1. Create videos based on a single topic/keyword
While it sounds obvious, you’d be surprised how many people completely ignore this basic principle. Similar to a blog post, when you’re planning your video, you need to identify the keywords that you want to target.
The reason why it’s important to pick a keyword before you create your video is because it allows you to better plan your content. You can search your keyword in YouTube to see what kinds of videos are ranking highly, and what makes them stand out.
In your research phase, your goal is to create the most comprehensive video about your chosen topic. According to Balkhi, the ideal video length is around 8 – 12 minutes long.
The other reason why you need to pick your keyword before recording the video is so you can incorporate it in your video script. Having your keyword repeated multiple times in your audio script helps your ranking on YouTube search. Because YouTube automatically attempts to add closed captions, we know the algorithm technically can read through your entire audio script – and likely uses it as a factor when calculating relevance for a given keyword search.
2. Optimize your title and description
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. If you want to have your videos rank highly, you need to properly optimize your video title and description.
Your title needs to be catchy, but it also needs to contain the keywords that you want to rank for. “One of the things we have found is that placing our keywords at the beginning of our video title helps boost our ranking,” says Balkhi. “Same goes for your video description. Often, people don’t do a good enough job in writing their description. You need to treat your video description like a summary blog post that you would write if you were to embed this video on your site.”
Balkhi advises that you should add your keywords in the first two sentences, but not try to game the system. Stuffing keywords in your description can get your channel penalized, just as stuffing keywords in content on a website can trigger a Penguin or Panda penalty.
Writing an outline or transcript of your video content in the description of the video can go a long way in helping boost your video’s rankings.
3. Win the CTR battle with great thumbnails
Similar to how text-based content works, videos with catchy a thumbnail and title often tend to rank higher even if they don’t have the best content.
The secret is similar to Google search: these videos win the click-through-rate (CTR) battle. In other words, Google seems to be calculating CTR as a ranking factor.
“In our experience, the best way to get maximum click-through rate, aside from a catchy title, is to use an attention-grabbing thumbnail. Some examples of catchy thumbnails that I have seen work include thumbnails with large text, highlighted / magnified areas, arrows pointing towards something in the image, and things that are just completely unexpected or unusual,” says Balkhi.
4. Leverage YouTube cards to boost engagement and reduce abandonment
YouTube rewards channels that have longer average watch times, which makes sense, because the longer someone stays on your channel, the longer they’re staying on YouTube (and the more ad revenue YouTube can earn from that user).
In your YouTube video analytics, you’ll see the exact point where users tend to abandon your video. Since the goal is to increase time spent on your channel, Balkhi recommends using YouTube cards to add recommended videos at the exact point where users are leaving.
This allows users to potentially check out your other videos and stay on your channel. The engagement on your channel works similar to domain authority in Google; it plays a huge role in your videos’ ranking.
5. Leverage playlist URLs to increase time spent on your channel
When your video ends, YouTube generally shows a list of recommended videos for the user to watch next. Some of these videos are yours, and others belong to different channels.
One of the best ways to keep users on your channel, according to Balkhi, is by using well-crafted playlists. When a user starts watching a video through your playlist, YouTube auto-queues the next video in that playlist, which can keep users glued to your channel.
A little-known secret about playlists is that you can trigger them from anywhere with a special URL.
6. Encourage discussion and engage with your audience in YouTube comments
YouTube rewards channels with high engagement. This includes things like watch time and overall time spent on a channel.
It also includes things like your like / dislike ratio, and most importantly, the comments on your video.
It’s extremely important to engage with your users in the comments section. Try to respond to every comment you get; not only will this help your video engagement, it’ll help you mold your community as you see fit. Also, the more engaged a specific user is with your channel, the higher the likelihood that your videos will make it into their emails and notifications.
7. Keep your related channels on
“One of the biggest mistakes I see business channels make is that they turn off the ‘related channels’ feature on YouTube. When I have chatted with business owners, the reasoning I get is that they’re afraid their competitor will show up as related channels,” says Balkhi.
“But the odds are that if someone is searching your videos on YouTube, they’re also looking at your competitors. By turning off ‘related channels’, you also remove yourself from YouTube recommendations. This means that you lose the network effect which makes YouTube as powerful as it is.”