Since I spent nearly two years now on YouTube creating a lot of content and optimizing it for YouTube’s search engine, it might be a good idea to share some general tips about that with you guys. Keep in mind that these tips are based on my own experience and they might yield different results for you. Coming up with effective keywords can be quite tricky, especially when you are facing a strong competition. When I try to come up with keywords I usually ask myself these things:
- How strong is the competition?
- What kind of videos are these? (Series, One-off, Review,…)
What do I mean by strength of the competition? Well, if you are trying to rank high for a very popular game that has been played by many (and popular) YouTubers, it can get very hard to rank high unless you are a very big YouTube channel yourself… Why is that?
Although there is no official documentation about this, it is fairly simple: YouTube
likes LOVES watch time. The more a video gets watched, the higher it gets ranked. This means that a video from any bigger YouTuber will get ranked higher than a video from a small YouTuber, since more people are watching the bigger guys, even if their SEO (search engine optimization) is horrible. That might not seem fair to us smaller YouTubers that create all this great high quality content, but from YouTube’s standpoint it makes a lot of sense. Of course they are going to promote the video that is going to generate millions of views (and therefor a lot of ad revenue) and that people will most likely watch to the end over the ones that people stop watching after a few minutes. That’s why viewer retention is so important… all the keywords won’t help you, if people stop watching after 10 seconds. YouTube will KNOW that and rank down your video… but that’s a topic for another post.
So what does this mean in terms of keywords? If you are trying to rank for a generic keyword like just the title of the game, you might not even appear in the search results. What can you do? You can always try to get some long tail keywords. Long tail keywords for example are “Let’s Play Supergame Part 1”, “How To Do XYZ in Supergame” or “Supergame Early Access Gameplay”. Depending on how strong the competition is, I might try to rank for a more generic keyword like “Supergame Gameplay”, “Supergame Review”, etc.
If you are competing against other smaller YouTubers or are even one of the first ones to do a video on a certain game (that’s why it can make sense to keep an eye out for smaller indie titles to find them early), going for the more searched terms can work really well and might even be easy.
That does not mean that you should never put generic keywords like “Supergame Gameplay” or even just “Let’s Play” in there. I wouldn’t recommend filling the whole field with generic ones, but a few ones will help YouTube figure out what kind of video this is and they might even suggest it through YouTube on another video with similar tags. (Pro tip: Don’t just copy-paste keywords from other YouTubers without modifying, YouTube WILL know!) Also don’t put spammy and irrelevant tags in there. (“Free PC Game Download”, “Funny Video”, “Sex” – you get the idea…)
Now about the kind of gaming video… If you are creating a series, you should always make sure to have a few long tail keywords in there and it’s variations like “Supergame Part 1”, “Supergame Episode 1”, “Let’s Play Supergame Part 1”, “Supergame Let’s Play Part 1”, etc. because this will be searched by potential viewers that are looking for a series. Here are my keywords for my SimCity series:
You can see that I threw in a few generic keywords but also a few longtail keywords. Over time and thanks to a good viewer retention, I got to rank fairly high. It took a lot of refinement and try and error to get to that point. I even came late to the party, the game being out for quite some time before I decided to make videos on this game. It doesn’t need to be on release day, but it certainly can help!
If you want to know which of these actually work and bring in viewers, you should check your Analytics -> Traffic Sources -> YouTube search and then look up the video you want detailed information on. This will show you the terms that have brought people to your videos. It always pays off to go back to them after a while and clean up ineffective keywords and add variations of working keywords into the mix.
For reviews, first impressions and other videos, you want to make sure to add these long tail terms to your keywords like “Supergame First Impression”, “Is Supergame any good”, etc… but also add things like the genre of the game (“Survival Game”,”Horror Game”,…) or the platforms you play the game on (“Supergame Gameplay PC”, “Supergame PS3 Gameplay”).
Now for ways to find keywords. If you have a competition, search for the terms you would use as keywords and open up high ranking videos (ideally of smaller YouTubers) and look at their keywords. Check out ReelSEO’s video How To Find the Tags of Any YouTube Video or install the free vidIQ plugin (recommended). Looking at other YouTubers and how they are doing their keywords will help you understand the keyword system better. Also pay attention to their description in title! Just don’t get discouraged, if it doesn’t make a lot of sense at first – YouTube’s search algorithm takes way more data into account than we can see.
What do you do, if you don’t have a competition or just want to find out what people search for? Just use Google’s / YouTube’s Autosuggest tool! Start typing in the search bar and see what YouTube starts completing / suggesting for you. Typing in “SimCity ” will give you a few suggestions what people are searching for (and also what might be worth making a video on). Play around with this a bit, to get a feel how it works.
Of course there are smart people out there, that made tools for this – like the Google suggest scraper Übersuggest, that will pretty much give you the results of a lot of all the possibly combinations. I highly recommend using this tool, when you are drawing a blank.
This little post is certainly not exhausting the topic of keywords, so If you want some more information, I recommend reading the YouTube Creator Playbook or looking for relevant videos on channels like ReelSEO or Google Webmasters
Making sure that you optimize your description and title in unison with your keywords is also an important part but I can spend another post, just on that… and I might. Just make sure that you integrate the most important keywords you want to rank for not only in the title, but also in the description.
Hope this helps – good luck out there!