YouTube SEO: How to Get Your Videos to Rank #1

With over 1 billion unique users a month, YouTube isn’t a platform to ignore. Learn how to get your videos to rank #1 on both Youtube and Google through optimizing SEO!

The YouTube platform is very saturated so it’s important to focus on creating content that will rank #1. Did you know that you can optimize your YouTube videos through the use of SEO? It’s a strategic process, but with some practice, you can master the techniques and have your videos ranking on the first page every time!

  • Building the Foundation: Creating Your Video
  • Hitting All the Right Keywords
  • The Work Isn’t Over: Engagement and Sharing

Building the Foundation: Creating Your Video

‍High ranking videos start with great video content.

YouTube’s algorithm used to be based on views, but in recent years they’ve changed the system. While views still count towards rank, so do engagement with the videos (we’ll touch more on this later). Metrics such as shares, likes, comments, and the number of seconds viewed now have an impact on rank as well. How do you have a successful video that hits all of those benchmarks? By building a foundation of a great video with great content!

Content Counts

In order to have a video that gets shared, liked, and commented on, you have to have great content. The topic and keywords that are in your videos are important. Do a keyword search on YouTube to see what people are looking for, and base your video off of that. Make sure to say your keywords when you are filming, because, as we’ll discuss later, YouTube transcribes videos as a way to analyze what it’s about.

Video Length

In the past, short videos ruled the web. However, just because a video is short doesn’t mean it is necessarily more successful—20 or 30-minute videos can go viral, as well. Although it’s not known what the optimal YouTube video length is, the average length of the 10 most popular videos was 4 minutes and 20 seconds. This statistic isn’t set in stone, but it does seem like shorter videos still tend to do better than longer ones. This all depends on your audience, however. Keep in mind who is watching your videos, why they’re watching your videos, and tailor your length to fit them accordingly.


Although the thumbnails themselves don’t count towards rank, they do have an impact on your click-through-rate, which can maximize your views and boost your ranking. YouTube will automatically generate a thumbnail for you, however, custom ones always outperform the automatic. Make your thumbnail catchy, relevant, and aesthetically pleasing.

Hitting All the Right Keywords

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Just like writing content, when it comes to creating YouTube videos, keywords are important. Luckily, YouTube gives you a ton of opportunities to hit those keywords and bring up your ranking! As always, do a quick search beforehand and see what else is ranking and what people are searching for.

Video Title

The title is probably the most important SEO factor when it comes to content, video or otherwise. Put accurate keywords into your title and make it relevant to your video. YouTube, owned by Google, is all about making their results accurate and without spam, so as long as your title is relevant to your content you’ll be good to go. Also, don’t forget about your raw video title—since YouTube can’t actually watch your video, this is a factor in determining what the video’s content is about. Make is similar, if not identical, the video title.


The description is really the only way your viewers will get a description of what your video is about without watching it, so make it convincing! According to Shout Me Loud, the first 2-3 sentences are what matters most when it comes to ranking. They should cover the theme and content of the video and be written in a way that will encourage viewers to click on it!


YouTube allows you to tag your videos, so make sure to do 10 tags at the minimum. Don’t forget to include your keywords! Also, remember that YouTube is sensitive to plural and non-plurals. For example, “animal” and “animals” would be considered two separate tags. As long as your tags are relevant, go to town!


Did you know that YouTube transcribes every video in order to have closed captions? This is another way it analyzes the content of your video. If you audibly say your keywords in your video, YouTube will “read” the transcription and pick up on it. Unfortunately, YouTube’s transcriptions aren’t always accurate, so double check your CC and edit if needed.

Your Work Isn’t Done: Engagement and Sharing

Watch time, comments, and shares all impact your ranking.

Your work doesn’t end when you publish your video—if anything, it’s just beginning! The user reaction and engagement with your video is an important aspect of SEO and ranking.

Watch Time

Watch time is pretty self-explanatory—it’s the amount of time people spend watching your video. According to YouTube Creators Academy, “Watch time is measured in cumulative minutes watched, and each video uploaded — as well as every channel on YouTube — is “ranked” by watch time. Channels and videos with higher watch times are likely to show up higher in search results and recommendations.” It’s important to create interesting, engaging videos that keep people watching.

Video Commenting

When someone comments they are signaling to YouTube that they feel strongly about your video to the point that they are vocal. Backlinko analyzed 1.3 million YouTube search results and found a very strong correlation between ranking and comments. One way to encourage comments is to comment yourself, so be active in responding to people!

Video Shares

Sharing is another signal that viewers give to YouTube that your video is of quality content, which will boost its ranking. It’s estimated that there’s a 12.12% correlation between ranking and shares, and according to an infographic from SEO Horizon, “Considering that YouTube encourages publishers to create highly-shareable content and that YouTube reports shares in YouTube Analytics, you have a strong possibility that that relationship between shares and rankings is more than a chance correlation.”

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When used effectively, YouTube is a great platform to create content on. However, navigating SEO and ranking factors is a bit more difficult than just creating a video. In order to rank high on YouTube, create a high-quality video that is longer rather than shorter and that includes your target keyword. When uploading the video, incorporate the keywords into the video title, description, and tags. Don’t forget to edit your closed captions! Once your video is live, cultivate engagement and sharing by being active in the comments section and encourage video shares.

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