How to optimize your videos for YouTube: Best-practice tips

So you’ve decided to add YouTube videos to your content repertoire. Great, why not?

Online users love videos. In fact, 4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. What’s more, YouTube is the king of video with more than one billion users. That means a lot of eyeballs.

Except, there’s a problem. Making videos is one thing, and getting people to find and watch them is another thing. If you’ve tried your hand at YouTube marketing, you’d quickly realize that it’s not that simple.

Like any other type of content, YouTube videos need to be optimized so that users can find them through search and within YouTube itself.

So how do you go about it?

First, understand that you can’t optimize a bad video

Even if people do watch, they would stop watching as soon as they started. And this will affect the overall performance of your channel in the long run. So before we dive into how to make your videos get found, let’s just take a moment to cover ground on what a great YouTube video looks like.

What makes a good video?

Great sound

Perhaps you’ve heard this before, but it still holds true. The sound of your video matters more than the video itself. Users can forgive a not-so-great picture quality, but they have little patience for poor sound.

In doubt?

Head over to YouTube now and peek at the comments. Although professional YouTubers make great videos, many of the videos uploaded to YouTube are crappy, and viewers vent their dissatisfaction via comments.

Keep in mind that these are users who have the time to spare comments. Most would simply click the back button and pick another video.

Great message/theme

Have a clear, helpful message. Video is still content and you’re producing it for a target audience.

Your message should resonate with that audience. Aim to hook your viewers within the first 15 seconds. Link-building expert Brian Dean recommends using the PPP method: Preview, Proof, Preview.

Preview: First, give the viewer a hint of what the video is all about as soon as the video starts.

Proof: Then, establish proof that you know what you’re talking about and can deliver on the topic.

Preview: Finally, reiterate what the video is about, this time adding a specific detail that the viewer will learn.

Clearly, this means that you have to plan your videos ahead of time and script what you want to say. Without a plan, you’ll not only waste time repeating shots, you may also come across as not being confident.

Outstanding visuals

In the end, visual quality matters. In addition to editing your video for background noise and other distortions, you should add great graphics too. These help to add variety between frames and make for more engagement.

Elements to optimize

YouTube search is a straightforward video search engine that mirrors that of Google. When optimizing YouTube videos, you’ll need to pay attention to these three important elements:

Identify your keyword

You probably already know that keywords are crucial to online visual content getting found, but the truth is, 9 out of 10 searchers make use of search engines when looking for something online, while the latter uses an algorithm that relies heavily on keywords.

Make sure your target keyword appears in the title to increase visibility. Also, sprinkle your keywords sparingly in both your meta and tags. This is your focus keyword or phrase. It is what the entire piece will be centered around.


Experts advise that you spend as much time you spend creating the video on devising your headline. It is safe to say it is the most important piece of information in your entire content.

An average video with an eye-popping headline will lure huge amount of viewers, while the best content with a dull headline would struggle to get a few clicks. Simply put, your headline should be short (not more than 66 characters so that Google will display it easily), intriguing and compelling. 


A full description is necessary to help viewers understand what the video is about. Just keep in mind that most people don’t read the descriptions; they are more interested in the video. Keep the descriptions short and succinct.


Although tags are not compulsory, they help YouTube associate your video with text. The tip here is to keep tags to a minimum and avoid irrelevant tags.

A short description and tags on a YouTube video

Other elements to look out for

Video thumbnail

Custom thumbnails that are consistent with your videos will help you create a memorable brand that your target audience can easily identify. To get custom thumbnails for your videos, your account needs to be verified.

Subtitles and Closed Captions (CC)

It has been suggested that closed captions can boost YouTube SEO. Discovery Digital Networks found an overall increase of 7.32% in views for captioned videos. Subtitles and closed captions also allow viewers to watch the video in various places such as a noisy or quiet environment.

Encourage user engagement and feedback

User interaction with videos is an important metric by which YouTube judges and ranks videos according to relevance and quality.

One metric is watch time, which YouTube defines as “the amount of time that a viewer has watched a video. This gives you a sense of what content viewers actually watch (as opposed to videos that they click on and then abandon).”

We have already mentioned engaging the viewer within the first 15 seconds, and keeping up the engagement throughout the duration of the video. Here are some other ways you can encourage user engagement with your video:

Add a Call to Action

Use a Call to Action (CTA) to encourage users to like, subscribe or comment on your videos.

Make use of YouTube cards

YouTube cards come in handy here. You can use channel cards to encourage your users to subscribe to your channel or like your video. Link cards can be used to send users to your website or other pages.

Add an end screen

Like cards, end screens can also be used to drive engagement with your channel. According to YouTube, “end screens are a part of the video that shows during the last 5-20 seconds of a video.

You can add up to four elements to promote your content, channel, and websites. Elements can expand to show more information on hover on desktop and on tap on mobile devices.”


YouTube is a great content channel. To make the most of it, videos should be optimized not only for search but also for users. And there are several elements to look out for when optimizing videos.

One thing to always remember is that to find the most effective method, you need to regularly A/B test to determine what works best for you.

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