Youtube SEO

Youtube SEO Experiment & Useful Tips

Rank #1 on Youtube using these secret tips! Um..not quite, and as I dug further into the world of video SEO, I was falsely promised thousands of views, top rankings and lots of subscribers.

So, I decided to have a crack – or find out as much of the truth about Youtube SEO as I possibly could. Not in the interest of spamming Youtube with crap videos, but to legitimately rank well for a useful video.

The Experiment

Forward: Please keep in mind this was a basic experiment conducted in an attempt to understand the Youtube Ranking Algorithm. I will expose all of my actions that saw my video climb up the ranks to number 2 for my targeted keyword, “web scraping”.

About the video: Using Google Docs spreadsheets, a bit of xpath, and a sprinkle of genius fairy dust from Tom, I was able to gather data from the web quickly and easily. So I made a video tutorial to teach others.

The competing category: Can’t say how competitive it was because the Youtube Keyword tool didn’t have enough data. The competing videos had view ranges from 45 to 7,000+, and some users had 20+ videos and very active accounts. See table below.

Day 1 – August 6th 2010

  • Created my screencast video, and formatted to HD
  • Created a brand new Youtube account, no picture, no profile description , and definitely no friends
  • Named my raw video file “xpath.xxxx” This is important, I’ll tell you why later
  • Uploaded video and chose an appropriate thumbnail
  • Used the audio swap feature to give my video a copyright free song from Youtube
  • Added a description, titled my video and added some tags
  • Made an interactive transcript – see intermediate tips below
  • Made my video public, allowed instant comments, and video responses
  • Commented on a random video and liked my own comment

August 7th

  • Commented on video from another account

August 8th

  • In the settings of My Channel, I added a title and channel tags
  • I subscribed to other related video users (about 5, including my competition)

August 12th
  • Had a colleague comment on the video and tweet the URL
  • I liked his comment and re-commented
  • Posted video link on an Xpath Forum (It was no followed by the way)
  • Used my personal Facebook profile to promote the link
  • Promoted it on a tip (which didn’t do anything FYI)

September 1st
  • I noticed my video has now been placed in the “featured” category at the top of the list for web scraping
  • Now appears at bottom of Google SERPs ( for “web scraping using xpath”
  • Also appears on second page Google SERPs “web scraping xpath”
  • Video SERP result ranks 4th for “xpath google docs” on Google

Sept 4th
  • From working on other videos I noticed a strange relationship between clicking on my video, then clicking on related videos, watching them in full and clicking on the next related video. I cannot explain this, but after doing so: a computer from another IP, in a different continent, not logged in, was seeing my video in the featured box. About 2 hours before, my friend saw a different video. Random, or could I have influenced it? Funnily enough, it’s still nowhere to be found in the suggestions column for “web scraping”

Sept 23rd
  • Ok, so that featured video highlighted box does rotate. It rotates videos from promoted to other videos in the category. I still don’t know why, or what influences it. Search history? Cookies? Genuine community interest in that video? Totally random?

October 4th
  • Finally see my video in the suggestions box for “web scraping”
  • I’m ranked number 2! Co-incidence?

Current Situation

November 3rd 2010

  • Haven’t done much since October 4th, except being logged in while I’m watching other videos.
  • Every now and then I comment, and maybe this shows Youtube I’m an active user
  • Ranks haven’t changed, and I’m stable in Google and Youtube rankings.

See for yourself...

Google “web scraping using xpath”, “web scraping xpath”, “web scraping google docs”

Search Youtube for “web scraping”

According to Yahoo Site Explorer I have 3 backlinks to the video; here is a quick summary of discovery stats:

Youtube thinks I’ve  done a good job with the video, as indicated by audience attention. If you want to know more about hotspots and how I used to it make an interesting video, read my post on Youtube Insight.

