What is video SEO - A Guide to YouTube Search Engine Optimization

What is search engine optimization?

Search engine optimization contains all of the techniques and behaviors that can help you to get better rankings in (YouTube/Google) search results. In this guide, we focus on YouTube SEO. As YouTube and Google SEO differs you should read this chapter even if you're already familiar with Google SEO.

To imagine the YouTube search engine optimization more easily, firstly you should understand how YouTube ranks and displays it's search results when somebody types something into the search field. When you search for something on YouTube, a very complex algorithm runs in the background that uses a lot of ranking signals to order the videos. These ranking signals (or factors) are not equal. Some of the ranking factors are very important and play a huge role in the search rankings, and some of them do not make any significant difference. The ranking factors are secret, but a lot of them are well known by the public. Furthermore, YouTube search rankings are dynamic, so they (can) always change.

Important ranking factors of YouTube search rankings:
(This list is not complete. We will continuously update over time.)

Video metadata

The video title, description, and tags belong to the metadata of a video. These are textual contents that should be provided by the uploader during the uploading process. Simple textual data can be easily used by the search algorithm to categorize and learn more about the content of your video. It must be mentioned that the video title, description, and tags should be synchronized. If you are just getting started out with YouTube and are a new user, we really recommend that you carefully read the following part of this guide.

The title of the video

The video title is the most important video metadata. Read over our detailed guide about titles.

The description of the video

It is less important than the title, but there are cases when it can improve your search rankings. Therefore, you should take care of them. Read over our detailed guide to video descriptions.

Video tags

It is a less important kind of metadata. Read here about our detailed guide to video tags.

Video thumbnail

It doesn't matter what your video's thumbnail looks like, but good thumbnails can make people open your videos so you can get more views. And the number of video views is a very important ranking signal that can ultimately get you a better ranking in the search results

User interactions

User interactions are behaviors between users and a video. Like writing comments, liking, and the most important, watching a video. As you can perfectly conclude to the popularity of a video from user interactions, these play a very important role in rankings.

Video views

It is only logical that this is one of the most important ranking factors. If a video has a lot of views, it will be ranked highly in the search results. Views matter a lot, mostly when the competition is big on a certain topic.

Video comments

Much less important than the views. It's easier to manipulate, one user can write unlimited comments. Comments can be disabled, therefore we believe that disabled comments don't affect your rankings negatively, but if a lot of people comment on your video it can help you to rank better.

Video likes
Played time

Important ranking factor. It does matter a lot if somebody just opens your video and goes away after a few seconds or watches in full length. YouTube can conclude a lot of things from the time that people spent watching your video. If a video is 'good' and represents valuable content, people will watch it, if not then they will exit after seconds.

Social media shares

Social media shares and embedded videos can increase your video views which is a ranking factor. Therefore social media shares can indirectly improve your search rankings by generating video views.

Click through rate

If a lot of people click on your video in the search results or through the related videos section, YouTube can conclude that it's valuable content that should be ranked in a higher position. A video that was clicked by 900 people out of 1000 will be treated differently than a video opened by 50 users. The video title and thumbnail can help a lot in persuading people to open your video.

Users subscribing after watching a video

When somebody watches your video and subscribes to your channel during or after the video, you get a vote that your channel is worth subscribing to. It will help your video to rank better. In your videos, you should always ask your viewers to subscribe.

YouTube channel details
Number of subscribers

The number of channel subscribers is one of the most important things that can help you to rank your videos higher.

Channel description

It's not really important. However, a good description can help your channel appear in the search results.

Channel design

A good looking YouTube channel gives you a better chance of getting users to subscribe. Therefore your channel's appearance can make a difference. You should give some attention to your profile photo, channel cover image, and your channel's structure.


Playlists don't directly affect your video's performance in the search results. However, you should use them without any doubts. Playlists can generate extra video views, and if you read this guide carefully, you should already know that video views play an important role in ranking. How will a playlist increase your video views? Playlists automatically play videos right after each other, therefore if somebody watches a video that belongs to a playlist there is a chance that he/she will watch the next one. In some niche topics, they can also appear as a search result. Therefore it's always a good idea to order your videos into playlists based on their content. For example, challenge videos, haul videos, Fortnite gameplay, etc...

Linking videos from your other social media pages

You can generate more views for your videos by sending traffic from your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or other social media pages. When you have a new video, you can always link it to your Twitter, FB page or Instagram stories and bio.

More Essential Guides To Read:

YouTube Video Title Writing Guide

YouTube Video Description Writing Guide

Guide For Writing Video Tags on YouTube