Person opening YouTube on iPhone

How to optimize YouTube videos for increased exposure

Social MediaCategory
12 min read
Bryan Caplan

One of the most powerful search engines in the world is probably a site you don’t even consider to be a search engine. Falling just behind Google, YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world. Yes, you read that right. The same site you watch funny cat videos is also one of the most popular and trafficked search engines in the world. That’s what makes it essential to learn how to optimize YouTube videos to help you get more exposure.

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This may not make sense at first. How can a video site be used as a search engine? But YouTube is much more than silly videos you want to share with your friends.

People turn to the site to find information, reviews, how-to guides, news and much more. The site itself is part television station and part Google search engine.

You can find absolutely anything on YouTube, which is why it’s such a well used resource.

The idea of producing videos can be daunting to a lot of business owners, and that’s the main reason many don’t have a presence on the site. But you don’t have to have a fancy camera and equipment to make great, informative videos that can bring in potential customers. You just need an idea, the ability to work a phone and a little know-how to optimize your YouTube videos and profile.

Don’t sleep on YouTube! Your potential customers are already on there interacting with your competition.

How YouTube helps you get exposure

As a business owner you do everything to find your potential customers wherever you can.

You’ve made the Facebook page, you send out a few tweets a week and keep your Instagram updated. If you are just doing those things, then you are missing out on a very powerful space and opportunity to introduce your business to new people.
Why should you bother with YouTube? Well, the numbers don’t lie.

YouTube has more than 2 billion monthly users and more than 73% of adults in the United States use YouTube. That is an enormous audience.

The difference between YouTube and other social channels is that it doubles as a search engine. If you are looking for a review on a certain product, you aren’t going to type that into Facebook or Instagram search—your results would be all over the place.

However, on YouTube, like if you searched on Google, you would find what you are looking for.

As a business owner, I can’t stress how powerful this truly is. This is just as important as having a presence on Google search. You can optimize your content so that it shows up in a variety of searches that are relevant to your business.

Optimization also allows the YouTube algorithm to latch on to your content and present it to users viewing similar videos.

If that content is optimized properly, it will be served to people with an interest in what your business offers or what you have to say.

Additionally, YouTube users tend to be more engaged because watching a video takes more of your attention than scrolling through your Twitter and Instagram feed.

Eyes will stay on your content longer and really absorb your message.

Don’t know how to get started? Check out my new YouTube guide for helpful tips and tricks.

What should be in my videos?

Filming interview on video

One of the biggest hurdles in getting started on YouTube is figuring out what your videos should be about. The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel—although, creativity is always great! For your first video you can start simple by answering one of the following questions...

  • What is my origin story?
  • What problems will my product or service solve?
  • What expertise do I have to share?
  • What’s a funny or interesting anecdote about someone using my product or service?

The answers to any of these questions would make for a great video.

You can do a simple introduction to your business and your story if it’s especially compelling. You also can take a common problem your customers face and show them how to solve it with your product or expertise. You can repurpose content you may already have on your blog and make a video with the same premise.

Once you get started making videos you will be more comfortable playing with the content and trying new things.

One question you should always ask yourself before creating a video is “Am I providing value?”

You always want to make sure the content you create has a purpose and value to your customers. This is more important than equipment or editing. A good video always provides value regardless of how professional (or homegrown) it looks.

How to optimize a video

Once you have created your video, it’s time to upload it to YouTube.

This is where you have an opportunity to optimize how your video will appear in YouTube search.

In addition to simply uploading the video, you’ll want to describe what the video contains and the problem it tries to solve.

Write a good title with keywords

Before uploading a new video, establish what your keywords will be. How will people find your video? What does someone have to type into the search bar to lead them to you?

Expert tip: The more general you are, the less likely your video will rise to the top. Targeted videos with specific keywords work wonders.

Do a quick search on YouTube with your first idea for a keyword. You will see a bunch of suggested searches auto-populate in the dropdown menu. This list of search terms can help you pinpoint a topic or theme for your video.

If you create a video about how to fix a flat tire and title it “How to Fix a Flat Tire” it will be lost in a sea of videos with the same name. You want to drill down one more layer of specificity. Try “How to Fix a Flat Tire in 5 Minutes” or something similar.

Your titles don’t have to be short and concise. Don’t be afraid if your title ends up being more like a sentence. It should include everything you need to to get the point across.

You should also aim to solve a problem in your title, such as “What value will this video provide to viewers?”

Starting with the prefix “How to” is a great way to do this.

