YouTube SEO – Ranking Factors – Beyond Views, Titles, and Tags

YouTube SEO   Ranking Factors   Beyond Views, Titles, and Tags

I attended Search Engine Strategies New York a few weeks ago and covered the conference via Twitter and blogging. I had a blast at the conference and attended some outstanding sessions during my three days at SES.  One session that I always enjoy attending is Video SEO (since I do a lot of VSEO work).  It's great to hear from the panelists and compare what they are presenting to what I'm seeing with my own projects.

I was excited to see that Greg Markel from Infuse Creative was one of the panelists this year. If you don't know Greg, you should.  He knows his stuff and always brings a real world perspective to his presentations.  This year he covered YouTube ranking factors.  The session ventured beyond the traditional "optimize your title, description, and tags" and introduced various community factors that also impact rankings.  By the way, YouTube's own Matthew Liu was also on the panel and it was interesting to watch Matthew's reaction as Greg presented the various factors.  I watched carefully, to say the least.  :)  If I remember correctly, Greg's advice to the audience was, "we should all ask Matthew a lot of questions during this session…" I think everyone got their money's worth based on the information shared about YouTube optimization.

Can Engagement and Community Factors Increase Your Rankings on YouTube?

The short answer is "yes, it seems they do”, and we'll dig deeper in a minute.  During his presentation, Greg listed several factors that he believes contribute to rankings on YouTube.  His list included the following items:

  • title
  • description
  • tags
  • views
  • ratings
  • playlist additions
  • flagging
  • embeds
  • shares
  • comments
  • age of video
  • channel views
  • subscribers
  • inbound links (links from outside of YouTube pointing to your videos).

Going Beyond Traditional Factors…

YouTube SEO   Ranking Factors   Beyond Views, Titles, and Tags

So, have you thought about all of the factors listed earlier? If you break it down, it actually makes complete sense that YouTube would take all of these factors into account when ranking videos.  For example, what good is a video that has 400,000 views, but has been flagged several times and has no comments?  Or, should YouTube rank a video highly that only has 10,000 views, but has been favorited 2000 times?  How about a new video that hits YouTube?  Should it rank over a video that's been around for a year and has built up 125 inbound links?  So on and so forth. I think these are great questions and deserve a good amount of analysis to determine how important each factor is when determining rankings.

Needless to say, this list of factors goes well beyond what most people think about when optimizing videos for YouTube.  The list includes community factors that aren't easy to build up and can take a lot of time.  Engagement is key in social media, but that takes time, effort, and a solid understanding of each community.  I think we all have seen "drive by" social media, right?  People who jump into a community, post their latest work, and leave before you even know what happened.  They get 1 vote (their own), have no friends in the community, and basically wasted their time.  Based on what I just explained, I like the idea that all of the other factors impact rankings.  You should be rewarded for earning trust in a community, building a following, and providing valuable content that people cast votes for (via ratings, comments, and inbound links).  It makes sense.

Conducting a Competitive Analysis on YouTube

While discussing how to achieve higher rankings on YouTube, Greg recommended that you should analyze your competition and try to match or exceed their statistics (based on the list above).  I think that's great advice and it requires you to think holistically about your YouTube strategy versus just focusing on views or tags or title…  It pushes you to think more about providing valuable content, connecting with others, and not just promoting your own videos. By the way, you can take that philosophy to every other social media community too.  More on that later.

A Quick ExampleSince golf season is finally here in the Northeast, I decided to search YouTube for some instructional videos.  Yes, I need to shake the rust off my swing!  I wanted to see which videos ranked and then begin to understand why.  I wanted to see if the statistics for each video matched up with the factors that were covered during the session at SES. Note, this is just one example and I highly recommend you dig into YouTube to conduct your own testing.  It takes time, but is well worth the effort.

Here is what I found when searching for Golf Swing Instruction:Note, rankings are always changing so you might see different results today than I did during my testing. I highlighted the factors I found compelling for each video.  I will explain more about my analysis after I present the numbers.

