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Video SEO: Optimize Like a Boss

Picture this scenario: you’ve worked hard on a video, and you’re excited to send it out into the world. You’ve spent hours on the script, shot and re-shot footage, and edited the whole thing until the finished product looks great. You finally click the publish button, and…


After all that work, your video collects only a handful of views.

Does this situation sound familiar? If so, it’s time to work on SEO for your videos. Low engagement doesn’t necessarily mean that your videos are bad or that video isn’t an effective strategy for you. It’s more likely to mean that no one is finding your videos in the first place.

Fortunately, you can optimize videos for search engines just like any other type of content, and a few simple tweaks can help you step up your video strategy fast. This guide will walk you through the process of making your videos more visible on the Internet.

Video SEO Optimization: Creating an Optimizable Video

Let’s start with the basics. There are all kinds of practical things you can do to optimize your videos for search. However, for any of these methods to work, you’ve got to have a good video in the first place. All the SEO hacks in the world won’t make a video succeed if it’s low on content or poorly put together. 

Video SEO Checklist

Make your video content discoverable

Before you work on your video SEO optimization – and, for that matter, before you even start to create it – identify its purpose. Some common purposes for marketing videos include educating customers, getting your brand on new leads’ radar, and selling products.

Before you work on optimizing a video, identify its purpose.

After deciding why you want to make a video, set a concrete goal so you’ll be able to measure your video’s effectiveness in real-world terms. For instance, you could aim to increase your site’s traffic by a certain percentage or sell a specific number of items.

Having a goal won’t just help you create a stronger video – it will help to guide your decisions about video optimization, too.

The content and quality of your video also matter. Let’s face it – a video with poor lighting, fuzzy sound quality, or bad editing isn’t going to impress viewers, no matter how great the idea behind the video is. Similarly, if a video is more fluff than actual content, no amount of clever production and editing can save it.

SEO for video: how to do it right

People pay closer attention to video than to any other type of content. Source

Research from HubSpot found that people tend to scrutinize video more closely than any other type of content on the internet. This makes sense – it’s possible to skim an article or blog post, but a video forces viewers to slow down and pay attention. While this can be a great advantage of using video instead of text, it also means that video marketers have to be extra vigilant about the quality of their work. If there are issues with a video, people will notice!

So how can you know if a video is worth making and publishing?

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether the video’s content would work in a different format. For instance, if you’ve written a script for your video, ask yourself if you could turn it into a blog post. If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track – your finished video will most likely be content-rich, useful, and easy to optimize.

20 Ways to Repurpose Your Content: Checklist

Finding Your Keywords

Keywords are the core tool of any SEO strategy, including your video SEO optimization. This is just as true for video as it is for text-based content, even though video has less text to optimize. Using keywords in your video’s title, description, and tags is useful for human viewers and search engines alike. And if you’re trying to get your site to rank better for certain keywords, creating videos optimized for those keywords can help you make it happen.

You can do keyword research for a video SEO optimization just like you would for any other type of content. Visit your favorite keyword tool, like Google’s keyword planner or, to get lists of suggestions. Try to use a tool that gives you information about how many searches a keyword gets in a month, as well as how competitive that keyword is. This will help you target keywords that will get you results, but won’t be too hard to rank for.

SEO optimization for video

Google’s keyword planner shows you how competitive keywords are, as well as how frequently they’re searched.

Once you’ve got some keyword ideas, you can check whether they’re video-friendly by searching for them on Google. Do video results show up? If so, you’ll know that your keyword is in demand among people who want video content.

SEO optimization for video

A Google search for “how to do a handstand” returns multiple video results on the first page.

Deciding Where to Host Your Videos

When it comes to video SEO optimization, hosting is a major consideration. Your two main options are either hosting your videos on your own site or using a hosting service. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice, and depending on your goals, you may even want to incorporate both of them into your overall video strategy.

Hosting your own videos means that your videos live on your website, not on YouTube or any other hosting provider. People will have to come to your site to watch them (unless the videos are embedded somewhere else).

The main benefit of hosting your own videos is that you get to keep all the SEO optimization “juice” those videos create. You retain complete control over them, and all the traffic and links they generate will go directly into boosting your site’s rankings. It might even help you get Google to index your website faster. Since Google favors sites that contain video content, this can be a very effective way to get a more powerful web presence.

Hosting videos on your own site can be a very effective way to get a more powerful web presence.

But self-hosting isn’t the right choice for everyone. For one thing, it can be technically difficult. If you’re unfamiliar with how hosting works, it’s probably best to steer clear of this option unless you’re working with a good web developer. And for sites that are small or unranked, it can be hard for self-hosted videos to get enough traction to improve the site’s rankings in the first place.

For people who aren’t fluent with technology or who don’t want to deal with the hassle of self-hosting, the better option is using a hosting service. YouTube is the best-known hosting service. You can also use alternatives like Vimeo, Wistia, and Facebook.

Video host vs video marketing platform

Hosting services offer some extra benefits besides just being easy to use. Google owns YouTube, so if you go with YouTube for hosting, you ensure that Google knows about your videos – which isn’t always the case for self-hosted videos. Google also tends to prioritize videos from YouTube in search results. And a YouTube video may get more views than a self-hosted video, simply because people on YouTube are already there with the intent of watching videos. 

