10 Steps to Optimize Videos for Search and Discovery in Video SEO

Over time, video SEO has undergone significant modification.

You might be accustomed to subpar video performance if you’re still following suggestions made by a video optimization specialist at an industry convention back in 2008 or by a YouTube guru in 2015.

Today’s YouTube algorithm aims to present each viewer with the videos they will most likely watch and appreciate.

This is a significant challenge because more than 500 hours of video content are uploaded every minute.

This post will teach you how YouTube’s algorithm functions and provide you with practical guidance on best practices for video SEO, giving you a step-by-step manual for optimizing your videos.

How Does the Search Algorithm on YouTube Function, Anyway?

By combing through a tonne of videos to get the most pertinent and helpful results for a user’s search query, YouTube’s search and discovery systems take on this Herculean effort.

After that, the YouTube algorithm “follows the audience” by observing things like: 

  • What they watch
  • What they don’t watch.
  • how long do they keep watching.
  • Favorite and Disliked Things
  • feedback of “Not interested”.


Stop using the methods, tools, and tips you picked up years ago, and update your knowledge of how YouTube’s search and discovery system operates today.

  1. A Search on YouTube

Similar to Google’s search engine, YouTube’s search function aims to present users with the most pertinent results.

Videos are rated according to several criteria, such as how closely the title, description, and content adhere to the viewer’s search terms.

In addition, YouTube looks at which videos for a given query have earned the highest watch time and engagement.

In other words, a list of the most popular videos for a certain search does not appear in the YouTube Search results.

Want to discover what search terms and keywords to use for your video SEO campaign?

Well, YouTube deactivated its keyword tool in September 2014 after introducing it in November 2008. 

Tools might provide you with a wide range of alternatives, but you should only choose a portion of them for your most recent movie.

Additionally, your choice must enhance the long-term engagement and happiness of your target audience in addition to assisting them in finding the movies they want to watch.

  1. Recommended Videos

Based on a viewer’s previous viewing habits, Suggested Videos are a selection of videos that a particular viewer may be interested in seeing next.

Viewers can find these videos in the Up next section on the right side of the watch page, below the video in the mobile app, and as the subsequent video in autoplay.

Suggested Videos serve as recommendations from a variety of channels because research by YouTube has shown that viewers tend to watch more videos when they see such suggestions. 

Among the signals that contribute to these recommendations are:

  • Videos that viewers watch in addition to the current video or videos that are topically related These videos could be from the same or a different channel.
  • Videos from a viewer’s previous viewing history.


By clicking on the Suggested Videos box in the Traffic sources report in YouTube Analytics, you can see which videos bring viewers to your channel from Suggested Videos.

Here are some pointers to help you optimize your videos for Suggested Videos:

  • Make compelling calls to action to entice viewers to watch the next video in your series.
  • Long endings may discourage viewers from watching more, so consider how your videos end.
  • To suggest the next video to watch, use playlists, links, cards, and end screens.
  • Create an organically connected series of videos.
  • Create videos that are related to popular YouTube formats such as challenges or lists.

Finally, Google is expected to launch Related Topics for Videos on YouTube fairly soon.

  1. Thumbnails and Titles

When browsing on YouTube, the first things viewers see are the titles and thumbnails.

If they accurately represent what’s in your video, they work together to help viewers decide to watch your videos and build anticipation.

If viewers click on your video and stay to watch the majority or all of it, YouTube will know that the viewer is enjoying your content.

However, if your titles and thumbnails don’t deliver what’s in the video, viewers will leave almost immediately. This may limit your YouTube discoverability.

The longer you can keep people watching your content on YouTube, the more likely it is that your content will be surfaced.

Here are some suggestions for improving your title:

  • Create titles that pique your interest while also including keywords.
  • Keep titles brief (60 characters) and put the most important information first.
  • Save episode numbers and branding until the very end.
  • Make sure your titles aren’t cut off in suggested videos, search results, or on mobile.

Thumbnails are the first thing viewers see when they discover one of your videos, and 90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails.

When creating your thumbnails, make sure you have a strong, vibrant image that looks great in both large and small sizes and conveys important information about your video.

You can use the “rule of thirds” to create interesting and dynamic images, which you can then overlay with branding and/or descriptive text.

If you add text, use a font that is easy to read onscreen. Consider how you can be both eye-catching and age-appropriate for your target audience.

