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SEO For YouTube: How To Get More Views On YouTube for Free

SEO For YouTube: How To Get More Views On YouTube for Free 1

If you’re a content creator, odds are you spend hours and hours creating content, editing your videos, and promoting it tirelessly on social media. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get more eyes on your videos for free? That’s where SEO for YouTube comes in. 

SEO is a way of optimizing your content to be shown to as many people as possible in search results organically. This is a strategy that takes time to learn, and once implemented, it will take time for you to see an effect. But once you do, you’ll never publish a video without optimizing it for SEO ever again.

What is SEO for YouTube?

SEO for YouTube Doodle

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Content that is “SEO optimized” is optimized to be shown in a search engine. YouTube is a search engine much like Google (YouTube is owned by Google) and the platform has to understand what your video is about in order to show it to people who are searching for it. This is accomplished by making it as clear as possible what your video is about in your title, speech, description, tags and more. 

SEO for YouTube includes doing keyword research, optimizing your titles, descriptions, and tags, creating a compelling thumbnail and optimizing your channel overall. The most important part of YouTube SEO is producing content that you know people are actually searching for that also has low enough competition so that you can actually rank for it, depending on the size of your own channel. 

By simply doing the work to optimize your content for YouTube’s search engine, you increase your chances of your video being on the first page of search results and being recommended in other places on the platform. This will bring you more views, subscribers, and traffic… for free.

Keyword Research for YouTube SEO

SEO for YouTube

Keyword research should be the first step in your YouTube SEO strategy. 

Your ultimate goal with keyword research is to generate a keyword or keyword phrase that people are actually searching for, but has relatively low competition. The more specific your keyword phrase is, the easier it should be for you to rank higher in the search results for it. 

Each video should have one main target keyword or keyword phrase. While it may end up ranking for other related keywords, when you are doing your optimization, do it with a specific keyword or keyword phrase in mind. 

The first step to your keyword research is to create a list of keyword ideas. Think of things you’d want to create a video around, or snoop competitor channels in your niche and look at their most popular uploads. 

Once you have a few keyword ideas, type them into the YouTube search bar and see what autocomplete phrases come up. The auto-complete phrases that populate in YouTube and Google searches are things people are actively searching for, so save the phrases that interest you most. 

How to Find Low Competition Keywords For YouTube

The key to getting your video to rank well for a certain keyword is to try and determine how competitive the keyword actually is. This factor is different for every channel and is based off the size and popularity of your channel. 

First, go to Google and search: your keyword:youtube.*. 

SEO For YouTube: How To Get More Views On YouTube for Free 2

The higher this number is, the more results there are in YouTube about that specific keyword and the harder it will be to rank for it, especially with a smaller or newer channel. 

SEO For YouTube: How To Get More Views On YouTube for Free 3

The lower the number, the better, but you also need to be sure this is a topic people are actively searching for. One way you can see if people are actively searching a keyword (besides the auto-complete in YouTube search) is Google Trends. 

Just go to trends.google.com and try various combinations of your low-competition keyword ideas to see if there is any search data.

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 Next, open an incognito window and search your list of keywords on YouTube to see what comes up on the first page. Make sure the videos are sorted by “Relevance”. 

 What you’ll be looking for here is the size of the channels that are ranking on the front page results. Is the entire list full of channels that have hundreds of thousands more subscribers than you do? If so, this will probably be pretty difficult for you to rank right now.

If the first page is full of similar sized channels or even a mix of bigger and smaller channels, these keywords will be easier for you to rank for.

Another thing to look for is whether or not the videos at the top of the page accurately answer the search query, or if they’re just related to the keyword. 

If you find a keyword that has active search volume, low competition, and no videos ranking that accurately answer the search query, then you’ve struck gold. 

This is also a good way to validate your keyword ideas – look for how many views these videos have gotten. This will give you a good idea of how popular the keyword is.

Doing Competitor Research as a Part of Your YouTube SEO Strategy

Competitor research is an important part of your YouTube SEO strategy and it can make your life so much easier! 

By researching your main competitors and analyzing their most popular video topics, titles, tags, keywords, and thumbnails, you will come up with a great list of similar topics to do for your own channel. You will learn a lot simply by studying what is working well for other people in your niche. 

It’s important to note that this is not copying and you should never directly copy your competitors. It’s simply data. By looking at what is working well for other people in your niche, you will develop a better understanding of what will also perform well for you. 

You can see what tags a channel is using with a free tool that I highly recommend called VidIQ. It’s a chrome extension that automatically shows you SEO stats, tags and rankings on YouTube for any video. 

