YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

The mainstream marketing world is finally catching on to the fact that YouTube is no longer just for watching Gangnam Style and learning to tie a necktie. Nowadays YouTube is an integral part of many companies marketing mix. For those businesses interested in or already involved in Video Content marketing, take a bow, you already understand the game changing influence this new media is having on the future of marketing. So whether you are a newbie trying to get your head around video optimisation or a seasoned expert just wanting to clarify your existing knowledge, we have put together our exhaustive and comprehensive list of Video SEO factors that have worked for us as an independent video production agency.

Optimization Starts Before Video Production!

I’m going to use the example of a client of ours, Hatch Financial, a home mortgage broker in Melbourne, Australia for the purpose of explaining things throughout this guide. If you are producing videos specifically for the purpose of ranking them on YouTube then start thinking about optimisation from the get go. Talk with key stakeholders to research topics for the video. We are an agency so of course, we talk to our clients, whether they be marketing managers, product managers or business owners. You may also talk to these people within your own corporation or perhaps may even interview yourself.

What Are The Right Questions To Ask?

  • What are your FAQs? (These will help establish what prospects want to know before they purchase)
  • What are your SAQs (Questions your prospects should ask but may not)?
  • What are the buying triggers? (What prompts your prospects to take the plunge?)
  • Names of people in the video or that will be in the video (staff, director etc)
  • Names of places (Melbourne, Australia)
  • What are the names of some competitors brand/products

YouTube Optimization: Keyword Research

Spend a few minutes doing research on the company's website. Learn about the products, what they do, where they do it, how they do it and for whom do they do it. By now you are starting to get a pretty good idea of what the content of the video should be and what questions need to be answered. Start jotting potential keyphrases, keywords and tags down. For Hatch Financial the list looked something like this:

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

Keyword Research Tools

The next step is to brainstorm as many keywords and keyphrases as possible around your research and validate it through a keyword research tool. There is a keyword research tool for YouTube but we don’t recommend it. As far as tools go we still believe the best is the Google Keyword Planner in Adwords for finding search volume and keyword suggestions.

For more keyphrase research, try Google’s Related Search. Type in a relevant keyphrase in to Google and scroll down the very bottom of the page to see similar searches people have been typing in, you may find some real gems!

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

You need a combination of both phrases, such as enquiry based questions as well as keywords. You can then filter out the ones to keep vs the ones to scratch.

The best keyphrases are;

  • Relevant: To the product or service we have decided to target
  • Low in competition: Are there tons of videos already targeting this phrase in YouTube with thousands of views? Are you likely to be able to beat them? Perhaps try another phrase if this is the case
  • Decent search volume: Don’t obsess over this factor. A phrase with lower search volume but higher relevancy and less competition may be better than a phrase with higher search volume. Also, only look at international search volume if it’s relevant to your service area
  • Appear in universal search: When you type this phrase in Google, do videos appear? If yes you may well be able to leverage Google’s traffic as well as YouTube for this phrase.
  • Relevant to the purchase cycle: Remember, you are targeting prospects. A phrase such as ‘tips to pay off home loan sooner’ is relative to people who have a home loan already and are not necessarily looking to refinance. This probably isn’t the audience you want to target so phrases like this can be removed.

The best keywords are;

  • Relevant to the business, the product/service, location, industry.
    They won’t always have search volume yet. Tim Gasper from Hatch Financial for instance is not a household name and wont have much search volume, but adding his name in the keywords works well for reputation management and helps boost his online profile.
  • Also localizing the keyword by adding the city, state or country can help to reduce irrelevant competition and focus on the viewers that are most likely to become customers.

Once you have completed filtering out the keywords and phrases you don’t want to target you should be left with a tight shortlist. From this you need to establish your primary and secondary keyphrases and keywords. You can only have one primary keyphrase but may have up to 3 primary keywords. Your primary keyphrase will consist of at least one of your primary keywords

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]TRICK: Traffic Piggybacking
Are there any really big videos on YouTube relevant to the one you are producing? If so, this video probably has it’s own search traffic, people who are actively looking for the video. If you include variations of the name of the video in your keywords & phrases it may very well rank underneath the original video giving you awesome bonus exposure!

Optimising The Video For YouTube

There are multiple factors the YouTube algorithms uses to rank videos. We will take you through
them one by one:

Filename:

Yes, even small things like the filename of the video you upload need to be optimised. We recommend using the primary keyphrase as the filename of the video.

