Content Marketing

Video SEO: Ranking on Google vs. Ranking on YouTube

Struggling with video SEO? Here are some expert tips that will help you rank better on both Google and YouTube.

Mara Calvello Mara Calvello on March 4, 2021 (last modified on March 5, 2021) • 20 minute read

Getting the right equipment. Writing the script. Setting up the lighting.

There’s a lot that goes into creating a video. Once you’ve put on the finishing touch and have uploaded it, you need to do more than just cross your fingers and hope it ranks within the search results on Google and YouTube. In fact, there are specific tips you can add to your video strategy to ensure your audience is able to find all of your hard work.

Got a specific burning question about the video you want to create? Jump ahead to:

Google vs. YouTube Search: Why Video Rankings Differ

Video marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. And while you’ll have similar tactics for ranking your videos on both Google and YouTube, the strategies, just like the video rankings, will differ slightly.

Even though Google owns YouTube, the algorithms they use to rank content differ. Similarly, the way that these two platforms are monetized by Google is different. Because of this, the ranking algorithms for each are specified to rank videos that will help that monetization the most.

In addition to the two varying algorithms, as well as the monetization strategy, search intent also differs on the two platforms. When it comes to user intent on Google, its goal is to show searchers a result that delivers exactly what they’re looking for and fast. It’s a general-purpose search engine, and it can show users more than just videos. So, if they think a video isn’t the best medium to show the answer, a video won’t rank.

But on YouTube the goal is simple — get you to watch a video. They want you to stay on the platform for as long as possible, following the “rabbit hole” of videos that you could potentially watch and enjoy.

Even with these differences, it’s possible for your video to rank on both platforms. Shaun Price from MitoQ explains, “YouTube SEO isn’t very different from standard text-based SEO best practices. In fact, your video will get more than double the organic views if it ranks in both YouTube and Google.

When performing keyword research, look for a keyword that will rank highly in both YouTube’s algorithm and Google’s video results algorithm to optimize your video towards both.

We recommend choosing a keyword with over 100 searches but less than two thousand per month, so you have less competition but still rank for a desirable keyword.”

Also pointing out the two different algorithms and ranking factors is  Janice Wald from Mostly Blogging. Wald points out how you can utilize both by saying, “Go to Google Search Console and find a keyword you rank for. Turn the answer to the query into a YouTube video.

Make sure in the video description you write what the video content helps you do. In other words,’”How to…’ Make sure you name the video ‘How to…’ and include your keyword. People search ‘How to do something at YouTube’, so putting this in the title and description will help you rank. Next, give the live link to the video in the description.

Make sure you return all comments which boost YouTube’s algorithms. Since Google owns YouTube, Google wants to boost your YouTube video rankings. Follow these tips and you’ll have an easier time getting your videos ranked on Google.”

How to Rank Videos on Youtube

As you try your hand at video SEO, it’s in your best interest to know the ins and outs of YouTube and how to get your video to rank. Let’s dive into some factors you can implement into your video strategy. 

When you want to rank your videos on YouTube, you’ll need to:

  1. Build a backlink strategy
  2. Do keyword research
  3. Write a robust video description
  4. Share the video with your audience
  5. Make sure it’s long enough
  6. Utilize the Auto Suggest feature
  7. Create supporting content
  8. Rename the video file
  9. Use video tags

First things first, treat your YouTube video just like you would a fresh article on your website’s blog — you need to gain some backlinks, meaning links from elsewhere that point to your video. 

Elaborating further is Scott Julio of G2, who says, “Just like any other piece of content out there, one of the biggest things you can do to rank higher in YouTube search is to build quality backlinks to the video while using optimized tags to support it.”

2. Do keyword research

Another major aspect of getting your YouTube video to rank is doing thorough keyword research.

Starting this tip off is  Rachel Mars from Ownage Pranks. Mars explains, “In order to rank your videos higher on Youtube, you must conduct good keyword research. Effective keywords that are searched frequently by viewers can help you rank your video higher on youtube search results. Keywords must not only be used in your video’s title but should also be efficiently included in your video’s description to achieve better results.”

seo tactics

Here to back up that point further is Kathryn Schwab from Bobbie. “One effective tip for getting videos to rank in a YouTube search is to use the right keywords. I use keysearch.co, which provides keyword information specifically for YouTube. I search for keywords that fit the video we will produce, then select video keywords that have several hundred monthly searches. I then use these in the headline, description, and tags,” shares Schwab.

You can then implement some of the keywords you find as you do your research into your video title. Kevin Miller at GR0 explains this by saying, “It’s important to make your video titles searchable. It is appropriate to want to be unique and informative to attract your audience to the recommended feature but you want to make sure your title can come up in an average Youtube search. Use common keywords viewers search for when looking for content; include other unique descriptors on the thumbnail to make it more eye-catching.”