The video that ranked first at the time of my testing had the following statistics:

  • 224,000 views
  • 62 ratings (4 out of 5 rating out of 62 total ratings)
  • 49 comments
  • Favorited 566 times
  • Been around since October of 2006
  • Well optimized title (used the target keywords in the title)
  • Average description (I think it could have been more elaborate.)
  • Descriptive tags
  • 7100 channel views
  • 236 subscribers
  • 8 videos in channel (several had over 100,000 views)
  • 17 inbound links to the video page
  • Last logged in 11 months ago… (interesting)

The video that ranked second had the following statistics:

  • 24,233  views
  • 11 ratings (4.5 out of 5 rating, but only out of 11 total ratings)
  • 9 comments
  • Favorited 35 times
  • Been around since October of 2008
  • Well optimized title
  • Thorough description (although it ends up sounding somewhat spammy near the end.)
  • Descriptive tags
  • 11,000 channel views
  • 223 subscribers
  • 20 videos in channel (all with decent views)
  • 11 inbound links to the video itself
  • Last logged in 2 days ago (ah, much more active)

The video that ranked third had the following statistics:

  • 16,137  views
  • 6 ratings (3.5 rating, but only out of 6 total ratings)
  • 10 comments
  • Favorited 31 times
  • Been around since June of 2008
  • Decent title, but not optimized for instruction…
  • Average description (it could have been more descriptive and focus more on instruction)
  • Only a few tags…and "swing" or "club" weren't part of the tags.
  • 172,241 channel views
  • 2099 subscribers
  • 310 videos in channel (with varying levels of views and ratings)
  • 8 inbound links
  • Last logged in 10 hours ago (ah, even more active)

YouTube Ranking Analysis:

Reviewing the various statistics, you can see how all of the other factors contribute to rankings in YouTube (and not just views).  After reviewing the numbers and checking several other searches, I think Greg is on to something. :)  For example, the number one video has a lot of views, but also has been favorited 566 times.  Also, the channel has over 236 subscribers.  The video has 62 ratings and 49 comments.  There's definitely a lot of community activity for the video.  Also, the video has 17 inbound links, or votes from outside of YouTube.  That might not seem like a lot, but you need to compare it with the competition.  The other two videos I checked only had 11 and 8 respectively.   The last bullet was interesting to me.  The user last logged in 11 months ago… That doesn't show much engagement recently, right?  But, the other statistics were powerful, so my guess is that they trumped recent activity.

The second video has 24,233 views, but there are over 11,000 channel views (more than the first video) and 220 subscribers (almost matching the first video).  There are also 20 videos listed on their channel, all with decent views.  Although the video has significantly less views than the first, the other factors listed earlier seem to be helping the video rank highly in YouTube.  By the way, this user had several videos ranking on the first page of the search results.  It's worth noting, especially when considering longer tail searches.  In addition, the user last logged in 2 days ago.  I'm not sure how much this impacts rankings, but it's also worth noting.  If I were YouTube, I would probably want to reward active users that provide valuable content.

The third video has 16,000 views, but has been favorited 31 times.  They also have over 172,000 channel views and nearly 2100 subscribers (blowing away the previous two).  There are 310 videos listed on their channel (with varying levels of views and ratings).  Again, although this video has significantly lower views than the top ranking video, other factors seem to be contributing to the video's high ranking.   And, they last logged in 10 hours ago…

What does this tell us?

First, each of the factors is obviously weighted and the total score determines your rankings on YouTube.  Although views, title, description and tags are part of the equation, it's clear that several other factors contribute to your rankings.  It seems that you can build up trust via your channel in the form of channel views, subscribers, and the performance of your other videos.  I can't say for sure how important each element is yet, but it's clear that these other factors are important.  It might explain how a video with only 12,000 views can compete with a video that has 224,000 views.

