Many people create YouTube videos to succeed on YouTube, but very few create content to rank well on Google. Here are some of our tips for making great video content that can rank well in Google SERPs!
YouTube has evolved dramatically over the years. Where once it was a simple video hosting platform to share amusing videos, it has now evolved into the second largest search platform on the planet, even passing up Facebook in total search volume. Youtube is also one of the largest repositories of education and information in existence, providing resources for nearly any interest, topic, or discipline imaginable.
With the increasing interest in video content, Google has found an increasing number of ways to include video results in search engine result pages (SERP). Google’s general goal is to ensure that they are providing the best answer to any given query on the platform, and oftentimes the best answers come in video format. This article takes an introductory look at how you can use YouTube videos to show Google that your videos are the best solution to a question or problem and earn rank in SERPs.
YouTube a search engine, a social media platform, or something else altogether?
YouTube has been viewed primarily as a social media platform because of the way that people have uploaded and shared videos. The platform has many other elements that are common in social media platforms, such as share features, comment sections, and video feeds. The ability to interact with others is what ultimately defined YouTube as a social media platform initially.
YouTube’s integration with Google search is what has placed YouTube on the map as one of the most powerful and prevalent search engines on the internet. The YouTube search algorithm has become more robust with each iteration, often following in the footsteps of how Google builds its own search engine. Videos have the ability to rank for relevance, appear in featured positions, and change rank as time goes on. These reasons are why YouTube has evolved to be a unique platform, sharing many elements from both social media and search.
The beauty of YouTube is that you can create content that can perform well both on the search engine half and the social medial half of the platform. The most valuable videos are the ones that perform well on both halves at the same time!
How are YouTube and Google SEO related?
Modern YouTube is increasingly versatile, not only fulfilling the same social media conditions that it has in the past, but also providing SEO value when utilized with precision. Google can index video titles, descriptions, tags, comments, and even the spoken words within a video. Google uses this information to help determine if the video is an appropriate fit for a query, and ranks it in SERPS accordingly.
Videos most frequently show up in SERPs within the video carousel, but they can also appear as featured videos (or video snippets, as they’ve been called before) or even as in-line search results. Videos may not always show up for specific queries, but it is common for Google to identify video as one of the best ways to address a problem or question.
For example, if you search for something like “how season a cast iron skillet”, you’ll find both text and video results on the SERPs. With something as hands-on as seasoning cast iron, you’ll find that some people gravitate to videos instead of written instructions that you might find on a blog or webpage. Alternatively, asking a question like “how to refinance a home” is much less likely to generate a video result because of the technical verbal nature of the topic.
These different situations illustrate how Google can select when video is the most appropriate response to a search query. Consider how a searcher would learn about your service or product most effectively, and that may determine how effective YouTube can be for your business.
What makes a YouTube video rank on Google?
While many things about YouTube and its connection to SEO rankings are unknown, there are several key elements that are typically associated with strong ranking performance. A video is more likely to rank on Google when each of the following elements are optimized:
Video titles play into both the search and social side of YouTube, but the greatest value comes from optimizing for search ranking. Titles can be pretty lengthy on YouTube since YouTube itself won’t truncate a title in the search results while on the platform. To optimize a video for search, a video title should follow similar practices to optimizing a web page title: use the keywords you want to rank for naturally in the title and describe what the page is about.
The description portion of a video is where you can put the bulk of your written content. The most important messaging in the description should be included near the top since anything after the second or third line will land below the dropdown fold. This section is more for engagement and calls to action than specifically targeting keywords since the description may not be a major Google ranking factor. The description is, however, a strong ranking factor for the YouTube algorithm itself and is worth investing in for that reason.
Tags on YouTube videos function similarly to meta keywords from the medieval days of SEO. They indicate to Google what the video is about to supplement the information provided in the title and description. These are important because they can help your video rank better, especially if the video itself doesn’t contain as much spoken word for Google to index. The tags feature may influence YouTube rankings more than Google rankings, but there’s no reason not to fill out as many tags as possible.
A common “hack” to help your videos perform better is to include relevant keywords within the file names associated with the video. Google indexes the videos like any other page on the internet, so it will see the names of video and thumbnail files and index them accordingly. Including keywords within those titles further rounds out the keyword presence of a video.
Spoken Word & Captions
Voice recognition technology has been around for many years at this point, and Google’s voice recognition technology is highly refined. Videos that are uploaded to YouTube are crawled by Google and automatically assigned captions based on Google’s interpretation of what is said. These indexed words are factored into the keyword relevance of any given video. Ensuring that video captions are accurate is a great way to improve ranking potential.
What makes a video perform well on YouTube?
Creating a video with the intent to perform well on YouTube borrows some ideas and strategies from the social media world. A video is more likely to perform well on YouTube when the following elements are optimized:
Video thumbnails are the first, and often only impression you get to make with a potential viewer. An entire science exists behind the art of a perfect video thumbnail, but in summary thumbnails should be eye catching and show the viewer at a glance what the video is about. People will often make a decision to click based solely on the thumbnails they see regardless of what might be in the title, so putting up enticing thumbnails is essential.
One of the more social-esque ways that YouTube works is by making home and feed recommendations to viewers. For many channels, recommendations are their bread and butter for gaining repeat visitors. Categories help YouTube determine similarity between videos and refines the ability to recommend content to viewers. This can help attract new viewers as YouTube recommends your videos to people with similar topical interests. Tags function similarly, so ensure that your tags are in line with what other channels are using within your category or topic.
Comments & Engagement
Much like any other social media platform, YouTube values content that has high levels of engagement. Comments can show a high level of interest, as can likes and dislikes. YouTube counts the total amount of engagement involved on a video, which means that your personal responses to comments also count as additional comments. Engaging with your viewers can bolster overall video performance!
Cards & End screens
Much like how Google measures user metrics to determine search result relevance, YouTube uses indicators like views and time on page to gauge interest on a video. Cards are clickable overlays that can be placed anywhere within a video, and these can be used strategically to keep viewers on the video for longer. If average view time is only 2:30, consider adding a card at 2:15 that invites viewers to skip to another part of the video or to view another similar video on the same channel. It gives people an alternative to leaving the video altogether.
End screens are similar to cards because they are also clickable overlays, except end screens show at the end of a video. There are many different end screen customization options that can be tailored for any channel or video, so it’s a great place to put a small menu of options for viewers. Additional videos can be recommended, a website link can be included, and more. Giving people a place to go ensures that they stay looped in with the channel rather than exiting to another destination.
SERP Ranking – YouTube vs Written Content
The untapped power of YouTube comes when it is strategically created to rank on YouTube. The common practice in the digital marketing world has been to write blog posts and content clusters to try and grab SERP rank with quality content. Content will always be king, so written content will always have a prevalent place in ranking on Google. The advantage of using YouTube videos to snatch up video carousel real estate is that the barrier to entry is higher, so there is often less competition for many businesses and industries.
Whether or not YouTube content is the right choice for your business is a case by case situation. Reach out to the Avalaunch team to find out what strategic YouTube content can do for you and your SERP rankings!