With more than two billion active monthly users, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world today. As a venue to promote your content, YouTube is an essential asset that can draw a lot of attention to your creative work.
But as you know, the most important aspect of any successful video production strategy is to create content that resonates with the audiences you want to target —the stories, visuals, and music in your videos should be valuable to the viewers you are communicating with.
Now, as great of a standalone platform YouTube is, introducing your content to audiences coming from all corners of the Internet can tricky. Particularly, attracting people from what is the most popular search engine above YouTube will require you to give some thought about how to best optimize your SEO.
Ranking high on Google SERPs is already a feat. However, you shouldn’t think of yourself as overly ambitious if you want to find a way on both platforms. It can be done. In this article, you’ll see some of the key actionable steps you can take to make the most of your video’s performance.
Create Content Surrounding High-Traffic Topics
Even though both platforms work together for most purposes and tend to reinforce each other, Google’s search tool is quite different from YouTube’s. It could be the case that a video that gets a lot of views on the latter platform doesn’t perform well on Google. And it’s not uncommon to see this
To have your videos rank higher on Google SERPs, you need them to deal with worthy topics that can potentially attract viewers from the said platform. That means essentially two things:
- You should cover a subject that people tend to google for.
- The topic needs to have ‘video intent’—meaning: people who search for it prefer watching a video than reading about it.
The best way to find high-traffic themes for your videos is through keyword research tools. With them, you can see exactly what questions people are asking on Google. Plus, you can search for the best keyword ideas for multiple terms simultaneously to find the ones that best suit Google’s audience.
You don’t have to look too far to find a reliable tool: Google Keyword Planner gives you all the information you need. You can use it to explore keywords that your competitors use, as well as the keywords relevant to your location.
Generate Customized, Compelling Thumbnails
Usually, you will need more than a popular topic to get viewers to your videos. Whether we are talking about YouTube’s search page or Google’s video carousel, your video competes with several other similar options that users can choose from.
Having a great title is essential, but you can only do so much with it: you need to give audiences a visual indication of what they can expect to find in your video. The best way to do that is with an attractive thumbnail.
More often than not, generating a compelling thumbnail will require you to create it yourself. Sure, still images from your video sometimes work, and your video may be good enough to have many of them to display. But whenever possible, use custom thumbnails for better results.
Here are some of the best practices to keep in mind when crafting your thumbnail:
- Follow the platform’s thumbnail recommendations. Featured images for YouTube videos look optimal with a ratio of 16:9 and a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels.
- Use suitable images. For instance, if your video features a ‘how-to’ recipe, users will most likely expect to see the dish they want to prepare.
- Add descriptive (but non-intrusive) text. Complement your image with a title or sentence (different from the video’s title) to give an extra incentive to the audience.
Customize Your Video for Searches
If you want your YouTube videos to perform better on the Google search engine and make your channel grow, you need to adopt the principle of usefulness. Google queries are optimized for featuring the content that best addresses users’ concerns and interests.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to customize your videos to be helpful for Google audiences. Let’s review some of the most important actions and features you can take advantage of to rank higher on Google.
Timestamps & Labels
If there is one element of YouTube videos that’s often overlooked, that must be the description. That’s expected, since you want to put your best efforts on your video’s overall visual composition, writing a catchy title, and crafting a great thumbnail. After all, audiences don’t come to your video to read a short essay!
Still, some of Google’s most recent features require you to put a little more work into your video description. By merely adding timestamps and labels manually as outlines of your video, you give users the chance to navigate the relevant sections with just a click.
This is a huge asset for content creators, particularly those focused on educational and instructional content. For example, whiteboard video creators could improve the performance of their explainer videos by simply adding the step-by-step time summary of their videos.
But now, let’s take a look at how Google rewards videos with timestamps and labels.
The ‘Suggested Clips’ or ‘Featured Snippets’ that are often found at the top of Google SERPs are a useful resource for audiences who are looking for answers to particular questions. They are also a great opportunity for content creators to rank their content better on Google.
The way Suggested Clips work is that they start skipping the video’s introduction and take viewers straight to the particular portion of the video that’s most fitting to their search. Following Google’s commitment to finding the best answer to users’ queries, this feature prioritizes video relevance over popularity and number of views and subscribers on YouTube.
Whereas Suggested Clips take users to one relevant section of the video, Google’s ‘Key Moments’ showcase multiple divided sections of it. To have your videos featured as ‘key moments,’ again, you need to mark the important points with timestamps and the labels that briefly describe each clip.
There are a couple of other aspects to bear in mind to increase your chances of winning ‘Key Moments’:
- Be straightforward in how you explain your ideas/instructions. Avoid beating around the bush with personal anecdotes and keep the content clear for Google’s algorithms.
- As you speak, illustrate what you’re talking about. For instance, if you are showing viewers how to install a software tool, be sure to guide them properly with the images.
Add Optimized Closed Captions and Subtitles
There are no genies behind Google’s algorithms. One of the main problems preventing many great videos (even popular YouTube videos!) from making it to Google SERPs is that they are not optimized to inform the platform what the video is about.
Using relevant keywords on your titles is the first step. But why not tell Google what’s in the rest of the video?
You can do so by adding transcripts to your content. Even though YouTube is already equipped with automatic captioning, uploading them yourself is a better move. For one thing, you can avoid any mistakes due to errors in the automatic translation of the language, accent, or words you use.
But most importantly, by incorporating your most important keywords into your transcript—that is, the ones people are searching for—you will ensure that your video stands a better chance of reaching Google’s first page.
Achieving great results with your videos on YouTube and Google is not as complex as it sounds at first.
To reach high rankings, you need to make sure that your videos are apt for addressing the answers and searches Google users have. That means using keywords in your video and its description box that are relevant for queries.
Also, cater to Google’s algorithms by adding optimized transcripts, as well as timestamps and labels. What’s best about these features is that it’s never too late for you. You can always go back to your old videos to upload closed captions or change your video description and thumbnail.
These are but a few key strategies to start taking your videos to wider audiences. Do you know any others?