Largely based on Brian Dean’s First Page Videos: https://firstpagevideos.com/
YouTube wants to show their users the BEST video at any given moment similar to Google.
The difference between Google and YouTube is how they evaluate content. Instead of backlinks, YouTube measures how people interact with your video. Most of the work is about video engagement.
Most important ranking factors:
- Audience Retention: percentage of your video that people watch (people don’t watch 90% of a bad video).
- Total Watch Time (MOST IMPORTANT RANKING SIGNAL): total amount of time people have spent watching your video over its lifetime. It’s an even BETTER indicator of video quality than audience retention (it’s easier to get 70% audience retention on a 30 second video than a 30 minute one). YouTube will promote a longer video with the same retention rather than the shorter one because the more time someone spends on YouTube, the more advertising money they make. YouTube wants to keep people on their platform as long as possible.
- Engagement Signals: YouTube does NOT want people to passively watch videos, they want to have actively engaged audience. They measure how many people like, comment, subscribe, share, and add your video to a playlist.
- Keyword Optimization: to show your video to people, YouTube needs to understand what your video is about (title, description and tags).
Video Keyword Research
Find a Winning Topic
Keyword research process is one of the BIGGEST differences between YouTube SEO and Google SEO.
For Google it’s important to choose a keyword with as many searches with the least competition. YouTube does NOT work that way.
Video Topic Strategies:
- Use Proven Topics From Your Competitors’ Channels: even great videos fail when creators choose the wrong topic. Use competition’s most popular videos.
- Copy Topics From Competitors’ Blogs: their posts are written as text but the topic is a proven winner. Use Ahrefs or BuzzSumo to see which articles have the most shares.
- Copy Existing Topics From Your Blog: some of your blog posts perform much better than others – use those.
Create Your Video Keyword List
It’s almost impossible to get accurate YouTube search volume information using any Google keyword tool, even YouTube-focused tools don’t have accurate YouTube search volume data. YouTube search volume doesn’t really matter.
- Generate keyword ideas in VidIQ (keyword research tool designed for YouTube which is a lot better than using Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush). Boil your topics down to 1-3 word search terms.
Example: if your competitor’s video is “5 steps to massive biceps”, boil it down to “biceps” & “bigger biceps”.
Don’t worry about finding the perfect keyword. Search volume is not as important, competition and other metrics should be completely ignored.
- YouTube Suggest: same as Google, when YouTube suggests a term they’re telling you it’s popular and related to what you already typed in. Boil it down to maximum 3 words.
Example: If your competitor’s video title is: “The Ultimate Guide to Kettlebell Training”, search for “kettlebell” and “kettlebells”. Look at what YouTube suggests.
Use underscore before your keyword to see other keywords. Add them to your keyword list.
https://keywordtool.io/ YouTube section might speed this up.
- Find closely-related videos using Tubular Labs: https://tubularlabs.com/
This tool will help you find out which videos your users watch when they are NOT watching your videos. This tells you which topics you should cover next because your users are already watching them but not on your channel. See what keywords those videos use in their titles and descriptions because those keywords already have lots of demand on YouTube (otherwise they wouldn’t have so many views).
These videos & channels are generating views from YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.
- Look at tags that your competitors use. Tags are NOT a huge YouTube ranking factor but they do help. When you look at a video’s tags with VidIQ or Tube Buddy you are seeing the exact keywords that the video is optimized around.
- The Google Keyword Planner Hack: insert your competitor’s page as “Your landing page” to get keyword ideas. You can also insert blog posts, news articles, Wikipedia entries, PR for your keywords, and YouTube videos. Sort keywords by “Average monthly searches to find the most competitive and highly searched keywords.
- YT Cockpit tool
- YouTube search traffic source: check the keywords that you already rank for
- Google Suggest: search for 1-2 word keywords to see suggestions
- Google Trends: find hot and trendy keywords on YouTube (see related queries)
How To Pick The Best Keywords for SVO Suggested Video Optimization
You should NOT optimize your videos around low-competition keywords that are easy to rank for in YouTube search. Choose HIGHLY competitive keywords instead!
