I never thought of YouTube as a customer acquisition platform.
I’d uploaded many videos in the past with little-to-no effort in optimizing them.
I didn’t want to waste my effort.
Because I always thought of YouTube as a place to watch sports and TV highlights. Yet, I was proven wrong by the simple fact that a few entrepreneurs were crushing it like Gary Vaynerchuk and Neil Patel.
Curious to understand what they did differently, I analyzed their channels and hired a YouTube expert. In less than an hour, we optimized one of my videos with 100 views which enabled it to get 400 more views over the next two days. I became a believer.
As a believer in YouTube marketing, I want to break down all the tactics people are using to optimize their videos to get more views, subscribers, and customers. Best yet, how I copied them 🙂
1. Create a Compelling Video Thumbnail
Let’s start with the obvious. It has to look good to get clicked.
Have you ever created a Facebook ad that popped? It got tons of click-throughs, engagement, and even drove sales? Well, the chances are it would make for a great YouTube thumbnail.
Take a look at Neil Patel’s thumbnail for his video. It could easily be a Facebook ad if it didn’t have so much text. Neil is smiling which makes it engaging and the text clearly states the benefit. Moreover, the headline is just as good. I’m interested and ready to learn.
2. Update the Date
On Neil’s video, notice how it was uploaded in 2017, but it says 2019 on the video title and thumbnail. Neil’s YouTube video on SEO is evergreen so he doesn’t need to change the content. Instead, he edits the title, thumbnail, and description. Now it’s ranking for the word 2019 because no one searches for 2017 SEO tactics anymore.
By doing this, Neil doesn’t have to come out with a new video every year. Instead, he can simply make a few changes and he’s ready to go.
3. Get People to Subscribe on the Video
Did you know you can have a watermark on your video? You can put your company logo on it, then when people click it – it asks them to subscribe. The problem? Who would want to click your company logo? Instead of uploading your company logo as a watermark, use a YouTube subscribe image as Neil has done.
To upload the watermark, go to your Creator Studio, click channel, then select Branding. Here you can upload a subscribe watermark that will appear on all your videos just like Neil.
Congrats! It’s now easier to get subscribers.
4. Keyword Your Profile
Before you go all in on optimizing your videos, ensure you add keywords to your profile. The keywords should coincide with the content you upload. Once again, go to your Creator Studio, click channel, then select Advanced. Here you can put in relevant keywords next to “Channel keywords.” I recommend putting in branded keywords like your company and personal name. Then add the other keywords you wish to become a thought leader in.
Another keyword secret?
When you upload your video on YouTube, you should use your keyword in the filename of the video.
5. How to Optimize Keywords for Your Video
In the example below, notice that our recently uploaded video of our interview with the Webflow co-founder is ranking near the top when you search “Webflow.”
To do this, we had to do a deep dive into keyword research. That starts with a couple of free Chrome extensions. The first one: “Keywords everywhere” which shows the number of searches/month below the search bar like in the example above. The second one: “vidIQ” which shows the numbers of searches every month for different keywords, keywords a YouTube video is optimizing for, and the keywords a channel is optimizing for.
Using these tools, we conduct our research using search.
First, I type in Webflow as an obvious choice because that’s what my video is about. However, I want to know if it’s hard to rank for this keyword. By taking a look at the videos on the first page, I notice a high view to subscriber ratio. This often signifies a high search volume and low supply of video content relative to this demand.
That means this keyword is perfect to rank for. Now that I know this keyword does relatively well, I can make a couple of hypotheses to test.
#1: Webflow ranks well because they have many users (over one million) which drives search, especially as a software product that requires – to an extent – tutorials to understand.
#2: Because Webflow is probably searched via YouTube for tutorials, my video interviewing the founder won’t be relevant to most related keywords for their product.
Simply by typing in Webflow to the search bar, this proves to be right. Notice that most of the searches are tutorial related. That’s means I’ll need to find other keywords to use.
Because Webflow is a Y Combinator company, I hypothesize there will be valuable keywords there. One reason, in particular, is Y Combinator is known for founder interviews, so this could be a perfect match. Doing some basic research on Y Combinator related keywords, I noticed two of the top three results for my “Y Combinator Interview” search don’t even include the word “interview” anywhere. Yet, they’re still ranking for this search.
If non-optimized videos can rank for this search, then I can sure beat these videos by making mine a little better. I don’t even have to do much besides add “YC Interview” to the keywords I want to rank for or in my title and description of the video.
