Three-thirds of the population are visual learners, says the Social Science Research Network. The brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text.

It’s no surprise then that, following the explosion of mobile devices and video streaming technologies, people now spend more time consuming video content. Jumping from four minutes in 2011 to 30 minutes in 2017, the average watch time per day solidifies the fact that video is quickly outpacing still imagery.

And the Internet is brimming with videos: from the brief native clips on Facebook and Instagram to the paid streaming services offered by Netflix, Hulu, and the like. Among all these options, YouTube has become the mainstay, and by a significant margin, the go-to platform for free, high-definition videos. Rightly so, it’s become the biggest video marketing platform brands use to spread awareness and build a loyal following.

A recent study by Brightcove reveals that almost half of viewers (46 percent) claim they’ve purchased as a result of watching a branded video. If you’re looking to ramp up your marketing strategy, YouTube, with its 1.5 billion monthly active users spending more than an hour a day consuming its content, offers opportunities you can’t pass up.

Cisco also predicts that by 2020, video will be the largest source of consumer Internet traffic.

Whether you’re just getting started with YouTube or looking to maximize your viewership and reach, this blog will give you essential tips to achieving your goals and driving higher ROI from your video efforts.

YouTube Discovery and Watch Time

Before we jump into the “how” let’s talk about the “why” of video optimization.

The most critical indicator or ranking factor on YouTube is “watch time.” The success of your channels and videos does not depend on “views” anymore but on watch time, as it reveals a lot about a viewer’s engagement.

“Watch time” means that your videos entice people to stay and watch some more, instead of clicking away. And more importantly, this ranking factor sends a strong signal to YouTube and Google that people are happy with your content. In exchange, YouTube and Google will show your video in the suggested or related list, sending free, organic traffic to your channel.

But earning hundreds or thousands of “watch time” minutes doesn’t end at creating an engaging video.

Sure, you can pay for a spot on the search results or advertise it. But there are ways to organically build your watch time and increase engagement without blowing your budget. One of which, and so far the most effective, is to optimize your video to feed YouTube’s algorithm and make it show up at the top of search results. The method borrows similar principles with optimizing for Google, except that YouTube has an algorithm of its own that determines how it ranks videos.

Here are 10 YouTube optimization hacks to maximize the discovery, engagement, and distribution of your video content.

10 Optimization Hacks for Better SEO

  1. Create Fresh Content

A successful video campaign starts with engaging content. But what people and YouTube love more is fresh, newly updated content. Much like in Google and other search engines, freshness is one of YouTube’s most important ranking signals. The newer and more relevant or timely your video is, the more likely it will appear in the search results.

  1. Refine Tags

YouTube tags are keywords or related terms that help viewers find your video when they search the site. Proper YouTube tagging is crucial to your video ranking better in YouTube search results. Because tagging is a key ranking factor, it’s important to have a strategy in place and to brainstorm the essential tags for maximum impact. Your best “core” words should be brand-specific and those that help identify what the video is about. For an organized and streamlined process, prepare separate spreadsheets for different tag groups or categories. Ideally, they should be based on various types of search queries: generic, navigational, category, or genre.

The golden rule is to understand the different ways different types of users would search for a video. You can achieve this by performing extensive keyword research before creating video content and publishing it. In addition to the tag research tool, YouTube’s auto-suggest tool is also a useful source of relevant tags as these are ranked by relevance, and they reflect people’s search behavior, as well. On top of the site’s keyword suggestion tool, Google AdSense’s external tool is also a great place to extract keywords from your competitor’s videos and generate suggestions based on your “core” terms.

Once you’ve collected a list of single-word, multiple-word, broad-term, and brand-specific tag variations, sift through it carefully, omit what’s unnecessary, organize by relevance, and play with as many formatting tools as you like.

Go over this in-depth guide to YouTube tagging by Backlinko for more help.

  1. Create a Worthy Title

Creating a title for your video is just as important as optimizing your tags. While it’s the tags that help YouTube’s algorithm to connect your content with its target audience, it is the title that entices viewers to choose your video more than everyone else’s.

Make your title as crisp, relevant, and catchy as possible—avoid clickbait-y titles altogether.