So how you do gain high channel views, subscribers, comments, ratings, etc?  Like anything else in social media, you need to create valuable content, engage the community, connect with other members, and build a following.  As you build a following, more people will comment, rate, share, subscribe to, recommend, and link to your videos.   And all of those factors seem to help your rankings on YouTube.  Is it easy to do?  No, but it's worth the effort.

Being a heavy user of social media, I'm actually glad to see these other factors playing a big part in YouTube rankings.  Moving forward, I definitely plan to dig deeper with the factors listed above in order to determine how important each one is to YouTube rankings.  But, that's for another post.  :)

So how are your YouTube videos ranking?  Have you analyzed your competition and tried to match or exceed their statistics?  How has it worked out for you?

PS Don't forget about YouTube Insight when analyzing your videos.  It's an outstanding (and free) analytics tool available on YouTube.  It provides a wealth of important information about your video content.  I highly recommend checking it out if you haven't already.

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About the Author -
Glenn Gabe is an online marketing consultant at G-Squared Interactive. He currently helps clients maximize their digital marketing efforts via SEO, SEM, Social Media, Viral Marketing and Web Analytics. You can read more of Glenn’s posts on his blog, The Internet Marketing Driver and you can follow him on Twitter @glenngabe to keep up with his latest projects, news, and updates. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.arcanamedia.com Steve Gerard

    Great post Glenn.

    I've been researching Video SEO for quite some time – particularly as it applies to Youtube – and your post here has opened up a few new factors to consider…

    ie. I usually browse Youtube without signing in, doing so only if I want to post a comment on someone's video. But, based on what your report here is indicating, I'll likely sign in every time now just to build up a history with Youtube for my account. :)

    Good stuff!

    • http://www.advanceddatarecovery.co.uk data recovery

      the same for me, i was also looking for some tips that how to increase youtube view and this video helped me.

      • http://www.pariuri-online.ro/ Pariuri

        yes, you are right and I also like to watch Youtube very much. I always look for new videos.

      • mauijack60

        Youtube ranking not only depends on Video but title and description matters a lot.
        Maui wedding photographer

  • http://www.hmtweb.com/imd/ Glenn Gabe

    Thanks Steve. I'm glad you enjoyed my post!

    Greg had some great points during his presentation at SES, and my subsequent research backed up several of them.

    In particular, it was interesting to find certain videos ranking above other videos that had 5-10x the amount of views. Digging deeper revealed that the community factors had a big impact…

    Thanks again.

    GG

  • http://www.infusecreative.com Gregory Markel

    Thanks Glenn, for the kind words and excellent & helpful analysis!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/360wellnessguy 360wellnessguy

    Glen I agree that it is an ensemble of factors rather than a single magic issue which ultimatemy determines rankings in Google or Youtube. The checklist you provide and your licid analysis is a useful primer for serious webmasters and digital entrepreneurs. SEO literacy like is the new lireracy requirement in business and life success just the three "R"'s were in times gone by. Proof.. It already helped elect a President and is making fortunes for thousands daily….

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/RussHenneberry RussHenneberry

    Great post. I had an observation though… you seemed to make the point that the fact that the person had not logged into his You Tube channel in 11 months. I didn't see that as one of Mr. Markel's factors. Do you think it has any bearing on your position?

  • http://www.exploremeditation.com Guided Meditation

    Amazing content. What would take me ages to figure out is presented so well. Thank You :) Im about to post my first video. Will definately look into the community factors with greater relevance. Cheers, Nigel.

  • http://thesuccessfulbiz.com Jae Burnham

    Very good article. I actually was directed to this article from Offlinebiz.com. I will definitely be delving into this a lot more.

    Jae

  • http://www.abraxasweb.com Donnie Lee

    Very detailed analysis of rankings on Youtube. Not only does this article gives some insights into the inner workings of Youtube, but it also helps to reveal basic analytical thought processes that can be applied else where.

  • http://www.freeandpowerful.com/i/global05/main.html Tony

    Good information as to how videos are ranked at YouTube. Some marketing gurus are charging for this depth of video optimization techniques.