Youtube SEO Tips

  • Don’t forget to make your video public – allows your video to become searchable
  • If you’re putting a link in the description, use http:// before the URL or it won’t work!
  • Choose the right category for your video
  • Use the description to actually describe the video, you could write a short story in this box but I suggest to not overdo it. Don’t stuff it full of popular keywords or irrelevant information. Don’t try and trick Google, it ruins the Youtube experience and they are extremely smart.
  • Tag the video with appropriate tags, and again don’t stuff it!
  • If you have more than one video, use annotations to guide your viewers through to the next video, to your channel, video response and much more.
  • Don’t use someone else’s material, especially music. You’ll get a penalty, trust me. Youtube has a collection of audio tracks you are free to use, again Youtube will penalize you for using copyright material.
  • Input at least one call to action: a link to your website, annotation etc... Give the viewer the opportunity to see more content.
  • Participate in the community (comments, video responses, rate). No one likes the odd guy who doesn’t talk, so what are you waiting for? Even if people hate you, they’ll probably still visit your channel to give you a nasty comment, and most likely watch your videos to see what you’re about. Not that I’ve done that or anything...

  • Youtube allows approximately 22 words for the description on the query page (see below). Try to associate your keywords early and describe as much of the video in the first 22 words. Youtube and viewers see this.
  • Thumbnails are important, so choose the right one. I’ve seen many people attempting to decode the algorithm, but I haven’t seen any concrete results. My thumbnail times were at 14%,34% and 96%. Unless you apply to become a partner, then you can choose any frame you want...
  • Find users in your target market and be friends with them.
  • I can say get subscribers, but you won’t if your content is crap. Real subscriptions and comments will come naturally, but of course there is always another solution
  • Become a master of Youtube Insight. Demographics, discovery and much more data that will help you create your next video.
  • Make a video transcript (closed caption file). It helps with indexing, allows deaf users to read through your video and provides language support.

  • Do your research before you start. Use the Youtube keyword tool to estimate search volume, associate keywords etc...
  • Youtube API, Youtube RSS Feeds. ‘nuff said, check it out.
  • Raw video file name does count. I uploaded a series of 10 second videos to test what the raw filename does it I was very surprised. My raw video name was poker.mpg4 and I changed the title, description and tags to “dogs”. All of a sudden the first 3 suggestions (or related videos) were about poker! After those 3, I saw results according to my title, description etc.. Optimize the raw video file name like you would for the title
  • Competitor research. Check the backlinks, and see what you’re up against.
  • Submit to multiple video sites and track performance, if you want to automate it, use this tool
  • Adding video times (ex. 00:13) in the description box will automatically become a hyperlink to specific points in the video. Use it to create a mini video map, additional to the video transcript.
  • Annotations have the ability to become outbound links. So in-video calls to action can link outside of Youtube. As of now, I believe only non profits can do this – please correct me if I’m wrong.

If you would like to contribute to my experiment, have recommendations, or have additional questions to subjects I haven’t covered here - I encourage you to leave comments.

Thanks for reading and happy You-tubeing!

Special thanks to our awesome graphic designer, Leonie Wharton

Dave Sottimano

Dave Sottimano

David Sottimano comes from a varied background in Corporate Marketing and Professional Sales. His love affair between the internet and marketing has finally found the perfect balance at Distilled, and continues to flourish each day. He graduated...   read more

Get blog posts via email


  1. Interesting tests and results.
    A question - any idea what embedding your video on another webpage (like your site) does to the rankings? As google does record this information, so I wonder if you had say 7,000 views of it on would it increase its ranking on Youtube even if only 100 people had watched it on YouTube?

    Also... any idea how this test influenced the Google SERPs for your terms?


    reply >
  2. Nice post. Very thorough. Just an FYI, TubeMogul changed its terms recently, so you can't use it for free if you are, or you represent, a for-profit company. To the best of my knowledge, PixelPipe is the only free service for for-profits that reaches a decent number of sites at the moment.

    reply >
  3. One thing that I've noticed with these "YouTube SEO" things is that a lot of it relies on hoping that it will rank well in YouTube - it all just seems like common sense and I'm glad you've brought the whole thing back down to Earth by literally listing what to do, because all of the steps are fairly obvious and help with usability and accessibility of the video! :-)

    reply >
  4. David

    @Luke @Eric - Thanks, cheers for the FYI

    @Robert - As for embedding the video on other sites - it's magic. Not only for the fact that you've gained a backlink your video, but you're also promoting it. As far as we know backlinks are always have been and will always be a major factor in search rankings.

    You brought up 2 very interesting topics.

    1) I'm still unconvinced about views affecting rankings as much as we think. You can see my video still only has about 500 views, and there are videos down the list with over 7,000. But testing if views from embedded players on high/low PR sites have an impact is a fantastic idea.