If you don’t like the idea of your videos staying on YouTube instead of your own site, paid hosting providers like Wistia and Vimeo can help you get the best of both worlds. These services let you host videos on your domain without actually dealing with the technical side of self-hosting. As a result, searchers who find your video land on your site – not on YouTube.

How to Host Your Own Videos

Does self-hosting your videos sound like the right option for you? If so, here’s how you can optimize a video on your own site.

Start by creating a dedicated page for each of your videos. In addition, make a navigation hub, like a page that lists and links to all of your different videos. This makes it easier for visitors (and Googlebot) to explore your videos and find what they need, and it helps you stay organized.

Include plenty of information on each video’s dedicated page. Use the video’s title in the page’s title tag and H1 tag. Include a full, well-formatted transcript underneath each video. Insert a few still frames from the video throughout the transcript, especially at points when the video contains important visuals. You may also want to write a descriptive blurb about each video and include it near the top of the page.

Next, use markup to tell Google what each video is about. Metadata like a video’s name, description, and thumbnail help Google decide how to classify and rank a video. For more information, you can check out Google’s own guidelines for how to use markup with videos. Google also provides a helpful chart of tags that are required or recommended for use with videos.

SEO optimization for video

In addition to using markup, you should also submit a video sitemap for each video you create. A video sitemap is a text file that helps Google understand your video content. Google has published instructions on how to create a sitemap. Once your sitemap is finished, you can submit it to Google through Search Console. Here’s an example of the code for a sitemap:

SEO optimization for video

The code for an example video sitemap. Source markup and video sitemaps serve similar purposes, but they aren’t the same thing. A sitemap is a file separate from your site, while markup stays on the page of the video it describes. To give your videos the best chance of getting indexed and ranked in search, it’s a good idea to use both.

Optimizing Videos on YouTube

Uploading your videos to YouTube doesn’t give you quite as much SEO control as self-hosting does, but there’s still a lot you can do to give your rankings a bump. The first thing to do is to choose a good title and thumbnail. Many viewers make split-second decisions about whether to click on a video based on the title and thumbnail alone, so it’s worth spending some time on this step.

Your title should be clear, concise, and descriptive. Put your main keyword near the beginning. Aim to make an emotional impact by using attention-grabbing words and emphasizing what the viewer will get out of watching your video.

YouTube automatically generates three video thumbnails for you to choose from. If you have a verified account, though, you can create your own custom thumbnail in a program like Canva. Since your thumbnail is so important, making your own is generally preferable to using a random one. You can make an eye-catching thumbnail by:

  • Using a brightly colored background
  • Featuring a person’s face, preferably smiling
  • Using text to highlight what your video is about
  • Using contrast to make the elements of your thumbnail stand out from each other

SEO for video. Examples of custom thumbnails. YouTube channel

After coming up with your title and thumbnail, focus on your description. The description field is valuable real estate, so make use of it! At the top of the field, add a link to your site. Then add a descriptive paragraph or two – you should do this with every video you upload, even the short ones. 200 words is a good minimum to shoot for. Make sure to include your keyword in the description. If you have space, you may also want to include a well-formatted transcript for your video in the description box.

If you upload a lot of videos to YouTube, look into branding your work with a custom intro and outro. This helps you stand out from the pack, and it’s also a convenient way to include a call to action at the end of every video. Outros are commonly used to show related videos and to encourage viewers to like, comment, and subscribe. You can use a tool like to create your own outro, or you can hire someone on a site like Fiverr to make one for you.

Finally, if you have a number of videos already on YouTube, create some playlists. Add new videos as you publish them. People are more likely to watch multiple videos if you’ve already done the work of turning them into a playlist. This is another opportunity to make keywords work for you, too – make sure to include your major keywords in your playlist titles.

Connecting with Your Audience

Whether you’ve already built up an audience or you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to promote your videos to help them get found. Self-hosted videos often don’t get much attention without some outside help. And on YouTube, many of the most important ranking factors – such as comments, views, and shares – depend on your audience, not on you.

SEO for video. Number of video comments.

How comments correlate with YouTube ranking. Source

The most obvious (and most effective) way to promote your videos is to have a social video strategy in place. Whenever you publish a new video, share it across a variety of social media platforms that your audience uses. Keep in mind that, while you don’t want to spam anybody’s feed, more people will see your videos if you share them more than once. Tools like HootSuite and Buffer can help you schedule your updates to occur at different times of the day.

You can also promote your videos by using them in your other content. Try embedding a video in a relevant blog post or linking to one in a marketing email. Using videos on your landing pages is always a good strategy, too.

Finally, don’t forget your call to action! You’ll get more likes, comments, and other engagement on each video if you actually ask for it. A custom outro is one good way to do this. And when people leave you comments and questions, either on YouTube or social media, always reply to them. It shows your audience that you appreciate them and want to interact with them.

Wrapping Up

A little SEO can make a big difference in how well your videos perform. With just a few tweaks, you can optimize your videos to get more views and engagement, and that will boost your rankings even more. Put these tips to work for you next time you create a video, or try going back to your old videos and optimizing them. You’ll probably be pleased with the results!

If you’ve tried these strategies yourself, what worked best for you? What didn’t work as well as you hoped? The comments below are open!

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