How to Rank a Video on YouTube


avatar Accelerate Media | Staff Piece

Ranking a video organically on YouTube follows a similar structure to ranking a page organically, but with a few key differences. Below is a how-to guide to get your new videos performing well on YouTube (and possibly in the SERPs as well).

1) Perform YouTube keyword research

  1. Head to YouTube and see what people are actually searching for in relation to your topic (start typing keywords into the search bar).
    • These are generally long-tail keywords and if YouTube is showing these suggestions, people are definitely looking for them.
      • This website can do the same thing, but without the hassle of having to do it directly in the YouTube search bar.
  2. Find top-performing competitor videos and see what keywords they’re targeting.
    • Find competitor channels, sort videos by “Most popular”,  and see what keywords are in title/description/tags.
  3. Find good keywords from your own channel. Use the “Traffic Source: YouTube Search” report to see what people are searching to get to your videos.
    • These will mostly be keywords you already know about, but there may be a few new ideas in there.

2) Narrow down your keyword list

  1. Find viable keywords with low YouTube competition.These are generally long-tail keywords and if YouTube is showing these suggestions, people are definitely looking for them.
    • Google search – “KW” site:youtube* (replace “KW” with your potential target keyword and make sure to keep everything else in the search).
      • See how many search results come back (more results = more competitive).
  2. See if that keyword search also shows videos in SERP, by searching for just the keyword in a regular Google search
    • In general, Google tends to show video results for these types of keywords:
      • How-to keywords (“how to make cold brew coffee”)
      • Reviews (“beats by Dre review”)
      • Tutorials (“Setting up WordPress”)
      • Anything fitness or sports-related (“cardio kickboxing”)
      • Funny videos (“cute animals”)
  3. Use a web tool like Google Keyword Planner or Semrush to check the monthly search volume.

3) Publish a high-retention video

  1. Audience retention is one of the biggest ranking factors for videos, so publish videos that get good engagement. 
    • Here are 3 tips for high video retention: 
      • Start the video with a summary of the video (20% of traffic will leave in the first 10 seconds of the video)
      • Jump right into the content (cut out the fluff)
      • Add Open Loops (preview things coming up later in the video/foreshadowing)
  2. Check out other YouTube ranking factors that signal engagement. These include:
    • Video comments
      • Typically, this means they engaged with the video
    • “Subscribing” after watching the video
      • Ask at the end of the video to subscribe
    • Click-through rate
      • Compelling thumbnails and titles help bring people in
    • Thumb up/thumbs down
      • Even though YouTube has now removed the thumbs down feature, thumbs up remains important
    • Video length
      • Longer videos tend to rank better

4) Optimize your video

  1. Make sure to SAY the target keyword.   
    • YouTube has started to automatically transcribe videos, saying your target keyword lets Google/YouTube know what the video is about.
  2. Optimize your video title.
    • Make your video title at least 5 words long, including the target keyword as close to the beginning of the title as possible.
      • NOTE: Higher-ranking videos tend to have shorter titles (45-50 characters).
  3. Optimize your meta description.
    • Include your main target keyword in the first 25 words
    • Make the video description of at least 250 words
    • Repeat the target keyword 2-4 times
  4. Optimize your hashtags.
    • Include target keywords in hashtags
    • Add other relevant keywords as hashtags as desired
  5. Consider your Tag setup.
    • First tag – use the exact target keyword
    • Next tags – use variations of target keyword
    • Last tags – include other topics the video covers
  6. Add the keyword to the video file name.
  7. Select a video category.
    • Select the category that matches the video the most
  8. Add closed captioning to the video.
    • YouTube has started to do this automatically, but it may not be 100% accurate. Be sure to review before publishing. 
      • This article walks you through how to create an SRT file for subtitles.

5) Promote your video

  1. Mention your new video on Quora or other relevant Q&A sites (make sure to actually be answering the asker’s question with your video, don’t be spammy).
  2. Link to the video in your email signature.
  3. Embed the video in blog posts.
  4. Create and use playlists.
    • Find videos that have a common theme or topic and put them in a playlist on your channel.

6) Optimize your channel

  1. Update your channel to look nice and professional, including high-quality/engaging header and logo images.
  2. Include main target keywords in your channel’s “About” section.
Another great way to boost your channel’s performance is to utilize Shorts. YouTube Shorts are short-form videos that are under 60 seconds long. Shorts are great because any views and subscribers you get from those videos count towards your channel’s overall numbers. Unfortunately, Shorts aren’t long enough for the standard YouTube monetization with ads, but YouTube has started a “Shorts Fund” that pays creators themselves for views on Shorts. Since Shorts were released in March of 2021, 10.2 million Shorts have been uploaded and have received a total of 1.2 trillion views and 40.4 billion engagements (Likes, Comments, Shares, and other audience actions on the platform).

Shorts are a great way to supplement full-length videos on your channel. Your Shorts can pull the best segments from webinars/interviews/etc. and be uploaded individually to highlight that moment. The full-length version can be linked to in the description if viewers are interested in watching more. Just make sure to include #shorts as one of the hashtags on your Short and follow the rest of the above video optimization techniques.

We hope you enjoyed this quick step-by-step guide on how to get your new video on its way to performing well and getting you views. By combining various sources of data, you can see what videos in your competitive space are performing well, what keywords they’re targeting, and how to find possible other target keywords to help you stick out and not get lost in the millions of videos out on the internet.

If you have any questions on YouTube SEO or SEO in general, email our marketing team at [email protected].