Finally, Mimi McFadden at The Atlas Heart adds, “My number one effective tip for getting videos to rank in YouTube search is to go after the right keyword. You have to make sure the keyword you’re targeting isn’t in too large of a pool of results compared to the size of your channel. 

You’ll want to find a keyword that allows you to be a big fish in a small pond. So, if you’re a small channel, making sure you’re staying under that 100,000 mark for search results (not search volume). You definitely don’t want to be going after keywords that have over one million in the search results unless you can find a video from a channel that’s around your size that has already done well for that keyword.”

*Editor’s note: No matter the size of your channel, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on key metrics so you know how your videos are performing. Take advantage of the YouTube Overview Dashboard Template from Databox. This all-in-one dashboard lets you track the monthly performance of your YouTube channel, in addition to metrics like watch time, views, referral sources, and so more.

youtube overview dashboard

3. Write a robust description

Once you have the right keywords within your video strategy, not only should you be adding them into the title, as well as the video content itself, but especially in the video description. 

To get your video to rank, follow this tip from Ansh Gupta at BuySellEmpire. Gupta shares, “One of the best ways for getting YouTube videos to rank is by using synonym keywords in the description. For example, if you choose a title mentioning ‘How to Use Excel Effectively?’, synonym keywords for it would be ‘Effective Use of Excel’ or ‘Excel Shortcuts to Save You Time”’. However, keep in mind that the descriptions shouldn’t be more than 200-words or include repetitive keywords.”

In agreement is Alexandra Lashner at Frank Advertising, who adds “Every video should have an optimized description of what the video is about. This description should include relevant keywords that you’re trying to rank for and be a few short paragraphs long. Pick the most important keyword you’re trying to rank for and make sure it’s in the description roughly once every 90-100 words.”

4. Share with your audience

What good is the perfect YouTube video if your audience doesn’t know it exists?

Whether it’s through a newsletter or posting on social media, make sure you share your YouTube video with as many people as you can.

Elaborating this point is Daniel Snow at The Snow Agency. Snow explains, “Be sure to share your video ASAP within the first 24 hours to as many social channels as possible, including your YouTube community posts and your email list. Great content that delivers value and all of the above in place will create more watch time, more shares, and help you rank quickly.”

*Editor’s note: Watch time is a crucial YouTube metric, so make sure you’re measuring and analyzing the total amount of time viewers spend watching your videos on Youtube with the YouTube Watch Time Performance Dashboard Template from Databox. Doing so makes it possible to see the amount of watch time your videos have accumulated, while also finding out which videos resulted in you gaining or losing subscribers.

youtube watch time performance dashboard template

Explaining further how important video engagement can be to your ranking status us Kinh Luat Duong at Scandinavian Biolabs, who adds, “The metric YouTube uses to rank videos is engagement. This includes views, likes, subscribers, comments, and shares. To get your video to rank, the best thing you can do is to create an amazing, well-written, well-designed video. After the video is released, plan an outreach strategy. Send the video to your industry networks, your friends, your email list, the community (Reddit, Facebook, Tiktok) and promote it with paid ads.”

In agreement is Mitchel Harad from Expert Opportunities. Harad adds, “ It’s so important to build a mailing list. In terms of getting YouTube videos to rank, sending newly posted videos to a highly engaged mailing list is a superpower most businesses won’t have. A key ingredient of video SEO is to drive high engagement early. And what better way to bring views, likes, comments, and longer watch times than sending your new video to the inbox of a few hundred or thousand people?”

5. Make it long enough

Just like writing long-form content can sometimes be the key to ranking, the same can be said for your YouTube videos. You’ll need to find the “sweet spot” in terms of length. Videos that are too short may not have enough detail, and videos that are too long may bore your audience. 

Helping you to find that sweet spot is Sam Shepler at TestimonialHero, who shares “Make your videos at least 10 minutes long. It has become a known fact that back in 2013, YouTube changed their policies on how they rank their videos, and rather than ranking those with more views they now rank videos based on certain metrics like comments, likes, social shares, and seconds views, being the latter one arguably the most important.”

Adding to this point is Danial Ashrafi at Cloudways. “One of the most important ranking factors is the video length and how much watch time you have on your YouTube channel. If you have good watch time that means people like to watch your videos completely and that gives a big ranking signal to YouTube.

And the second thing which I liked a lot is user-intent, if your video has solved the user’s query then there is a high chance YouTube will show your videos as recommendations,” shared Ashrafi.

6. Utilize Auto Suggest

What if I told you that YouTube did some of the heavy lifting for you in the “auto-suggest” field, also known as the search bar.

