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Essential Checklist for YouTube SEO Optimization (Including Shorts!)

Eliza Talvola

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Today, with over 500 hours of video content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, ensuring your videos stand out amidst the noise is crucial. And with the rise of short-form YouTube Shorts, optimizing your videos for mobile viewing is more important than ever. Your content is enough to stand out from the crowd, but SEO helps you reach the right audience.

Essential Video Publishing Checklist for YouTube SEO Optimization (Including Shorts!)

If you’re on the verge of an eye-roll, we get it. Yet another best practice? One more thing to do? We hear you but we promise, this one's easy. Now that you've done the hard part and created the video (learn the easy way to create videos here), this checklist will help ensure that it ends up in front of the right people.

So, let’s make it easy for ‘ya! Get the YouTube SEO optimization checklist below and continue reading as we break it down step by step.

First things first: Keyword research

The key to YouTube SEO is identifying what your audience is looking for, and creating videos that fit that need. YouTube employee Rene Ritchie says it best: “People think, ‘I made a video, why isn’t the algorithm pushing it?’ When in reality, the algorithm pulls videos for users.”

Behind all of the most successful YouTube videos is a solid keyword strategy that aligns with user search intent. By identifying the right keywords, you can surface your videos in front of the right audience and drive organic traffic to your channel. Once you invest time in finding the right keywords, they become invaluable assets for future videos, saving you time and boosting your content's discoverability.

Where to start

If you’ve already done your research, great! This could be a helpful refresher to identify new opportunities. Or, if you’re starting from square one, this guide will detail all the steps and YouTube SEO tools you need to build your unique keyword strategy.

Start by brainstorming relevant topics and phrases related to the specific video(s) you want to upload, as well as your channel overall. Then, use YouTube SEO tools like TubeBuddy, VidIQ, or Google Keyword Planner to find:

  • Search volume
  • Competition
  • Related keywords

What keywords should you choose?

Keywords with high search volume and moderate competition (31-60) that align with your video's content are the sweet spot. So rather than going for a broad keyword with a lot of competition like “financial coach,” dig down a bit and choose a keyword that's closely related to your content and audience, like “small business financial coach.” Answer The Public is a great free tool to help you identify long-tail keywords and questions that people are asking about your topic.

Once you've compiled a list of potential keywords, prioritize the ones that best represent your video and have the highest potential for driving traffic. Hold on to these until it’s time to upload. Then, we’ll incorporate them into your video's title, description, and tags to its YouTube SEO potential.

YouTube SEO optimization checklist

Now that you have completed your preliminary keyword research, you can follow along with this blog or make a copy of this free YouTube SEO optimization checklist to use in all future videos. The same guidelines that we’re using for long-form videos can also be applied to YouTube Shorts! Just upload your video and use this checklist step-by-step to optimize and shore up your video’s discoverability.

Craft a captivating title

The best titles are a mix of technical SEO and engaging user-friendly language. Your title should include your primary keyword while enticing viewers to click and watch your video.

In under 60 characters, create a title that sparks curiosity and speaks to the value of your channel and video. For example, rather than titling your video “10 Personal Finance Tips” you could try something like “10 Proven Personal Finance Tips from a Finance Coach”.

Need help? Use AI to your advantage! Ask ChatGPT or another AI writer to create an SEO-optimized title and description using your keywords.

Optimize your description

Your video description should provide a concise summary of your content while naturally incorporating your keywords. Try to use an approachable and authentic tone when writing your description to connect with viewers and improve the searchability of your video. Don’t worry about including every last detail, just give an overview and entice viewers to stay and subscribe.

In addition to adding your primary and secondary keywords, you should include any relevant links, calls to action, or resources for your video here.

Customize your tags

Tags are another way you can incorporate your keyword and get your content in front of the right audience. Use a variety of keywords, not just your primary keywords, to cast a wide net. You can even include common misspellings of your keywords that users might accidentally type!

Generally, most people recommend using 6-12 tags maximum. For our example, the tags might be:

  • #finance
  • #personalfinance
  • #personalfinancetips
  • #financecoach
  • #financialwellness
  • #moneytips
  • #investingtips

Create scroll-stopping thumbnails

Eye-catching thumbnails play a crucial role in capturing viewers' attention and bringing in the clicks. They serve as a quick visual representation of your video that entices viewers to click and see the rest.

Best practices for creating thumbnails include using vibrant colors, high contrast text, and clear imagery to make your thumbnail stand out. Avoid stock images and use your own pictures for authenticity. Consistency in your thumbnail design, content, and channel can also help you establish a cohesive visual identity and boost your credibility.

Keep text concise and engaging by highlighting the takeaways of your video or using a cliffhanger. For instance, you can add a picture of yourself in your office with the words “Top 3 personal finance tips everyone under 30 needs to know” or “How to find the right personal finance coach” next to it. Just keep in mind that your thumbnail will display across multiple devices, so ensure that it is legible even on a smartphone.

