YouTube SEO: How to find the best traffic-generating keywords - Search Engine Land

YouTube SEO: How to find the best traffic-generating keywords - Search Engine Land

YouTube SEO: How to find the best traffic-generating keywords - Search Engine Land

Posted: 30 May 2017 12:00 AM PDT

Video marketing is becoming a digital marketing necessity. (It's not a "nice-to-have" marketing strategy anymore.) People love to watch videos, and videos can help you sell more products or services. In fact, a study done by Cisco last year predicted that by 2020, video will account for over 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic.

As video consumption increases, consequently so does video's influence on consumer purchases. According to recent research by Brightcove:

  • Almost half (46 percent) of viewers say they've actually made a purchase as a result of watching a branded video on social media, and a third (32 percent) say they've considered making a purchase as a result of watching a video.
  • 81 percent of consumers say they currently interact with brands on social media, and 43 percent say they've done so through watching branded social videos.
  • When asked for their favorite type of branded content on social networks, video was the most popular answer, with 31 percent of respondents listing it as their number one choice.

YouTube is the second most popular social media platform, based on market share. And you'll find that most YouTubers are die-hard YouTube viewers. They're constantly watching videos, searching for videos about everything from how to jimmy your locked door to how to create a Facebook ad — and everything in between.

How to optimize for YouTube's algorithm

YouTube is essentially a search engine for videos. Not surprisingly, it uses a sophisticated ranking algorithm to surface content to viewers.

If you want to gain a following and rank your videos higher in YouTube search, uploading fresh content is extremely important. Users love new videos! And that fresh, newly uploaded content (as well as the latest actions taken by the users) is taken into consideration by YouTube when ranking videos.

"Watch time" is a very important ranking factor as well. YouTube wants to surface videos that viewers will find enjoyable, so high user engagement is a great signal for the algorithm in identifying such videos.

In addition to user signals, YouTube also relies on input from the video owner to feed their algorithm. That means YouTube is counting on you to tell it what your video is about.

What you do to optimize your video in the first 48 to 72 hours is critical to the success of your video and how it ranks. If you get it right, your video could shoot to the top when people search for your video topic. Get it wrong, and you'll sink like a rock.

Metadata is important

According to YouTube, metadata includes information about a video such as the title, description, tags and annotations. Metadata can help your video stand out and get found by the algorithm, so content creators should make an effort to optimize metadata to maximize visibility.

Here are some tips for creating effective metadata that can help your videos get found.

Now, this first tip may sound counterintuitive, but you want to research what types of videos your competitors are doing before you create your video. That's right — the best time to optimize your video for SEO and get more views is before you even record it.

Once you have a feel for what your competitors are doing — the type of videos they're producing, how engaging they are, how many views they have, what metadata they're using and so on — it'll make it easier for you to create a video that "one-ups" them, both in terms of having better content and being better optimized for YouTube's algorithm.

After you've created your video, it's time to think about uploading and optimizing. Again, the best time to optimize your metadata is before you upload your video — have your keywords, tags, title, description and custom thumbnail ready to go before you press the upload button.

YouTube tags: Doing the keyword research

When doing keyword research on YouTube, you want to try to find keywords that will drive traffic to your video. The best place to look for keywords is on YouTube, but you should also use more traditional keyword research tools (like Google Search Console, SEMrush, SEOProfiler, Moz or others.)

YouTube allows you to include "tags" to help categorize your video by keyword, but it limits the number of tags you can include. You'll want to look for multiword tags (i.e., long-tail keywords) that specifically relate to your video's topic. You should also use single-word tags and broad-term tags that relate to your video's broader topic. (Note: Do not use trademarks or copyrighted material in your metadata unless you have explicit permission from the owner to use it.)

YouTube is effective at semantically understanding your tags. So here's an example of some tags for a video about "how to ask a boy out on a date":

Multiple-word tags

  • How to ask a boy out on a date
  • What to say when you ask a boy out on a date
  • How to ask a boy you like out on a date
  • Asking out a boy you like

Single-word tags:

  • How
  • What
  • Ask
  • Boy
  • You
  • Like
  • Date

Broad-term tags:

  • Dating
  • Dates
  • Flirting
  • Meet boys
  • Meeting boys
  • Talk to boys

One great way to get tag ideas is to look at the top-ranking YouTube videos that directly compete with your video. However, YouTube hides the video tags, which makes it more difficult to "spy" on your competitors and see their keyword/tag secret sauce.