Related: How to do SEO keyword research to drive traffic to your website

Choose good tags

In addition to the title, your video tags are another powerful SEO tool on YouTube.

A good rule of thumb is to choose no more than 12 tags that accurately reflect what people can find in your video. The more relevant the better. Extremely generic tags may not help your video get to the people who are looking for it.

Watch your video and write down the words that are the most relevant to the content and that you think people will search to find the video.

Related: What you need to know about open graph tags and other social media metadata

Write a good description

Woman writing in a journal with a cup of coffee

The description section of a YouTube video is a great place for more SEO optimization.

You should write a blurb about what is contained in your video. You can just stick to a few sentences or you can write much more.

Be sure to pepper in your keywords in this section as well as provide outbound links to more information about your business, relevant content outside of YouTube and other videos that may be of interest.

Related: Beginner’s SEO guide: Search engine optimization for small business websites

Add an interesting thumbnail

When you upload a video, YouTube will choose a frame to showcase as the thumbnail for the video and often this choice isn’t great.

You may want to upload your own thumbnail that more accurately tells your viewers what the video will be about.

This can be a different frame from the video itself or a completely separately made graphic. Think about what will catch someone’s attention.

Add closed captions

A great SEO hack is to add closed captions to your videos.

Not only is this great for the deaf or hard of hearing, but this text is crawlable by search engines and will help your SEO.

I currently use HappyScribe and have also used; both produce pretty good transcriptions. There is also Rev, which offers more accuracy for a higher rate.

How to optimize your channel

When you are starting a new YouTube channel, it is important to make it look as legitimate as possible. Make sure you take the time to complete your channel’s main page as you would your Facebook page. The key in this section is to complete as much of the profile as possible.

Add art and logos

The first step is to add your branding to your channel.

Create a banner (also known as channel art) and a profile image that is in line with your branding. Make sure you use hi-res images so they show up crisp on any device.

If you can’t make new images, use assets you have already created for Facebook and Twitter.

Fill out your business information

Next, you want to fill in all areas of the profile you can. This includes a description and links. The more relevant information you provide about your business and your channel’s goals the better.

Expert tip: Your channel description can show up in YouTube search results, so you want to be sure to include keywords for your business such as:

  • your business name
  • brands you carry
  • products and services you offer
  • towns and cities you service

Related: Update your website, business hours and contact information

If people enjoy your videos, you want to give them a way to stay connected with you. Don’t skip the link section of the channel page!

Each profile is allowed up to five links and you should use as many of those as you can.

Link out to your main business website as well as your pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Create playlists

Person listening to playlist on phone

To get your page started, leverage all the tools at your disposal including the playlist feature. Here you can add videos that ll share similar content or themes. Be sure that each video you record is on at least one playlist.

Next steps

Creating videos and optimizing them for search is a great start to your YouTube journey! To get the most out of the platform you also need to be a little proactive and make sure that people know they can find you there.

Share on social media and beyond

Once you’ve made a video, you should share it on all other social media channels. This is a great way to get those who are already engaged with you on other channels to find you on YouTube.

You should also use your YouTube videos in other places online. A great way to boost views is to embed the videos in emails, blog posts or on your website. You can do this easily by finding the embed option when you click “Share” under each video and copy and paste that code into whatever you are creating. Prospective customers who receive and read your marketing campaigns will now have a chance to watch a quick video to get to know you better.

Encourage engagement

In your videos as well as on social and in video descriptions, tell your audience to subscribe or comment on your video. This can be as simple as a reminder to like and subscribe or a call to ask questions related to the video. Make sure you are always responsive to comments or questions. This is a great way to foster your reputation on the channel and build a loyal following.

Interact with others

To get your name out there more, be sure to interact with other videos and channels that are relevant to yours.

Commenting on videos is a great way to get your channel’s name out there to those reading comments.

This can be a simple way to attract new viewers who are already engaging with similar content.

Related: How to positively handle negative social media comments

Upload regularly

Keep your brand relevant by adding new content at regular intervals. This doesn’t mean you have to be churning out a new video every day. Think about what you can manage and start there. You can always increase frequency as you become more comfortable.

Keeping a steady stream of new content posting will keep your channel relevant and your subscribers engaged.

Once you get someone to subscribe you want to nurture their interest until they can become a customer.

Final thoughts

Taking the time to make valuable content can bring the customers to your business. YouTube can be a huge asset for your business once you know how to optimize YouTube videos. Now that you know the secrets, success is within your reach on the platform.