How do you improve search rankings for your videos? When someone searches YouTube for videos about a particular topic, how do you make sure they find yours? A recent study analyzed 1.3 million YouTube videos to see what they had in common, and whether there were any patterns in the videos that ranked higher in search results. Here are some of the factors that they found contribute to YouTube SEO.

  1. YouTube favors videos that engage their viewers and generate discussion. Therefore, videos with comments on them tend to rank higher than those without. Because of this, many channels include a brief note at the end of each video, encouraging viewers to leave a comment and even providing them a specific prompt to respond to.
  2. Video Length. This can be a tricky issue. On the one hand, longer videos significantly outperform shorter ones, with the average length for a video on the first page of YouTube search results being 14 minutes and 50 seconds. On the other hand, the longer a video is, the less likely viewers are to stay until the end. If you do decide to make longer videos, include a grabber at the beginning to reel viewers in, and keep videos interesting and engaging all the way through, to hold their attention. It can also help to put any really important information in the first couple of minutes, so that even if people don’t stick around, they’ve still learned what they need to about your brand and products.
  3. This may seem obvious at first, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. There’s a significant correlation between videos with a lot of views and videos with higher search rankings. There are actually two different reasons for this. First, obviously videos that rank higher in search results are going to get more views than videos languishing on the second or third page. But it’s also true that YouTube tends to rank videos with a lot of views higher than those without as many. They want to promote popular content and show users the videos that other people are watching. Therefore, it’s important to share your videos on social media, to your e-mail list, and anywhere else you can, in order to boost your viewership, and thus boost your search rankings—which will then further boost your viewership.
  4. Much like the number of views, the number of times a video has been shared also contributes to its first page search rankings. Clicking the Share button on a video allows you to post it instantly to any one of almost a dozen different social media platforms, as well as e-mail it to your friends, and more. As noted above, YouTube wants to promote content that’s popular and that they find worthwhile. If people like a video enough to share it with their friends, that’s a good indicator of its overall value. So those are the videos that YouTube will want to make it easier for others with similar search queries to find.
  5. This is another factor in the same vein as shares and views. If a lot of people hit the Like button (thumbs up icon) on a YouTube video, that’s an indicator that it’s had a positive impact, and YouTube will rank it higher in search results. So it’s important, at the end of each video, to encourage viewers to like, comment, share with their friends, etc. The more they do, the higher YouTube will rank your videos, and the more people you’ll be able to reach.

This is just the first half of the findings from the analysis of 1.3 million YouTube videos. We’ll present the rest in another blog next week. Stay tuned!