Competition Magnet Approach – when most people see a competitive keyword they choose a less competitive one. You need to be attracted by highly-competitive terms. In YouTube SEO keyword competition is a GOOD thing.
AT RMRS, YouTube Search only gives us 22% of all views! 78% of views doesn’t come from search, that’s why YouTube and Google SEO are VERY DIFFERENT! On Google, 100% of organic traffic comes from Google search.
Browse features represent 30% of our views (clicks from YouTube’s home page) and suggested videos (our video is suggested while a user is watching another video) represents 27%. That is MORE THAN 55%! YouTube’s homepage and suggested videos are HIGHLY personalized for every user and A LOT more important than “ranking” #1 for keywords.
This is mostly based on videos that our users have recently watched.
Choosing COMPETITIVE keywords help you get more views from “Suggested Videos” and homepage because your videos will show up alongside videos that people already watch.
When most people optimize their videos, they optimize them to rank in YouTube search – this is traditional “YouTube SEO”. But search only makes up around 20% of our views. This is why YouTube Suggested Video Optimization (SVO) is much more effective than SEO.
You need to use keywords that popular videos are optimized around. To figure out keywords’ competition, search for it on YouTube to see how many results it gets or use VidIQ competition score. Fewer videos optimized around that keyword (less competition) also means you will appear as a suggested video less often and for less videos.
You will get a lot more views with competitive topics even though you might not be anywhere near the top in search results.
Channel Branding & Positioning:
You don’t want to position your channel as a channel that covers every topic under the sun. FOCUS. Come up with ONE sentence that describes what your channel is about. Most channels don’t bother positioning themselves.
Make Effective Videos
An effective YouTube video generates a lot of views, subscribers and visitors to your website. The most important factor for generating views is that YouTube likes your video.
YouTube will like your video if it’s created with Audience Retention and Total Watch Time in mind. Video structure is 10X more important than how the video looks.
The Beginning – MOST IMPORTANT Part
You can have the best video in the world but if you mess up introduction, no one will watch it. People pay close attention to the first 15 seconds of the video – that’s when viewers are most likely to drop-off.
Two biggest introduction video mistakes:
- Covering Why “X” Is Important: most people already know that the topic they are watching is important, otherwise they wouldn’t watch it.
- Starting off with an animated logo: it’s like starting TV with a commercial, it makes NO sense. Use you animated logo AFTER introduction.
Three proven introductions:
- The Untapped Tip
- PPP Formula – Preview, Proof, Preview (information gaps are powerful similar to TV series ending on a cliff-hanger because viewers want to close the gap)
- The Mini Story
We’re compelled by stories.
The Middle – 80-90% of your video content
It’s where you provide the most value. It’s what gets people to like, comment, share, etc. It’s also what gets people to visit your site and buy from you.
How long should be your video? Between 7 and 17 minutes long. Shorter videos almost always perform WORSE than longer videos because #1 ranking factor is total watch time.
Longer videos naturally accumulate more watch time. They also turn more random viewers into email subscribers and customers because they spend more time with you while you give them more value in one video.
Just like a 400-word article probably won’t give you as much value as a 4.000 word article. 7 to 17 minutes is a sweet spot between “not long enough to provide value” and “too long.”
How you package & present your content is just as important than content itself.
Video Middle Templates:
- The Video List Post (BuzzSumo study found out lists often outperform every other content type, even “how to” guides). Just list a number of tips/strategies that help your viewers reach their goal. 7-9 tips work best (use your best ones).
Front load your lesser-known tips towards the beginning even ahead of your best tips because people want to hear something new. Even if your first tip is great they will often click away if they already know it.
Then outline what you’re going to say about each tip to cover it in detail without spending a ton of time on each one.
