YouTube Video Optimization – How to Stay Ahead of Your Competitors

YouTube says more than two billion logged-in users visit their platform every month. That’s almost one-third of the Internet.

Clearly, there are countless opportunities for marketers and brand managers looking to promote their products, services, and brands on YouTube. But, there’s a ton of competition too.

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Even if you are operating in a niche market, chances are that hundreds or even thousands of YouTube creators are already publishing informative, useful, and engaging video content for your audience on the platform.

So, how do you stay ahead of your competitors?

There’s no quick recipe for success on YouTube but you can always follow a set of standard YouTube video optimization strategies that were used by digital marketing pros and have evolved over the years to slowly gain an edge over the competition.

Let Smart Keyword Research Guide Your YouTube Video Optimization Efforts

Unless you target specific keywords with search volume, you cannot expect to get any search traffic.

But, there is no official keyword research tool for YouTube as it is the case with traditional SEO for Google. Many third-party tools that promise to help you with YouTube keyword research merely pull in arbitrary figures from Google Keyword Planner.

Use the ‘YouTube Suggest’ feature (similar to the ‘Google Suggest’ feature) to identify relevant queries that contain one or more of your target keywords

Verify the ‘relative popularity’ of YouTube’s suggestions with Google Trends; do keep in mind that the popularity of a search string here is relative and not absolute.

You can also use some popular tools such as, VidIQ (Chrome extension for bulk keyword analysis), Ahref’s Keywords Explorer, etc. for keyword research. 

When you finalize your target keywords, make sure they satisfy ‘search intent’ for high retention and better ranking on YouTube.

Optimize YouTube Video with Target Keywords

  1. Optimizing YouTube Video File: First things first, rename each video file with your target keyword before you upload it. If your target keyword is ‘landscaping tips,’ for example, your video’s file name should be ‘landscaping-tips’ followed by the video file type such as MP4, MOV, etc.
  2. Optimizing YouTube Video Title: Your title shouldn’t just include the target keyword. It should be compelling (related to search intent) and concise (keep it under 70 characters, though the limit is 100 characters) too. An exact keyword match isn’t always necessary, especially if it doesn’t look natural. In the YouTube video search listing and recommendation panel, viewers decide to watch a video based on its thumbnail and title.
  3. Optimize YouTube Video Description: Your video description can be 5,000 characters long but that doesn’t mean it should always be that long. Use 1-2 target keywords in the first 2-3 sentences of the description. You can feature target keywords in the remaining part of the description as well. YouTube only shows the initial 2-3 sentences of the video description. After that, viewers need to click on ‘show more’ to see the complete description. Therefore, if you have an important call-to-action, links, or information, keep it within the first few sentences of the description. You can also use the video description to share timestamps (guide viewers to important moments within the video), links to playlists of related videos, social media profiles, additional resources, and links to other videos on your channel.
  4. Optimize YouTube Video with Tags: Tag your YouTube video with common keywords including long-tail phrases related to your topic. YouTube uses the tags to understand the content and context of a video. Avoid using irrelevant tags to generate more views. It doesn’t work. Google may even penalize you for that.
  5. Optimize YouTube Video with Subtitles & Closed Captions: You can highlight important keywords in subtitles and closed captions. These are more useful when your target audience includes different ethnolinguistic groups. Having closed captions can help increase click-through rate and allow your video to rank better.

Optimize YouTube Video Thumbnail

The video thumbnail is the main image viewers see when they scroll through a list of videos in search results page, playlist, or recommendation panel. When possible, avoid auto-generated video thumbnails.

A custom video thumbnail, measuring 1280x720px will look great across different viewing platforms. YouTube video thumbnail can have a huge impact on the number of clicks and views that a video receives on the platform.

You need to verify your YouTube account in order to upload a custom video thumbnail.

Get More Comments for Greater Visibility on the Platform

YouTube videos with more comments are likely to rank higher. After all, comments are indicative of greater audience engagement on UGC (User Generated Content) platforms.

To get more comments, give your viewers multiple choices but be specific. Do not merely ask, ‘please drop a line,’ or ‘leave a comment if you want to know more.’  It does not evoke interest or sound exciting.

Here’s how you can optimize a YouTube video to get more comments:

  • Make it exciting for your viewers to share their experiences or ideas
  • Make it rewarding for your viewers to drop their queries in comments by offering to answer them
  • Ask your viewers about their opinion on something interesting
  • Ask your viewers to suggest a topic for a new video

You can also use the ‘Pinned Comment’ feature to ask a thoughtful question or directly initiate a conversation with your viewers.

You can gain more comments by participating in conversations happening in the comment section. It will also help you win loyal subscribers.

Final Words

Do keep in mind that all YouTube video optimization strategies discussed above will deliver the best results when your videos record ‘high engagement.’ YouTube wants you to be able to keep viewers on the platform for as long as possible.

If you succeed in driving engagement, measured in terms of metrics such as likes, comments, average watch time, viewer retention, subscribers, card clicks, end screen clicks, etc., YouTube will reward your videos with more visibility on the platform. 

Therefore, besides optimizing your videos for search, visibility through recommendations, clicks on CATs (Call-to-Action), etc., you must keep a razor-sharp focus on producing video content that provides value and engages viewers.

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