Essential Video Posting Checklist for YouTube SEO Optimization: Video thumbnail

Add closed captions and subtitles

Did you know that a whopping 69% of consumers watch videos with the sound off? Adding subtitles to YouTube videos extends your audience reach by making your video accessible to individuals who are hearing-impaired or prefer watching without sound. As an added bonus, transcription can improve SEO by working in your keywords.

Find the best time to publish YouTube videos

Just like with other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, every creator will find the best time to publish YouTube videos. This usually involves identifying the times when your target audience is most active online so you can serve them new content right as they start their search.

SocialPilot conducted a survey to identify the best times to post on YouTube. According to their data, the best time to post on YouTube is between 2 to 4 PM (EST) on weekdays and 9 to 11 am on weekends, ideally on Sunday. The best time to post YouTube Shorts varies slightly from 12 to 3 PM on weekends and from 7 to 10 PM on weekdays, ideally on Monday and Tuesday.

With that being said, every business will have a different best posting time. You can use YouTube Analytics to identify your audience’s watching patterns and experiment with different publishing times until you find the right one. You can also find your industry’s standard posting time and join in to maximize your video’s reach.

Measure and track your video’s success

Last but not least, tune in to your video’s analytics to get insights into what your audience likes! Not only will this inform your next video, but it will help you to identify new keywords and topics to go after in the future. The better you understand your videos, the more likely you are to create videos that are discovered, watched, and remembered.

YouTube SEO tips

The steps above include everything you need to do to get your YouTube video SEO optimized and ready to post! In this section, we’ll share some additional tips to improve your video and boost its SEO value from a content perspective.

How long should my YouTube video be?

The ideal length for a YouTube video depends on your content and audience preferences, but generally, aiming for a duration between 7 to 15 minutes tends to perform well. However, prioritize delivering value and maintaining viewer engagement over adhering strictly to a specific length.

Use end screens and cards:

End screens can boost viewer engagement and compel them to explore your channels and watch your other videos. Use these intro and end screens to promote other relevant videos by featuring thumbnails and enticing titles that encourage further exploration of your channel's content. You can also use cards throughout your video to insert clickable links to related videos, playlists, or external resources.

Audience engagement

Audience engagement is the key to capturing and maintaining attention! But the engagement shouldn’t end once your video is published.

By actively responding to comments, you can foster a sense of connection and belonging among your audience, turning passive viewers into active participants. This encourages discussions, generates additional insights, and can even inspire future content ideas all within your comments section.

Analytics and tracking

By monitoring key metrics such as watch time, audience retention, click-through rate, and demographics, you can gain a deeper understanding of your audience's preferences and interests. With this information in-hand, you can optimize future content, tailor your YouTube SEO strategies, and drive higher engagement and growth on your channel.

Recommended YouTube SEO tools

Looking to simplify the process even further? There are a variety of beginner-friendly YouTube SEO tools that can help take the work out of keyword research and caption-crafting. Here are two free tools that we recommend!

TubeBuddy

TubeBuddy is a comprehensive YouTube SEO tool that offers a wide range of features to optimize your videos and grow your channel. It provides keyword research tools, tag suggestions, and analytics to help you identify the best keywords and optimize your video metadata for higher search rankings. TubeBuddy also offers A/B testing, allowing you to experiment with different titles, thumbnails, and descriptions to improve click-through rates and viewer engagement.

VidIQ

VidIQ is another popular YouTube SEO tool that offers a suite of features to help you optimize your videos and grow your channel. It provides keyword research tools, tag suggestions, and video optimization recommendations to help you improve your search rankings and reach a larger audience. One of its best features is the "Scorecard," which provides an overview of your video's performance and suggests actionable insights to help you improve it.

Make professional YouTube videos in minutes with Animoto

Despite all of these measures that you can take to improve your video’s discoverability, it won’t go far unless you have great content. With Animoto, anyone can create a professional and polished video in hours instead of days. It has hundreds of professionally-designed video templates to choose and customize, so you always hit the ground running.

Just choose a free template, start creating, and use this checklist to watch your video take off. Happy video making!

YouTube publishing FAQs

Does YouTube SEO optimization work?

Absolutely! YouTube SEO definitely works. By making small changes to your video titles, descriptions, tags, and thumbnails, you can boost your videos' chances of getting seen. It's all about identifying the right keywords that your audience is searching for, and making your content more discoverable and engaging.

Need help? Just use this YouTube SEO optimization checklist!

When is the best time to publish YouTube videos?

The best time to publish YouTube videos depends on your target audience and their viewing habits. However, here are some general guidelines that can help optimize your video's reach and engagement:

  • The best times to publish YouTube videos are weekday evenings (5 PM to 9 PM) and weekends, considering your audience's time zones.
  • Avoid Mondays and Fridays.
  • Use YouTube Analytics to identify peak engagement times and adjust your posting schedule accordingly.
  • Experiment and adapt to maximize reach and engagement.

Which YouTube SEO tools should I use?

For free YouTube SEO tools, consider using YouTube's built-in features like tags, titles, and descriptions to optimize your videos. Additionally, tools like TubeBuddy and VidIQ offer free versions with basic optimization features such as keyword research and analytics to help improve your video's visibility and reach on the platform.