Unsure how to use Auto Suggest to your advantage? Travis J from Provid Films explains this by saying, “As a video producer, I make a lot of high-end video content for Youtube. My biggest tips for people starting out and big brands is the same. Pay attention to the Auto Suggest.

Type into the search box and see what it auto-suggests for search terms. As you keep adding words, you’ll notice the suggested videos get less and less polished (usually).

Find a niche you can make content for – and then use that auto-suggest search term everywhere. In the title, thumbnail, description, first comment, tag, and most importantly IN the actual video as you’re speaking.

As an example, if someone is looking for a ‘best video production company in Minnesota’ – which is a SUPER niche auto-suggest – I’d be sure to mention that phrase in my video like ‘Hey, in this video, I’m going to talk about what is the [auto suggest: best video production company in Minnesota]’.

If you have the most relevant video thumbnail and title – that will get people to click. If you start the video strong by mentioning that search phrase – it will keep people to keep watching. That’s my biggest tip for anyone – use and master the Auto Suggest feature.”

7. Create supporting content

Another tip to consider if you are dealing with video SEO is to take the time to create content that will support these videos — especially if you have a website.

Backing this point up is Tiffani Daniel from The Blogger’s Journal, who shares, “Turn your YouTube videos into blogs (or vice versa). You’ll double your SEO efforts and the transcript is beneficial for the hearing impaired.”

In agreement is Joe Manna at Nextiva. “Align your video strategy to the goals of your online content. Create a well-researched, credible, and engaging article. Understand your audience’s needs beyond the search term itself and address them with more nuance the best you can. Additionally, articles featuring videos tend to see a lift in organic impressions and clicks,” shares Manna.

8. Rename the video file

Just like you wouldn’t use an image on your website with the file named Screenshot03.18.2021, you wouldn’t upload a video with the file name MediaFile08.02.2020. Make sure that before you’re uploading your YouTube video you’re renaming the video to align with your main keyword.

Explaining this tip is Janelle Owens at MCAT Prep Insights. “One small but highly important thing that people forget to do is to properly name their mp4 file. People are good at using their primary keyword in the video title and in the description, but it’s the little things that will make the difference.

Whatever keyword you’re going after, make sure to use it in the mp4 filename and in the name of the thumbnail image. These small optimizations can make a world of difference in improving your video’s rank in YouTube SERPs.

We’ve even A/B split tested this with different MCAT exam prep videos just to see if it makes a difference, and I can confirm it does.

So, don’t forget as the last step in your video SEO process to properly label your files,” shares Owens.

Elaborating further is Andrew Ruditser at Maxburst, who shares “ One effective tip for getting videos to rank in Youtube search is by making sure you optimize your video file before uploading. Optimizing your video file will help rank your video within specific keywords while crawling your video. To optimize your video file you must add related content to your videos file information, including its title and description.”

9. Use video tags

Finally, be sure to use all of YouTube’s features to your advantage when looking to make the most of your SEO strategy. This means, don’t forget to utilize the video tag feature.

If you’re unsure about this feature, Nikola Roza at SEO for the Poor and Determined elaborates by saying, “My one tip on getting videos to rank in YouTube search is to use the power of video tags. Namely, tags are one of the ways YouTube groups together videos from different channels so they can show them in a related video sidebar area.

So, if you wanted to rank for a keyword X in YouTube, you’d need to extract video tags from the first three results, then you’d use those in your videos and branded tags from your competitors who’re already occupying the first three positions. This will cause YouTube to show your video more often in a related video sidebar. And over time as you get more and more views and accumulate watch time, your rankings in YouTube will improve.”

How to Rank Videos on Google

Ranking your videos on Google is a whole different ball game, or should I say… algorithm. While there is some overlap in tips between YouTube SEO and Google SEO, there are some key differences we’re going to highlight, too. 

When you want to rank your videos on Google, you’ll need to:

  1. Do keyword research
  2. Write longer video descriptions
  3. Take advantage of other video platforms
  4. Add closed captioning
  5. Create lengthy videos
  6. Be relevant to your audience
  7. Group videos into playlists and chapters

1. Do keyword research

Just like for YouTube videos, when wanting your videos to rank on Google, you can’t skip out on researching for the right keywords. 

Consider using keyword tools to your advantage, like what Shawn Breyer at The Hive Law does. Breyer explains, “You can use Ahrefs to find keywords that rank videos in the Google search results. For example, let’s say our category that we are writing about is credit. We would plug ‘Credit’ into the Keywords Explorer and click on Also Rank For. This will show us all the keywords that the top-ranking pages for ‘Credit’ are ranking for. We will then add filters to the keywords that Ahrefs is providing.”

