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