The rule of thumb here is to have both users and search engines in mind because if your title looks good from an SEO standpoint, your video will most likely appear at the top of search results, which, to a user’s mind, is a signal for authority and relevance.

To better match your tags with your title, use the tools mentioned above.

  1. Optimize Description

Like titles and tags, descriptions and annotations are all crucial components of a video’s metadata, which is basically a set of data that describes and provides information about the video content. All these help viewers find the best videos they want to watch and maximize long-term viewer engagement (i.e., views, likes, shares, subscriptions) and satisfaction.

When optimizing your video description, make sure it describes the video’s content in the most straightforward manner. Misleading viewers or including words unrelated to your video will only give you a penalty or even prompt YouTube to remove it. Avoid stuffing it with tags or keywords. Instead, take it as an opportunity to introduce your video and why it’s worth the watch.

For video titles and descriptions, make sure they don’t exceed Google’s maximum character count. Google truncates titles that exceed the 66-character mark and 300 characters for descriptions. For the metadata, Search Engine Land suggests including the word “video” to increase your page’s relevancy when a user performs a search query, which will typically contain the word “video.”

  1. Optimize Your URL Structure

Restructuring your video and channel URLs is essential from an SEO standpoint. URLs and domains have long been established as some of the most fundamental building blocks of SEO, and it’s only wise to apply best practices to your video marketing campaign. Follow this step-by-step guide from Moz on how to properly structure your video URLs for optimal SEO success.

  1. Write Enticing CTAs

The beauty of YouTube is that it offers plenty of space to promote your other videos, digital channels, or product pages. You can embed links at strategic points throughout the video (ideally at the beginning or end) and create a playlist to encourage viewers to explore your channel further and drive conversions. You can also paste a link of your website or social media channels on the description section and make a pitch. Enticing call-to-actions (CTAs) is the key to maximizing opportunities on YouTube.

  1. Understand Viewer Behavior

YouTube is an endless source of super detailed analytics and robust tools to help you understand how your viewers behave. Audience Retention is one such tool, which lets you track a viewer’s drop-off point, or the point when you start losing views at a faster rate, on each of your videos. Understanding your viewers’ retention metrics will help you fine-tune your content creation strategy. Base your pitch around the shared context of your audience to maximize clicks. In other words, make a CTA that’s most relatable to the largest number of viewers. Use your analytics tool to find common information about your audience, such as age, interests, language, or location. Another way to write an effective CTA is to relate it to the video they just watched.

  1. Leverage Other Channels

To maximize visibility, tap into your other channels to promote your videos. While YouTube vastly relies on its algorithm to rank videos, promoting your videos can still drive qualified traffic to your channel and improve your chances of generating higher engagement. Make sure to embed your YouTube videos on your website and social media profiles to expand your reach. Follow the tips above when providing descriptions and CTAs for your videos in other channels.

  1. Dress Up Your Channel

Consider your YouTube channel as an extension of your website or social media pages. Personalize it through settings, colors, themes, and modules, and include your logo or background image to reflect your brand. Also, don’t forget to encourage embedding and allow comments and ratings to up your engagement rates.

  1. Measure and Calibrate

Maximizing your presence on YouTube requires continual research and risk-taking. As with all digital marketing methods, it’s important to stay proactive and dedicate some time to monitoring each video’s performance and how your competitors are doing. Stay up-to-date on viral videos and what grabs your target audience’s interests. More importantly, take advantage of the tools and plugins that YouTube and other digital marketing platforms provide to help you make and optimize videos better.

Timing is Essential

Keep in mind that there’s a small window for optimizing your video content for it to have a significant impact on your watch time and engagement. Before you even create and upload your video, make sure you already have a detailed roadmap on what, how, and when to optimize. For maximum visibility, execute this strategy within the first 48 to 72 hours after your video goes live. Search Engine Land notes that in doing so, your video will come out strong and give the algorithm hints that you intend to drive viewers and engagement to your channel.

Follow these tips and use these tools to make sure your marketing videos are being discovered, watched, and shared. All these will help your video go from invisible to popular—and possibly viral.

For more YouTube hacks for better SEO, connect with C-1 Partners, the leading SEO company in Denver.