YouTube and Video Optimization

From a social media marketing standpoint, YouTube isn’t an ideal social site because of the way it hoards PageRank (video pages can’t have external links on them, and external links are nofollowed everywhere anyways, including on your user page), so it can’t be leveraged to increase your site’s rankings in the same way that a site like Digg can. That’s why a lot of SEOs and SMOs prefer submitting link bait articles to social news sites versus making videos for YouTube. When a video goes viral, it’s YouTube that tends to benefit in terms of inbound links rather than the original site. So, if the link juice and thus the search engine visibility benefits don’t transfer to your site, what’s the point you may ask?

True, YouTube limits your opportunities to add external links and then nofollows them. But you can be at peace with that fact. Instead, get the YouTube video itself to rank in the SERPs. Long live Google’s “universal search”!

With universal search, YouTube now wields a lot of power to rank in Google’s web search results — which means that getting into video is a good idea. Video blogging or trying to create something that has the potential to go viral can be a great thing for your business.

I especially love the “plus box” in universal search — the clickable plus sign in a YouTube video containing Google SERP that allows searchers to watch the video right there, without leaving the page. It’s a great opportunity to make a brand impression over a course of minutes, while the viewer watches your video.

So how do you optimize video content?

Obviously the spiders can’t see what you say in the video so how are these things going to rank? When you upload a video to YouTube, there are a few important areas to optimize are:

  • the title
  • the description
  • tags (keywords)
  • and your YouTube username

What you call your video, the words you use in the description, and what tags you assign it, will make a difference when it comes to its ranking in the SERPs and for which keywords.

Step 1: When coming up with a good title and description for your video, remember to use the words you are trying to rank for. This might sound obvious, but it’s just like if you were writing good titles and descriptions for a regular page on a site you were trying to optimize. Do not be too exact, but don’t be too broad either. YouTube has the ability to rank for some fairly competitive words especially if there are not many videos about it. At the same time, however, if you title your video “Sports video” you’re just wasting your time.

Make copious use of tags on your videos (assuming the tags are all relevant to the content), spread your tags out among your clips, use adjectives to make your videos more visible to folks searching based on their mood, have some category descriptor tags (bearing in mind that YouTube’s default search settings are Videos, Relevance and All Categories), match your title and description with your most important tags, and don’t use throwaway words like “and” or “to.”

Your YouTube username is an often neglected but important piece, because it can drive traffic to your site and help burn your brand in the viewer’s brain. Consider the famous “Will It Blend?” videos from Blendtec, where they blend iPods, rake handles, light bulbs and the like. Blendtec cleverly set their username to “” to promote their microsite. Granted, it’s not actually an external link (it still points to a YouTube user page), but it provides bloggers and journalists with a URL to use in their blog post or article besides (or in addition to) the YouTube video URL.

Read more on YouTube marketing in this article I wrote for MarketingProfs last year.