We don’t stop there. Next, we play around with a few more searches like “Founders stories.” I notice this search gets 260 visits/month. That may not seem like a lot to most people, but over two years that could drive another one thousand visits to my video. If the visitors are of high quality and they enjoy the content, then YouTube will push my video out to even more viewers.
When I take a look at the first video, I notice a high view count compared to the subscriber number. Again, this means this keyword search is high quality because there’s not a lot of competing content. The downside? The video at the top “Founders’ Stories: Basecamp’s Jason Fried” is of strong quality having the keywords in the title.
It also has the video included in the ones it’s optimizing for. In this case, it doesn’t hurt to take second place. With that said, because YouTube ranks newer content better than older content (similar to Google with blog posts), I have a strong chance of outranking this video in the future.
With this knowledge, I put together a powerful optimization plan for my video. First, I include the keywords I want to rank for in the title. I have to be careful because I can’t make the title too long; otherwise, it won’t show up well on mobile.
Then I include the relevant keywords in the ones I want to optimize for when I’m editing my video. I add as many keywords as it will allow me to do.
After several days, vidIQ will show you the ones you’re ranking for with their blue outline. I’m currently #2 for “Webflow Founders.”
A 60.2 SEO score according to vidIQ. I recommend aiming for a score above 40 for all your videos. It’s not easy, but well worth it – to say the least.
6. Optimize Your Headline and Description
This one is simple.
You get an SEO boost by adding the keywords to the beginning of the title. Find your favorite keywords you want to rank for – then put them there.
For example, if you want to rank for “Webflow Tutorial,” then have it at the beginning of your headline – “Webflow Tutorial: How to Design Beautiful Landing Pages”
Next are your video descriptions. The more optimized your description, the higher you’ll rank. To optimize your video, include keywords in the first 25 words, make the description at least 250 words, and include your keywords 2-4 times. As a result, this SEO-optimized description helps tell Google and YouTube what your video is about making them more likely to rank you better.
Lastly, include timestamps (i.e. “11:15 How viral loops work”) to guide the viewer and increase audience retention. Here’s an example below:
It’s as easy as typing in the numbers and YouTube will automatically link the sections for you.
7. Create a Compelling Outro
This is rather easy to do, but so important for getting subscribers. When someone gets to the end of your video, they’re at their pique point of becoming a subscriber. After all, they just consumed an entire video of your content. This is where you want to add a subscribe image which is often just your YouTube profile picture and another annotation that leads people into another relevant video of yours.
To do this, go to your Video Manager section, then click videos. Here, select the relevant video you want to edit, then click End screen & Annotations. I recommend adding annotations to the last 15 – 30 seconds of your video. That way it’s not intrusive to them completing it.
To get these elements on the video, click “Add element.”
From here, select either “Subscribe” to get your channel image on the video and “Video or Playlist” to get your “Most recent upload” or “Best for viewer” video uploaded.
And that’s it!
8. Ask Your Current Fans to Subscribe
There are two ways to do this:
#1: In your video, when you’ve given a lot of value to the audience, simply ask them “Hey, if you’ve received a lot of value from this video, please hit subscribe.” You’d be surprised at how many people will do this in return.
#2: The second one is to send out your channel link to your current fan base whether through email, Messenger, or social media.
Except don’t use the regular channel URL. Instead, add a ?sub_confirmation=1 to the end so it looks like this:
Now when people click through, they’ll see the pop-up to Subscribe.
This is an easy way to transfer your audience from other platforms to YouTube.
9. Optimize for Google Search
Google likes to rank videos on top of its search results.
Here’s an example:
For the most part, Google uses video results for these types of keywords:
-How-to keywords (“how to shave a cat”)
-Reviews (“beats by Dre review”)
-Tutorials (“Setting up WordPress”)
-Anything fitness or sports related (“Cardio kickboxing”)
-Funny videos (“Cute animals”)
So if you optimize your video around keywords that don’t have video results, you’ll only get organic traffic from YouTube. However, if you optimize for a Google video keyword, then you’ll also attract traffic from Google’s first page of search results.
To find these keywords, start with what works on YouTube, then plug those keywords and phrases into Google. You’ll see which ones have videos.
Once you’ve found a Video Keyword, it’s time to see if there’s any search volume for that keyword. Otherwise, you might rank in Google for a keyword that only gets 20 searches per month. That’s not worth it.
Dive into your AdWords account, click on Tools, then Keyword Planner.
Here, you want to identify a video keyword phrase that gets between 500-1k searches per month in Google depending on your niche.
