We all want our videos to rank first on YouTube. Here are some tips that can boost your content above the competition.

1. Optimize your title with keywords in the front

Let’s say your keyword is “video marketing” – make sure to include “video marketing” in your title, and even better START your title with “video marketing.”  For example, you can have the title “our best strategies to help you with video marketing.”  This is perhaps the more natural approach.  But you will get better rankings with a title like this: “Video Marketing: Five Strategies to Help You Boost Your Rankings.”

Why is this title better?  3 reasons: 1st – the title often gets cut off when someone browses your video library, so they may not click if they don’t know the main theme; 2nd – using the keywords at the beginning of the title signals the ranking algorithm that the keyword is indeed the core topic of your video, instead of getting the algorithm confused, and 3rd – it helps you structure a more effective title so your audience “gets” what you’ll talk about (you mention the core topic, and then you explain a bit more about it).

So next time you’re coming up with a title for your video, try moving your keywords to the front of your title – sounds like a detail, but it WILL help, especially if you do it systematically for most of your videos.

2. Write a description for your video that’s around 500 words and has the right keyword density

Very often, you think your job is done once you hit the UPLOAD button, but you’re not quite at the end zone, so don’t fumble when you’re so close!  You need a description that’s SEO-optimized.

What does that mean?  It can’t be just a couple of sentences.  You want something more meaty, that gives the gist of your video.  If you can’t come up with 500 words to describe the gist of your video, then you probably didn’t pack enough valuable content in it;)

Here’s how to do it: Take your keyword, go to Yoast SEO, type in your description, and then check the keyword density that the Yoast SEO tool suggests. You can pepper in some more keywords into your description to optimize it until you get the checkmark from Yoast.  Then, when your video’s description gets indexed by Google, you can start appearing in the front pages of organic search results.

3. Insert subtitles by uploading an SRT file

An SRT file is a file saved in a format called the “SubRip files format” and it contains the text of what you’re saying in the video along with time stamps.  The file format with the time stamps helps a video player recognize the text that should be shown in your video.

For example, the file may contain the information 00:13 – 00:25 “this is my key message.”  Then, the video player knows to show that text for seconds 13 to 25 in your video.

The SRT subtitles file supersedes the native subtitles that YouTube creates by “listening” to your video.  YouTube’s native subtitles already do a pretty decent job but often contain mistakes because the subtitles are auto-generated by an AI tool.  So by uploading a custom file you improve the accuracy of your subtitles, your video appears more professional, and it gets indexed more accurately by the ranking algorithms.

The easiest way to get an SRT file is by going to Rev.com and pasting your video’s link or even uploading the video directly on their platform.  They have a very streamlined process and they deliver the file back to you pretty fast.  For a 2-3 minute video you may have to wait for less than an hour to get the results back.

4. Upload a custom thumbnail for each of your videos

When you upload your video, YouTube will pick one of the frames from your video at random, and that will be your video’s thumbnail.  The thumbnail is the screen that a viewer sees before they click to watch a video.

Your thumbnail is very important for 2 reasons: 1st – it helps a viewer decide whether to watch the video or not.  When viewers browse through a sea of thumbnails, you want an eye-stopping thumbnail.  And 2nd – the thumbnail is scanned by Google’s AI tools to make sure your video is indeed relevant to your keyword.

So ideally, you want to include 2 things on your thumbnail: your face to show that it’s a person talking in the video, and your key message in large & bold text for the algorithms.  That way, when a viewer scrolls through a video library, they quickly see who is on the video, and what they’ll talk about.  You can create your thumbnails using a tool like GetStensil or Canva.

5. Have your launch team ready to search -> watch -> like -> share your video

As soon as you post your video, the timer starts.  The first hours are critical.  That’s when YouTube decides whether your video is indeed relevant to your keyword and if it will resonate with your audience.

If you don’t get much traction, YouTube won’t recommend your video when someone watches a similar video, and it won’t show up on your audience’s feeds.  Because YouTube wants to make sure that when it puts a recommended video on someone’s feed they watch and engage with it.  YouTube is a media platform and it’s constantly trying to crack the code on how to increase its users’ watch time.

If including your video in their feed helps, it will included it for more people, and that’s how you can break through to new audiences.  But if there’s no immediate traction, YouTube’s algorithm will ignore you.  and it will take you much longer to rank to the top.

So here’s what you can do about it: as soon as you post your video, ask a group of people – your “launch team” – to immediately go on YouTube, search with your keyword, scroll all the way down until they find YOUR video (as much as they have to, and at first they’ll have to scroll down a lot, so warn them about it).

Then, they have to watch it in its entirety, like it, and share it on their social media.  Ideally, ask them to post a comment as well.  All these actions count towards your “watch time” and “engagement” KPIs, which are critical for your rankings.

Bonus tip: Paid promotion of your videos.

Here, the experts are divided. People who’ve worked at Google say that the algorithm penalizes you if it sees that you’re paying for traffic.  However, practitioners – business YouTubers with successful channels – disagree.  They say that it always helps, and their most successful videos have had some paid help early on to get some initial traction.  That makes sense, because YouTube is in the business of making money, and if they’re making money from you with your paid promotions they should be more likely to reward you rather than penalize you.

Yet nobody really knows for sure.  So test it out and see what results you get for yourself.  So far, we’re leaning towards adding some paid promotion, especially for new channels with very little organic traction.

The good news is that a) you don’t have to pay a lot to get a decent amount of views since they only cost a few cents each, and b) within a couple of months you should start seeing a pickup in your organic traction so you can start laying off the paid promotion eventually.

Those were my five tips to help you rank your videos higher on YouTube. If you have any more tips, please leave a comment and we’ll test them out too!