With 60 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s not easy to make your video content stand out from the crowd.

But there are steps you can take to make sure that you give yourself the best chance of showing up in search results, thereby increasing your potential audience.

As our Online Video Best Practice Guide points out, Google is increasingly returning ‘blended’ SERPs which contain video as well as web pages, images, news items and map listings.

It’s actually much easier to get on to page one of Google with a video than for a normal web page. That’s because everyone is competing hard on web page rankings and there are many more web pages out there than there are videos.

Furthermore, a recent comScore study found websites that contain video hold a viewer’s attention for more than two minutes longer than sites without video content. This is beneficial, as time on site is one factor that can boost search rankings.

And a study by aimClear found that videos in search results have a 41% higher click through rate than plain-text results.

To make sure your video content is optimised for search, I’ve put together these best practice tips...

Sort out your video sitemap

If you’re hosting video content on your own site make sure that Google is aware of it by creating a video sitemap.

This is an XML file that allows Google to index your video content by providing information on where the videos are, what they’re called, the duration, and what the description and keywords are.

You can read Google’s tips for creating a video sitemap.

Upload it to YouTube

As well as hosting your video on your own site, it’s important to upload it to YouTube. It’s easily the most popular video site around, so gives you the best chance of finding an audience.

However you shouldn’t ignore other video services such as Vimeo, Buzznet and Yahoo Video.

While they can’t match YouTube for size and scope, each of these sites has the potential to add valuable backlinks and drive extra traffic.

Embed links to your site

To make sure you get maximum value when users share your video, make sure you embed a link to your own site, then when someone shares or posts your content you get a backlink to your site, which is valuable for SEO.

Use a catchy, keyword-filled title

As with SEO for websites, the information describing your video needs to include all the keywords you want to rank highly for, so it’s important that you have done some keyword research.

The video title is the most visible element of your content and as such is probably the most important aspect for SEO and attracting views.

The title should include your main keyword, though its important to keep it under 66 characters, otherwise Google will truncate it in the search results.

Also, consider including the word ‘video’ as often when people are searching for video content they will use this term.

Use keywords in description and tags

As with the title, the description should include the keyword phrases you are targeting as well as selling the content to potential viewers.

You should also bring in additional, semantically related words but avoid keyword stuffing, obviously.

If your main aim is to drive viewers back to your site, then you could include adding your URL into the description on YouTube.

The tags also give you an opportunity to include a broader range of keywords that you want to rank for. You should try to assign around 10 tags to each video.

Use descriptive on-page text

When describing the video content on your own site, make sure you include your targeted keywords in the text around the video.

The more text you can include that will help Google work out what the video is about, the more likely it will be to show up in search rankings.

And, as mentioned, make sure to include the word ‘video’ in the description.

Keep videos short

Though long-form video content is becoming more popular online, on the whole internet users still have short attention spans.

So in order to make sure people watch your video and are willing to share it with friends, keep it short.

Think about the ads or branded content you have watched online – how many times have you watched something that was more than 90 seconds long?

If your content is too long users will abandon it, and bounce rates are an important factor for determining video rankings. 

Use rich snippets

A rich snippet is a markup used by Google to show various data elements for your content in the search results.

It allows you to give users more information on your video, including a thumbnail and embedded URL, which helps to attract more views.

Use eye-catching thumbnails

A good thumbnail image can increase click-through rates enormously, so it’s important to get YouTube to select an image that is going to grab the viewer’s attention.

YouTube will tend to take the thumbnail image from one of three positions within your video. So after you have uploaded the video, you can use ‘Edit’ to select between one and three thumbnails to be made available by YouTube.

Unfortunately this means you may have to edit your video so that you have the optimal thumbnail in the right position.

A rule of thumb for calculating where in your video YouTube will look to capture your thumbnail is:

  • X = Length of video in seconds.
  • Y = X divided by 4.
  • Thumbnail 1 = Y.
  • Thumbnail 2 = Y x 2.
  • Thumbnail 3 = Y x 3.

Content counts

I won’t patronise you by suggesting that “create engaging content” is a great tip, as that’s obviously what everyone is trying to do. However, it’s important to recognise the benefits of getting people to watch and share your videos.

As a video gets more views, comments and shares on YouTube it will start creeping up the search rankings as Google values social signals. It will also start to earn more backlinks, which, as mentioned, is a vital way of improving SEO.

David Moth

Published 17 July, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (12)

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Kuladip Roy

Thanks David for shearing of the you tube optimization process. Your point of the eye catching thumbnail is truly awesome. Thanks for shearing this.

about 6 years ago


Derek Berndt

Thank you for this article. Some great information. I wish YouTube would allow the user to upload their own thumbnail; instead of automatically generating a selection of images from the video for the end-user to choose from. It would make life a little easier.

about 6 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

Optimizing the descriptions is so important. Search spiders can't "watch" you video so they have no idea what it is really about. The description, keywords and title are all the content they have to work with.

about 6 years ago



Thanks for sharing the tip on when YouTube captures the thumbnail image. That's one aspect of optimizing my YouTube videos that I had some trouble with and I agree with Derek, it would be nice to add our own thumbnails for the videos.

about 6 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

Nice post David. Video content really is a great way to get your brand, products and services noticed. Like you stated in your post, the sites with video content are more likely to get the viewer’s attention for longer, which means that customers are more likely to view and act on the content as well. Every company can find an angle to start using videos and if they’re not using them now, they should definitely start doing so.

about 6 years ago


KZO Innovations

These are all very important aspects to consider when optimizing a video for a Google search, particularly the importance of including keywords. Your title and description are the only chance you have for search engines to identify what your video is about and pull it into search results. Great tips!

about 6 years ago


MJ Taylor

What do you mean embed your link for SEO? It is possible for a search engine to read a link in a video? Thanks.

about 6 years ago



One of the better checklists I have seen out there so thank you. I wonder why you didnt speak about the benefits of placing your video in multiple locations (vimeo, dailymotion) to enhance your seo further

about 6 years ago


Bryan SEO

Everything in this article is true and is also great advice for those looking to have their videos discovered. I work for an Internet Marketing company here in St. Louis and we have noticed that optimizing Youtube videos is extremely similar to optimizing a website or landing page.

Awesome article! Thanks for sharing.

about 6 years ago



Fantastic advice and tips that are too often overlooked by small businesses looking to generate traffic from YouTube. Simply posting a video isn't enough. It needs to be optimized if you want it to be found and shared. The "video thumbnail formula" is fantastic. Thanks for that ... now, I just need to test it.

about 6 years ago

Warren Green

Warren Green, Manager at QUDOS ANIMATIONS

This is really good, concise information as always. Really practical advice, especially the part about using "video" in the key words. That's the thing about these tips - keeping it as simple as possible can often be the most effective thing.

about 6 years ago



Great tips! And finally a simple and effective formula to find out how Youtube chooses the video thumbnail! I was looking for that for a long time

over 5 years ago

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