Panelists on the Video Search Engine Optimization session for Search Engine Strategies Chicago conference and Expo – Gregory Markel, Greg Jarboe, and Steve Espinosa shared their expert insights on YouTube SEO, YouTube's algorithms, popularity, conversion, and tracking strategies – all towards optimizing your video campaign in the most popular video sharing site today.

YouTube SEO Speakers At SES

Speakers on the Video SEO panel sharing YouTube SEO tips and examples were:

  • Greg Jarboe, President & Co-founder, SEO-PR. Greg has done numerous press releases with optimized video content, and hosts the SES Channel on YouTube, which they've optimized and promoted 185 videos for to-date.
  • Steve Espinosa, Director of Product Development & Management, eLocal Listing, LLC
  • Gregory Markel, Founder/President, Infuse Creative, LLC
, and perennial conference speaker for search marketing events such as SES, SMX, and PubCon. Also featured recently on FOX Business Channel on YouTube Video effort by auto company General Motors.

YouTube Stats

The panelists agreeing that that the enormity of YouTube's size – content, traffic, viral presence, etcetera – make it much more than a video site; rather, it should be treated as a major search engine unto itself. According to a comScore Media Metrix, October 2008 had over 100 million YouTube video viewers, for a total of 2.5 billion searches.

YouTube's SEO Algorithm

You Tube has a search algorithm that includes the optimization of the following:

  1. title
  2. description
  3. tags
  4. number of views
  5. rating

All of these items can be manipulated by the video owner, as well as the viewing/sharing audience, to determine placement in both YouTube search listings, and carried over to Google's own universal/blended search listings.

The following is an assorted list of YouTube SEO Tips offered by the panel:

YouTube Content ideas

"How-To" Videos are perhaps the best overall strategy for SEO and viral marketing, says Jarboe. (Smart move can be building out a "How-To" YouTube channel, just like the example at the top of this "how to" YouTube search.)

YouTube Video SEO Tips From SES Chicago how to youtube

YouTube Competitor Research

Markel shares that community/social & linking factors weigh heavily in determining ranking on many video search engines. This includes Ratings, Favorites, Playlists, Comments, Honors, Views, Embedding, Response Videos, and Linking. "Click on a competitors video watch page "Statistics & Data" tab and analyze the factors contributing to the video ranking success, then work to meet or beat them!" he says.

Video Dimensions

  • "Don't do widescreen!” Even though YouTube now features videos in the 16:9 format, Espinosa's  recommendation is to still export to the standard 4:3 format. The reason why – thumbnails are still optimized for 4:3 dimensions. "Export in 4:3 if goal is universal search and conversions." he says.

Description field

  • Anchor description length of 27 characters (max) – this is the maximum amount of characters you have for keyword placement before the "three dots" and the end of each video link on YouTube.
  • Include a clickable URL in the first line of the description tag. The first line of the description is what appears by (And again, if you want to avoid it looking truncated, keep it to within 27 characters.)
ALSO ►  How-to Master the Facebook Video Algorithm: 3 Winning Tactics

Video image(s)

  • Include a call-to-action. Espinosa says to conclude the video with an instructional/visual cue to click on the link, and show your call-to-action right in the thumbnails. (As we've reported here, YouTube takes the thumbnails at the ¼, ½, and ¾ mark.
  • Having a phone number with a solid background really stands out, says Espinosa.
  • Constant In-Video Description/Branding/Call To Action – Markel says to brand the registration goal site / URL throughout entire video (instead of at the end, which is most common); also, include the registration call to action within the video while suggesting a click on a live URL in the description pane.

Piggybacking on Popularity

  • Add comments with URLs on popular videos. Markel says have your comment written as a codedURL call to action…i.e., "Like football? Check out YouTube (dot) com (slash) user (slash) footballfun.”
  • Video spin-offs – "Create a video related to popular content and using a similar but NOT copied keyword/title in hopes of it showing up as a related video' within the popular video's page and thereby piggybacking on the other video's popularity." says Markel

Link building

Markel shared that YouTube adds "nofollow" to all video titlesexcept those displayed under 'Recent Activity.' "If possible, try to keep most desired videos in "Recent Activity" section. The anchor text length on "Recent Activity" link is 27 Characters. Building links to these videos (embedded on-page) is ideal [for SEO]. Plus links to video channel helps with reputation management.”


