Posted by randfish

If you have an audience on YouTube, are you doing everything you
can to reach them? Inspired by a large-scale study from Justin
Briggs, Rand covers the top factors to invest in when it comes to
YouTube SEO in this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution
version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard
Friday. This week we’re chatting about YouTube SEO. So I was lucky
enough to be speaking at the Search Love Conference down in San
Diego a little while ago, and Justin Briggs was there presenting on
YouTube SEO and on a very large-scale study that he had conducted
with I think it was 100,000 different video rankings across
YouTube’s search engine as well as looking at the performance of
many thousands of channels and individual videos in YouTube.

Justin came up with some fascinating results. I’ve called them
out here @JustinBriggs on Twitter,
and his website is You
can find this study
, including an immense amount of data,
there. But I thought I would try and sum up some of the most
important points that he brought up and some of the conclusions he
came to in his research. I do urge you to check out the full study,
especially if you’re doing YouTube SEO.

5 crucial elements for video ranking success

So first off, there are some crucial elements for video ranking
success. Now video ranking success, what do we mean by that? We
mean if you perform a search query in YouTube for a specific
keyword, and not necessarily a branded one, what are the things
that will come up? So sort of like the same thing we talk about
when we talk about Google success ranking factors, these are
success factors for YouTube. That doesn’t necessarily mean that
these are the things that will get you the most possible views. In
fact, some of them work the other way.

1. Video views and watch time

First off, video views and watch time. So it turns out these are
both very well correlated and in Justin’s opinion probably causal
with higher rankings. So if you have a video and you’re competing
against a competitor’s video and you get more views and a greater
amount of watch time on average per view — so that’s how many
people make it through a greater proportion of the video itself
–you tend to do better than your competitors.

2. Keyword matching the searcher’s query in the title

Number two, keyword matching still more important we think on
YouTube than it is in classic Google search. That’s not to say it’s
not important in classic Google, but that in YouTube it’s even more
important. It’s even a bigger factor. Essentially what Justin’s
data showed is that exact match keywords, exactly matching the
keyword phrase in the video title tended to outperform partial by a
little bit, and partial outperformed none or only some by a
considerable portion.

So if you’re trying to rank your video for what pandas eat and
your video is called “What Pandas Eat,”that’s going to do much
better than, for example, “Panda Consumption Habits” or “Panda Food
Choices.” So describe your video, name your video in the same way
that searchers are searching, and you can get intel into how
searchers are using YouTube.

You can also use the data that comes back from Google keyword
searches, especially if videos appear at the top of Google keyword
searches, that means there’s probably a lot of demand on YouTube as

3. Shorter titles (<50 characters) with keyword-rich

Next up, shorter titles, less than 50 characters, with
keyword-rich descriptions between 200 and 350 words tended to
perform best in this dataset.

So if you’re looking for guidelines around how big should I make
my YouTube title, how big should I make my description, that’s
generally probably some best practices. If you leak over a little
bit, it’s not a huge deal. The curve doesn’t fall off dramatically.
But certainly staying around there is a good idea.

4. Keyword tags

Number four, keyword tags. So YouTube will let you apply keyword
tags to a video.

This is something that used to exist in Google SEO decades ago
with the meta keywords tag. It still does exist in YouTube. These
keyword tags seem to matter a little for rankings, but they seem to
matter more for the recommended videos. So those recommended videos
are sort of what appear on the right-hand side of the video player
if you’re in a desktop view or below the video on a mobile

Those recommended videos are also kind of what play when you
keep watching a video and it’s what comes up next. So those both
figure prominently into earning you more views, which can then help
your rankings of course. So using keyword tags in two to three word
phrase elements and usually the videos that Justin’s dataset saw
performing best were those with 31 to 40 unique tags, which is a
pretty hefty number.

That means folks are going through and they’re taking their
“What Pandas Eat” and they’re tagging it with pandas, zoo animals,
mammals, and they might even be tagging it with marsupials — I
think pandas are a marsupial — but those kinds of things. So
they’re adding a lot of different tags on there, 31 to 40, and
those tended to do the best.

So if you’re worried that adding too many keyword tags can hurt
you, maybe it can, but not up until you get to a pretty high limit

5. Certain video lengths perform and rank well

Number five, the videos that perform best — I like that this
correlates with how Whiteboard Fridays do well as well — 10 to 16
minutes in length tend to do best in the rankings. Under two
minutes in length tend to be very disliked by YouTube’s audience.
They don’t perform well. Four to six minutes get the most views. So
it depends on what you’re optimizing for. At Whiteboard Friday,
we’re trying to convey information and make it useful and
interesting and valuable. So we would probably try and stick to 10
to 16 minutes. But if we had a promotional video, for example, for
a new product that we were launching, we might try and aim for a
four to six minute video to get the most views, the most
amplification, the most awareness that we possibly could.

3 takeaways of interest

Three other takeaways of interest that I just found potentially

Older videos do better on average, but new videos get a boost

One is older videos on average tend to do better in the
rankings, but new videos get a boost when they initially come out.
So in the dataset, Justin created a great graph that looks like
this –zero to two weeks after a video is published, two to six
weeks, six to twelve weeks, and after a year, and there are a few
other ones in here.

But you can see the slope of this curve follows this concept
that there’s a fresh boost right here in those first two to six
weeks, and it’s strongest in the first zero to two weeks. So if you
are publishing regularly and you sort of have that like, “Oh, this
video didn’t hit. Let me try again.This video didn’t hit. Oh, this
one got it.This nailed what my audience was looking for.This was
really powerful.” That seems to do quite well.

Channels help boost their videos

Channels is something Justin looked deeply into. I haven’t
covered it much here, but he looked into channel optimization a
lot. Channels do help boost their individual videos with things
like subscribers who comment and like and have a higher watch time
on average than videos that are disconnected from subscribers. He
noted that about 1,000 or more subscriptions is a really good
target to start to benefit from the metrics that a good subscriber
base can bring. These tend to have a positive impact on views and
also on rankings. Although whether that’s correlated or merely
causal, hard to say.

Embeds and links are correlated, but unsure if causal

Again on the correlation but not causation, embeds and links. So
the study looked at the rankings, higher rankings up here and lower
rankings down there, versus embeds.

Videos that received more embeds, they were embedded on websites
more, did tend to perform better. But through experimentation,
we’re not quite clear if we can prove that by embedding a video a
lot we can increase its rankings. So it could just be that as
something ranks well and gets picked up a lot, many people embed it
rather than many embeds lead to better rankings.

All right, everyone, if you’re producing video, which I probably
recommend that you do if video is ranking in the SERPs that you
care about or if your audience is on YouTube, hopefully this will
be helpful, and I urge you to check out Justin’s research. We’ll
see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.
Take care.


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