How to Rank a YouTube Video

Brock Murray

Apr 08, 20156 min read
Rank a YouTube Video

In the digital era, few sites are more powerful than YouTube. As the number one video site, second-most popular search engine and third-most trafficked website on the entire Internet, YouTube is the place to be.

Smart business owners know that they can connect with current and potential customers by creating engaging and informative YouTube videos. Creating great video content is just the first step, though.

How can you make sure your hard work pays off and your videos rank high on Google and YouTube?

Video Settings

Getting the best ranking possible for your video starts with choosing the right settings. The last thing you want is to bury an awesome video with a title like “myvideo1.avi” with no description, tags, category, or other descriptive elements that can help your video end up in front of the right eyeballs.

Remember, YouTube doesn’t actually know what your video is about. The algorithm has to process the information that you give it, so be thorough. Give your raw video file a relevant video name and add tags and comments to the raw file. When uploading the video to YouTube, take the time to fill out every possible field for your video. Choose a compelling title that includes your keywords. Write a fitting description, and make sure to link to your website to drive users to action.

You’re better off using the maximum allotted space (approximately 1,000 words) than entering a short and partial description. Include relevant tags using synonyms to avoid keyword stuffing. If your video includes an important speech component, consider including a transcription for accessibility purposes.

Continue with the settings by filling out a category association that most closely relates to the video content. Upload a custom thumbnail that best represents the content of the video and catches the eye of YouTube viewers to improve click-through rates (CTRs). As you grow your video library, use playlists to organize your videos according to theme.

Video quality is extremely important. You want everyone to have an optimal viewing experience, from a cracked smartphone screen to an iMac with Retina Display. It is easy to convert quality downward, so record at the highest possible quality and upload a high-definition video in AVI format if possible. A two-minute video could take two to six hours to upload depending on your Internet connection, but it’s well worth the wait.

You can reinforce call-to-actions with annotations. In order to enable this feature, you must verify the domain to which you wish to link. In some cases, like linking to a fundraising campaign on a reputable site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you can bypass the verification process. Annotations should last for five to seven seconds and be kept to the outside frames of the video.

Cards are new alternative (and soon to be replacement for annotations) that recently became available to most accounts. Cards overlay on the right side of your video and can feature associated websites, fundraising projects, merchandise (products), or another video/playlist. You can select your card type and enter your URL. YouTube will automatically grab the title and images from your site, or you can also customize these along with call-to-action text.

  1. Navigate to your video and click ‘Edit.’ Select ‘Cards’ and click Add card. You will then be able to select your card type.
  2. Once you have selected your card type, a window will appear and ask for your website URL. It will then grab the title and images off the site. You can then customize your title, call-to-action and image (either select an image provided or upload your own.)
  3. That’s it! Check out how great it looks.

Your Channel

Your channel is the hub for your company on YouTube. While individual video watch pages will be where most viewers end up, as you grow your video library you want to have an organized and attractive channel. Channel optimization is an often overlooked step that can help your videos rank.

Start by adding channel art. You don’t want your channel to look like a generic YouTube page. Stand out from the competition and use the opportunity to establish your branding. Upload your logo as a profile picture and choose a background image that best represents the services or ethos of your company. Optimize your images by choosing proper image file titles.

Your channel should drive views to your videos, but it should also drive traffic to your company website and social media accounts. Make sure to add links to your site, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest pages. You will need to verify your associated website. Don’t neglect the opportunity to communicate your company services and mission with a well-written description, including important keywords.

YouTube is more than a video site, it is a social network. No successful company channel is an island, so subscribe to other channels with similar content and start building your network. The YouTube algorithm takes these connections into account to help understand where your content fits.

Finally, connect your YouTube channel to your Google Analytics tracking ID. This will allow you to track metrics, like plays, finished percentage, and more. As you learn more about how your videos are received by viewers, you can edit past videos or plan future videos to improve retention.

Marketing Your Videos

All the hard work of creating a video and filling out all the details of your YouTube account could all be for naught if you don’t draw any viewers to your watch page. While your optimizations should help your video rank in YouTube and Google searches, smart companies help themselves. Leverage your social media to drive traffic to your video, increasing organic engagement.

To start, set your YouTube channel to automatically sync with your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts. Each new video will be automatically posted according to your outlined settings, saving you a lot of time and connecting your audience with your videos when they’re hot off the press.

In addition to sharing with your company’s own social media accounts, build links to your video on your website, both on regular pages and blog posts. Share your video across the Internet on relevant group pages, forums, and microblogging platforms. Don’t be shy about it, either. If you stand by the quality of your content, why wouldn’t you want to share it with interested parties? You can also generate more exposure for your video by investing in paid placements.

Also consider hiring a digital marketing agency if you would like to take advantage of more advanced link building techniques.

Paid ads on YouTube are managed through Google AdWords. To setup an ad campaign, you need to link your YouTube account to your Google AdWords account. Options for video ads include skippable video ads (formerly TrueView in-stream ads), non-skippable ads. They are a great way to match your video with an interested audience, such as potential clients and industry peers. For more information on YouTube Ads check out my 2015 YouTube marketing guide.


It is imperative to connect your YouTube channel with your Google Analytics account to track performance. You can track everything from number of plays to finished percentage; however the internal tracking system does not currently track Google or YouTube rankings.

In order to track your rankings, you must use an external service such as RankTrackr. These external services can track more detailed analytics, like keyword position by location. Amassing reporting data lets you know what adjustments you need to make in terms of channel and video optimization to keep improving your rankings.

Videos are a great way to provide your current and potential customers with information in an engaging audio-visual format. No matter how good the content, it won’t matter if you can’t rank your video and generate views. Follow these tips for optimizing your video settings, channel, and marketing strategy, and your videos will be more likely to rank. Who’s ready to get started?

Do you have questions, success stories or additional tips? Leave them in the comments!

Author Photo
Brock Murray is a digital marketing specialist for seoplus+. His unique ideas and passion for all things SEO-related have helped hundreds of SMBs establish and maintain their online presence. Brock's last article for Semrush was "My 5 Favorite Things About Being an SEO."