Using SEO and SEM Basics to Optimise Your Youtube Videos

So you want to upload your videos to Youtube…but it doesn’t stop there: you want people to find them and to watch them too.

This means optimising your videos so they can be easily found by people on YouTube – whether they search for it or see a thumbnail of your upload in the Suggestions List or on the Featured Video Wall at the end of a clip.

What you need to know about an SEO only approach:

The predominant approach to optimising video content is driven by the principles of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

But there is a weakness inherent in an SEO only approach: While it righteously focusses on your content and ensuring it ranks well, it ignores the display aspect of the equation.

Youtube is a very visual experience and there are a multitude of ways your content will be displayed to users:

  • While searches on Youtube represent a significant slice of searching activity, an SEO only approach ignores the fact that people do not only watch videos on Youtube as a result of searching.
  • Given users also find content by navigating through the video suggestions and the featured video, you should optimise your Youtube content to take advantage of these opportunities and also ensure your optimising works around any limitations inherent in these opportunities.

So rather than relying on a SEO-specific approach when you write titles and description content for your youtube videos, you should also insure the copy you write incorporates basic Search Engine Marketing (SEM) principles to make the most of both the search and discovery opportunities presented by Youtube.

But first, some definitions….

If you want a basics guide to SEOing your Youtube content, I suggest you read the searchenginewatch article How to Optimize your Videos for SEO – it’s an excellent guide to optimising your Youtube Videos. Another good primer for a specifically SEO focussed approach, is this socialrobot article How to Create Effective Youtube SEO.

Meanwhile, here are the areas we are looking at it this post:

1) Watch Canvas

Real-estate on the Youtube Watch Page Canvas

Youtube have set character limits for both the Title and Descriptions fields. These are currently:

  • Title Limit: 100 characters
  • Description Limit: 5000 characters

SEO looks at effectively writing content for these areas to ensure they have key terms that users will search for, so your videos are more likely retrieved in search results and rank well within those results.

2) Featured Videos

Appears at the end of a video, with thumbnails of videos that may also be of interest. This entices users to explore and discover similar content without searching for it.

Featured videos appear at the end of a video

The Featured Video layout can change depending on whether there are users videos which are currently popular or videos which were previously highlighted on Youtube as part of commercial partnership.

3) Youtube Search Results

When a user searches for a video on youtube, results are presented on a search results page:

Youtube Search Results

There are algorithms that determine where your Content will be placed in the search results retrieved for a given term. The reelseo article Youtube Video SEO Tips from SES Chicago outlines  the factors that the algorithm takes into account when calculating where your video will be placed (ranked) in a page of search results influenceas follows:

You Tube has a search algorithm that includes the optimization of the following:

  1. title
  2. description
  3. tags
  4. number of views
  5. rating

All of these items can be manipulated by the video owner, as well as the viewing/sharing audience, to determine placement in both YouTube search listings, and carried over to Google’s own universal/blended search listings.

Source:Youtube SEO, Video SEO and Optimization Tips for Youtube

The SEO activities you undertake when you write copy for your title and description and the key terms you include, will mean your video will be ranked as high as it possibly can be in these search results in relation to other videos on youtube that are retrieved in the search.

Why Search Marketing Principles?

If we consider the basic principles of SEM, in particular search advertising, in relation to our work optimising our youtube content:

  1. Working within limitations (character limits, link limitations and etc)
  2. Writing copy that is:
    1. a clear call to action
    2. effective in enticing users to click through to your content
  3. Ensuring your ads are competitively ranked (bidding, keywords optimisation and etc)
  4. Ensuring your content is relevant to users
  5. Ensuring your content appears relevant to users

We need to understand that the SEO side of your video optimising activities, as evidenced in the two primer articles I recommended, will take care of points 3 and 5, and partially take care of point 1…but there are other opportunities/areas we need to optimise for.

The SEO only approach outlined in the two primer articles I recommended How to Optimize your Videos for SEO and How to Create Effective Youtube SEO) has a significant weakness in not stating or ignoring the need to write copy that fits into the explorative/display/discovery aspect of users interactions on Youtube.

The Social Robot article demonstrates some of these weaknesses, when they suggest you follow this format for titling your video content:

For example, in a promotional video about an event sponsored by a company, a proper title might be, “[COMPANY] [EVENT NAME] | Learn About [EVENT NAME] [YEAR] From [PERSON IN VIDEO]”

Here’s an actual example: “VinSolutions NADA | Learn about NADA 2011 from Sean Stapleton” I like to use the | in titles because it breaks up the content.

