YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google, which is why the importance of search engine optimization for YouTube videos is also increasing. The SEO experts at artaxo explain how your videos can land in the top spots in the video search with the help of YouTube SEO.

You can read more articles from the series here:

  • Voice Search SEO: How to Optimize Content for Voice Search?
  • Which SEO trends will be important in 2018?
  • How will machine learning change SEO in the future?
  • How does Google’s RankBrain affect SEO and content marketing?
  • Content Marketing & SEO – This is how a good strategy succeeds
  • Interview with artaxo CEO and SEO expert Patrick Klingberg

YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google

With more than a billion users, i.e. almost a third of all Internet users, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world after Google. The total duration of the videos played every day is about one billion hours . An enormous number of searches are therefore carried out on the video platform. All the greater the challenge that exactly your video is found by the users. But if you want to be found, you should optimize your videos and YouTube channel – i.e. use YouTube SEO.

How does YouTube SEO work?

SEO for YouTube videos works in a similar way to conventional search engine optimization: there are certain algorithms and parameters that determine the visibility of the videos. Unlike Google, however, these ranking factors mostly relate to the videos and the platform itself. Google is quite reticent about the factors. Still, some assumptions about ranking factors can be made.

The most important ranking factors for YouTube SEO

Broadly speaking, they fall into three categories: video, channel, and engagement factors. The most important video factors are the title, description, keywords, transcription, content, quality, thumbnails and file name . Video frequency and channel maintenance play a major role in the channel . In addition, the engagement factors include aspects such as views, watch time, likes, shares and playlists . We introduce you to the most important ranking factors and give you tips for optimization.

Video Optimization

content and quality

Any optimization will do you no good if the users are aware of your videos and click on them, but then they don’t find the expected content or the video quality is poor. The first few seconds are crucial here. So be sure to pay attention to these two aspects first before you further optimize your channel and videos.


The video title is the most important ranking factor and helps both search engines and users to understand the content of your videos. 

  • Our tip: An ideal title consists of 60-70 characters in order not to be cut off. Put the main keyword as close to the beginning as possible. Your brand should come last, if anything.
  • Describe the video content as accurately as possible.
  • Arouse curiosity in the user, but only create expectations that your video fulfills. Encourage users to click, but avoid a clickbait title.
  • Use a unique title for each video, for a series of videos, include the title at the end.
  • Our rule of thumb for the title: [main keyword] [descriptive text with secondary keyword or variation of the main keyword] ([additional information, if necessary])[brand]


In the video description, you can provide the users and the algorithm with further information about the video content in a maximum of 5,000 characters. 

  • Our tip: The description should be at least 200 characters long. Summarize the content of your video precisely, if necessary use a table of contents with jump marks to the appropriate point in the video.
  • “Above the fold” is only room for 100-120 characters. Formulate this area as appealingly as possible and place the most important keywords there. Shops in particular should always have an “above the fold” link. By the way, this section also shows up in Google search results.
  • Use the space and be sure to include your long-tail keywords here. Questions that are answered in the video should also appear in the description.
  • If necessary, link other videos of your channel, your social media accounts, etc.
  • Add a call-to-action, through which you can e.g. For example, asking people to like or comment on the video, subscribe to your channel, or ask questions.


Keyword tags on YouTube help the algorithm to understand the content of your video and play a big role in the video rating. They are not displayed publicly, but can be read in the source code. 

  • Our tip: Choose around 15 tags per video.
  • Be sure to use the main and relevant additional keywords.
  • Use plural variants and synonyms for important keywords.
  • When making your selection, make sure to use a mix of generic and specific terms, brand tags can also be included.
  • Create standard tags relevant to your channel, such as B. your brand. These channel keywords should be mentioned in every video in your channel, as they help YouTube show your channel’s videos among other recommended videos.

Transcription (subtitles)

Subtitles are important not only for the deaf, but also for search engines to better evaluate the content of your video.

  • Our tip: YouTube can create subtitles automatically. However, since speech recognition is not yet fully developed and has errors, you should write the transcript manually or at least revise it by hand.
  • Mention the main keyword in the video so that it also shows up in the transcript.


