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Why SEO is important for YouTube

Increase YouTube video rankings and engagements using SEO techniques. Learn how to integrate SEO into your YouTube strategy. 

What does SEO mean for YouTube? Understanding the benefits of YouTube SEO 

YouTube is the second largest search engine, with 2 billion users worldwide and 500 minutes of content uploaded every minute. With 90% of people discovering new brands or products within the platform, there are ample ecommerce opportunities. Every YouTube success story starts with engaging content, but that is only the halfway point on the road to success. By using SEO techniques, brands can reach a wider audience and improve the online presence and engagement of videos.  

YouTube SEO generates new video content ideas  

As with any other SEO strategy, the first stage of YouTube SEO is to analyse keyword data. New web videos are being published every day and keeping up with trends is critical. YouTube can be set as a search engine within Google Trends in order to identify terms that increase in popularity within the video platform. However, Google Trends does not give data on search volumes, but rather an indicator of ‘relative popularity’. To capture YouTube search data, use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer that includes metrics from YouTube search.  

Just like website content, video ideas can be driven by search data. SEO tools can provide YouTube search data that will help SEOs and content creators capture the interests of the consumers and give an overview of what is being searched on YouTube around a certain brand or industry.  


YouTube SEO indirectly impacts video engagement metrics 

Engagement metrics such as Video Views, Channel Subscribers, Likes, Video Comments, and Estimated Watch Time define how a video ranks in YouTube. The search engine analyses the user experience metrics to determine the quality of the content. If a video has high engagement metrics, it will rank better than a video with lower metrics.  

YouTube SEO can indirectly impact these metrics. When choosing what video to display for a search, YouTube looks at different video attributes such as title, description, transcript, and/or tags. YouTube SEO ensures these attributes are optimised, allowing the video to be visible for relevant keywords. The better a video ranks organically, the more likely that video will have higher engagement metrics.  

For example, one Merkle client updated its video tags and changed the titles and descriptions according to the most relevant queries. As a result, the client saw a 70% growth in overall subscriber volume in addition to a significant increase in the Average Watch Time (120%).  

For more details on how to implement YouTube Best Practices, review Google’s YouTube Playbook


Embedding YouTube Videos within the website can generate YouTube rankings in Google 

According to YouTube research done by Moz, 94% of video search results on Google are from YouTube. Embedding YouTube videos onsite enables brands to keep users engaged for a longer period of time. Instead of providing a link that takes the user to YouTube, an embedded video allows the user to watch the full YouTube video while remaining on the site. 

Aligning YouTube content with website content is key to having a comprehensive YouTube SEO strategy. Not to mention, both channels will benefit from embedded videos. YouTube video metrics will increase (e.g. video views, average watch time, etc.), while website landing pages will improve engagement performance (e.g. increased CTR, average time spent, etc.).  

A Merkle client implemented YouTube videos on their website and saw massive YoY increases: 436% video result impressions and 353% video result clicks. Read more on How Embedded YouTube Videos Can Improve Organic Traffic.  


Embedded videos can be marked up in the SERPs using structured data 

Structured data markup helps search engines better understand the content on a page. Certain types of schema markup can also encourage ‘rich snippets’ to appear in organic search results, which can increase click-through rates. Adding video schema to the HTML of pages containing videos that are either hosted on-site or embedded on the page will better communicate information about the videos to search engines and enable them to display video-specific details in rich snippets in the SERPs. 

Embedded YouTube video
Example of video schema in the SERP 


YouTube videos appear everywhere in organic search results. Read more on Where Can YouTube Videos Appear in the SERP and make yourself familiar with all video result types.  


YouTube SEO activity can improve paid media metrics 

The relationship between organic and paid search in Google has always been in the spotlight, but what about YouTube? There are two paid audiences built up from users that interact with a YouTube channel, Similar Audiences and Remarketing Audiences. Growing these audiences through organic activity, increases the volume and quality of these target groups that paid media can then use in different ad formats. These paid campaigns aim at reaching a certain marketing objective that sits in the upper or lower funnel of a customer’s journey. YouTube SEO can influence the performance of paid media across the entire funnel. This is not just enhancing brand awareness but also driving tangible results for the bottom line.  

By expanding the pool of users paid media can target, the engagement metrics of ad campaigns can be directly impacted e.g. unique reach, video impressions, video views, or clicks. The conversion metrics can also be improved by increasing the quality of these target groups. Users are more likely to watch the video content from a brand they previously interacted with. Usually, that interaction happens organically. YouTube SEO activity is thus expanding the audience towards users that are more likely to convert, indirectly influencing view-through rates or click-through rates.  

Organic YouTube Flowchart
Flowchart - SEO effects on Paid Media 

How to grow your YouTube channel organically using SEO techniques 

SEO techniques can be used to grow a YouTube channel organically: 

  1. Start with extensive keyword research to inform video content ideas. 

  1. Implement YouTube SEO best practices, such as writing optimised video titles and descriptions, using info cards to link to relevant landing pages, or displaying the right video suggestions within the end screen.  

  1. Use the website as another channel to promote video content and embed YouTube videos.   

  1. Try experimenting with paid media and monitor the impact SEO activity can have on YouTube campaigns.  

SEO gives the opportunity to reach wider audiences and grow organically in both Google and YouTube, increasing video engagement metrics. Keep your focus on the overall search experience and serve video content according to SEO best practices. How else are your videos going to rank 1st?