In a digital environment, every B2B marketer should be using video, and every video should be search engine optimized. To rank highly on platforms like Google or on video hosting platforms like YouTube, two strategies come into play: on-page (technical) SEO and content optimization.

When you optimize your video, it gets more views, moves up in the ranking, and translates to more clicks or conversions. However, video optimization depends a lot on the platform where it’s being hosted.

YouTube has its own ranking for videos while search engines like Google use a separate ranking system. Optimization is a must regardless of which ranking criteria those platforms use.

Let’s look at how to optimize so you get the rankings you want—and ultimately, the views you need for sharing your content.

Entertain and inform

The absolute starting point for optimizing your video is to produce great content that entertains and informs. Great storytelling is key. If the content offers no value, it will not get views and will not rank well. Strive for the highest quality in your content, production, lighting, storytelling, and editing. We’ll dive deeper into the technical aspects of optimization, but if the content doesn’t entertain or inform, all the optimization strategy in the world will not lead to the views, engagement, loyalty, and branding that you want.

Research keywords

Once you know the topic and content of your video, analyze which terms people are searching for. Research which phrases are popular, investigate the keywords your competitors are using, and plan where you’ll use those terms. Will it be in the description box? The title? The URL on your own website? Use a great SEO tool to compile data on the trending SEO terms, then incorporate those words into your video’s metadata.

Place importance on the URL

When hosting a video on your own website or a platform that supports it on your website, ensure that the URL reflects what you want to be found for. A strong URL is one of the most important aspects of technical SEO. Don’t name your URL with a term that users aren’t seeking. This strategy only applies to your own website, as YouTube doesn’t permit you to create your own URL. Under certain conditions, YouTube permits custom URLs based on things like your display name or username, but that may not help at all relating to your video topic.

Leverage SEO through your title

Titles and thumbnails are the first things people see when looking for videos. Make sure your title is catchy, draws attention, and employs targeted keywords.

Put the most important information (preferably a keyword) first. Use your keyword in the title—but only if it makes sense! Try to keep your character count to 60 or less. Long titles become truncated in a search and potential viewers miss important information.

Also, avoid clickbait tactics. They might lead viewers to your content, but if the content is unrelated, they won’t stick around. As a result, when viewers prematurely leave your page, session watch time drops, and your ranking is negatively impacted. We’ll discuss that more a bit later.

Write a detailed description

YouTube and Vimeo give you the opportunity to write a description of your video. This is your opportunity to tell their search engines exactly what content your video contains. Jason Sondhi, a Vimeo curator, explains that with thousands of videos being constantly uploaded at any given moment, a way to stand out from the crowd is with your description and thumbnail. Pepper your targeted keywords within the description box along with semantic or related keywords. At the same time, be careful to avoid keyword stuffing, which could negatively affect rankings.

Pay attention to metadata

Metadata is all-important for most content you add to your website. It is read by search engines and is the on-page version of the “description” option found on YouTube, Vimeo, or other video hosting platforms.

Choose tags carefully

A useful strategy—if not a downright sneaky ploy—is to piggyback off the popularity of other channels. For example, if your video is related to mobile phone technology, you could tag Marques Brownlee, the electronics geek with nearly 9 million subscribers. Viewers searching for content on phones and electronics will be presented with content where the tags relate to the subject. As Brownlee's reviews and his channel are wildly popular, you may find yourself in the list of ‘recommended’ suggestions.

Choose the best thumbnail

Thumbnails are crucially important for getting clicks on your video. As previously stated, thumbnails and titles are the first things people see when browsing for videos. "90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails," according to the YouTube Academy. Eye tracking research indicates that a viewer’s attention goes directly to the eyes when you show a face. YouTube Creator Academy also states that adding a thumbnail with “a person who is looking directly at the camera captures the most attention.”

Add captions/subtitles

There is an option for automated captioning, but it often contains misspellings or errors. It’s better to upload your own captions for not only YouTube optimization, but also for Google and other search engines. Subtitles tell search engines and hosting platforms exactly what is contained in your video. It is not known whether artificial intelligence (AI) is employed in the algorithms to detect spoken words. However, subtitles take away the guesswork for a search engine.

Encourage longer session watch times

YouTube rewards videos with high audience retention. Maximize longer viewer engagement and satisfaction with three tips:

  1. Create a strong opening
  2. Add cards. They can be used to promote the video, playlist, or channel, link to an approved website or other things
  3. End screens can be added to the last 5-20 seconds of a video and can be used to promote other videos, get subscribers, or encourage notifications
  4. Create playlists

Connect your brand

Don’t overlook the link options to connect your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts. YouTube looks at whole brand awareness and correlates your ranking to your expertise and “popularity” on their site and across the internet. Use that channel page.

Engage with your viewers

Engagement is a huge factor in YouTube rankings and can bump up your placement. Likes and comments are the obvious engagement metrics to go for, but you should also respond to comments and create ‘conversations’ with your viewers when possible.

Lastly, promote your videos to existing audiences. YouTube ads are relatively cheap and you can target by interest, keyword, and custom audiences.

You may not be able to directly affect views, but if you market your video, it’s likely views will increase. Link to your video in a LinkedIn post, a blog post, or group forums to drive more views.

Video optimization means taking proactive measures to optimize both the content and technical aspects of your video to get higher rankings on search engines or hosting platforms. Employ the right steps to make sure your videos are entertaining, informative, and relevant for both users and searchers.