In case you didn’t know already, despite the fact that Google owns YouTube, what works for Google search engines does not necessarily work for YouTube search. In other words, just because a video ranks highly in Google search doesn’t mean it will in YouTube search, and vice versa.
Is the difference that important? Um, heck yeah. YouTube is the second most popular search engine, beating out Yahoo, Bing and any other search engine still remotely in use. So yes, it’s pretty important to optimize your YouTube videos specifically for YouTube search results. But how do you do that?
Matt Cutts is pretty vague about what factors influence universal search vs. YouTube, though he offers us a useful scrap about 44 seconds into his Google-y answer. But there is a lot more that goes into YouTube search results, and, as with most things Google-created-and-algorithm-y, the answer is complicated.
What Video Factors Influence YouTube Search Results?
(These are not in any order of importance or most influence upon search results.)
Title, Tags, Meta Description
YouTube has its own unique algorithm, and SEO is still very much needed; actually, SEO is still a little bit old school as far as tags and such. You absolutely must optimize all metadata of each YouTube video because this is what YouTube uses to filter videos according to a particular search. So if you make a how-to video about rehab pool exercises for your legs, make the title as specific to the content as possible, without going over 120 characters. Like, “Rehabilitation Leg Exercises You Can Do in the Pool” or something close to that. It should be succinct, specific, not to long, and not to short. Do not title it “Pool Exercises” or “Rehab Legs in Pool.” The first one is too vague and the second one is too confusing.
Use the same keywords in the title as the metadata. You should use about 10 keywords per video – no less. Any more than 10 will be ignored. The meta description should be precise, use the same keywords and not sound like spam or a bad landing page.
Number of Views
Yes, we all know the number of views a video has is important. But, don’t overestimate its value and ignore all other factors. It is no exaggeration that because of other contributing factors that impact YouTube video rankings, a video with 10,000 views can compete with a video that has 200,000 views.
While the number of views should certainly not be ignored, and definitely impacts YouTube video search results, it very well may not be the most important influencer, like many people believe. As a matter of fact, view-time and audience engagement is probably just as important.
Let’s say a video gets 100,000 views in a week, but 99,950 of those viewers clicked out no later than the first eight seconds of what was a five minute video, and it also has no comments, either no ratings or low ratings, no inbound links, and few channel subscribers – those views aren’t going to do much for its YouTube rankings. A video with quality content that can hook its audience from beginning to end will not only get better engagement, but the number of views will be counted as more valuable than a video with the same amount of views and poor view-time.
Links are still extremely important, both for Google search and for YouTube, because they are like “votes” for a web page or video. The difference for YouTube is that these “votes” come in two forms: actual external inbound links and embeds. Google does not count embeds – YouTube does.
Engagement, at least in this list, lumps together several components that impact the YouTube search algorithm: comments, shares and favorites. The amount of comments, favorites and shares a video acquires tells YouTube that it’s being talked about, and therefore has relevance and authority within its niche. Engagement is becoming more and more influential to YouTube rankings, just as it is important in other social media.
A video with 18,595 views with view-times under 10 seconds that has also been flagged 30 times and rated terribly will probably not do so hot in search results. The lesson here? Don’t try to score a ton of views with a video that uses shock factor in an offensive way. Your rankings will probably suffer.
Let’s say you have a favorite brand of shoes, regardless of whether you buy sneakers, dress shoes or flip-flops. You stick to that brand because no matter what kind of shoe it is, they look awesome, they’re comfortable as hell and last forever. The same applies to individual videos on your channel. The content of all videos and their corresponding number of views impact each individual video on your channel in search results. Let’s say you have a hilarious video on your channel of your pet chicken twerking to a Brittany Spears song, which got 35,000 views and 243 favorites. But if the rest of your videos have less than 20 views and you have next to zero subscribers, that champion chicken probably won’t be twerking in any top spots in search results.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand why the amount of subscribers would affect search results. Even though videos are ranked individually, the overall reputation of a channel can be notably determined by the amount of subscribers, which in turn indicates consistent high quality content of that channel’s individual videos.
Age of Video
A video that has been around since 2009, has all-around golden SEO and other factors – decent number of views, lots of subscribers and links, favorites, good ratings, etc – can surpass the search result ranking of a hot new uber-popular video with a ton of views.
Reel SEO has a great post on YouTube video search optimization that you can read for more depth. It provides a great illustrative example of what impacts YouTube video rankings, by taking the top three videos of a test search and breaking them down according to each of the above factors. It’s worth checking out to see how these influencers add up in top ranking YouTube videos.
Images: FaceMePLS on Flickr | Google