Did you know that the second most trafficked search engine on the internet (behind Google) is actually YouTube? On top of that, it’s also the second most trafficked social platform (behind Facebook). That’s right – so ‘too bad’ Twitter, ‘I don’t think so’ Instagram, and ‘take that Tik Tok’! (Okay sorry…I’m done.)

While many marketers consider YouTube to be just another social media platform, it has one defining feature: search.

Not only is YouTube owned (and promoted) by Google; it is also its own micro-search ecosystem. Unlike Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, YouTube’s search function goes beyond simply searching by user, account, or hashtag. 

YouTube users can search by a query. This means that they go to the platform with an ‘intent’, such as often having a question in mind. In this way, YouTube has much more in common with the Search Results Page of Google than it does with an Instagram feed. 

While there are websites, research teams and *ahmen* agencies that are dedicated to succeeding on Google Search, YouTube optimization can sometimes feel like an afterthought. 

In a time when ‘‘purpose-driven’ brands are thriving, YouTube presents a unique opportunity. Instead of traditional blogs, businesses can create engaging video content to present their story, engage their audience, and build their business. Not only will YouTube success gain you a strong audience retention strategy, it can also help you in Google Video Results. Here are some simple steps to get started and get your videos ranked. 

1. The Basics: Optimize Your Channel

Just as your website represents your business, your YouTube Channel is an extension of that brand. Ensure that your channel communicates your brand and engages your potential customers (and hopefully convinces them to Subscribe!). 

The YouTube Studio has a lot of features to help you customize the look and feel of your channel, but you can start here:

a.) Start by adding Channel Art and a Channel Icon that are consistent with your brand guidelines. Have fun with your channel art: you can customize the message for YouTube ‘new videos every month’, or add creative from your latest promotion.  

b.) Next go to the About Section, the area of your channel that holds your businesses important information. First, focus on your business description. Just as you optimize the text on your website’s homepage, ensure that you are using your company’s focus keywords in your description. If you haven’t gotten that far in your SEO Journey, then start with the best words you would use to describe your business. 

c.) Now, move onto the easier part of the About Section: add your company email, website URL and social profiles. Easy peasy. 

d.) Finally, the trickiest part of our channel setup: the Channel Trailer. This is the first impression of your channel ie: the video version of your company description. If your company has the rights to any promotional videos, then this is the logical place for that video to live. 

Otherwise: keep it simple. Tell the people who you are, what you do, and how they’ll benefit from subscribing to your channel. Keep your video short and sweet, reasonably high quality (don’t use your iPhone 5 please!) and finish with a strong Call to Action. Then, once you’re able to build your video inventory, keep your featured content fresh by featuring your most popular or your high subscriber conversion videos. 

2. Do Your Research

Some things never change: while YouTube can feel like a different land by comparison to Google, content is still king. This means that the best videos answer an ‘intent’, usually a question. So when it comes to planning your video editorial calendar and creating content, you need to do your research. 

There are a few tools you can use to do your research. Firstly, refer to your Google Ad/SEO/Website Keyword Research. Yes, I know, YouTube is not Google but it’s safe to assume that users would be asking similar questions on both platforms. 

To see if you’re on the right track, you can check your query with the YouTube auto-suggest function. Simply head to YouTube and start typing in the query: YouTube will pop-up with suggestions and related queries. 

Finally, head to Google Trends. While SEO’s use this tool to anticipate upcoming search trends, we often miss the YouTube filter on the charts. While this isn’t exact numbers, it does give you an idea of the potential monthly searches and related phrases for a query.

3. Add Calls To Action

Channel Wide CTAs

The easiest way to implement a Channel Wide CTA is to add an automatic watermark to your videos. When users hover over this watermark, it will link to the Subscribe button. 

Add Subscribe button to video: 

  1. First go to Creator Studio
  2. Go To Settings
  3. Channel 
  4. Branding
  5. Add A Watermark  

Video Topic Relevant CTAs

While adding a subscriber to your channel can be as important as gaining an email subscriber your business may have some other goals. These could be asking viewers to visit the website, book a call, or make a purchase. 

You can do this by adding CTAs and the end of your video with links to your relevant products or services. 

4.  Use Youtube Analytics. 

While not as robust as Google Analytics, YouTube is still a great tool to get more info about your videos. You can still find useful metrics like how many people watch your video, traffic sources, demographics, watches vs subscribers, or average watch time.  

Go a step further: add your Google Analytics code to your channel page by adding your Google Analytics embed code. 

1. Go to https://studio.youtube.com/

2.  Settings >

3. Channel >

4. Advanced Settings > 

5. Other Channel Settings: Advanced channel settings >

6.  Google Analytics property tracking ID

Or, check out my video walkthrough here 

5. Optimize Your Video From Day 1

Unlike Google, YouTube is not into giving second chances. When uploading a video, you need to start off strong: this means publishing your video only after you have fully optimized it. 

While it is possible to go back and fix poorly optimized videos, YouTube is much less forgiving than Google. It’s best to publish with all of your optimizations in place. 

How to Optimize a Video

  1. Title

Your video title should feature your targeted keywords, not be too wordy but not too short (at least 5 words), and be engaging. 

  1. Thumbnail

While YouTube videos have descriptions, it is the thumbnail that makes the bigger impact when it comes to Click Through Rates. In fact, a lot of research says that the thumbnail is more impactful than the title in terms of CTR. 

Custom Thumbnail is the way to go with:

  • Titles/fun graphics. 
  • Have professional shots taken with the thumbnail in mind (ie, you don’t always have to use a frame of the video). 

Note: the recommended thumbnail size in 2020 is 1280 x 720px in image formats such as JPG, GIF, or PNG. 


  • Have an intrusive logo
  • Clashing colors
  • Random image still
  • Make it all text. 
  1. Description

The most important factor is formatting your description text for both ‘above the fold’ and ‘below’ meaning, ‘before the Show Home prompt’ and after.

Don’t just add a few sentences,  include a lot of information. Include relevant keywords and linking. 

  1. Adding the Transcript

The content of your video transcript is considered a ranking factor. But you can’t rely on automated YouTube transcripts. Instead, proofread and edit that automated transcript. 

  1. Tags

While the topic of tags is up for debate for Website SEO, tagging is still considered important on YouTube. No tricks: just tag your video with relevant tags. What’s more: you can also review your competitors tags using the https://vidiq.com/ extension. 

Unlike Google, YouTube is not into giving second chances. This means: only publish your video after you have fully optimized it.

While video creation might be intimidating for businesses, think about it this way: 10 years ago, businesses felt the same way about blog posts. Creating great videos for both your website and your YouTube channel allows your business to introduce yourself to an entirely new and engaged audience. 

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