The 2021 YouTube Algorithm proves that you can make all the amazing, original videos you want, but none of that fabulous content matters if you can’t get the YouTube algorithm to display your videos to your fans + potential new fans! So, what’s a wannabe YouTube star to do? Read on for our best tips on increasing your ranking in the YouTube search & display algorithm with some good old-fashioned YouTube SEO hacks.
1. YouTube SEO: Keywords Matter – Written AND Spoken
YouTube’s bots mine the auto-generated closed captioning transcriptions of all videos (aka the script). Review the transcripts of your videos and correct any keywords that are misidentified. Say your keywords early in the video, and repeat them throughout as a part of your content. Make sure your video title has your highest-ranking keywords at the BEGINNING of the title, i.e. “Best drugstore long-wearing foundations reviewed + real wear test”, instead of, “I’m reviewing the latest foundations from the drugstore, to see which is the most long-wearing”.
2. Keywords in Video Descriptions Matter, Too!
Keywords in your video description box matter, too. Populating it with naturally worked-in keywords and search terms will help boost that ranking, so do it!
3. Utilize YouTube Video Tags Correctly
YouTube introduced video tags (basically, hashtags for their own network) years ago, but the 2021 YouTube algorithm still loves them. These tags help the YouTube search engine categorize video, but they don’t, strictly speaking, have the same impact or weight as actual keywords. Tags can, however, get your videos to pop up in the “related videos” sidebar, which is always a bonus.
Be warned: Tag stuffing is a BAD idea – YouTube can and will penalize you for it, and they will also penalize you for using phony tags your video doesn’t mention.
4. Cross-Check YouTube and Google Search Results
YouTube is owned by Google, but a surprising number of YouTubers don’t utilize Google in their keyword research. Search your keywords in Google, and take a look at the YouTube videos that pop up along with the normal website search results.
For some keywords, Google will reserve a chunk of the first page of search results just for YouTube videos. Getting your video to appear on the Google search results AND YouTube search results? Your ticket to stardom and lots of targeted traffic to your video directly from Google’s first page.
5. Check Your YouTube Studio Traffic Sources
What are viewers searching for when they find your videos? You’ll find this data here, and it can help you tailor your titles, content, keywords, and more.
6. Longer YouTube Videos Matter in 2021 – But So Do Shorter Videos?
Longer videos rank higher in the YouTube algorithm. Why? Partly because (and you saw this coming), there are more keywords mentioned. Short videos are fun, but viewers stick around for longer videos, and it gets ‘em hooked.
However, YouTube is also beta-testing a new short-form video feature called YouTube Shorts. Consequently, the 2021 YouTube Algorithm is *ALSO* favoring under-60-second videos. We’ve found that creators who post at least two >60-second YouTube Shorts videos a week reap the biggest rewards with traffic, views, and search results. Also, smaller channels benefit the most, as it’s difficult to get potential new fans to click & watch longer videos from a smaller channel.
7. Your YouTube Viewing Session Length Matters, Too
YouTube’s algorithm prioritizes average viewing session length of a video, rather than how many views a video get – you’ll see a “Watch Time Report” in your Analytics that reflects this. It’s a better reflection of your overall video retention metric, aka how much of each video people are watching: Are they watching the first minute, then clicking away, or watching the whole thing?
If there are lots of bounces, where a user only watches for a few seconds to a minute, it signals to the algorithm that your video isn’t what viewers are searching for. Translation: Lower algorithm ranking.
8. The 2021 YouTube Algorithm LOVES Subscriber Interactions
Likes. Subscriptions. Push notifications. Comments. All of these qualify as “interactions” to the algorithm, and all are important. Pushing your subscribers to interact with you is critical in upping your engagement rate, which ups your search ranking.
9. Add End Screen Video Recommendations
Ever started out watching one video by a YouTube you enjoy, and it turned into an hours-long binge of half their content catalog? Us, too. Adding recommended video end screens is a GREAT way to encourage this habit, which ups your watch time statistics, which, hey hey hey, ups your ranking.
To do this, open Video Manager in Creator Studio, and select “End Screen & Annotations”, and link the similar videos you want to appear during the last few seconds of that video.
10. Never Forget YouTube Thumbnails & Thumbnail Titles
You already know that YouTube thumbnails are a HUGE part of what makes viewers click on a video, because of the thumbstoppy principle. Adding keywords to your thumbnail title and alt text is a great YouTube SEO booster.
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Cover images courtesy of MagicLinks creators Brooke Miccio and Shanique Buntyn