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Seven tips to get a grip on YouTube SEO

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I’ve been working with search engine optimization mastermind Stephan Spencer for nearly five years. During this time he’s shared hours of his expertise and strategy on all things SEO with the community. In January, Spencer joined us to lead a webinar on the Latest and Greatest Trends and Techniques in SEO and (as usual) he had members furiously taking notes. The core content? It was a list of the 10 hottest SEO trends, including everything from negative SEO and keyword brainstorming to link-building techniques. And thanks to the never-ending craze surrounding the Harlem Shake hysteria, I couldn’t resist focusing on trends in YouTube optimization.

YouTube: The Search Engine

Throughout the webinar, Spencer emphasized how essential it is to a brand’s overall web strategy to maximize its presence on YouTube. As the second-largest search engine (with more search queries than Bing and Yahoo), a fully optimized YouTube channel is an important component to successful SEO. Here are a few tips on how to drive web traffic by utilizing the power of YouTube.

    • It’s time to post video content.

    • If you don’t have anything – how are you going to rank? My own disclaimer: You have a lot to compete with. Every second, one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. For my fellow analytics junkies out there, YouTube even has a dedicated website to help put the numbers in perspective.


      • Track your rankings.

      • As with just about anything in our world of digital marketing, you cannot (generally) improve what you are not measuring. Not sure how to do that? Spencer recommended an online optimization tracker for video (still in beta) called Voot to start documenting these stats.


      1. Track your engagement. There are tools to allow you to track engagement measurements that include likes, dislikes, embeds, inbound links, tweets, favorites, and comments. Embrace the data, but don’t let it bring on analysis paralysis.

        1. Optimize your video thumbnails. Choosing a better thumbnail of your video is a proven way to achieve a higher click-through rate. And, apparently, it’s even more important than the lists on your search engine results page.

          1. Engagement statistics are public. Competitors can view your video statistics and you can view your competition’s. However, there is an option to turn this feature off using the “Show Video Statistics” button to the right of the video views.

            1. Transcripts are searchable – make sure they are correct. YouTube makes machine transcriptions, but they aren’t perfect. To help enhance your search optimization you can override the automated transcript with one that matches the content perfectly.

              • Transcript translation equals rankings in other languages.

              • If you translate video content transcripts into foreign languages YouTube can turn these into subtitles. Spencer suggested Dotsub and Automatic Sync Technologies as two of the many companies that provide this service.


                SEO is a critical piece of the digital marketing strategy for just about anyone who does business. In our highly competitive retail landscape some things are on the must-do list, and YouTube optimization is just a start. But the primary takeaway from these tips is clear: companies must focus on natural search optimization tactics to drive traffic – and hopefully conversion – for their websites. For and NRF members that have YouTube optimized, you can still register to watch the on-demand version of the webinar to dive into mobile search, content marketing and more. I hope you enjoy it and most importantly I hope you don’t overlook the power – and art – of SEO.