  • Joseph Ting

    Good sharing. I obtianed lots of info from yr article. Currently i am conducting a research to increase the value of my youtube account by utilizing other people's video as i do not have so many video.

    I used to read an article that we can "borrow" others video and put in our youtube account to increase our trafifc. Do u have any idea about this?

  • hpjeschke

    This is a great article. I've recommended it in a post titled "Youtube and SEO: Should Your Videos Also Be On Your Site Get Better Ranking?".

    HP

  • http://www.demonpack.com demonpack333

    Interesting article. I've been watching my YouTube video work its way up and down listings during its first month. Thanks for your insight on weighing in all the factors.

    • http://www.onlinemediadirect.co.uk/ garry

      good post I am researching this very option myself at the moment I also have noticed a lot of people marketing via you tube and fooling people as to the content with the image used.

      One question that I had was does google keyword tool count for you tube results.

      • http://www.rightstartllc.com DebT

        wow i've never really thought about doing video seo before, thanks for sharing this analysis and getting me to start thinking outside the box

  • http://dunguyen.com/ Du Lam SEO

    Good analysis! Thanks for sharing this guy!

  • http://www.funnypickuplinesinfo.com bullwinkle60

    Great post Glenn,

    This is really meaty stuff. Thanks a heap for sharing

  • GORD REID

    I AM GOING TO TRY LOTS OF YOUR COMMENTS

    what is wrong with my video please comment
    WYNNS SALON SUITE THE BEGINING

  • http://www.ashiyu.com/ JohnCon

    When I share my videos I always ask people to rate, favorite, comment, subscribe and share. Now if they would only do it!

  • george

    hey i got a new music song on you tube that im trying out , but why is it/???the songs get more channel views than regular one s yesterday i got 1channel view and now today it like 5omore am i doing something wrong here.???

  • http://www.business2200.com/seo James

    Dear Glenn, please respond to some of the first comments below (from Tristan, Russ and Justin), as I have the same questions. Maybe we could learn something more from your answers. Also I want to ask if the URL link next to the youtube video (in the descripton box) is a no-follow link? If that's so, then we could only seo the URL of the website that's in the youtube profile page, as that IS a do-follow. Is this correct?

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

      Hey James… Glenn probably hasnt seen the comments in some time but Ill respond…

      @Russ – I doubt that it has any bearing on individual video rankings and havent seen that mentioned as a factor from anyone elseo. That being said, interactions with the community typically result in better ratings, comments, etc… and if someone hasnt logged in in a long time, they arent interacting with the community. Surely Youtube can see this and could make it a factor, but I doubt that it would influence rankings on its own for a particular video.

      @tristan – Embeds do count as a link towards the video as they utilize the same ID convention in the URL. Additionally, videos embedded elsewhere count towards overall views if they are watched..

      I dont see a comment from Justin… ;-)

      As for your question… Yes, the link is no-followed. Unfortunately, all external links are no-followed on YouTube.

  • Tutor

    I fully agree. My youtube campaign has enabled me to help and communicate with a vast number of youtubers.

  • http://www.glenwoodfin.com Glen Woodfin

    Glenn, I completely agree with your assessment that being involved in the YouTube community makes a difference in where your video ranks. I was able to beat a video that had over 200,000 views with my client's that only had 2,000 views by utilizing the power of community.

    It is hard to quantify each category and it's power for ranking that you listed, but it's easy to see the results as you pass a video that has dominated a particular keyword phrase for years.

    On Your Side, Glen Woodfin
    Twitter @GlenWoodfin

  • http://www.TrafficGenerationCafe.com/ Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe

    Wow, incredibly detailed information and gives a lot of insight into why some of my videos with tons of views are still outranked by videos with lesser views. I'll have to step it up:).