    2)I can't release client detail, but on the topic of Google SERPs for videos, here is what I've noticed with a different set of videos from a client in a competitive market:

    Minor changes, like category change on a Youtube video can significantly impact rankings. I changed a category and all of a sudden, that video dropped 2 spots on Youtube, and more than 12 on Google video SERP. After patiently waiting, it hasn't gone back to its original place, even after I changed the category back.
    I noticed videos appearing in results based on Twitter. The video had been on Youtube for a while, but was way off in the rankings. One twidvid link and it shot up more than 20 ranks. Still don't know if this was a one off.
    Another example: You upload the same video with nearly identical descriptions to Youtube and Vimeo. You would think that the Youtube video would rank higher because of Google, advanced features, ability to be indexed quickly etc.. But funnily enough, my videos on Vimeo are highly outranking my Youtube videos.

    I'm sorry for not having the direct answers to your questions. I plan to work on an experiment for Google Video search and I will definitely post my findings.

    reply >
  5. Wow. I didn't think Youtube SEO would be very great to add. Thanks for posting this that convinces me to use youtube as an instrument, not just a video site. A very great post indeed, i'll use youtube now. Thanks again.

    reply >
  6. @george - spamalicious link there... tool.

    @David - I'm loving how detailed your comment is! Props!
    1) agreed - and i've seen the video views vary, much as it used to be fun to hit refresh and artificially boost video views... ;)

    2) a) Might be interesting to see what impact embedding a video has on the likelyhood that a video ends up in google organic search - and whether you can only get Youtube to rank - or your site?

    b) like the comparison between vimeo and youtube - although vimeo is supposed to be "non-commercial"

    Look forward to your future posts!!!

    reply >
  7. Seems like some really useful advice to get a video ranking, now just to figure out why this would be useful. I can see that you could put some content in the video pointing back to a site and I guess taking up a little more screen real-estate in the SERPs isn't a bad thing, can't think of a particularly useful idea though unless you have a product or service that requires video demonstration.

    reply >
  8. @robert Nicholson - Embeds are great for rankings, yes YouTube does see them as an incoming links to the video.

    But you have to leave the default embed settings in place, you can't set the video to auto play, that will not do you any good, the visitor to the site must click the video and choose to play it.

    As far as views affecting rankings, that is true, but it's not the view, it's a FULL view that affects rankings. If you viewer bounces early on in the view, that is a very negative indicator.

    I just searched your term "web scraping" on YouTube and out of my datacenter in Arizona you rank #2.

    Why? Because you got more comments and ratings than the others, #3 for the term had no comments, and #1 has just a few more. Ratings have a big affect too, but Favoriting a video is the best rankings booster.

    The "Add to favorites" link used to be prevalent, now it takes a few clicks to find it. Hence it is worth more to your rankings.

    We call this the Google Social Algo, coined that phrase in fact.

    There are 7 more indicators of quality as Google calls them, but comments, ratings, full views and favorites have tons to do with rankings.

    Search the term "Robert T Kiyosaki" and you will see Philippe Matthews, one of my mastermind members ranking a #4 for the term. We took him from 700 views to over 60,000 in the last 9 months using some of my stuff.

    Feel free to contact my thru my email David if I can be of more help to you....

    reply >
  9. @Chris Lang Great advice, this is the kind of participation I was looking for. Would love for you to co-author a future blog post, I'll keep in touch.

    reply >
  10. Be glad to David, or just set up a round of questions that I can reply to as a simple interview.

    reply >
  11. Dude, this is sweet, thanks for sharing.

    reply >
  12. You can also set up annotations to have outbound links if you're advertising on YouTube unless they've changed that rule recently.

    reply >
  13. This is awesome. I had no idea about the free audios from YouTube #1, and 2, I just got tons of ideas from watching that video! Thanks.

    reply >
  14. Thanks. I've been meaning to get more serious with YouTube. Having it mapped out like this helps me to know what to do.

    reply >
  15. Extremely insightful post. I've been looking for hard evidence for awhile to support the hunch that raw video file names do count - thanks for sharing!

    reply >
  16. Hey David, misplaced your email so here's my latest MasterMind Webinar that I edited down for a 30 minute YouTube version.

    4 case studies on why they succeeded and why they failed and why one got over 80,000 visitors....