Check the YouTube Insight feature for your breakdown of stats:

  • Source of views. (Views can come from related videos, YouTube Search, YouTube Other, Viral Other, Google Search, Embedded player views, or external links.)
  • Viewing demographics. (By age range and gender)
  • Video views over time
  • Sites linking to your video
  • Geographic views. (What states, regions, or countries your video is most popular in.)
  • "Hot Spots." The ups-and-downs, or "engagement" of viewership at each moment in your video, compared to videos of similar length. (ReelSEO note: This is a good way to find out if you may wish to trim your videos for length, if you see a big drop-off in viewership over time.)
YouTube Video SEO Tips From SES Chicago youtube insight

Optimizing YOUR OWN WEBSITE with YouTube video

Embedding YouTube videos on your website not only saves on the cost of streaming media hosting, but you can also get YouTube's own tracking stats at no charge as well. Espinosa offers these tips for on-site optimization with YouTube video.

  • Create a separate text-optimized page for each video on your site.
  • Surround the video with a description and link to your YouTube page with anchor text being the keywords you would like to rank for.
  • Submit the same description to each video site (i.e. Yahoo! Video, Youtube, Google Video)
  • User Google Website Optimizer to help you determine which video works best. You can then set up Goals in Google Analytics and learn which video was the most successful. Create different variations of the video and then simply run a test using the free Google Website Optimizer and change nothing but the video on the different versions of the pages.
  • Andrew Stuckey

    Thanks for some great tips. But I think it's silly to sacrifice 16:9 and HD quality video just so your thumbnails can appear in the correct aspect ratio or not cropped. The value of widescreen and HD are obvious and expected by today's users. What's important with thumbnails is that they are present (everywhere). They are simply a better call to action than plain text and too small to fuss over picture quality.

  • Zizo Samy

    what about forum SEO?

  • Mysoultb Thoa

    thanks poster
    please, view my video

  • Tina Gleisner

    This is a fairly comprehensive list of video SEO tips and well organized. I also appreciated learning about YouTube's nofollow which means we aren't getting the inbound links we expected.

  • London Centre Spoken English

    Thank you, but it is a really tough job, rather need a dedicated person on the job forever... Although I thought there isn't much competition in what we do, but still videos are not coming on top at all.

  • Mike Scanlin

    Is it better to use the iframe embed code YouTube provides, or a text link to the YouTube page that hosts my video? I realize the 2nd one takes the user to YouTube (off my site) but maybe it's worth it because the video page on YouTube will get some SEO love from my anchor text optimized link? Do iframes pass any link juice?

  • Brittany Murphy

    Thank you, I have been working on several videos and I'm trying to figure out how local realty companies are coming up frist with video posts.

  • Asam Malik

  • John Ulrich

    Great info, very useful!
    Shasta County Land & Redding Land Specialist.

  • Andrea Dama

    Thanks for tips !

  • My Colleges and Careers

    Thanks, Mark, for this great tutorial on YouTube SEO. Really helpful information.

  • Stickymedia

    Linking to youtube and other video hubs will also increase the traffic in your website. Its effective in many ways since audiences specially young people understands more of the topic when it is visual.

  • David Sottimano

    I hope you can help. I've got subscribers, make legitimate comments and video responses, title tags and descriptions are optimized, active within the community of my industry and yet my video has recently fallen from 3rd to 7th. I only changed the category because it was more suitable for one of my videos.

    Doesn't make much sense, especially because a video that isn't optimised at all has just jumped ahead of rankings. Do you have any idea what could be going wrong? Is there a possibility of some kind of penalty? I did post or try to post about 10 video responses, could Youtube have seen this as spammy behaviour? They were legitimate video responses, directly related to the subject - I need some advice on this please.