Source: How to Create Effective Youtube SEO

This suggested format this does not take into account the fact that Youtube cuts off (truncates) titles when displayed in:

  • Youtube Search Results
  • Featured Videos
  • Suggested Videos List

A second set of character limits

So there is a second set of character limits for these, and your title copy needs to be written with these limits in mind.

As someone working for a company with a triple barrelled name, one that takes up 22 of the 100 characters Youtube will allow in a video title, putting my company name first as The Social Robot suggests ignores the fact that I am losing valuable real-estate on these other display channels by doing so…

To entice a user to click on the video and watch it on its Youtube Watch page, the video title needs to foreground the key selling points that will drive a user to watch it.

I have outlined the additional character limits and included screen shots of examples below:

1) Youtube Search Results

Youtube Search Results with truncated titles highlighted

  • YouTube Search Results:
    Titles are truncated at: 58 Characters
    It will truncate words, i.e. does not take last complete word before limit

2) Suggestions List

Youtube Suggestions with truncated titles highlighted

  • YouTube Suggestions List:
    Titles are truncated at: ~42 Characters
    It does not truncate words, i.e. takes last complete word before limit (hence the approximation)

3) Featured Videos

Youtube Feature Wall with truncated titles highlighted

  • Featured Videos Wall:
    Truncates with an ellipsis (…) at: ~ 34-38 Characters*
    *May put additional content after the ellipsis
    Will truncate words, (I did observe it did not seem to truncate words if the words spanning the limit were enclosed in brackets, although this will require more testing to confirm)

Moving forward

If we consider those limitations, putting my 22 character company name at the head of my video titles uses the bulk of the title real-estate available to me in the three display options: search results, suggestions and feature wall.

As these happen to be the three major ways videos are presented to users, that is a very significant oversight.

Additionally, if you are planning to upload a lot of videos (now or future planning), using the title structure suggested by The Social Robot will obscure the differences between each video (the actual topic of the video). It will highlight the points they have in common (your company).

While your company branding is important, the topic of the video is more likely to be the key driver in a user watching the video.

With that in mind, you should format your video titles to primarily profile the content/topic of your video, with the secondary aim of reinforcing your company’s brand online.

Going back to the Social Robot Example:

For example, in a promotional video about an event sponsored by a company, a proper title might be, “[COMPANY] [EVENT NAME] | Learn About [EVENT NAME] [YEAR] From [PERSON IN VIDEO]”

Here’s an actual example: “VinSolutions NADA | Learn about NADA 2011 from Sean Stapleton” I like to use the | in titles because it breaks up the content.

Source: How to Create Effective Youtube SEO

A better format would be one of the following:

  • [Person in Video]’s Guide to [EVENT NAME] [Year] – [COMPANY]
  • Guide to [EVENT NAME] [Year], [Person in Video] – [COMPANY] or
  • [EVENT NAME] [Year] – Introduction by [Person in Video], [COMPANY] or

Some other permutations for formatting content:

  1. If you were a record label looking to promote one of your stable of band’s music videos, you might follow this format (Making sure you used the description to promote the album it features on/your label):
    1. [Song Title], [Artist] – [Record Label], or
    2. [Artist]: [Song Title] – [Record Label], or
    3. [Song Title], [Artist] – [Album Title], or
    4. [Artist]: [Song Title] – [Album Title]
  2. If you were a film distribution company looking to promote the trailer for one of your films you would follow this format (In the case of movies, I would always put the release date after the movie title in case there are similarly titled movies):
    1. [Movie Title] ([Year]) – Trailer, or
    2. [Movie Title] ([Year]) – Trailer{either [Director’s Name] or [Distribution Company Name]}

With clever use of your company acronyms and optimising your description as well, you should be able to tick all the SEO boxes for content terms and key brand terms while still ensuring your titles transform gracefully and are still clear calls to action regardless of which method they are being displayed to youtube  users.

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  1. […] original post here: Using SEO and SEM Basics to Optimise Your Youtube Videos … Comments […]

  2. […] the rest here: Using SEO and SEM Basics to Optimise Your Youtube Videos … Posted in Seo Iso | Tagged easily-found, means, means-optimising, stop-there, upload-your, […]

  3. […] post follows on from my post about Using SEO and SEM Basics to Optimise Your Youtube Videos where I looked at combining Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) […]

  4. […] post follows on from Using SEO and SEM Basics to Optimise Your Youtube Videos and Optimising Your Youtube Video Titles: Everything important should be in the first […]



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