Title:

There are various ways to structure your title, these are some important factors to consider;

  • Include only the most important information
  • Order it so the most important information is at the front and least important at the back
  • Put the primary keyphrase at the front
  • Include the business name & location (if relevant)
  • Include a reputation management keyword

Here is an example of how we have displayed the title for a Hatch Financial video.

How to choose the right home loan | Tim Gaspar Hatch Financial Services, Melbourne

Description:

As this is the meta description, it is what will describe the video in both YouTube and Google search results this isn’t at all about keyword stuffing.

A good description must follow these rules;

  • The first 2 lines have to be powerful! Describe what the video is about being careful to include keywords & phrases and include an irresistible call to action
  • Include a link to a relevant landing page on the website where they can find more information or make an enquiry
  • Beyond the second line include things like brand names and other secondary keywords and keyphrases, always making sure that it remains easily readable

Tags:

The tags area gives you about 500 characters to add keywords relevant to your video. They are used to categorize your video and can help it appear in the suggested videos section. Create tags out of all your shortlisted keywords as well as more general tags relevant to the business, products, location, competitors. The more general ones can be used on all your videos where as the others will specifically be relevant to this video.

Thumbnail Images:

In most cases, YouTube will give you the choice of 3 thumbnails taken from the video for you to choose one. Choose one that visually represents your video while showing the presenter (without an awkward face) and another element such as a text overlay. Below are some examples from Hatch Financial.

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

Customizable thumbnails:

In some cases your YouTube account may allow you to upload custom thumbnails. This is an awesome feature but you have to earn it. It allows you to create customised, graphical thumbnails and upload them instead of using clips from the video.

Annotations:

A great way to increase the average views of a single visitor to your channel. Annotations can be used as an overlay to your video with a call to action to watch another video. Best used at the end of a video, they appear like the image below and can link to another video within your channel.

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

Location:

If the business is targeting a local area, ensure you also add the location of the video under advanced settings.

Other Video Tips We Have Found Helpful

  • Set the comments to ‘approval only’: This allows you to control what people are writing about your video in the comments and prevent harmful remarks
  • Upload subtitles: If the subtitle files are available, you can add these to the video. YouTube will read the files so ensure you only do it if you have good keyword text within them

Creating playlists

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]TRICK: Create playlists A lot of people dont know that YouTube doesn’t just rank videos, it also ranks playlists and channels. This means you get three chances to rank your video in the search results. It’s like the bonus rounds! And it’s especially helpful for targeting those more competitive terms.

Creating playlists is very similar to optimising your videos. Once you have multiple videos in your channel you can create playlists, or, you can even create a playlists of a single video. Categorize your videos into various playlists. For Hatch Financial we may start with two playlists, types of loans and general info for home buyers. Once again we need to optimise these based on the existing video keyphrases and the more broad topic of the playlist. This will require some further research. I found the phrase ‘types of home loans’ the one most suitable for this first playlist.

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

At the time of writing you will find playlists under the your Video Manager. In here you can add videos, set your title, description and tags similarly to individual videos.

Optimising Your YouTube Channel

Although your channel is already setup, you may want to run through this checklist to ensure that it is optimised to the max. Most of these settings you will find in the Channel Settings area.

  • Meta data: Once again, you need to set your title, description, tags and also a category from the drop down box. Be even more broad this time than in the playlists, your keywords and phrases have to be relevant across the whole channel.
  • Many of the items set in your Channel Settings such as location and comments to ‘Approval Only’ are global and will change the default for future videos you upload
  • Watermark: You may decide you would like to add a small watermark avatar to all the videos in your channel by default, it makes you look more professional and is good for branding.
  • Advertisements: Of course YouTube would love everyone to enable advertising on their channels but for most brands this should be disabled as not only is it distracting but the ads that appear may very well be for your competitors

Optimizing Your YouTube Channel Homepage

There are a few things that need to be set here for visitors directly visiting your channel homepage. You want your channel homepage to present a clear image of your business. It needs to look professional displaying your feature video prominently and your video playlists in order of importance below.

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

Channel Art

This is the header banner you see above. You need to design it to fit a standard computer screen, mobile devices and tablets as well as TV screens. Use the below template as a guide to ensure your channel art looks good on all devices.

YouTube Optimization: Myths Busted, Secrets Revealed! [Case Study]

Channel Icon

Your channel icon is now taken directly from your Google+ account so if you need to change it, this is where to go.

Website & Social Media Icons

You can add your website and social media profiles as icons that sit above your channel art. We recommend doing this. It is accessible through the same area as where you edit your channel art and is called ‘Edit Links’.