- The Step-By-Step Tutorial – come up with a clear GOAL you want your viewer to achieve after implementing your steps.
“This video will help you achieve X” – sell the benefit of watching. 5-8 steps work best as it’s not too short and not overwhelming.
- The Branded Technique – outline a technique that’s unique to YOU. They help establish you as an expert in your industry since you developed your own.
It also keeps viewers engaged. When people hear “Skyscraper Technique” they are curious to find out what that is. It opens up an information gap that makes them want to learn.
Think of a unique approach or twist on an existing approach that you’ve used. To make it easy to remember, make it 3-5 steps. Describe a technique in action (done by your client or friend). You don’t need awesome results. Moderate results work best because they are relatable.
“OK, well that’s it for this video. See you later.” – that’s not good enough!
The ending can be around 30 seconds and it’s SUPER important. Why? Because the right ending significantly boosts your video’s user engagement signals (likes, comments, subscribers, shares, adding video to a playlist, etc.) They’re a HUGE ranking factor.
Another big ranking factor is SESSION TIME – how long someone spends on YouTube after watching one of your videos. You have to persuade people into watching another one of your videos … and then ANOTHER one!
- The IF-THEN subscribe CTA – instead of telling people to subscribe, begin with IF. When you make an IF/THEN statement, it makes your viewer’s decision seem more like a choice. You’re not pushing them, you’re giving them a choice.
- Ask your viewer to visit your website – clearly state your website name and a brief pitch that describes why they should go there. Say your site name AND show your URL on-screen.
- Ask your viewers to leave a comment – instead of asking for a generic comment, give them something SPECIFIC to say. People LOVE opinions but they HATE thinking. Give them something to comment on.
“Which of the strategies are you going to use first – the CTR Magnet Method OR Power Words? Let me know but leaving a quick comment right now.” They don’t need to think a lot … you give them a specific question and two possible answers.
- End Screen – last 5-20 seconds of your video after your comment CTA. Add your footage and a few of your videos they can click next. Use YouTube’s end screen featured to add clickable elements to it.
Include a SUBSCRIBE button & link to one of your other related videos which will boost the views to that video and improve SESSION TIME!
Advanced Audience Retention Techniques
You won’t be using them in every video, just where they make sense.
- Open Loops – mention something that’s coming up LATER in your video. This opens up an information gap in the viewer’s mind. It pushes them to watch your video and find out because they’re curious and want to close the gap.
“In a minute I’ll reveal a strategy …”
- Pattern Interrupts – a technique to change a particular thought, behavior or situation. It surprises the viewer and resets their attention. This can be as simple as changing the shot of the camera or funny moments.
- On-Screen Graphics – it makes viewers pay extra close attention. They don’t need to be complicated.
- B-Rolls – shots of what you’re currently talking about. Reading the news can be boring which is why news anchors use b-rolls all the time. When they say the research has been made, they show a scientist in the lab … They’re easy to implement and make the video more interesting. Whenever you describe something specific, switch to the shot of that thing.
Advanced Video Optimization
Advanced Video Optimization Techniques
Re-optimizing old videos doesn’t work nearly as well as optimizing new videos from day one.
Video Title – include your target keyword in the beginning
Example with keyword “French verbs”
“How to conjugate the most challenging french verbs” will NOT perform as well as “French Verbs – How to Conjugate The Hard Ones”.
Video description – help YouTube understand what video is about by writing 200-300 word description. It should outline everything your video covers. Summarize your content.
Include your target keyword in the first sentence and 2-3 times in your description.
Video Tags – most people use too many tags! They’re designed to help YouTube understand the content in your video. Using too many tags just confuses YouTube.
What is this video about? Why include 2017, 2016, blog, software … Tags have to say “my video is about X, Y and Z.” When tags are clear, YouTube will show you as the suggested video more often.Just like with titles, your first tags are more important – use your target keyword as the FIRST tag. Then use 2-3 variations of the keyword. Lastly, include 1-3 general terms that describe the overall topic or industry.