Here are some thumbnail optimization tips:

  • Consider your thumbnail before shooting so that you can capture a variety of options.
  • Make a thumbnail with the highest resolution possible while staying under the 2MB limit.
  • 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9 ratio) in.JPG,.GIF,.BMP, or.PNG format.
  • Zoom in and out of your thumbnail to see how it looks in different sizes.
  • Check to see if your thumbnail stands out from the crowd.
  1. Hashtags and Descriptions

The description field is extremely useful for assisting viewers in finding, learning about, and deciding whether or not to watch your videos.

Consider the description in two parts: what viewers see before clicking Show more and what they see after.

Here are some suggestions for improving your descriptions:

  • Make sure each video has a distinct description – this makes it easier to find via search and distinguishes it from similar videos.
  • Use search-friendly keywords and natural language in the first few lines of text to explain what the video is about.
  • Use the remaining text (what appears after they click Show more) for 300 to 2,100 characters of extra information such as what your channel is about, social links, and so on.


Southern reports in YouTube Overhauls Search Results that YouTube has changed the visual presentation of its SERPs.

Viewers can, for example, preview each video and see chapters – time-stamped images that detail the various topics covered in a video, allowing viewers to skip directly to the section most relevant to their search.

Even though this isn’t an algorithm change, it is a game changer.

So, what is the best way to optimize for chapters? To help viewers skip to important parts of longer videos, you can include timestamps in your descriptions.

YouTube has also launched a new type of search results page that appears when users search for videos by hashtag, as Southern points out in another article.

Use related hashtags (#) in the title and description of your video to help viewers find it when they search for a specific topic on YouTube, whether on the desktop or mobile app.

Here are some hashtag optimization tips:

  • Use only hashtags that are relevant to your video. For example, if you post a review of a specific movie, do not include hashtags related to other popular movies, actors, or unrelated topics to artificially increase views.
  • Don’t oversaturate your description section with hashtags; a little goes a long way. If a video has more than 15 hashtags, YouTube will ignore them all.
  • Hashtags work particularly well with trending content, such as upcoming events or people in the news. This ensures that viewers searching for videos about the trending topic will come across a wide range of relevant content.

What about standard tags? Historically, tags were more important than descriptions. However, regular tags are no longer necessary.

They are primarily used to assist in the correction of common spelling errors (for example YouTube vs. U Tube vs. YouTube).

  1. Home 

When viewers visit YouTube.com or open the YouTube app, the first thing they see is Home.

It’s their “personal primetime” destination, where they can find the most relevant, personalized recommendations.

It’s also a great place for non-subscribers to find your videos.

Every day, over 200 million different videos appear on Home for viewers all over the world.

When a user navigates to Home, YouTube displays videos from their subscriptions, videos watched by similar users, and new videos.

The videos were chosen based on:

  • Performance: Among other things, how well the video engaged and satisfied similar viewers.
  • The viewer’s viewing and searching history: How frequently a viewer watches a channel or topic, and how many times YouTube has shown the viewer each video.


It’s worth noting that subscribers watch more of their subscriptions from the Home tab than from the Subscriptions tab.

Here are some pointers to help you optimize your videos for YouTube’s Home Screen:

  • Upload new videos regularly to give your audience a sense of when they can expect more new content.
  • Keep viewers interested for longer and encourage them to return for more. Whether you use a long video or several short ones, the longer you keep people watching, the more likely it is that your content will surfaced.
  • Continue to do what works. Repeat when you create something that works for your audience. YouTube suggests more content that your viewers will enjoy. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but do so with caution. Take note of your audience’s feedback and give them time to adjust.
  • Go to your YouTube Analytics Traffic Sources report, click the Browse features box, and look at the stats for Home to see how frequently your channel appears on Home globally.
  1. Shorts

Viewers can find your Shorts by tapping Shorts at the bottom of the YouTube app, as I explained in YouTube Shorts: An Introductory Guide.

This is one of the advantages of making short-form videos of up to 60 seconds in length.

Viewers may also be interested in Shorts:

  • On YouTube’s home page.
  • They received notifications.
  • By looking at their Subscriptions.
  • Learn how to customize your channel layout, which will be featured on your channel page.


Viewers can scroll to watch more short videos after selecting a Short.

You should also include #Shorts in the title or description of your short video to help YouTube’s system recommend your Shorts across YouTube.

How does the fact that Shorts are short affected the watch time and engagement of a video?

When determining audience engagement, YouTube’s discovery system uses absolute and relative watch time as signals, and they encourage creators to do the same.

YouTube ultimately wants both short and long videos to succeed, so they encourage you to make your videos the appropriate length based on the content.

In general, relative watch time is more important for short videos, while absolute watch time is more important for longer videos.

You can use YouTube Analytics’ audience retention report to determine how long your viewers are willing to watch and adjust your content accordingly.

