YouTube SEO – How to rank higher in YouTube search?


To this day little was known about YouTube’s search engine ranking factors compared to what we as an industry know about Google’s ranking factors. This is pretty sad since YouTube is the world’s 2nd largest search engine. There were lots of practical advice and wild guesses thrown out there from common sense but till now we had little actual data and case studies of YouTube optimization, and nothing even remotely similar to this data we have for Google.

Luckily for us, YouTube started being transparent about their search algorithm a bit more, and now we have at least one important factor confirmed: Time Watched!

In an official blog post on October 12th 2012, YouTube wrote:

We’ve started adjusting the ranking of videos in YouTube search to reward engaging videos that keep viewers watching.YouTube

YouTube said they were happy with the results of this change which indicates this will remain a ranking factor in YouTube search and will not end as an experiment.

Time Watched is YouTube’s Bounce Rate factor

Just like in Google search, where bad bounces can negatively affect your ranking positions, viewer retention is something you need on your YouTube videos if you wanna rank high in YouTube search. If people quit on your videos early, you’re not generating a lot of value for the “Time Watched ranking factor” and your YouTube search SERP positions could start going down.

Other YouTube Ranking Factors

There have been lots of speculations and observations about the rest of the ranking factors on YouTube, and industry seems to agree that this is a very likely list of 13 YouTube search ranking factors:

On-site / In-Video Factors:

  • Video Title
  • Tags on video
  • Video description
  • First words of video description
  • Video Transcript

Off-site / Inbound Video Ranking Factors

  • Social Shares
  • Backlinks
  • Views
  • Viewer Retention / Time Watched – Confirmed!
  • Number of comments
  • Number, authority and views on embeds
  • Number of video favorites
  • Author (Channel) Authority

We’re really glad YouTube is becoming transparent about their ranking factors, it’s an exciting time to be an SEO!

About Toni Anicic

eCommerce Consultant

SEO. Professional gaming. Home-brewed beer. Magento Certified Solution Specialist.

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  1. I have been working over the last year to brush up on YouTube SEO learn tips to maximize my presence on YouTube and for various brands I do outreach for to generate natural leads from good practices. The toughest thing for me is coming up with good competitive video content! I found your factors very helpful and will test a few your YouTube optimization focuses. I also stumbled on this one which is like YouTube search basics for dummys compared to yours:

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