YouTube SEO : How does it works?

Against all odds, SEO on YouTube is SEO work. Update on the keys to positioning yourself on Google’s video platform, as well as the best practices to follow to optimize your channel.

How does SEO work on YouTube?

Instinctively, one would think that it is the number of views that is the SEO factor on the video platform. This criterion does seem to enter into account in the results delivered, but is far from being the only one to be taken into account (and to be taken into account).

If the algorithmic functioning of YouTube remains as mysterious as that of its big brother Google, several elements of referencing are now certain.

Concrete guide to YouTube SEO

As mentioned above, several elements go into the SEO of a video on YouTube. 

A video is a result of a query entered on the search engine. This query, depending on its importance, is either a main keyword or a secondary keyword (a similar keyword, in the thematic, similar)

Video Tags

These tags are the title and description. 

The title should be catchy, encourage clicks. It is possible to add emojis if that corresponds to your target. The title of the video should contain the keyword you are targeting. It must be less than 60 characters.

Regarding the description, it is obviously longer. Carefully work the first visible lines of your description (first 150 characters of the description). They should not only contain the main keyword but also make you want to watch the video.

The rest of the description is a detail of the content of the video containing the secondary keywords.

YouTube Files

These cards are the elements that appear on the side of the video. Integrating them helps strengthen the mesh between your videos and retain the user longer.

End Screen

The end screen, as its name suggests, appears at the end of the video to refer the user to other content. Templates are offered by YouTube to facilitate integration. Like YouTube files, end screens strengthen the mesh between your videos and increase the retention rate of your users.

Links and Sharing

Netlinking on Google is one of the many ranking criteria. External links and shares of your video on external pages will also be taken into account in the positioning and referencing of the latter.


As explained above, the videos referenced on YouTube are responses to queries.  

YouTube works like a huge video library. When you launch a search, the engine takes care of finding the best answer to it.

For this, YouTube will use a tag system. 

Tags on YouTube allow you to enter the subject of the video. They operate similar to the hashtags of other social networks (Instagram, Twitter). The fundamental difference is that they are not visible to users.

The YouTube tag is the new Google Keyword

These tags can be found from the creator space. The idea is to come and optimize them to meet a research intention. Yes, SEO on YouTube is like on Google: you first have to identify the queries that interest you and that are interesting on this specific search engine .

This work is necessary for three reasons:

  1. Working on SEO on YouTube is like embarking on a content strategy. You have to think upstream about the requests you want to target, the response that the video format can provide and the externalities that this can have.
  2. YouTube and Google may both be part of the same entity (Alphabet), but that doesn’t mean they are used in the same way. The requests made on the two engines are different. Research volumes too. You will not be able to identically duplicate targeted queries for Google on YouTube.
  3. If tags are the sinews of war on YouTube, you will find valuable allies in the video content fields. These can be optimized and must echo the tags entered for the video.

Keyword Research on and for Youtube: SEO tools and actions

If you are embarking on YouTube SEO, your first action should be to research keywords and affinity queries with your offer and your products. Like a content strategy on Google, your videos will not go up on user searches if they don’t explicitly target them. 

This first step will then be articulated in two stages: identifying the strong requests of your competitors and those of your market.

Find the strong queries of your competitors on YouTube

To not only find relevant queries but also YouTube-specific volumes, turn to tools such as VidIQ or TubeBuddy. These two plug-ins are freemium and allow, among other things, to: 

  • View tags on competitor videos
  • Obtain the search volumes on a query
  • To have a vision of the performance of the current video, even if it is that of a competitor

By filling in the request on YouTube, here are the search results obtained:

First observation: it is not the number of views that determines your position. Of the three videos, the first in the results has the least view.

By using VidIQ it is possible to identify the tags used in the first video as well as several other interesting data.

The tool also makes it possible to retrieve the search volumes associated with the queries: 

TubeBuddy works similarly, allowing you to quickly identify strong requests from your competitors.

Find the strong demands of your market

YouTube SEO: How to Rank Videos on YouTube

A good SEO strategy is based on a good understanding of the structure of its market. Like a semantic study, you will need to identify the different semantic clusters for your YouTube channel. This work is essential for the proper structuring of your channel and, ipso facto, for making YouTube a lasting acquisition lever for your brand.

Go further: make your YouTube videos strategic points of contact for your brand

Many parallels have been drawn between SEO on YouTube and content strategies on Google. If the two differ in terms of their search engine, the purpose is similar: to offer unique content reflecting the positioning of the brand on related themes.

In this case, the SEO of your YouTube videos should not stop and be limited to the optimization of tags. A real SEO strategy on Youtube will see the optimization of the entire chain.

Improve its entire YouTube channel according to the structuring verticals of its market

On a website, the home page serves as a showcase for the global brand and the category pages are entry points to the different semantic universes of the latter. 

Also Read: Youtube SEO Explained by Youtubers

This logic is also found on YouTube with the channel page and playlists. And just like on a website, these two elements can be optimized. It is then a matter of using the results of the keyword research to identify the playlists to create. The description of the Youtube channel must contain the structuring keywords that will be implemented in the tags of the video. The contents must however remain catchy without falling into the “keyword stuffing” (excessive repetition of the targeted keywords) and without real interest.

Integrate your videos in Google search results

You can also relay your YouTube videos on Google search results. For this, the Mountain View firm has made detailed documentation available to everyone with the steps to follow. that you will find here.

SEO on YouTube: should I get started on this project?

“It depends.”

As with many other SEO questions, the answer is far from obvious and unequivocal. SEO and the use of YouTube are two major projects that involve a global vision beyond the simple field of SEO. 

SEO on YouTube can be done at different levels; Basically by respecting good practices and using the different levers (title, description, files, end screen …) made available by YouTube. 

SEO optimization can be done at a much more strategic level by making the chain a marketing and organic point of contact. At this level, the videos, but also the YouTube channel, must be optimized taking into account the structure of the market in which they are positioned. 

In fact, as for a website, it is strongly recommended to carry out an inventory before embarking on this type of project.


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