Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a pillar of digital marketing and refers to a set of practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results.
The term Search Engine Optimization has historically always referred to optimizing webpages for search engines such as Google however, as time goes by, social media platforms are increasingly functioning as search engines in their own right, while simultaneously ranking content in Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Amongst the various social platforms, YouTube has the second-highest number of active users (behind only Facebook) and is the undisputed king of video content. This is significant for businesses because video content generates 1200% more social shares than text and image content combined and, according to Forbes, audiences retain 95% of a message from video, compared to just 10% from text.
This means that businesses that effectively engage with their customers (and potential customers) on YouTube can benefit from unrivalled increases in exposure, as well as brand awareness and even customer loyalty. But to effectively engage, businesses must first ensure that their content appears in their customer’s search results, and that is where optimization comes in.
The first step is ensuring that your channel itself is fully optimized. To optimize your channel you’ll need to
- Ensure that your name and handle include your brand name
- Add a brand-consistent profile picture. This will typically be your company logo, but could also be a picture of your product, service or employees
- Include a banner to make your channel more visually attractive. Making this branded will further contribute to brand consistency and awareness
- Provide a descriptive bio, detailing what your business does and what your audience can expect from your channel. Include relevant keywords to fully optimize your description
- Include a contact email address as well as links to your other social media channels and website to increase the legitimacy of your channel
In addition to optimizing your channel, you’ll also need to fully optimize the content you post. With almost 500 hours of content uploaded every minute, it’s more important than ever to make your videos stand out from the crowd! The optimization of content takes place over three main stages.
- Planning & creating content
- Onsite optimization
- Analysis of results for future activity
Planning & creating content
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” – Benjamin Franklin
Before pressing ‘record’ you’ll need a detailed plan for not only your first video but also how you intend to follow it. On any social media platform consistency is key, so plan how you will follow up your video, what future content you will produce, how your videos will connect and how often you will post.
Keyword research will help to identify appropriate topics on which to produce content. Make sure that keywords, and their variations, appear in any dialogue so that they are included in subtitles and transcripts, which YouTube uses to understand what your video is about.
Above all else, ensure that your content provides real value to your audience. This could include
- Sharing your industry expertize
- Discussing current events and trends
- Providing “behinds the scenes” information
At Quadrant2Design our YouTube channel features a variety of content, including examples of the trade show booth designs that we produce for our customers as well as videos of the events we attend and the activities going on in our office. By combining educational and business-related content with less formal office activities, we show our audience both what we do AND who we are.
YouTube’s algorithm includes a heavy focus on user engagement, meaning how your audience responds to your videos will have a direct impact on how they are ranked. Where possible, encourage engagement such as video likes, comments and shares, channel subscriptions and clicks through to more of your videos.
Longer videos tend to rank better, as long as they are engaging enough to maintain your audience’s attention. Promoting longer watch times, and avoiding drop-offs, tells YouTube that you provide viewers with the content that they are searching for, making it more likely that your videos will rank higher in search results.
Onsite optimization begins while uploading your content to YouTube. This is about framing your video with as much written information as possible about what it contains, what it relates to and for whom it is intended.
File name – your video’s file nameis the very first opportunity for YouTube to understand what your video is about. It should include your keyword and accurately represent the content of your video.
Title – The title has the dual purpose of telling both YouTube and your target audience what your video is about. An engaging title will make visitors want to watch, but avoid using “clickbait” titles which do not accurately represent what your video includes.
Ensure that your title includes your keyword and try to phrase it in a way that it would be searched. A good example of this is phrasing your title as a question, as this is a common way for users to search.
Description – This section is where you describe the content of your video in greater detail. It’s worth noting that while search engine algorithms can interpret text, they cannot view images or watch video content in the same way humans do, so it’s important to complement your video with an effective written explanation. Including your keyword and variations of it, will allow YouTube to understand what your video contains and how to categorize it.
A dialogue transcript and timestamped chapters will provide a step-by-step guide to what happens throughout the video.
Including a call-to-action can increase viewer engagement by encouraging viewers to watch another video, visit your website, contact your company or engage via likes, subscriptions etc.
Hashtags – A social media staple, hashtags assist in the effective categorization of content, making it easier for your audience to find. Include relevant keywords and phrases, as well as terms likely to be searched by your intended target audience. YouTube recommends no more than three hashtags, as too many can make for confusing categorization.
Subtitles – Closed captions, or subtitles, can either be auto-generated (you’ll want to check these for accuracy) or uploaded as an SRT file. Including subtitles provides a transcript for YouTube to read and understand. It also makes your video more accessible to viewers with hearing difficulties.
Tags – Video tags are used to organize content based on keywords and common search terms. YouTube advises that tags are less important than your video’s title, thumbnail and description but can be particularly useful when search terms are commonly misspelled. Excessive tagging goes against YouTube’s policies on spam, deception and scams, so keep tagging concise.
Categories – Adding your video to an industry-specific category will also help with its organization and categorization.
Thumbnail –A unique and eye-catching thumbnail is vital for attracting attention amongst the sea of YouTube content, helping to increase clicks, views and engagement.
Use high-quality, high-resolution images, resized to fit YouTube’s 1280 x 720px template to ensure they are not distorted by automatic resizing.
Many businesses use templated branded thumbnails to maintain brand consistency, although this can limit creativity.
Cards and end screens – These can include a ‘subscribe’ button, as well as links to other relevant videos on your channel. Including links to more content can also increase watch time and encourage viewers to binge-watch your videos. Successfully encouraging viewers to engage with your channel as a whole will improve YouTube’s view of the content you post.
Check video quality – Once ready to post, make sure that your video displays in high-quality, plays well and loads quickly. Viewers are unlikely to be forgiving of playback issues and low-quality videos will likely increase your drop-off rate.
Add related videos to playlists – Playlists categorize related content, making it easier to navigate and allowing for multiple videos to be shared with a single link. Each playlist should include an optimized, title as well as a fully optimized and explanatory description.
Analysis of results for future activity
After you have successfully created, uploaded and optimized your videos it’s important to monitor, analyze and report their success. Not only will this allow you to see the fruits of your optimization labour, but it can also inform improvements to your processes moving forward.
Using YouTube’s business analytics you can assess the most effective topics, titles, descriptions and thumbnails for engaging your audience, as well as the most appropriate times of the day and days of the week to post.
By assessing the performance of your content you can make tweaks to your strategy that will improve your future results. Analytics will also allow you to see common drop-off points in each video and add links or cards to maintain audience engagement.
It’s important to remember that your business’s YouTube channel should form a part of a much larger digital profile. Include links to your other social channels and website, while also using these channels to link to your YouTube profile, as doing so will increase traffic to your content while simultaneously adding legitimacy to your YouTube channel and your business’s digital profile as a whole.