If you prefer SEMRush over Ahrefs, you can use that, too, when doing keyword research. Take it from Julia Wang at Lifetime Value Company, who shares, “ The one tip to get videos to rank in Google search is to do video keyword research with an SEO tool such as SEMRush.

Webmasters and content creators need to understand which types of search query pages contain video carousels in SERP results and why Google is including video for certain keyword terms but not others.

How-to content—it could be tutorials, recipes, workout instruction—are often good targets for video content creation and naturally lend themselves to be viewed versus read.

Google’s algorithm ultimately takes its signals from users and what content users click through on the SERP results page, so that provides a lot of strong signals to webmasters looking to rank a video in search results.”

2. Write longer descriptions

Another similar tip is that just like for YouTube, if you want your video to climb the SERPs on Google, you need to take the time to write your video descriptions. 

TJ Kelly at Click Play Films explains this further by saying, “Longer descriptions! Too many publishers just use one or two sentences in their description. Or they only use it to promote links to other content. Those descriptions are an SEO goldmine, for both YouTube Search and standard Google Search. You’re allowed 5,000 characters in the description—turn it into a mini blog post! That will give Google the most data possible to sink their teeth into and help your video rank.”

which platform delivers more video views data

3. Take advantage of other video platforms

While YouTube is great for hosting and uploading your videos, don’t forget that you have options. Utilizing these options can give you a better chance in ranking.

Yoann Bierling at International Consulting elaborates this point to say, “ The best way to get a video to rank better on Google search… is to host it outside YouTube! As YouTube belongs to Google, and Google has an obligation to show competition as well, it is actually much easier to rank a video by simply hosting it on another service, which is internally less competitive as they host less content, increasing the chance to end up in Google search results along with YouTube videos. There is no penalty in hosting the same video on several services, so why not try other video hosts?”

4. Add closed captioning

Another step you can take to get your video SEO strategy up and moving is to take the time to add closed captioning to your videos.

Sharing more on this tip is Carlos Rosado at Outlook Studios, who states, “ Add your closed caption. Do not rely on the auto generator as it will have spelling errors and inconsistent writing. Adding closed captions will get your video crawled which can help the search engines understand what your video is about.”

5. Create lengthy videos

Not only does creating longer videos work for YouTube, but it also works in the eyes of Google, too.

Don’t skip out on the quality of your videos either. Aaron Haynes at Loganix states, “ If I’d have to choose one, it would have to be the longevity and quality of a video. It’s simple but not easy. What you want to do is create the definitive video content on a given topic to be the leading source on that. This will get you both backlinks and bonus SEO points from Google. In short, they want to rank longer, up-to-date, in-depth videos with lots of backlinks.”

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6. Be relevant

No one is going to watch your video if it’s not relevant to what they want or need. Google’s algorithm can sniff out a useless video from a mile away, so be sure the videos you’re creating have a point.

Ruchika Gupta at Eyanki Media elaborates this point by adding, “One of the essential metrics to rank in Google’s eyes is relevance. Just producing good quality videos will not always give good results until we show Google that our video is relevant to the topic and our audience likes it.”

7. Group videos into playlists and chapters

Last but not least, don’t forget to group your videos into playlists and chapters. Not only will doing so make your videos easier for users to navigate and click through, but it also gives them a better chance at ranking.

Sharing more on this tip is Luke Fitzgerald at RightFitz Consulting. “Don’t forget to group your videos into playlists, allowing for autoplay and related internal linking throughout the YouTube interface; interlinked pieces invariably perform a lot better than standalone videos when it comes to ‘winning the carousel’ on the main Google SERPs.”

Finally, Aaron Mackel at Hurrdat Marketing shares advice on chapters. “Adding chapters to YouTube videos is something we’ve seen influence YouTube videos ranking in Google. Though chapters aren’t being featured on desktop results pages, we’re seeing the top video on mobile often has chapters added as can be seen in the “in this video” element,” said Mackel.

Just Click Play

Whether you’re focusing on video SEO for YouTube or Google, it’s in your best interest to roll up your sleeves and get started.

A lot of time and energy goes into creating a video, and once it’s all said and done you not only want your audience to enjoy it, you want them to be able to find it in YouTube’s and Google’s search results.

For that, take these tips into consideration as you build out your strategy. 

About the author
Mara Calvello
Mara Calvello Mara is a freelance writer at Databox and a Content Marketing Manager at G2. In her spare time, she's either at the gym, reading a book from her overcrowded bookshelf, enjoying the great outdoors with her rescue dog Zeke, or right in the middle of a Netflix binge. Obsessions include the Chicago Cubs, Harry Potter, and all of the Italian food imaginable.

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