Channel Navigation

Under the right corner of your channel art you can set your channel navigation. You need to ensure the ‘browse’ feature is enabled here.

Unsubscribed & Subscribed Trailer

This is the feature video that will be displayed and that will automatically start playing when someone visits your YouTube channel. It can be set in the top right hand corner of the next section down from the channel navigation. It should be set differently for those who are and are not subscribed to your channel. For those unsubscribed you should set it to your best introductory video or business showcase video. For those already subscribed you don’t want to show them the same video again and again when they return to your channel so instead set it to show ‘Recent Activity’.

Add Sections

The section below your trailer is customisable depending on what you wish to display here and you can add as many customised sections as you wish.

We prefer to showcase the different playlists in order of popularity and relevance. We do this by adding a section for each playlist which looks like the below when complete.

add a section

For now, this is our definitive YouTube optimisation guide. The only thing we can say for certain is that YouTube optimisation will continue to evolve quickly and this guide will need to be updated before too long. Until this time we hope these tips and tricks bring you high rankings and many, many views. Happy optimising!

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Posted in Video SEO
About Our Contributing Author - Damian Blumenkranc
Damian is Co-Director at Creativa Web Videos, a market leader for Web Video Production and Web Video Marketing in Australia. Damian has produced over 2,000 web videos for businesses large and small.

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What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.JoshRimer.com/ Josh Rimer

    Great article and thank you for acknowledging that you should use the primary keyphrase as the filename of the video! Mark (the main ReelSEO guy) claimed that had no validity, but never provided any evidence of that despite the rest of us believing it does help.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Hey Josh. Well, all I can say is that YouTube themselves made it very clear in our certification training that they were tired of people promoting that tip and stated themselves that they do not look at the filename whatsoever (whether that's true or not may be a different story). I think that the reason it seems to help, is that it's often what becomes the default title if that isn't changed in time – and titles are very important. I think I mentioned that I still think it's a best practice for archival purposes and in general – I just do not want to promote it as a valid SEO tip when I've never seen any evidence that it is in fact helpful for SEO – especially when YouTube themselves has told me that it is not useful for SEO. I wasn't trying to be difficult, I just cant promote a tip that I can't prove. You're right that I cant prove it doesn't work (actually perhaps I can – I may try something there), but I certainly have seen no evidence or proof that it does help either. If you can point me to conclusive evidence that it does, I could be influenced ;-)

      Thanks for the conversation Josh.

      • http://www.JoshRimer.com/ Josh Rimer

        Fair enough Mark – my issue with it really was just that you definitively declared there to be no benefit from it. In your quote you were adamant that it was a myth and did absolutely nothing so when I'm out there teaching people that it can help (because as I told you I have a case where it brought up ads related to a word only found in the filename of a video) it's quite disconcerting to have someone in your position declaring that to be completely false. It makes more sense now that you'd believe that since someone at YouTube told you so, but I've had YouTube staff tell me a number of things at VidCon and Playlist Live that later turned out to not be correct, either because those things changed at some point or because like any staff in an organization, sometimes they're wrong about certain things because they don't/can't know absolutely everything about something as complex as YouTube.

        • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

          Hey Josh. I didnt realize that this was something you were teaching so let me clarify a bit further (happy to chat via phone as well if you'd like)… I certainly don't mean to go around contradicting what you're saying as I actually very much respect what you say out in the interwebs… There are many "experts" out there that piss me off with promoting myths and tips they don't know – You are NOT one of them at all – I very much enjoy what you do. So… This was actually confirmed to us by the head of YouTube Search, at our 2-day on-site YouTube Certification training. Now, I believe there's a good reason that it feels like the filename matters, and that's because when you upload the file, the filename becomes the title of the video unless it is changed before that takes… None-the-less, Im still very interested in any evidence or testing that you may see cause I don't just take everything that YouTube staff tells me at word, as you said, they get it wrong all the time. However, when they tell me that, along with the fact that I can't see any real evidence that it does help, I just cant go with it… Anyway, happy to discuss anytime and happy to talk about some tests we could do to verify the hypothesis ;-)

        • http://www.JoshRimer.com/ Josh Rimer

          Thanks Mark – I can see why you'd take a strong stance on it originally if the head of YouTube Search is telling you that. I'll admit that if it does affect the SEO of a video as I've suspected, it would likely be in a very minor way today anyway (when I noticed it appear to affect my ads it was almost 4 years ago). Thanks for your clarification on this though… always so much to learn/debate/hypothesize about with how everything works in this YouTube marketing arena!

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