YouTube Optimisation 101: How to Get Videos Seen

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

YouTube Optimisation 101: How to Get Videos Seen

by Heleana Neil

Think you can’t get a video to rank?
Think again.
The fact is, YouTube is a search engine in itself, with its own algorithms, and it’s your job to crack the code. Below is a quick guide on how it’s done.

YouTube SEO: What’s All the Fuss About? 

Second to Google, YouTube is the world’s largest search engine. Plus, it’s the most visited website according to recent data, so it’s time to sit up and take notes. 

If you’re unconvinced, the stats speak for themselves on this one:

  1. Around 4 billion videos are viewed every single day
  2. Approximately 60 hours of video get uploaded a minute
  3. Estimated monthly traffic: 1,625,928,544
  4. It’s used by roughly 800 million unique visitors each month

For those looking to get a brand name out there, don’t overlook video. This form of content receives high levels of engagement, boosts conversion rates and is a great way to reach new audiences. But, it’s not just about putting it online; it’s ensuring it gets seen. YouTube SEO Optimisation is the way to make that happen.


Here’s what you need to know to master YouTube SEO like a pro:

If you’re a fledgling newcomer when it comes to YouTube optimisation, you might be surprised to hear it’s more like SEO copy than you think. 

So, let’s say you’ve got an on-brand video you want to get seen by the right people. How do you get started?

Start With Keyword Research

Just as with optimising a website, the first step is to find out what your audience is interested in and what they’re searching for. 

Pick Your Title 

This should ideally contain your keyword and explain what the video is about – but also make people want to watch. 

Some good words to include:

  1. ‘How to’ – guides are highly searched for on YouTube 
  2. Questions – e.g. What? Why? When?
  3. Lists – ‘top 10…’ these spark users’ curiosity 
  4. Descriptive words – adjectives (e.g. best) are attention-grabbing and encourage clicks

Always keep the user’s intent in mind. Ask yourself, ‘how would I search for a video like this?’

Optimise That Description

Your description is your chance to tell users what your video is all about – but also drive traffic to your website. Include links to relevant pages and try to push those conversions. 

Also, use this as an opportunity to encourage subscriptions. Including a message at the bottom such as ‘Don’t forget to subscribe for more handy content’ is a good idea (once you’re above 1000 subscribers, you can start monetising videos). 

An insider secret: got a really long video? Including timestamps in the description allows people to jump to the most relevant parts for their query. When they click on it, they’ll be taken to that part of the video.

For example:

1:25 – SEO tools you need to know about

3:45 – Difference between content marketing & copywriting 

10:03 – Pinterest SEO guide

You get 5,000 characters for a YouTube description, but it’s likely you won’t need all of that. Your first 150 characters are the most important – make it engaging and make it relevant. 

Don’t Forget Hashtags

At the bottom of your description, don’t forget to add 3-5 relevant hashtags in the mix, just like you would on social media.

Use Those Tags 

Tags can be added to a video on the YouTube Studio page. These not only tell users what your video is about, but also the search engine itself. This will help your video rank for relevant keywords. 

TIP: Don’t include irrelevant tags because you think it will help you get more views. Just like with black-hat SEO on Google, YouTube will penalise you for certain tactics. It’s best to keep everything relevant. 

Add Cards 

Ever been watching a YouTube video and see a translucent box appear in the corner of the screen? These are known as cards. They can help direct users to other relevant videos, playlists, or even complementary channels you want to promote. 

You can have up to five per video. Hint: space them out and keep them applicable to the content.

End On a High

Make use of your end screen. You have 20 seconds at the end of a video to add buttons, such as a ‘subscribe’ icon and links to other videos/playlists. Use this to your advantage!

This is why it’s best if the video itself ends with a blank screen to maximise button impact. 

Think About Your Thumbnail 

Customised thumbnails go a long way. They can help boost engagement and promote a consistent brand image across the channel. In fact, the best performing videos have these, so it’s recommended you use them on every upload. 

The finer details: 1280×720 pixels, 16:9 ratio, 2MB or smaller.

Customise Your Channel 

Make your channel your own.

  • Upload a branded profile picture
  • Use the channel description to explain who you are
  • Include links in the channel description to your website
  • Maintain a consistent TOV

Take Advantage of Playlists 

Don’t underestimate the power of a playlist! These can help you group videos together, boost views and rank better in the search results. Some users search for playlists specifically, so make use of them.

Engage, Engage, Engage

YouTube is a sociable platform – don’t forget that! 

  1. Pin a comment at the top of every video to engage audiences
  2. Encourage viewers to subscribe and comment 
  3. Make use of YouTube Community
  4. Subscribe to like minded/complementary channels
  5. Reply to user comments 

Keep Monitoring 

If your video isn’t performing well after 4 weeks, ask yourself why not. What could you change? Are there any missing tags, for example? 

Look at the videos ranking highly for your chosen keyword and see what they’re doing that you’re not. 

Plus, always keep an eye on performance metrics. Some of the most important include average watch time and view duration. It’s a good idea to track these monthly, along with other KPIs.

Tools to Add to Your Armoury 

Don’t worry – you won’t be left to do this alone. There are a number of tools out there to help you, including:


If you’re looking for a YouTube-specific tool, few come better recommended than TubeBuddy

  1. It’s free
  2. Allows you to carry out keyword research 
  3. Shows video analytics – for your videos and others’ content

Google Trends

People often forget that Google Trends has a ‘YouTube Search’ option when you type in a specific topic. This can help you keep an eye on trending topics and post what your audience wants to watch.

Pick a Keyword Research Tool, Any Keyword Research Tool

Whether you’re team SEMrush, UberSuggests or Keyword Planner, you shouldn’t ignore your favourite research tool when optimising a YouTube video.

The reason?

Psst… We’ll let you in on a little secret. YouTube videos can rank organically on Google for specific keywords.  Possibly the best YouTube-specific tool? allows you to perform hashtag research, and provides keyword suggestions for the search engine itself.
Applying the SEO knowledge you already have will help you achieve the viewing stats you want! So, what are you waiting for?

Written by Heleana Neil, content marketer and SEO nerd. 

Heleana Contributor

After taking on a copywriting internship when graduating university, Heleana now has nearly three years’ marketing experience under her belt. Particularly passionate about SEO copy, writing content that resonates with and converts audiences is the goal. Next mission – find someone who knows how to pronounce her name right first time.