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Rank on YouTube, the Second Largest Search Engine

Alphabet owns the two largest search engines: Google and YouTube. Most search engine optimization specialists focus on Google. But YouTube provides similar value – visibility, engagement, and the ability to convert visitors into subscribers.

In this article, you’ll get pro tips for titles, thumbnails, descriptions, and calls-to-action. You’ll learn how to choose tags that actually work. Plus, you’ll learn the most important factor for YouTube rankings and how to learn from your past to improve your results.

Include the current year in the video title.

Add something like “in 2022” to the end of your title. Even if you made the video in a previous year, just update the video title and more people will click on it.

People are more likely to click on a video when it looks relevant and up-to-date. Adding the year doesn’t just increase viewership, it also shows YouTube that people are clicking on your video. So YouTube will suggest your video to more users.

Adding the current year also helps your video rank because it will match more people’s search queries. A lot of people search for “[keyword] [current year]“. With the year in your title, your video is more likely to show up in search results for these users.

Use brackets and parenthesis in video titles.

This technique can improve clicks by 30%.


  • (Fast!)
  • (Case Study)
  • [New Research]
  • (Actionable)
  • (True Story)

Use color in your thumbnails.

Avoid YouTube colors: white, red, and black.

Blue, green, purple, orange and gray are all popular colors that get people’s attention.

Keep thumbnail text to 30 characters or less.

If you use text in your thumbnails, keep it minimal – less than 30 characters. That way the text you have will be big, bold and impactful.

Keep in mind that your thumbnail will be surrounded by many other competing thumbnails on the user’s screen. With many elements competing visually for attention, the boldest will win.

Find a creative angle with TubeRanker.

Type your subject into TubeRanker and click “Generate Title”. The site will suggest title options to stimulate your creativity and lead you to an interesting angle or “hook.”

Because a title is so crucial, a lot of YouTubers brainstorm multiple options and then choose the best one.

Study the titles that rank on YouTube.

Follow best practices for writing YouTube titles where possible. Here’s my cheat sheet:

(I extracted these examples from the top search results for the keyword phrase “podcast tips”).

Don’t get into a rut.

If your videos are consistently topping out at the same viewership, you may need to shake up your content.

YouTube contains an encyclopedic volume of unique video genres. Design Wizard has a list of 100 YouTube video ideas that you can potentially try. Here are some examples that are applicable for businesses:

  1. Things to Do
  2. Business Intro
  3. Favorite Products
  4. Product Launch (discuss a problem and present your product as the solution)
  5. Tips
  6. Rant
  7. Animal Videos
  8. Comparison (how is this different from that?)
  9. Q&A
  10. Local Music
  11. Product Tutorials
  12. Tour
  13. Response Video
  14. Feature Another Brand
  15. Introduce Your Team
  16. Promote an Event
  17. Live Events
  18. Educational
  19. Customer Testimonials
  20. Film Your Podcast (you might get a lot more views than downloads)
  21. Draw My Life (tell the story of your life in drawings)
  22. Product Review
  23. Lists
  24. Vlog Ideas
  25. Daily Routine (people love to see what makes successful people and companies you tick)
  26. Pranks (target your friends and family – the people most likely to forgive you)
  27. Tutorials
  28. Discussion (ask for people’s opinions on a thought provoking topic)
  29. Show Off Your App
  30. Walkthrough
  31. Interviews
  32. Showcase Your Talents (people love to watch YouTubers do interesting things)
  33. Cute Video
  34. Answer Viewer Questions
  35. Personal Story
  36. Unboxing
  37. Launch a Competition
  38. Discuss Future Products
  39. Challenges
  40. Life Hacks
  41. Give Business Advice
  42. Tag Video (tag another channel, request they complete a challenge)
  43. Timelapse
  44. Behind the Scenes

Highlight credibility, offer, and transformation in your description.

Pat Flynn promises a lot in the first paragraph of his description. This is the text that shows before the viewer presses the “show more” button to reveal the rest of the description:

“After 13 years of podcasting and over 65 million downloads later, here are my 50 best tips for podcasting in 15 minutes. Hopefully at least one of these can be a game changer for you.”

He established credibility, emphasized his offer, and promised transformation.

(The rest of his description mostly promoted his links, which is pretty typical. It’s the first paragraph that matters most.)

Write a micro-blog post for your description.

Write 100-200 words to help YouTube understand what your video is about.

You don’t need to answer people’s questions with critical details. You want people to watch your video for that. However, you do want to drop important keywords about what people can expect to learn or see in the video.

Produce long videos.

YouTube’s most important ranking factor is video watch time. For obvious reasons, YouTube loves videos that keep people watching YouTube!

According to Backlinko, videos that rank on the first page of search results are, on average, 14 minutes long.

Long videos have a huge advantage: A video that’s 30 minutes can easily beat the average video’s watch time even if someone only watches 8 minutes.

Study when people leave your videos.

To get people to watch your videos longer, you’ll first want to diagnose where people are leaving your current videos. From here, it’s easier to assess what you might do differently to keep people’s attention.

To see how long people view your video, sign into YouTube Studio, choose Content (from the left menu), click on a video, select Analytics (again from the left menu), click on Engagement (at the top). Now you can see exactly where in your video your viewers drop off.

Preview your videos.

In almost every genre, it helps to preview your video in the first 30 seconds. Show people exactly what to expect.

In an informational video, try the following format.

  • Promise value. Start by saying, “In this video you’re going to learn the top 20 podcast interview questions that you can use to captivate your audience.”
  • Prove your worth. Briefly share your relevant accomplishments, experience, or research.
  • Advertise a bonus. For example, “You’ll also learn the three interview questions that lead your learners to tune out.”

Say your keywords a few times.

If you’re targeting a keyword phrase like “podcast editing tutorial”, say it a few times in the video. YouTube transcribes videos using AI, then ranks videos in search results based on what topics are actually referenced in the video.

We don’t live in 2010. You don’t need to robotically repeat the same phase “podcast editing tutorial” multiple times. You can use natural language by saying something like, “In this tutorial, I’ll share my approach for podcast editing…” YouTube’s algorithm will still get the idea.

Choose tags based on your target, context, and brand.

SEO experts agree that too much range confuses YouTube’s algorithm. If the tags you choose lack focus, YouTube’s algorithm is less likely to rank your video for the keywords that actually matter. So, it’s best to keep your keywords close to your subject.

  • Target keywords, including alternative keywords (other ways people might search for your topic)
  • Contextual keywords like your industry or subject that place your video within a broader context
  • Branded keywords including your brand name and the brand name of any products or services you discuss

You can increase your chances of ranking in YouTube’s “suggested videos” sidebar if you copy the tags from a target video. To do this, open Google Chrome, select a video similar to yours whose audience you want to attract, right click on the page, click “View Page Source” and look at the “keywords” section. Now just copy the tags word for word.

End your videos with a call-to-action.

Many people include a call-to-action, but it’s not specific enough. Tell users exactly where to go. Point to it – whether you’re pointing down at the description below, or to the side at the next video.

It’s pretty common to ask users to like, comment, share or subscribe. It’s presumptuous to ask at the beginning of your video, so always ask later on. You can include a “like and subscribe” animation in the middle, and you can ask verbally at the end.

Ask for specific comments.

Comments correlate with rankings more than other signals.

Don’t just tell people to “leave a comment”.

Instead ask a question, “Which tip are you going to apply in your next podcast recording. Share your answer in the comments down below.”

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