You may have noticed a massive change in the SERPs over the last few years (and no, I'm not talking about Pandas and Penguins).

This is what I'm talking about:

 YouTube SERPs

YouTube is taking over Google!

Because of YouTube's incredible authority (and the fact that it's a Google-owned property), almost every keyword seems to have at least one video on the first page.

And sometimes -- as in the example above -- over half of the SERPs are littered with videos.

Today I'm going to show you how you can get more traffic to your site by ranking videos in Google (and within YouTube's internal search engine).

How YouTube Search Works

As with Google's numerous ranking signals, no one really knows the ins-and-outs of the YouTube algo.

 From experimentation and reverse engineering, the SEO community has figured out that these are the most important signals:

  • Title tag contains the keyword
  • Video length (longer is generally better)
  • User engagement (likes vs. dislikes, amount of the video that users watch etc.)
  • Keywords appearing in the description
  • Total number of views
  • "ChannelRank": the number of people following the video's channel
If you want to learn more about YouTube SEO I recommend checking out this infographic via

YouTube SEO Video
You don't need to go nuts and try to optimize for every single YouTube ranking signals. Like with "regular" SEO, creating awesome content is half of the game.

Keyword Research

You already know that keyword research is incredibly important for "regular" SEO success.

And YouTube SEO is no different. In fact, keyword research may even be MORE important for videos.

Why? Because Google doesn't show video results for certain keywords. Somehow they deem certain keywords fit for video results, such as movie clips, tutorials, and highly visual subjects.

You can always optimize a keyword around your video and hope that Google will show it: but I've had more success targeting keywords that Google already shows videos in the SERPs.

I recommend using the Google Keyword Tool to find keywords in your niche...and searching them in Google.

If you see a long list of video results, you may want to create a video around that keyword.

How to Use a Chainsaw

And if you really want to rank within YouTube you can use their Keyword Suggestion Tool.

Creating Your Video

There's no secret to making great videos: the content needs to be excellent. If not, you're not going to do well with the user-experience metrics that YouTube uses to rank videos.

In general, here are some tips for making your video compelling and watchable:
  • If you're doing a screencast video, make sure that you use zooms, pans and highlights to make the content more interesting and easy to follow.
  • Make sure your audio quality is top-notch. Believe it or not, people will judge your video primarily on audio quality. It makes sense to invest in a quality microphone if you're serious about video production.
  • If you're recording with a camera, make sure your lighting is behind you, not in front.
Here are some great resources on how to create awesome videos for the web:
50 YouTube (and Online Video) Tips and Tricks
Tips for Producing More Effective YouTube Videos

Optimizing for Search

Here's where the "SEO" in YouTube SEO comes into play.

Fortunately, the same on-page SEO fundamentals that you already use for pages and blog posts apply to YouTube as well, such as:
  • Including your target keyword in the beginning of your video title
  • Sprinkling (not stuffing) your keyword in the video description
  • Adding LSI keywords in the video description
  • Posting engaging content that keeps people hooked
The only on-page SEO wrinkle in YouTube is that you want to include your keyword in the video filename.

For example, let's say that you were going to make a video about how to tie a shoe. When you're done filming the video you'd want to name the video something like: how-to-tie-a-shoe-video.mp4.

Here are some other resources about increasing your video's visibility within YouTube:
11 YouTube Tips From YouTube Experts
YouTube SEO: How to Rank Videos


Once you have an SEO-optimized video uploaded, it's time to promote it! Remember that views, likes etc. play a role in both YouTube and Google ranking: so don't be shy about getting the word out.

Here are a few things you can do to get eyeballs on your new video:
  • Send out an email broadcast to your list announcing your new video (be sure to ask them to like and share your video)
  • Promote your video on social networks, like Linkedin, Google+ and Facebook
  • Link to your video from authoritative pages on your site (and other sites that you contribute to on a regular basis)
  • Consider your video another page on your site, and build links to it accordingly. For example, if you were going to do some broken link building, consider asking the site owner to link to your video).
Here are some great resources to help you get more eyeballs, links, and social shares to your video: Promote Your Video
14 Ways to Promote Your Latest YouTube Video

Final Thoughts

If you're having trouble ranking for competitive keyword, you may want to try ranking videos instead.

They're generally easy to produce at scale and easy to promote. And unlike a new blog post -- which can take months to rank -- YouTube videos often hit the first page within a few weeks.
July 23, 2013

Brian Dean is the link building expert behind Backlinko, a growing hub for link builders and SEO pros. There he posts expert insights, powerful link building strategies, and exclusive case studies to help business owners and SEOs get more search engine traffic. He's been knee deep in SEO since 2008. Since then he's launched a number of profitable authority sites and consulted for businesses of all shapes and sizes. When he's not link building for his sites or for his clients he's usually backbacking through Asia or Europe. If you want to read cutting edge SEO content you should follow him on Twitter.


Thank you for this great breakdown of video ranking! Optimizing for YouTube as well as Google can be very beneficial for growing a business. This is helpful for users as well to find the most useful and relevant videos.

That infographic is great. Thanks for sharing it. And I didn't realize YouTube had their own keyword tool. I guess I've never looked into it before. That will be very helpful in the future. Thanks!

Glad you liked the post, Solomon!

I love ranking Youtube videos and yes it does depend on the keyword if you can get a video to rank or not. In regard to keyword research don't forget Youtube has it's own keyword tool so maybe using that to target your auidence may give you different (and hopefully easier) results.

It is an interesting and informative article to read here. I really liked reading your post here.
Specially the facts shared for the keyword research and its importance in SEO success.
Thanks for sharing such a great article!

I enjoyed reading this article. Who knew there was a whole other SEO process for YouTube! I'm glad the process is similar. That sure helps make it easier!

Glad you enjoyed it Kendall. That's 100% right: the process is pretty much the same with a few wrinkles :D

Thanks for the great article! I've been using YouTube as part of my SERP ranking for quite sometime. (Although I need to do better) Your post emphasizes things I need to focus on. I appreciate it.

Nice info graph...
Your right on certain keywords for video that already has videos showing . I have found this out as I have several #1-3 in Youtube but much lower in Google results.

@Thad: Glad you liked it! It's definitely a great untapped traffic strategy.

@Chris: Thanks! I'm sure if those videos were targeting Video Keywords they'd show up much higher. That's what I recommend checking out next time you post some videos to YouTube.

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Search Engine Guide > Brian Dean > YouTube SEO 101: How to Get More Search Engine Traffic From Videos