content will be rewarded by the algorithm.
Use Video Chapters/Sections Where Possible
On Youtube and various video delivery platforms, creators have the option to signpost their content. Thinkific and Udemy, alongside most educational video distribution platforms, allow playlisting. Whether you create sections via playlists or use timestamp features to break up your video into easy-to-follow pieces, you're creating a navigation map.
The smarter the algorithms get, the more signals they can account for. Timestamping and section breaks are already being factored into search priority by Google. If you look up visual tutorials for any context, you're very likely to get a video result with a specific time stamp. This is derived from the video transcript and the section headings.
As time goes on, search algorithms will become more human-like in their prioritization and sorting practices. In 2010, the Google Algorithm couldn’t consider the content of a video’s script. In 2023, it can easily do that and recommend content as if it were a human personally watching videos to pick the best one. That brings me to the single question that can cover every aspect of video SEO.
Summing It Up: What Can You Do To Make Your Video The Easiest To Recommend From A Group?
If a human would pick your video out of a group of 10 videos on the same topic, the algorithm will follow. That alone covers all the basis of video content SEO. A human would want the video with the most accurate title. He would examine a bunch of videos by the value of their content instead of recommending based on the title alone.
The following illustration shows how the Google search algorithm uses the signals covered in this guide so far.
Advanced Video SEO Mastery: Level Up Your Reach
If you're reading this, you know everything foundational about video SEO, or you've skipped over the first part of this post. Either way, the following three tips will further improve the odds of the algorithm recommending your video for specific queries.
For the next decade, at the very least, the view average duration will remain the single most important factor in search rankings. Not only does a high watch time indicate that the video is more engaging, but it also signals high user satisfaction.
When Google recommends Video A and the viewer clicks off after 5 seconds, then the algorithm registers user dissatisfaction. And if it recommends Video B and the viewer watches for 5 minutes, then the** algorithm knows that the latter is better**.
But even in a world without an algorithm, you would want your videos to be more engaging. After all, engagement is the first show of loyalty from an audience. On the opposite end is completely checking out, which is what happens before an employee resigns.
Optimize Your Content For Platform-Sameness
On the subject of loyalty, you have to understand the platform that grants you access to its inbuilt audience has its own goals. If you distribute your content via Youtube, then Youtube will give you more traffic for making Youtube better.
You might think that asking your viewers to visit your website or click specific non-Youtube links in your description is harmless. But from the perspective of Youtube, you're bleeding their traffic off-platform and should be given less of it. If your pocket had a hole, you would not put more money into it. So, do not make your videos a hole in Youtube's pocket, or it will send you as little audience as it can.
If you want to supercharge your growth on Youtube, create a collection of videos (not a chronological series), and end each one by pointing to another. Once the discovery algorithm picks up on the fact that most people who watch one of your videos start binging the rest, it will open its traffic floodgates for you.
On the wall, make engaging videos. Men: I wonder what the algorithm wants.
Distribute To Different Platforms
While platform sameness can put you in the good books of one platform, it does not make you irreplaceable. Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok will always find more people eager to offer more fresh content in return for less. Depressing, right? But true.
And truth, in this instance, does set you free. You are free to be loyal to yourself. Build an audience on every platform instead of sticking to one. Put your video on every channel that you can distribute to. The last thing you want is to put all your viewers in one basket and be held hostage to a single corporation.
Not only is distributing to different platforms a great survival strategy for creators, but it is also a great SEO strategy. Sure, Google does prioritize Youtube for video results, but it does point to Facebook videos and other Youtube competitors when it has no other option. When you repurpose your content for other platforms, change it up a little bit, though. It helps.
Video SEO Mistakes To Avoid
The worst mistake you can make as a video creator is to forget to press “record.” But the following mistakes come pretty close, as they make sure your video remains undiscovered despite being recorded, edited, and uploaded. So, avoid these mishaps at all costs:
Clickbait titles – Youtubers with a million viewers can bait a percentage into clicking on their videos. If you do not have any subscribers, the only person you’re fooling with such titles is yourself.
Lengthy intro – You wouldn’t have read this post if it started with, “Hi guys, I am…” Why do you think a solution-seeking viewer would find such an introduction engaging?
Missing section headings – If your video is a one-hour content soup, it will be too overwhelming for a fresh viewer.
Transcript mismatch – If your video is about "how to ride a bike," you might try to add "bike ride tutorial" and "how to get started riding a bike" in the content transcript to signal relevance to the algorithm. But if those phrases are missing from the video, then you'll be penalized for transcript stuffing.
Keyword stuffing the description – Keyword stuffing is far more rampant than transcript stuffing. But it is also much easier to call BS on.
Link spam – Do not spam your Youtube video on irrelevant forum threads, subreddits, and comment boxes. This attracts the worst kind of visibility that also kills your watch time.
Video SEO FAQs
Frequently asked questions:
What Are The Benefits Of Video SEO?
Video SEO makes your video easier to see for your prospective viewers. An increase in organic traffic is pretty valuable as it can lead to more sales and popularity. The organic traffic from your relevant rankings can translate to more views for the rest of your videos.
What Size Should A Video Be For SEO?
For SEO purposes, your video should be longer than at least one minute and 720p in quality. Moreover, it should have relevant section headings and timestamps. That said, well-researched videos that have appropriate signposts can be ranked even if they’re not precise or short in duration.
Is Youtube Good For SEO?
Youtube is the second most popular search engine in the world, making it an excellent platform for SEO. Google shows Youtube results for almost every tutorial and review query that is best served with video. Youtube and Google go hand-in-hand, so prioritizing any other platform for video SEO wouldn’t be wise. However, you can repurpose your Youtube content for other platforms.
How Do I Become A Video SEO Expert?
You can become a video SEO expert by understanding text SEO, studying Google’s own content around its algorithm updates, and consuming content about video SEO from trusted sources. Video SEO isn’t too different from standard SEO if you consider the script of your videos** as the text content of a blogpost**. It, like the description and the title, must be optimized for search.
Video SEO is a much-needed and much-ignored discipline that every content creator should be well-versed in. It goes beyond optimizing the title and the description of your video. To make your video easier to discover for the search algorithm, you must make sure it is the most valuable one. Moreover, you must signpost it properly with appropriate section headings and a well-polished transcript.