1. Ranking Factors

Understanding YouTube Ranking factors is the foundation to starting a great YouTube Channel and getting viewers to watch your videos. Follow along with this step by step process to get you started ranking your videos in Youtube Search.

Video SEO Ranking Factors

How its different to blog based keyword research

  • A lot of your views will come from YouTube suggesting your video to their users

Yes we are going to optimize your video for youtube search but most creators only get around 20% of their video traffic from search. The rest come from suggested videos and browse features

  • People use Google and Youtube in completely different ways

Video Keyword Research Techniques

YouTube Suggest

This works just like google suggest

As you type a keyword into the search field. Youtube will automatically give you a list of suggestions based on what everyone else is searching on the topic

Don’t Underestimate the power of this simple technique

Think of it this way, YouTube is literally telling you the exact keywords people are searching for right now. This is like Gold. 

VidIQ and TubeBuddy Tags

These awesome tools show you the exact tags your competitors use for their videos

First go the the website sign up for a free account

Then download the free chrome extension

Go to YouTube and sign into your account

Go to a competitor’s video and have a look at what tags they are using and what they are ranking for these tags

If you can find a poorly optimized video that ranks well for a keyword, you can then use this keyword and create an amazing video that serves the audience for this keyword and is optimized like a champion

VidIQ and TubeBuddy Tags


YT Cockpit

This is one of the few keyword tools available that is designed specifically for youtube

To start enter a seed keyword

YT cockpit will give you a collection of possible keywords

The best part about this tool is that it checks the competition on youtube

And if you click on the keyword suggestion, they’ll show you a detailed breakdown of the Youtube SERP

What is this?

If you see that the first page is packed with massively successful videos, you probably want to scratch that keyword off of your list

It takes a lot of time and energy to make a video and you don’t want to create a video thats not going to get any views and not get ranked in search

This competition analysis helps you avoid your videos getting buried in a highly competitive search term.

YouTube Studio Stats

We have saved the best for last

Once your channel has a bit of traction YouTube Studio is your best source for awesome keywords

What do you mean?

YouTube Studio shows you keywords that you already rank for.

Let me show you how its done:

  1. Head over to your YouTube Studio Dashboard
  2. Click Analytics and Reach Viewers
  3. Click on Traffic Source: YouTube Search”
  4. Margic! You can see all of the keywords that you rank for:

You can do two things with the keywords that you find on this list…

  1. Optimize an existing video around that keyword

If you have a video that ranks for a keyword – but it’s not well optimized for that specific keyword – optimize your video for that search term.

With some video on-page SEO, you can usually blast your way to the top of the search results.

For example my video _____ ranks 9 for the keyword “______”

But this video isn’t well optimized around that keyword

  • First I need to add the keyword as a tag on the video
  • And mention it in my video description simple yet very effective
  1. Create a new video for that keyword

This is very simple

Instead of optimizing an old video around a keyword, create a whole new video.

This way, your video is laser-targeted for that keyword. Which means it’s likely to rank better than a video that’s only partially optimized around that search term

So now we have a great list of keywords in our spreadsheet

What’s the next step?

It’s time to create awesome videos. And that’s exactly what we will be doing in the next step

Total Watch Time as a Ranking Factor

Total watch time is one of YouTubes favourite ranking factors

What is Total Watch Time?

Total Watch Time or TWT as the creators call it is the amount of watch minutes that your video racks up.

You can check your TWT in YouTube Studio

How can you optimize your videos for TWT

Create Longer Videos

The easiest way to do this is to create longer videos


Let’s look at an example


If you publish two videos, Video 1 is 10 minutes and Video 2 is 2 minutes

On average people watch 50% of each video

If you checked your TWT in YouTube Studio

Video 1 would have 5 times the watch time of Video 2


The second way to optimize for TWT is to maximize audience retention lets show you how

Audience Retention

My favourite ranking signal that YouTube uses is Audience Retention


Audience retention is the amount of your video (as a percentage) that people watch.


The more of your video people watch, the better.


Here is how you maximize your video’s audience retention:

Focus on the first 15 seconds

This is the most important part of the video

You need to hook the viewer and capture their attention


Even YouTube hint at this

Audience Retention Focus on the first 15 seconds

Why should we listen to YouTube?

They have the most accurate data on drop off rates

If you can convince someone to watch past the first 15 second then you have managed to hook them into watching your video

Look for Peaks and Troughs

Spend a few minutes checking out the audience retention reports for your videos in YouTube Studio


Especially look for spots where the audience retention peaks and drops off


Then you can work out what you did or didn’t do in the video that created these peaks or troughs.

Use B Roll

B roll helps keep the viewers attention by changing the focus of the viewer to something different


Adding B roll even if it’s just text or photos can make a big difference in your audience retention.


B roll helps keep your viewers stay engaged and prevents them from clicking away.

Session Watch Time

Session watch time is the most important factor that you need to think about


It is how long viewers spend on the YouTube Platform after seeing your video


YouTube will reward creators that help them achieve their main goal


Earn more from showing ads by keeping viewers on the platform for longer


Unfortunately there is no way to measure Session watch time


So how can we improve our Session Watch Time. 

Create Playlists

This will increase your session watch time automatically when someone watches the videos in your playlist

Include Links to other videos in your videos

Make sure to add end screens linking to more of your videos and playlists as well as your channel


This will encourage your viewer to stay on YouTube instead of clicking away.

User Engagement is an Important Ranking Factor

YouTube doesn’t want their users to passively sit back and watch your video.


They want people to stay actively engaged with your video


Some of the engagement metrics that YouTube Measures:


  • Like
  • Comment
  • Subscribe
  • Share
  • Add your video to a playlist


The more positive signals YouTube sees, the more they know that your video is keeping their users engaged on the platform.


Here are 3 tips to maximize user engagement metrics: 

Ask Viewers to comment on your Videos

Viewers Love giving their opinions


But are always scared to make the first move, if you ask them to comment then the invitation is easier to accept


By extending an invitation you are increasing the odds that viewers will comment on your video


Tell them what to comment about

If you ask someone to tell you a joke you probably won’t get one because you are giving them too many options

But if you ask someone to tell you a Knock Knock joke then you are much more likely to get a response quicker.

Ask Viewers to Subscribe

Make sure you include a Call To Action (CTA) in every video asking people to subscribe to your channel.


In fact, I recommend adding a clear CTA at the end of your videos


I like to say, If you enjoyed this video and want to see more just like it consider subscribing to my channel.


Add a lower third text to prompt the CTA.

Engage with the comments on your videos

Start a conversation in the comments section


Like comments

Heart Comments

And Pin your favourite comment


The more comments you reply to the more engagement you will get on your videos.