I’ve been in SEO for over eleven years now, and while I’ve helped hundreds of websites overcome technical and usability hurdles in order to make their sites more user and search engine friendly, I’ve never been the best at promoting and optimizing myself. See, I have this very niche, very focused gaming blog that has brought me countless hours of joy. While it began as a mostly textual endeavor, it’s evolved into a primarily video-based enterprise, with the blog and its accompanying YouTube channel taking up the bulk of my creative efforts. As a result, I optimized my YouTube channel as I did most other sites, which seemed logical, but after a year or two I learned doing that was a big, big mistake.
So you see, YouTube has its own type of SEO, and while much of it is rooted in typical organic SEO (titles and textual descriptions are insanely important), there are a couple of areas I completely mismanaged until I learned better. Because of this experience, I want to share what I’ve learned with you fine people, in the hopes that you will also find success with your video endeavors. The first area of importance that really blew my mind was one so simple, so transparent I can’t believe I missed it: tags.
Tag, You’re Doing It Wrong
For years, we used the meta keyword tag to tell search engines which keywords we hoped a site would rank for. While tagging YouTube videos is similar, it also is very different. For example, if you have a site that sells widgets in various colors, you would have a meta keyword tag that included, “blue widgets, red widgets, purple widgets, widget sale” and so on, which is fairly simple and straightforward. Tagging YouTube videos follows that same mantra: it works in a similar way, but yet not similar at all. While the classic meta descriptions are meant to include basic phrases, YouTube tags actually need to include not only these, but also full search phrases. So, in keeping with that site above that sells widgets, if they made a video on how to build widgets, their YouTube keywords for that video could also include, “how to build widgets, building widgets, how to build a widget, let’s build a widget, build a widget episode one,” and so on. Here’s an example of some keywords I came up with for a recent Let’s Play video of mine:
As you can see, there are not only the more generic phrases you would see in a meta keyword tag, but also more specific phrases that people should actually be searching for as well.
It’s All About Proper Tag Research
How does one come up with these keywords? There are a few methods, the simplest being to do a search in YouTube and see what the search bar automatically fills in. For example, Minecraft is an insanely popular video game that garners a wide variety of Let’s Play videos, so if you wanted to see what people were searching for when they want to watch people play Minecraft, you could do something like this:
Those numbers are episode numbers (Minecraft games can go on forever), but you can also see people are looking for videos of the game with particular mods, or for videos in a new series. There’s also a tool I use to get keyword ideas called TubeBuddy, which is a browser extension and is actually pretty dang awesome. This tool allows you to see what other tags people are using, such as this Minecraft video that focuses on dinosaurs, or one of the keywords above shows is rather popular:
You can also click one of those keywords to get a breakdown of the usability and popularity of the keyword using various data sources such as YouTube and Google Trends:
It’ll also show you where your own channel shows up for this particular keyword (as you can see, my channel doesn’t show up at all because I don’t cover this game). 😉
The Results Of Proper YouTube Video Tagging
I began adding more varied and targeted tags to my own channel back in early May, and as you can see from this analytics chart, daily views definitely began to show some serious fluctuations, as well as an overall rise in traffic on a daily basis:
I was averaging less than 1,000 views a day: I am currently around 1,500 to 2,000 views a day on average. Refocusing my tags has also led to an increase in my subscription rate, as you can see here:
My daily subscriber averages have increased to the point where I’m within spitting distance of 3,000 subscribers on my channel as I write this. That might not sound like a lot, but for a very niche one-man operation like mine, if feels like a lot. This clearly shows that proper tagging — not just with generic terms but with full search phrases that people actually use — goes a long way toward making your videos, and your channel, more visible in the long run.
Proper tagging of YouTube videos is incredibly important in increasing their visibility, to the point where you’ll get not only more views on your videos and your channel, but more subscribers as well. The more subscribers you get, the better engagement your channel will see in terms of comments and shares, all of which go toward making your channel more visible and more valuable. I never would have known this unless a friend of mine drilled it into my head, and now, after several months of implementing these tagging changes, I’m seeing the results.
I plan to share this information I’m learning with you about YouTube SEO — which is SEO within SEO really — as I learn them myself. While tagging was the first big step I learned toward making a more visible channel, the next step (thumbnails) was a bit more complicated, especially for someone with zero artistic ability such as myself. In my next installment I plan to go into detail about making clear, usable thumbnails for your videos, and how they can also increase visibility and value for your individual videos and your channel as a whole.
Thank you for taking the time to read this first installment of my series on properly optimizing YouTube channels and videos for search friendliness and maximum usability. I hope you found it useful, and I welcome any critiques or questions you might have in the comments below. See you next time!