    Warmly,
    Ana/YourNetBiz

  • http://www.goeastend.co.uk/ Mazed

    Thank you for this informaion. i was very helpful to me

  • http://lettersfromdan.com/ danrmorris

    Steve,

    I used to browse without logging in but for a different reason I now log in every time. Glenn's article just added some more "weight" as why it is good to log in.

    For me, logging in and "favoriting" or "liking" videos meant that I was providing content to my Facebook and Twitter pages as well. In fact on days when I just wasn't going to spend time on either of those, I would head to YouTube, Netflix or Goodreads just to add some personal flavor to my profiles.

    Knowing that might also help my videos rank is even better.

  • Jennasam400

    How do you find out how many inbound links a given video has?

  • http://www.animepalm.com/news/pokemon-movie-13-the-phantom-champion-zoroark/ Pokefan

    So, say, I build 250 backlinks to a video, have loads of videos uploaded, plenty of subscribers, but only a few hundred views for the video in question, would I be able to knock out ones with 20-50k views but 0 backlinks?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Jamey.Bridges James Bridges

    Solid post. I am glad that you shared the balance of factors when it comes down to ranking. Thanks for giving me additional factors to take into consideration for rankings, I definitely see that community participation and "social proof" will be playing more and more into the results.

  • http://www.streetarticles.com Street Articles

    Excellent post on Youtube. Most people overlook the benefits of SEO via Youtube as they think of it purely as a "branding" or a "per view" site in terms of their marketing agenda. Excellent post and sound information.

  • http://Suburban-K9.com Matt

    I'm curious about two things. How do you check each videos inbound links, and does every place you put a link count the same or does PR play a role. My new channel is two weeks old and has 15,000 views so I am learning the process but there is always room for improvement. My most popular video is an aggressive dog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUGAcennOOs

  • http://www.dcacomputers.com.au/desktop-computers/home-and-office-pc.html Desktop computers

    when we post our video ..then we want user for rank,,according rank ur video get seo…

  • http://twitter.com/TheSEODudes SEO dudes

     I think some how how relevant the video is to the search phrase typed in could be it. Soft can extract the voice to text from video.

  • LondonSEOconsultant

    Chammel Authority is essential.  A client Peacock Bar has a video channel with 600,000 views and all its videos come top in YouTube search and Google Universal Search  (if Google showing results that is) as soon as video launched.  Message is that Channel authority is what matters most.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1453537133 Chase Drofessor Wilson

    I need more hits!

  • Jeff Rubinoff

    Good article on developing a good youtube video placement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=784953708 Richard Joyce

    I think this is good info. Can you tell me how I could make this video get ranked better?

  • Lilach Galor

    what do u mean by channel views?

  • Cameron Smith

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001348807712 Keith Baker

    www.youtube.com/movieguy314

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000470298637 Steve Whiddon

    Great Information! I will definitely use what you said to help my channel and videos. Anyone interested in great music check out my channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/TheSteveWhiddonBand?feature=mhee.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=645345282 Shahar Boyayan

    Wow, I wish I was there! Great information! The engagement part is not easy when you consider all the other platforms that require the same but it is worth the effort. http://www.youtube.com/user/sboyayan

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1053651552 Alex Llera

    This was the exact information I was looking for. Great article for anyone wanting to understand how the ranking of video on Youtube works. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=313150342047691 Marni for H&M

    I am following these guidelines in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__hG6lZxfMM and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba_3HQBa3cQ. Let's see how it goes!

  • Avery Piantedosi

    Thanks for the information! Very helpful!

  • Mark Waddington

    Its chicken and egg – no views to start with means no ratings no links no shares nothing. How do we get a video going from scratch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1507895410 CasinoSlot Guy

    You have looked at the stats and found something to tlak about. But I have a walmart coupon video out rankall the others. The high rank had only 38 views and few of anything else, while the lower rank all the number going for it.

  • Alex Booth

    Perhaps keyword rich comments have a factor? Comments that have nothing to do with the video suggest they are faked or that the video isn't to do with any particular subject as well.

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