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VidIQ Chrome Plugin YouTube Stats

How To Optimize Video for YouTube SEO

Now that you know how to do keyword and competitor research, how do you optimize your actual video for SEO? There are a few different things you need to do for each video to best optimize for YouTube SEO. 

The Video

Make sure to say your keyword in your video at some point. Say it in a way where it flows naturally and isn’t spammy. YouTube can detect this and generates a transcript from your video.

Once your video is uploaded and the transcript is created, spend some time going through the transcript and editing it for accuracy. Since YouTube auto-generates these captions, there are bound to be inaccuracies. Especially when using industry-related words that aren’t common. 

Many people prefer to watch videos without sound and by editing your captions for accuracy, you will capture the attention of these viewers. This, in turn, can help boost your ranking. 

The Title

Your title should be at least 5 words long and contain your target keyword or keyword phrase. It’s best to include your keyword at the beginning of your title rather than at the end. Your title shouldn’t be too long, either –  the purpose of your title is to grab attention and state your keyword. 

The Thumbnail

Your YouTube thumbnail can make or break your chances of ranking a video. You can have the best video in the world, but if your thumbnail isn’t great, no one is going to click and watch it.

Your thumbnail has to pop and grab the viewers attention. A good thumbnail should have bright colors and easy to read text. You can use the text in your thumbnail to expand on what your video is really about and entice people to click. Try to intrigue viewers into wanting to learn more.  

The Description

The video description is very important! This is where you tell YouTube and Google the context of your video – as well as telling your viewers. Include your keyword within the first 25 words of your description, and try to make your description around 250 words long. 

This is a great place to add a call to action to like, subscribe and comment, add links to your website or social profiles, and more. 

The Tags

Tags are your last chance to tell YouTube what your video is about, use them wisely! Use your target keyword and related keywords, phrases, and single words in the tags section. If you’re stuck on ideas, use the VidIQ extension to see what others in your niche are using. 

5 Other Important Ranking Factors For YouTube SEO

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When you’re doing SEO for YouTube, there are a few more factors that are important and play into whether or not your video will rank well. You can have the best keyword strategy in the world, but if your video isn’t also doing well at these 5 things, it will hurt your rankings.

1. Audience Retention

To quote YouTube directly: 

“Your goal is to keep audience retention as close to 100% as you can (because this means viewers are watching all of the way through your videos). And videos with consistently high audience retention and watch time have the potential to show up more frequently in Search and Suggested locations on YouTube.”

YouTube is a business, and businesses need to make money. YouTube makes money by keeping people on their platform, watching videos, and seeing and clicking on ads. If you can do a good job at helping YouTube achieve this, they will reward you with better search rankings and promoting your video in suggested locations. 

Increase your audience retention by doing things like

  • Suspense and drama. If you’re a vlogger and your videos are about travels or your every day life, play a suspenseful or dramatic clip at the beginning of your video. This will hook your viewers and make them want to stay to find out what happens. 
  • Introduce the topic at the beginning. If your video is teaching or showing your viewer something, tell them what they will learn in the video at the very beginning. 
  • Keep your intro short and sweet. Viewers will quickly lose interest during a long intro and you run the risk of them clicking away altogether. 

2. Video Comments

When people comment on your videos, this tells YouTube that your video is of interest to people because they’re engaging with it. Encourage your viewers to comment in the video and also in the description. Likes and dislikes work in the same way. 

3. Subscribes After Watching

When someone subscribes to your channel immediately after (or during) watching your video, it sends a big positive signal to YouTube. If your video is good enough to earn you subscribers, it can help you in the rankings. Encourage people to subscribe to you both in your video and in your description. 

4. Click-Through Rate

The click-through rate or CTR is a percentage of how many times your video was clicked on vs how many times it was seen by a user. If your CTR is low, you can increase it with a better title and a more attention grabbing thumbnail design. 


When your content get shares on other websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, the better it will send a signal to YouTube that this piece of content is valuable and can help you in search rankings.  

SEO for YouTube: Video Optimization Tips for Content Creators

SEO is a deep subject, but it doesn’t have to be a hard one to learn. Many people avoid SEO altogether because they think it’s too hard – but as you just learned, getting started is actually pretty easy. 

By doing keyword research and competitor research, you are armed with so much more information about what is working in your niche compared to those who are just winging it. And, if you stick to the process, you will see results. 

Do you have questions about SEO for YouTube? Leave them in the comments below. 

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Carrie Wilder

Carrie is a part-time vanlifer and the SEO and Advertising Manager for Escapees RV Club. 

When she’s not camping or working, you can find her writing about her favorite marketing tips on her website The World Wild Web

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