  • Agence communication rouen

    Thank you very much for sharing this useful tips

  • Gillet Brian

    Thats really very nice and informative post

  • Gary2010

    Nice info for newbie like me, may be i can try first and call you next time if i found problem. Great work, Thanks

  • Carroll

    Thanks for the excellent article. There's a lot to learn to take advantage of video marketing. I wonder how much has changed since this article was published in 2008, especially with Google's new indexing system.

  • PpcJen

    Thanks for the great tips. I'm just getting started with video and I know SEO is important. I appreciate your help in combining the two.

  • ThomWestley

    Because the ads on search engines are becoming more expensive in an environment where people spend less, generating viral traffic to your site is crucial. Google is looking to introduce a rating system for videos and those who will take advantage of this new feature will only have to win. I've also got good results with an affiliate program network. I didn't notice a great increase in traffic but in sales. It seems this kind of program generates targeted traffic meaning more clients.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you, excellent advice I am going to spend some time on this and see how I go!

  • unnikuttan

    But what about the really successful guys on youtube. the make 100 mio viewers within sonme days.

  • Travel

    A lot of great infos. Thanks!

  • Alexandre Comtois

    Great article! Really easy steps to follow, I'm printing it to have it handy in my office ;)

  • IlbertWardell

    I never thought so big about youtube until now. Seeing it as a search engine it's self with that huge traffic really puts things into perspective. Along with the internet marketing I'm doing through network affiliates programs, youtube could be the next big idea my marketing campaign needed. Thanks a lot for this useful info.

  • Dave Main

    Absolutely fantastic information. The best I have found so far on YouTube Optimization. After all these years on the INternet I decided to get involved with videos on sharing sites like YouTube. Decide, since I have 2 new projects going, to learn about YouTube from the bottom up. Your information is cetainty concise with quality information. Thanks again

  • DJ Morris

    Very useful information in this video...thanks for sharing!

  • Watch Fifa online

    Very intresting article !

  • Houston SEO

    This you-tube article is great! The amount of Social Media Views is going to out rank organic search results in the next 5 years. Learning how to properly SEO a video is very important, for businesses and video syndication. There are some great tools for help people generate traffic with video.

  • Patung

    "Markel shared that YouTube adds “nofollow” to all video titles… except those displayed under ‘Recent Activity.’"

    I don't think that is true anymore, at least not on my page.

  • Mobile Marketing

    Very informative and yes these tips worked. I index on the first page of our major keyword, within 24 hours. NICE!

  • Advertising Agency

    Is there a way to find out how many searches are performed on YouTube for a specific keyword - like the google keyword tool, but for YouTube? I suspect that people use different words when searching YouTube.

  • Julian

    Very helpful read! So interesting how YouTube has become its own search engine beast to conquer a la Google - the SEO strategizing is so important, this article gives some really poignant advice. I can see the importance of YouTube SEO only increasing as video search becomes more prevalent.

  • Seo Firm

    Thanks for this info. I am going to make some changes to my own youtube videos.

  • Mark Robertson

    When you say "dofollow", do you mean adding a link within comments and actually adding "rel=follow" to that code?

  • Mark

    Your are right on with this post - We have been marketing videos for three years and this is exactly how we do it with great success!

  • Ontario

    Thanks for this post - I am working on an internet marketing course for people and video marketing is my weak point. After reading this I am going to have to make some changes to my own youtube videos. great tip on the recent activity link being dofollow!

  • Website Design

    You Tube has a search algorithm that includes the optimization of title, description, tags, views, and ratings. All of these items can be manipulated by the video owner, as well as the viewing/sharing audience, to determine placement in both YouTube search listings, and carried over to Google’s own universal/blended search listings.

  • seobro

    I love Youtube. THX 4 D tips. Keep it REEL bro!

  • Robbert

    Nice information. Wish I can be there next time!

  • krishna

    This post certainly helps in marketing my Videos even better. Thanks for the post. Tweeted this one :)