The thumbnail is the preview image in video search results and is the first visual impression YouTube users have of your video. Therefore, it significantly affects the click-through rate of your video.

  • Our tip: Customize the thumbnail in Creator Studio on YouTube.
  • Use an image in high-resolution format: 16:9, 540×360 pixels.
  • Use an appealing image that arouses curiosity but does not create false expectations in the user.
  • Use bright colors, emoji, outlines, or close-ups of faces with eye contact to draw attention.
  • Add the key message of the video or your claim.
  • Create an individual thumbnail for each of your videos.


The file name of your video also helps the algorithm to better classify the content.

  • Our tip: Formulate the file name of your video file as precisely as possible.
  • Make sure that the most important keyword is preserved in it.
  • Separate words with a hyphen.

Channel Optimization

In addition to optimizing each individual video, you should definitely present your entire YouTube channel in the best possible way. The user should be able to quickly find the information relevant to him there.

video frequency

YouTube likes freshness, and users will stop by more often once they realize that you’re providing new content regularly.

  • Our tip: Publish new content as often as possible – provided the video quality remains high.

channel design

When users visit your YouTube channel, they should find a professionally designed channel.

  • Our tip: Make sure your channel name is appropriate.
  • Use a header graphic that matches the content of the channel; Communicate fixed transmission times here if necessary.
  • Link your social media profiles in the social bar.
  • Add a precise channel description and your imprint.
  • Use a channel trailer to give viewers a sense of what the channel is about.
  • Create meaningful playlists where users can find related videos. Use keywords that are relevant to you for the playlist titles. If necessary, add third-party content to your playlist, so you can direct users to your channel.


User signals are an important indicator of whether a video is relevant or not and is therefore extremely important for a good YouTube ranking. The number of subscribers and video views are important. In addition, the watch time, which provides information about what percentage of the video is actually watched by the users. YouTube also rates it positively when users stay longer on the channel and on the platform in general after watching a video. Another ranking factor is the ratio between likes and dislikes and the number of comments. Other user signals are shares and the number of embeddings of the video on other websites. The engagement can only be indirectly influenced by you as the channel operator.

  • Our tip:  Publish new videos regularly.
  • At the end of your video and in the description, encourage viewers to share, like, or comment on your video.
  • Actively involve your community, e.g. B. Questions in the comments. And answer the questions of your community.
  • Include info cards in the video that link to other videos.
  • Create playlists with several videos on a topic in order to achieve the highest possible watch time.
  • Use the option of credits and integrate additional videos, playlists or external websites there.
  • Repeat successful formats.

This is how you find relevant topics and keywords

When choosing the topics, you should definitely ask yourself which topics interest your target group. To find out, you can B. Social media or the comments in your videos. Inquiries received by your support team can also help you at this point. To find out which topics are currently doing particularly well on YouTube, you can also look at the YouTube trends.

As with conventional search engine optimization, a brainstorming session is recommended for keyword research. Other helpful keyword tools include:

In addition, it is always worth taking a look at the competition. What content do your competitors have and what evergreen content works best for them? Once you have found a keyword, you should definitely check which other videos rank for this keyword. What formats are used and how long are these videos? What other keywords are used? Competitive analysis tools are Socialblade and VeeScore.

How to measure success on YouTube?

The YouTube Analytics tool is also located in YouTube’s Creator Studio . There you can e.g. B. Retrieve data on average watch time, number of views, ratings and comments. Information about user demographics, device types, etc. is also provided there. There are also numerous external tools such as B. TubeBuddy or vidIQ . You can also use the YouTube Rank Checker to determine the ranking of a video for a keyword in the YouTube search.

Concrete recommendations for action can be derived from all this information. If video embedding works particularly well, you can place it more prominently on your own homepage, for example. Low engagement could indicate a lack of calls to engage.



Search engine optimization for YouTube is not that complicated if you follow a few basics. With these basics, a new channel can quickly establish itself within a niche topic. The biggest lever in YouTube SEO remains viewers and engagement factors. Therefore, content that inspires is extremely important. Therefore, question yourself at regular intervals: Would I, as a representative of my target group, watch this video? Would I subscribe to the channel? If you can honestly answer both questions in the affirmative, your channel is on the right track.

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