YouTube SEO 2018 Optimization Guide

Dayana MayfieldVideo Marketing

YouTube SEO 2018 Optimization Guide_V2_Blog

So why video and why YouTube?

YouTube is second only to Facebook in active users (1.5 billion to Facebook’s 2 billion). But YouTube banks more engagement than Facebook, with users spending 40 minutes a day on YouTube and 35 minutes a day on Facebook on average.

There are three keys to winning over some of that engagement on your own YouTube channel:

  1. Create great content
  2. Optimize your content
  3. Share your content

In this post, we’re diving into everything you need to know about SEO optimizing YouTube content in 2018.

Step 1. Choose the topic and target keyphrase

First things first. You can’t optimize a YouTube video without knowing your target keyphrase. It’s best to choose this keyphrase before you start filming so that the keyphrase guides the content, but if you’ve already created your video, that’s okay too.

I’m making a video about a template for a messaging strategy guide that SaaS businesses can use to keep their marketing clear and targeted. So I’m looking for the right keyphrase.

There are paid tools like SEMRush and Mangools KWFinder which I highly recommend for figuring out the best keyword for Google (for blog posts and web pages). But for YouTube, where there’s likely less competition for key phrases in your industry, it’s probably unnecessary.

Use Google search to see what auto-populateshow-to-choose-keyword-for-youtube-video

The first result is always the most popular. In this case, it’s also the most relevant to my video. So I’m going to go with “messaging strategy template.”

You can also check Google’s Keyword Planner inside of AdWords to see if there are any other good ideas.


Everything that Keyword Planner spits out was too broad and irrelevant for me, but I recommend you give it a try just in case. The benefit is you can see accurate search data and competitiveness for this term in Google. Remember, your video may position in Google search as a video result, so it’s important to choose something people actually search for. Anything that gets auto-populated in Google search or has 2,000+ searches per month is likely worth the effort.

Search the competition on YouTube

To validate your keyword choice, search for it exactly on YouTube and see what comes up. My target keyphrase isn’t being used on YouTube, so it’s still a great option.


If your target keyphrase is being used by tons and tons of videos with large numbers of engagement, you might want to go back to the drawing board and choose something less competitive by adding another word or two, so it’s long tail. Unless you have a large following to get your numbers up (engagement helps with SEOmore on that later), you shouldn’t compete with the big dogs.

Step 2. Create the video

This post is not about video creation, so I’ll keep this brief. If you’re taking a screenshot video, you can use a recorder like Movavi or SRecorder. Don’t forget to use a lapel mic or headphones with a microphone to get better audio quality than your laptop microphone.

If you’re filming a video of yourself, remember that lighting and high-quality audio matter the most. It’s better to invest in a lighting kit and an external microphone to use with your computer’s webcam than to spend all of your money on a fancy camera.

As for the content itself, the top pro tip is to practice before you film!

Step 3. Optimize the video

Once your video is filmed and edited (if necessary), it’s time to upload it. YouTube makes it so easy to upload videos, you could almost miss it. The upload button is in the top right hand corner of YouTube at all times.


After uploading, you can edit the video details before activating it.

You’ll come to a page like this where you can fill everything out. For all the details on how to strategically fill out the video settings for SEO, keep on reading.


Use your main keyphrase in the title

Your main target keyphrase should absolutely be in the title. Try to position the keyphrase as early on in the title as possible. I’ve used mine as the first three words.

Add lots of long tail keyphrases and synonyms in the description.

You can get a lot of incoming traffic from all sorts of keywords, not just the main keyphrase. But this is only possible if you write an awesome description. Aim for a description of at least 200 words so that Google, YouTube, and other search engines can find your content.

Always write for the reader and never stuff the keywords. That said, here’s what to include:

  • Long tail keyphrases you discovered during the research phase
  • Synonyms
  • Relevant adjectives

Use relevant tags (and the tags your competitor uses!)

Tags are a very important part of YouTube SEO. Use tags that are 1 – 3 words long. As with the description, the tags can be keyphrases discovered during the research phase and synonyms, but they shouldn’t be too lengthy.

Here’s an expert trick to position for the keyphrases your competitor uses:

  1. Click on any video
  2. Type Ctrl + U on your keyboard
  3. Type Ctrl + F on your keyboard and search “keyword”

To give you an example (other than messaging strategy), I’m doing this trick for one of my favorite YouTubers Brittney Vasseur.

I can see that for the video “10 Healthy Habits to Slay 2018!” she’s using the tags “healthy 2018,” “new year 2018,” “healthy habits,” “healthy lifestyle” and more.


Add to a playlist if you have 15 or more videos on your channel

Adding your video to a playlist helps it get more views and engagement (which helps with SEO because YouTube and Google know your content is valuable). Playlists also keep your channel organized. So if you’ve got a dozen or so videos, it’s time to start making playlists and adding each new video to one of these playlists when appropriate.

Add a custom thumbnail

A custom thumbnail can increase views of your video. In fact, 90% of the best performing videos have a custom thumbnail. Create one with Canva, Adobe Photoshop, or your favorite photo editor.

Your custom thumbnail should be:

  • 1280 x 720 pixels
  • Under 2 MB

Save changes and publish!

Once you’re done editing the video settings and optimizing them for SEO, you can save your changes, make the video public and hit the publish button. But you’re not totally done yet…

Step 4. Share and promote the video

Your SEO work doesn’t stop on the video settings page! It’s super important to share your video. The more likes and channel subscriptions that your video gets, the more likely it is to show up in search results.

Here are some ideas for sharing your video:

  • Email it directly to family, friends, and personal business contacts
  • Add it to your next email newsletter or a relevant email campaign
  • Share it on Facebook and Twitter and put it on your Instagram profile link
  • Share it to relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups (only the ones you actively participate indon’t be spammy!)

The importance of creating video content is big. Really big. This quote from Gary Vaynerchuk expertly summarizes the impact that content, in general, can have on your business.

The number one rule of sales people is to listen. Know your audience. Where are they spending time? I’m easy to sell to if you realize I’m spending time on social networks, but I’m not gonna want you to spam me in my direct message with a link and no context. You should be producing content for me to see it in my feed. If you’re not producing content for social networks, and the mobile device, and the platforms on it, you basically don’t exist.Gary Vaynerchuk

Yes, creating video content is a lot of work. But it’s a long-term investment in your business, especially when you know how to optimize it.

Remember, YouTube is a search engine, so when it comes to any YouTube strategy, SEO should always be a part of it.

About the Author

Dayana Mayfield

Dayana Mayfield is a B2B SaaS copywriter who believes in the power of content marketing and green tea. She splits her time between Northern California and Northern Italy.