Look at the tags that popular videos on your topic use (VidIQ is helpful). Use 1-2 of their tags on your video as you want to be their suggested video. Only use 5-10 tags per video.
An underrated YouTube strategy is SAYING your target keyword in your video. YouTube listens to your videos even without a transcript.
Create and upload a transcript as YouTube is not perfect with understanding what you said. You want to be certain that YouTube knows you said your targeted keywords.
CTR Optimize Your Videos
CTR is a key YouTube SEO and SVO ranking signal. If people are clicking on your videos more often, you will rank higher. If nobody clicks, you will lose your rankings and stop appearing as a suggested video.
Higher CTR will bring you more views. Don’t use misleading titles and thumbnails. You will get a lot of views short-term but if people don’t watch the majority of your video and click back, YouTube will quickly stop promoting you.
- CTR Optimize Your Title – include an odd number in your title (odd numbers get around 20% more CTR than even numbers).
- Use Brackets and Parentheses – HubSpot research found out it increases CTR by 38%. “How to Get Higher Google Rankings (In-Depth Tutorial)”
- Write an Eye-Catching Description – YouTube shows the first paragraph of your description. If you include your keyword there while writing something interesting, your CTR will increase.
Showing your website here is not an optimal option because it looks to salesy.
Instead of including a link, write a sentence or two that includes your keyword in a compelling way.
Sell your video with the first sentence of description & make sure you include your target keyword.
- Create a CTR-Optimized Thumbnail – 90% of the best-performing videos have custom thumbnails.
Include a small amount of BIG text (20-30 characters). The most common colors on YouTube are white, red, and black. Use colors that sharply contrast with those colors to stand out instead of blending in.
How to Optimize Your Channel
Playlists – groups of videos all tied around a single theme. They are VERY important because they can boost your video views and session time.
When viewers are on your playlist, all your videos get played automatically one after the other. Playlists can also rank in YouTube search. Create at least two playlists.
If you have more videos, create 6 playlists by grouping videos with similar topics. Write a playlist description that describes the videos you included.
The only playlist EVERY channel needs is a “NEW HERE” playlist. This is a highlight reel of your BEST videos. People that just found about you should have a list of videos just for them. It’s designed to convert random visitors into loyal channel subscribers.
- A “New Here” playlist at the top
- Recent uploads
- And then 2-3 other playlists on topics that you cover most
That way you make sure that people watch more than one of your videos.
About – it helps YouTube understand what your channel is about (similar to tags, description and video titles but it applies to the entire channel). A well optimized channel can also rank for keywords.
Fill your about section with around 100 words of descriptive, keyword-rich content. Highlight your channel’s branding and positioning (describe what makes you unique). Next talk about the topics that you cover most often (use the right keywords).
Also add 7-9 channel keywords – make your keywords terms that you want your videos to rank for.
Subscribers – have a great channel icon (logo or an image of you), YouTube channel art (banner) that describes what you’re about, and a channel trailer.
Channel trailer lets new visitors know what your channel is about and pushes them to subscribe. It can be just a 30 second video similar to a 300 word about us page.
- Introduce yourself to your target audience – at this point your viewer isn’t 100% sure that you channel is for them. Address your target audience directly, so they’ll know they’re in the right place.
- Your origin story – why did you decide to create the channel? Did you see people struggling with something and decided to help? Did you struggle, overcame the challenge and decided to share it with others in the same situation? Story is powerful. It helps viewers relate to you as a person.
- Your channel pitch – now that they know about you, they’re ready to hear more about specific information of your channel: topics you cover in your videos and what makes your videos unique (funny, actionable, based on your real-life experiments, etc.) Directly ask your viewer to subscribe to your channel. End screen should be 5-10 seconds long where you gave the viewer a chance to click subscribe.
- Include a subscribe link in the first sentence of your description.