Luckily, there are tools that allow you to get lots of insights into what your competitors are doing — including letting you see the tags competitors are using to get their videos to rank high.

Two of these video software tools are vidIQ and TubeBuddy. Both programs have a free version and several paid versions, depending on your company's needs. There are pros and cons to each — so if you can afford it, I'd recommend you use them both.

How YouTube tools like vidIQ and TubeBuddy can help you get more eyeballs

Both vidIQ and TubeBuddy give you information on competitors' YouTube videos. One of the cool things they show is the tags. So in our "how to ask a boy out" example, you can see the tags being used by the highest-ranking videos for your chosen search terms.

vidIQ results

With TubeBuddy, you can even zero in on the most used tags the channel used when setting up the SEO for their YouTube channel:

TubeBuddy Channel Tags

You can also find out a whole lot of other valuable information from these tools: the number of Facebook likes, their SEO score, how many words are in the description, average view time duration, number of views and so much more. You can consider these two handy tools to be your YouTube competitor spies!


TubeBuddy also has a Tag Explorer feature, which is almost like a traditional SEO keyword finder. Enter the keyword that you'd like to rank your video for, and you'll get some suggested keywords.


As part of the Tag Explorer, TubeBuddy includes a "Summary" section that shows the search volume, competition and the overall competitiveness of a keyword on a scale from 0 to 100 (where 100 is the easiest to rank for).


If you have a newer YouTube channel, you'll want to look for keywords that are easier to rank for. Already have a YouTube channel that's rockin' it? You can afford to try to get your video ranked for the more competitive keywords.

When planning your YouTube keywords strategy, you want to come up with 10 to 20 single keyword tags that you want to try to rank for. Remember, since YouTube limits the number of tags you can include, add your most important keyword phrases first and then use specific multi-word tags that are easier to rank for. If you have room, also include the single-word tags and broader-term tags.

You want to try to get as many views from as many different (relevant) search results as possible — which is an easier strategy than trying to rank #1 for a single keyword phrase.

By having a metadata strategy in place, you can increase the chances of your videos showing up in YouTube's search results. And since video marketing will continue to grow and grow, mastering YouTube's ranking algorithm starting today is a great way to kick your video marketing efforts into high gear.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Sherry Bonelli has 19 years of digital marketing experience. She specializes in SEO, Reputation Marketing, Social Media, Content Marketing, Retargeting and Display Advertising and other integrated digital marketing strategies that help make local and national businesses successful online. She LOVES combining digital strategies to get results! Sherry holds a Master of Internet Marketing and is a frequent speaker at industry events and webinars. She is also a contributing guest columnist on leading digital marketing websites. As a SCORE mentor for the SCORE East Central Iowa chapter, she enjoys volunteering her time to help small- to medium-sized business with their digital marketing strategies. Sherry is the owner of early bird digital marketing, a digital marketing agency that helps businesses get found on the Internet. She also serves as BrightLocal's local search evangelist.

A User's Guide to the YouTube Keyword Tool - WordStream

Posted: 30 Jun 2020 12:00 AM PDT

What is the YouTube Keyword Tool?

The YouTube keyword research tool, also known as the YouTube keyword suggestion tool, is a barebones tool used to generate and discover new keywords for YouTube videos. It looks like this:

YouTube Keyword Tool Search

How to Use the YouTube Keyword Tool

The YouTube keyword tool is pretty straightforward – simply choose your language and tailored countries, insert a keyword or phrase, and click "Get keyword ideas."

