The best way to improve YouTube SEO


If you are looking for the best way to improve SEO on YouTube, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we outline the top 5 things you can do to improve YouTube SEO.

What is YouTube SEO?

YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world just behind Google which incidentally is also YouTube’s parent company. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of creating and optimizing web content to improve discoverability. This includes optimizing keywords, playlists, metadata, descriptions, and tags. One important aspect of YouTube SEO, that is sometimes overlooked, is providing transcripts or subtitles for your videos.

How YouTube Search Works

YouTube search works much like Google search. You upload your videos to YouTube and they’ll be immediately indexed by Google. As you can imagine, YouTube and Google operate under many of the same tenets of search so it’s really important to optimize your videos so they can perform as well as any other content posted on the web. If you want a video to go viral you absolutely need to make sure YouTube (and Google) understand what the video is about. While a video title, description and tags are table stakes for your video, you should also include subtitles and transcripts if you want to truly optimize your videos. Not only does it help your search rankings, it improves users experience, engagement, and watch time.

Top 5 ways to improve YouTube SEO

1. Create accurate subtitles

YouTube now automatically transcribes your videos. However, YouTube’s auto-captions aren’t very accurate. Unfortunately, if your videos are filled with gibberish, your video can be construed as spam and that would negatively impact your search rankings. Many YouTubers use automated transcription like Sonix as a starting point and manually clean up any machine generated errors. This is a great way to get subtitles fast and inexpensively.

It’s really important to create subtitles as subtitled videos will rank higher than those without subtitles. As an added benefit, your video will get more engagement, more likes, shares, and comments than it would without subtitles. Higher engagement boosts video search rankings. 

YouTube videos that have closed captions are proven to increase user engagement, earning more likes, shares, and comments than videos without captions. Higher engagement, in turn, boosts video search.

Lastly, subtitles allow those with hearing disabilities to follow along with your video. 

2. Add a transcript to the video description

In addition to creating subtitles for your video, you should also consider adding a full transcript of your video in the description field. The description field fits 4,850 characters including spaces. If your transcript is longer than that, you can simply summarize the key points. Or if you don’t have time to summarize, you can cut the transcript at the end and then link to the full transcript on a separate website. 

The video description is a key field that search engines crawl and index your video. 

3. Translate your video transcript and subtitles to different languages

While English subtitles improve your SEO, offering subtitles in multiple languages opens up your video content to more viewers and can further improve SEO. Upwards of 80% of views on YouTube are coming from places outside of the United States. This is an enormous opportunity to expand reach. 

While this sounds like it could be a lot of work, automated transcription software like Sonix can translate subtitles into dozens of languages in a matter of minutes.

4. Optimize title, description, and tags with keywords


Keywords and keyword phrases are the building blocks of a good SEO strategy. You should make sure the keywords you focus on describe your video accurately so that search engines can appropriately index your videos. Make sure you don’t overuse your keywords. Search engines are smart enough to know when the text is “stuffed” with keywords. A good rule of thumb is to write for humans, not robots.

YouTube has some free video analytic tools you can use to optimize your keywords. This is a good starting point as you look for keywords that don’t have as much competition.

Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner is also a useful tool to get a better understanding of what keywords and phrases might work best for your video.


Your title can be as long as 100 characters but remember that when it is displayed it will be truncated to 66 characters. This means that you should put the most important message at the beginning of your title, not the end.


The meta-description can fit up to 5,000 characters. This is also truncated at 166 characters so make sure you push the most important information up front. Make sure you include a link to your product.


Tags can be up to 120 characters. These are handy for helping search engines understand what your video is about. Again it’s important to put the most important tags first. 

5. Make your thumbnail amazing

Do not underestimate the power of your thumbnail image! Choosing the right image can make an enormous difference to your click through rate. Best practice is to use a high quality, high contrast image that has a 16:9 aspect ratio. In an ideal world you would have an image of something that embodies your keyword focus. 

YouTube allows you to choose a frame from your video to display as your thumbnail. By default, YouTube will present 3 screenshots to choose from but you don’t necessarily have to choose one of those. You can choose a different frame or you can also upload your own image. Having an image of someone’s face rather than a static image is always good if you’re not sure what image to choose.

That’s it. By implementing these top 5 ways to improve YouTube SEO, you’ll undoubtedly get more viewers, increase engagement and watch time.

Good luck! 

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