April 26, 2017

YouTube SEO 101: How to Drive More Search Engine Traffic to Your Videos

By Shea Jennings, Communications Associate

YouTube is a crowded platform, especially for health care communicators. Search for a common condition like “epilepsy,” for instance, and you get 580,000 results: patient stories, medical animations, lectures, and more.

With so much information available, how can you drive viewers to your video? One solution is to make your content easier to find through search engine optimization (SEO).

Video SEO can be tricky, since search engines can’t watch your video to understand what it is about. Instead, search-rank algorithms rely on the text surrounding the video – the title and description – and specifically on keywords within the text. The richer your text is with relevant keywords, the more confidently search engines can rank your video.

With that in mind, here are our favorite video SEO tips.

Identify keywords

  • Most short keywords will be obvious – “seizures” for an epilepsy video, for instance.
  • To determine longer and more specific keyword phrases (e.g. “how to diagnose epilepsy in children”), you may need to do some research. This article provides a great overview of how to use Google’s Keyword Planner to find long-tail keywords for SEO.

Choose a descriptive title

  • Before you upload the video, label the file with the same title you plan to use on YouTube.
  • Use at least three words in the title, and preferably five. Place the most important keyword near the beginning of the title.

Write a long, keyword-rich description

  • Longer is better – at least 50 words, preferably 100.
  • Focus on the first 160 characters. These are used as the meta description in search results on both YouTube and search engines like Google. Make sure your most important keyword is included in these characters.

The meta description appears below the video in search engine results. Include your most important keyword (epilepsy, in this example) here. 

  • Scatter other important keywords, especially long-tail, throughout the description.
  • Include at least one link to your website.=

Add closed captioning

YouTube can auto-transcribe videos into text captions using voice recognition software. Unfortunately, this service tends to be inaccurate. We recommend manually transcribing instead to ensure that all of your keywords are included.

Share your video widely

You know the drill: respond to comments; embed the video on your website and blogs (with keywords!); and share it on social media.

How are you implementing video SEO? Let us know in the comments.

Shea Jennings is a Communications Associate for Mayo Clinic's Social & Digital Innovation team who supports Department of Medicine Continuous Professional Development courses. She also is the lead for the Mayo Clinic YouTube channel and participates in the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

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Tags: SEO, Strategy, Tactics & Best Practices, Video, YouTube

I like these suggestions, @csjennings. Do you have any tips for naming videos, beyond the word length? What are the pros and cons of putting your hospital name at the start of the title?


I like these suggestions, @csjennings. Do you have any tips for naming videos, beyond the word length? What are the pros and cons of putting your hospital name at the start of the title?

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Great question, @DanHinmon. Above all, the title should be a concise, accurate description of the video. Keep it engaging, and use your most important keywords to tell the viewer what the video is about. Avoid clickbait titles that trick viewers into watching.

If you want to include your hospital name, put it last in the title (not at the start). The downside to including the name is that it uses more characters – search engines display only the first 70ish characters of a title. On the other hand, if the video topic is closely related to your hospital name (such as a physician feature, or a specialty in which your organization excels), it could help your search-engine rank.

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