- Include B-Roll Footage of Your Videos – just like a movie trailer, your video trailer should show clips of your other videos (without sound) while you discuss your channel.
Optimize Your Videos With YouTube Analytics
The Unicorn Technique – discover what already works with your videos you’ve already published, then incorporate those successful elements into future videos.
- Grab your unicorns
- Find peaks
- Double down on what works
Donkeys are videos that didn’t perform well, unicorns are videos that crushed it!
There is ALWAYS a reason why a video performed well.
Grab the videos with the highest audience retention.
Next – identify the peaks by viewing Relative Audience Retention which shows how your audience retention compares to videos with the same length.
Anywhere that your video is above average or high is a peak.
Incorporate what works into future videos!
The Branded Thumbnail – the eyes are drawn towards patterns. A lot of popular YouTube video channels use their branding in the thumbnails.
A branded pattern helps your videos stand out.
The branded stripe is easiest to do and doesn’t take up much room in the thumbnail.
The Branded icon – add a small logo that people start to remember. Make sure the location of the logo stays consistent (if you pick left bottom corner, keep it there for every video).
The third one is more subtle – just use the same exact layout.
How To Get More Comments & Engagement Signals
- As we covered earlier – ask them a specific question while giving them two possible answers, so they have an opinion without having to think too much. The more specific you get, the more comments you will get.
- Reply to comments that you get – preferably through the “comments” feature in the Community tab instead of trying to do it underneath the video because it’s a lot easier and you will make sure you answer every comment. It makes sense to reply especially to comments on new videos. When people see that you care when you read and reply to the comment, they become more loyal and watch more of your videos.
300 hours of videos are uploaded every 60 seconds on YouTube. You can’t just publish and pray. You have to strategically promote every video you publish.
Quality is 100 X more important than Quantity on YouTube as well as Google.
Most people just create their video, publish it and then share it on their social profiles.
Off-site and on-site campaign promotions will generate VIEW SPIKES which lead to fast sustainable growth.
With off-site campaigns you have an almost unlimited amount of people that you can funnel into your channel, then you can use on-site campaigns to squeeze the most value out of them.
When they work together they often generate a “view cycle” (cycle that gets you more total watch time which causes more YouTube exposure which again gets you more watch time).
4 Off-Site Methods To Generate Views:
- Guest Post Links – link to your YouTube videos within the body of your article. Focus on guest posting on high-quality sites in your industry. Write a high-quality post and include your video in a way it makes sense.
- The Facebook Preview (uploading your videos to Facebook is not recommended). With YouTube, a single video can bring you targeted traffic for years while with Facebook if you’re lucky it lasts for a few days.
Grab a snippet of your video and upload it to Facebook, create a Facebook post around the video with a few lines to sell it. “Full video link in the comments”.
- Video Embeds – share your video using an embed (not a link) and share it on your blog.
- Newsletter Blasts – share your new YouTube video with your email subscribers
On-site campaigns only work if you already have a source of views.
Without an on-site campaign you only get one chance to turn your viewer into a subscriber. Unless you give them something else to watch, they will probably leave.
With on-site campaign you get multiple chances to convert new viewers into bonus video views and channel subscribers.
- Featured ContentFeatured video should be one of the best videos on your channel, it should be optimized around a competitive keyword and have solid audience retention.
- Make your High-Priority video “Featured Content”
- Choose CUSTOM start time and set it at around 2 minutes and 30 seconds. If you display it too soon you will distract your viewer, too late and you will only target people that watch it until the very end.
Channel Page Feature – your channel page gets a lot of traffic. You can either make your high-priority video your channel trailer (seen by new people) OR make your high-priority video a “what to Watch Next” video (seen by people already familiar with your channel/subscribers).
“Next Video” Technique – make sure you always promote your high-priority video! If someone watches your videos until the end they are interested in your topic and like the content & style of that video. Make sure you include another video that they can click on your end-screen.