Some of those keyword suggestions (heck, maybe a lot of them) will make no sense whatsoever. But, buried in that strange, bizarre rubble of YouTube culture, you may find some gold nuggets than can really help you out when it comes to content strategy.

youtube keyword tool
youtube keyword tool 2014

While these keyword results aren't very long-tail in the literal since of having lots of words, they can certainly be considered long-tail in intent – deep, narrow intent. This means that most of these keywords aren't the big-bucks keyword phrases that everyone is searching for, but that's a good thing, as they will have considerably less competition.

You can imagine keyword strategy as something similar to buying tickets for raffle prizes. At a raffle, there are usually a few big prizes that everyone wants to win, and many tickets go into that raffle box as a result. If you put your tickets in the raffle box for the all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii, chances are your odds of winning won't be so good. However, if you instead disperse your tickets into less popular or exciting raffle prizes – a free haircut and blow-dry at Slinky Salon, a tea kettle from Teavana – you'll find that with less competition, your odds of winning go up dramatically.

YouTube Keyword Search Tool

Image by Alyson Hurt

Less competition means more opportunity, and somewhere around the intersection of the two is that area which is ripe for creating content. This is especially true when applied to video content, as video content has less competition AND is more likely to appear in search results. With that recipe, you've got a great shot at grabbing a top spot in the SERPs.

Data obtained from the YouTube Keyword Tool can be used to generate new content topics or brainstorm new keywords to add to existing content. Consider using the YouTube keyword tool to generate content ideas for:

  • Instructional "how to" videos
  • Promo videos aka explainer videos
  • In-depth tutorial blog posts
  • Supplemental pieces to compliment existing content

Video content is immensely valuable, and in 2014 you're likely to see the stock in video skyrocket.

How to Optimize Your Videos with YouTube Keywords

Once you've decided which keywords you want associated with your YouTube video content, you'll want to add your related keywords to the video:

  • Title: Integrate your top keywords into the title.
  • Description: The description field is another opportunity for discrete keyword insertion, along with a call to action. It's also smart to add a link to your website or other related content at the beginning and end of your description, giving viewers ample opportunity to visit your site or other content pieces you've created.
  • Tags: The tags section is where you can paste in your primary keywords and appropriate synonyms.
  • Captions and Subtitles: Uploading captions and subtitles lets you add crawlable SEO text to your YouTube videos.

For more information about crafting top-notch YouTube videos, check out our guide for creating and optimizing YouTube videos.

YouTube Keyword Tool: Not Enough Data & Other Issues

While the YouTube keyword tool can be handy for brainstorming new keyword ideas (albeit some are VERY far out), many have noted that the overwhelming majority of keywords generated by the tool show "not enough data" for the monthly search volume.  While some may be tempted to steer away from these keywords with low search volume, it is these keywords that have a ton of potential and opportunity as they will have less competition.

YouTube Keyword Tool Not Enough Data

You also may find that some of your keyword searches will return some very bizarre results – you certainly won't want to use every keyword suggestion offered. However, even the wackier keywords may help inspire some not-so-obvious keyword topics and angles that you didn't think of before.

Taking Full Advantage of the YouTube Keyword Tool Search

There are a few additional steps you can take to get even more out of the data that the YouTube Keyword Tool provides.

Julie Joyce of Search Engine Land suggests taking favorable words from the YouTube Keyword Tool and then inserting them with "exact match" into YouTube's search tool (and/or Google to be extra thorough).

youtube keyword research

The goal is to find a keyword query that generates:

  • Few results (which means low competition)
  • Videos with many views (the topic is popular and worth pursuing)
  • Old videos (if the video is over a year old, it's likely become outdated. Now is your chance to swoop in and do it better!)

If you like the looks of the keyword query, you might even consider creating additional content to supplement the video – perhaps a how-to blog post elaborating on what's discussed in the video with crisp photos, a buying guide, an infographic, etc.

Remember that the majority of users are not going to YouTube to purchase something – they are searching for information, help, and entertainment. Catering to these needs will help your video content succeed.

You can also use the YouTube keyword tool to optimize your existing YouTube videos – adding in high-traffic keywords that relate to your video can help give existing videos a search boost. Whether you're creating new content with a specific keyword in mind, or hoping to optimize existing content, the YouTube Keyword Tool can be a powerful aid when used correctly.


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