    Love to hear what you think!

    reply >
  17. @ryan critchett, revtrev, rebecca Thank you for your comments, much appreciated.

    @chris lang you're always full of useful tips, I'm looking forward to conducting an interview and future experiments with you. Thanks for the video link. Loved the case studies, and the content was inspirational - good job. Especially like the line "I don't shoot mice, I shoot elephants"...

    Chris, maybe you could share a few tips on video promotion for the readers here?

    reply >
  18. Let's see what I got.....

    Number one find your video voice....

    He has, and he makes at least a half $mil a year off adsense.

    My friend Rocque that I used as one of the case studies in the Webinar has found her voice, she really has something in her videos....

    Mel Kirk really has a hook....

    Try not to fall in love with Mel, she is very charming....

    My point is you need a hook. You need to find your voice....

    I used to try to be real charming and professional like StomperNet's Brad Fallon. After two days on FRAKIN (BSG reference)
    my lines up, I took off the sport coat and put on what I work in 7 days a week since I live in Arizona, a tshirt and shorts. I went out in my back yard and just talked to the cam like it was one of my old college buddies.

    I never worried about my voice again, I was just myself, a working class guy that knows more about SEO for social media than anybody else on earth.....

    My best friend and I just got done drinking bear all night, so he just left, we just formulated a plan to make an AdSense living off Phoenix Sports real fan type videos since he is a sports nut....

    Let's see, anybody got house plants? I just had to search for the exact plant care instructions for each of our house plants. 15 searches for 15 different kinds of house plants.

    Not one video ranked under any plant name in Google search.

    Just checked the term "plant care" and it gets 165,000 searches a month average. No video on YouTube ranks for that term in Google.

    "Tomato plant care" gets 2,900 searches a month, no video ranks for that term and the number one video on YouTube...

    Has like 5 comments, if one of you guys don't take over that term, link to affiliate sites like books on Amazon and seeds on Burpee then make even more on AdSense from those terms I am going to chuck Internet Marketing and start a gardening channel on YouTube!

    Lastly, Google just updated the OS on my Sony Google TV box, and low and behold they turned the YouTube GTV app into a TV network.

    Basically, the GTV app has category listings, like comedy, technology, sports, etc.... So you select the genre, then you can surf thru the top rated vids. Fun as heck!

    Like this.....


    I just cut off all the premium channels like HBO and ShowTime from my cable. My best bud was over and we had a great time surfing YouTube all night.

    What did we like the best?

    Wait for the magic beer segment....

    Then look at this kids channel, he just got 227,371 views in the last 10 hours today in the last 8 hours on his latest video.

    I wish I had not made the mistake of becoming an Internet marketer selling IM products 11 years ago, because I would rather just do a weekly show... [continued below]

    reply >
  19. [continued from above] ... on YouTube.

    So after doing some quick research to do a comment worthy of your blog, I have about 5 new non IM videos I can't wait to do for a nice AdSense income on the side.

    Is that good enough for a guy that has been drinking beer all night and brainstorming wickedly evil plans to take over the world via YouTube?

    Man, you should hear my really crazy stuff....

    Lastly check out VEVO, Google and Sony's music channel, the interface is a real clean YouTube and it uses Facebook comment gadgets. Not sure what to make of that....

    Hope this inspires your readers David, I have enjoyed sharing my vision of where Google is really headed and that is to become a TV advertising power broker and the first Internet based TV network!

    Just let me know when you want to do an interview David, I am pretty free next week! Cheers!

    reply >
  20. @Chris Lang Great insights and addition to the conversation. Looking forward to Chris and David comparing notes and more insights on video marketing.

    Thanks David for providing this excellent analysis... lots to be learned from this.

    reply >
  21. You don't have to be a youtube partner or non profit to add links in annotations. I've seen a few videos on how to get your thumbnail but it may just be easiest if in the 50% mark or 1st 1/5th last 1/5th of your video you do/something that is very telling of the rest of your video. That's always where they take out thumbnails.

    reply >
  22. Hey David, did you see Chris Brogan linked to this post?

    Hope I helped you out buddy. He called your post (this one was really useful to me.)

    Cool huh?

    Also I have been noticing that the YouTube algo has tightened a bit and it's not quite as easy to work the algo over there. In fact I am finding that most of what I have been preaching to my MasterMind group is just about dead on....

