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It’s true, that on Google knowing the specific keywords is becoming less and less important, as the algorithm focuses more and more on intent and “correct content”, rather than your page having headlines and sentences that perfectly match the search query.
But on YouTube that is not the case, and the algorithm continues to seem overly focused on exact match words, as well as essentially operating in many ways as the Google Algorithm did 3-5 years ago.
For those uninitiated, in short, keyword research is the process of gathering data on searches on search engines (any kind search engine).
More specifically, you research what people search for (often within an already known topic), specifically what sentence or words they type into the search engine, if possible how many monthly searches there are for the different terms, as well as looking at the competition of those specific search terms.
For YouTube, this used to be done primarily with the YouTube Keyword Tool – sadly, in 2014, YouTube decided to shut that down. So what do we do know? Well, these days it’s a little bit more complicated.
There are essentially two different reasons why you might want to do keyword research on a topic.
1) You have a piece of content (in this example, a video) that you have already made, and you need to figure out the best and most relevant search terms you should optimize it for. (this is what we’ll focus on this time around)
2) You are about to make a piece of content (or, in some cases, an entire business), and you want to know what exactly you should write/record about.
The purpose of the two is the same, in the big picture: gather data on a specific topic. But more in detail, they start to vary quite a bit.
The first one, is about figuring out what terms your content is relevant for (sure, there might be a lot of searches for “funny cats”, but if you have a video about “funny horses”, that doesn’t help you out a lot), and second, after figuring out relevant terms, which of those search terms is best to optimize your video for.
Here, you are a lot more limited to the scope of the search, as you need to ensure that you have content that is relevant for that specific term – however, this can also be a big plus, as it helps you narrow down the parameters a lot earlier in the process.
The second one is more about finding opportunities, and you start with a practically blank canvas. To stick with the example above, we might simply be interested in all search terms relevant to “funny animals” in general, or heck, just “animals”.
This opens up incredibly many possibilities (which, you will see later, is a very time-demanding and soul-killing thing when it comes to YouTube keyword research), and you can later create your content so that it caters specifically to your chosen term, but it also makes the entire process a lot longer.
The process for both of these shares many similarities, but differ at a few points.
OK, so let’s say we made a video about writing absolutely amazing blog articles, about YouTube keyword research. Or, perhaps slightly less arrogant, let’s just say you’re a gaming channel, and you’ve made a video about playing Call of Duty Black Ops 2.
Since YouTube shut down their own tool, we have to make do with others. Keywordtool.io is a tool that generates suggestions, based on what YouTube suggests to you after you type something into the search field (though there are signs YouTube is shutting down this part of their API).
First step, I just entered “Call of duty black ops 2” into the search field. But after that, I also did searches for “cod black ops 2” and “black ops 2 gameplay” and a few others. It’s important to think about the different ways something could be written, if it’s shortened, and how people would genuinely search for your type of content.
For instance, do people search for “Call of duty black ops 2”, “CoD Black Ops 2”, or simply “Black ops 2”?
In the end, I gathered a total of 13 keywords:
Next up, we go to Google Trends. Only a few months ago, Google Trends was updated to include, among others, trends from YouTube, which is perfect for us. Once there, type in your first search term, click enter, and on the next screen make sure you change the search platform to YouTube.
This is the point where you’re happy you don’t have too many search terms, as you can only add them one by one, and up to a maximum of 5.
It’s also important to note, that Google Trends doesn’t give you the total number of searches – instead, it gives you a relative number between 1 and 100, comparative to other search terms, or simply itself.
What we can see in the first round, is that people seem to write “multiplayer” more than “gameplay”, and that they tend to write “Call of duty” instead of “CoD”.
So next up is 4 new keywords. Wait, why 4 and not 5, you ask? Because as mentioned before, the numbers are comparative, not absolute, so by keeping 1 search term in there (“call of duty black ops 2 multiplayer”) we are sure to get comparative data.
Here we learn something new. First off, the biggest search is now simply “Black ops 2”, without either Call of Duty or “CoD” in front of it.
On the fifth round, we didn’t learn all that much new. Now, if you really wanted to be awesome, you’d go back to Step 1, and redo it from there, with your newfound insight. But I’m lazy, so I’m not doing that right now.
Instead, I’ll just quickly change some keywords to fit with our new knowledge, and test again, with these 5 new keywords:
OK, so that’s all well and good. If you were being very thorough, which I recommend, you’d now go to YouTube and check out the competition for each individual search term.
To avoid this being the longest post in history, I’m skipping that part, saving it for another time, and winging it (I’m assuming we’re a small channel, with less competitive (search wise) videos, here).
We are going for:
And as such, the title of the video is now: “Black Ops 2 Multiplayer (PC) – My Best Gameplay So Far!”
Naturally, at this point, you would optimize the video to (hopefully) hit page 1 of that search term, and if you’re not sure how to, take a look at this previous article about YouTube SEO.
Every time you do keyword research, the process is going to be a little different. It takes some actual mental exercising to do it well.
As an example, just the keyword research I did in this article, was actually done for 3 different topics (the two others being marketing and online copywriting) before I found an example that fit the process I wanted to demonstrate here.
There will be different steps, and different choices, and it all depends on how much time you have, the video, the topic of the video, and human behavior. The final choices will differ in the same way as well.
This is only one of several ways you can do keyword research for your videos, though if you’re looking for specific terms on YouTube, particularly as a starting channel.
This, dear reader, is merely the beginning.