Optimizing for YouTube: 9 Best Practices for Getting Eyes on Your Video Content

Published 9/1/20
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Did you know YouTube is the second most-visited site in the world? It attracts about 44% of all internet users, making video content absolutely vital to every DMO’s content strategy. And since the onset of COVID-19, it’s become even more important: YouTube.com rose 15.3% in March alone, climbing toward 200M visits per day. So, we all understand that we need great video content, but here’s the more important question: How do you get potential visitors to view the great video content you’ve spent time and money producing?

The answer starts with search engine optimization. If you’re not optimizing your YouTube videos for organic search, you’re missing out on an opportunity to get your content in front of millions of potential viewers. As a subsidiary of Google, YouTube video content is prioritized on the SERP (search engine results pages). Having a YouTube channel and uploading content (even just occasionally!) is a good start, but there are a host of ways to optimize the content you upload to YouTube for more exposure through organic search.

Here’s a quick rundown of some optimizations that will help get your video content ranking on Google.

Prepping Video for YouTube

Before we dive into optimizing your content on YouTube’s platform, there are some important factors to consider prior to uploading your content to the Internet.

  • Conduct keyword researchAs you are creating video content, it’s important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of search engines is to solve problems and answer questions. They accomplish this by getting the most relevant information in front of searchers as quickly as possible. Performing keyword research before you create and upload content will help you learn which topics and phrases to focus on and ultimately optimize for.
  • Prepare your video for uploading: Once you’ve created a video that solves a problem and/or answers a question (or entertains – hello, cat videos), you’ll want to prepare the file for SEO best practices before uploading it. Add relevant tags, name, description and comments to your video file that include keywords identified during your research. This information will help search engines understand what your video is about and match it to relevant search queries.

YouTube Optimizations

Now that you have a great piece of video content that is saved with optimized naming conventions, it’s time to upload it to YouTube. As you’re developing video content, you’ll also want to think about the descriptions you’ll include when you upload each video to YouTube. The description provides yet another opportunity to send ranking signals to search engines. Use the keywords you have identified during your research to inform the following best practices for your description.

  • Include at least 200 words of copy in your description.
  • Tailor the descriptions of each of your videos. Resist the urge to copy and paste generic copy in each video’s description, as this creates duplicate content and impedes SEO efforts.
  • Do not keyword-stuff your descriptions. Make the copy interesting and helpful to the viewer. Sometimes, it may make sense to include a transcript of the video with timestamps if different types of information is being shared.
  • Add a custom thumbnail. Instead of defaulting to the random still YouTube pulls from your video, proactively create an image that compels views to click on your video result in the SERP. Text describing the content in the video (i.e. 5 Hikes in Your Destination) and bright, eye-catching colors are known to increase CTR.

Bonus Round

Everyone loves bonus points, right? Here are some additional ways to send ranking signals to search engines once your video content is live on YouTube.

  • Keep your YouTube channel page up-to-date and fresh-looking. Add a header, long description and links to your channel page to make it look like things are happening and that you’re dedicated to posting videos often.
  • Build video playlists that group related videos to keep viewers watching and engaging with your content.
  • Share links to your YouTube videos on social media. Visits from and engagement on social media is another ranking signal that proves relevance to search engines.


Here’s a handy checklist to ensure you’re checking all the optimization boxes when you upload a new video.