YouTube SEO part 1: How to find powerful keywords for your videos


This is the first in a three-part series on maximizing SEO for YouTube.

Also: See part two on titles and descriptions. And post three on YouTube tags, playlists, annotations and more.


YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18-34 than any cable network, according to the video-sharing website. In fact, more than one billion people visit YouTube each month.

That’s a lot of cat videos.

There’s no doubt YouTube can be a fantastic traffic source for you and your website. But, it’s congested – lots of channels, sources and more than 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. So how do you help people find your YouTube content?

Enter: search engine optimization (SEO). (For more on general SEO, read our blog post on the top things you need to know about SEO today.) This process begins with selecting keywords, the focus of this post.

Keyword research

The goal of using keywords is to help people interested in your products and services find your videos/website. This includes researching words you think your audience may use when searching for the type of content your video contains.

Research applicable keywords with these tools:

  • Google Keyword Planner – Log in to Google AdWords and look for keywords with 300+ monthly searches, as these keywords are more likely to trigger video results. (If you haven’t used AdWords before, Google may ask you to enter credit card information as part of your setup. Don’t worry; they won’t charge you to use Keyword Planner.)Google Keyword Planner Tool
  • Google Trends – Look for seasonality in searches and compare search volume.
  • Google Correlate – See what else people who search for your keyword are searching for. Viewable by geography (U.S. state) or time period (weekly or monthly).
  • Searching on Google – Type in some of these keywords to see what comes up. Remember, Google serves different search engine results to every person, so only use this method anecdotally.

Video keywords

When Google thinks a search is best answered with a video, it will return video results from YouTube. The following types of keywords/keyword phrases (also known as video keywords) often trigger video to be included on search engine results pages. They include:

  • How-to keywords (“how to calibrate a sprayer”)
  • Reviews (“mascara review”)
  • Tutorials (“wordpress setup”)
  • Anything fitness or sports related (“yoga workout”)
  • Funny or cute videos (“funny cats”)

How to cover a book search results


Keyword relevance

When it comes to selecting keywords, relevance is key. If people find your video using one of your selected keywords or phrases, it is important that the content of the video is relevant to their inquiry. Don’t select keywords solely based on search volume to try to generate traffic to the video. Google is smarter than that.

Now that you have powerful keywords, where and how do you use them?

We’ll answer this and more in part two of our YouTube SEO series. Sign up for our email list on the upper right side of this page so you don’t miss it. We’ll go over all the details on posting a YouTube video, including step-by-step instructions on incorporating keywords in titles and descriptions.

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