    And congrats on Chris Brogan linking to your post here David!

    reply >
  23. Hello and thanks for the interesting post. Bearing in mind that Google looks at Twitter and Facebook posts, are there any advantages (apart from the potential engagement from viewers) by posting regularly on Twitter and Facebook? Would Google consider regular posting as a positive thing?

    reply >
  24. David


    Hi Peter, it sounds like you might want to read the interviews conducted by Danny Sullivan:

    Social signals can influence SEO, and that's a reason on its own to get posting.

    Additional reading:

    reply >
  25. Can anyone tell me how I 'backlink'?? I've done countless searches and I cant see a clear way of doing it!! ;-(

    reply >
  26. David

    @andrew We refer to a backlink as being a link from an external site to your site. We use tools like to find these backlinks as they are part of the ranking algorithm. If you're new to SEO you may want to start reading and if you're still a bit confused on backlinks, check out the definition via wikipedia:

    reply >
  27. For some reason I noticed a very high correlation between my video's rank and my video's views. But I also noted a really low correlation between my video's likes and my video's rank.

    Not sure if you checked that note before, but I found it rather interesting.

    reply >
  28. Really interesting experiment! Thanks for sharing!

    reply >
  29. You already know thus significantly in terms of this topic, made me personally consider it from a lot of various angles. Its like men and women don't seem to be fascinated until it is one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs great. Always maintain it up!

    reply >
  30. Really helpful post. We had some animations commissioned for our company and would love to help them get found more easily on youtube. thanks for the great advice!

    reply >
  31. Definitelly nice experiment and valuable research. I'm definitely looking forward for more posts about this topic, as YouTube is becoming more powerful.

    Personally, I have found that when you make YT channel and add your site in the channel description, this site is getting 'higher level of protection'. By this I mean that I can use heavy backlinking method for even new site (as long as it's indexed) and I'm not getting harmed in any way. Tested this on 20 sites already.

    Also, commenting on high PR channels/videos increases your own channel PR, which is also valuable for two reasons:

    when you place your real site's link in the description of yt channel, PR flows to your website (it's dofollow and it's still valuable even if you can't set anchor).
    it increases your VIDEOS PageRank - and they can rank higher in SERPS. For example, channel with PR6 gives PR4-2 to most of videos.


    reply >
    • David Sottimano

      Ha! Thanks for sharing the "grey-ish" approach.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  32. Kate

    Can someone do an updated on this. I know they are changing the algorithm and I'd like to see what results people are yielding now -_- ahhh must go search to see if anyones done a recent update.

    reply >
  33. Great info David. As I understand you can also create outbound links using the Call To Action option which is enabled when you make your video a "Promoted Video". Theoretically you can spend $5 on a promo budget and you'll get access to this. Well worth it.

    reply >
  34. Have things changed at all since this was published? I'm following all your tips exactly (thank you), just wondering if there is anything new to add?

    reply >
  35. Mae

    I think YouTube SEO is still very helpful this year, since Google has expressed that social media will have more weight this year in terms of getting higher site rankings. Like any other type of social media, it has to be used properly to yield the best results.

    reply >
  36. Wow now this is the type of blogs that I like! Real hardcore information that we can use. I am currently doing research into the whole Youtube video SEO and your post has by far given me must more information than what the other ones did. Thank you!

    reply >
  37. Matthew

    Hey David, awesome post and even I've learnt something from your journal. Did you know that we've recently a site dedicated to YouTube SEO and we're using some of your tips to benefit our users?

    Would appreciate it if you could check it out and give us some advice, feel free to contact me via e-mail. The URL is

    reply >
  38. We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with useful information to work on. You've done a formidable process and our whole group might be grateful to you.

    reply >
  39. If you understand anything about the power of video power online, you must know that a video productions are the darling of search engine optimization (SEO) rankings on the likes of Google, Yahoo! and Bing. They get organic (free) results that rank at the top of page listings consistently. Knowledge is power.

    reply >
  40. Thank you, David, some useful info in your post. Implementing a lot of your tips in creating the videos for our clients. Thank you!

    reply >
  41. I'm curious your opinion on how much play count plays into the algorithm. Also, if you change your video title, the count goes back to 0. Learned this the hard way ;)

    reply >

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>