If you can get the corresponding video to rank in Google, then a lot of those searchers will click on your video in the results. This will ultimately lead to a better ranking for your video on YouTube and, ideally, traffic to your site.
10. Say Your Keywords
YouTube has an advanced transcription for videos. This means they know whether your video’s content is related to the subject you put in your video’s headline, description, and keywords.
So if you don’t say your keywords, then guess what?
You won’t get ranked.
I recommend saying your keywords as often as possible without diluting the quality of the video. The reason is even though YouTube’s transcription is advanced, it’s not perfect.
I’d also open your video with the keywords to make it easier. To do this, remind people of why they clicked on the video. For example, let’s use the backflip video from earlier. Here’s how I would open it:
“Hi, my name is Josh. I’m here to teach you how to do a backflip.”
That was easy.
11. Promote Your Videos via Quora and Your Blog
The days of sharing your YouTube videos to Facebook and LinkedIn to drive traffic…those days are dead. Facebook and LinkedIn don’t want you promoting other platforms on theirs. So they’ll penalize your content’s reach. Ouch.
The good news is there are a couple of sites that encourage you to upload content. The first site is Quora.com. Here’s an example from Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko.com where he uploads a YouTube video that answers a question.
Now, I recommend taking this one step further by answering related questions. For example, if I want to better rank my interview about growth hacking with Sean Ellis, then I’ll link to it in answers for relevant questions.
One of the biggest problems in writing on Quora is finding good questions to answer. By “good,” I mean questions that will bring you views and send you traffic.
A tip, I got from Si Quan Ong is if you set up an Ad account, select “Targeting by Questions.”
It will prompt you to enter a relevant keyword. When you do so, it will show you questions with the number of weekly views/week (you don’t even have to run ads).
To take advantage of this, you want to either link or embed a video in your answers similar to how Brian Dean does it.
For example, for the top question, “What is the best way to learn Growth Hacking?”
I embed my Sean Ellis interview:
Now I have a consist 20 – 60 impression every week seeing this video. If I can include it in another 4 – 5 answers with relevant traffic, this video will receive enough views to tell YouTube whether it’s worth ranking or not.
12. Optimize for How People Consume Your Video
I don’t expect people to watch my 30-minute plus video interviews.
I expect them to listen to it.
I expect them to hit play, move the tab to the side and work on their projects. The reason for this is nobody wants to put in a lot of effort to consume content. They want it to be easy.
Ask yourself, “Where do they get the value?”
For my interviews, it’s not in looking at me and the interviewee.
It’s in what we say.
If you’re learning to do a backflip, then you’d rather watch.
Because it’s not enough for someone to say “do this one step” and you have the confidence to jump in the air backward and land on your feet. Context matters.
Knowing these facts, I can better optimize my video. I’ll put in less attention into my video cuts for the interview to keep the viewer’s eyeballs on it and more attention into the quality of sound to keep them listening.
It’s easy to see what works. By diving into your YouTube Studio, you can click on any of your videos. From there, you can see an overview of the analytics. Audience retention is by far the most important.
Here you want to test what videos work for you to retain eyeballs and listeners. If you’re uploading music, then you can expect a lot of people to switch tabs.
The video example below is of me writing a viral post. It’s very visual which means it will be harder to rank if it’s bad content.
Notice that you can see which videos contribute to your subscriber growth. In this case, this video provided 32 new subscribers. For a new channel that’s quite a lot.
Looking at the numbers, people really liked this YouTube video. With that said, it’d be hard to reproduce just by the nature of the content.
13. Hook the Audience for Retention
“To know how to rank #1 on Google you must watch this whole video. The last two tips are the most important.”
This hook gets the audience curious enough to stay through the entire video. As a result, your audience retention increases and YouTube ranks your video better.
For a great example, watch the first ten seconds of this video and listen to what Neil Patel says: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmB_TC92I8w
Another way to do this is to put a snippet of the best clip from the video in the beginning or use an image of it as the thumbnail. Here’s an example:
The Yes Theory team also does an excellent job of this:
All these are super clickable images.
14. How to Growth Hack Interview Questions
If you’re uploading an interview video, an easy hack is to ask the right questions. To do this, conduct your research beforehand on what questions would make sense.
Let’s say I’m interviewing the founder of Webflow, I can ask “Why Webflow vs WordPress?,” “How would you review Webflow?,” “What makes Webflow a great CMS?,” and “Where do I find the best Webflow tutorials?”
