YouTube SEO 201

I have had the opportunity to optimize videos for several F1000 brands on YouTube such as Volkswagen of AmericaRevlon and U by Kotex; among other brands. Optimizing a video for YouTube has three main benefits: a) you can rank a video within for high visibility and b) you can also rank the same video on for increased visibility and c) you can maximize your YouTube reach by ranking the landing page which holds your video on for a total of 3 potential listings.

To optimize a video on, there are 3 key metrics and these are on-page SEO, off-page SEO and video engagement. On-page SEO deals with controlled factors and off-page SEO deals with external factors out of our control while video engagement is a function of both controlled and external factors.

For on-page SEO on, the following items are crucial:

  1. Video Title
  2. Description
  3. Tags
  4. Transcript
  5. Link in Description
  6. Link in Annotation
  7. Playlist
  8. Category
  9. License
  10. Video Thumbnail Image

For on-page SEO on the landing page where you embed your video, the following factors are important:

  1. Page Title
  2. Meta-Description Tag
  3. Video Markup
  4. Image ALT Attribute
  5. Image File Name
  6. Internal Website Links
  7. YouTube Video Embed (not YouTube API or YouTube Player)
  8. Video Thumbnail Image
  9. Landing Page URL

For off-page SEO factors; video distribution velocity and video awareness are key. For example, when you follow the above mentioned steps and incorporate your target keyphrases in the right places.

Then, the next step is to open your video distribution channels as wide as possible so you scale your inbound traffic, you can do this by following these steps:

  1.  Post video on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc., make sure you implement their semantic markup like Twitter Cards and Facebook Open Graph Protocol
  2. Upload the video to popular social sites like Digg, Reddit, BuzzFeed and other sites where users can upvote the content and get your friends to vote it up
  3. If you have an informational video or an invested branded video then reach out to journalists in the space and alert them to it – a simple tweet usually suffices or you can use their email address (don’t pitch or sell – just share)

Now video engagement is a bit tricky. It’s tricky because you have invest some cash in creating a solid video without a sales pitch because those videos fail dismally (and I don’t care how great your product is). Aim for a video which makes people laugh or fascinates them and creates a WTF moment. Make it short, like under 2 minutes so you rack up your views faster. At the end of the video, ask them the audience to leave a comment on YouTube (and when they do, make sure you don’t use a canned response because that’s the quickest way to kill your audience).

Pro Tip #1: In the last 15 seconds of your video, make sure you have two different annotations – take your logo and turn it into a subscription annotation so people can click on it and subscribe to your channel. Nike is a great example (shown below) – look for the subscription annotation in the upper right corner of the video.

Pro Tip #2: For the second annotation, make sure that you incorporate a link to the next YouTube video in that series – not the same topic but rather the next step in the customer journey. U by Kotex is another great example, pause the video at the 58 second mark and you’ll see five annotations that blend seamlessly with the YouTube advertisement.

This technique helps transition more people from one video to the next video so they convert with greater ease.

In the comments, please share your good and bad experiences with video SEO. What do you hate about it and what do you love about it?