Step-by-step SEO guide for YouTube videos

Help your videos reach their potential by following these easy-to-follow instructions.

Ten years ago, people began to switch from print and television as their main news sources to the Internet. Today, video is the public’s primary news source. Anyone can go online at any time to watch highlights of the big game, or learn how to knit a scarf from a video.

YouTube is one of the most powerful marketing tools businesses can use. Since Google acquired it, YouTube has become the second most powerful search engine in the world. Google indexes YouTube videos instantly.

A fully optimized YouTube channel with engaging videos will drive more traffic to your website.

How to optimize your YouTube channel for search:

Channel settings

When you create your YouTube channel, follow these guidelines:

  • Title: Include your company name in the title.
  • Visibility: Check the visibility box to make your channel visible.
  • Email location: Check the box so others can find your channel via email.
  • Channel tags: This is the most important part of channel optimization. Choose three to five relevant keywords that are the same ones you use on your website. Separate each keyword with quotation marks to look like this: “Chicago Internet marketing” “Chicago Web design” “Chicago SEO”

Channel themes and colors

The theme and color of your channel have no effect on SEO. Choose a theme and color that are similar to those on your website. For example, we modeled the Straight North YouTube channel after our website.


Any modules are fine, but these three are necessary for optimization:

  • Commenting
  • Subscriptions
  • Friends

Videos and playlists

  • Always select the “My Uploaded Videos” option in the featured content box.
  • Always set one of your videos as the featured video.
  • Check the box to play your featured video automatically.


  • Use your business name as the name of the profile.
  • Write your exact website URL in the website section—this is the only followable link you can obtain through YouTube.
  • In your channel description, summarize the content of the channel and include a link to your company’s Facebook or Twitter page. (These will be no-follow links.)
  • In the “About Me” section, give a brief description of your company using targeted keywords.
  • All other sections of the profile are great to have, but they will not help optimize the channel.

How to optimize your YouTube videos for search:


  • Create high-quality, engaging video content.
  • Choose video content related to your targeted keywords.
  • Mention the targeted keywords in the video’s script.

Video title

In your video titles, always include your company name and the word “video” at the title’s end.

Video description

  • Put your company’s URL at the beginning of the description. This will be a no-follow link, but when users click on the video, the URL will show up in the description without the expanded view.
  • Mention the company name after the company URL.
  • Include three to five keywords.
  • Include links to your Facebook and Twitter pages at the end of the video description.


Tags are very important in optimizing videos for search. To set strong tags:

  • Choose three to five keywords you want to target.
  • Separate each keyword using quotation marks, like you did when you entered tags for the channel. They should look like this: “Chicago Internet marketing” “Chicago Web design” “Chicago SEO”


Choose a visually appealing thumbnail to make the video more inviting to viewers.

Broadcasting and sharing options

  • Privacy: set to public
  • License: select the standard YouTube license
  • Comments: allow
  • Comment voting: allow
  • Video responses: allow
  • Ratings: allow
  • Embedding: allow
  • Syndication: allow

Captions and subtitles

YouTube converts videos into Java, which makes the content unable to be crawled by search engines. By uploading a caption file, you give Google a giant block of copy to read.

  • Transcribe the video to a .txt file.
  • Use periods and commas to signify breaks in speech. This will help Google’s voice recognition service to time the captions properly.
  • If the video contains no speech, use the annotations feature to create a caption with a call-to-action for the company website or social networking page. Make sure the timing is set on the annotation to give the caption ample display time.
  • Upload the transcript or caption file. It may take several minutes to process.

Date and map

Set the video’s location to the company address.

How to promote your YouTube videos:

  • Embed the videos in the company blog. Include a link to the YouTube URL.
  • Embed the videos on the company website. Again, include a link to the YouTube URL.
  • Syndicate the videos via social networking websites.
  • Distribute the videos using

Find linking partners for your videos.

Harrison Jones is an SEO analyst at Straight North. A version of this article originally appeared on the Straight North blog.

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