It’s easy to find these questions – I just pulled them from the initial search drop-down.
By asking a YouTube optimized question, I can edit out the relevant cut to that question and make it it’s own YouTube video. Then I can tag the video accordingly for the keywords I’m ranking it for.
16. Run Ads to Your Videos
TrueView ads are a great way to reach your target market.
Firstly, they’re low-risk.
Remember, you’re only charged when viewers opt to watch your entire ad, view it for at least 30 seconds, or interact with the ad in some way.
This is awesome.
Because although 76% of consumers reflexively skip these ads, you can at least be sure your budget is being spent on interested viewers.
Secondly, because TrueView ads are opt-in, you aren’t restricted by time limits.
This means that you can experiment with different creative formats such as product demos, testimonials, or how-to videos.
For example, Grammarly has used testimonials and product demos in their TrueView ads to great effect. In fact, a massive 54.4% of their social media traffic comes from the site.
What’s more, according to Google, when brands use TrueView, they can see views of existing content increase by up to 500%.
However, TrueView ads often lead to low retention rates on your video if not optimized properly. This can hurt your SEO score. It’s important to use YouTube Search ads as well because they have stronger intent which leads to more retention.
The downside is they tend to be a bit more expensive. Go figure.
17. Engage, Engage, Engage
YouTube recognizes whether you engage with your commenters or not. If you do, they rank your videos better. I recommend engaging with them not just liking their comments, but responding to as many as you can.
Try to be clever because it can escalate into many more comments.
Yes Theory does this well:
Yes, that’s 500+ more comments because of a simple question.
18. Optimize Your Video Cuts
To keep viewers engaged, it’s important you cut your videos for subtle surprises. I recommend having a couple of cuts in every minute of your video to keep your viewers’ attention.
Here are some example cuts below –
The side cut:
The introing-a-subject-matter cut:
The presenting-a-subject-matter cut:
The zoom-in cut:
The show-what-you’re-working-on cut:
The speed-up-slow-down cut:
The magically-appear cut:
The change-up cut:
19. Check Your Analytics for Actionable Insights
The secret behind optimizing YouTube videos for SEO is focusing on growing your subscriber number and retention rate analytics. To analyze retention, go to your YouTube Creator Studio Classic, then click on Analytics.
Here, you can dive into Audience Retention to see if you’re improving over time. This is the primary determinant of if your YouTube channel is on a successful track.
You can track the retention by individual video as well. Best yet, you can see if you’re running effective ads. Here, you can see that ads actually negatively affected my video by hurting my watch retention rate.
The idea is to test many different types of content for getting subscribers.
When you find something that works, then double down on it. But don’t double down on content because it has a large number of shares, likes, and views. It’s a distraction from building your number of subscribers.
Watch time has the highest correlation to more subscribers so we want to double down there.
To see where this watch time is coming from, you want to analyze the traffic sources: Suggest Videos, Channel pages, and YouTube Search. If you can find out how people found you through YouTube, then you can optimize for it. Analyze the number of views compared to average watch time. Then, look at how many subscribers those videos attract.
Next, we want to understand what keywords are pushing traffic through the highest performing channel. Now, we want to optimize for those keywords. Ensure to pick the keywords that lead to subscribers and a long video watch time.
How do we optimize for these keywords?
Put the best keywords in the title of your video and descriptions.
To take it one step further, I like to include an email address with an autoresponder thanking them for their inquiry and asking them to sign up on my list. Lastly, I include a link straight to a landing page to collect emails. Sometimes I use the link to my Facebook Group instead.
Next, find out what videos are referring you traffic and subscribers (maybe your own), then optimize for the keywords in the video title names and channel names. For example, if Justin Bieber’s channel is sending me a lot of traffic along with one particular video of his, then I’ll insert his channel name and video title name into my keyword list when optimizing for traffic.
If you’re looking to optimize your videos for SEO, remember subscribers and retention rate are your two most important metrics. Always optimize your videos for these metrics when uploading them and later when you have data on where your video’s traffic is coming from.
20. Record Your Screen for Tutorials
If you’re making tutorials, an easy way to set them up is to use QuickTime Player. With QuickTime Player, click File, then New Movie Recording.
From there, drag and shrink the video to the top right corner of your screen.
Now, click File again and select New Screen Recording. Here, you want to record the appropriate area of your screen. Then click the button in the middle “Start Recording.”
Now you have a tutorial video with a picture of yourself in the top right.
And… that’s everything folks 😉