It’s worth noting that Shorts have the same number of views as regular videos. Additionally, subscribers gained from watching your Shorts contribute to Creator Awards Program milestones.

Here are some more short-form best practices to consider:

  • Make the first few seconds captivating to capture viewers’ attention and keep your content short.
  • Keep in mind that Shorts loop, so pace your content accordingly and consider ways to encourage replayability.
  • Incorporate a trending moment, event, or song into your content to make it more relevant.
  • Use your natural voice or show a behind-the-scenes moment to make Shorts more relatable.
  • Create content for your Short that educates, entertains, or makes your viewers feel good.
  • You can post Shorts on your main channel, start a second channel, or keep your Shorts in a Shorts section on your channel homepage, which helps your viewers differentiate between Shorts and your regular long-form videos.
  1. End Screens and Cards

Cards and end screens entice your audience to take action.

Cards are pre-formatted notifications that you can use to promote your brand as well as other videos on your channel.

Once they’ve been configured, a small rectangular box, or teaser, will appear in the top right corner of the video to give your viewers a sneak peek at the message.

When fans tap or click the teaser, the video card appears below the player on mobile devices in portrait mode (or along the right side of your video on desktops). If fans do not tap or click on the teaser, it will be removed from their view.

Cards work well when combined with scripted calls to action or when they are relevant to your video content.

For instance, if you mention a specific video or piece of merchandise, you could try inserting a card at that precise moment.

Here are some card optimization tips:

  • Use cards and scripted calls to action to direct your audience to other videos, playlists, or related websites, or to encourage them to buy merchandise or support your crowdfunding campaign.
  • Cards can be used to highlight your most recent uploads or to promote merchandise or fundraising campaigns in older videos.
  • You can use up to five cards per video.
  • Use cards to promote other creators and to give credit to collaborators in your video.


End screens are another effective tool for increasing watch time on your channel by directing viewers to something else at the end of your videos.

They appear on both desktop and mobile when added to the last 5-20 seconds of a video.

Here are some pointers for improving end screens:

  • End screens can promote up to four different elements: a video or playlist, an invitation to subscribe, a cross-promotion with another channel, and a link to an approved website.
  • Consider leaving room at the end of your video for end-screen elements.
  1. Dislikes and Favourites

Do your video’s likes and dislikes influence how it’s recommended? Somewhat.

YouTube considers hundreds of signals for ranking, including likes and dislikes. Their recommendation system learns based on whether or not viewers watch a video.

The system determines how much of the video the viewer watches and whether or not they are satisfied. A combination of these factors determines your overall video performance.

  1. “New to You” and Feed Exploration

YouTube makes a point of distinguishing the New to You feed from the Explore feed.

YouTube users reportedly complained that the same types of recommendations were becoming stale in their Home feeds.

As a result, YouTube added New to You to its mobile homepage. This enables users to go beyond their typical recommendations and browse various types of videos related to their interests.

How do you optimize videos for the New to You Feed, then? Do your homework, then.

To begin, read How YouTube Recommends Videos.

After that, do some keyword research.

Finally, use your intellect.

Going for a long walk, taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret can all help this process along.

The Explore feed on YouTube assists viewers in discovering content that is trending globally. It also assists viewers in finding content in specific verticals such as Music, Movies & Shows, Live, Gaming, News, Sports, Learning, and Fashion & Beauty.

Explore isn’t always tailored to individual users, and the recommendations don’t always take their interests into account.

How do you then optimize videos for the Explore feed? Begin by looking at which videos are trending or popular, particularly in your vertical.

Then, quickly create a new video of your own that viewers can discover in Suggested Videos after watching what’s trending or popular.

This could help you reach new fans who aren’t aware of your channel yet.

  1. Playlists and Uploads

Finally, a consistent publishing schedule can entice viewers to return to your channel and watch more.

You can then use playlists to make it easier for them to find more of what they like on your channel.

Many creators have discovered that setting a routine publishing schedule will help viewers know when to expect your next release – it’s like anticipating when the next episode of your favorite show will air.

Subscribers will see your new uploads in their Subscriptions feed and can choose to receive mobile or email notifications based on their preferences.

Here are some pointers to help you optimize your upload schedule:

  • Attempt to publish at regular intervals (such as weekly) and on specific days (for example, every Tuesday). The frequency with which you publish may be determined by your staffing and content.
  • Maintain the flexibility to respond to search trends or timely topics. For example, if there is breaking news, you can supplement your regular programming.
  • Try separating videos (instead of publishing several at once). You can upload videos and then schedule when, where, and in what time zone you want them to be published.

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