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A short while back, I did an AMA (”Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit’s /letsplay YouTube sub-reddit, about YouTube SEO. It was quite interesting, with a lot of interesting questions, and ended up with over 100 comments back and forth. It also resulted in a lot of new people coming to the site, a ton of private messages on Reddit, and generally just being a great time.
I thought it would be a shame for that to just sort of disappear over time (but if you prefer, you can read it on Reddit here), and decided it would be a cool idea to re-arrange all the information posted during those days, and make a nice collective post of the questions and answers, sorted out nicely for easy reading.
I haven’t included ALL questions, though. First off, some of the questions were repeats of others, and second, some of them just weren’t all that interesting, or very minor. Several times throughout the time on Reddit, I also referred to this post, and didn’t answer questions that were already covered there.
So with that said, let’s get started:
Channel keywords. I’ve messed around them for a bit to try and get my name up on the searches of youtube as one word, because when I search up “Hoodiepanda” it seems to want to split my name and I don’t show up. How do I optimize this, and how do I write them. Such as “Hoodiepanda” “Let’s play” Or would it be more of a Hoodiepanda, Let’s play. Sort of deal?
Channel keywords… honestly, I don’t pay much attention to them. I make sure they are there, make sense, and then set and forget. I expect them to work much like website tags do, meaning they don’t really do much these days. Your name gets split up, because it’s not well known enough. So YouTube’s algorithm suggests phrases/words it assumes you meant to type instead. You will start showing up correctly, as you get bigger, more popular, and most importantly, more people search specifically for you. And tags are pretty much always comma seperated (can’t remember, but I assume it actually says it there?).
If I have a channel with bad history (ie old videos were crap and didnt get any views) then does that affect performance of newer ones?
Let’s get into that a bit! Now, on Google, there is indeed something called a Penalized website (there are different forms of penalization). This means the website has done something that Google doesn’t like (such as buying links, as an example), and can in some cases cause the entire website to get penalized, not just the individual page which may have been the primary target of the action.
In such a case, future content would also get penalized, and indeed, sometimes even if the website is sold, and completely redone by someone else, the effect can still hang on there.
So is this likely for YouTube channels? No, I don’t think so. Unless your channel has a negative “reputation” (for the search engine, that is) in regards to things like spam, stolen videos, and so forth, I doubt it.
Almost every YouTuber starts out making pretty crap videos, so it would be insane if all future videos got penalized for that.
Is it worth it to emphasize SEO if you’re a tiny channel? I’ve got 80 subscribers and under 2,000 total views for the last month. That is about as tiny as it gets. I do tag my videos, but I just copy/paste the tags from a previous episode in a game’s series onto the next episode. I don’t go nuts with the tagging, just combinations of the game’s name and “let(s) play”, “gameplay”, and “lp”.
From what I’ve heard you shouldn’t really try much harder than that until you’re fairly large, as YouTube’s searches are invariably going to favor the channels with proven quality content (as they should.) Would you say this is a fair assessment, or are small fries like me really shooting themselves in the foot by not going to town on SEO?
Actually, I find that SEO has a much bigger (percentage wise) impact on small and medium channels, than it does on huge channels. Whoever told you that you shouldn’t “try much harder until you’re fairly large” is full of horseshit, and you should stop listening to their advice (on this, at least).
Huge channels tend to need SEO a little less, because the huge influx of views from subscribers (and their actions), constant videos, channel age, and more, already help a lot. So even if they don’t optimize the videos, the videos will still do “OK”. But if you’re a small channel, you don’t get that. You have to optimize.
If you start PROPERLY optimizing all your videos, I can practically guarantee that your channel will start growing at 200-400% faster rate than it currently is.
How important are closed captions really? I know YouTube says they help, but it’s hard telling how much precisely. Are they even close to valuable or are they a minor help at most?
Also, it’s easy to add closed captions if you make a video with a script, but say for a Let’s Play where it’s just random commentary: Do they help then as well, or are they not worth the time? They tend to take longer if you don’t have a script to go from.
Yep, closed captions can take ages to write. For 5 minutes of video, I usually estimate about 1’ish hour of writing down captions.
They aren’t a huge ranking factor, but it does play a role. It also helps “future-proof” your videos, as YouTube will no doubt start putting more focus on that in the future (they already are, as you can see from the latest blog post on upcoming features).
Consider that YouTube doesn’t really know what’s going on in your video. Your description is just that – a DESCRIPTION of what’s going on. But closed captions is literally what’s IN the video. YouTube would be utterly stupid if it didn’t factor into the ranking.
Also remember, that it can help with viewer retention, which is pretty huge. Granted, if you play in English, it may be less of an issue, but for Danish videos I’ve worked on, one of the first things I do is plan to add in English subtitles. Why? Because that means everyone that goes to the video, will understand it. That means fewer people will leave the video right at the beginning. That means I get a higher Viewer Retention score. And that means the video will rank better.
So it’s not only the inherent SEO benefit, it’s also how it improves the user experience, which in turn improves your SEO.
I would definitely still try and put in captions, even if you play in English. Keep in mind that, as an example, roughly 1% of the US population has trouble hearing. That’s still a lots of millions of people. And again, the fact that YouTube can actually “understand” your video certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
That’s the reason many people skip SEO in general. Even YouTubers I’ve worked with before (before getting hired where I currently work) have just completely dropped all the SEO I taught them, because they simply couldn’t be bothered. Even the people that saw rises in views in several hundred percent across their channel, have simply not bothered.
Only a few still actually put in the time to optimize everything they upload properly – they are, however, also rocking the views compared to everyone else.
The problem is that I would gladly sell my time to write these things out for people (and already do), but most YouTubers simply wouldn’t have the money to pay me. I am working on some ideas to get around that, but we’ll see. But yeah, the time investment is a big issue for many people.
When you add tags to a video, a lot of the time it will come up with an example of what it thinks you’re typing. So using the last video I uploaded as an example, I could either tag it with the game title [‘Rogue Legacy’], or I could use the premade tag YouTube has for the title [‘Rogue Legacy (Video Game)’] – which of these should I be using?
Actually now I think about it the title might not be such a good example, here’s some other ones I’ve come across:
Dungeon Crawl –OR– Dungeon Crawl (Video Game Genre)
Pixel Art –OR– Pixel Art (Art Period/Movement)
Indie Game –OR– Indie Game (Video Game Publisher)
My main concern is that while it’s very likely someone would search for the terms on the left, I highly doubt any of the phrases on the right are going to get much action.
I tend to ignore those, unless I have still have extra space for tags and can’t come up with more / haven’t found more myself. Frankly, I’m not sure what YouTube is using them for.
If I do keywords like “GAME NAME + Lets play/walkthough/Gameplay” is it beneficial if I repeat them in combinations like this:
“game name let’s play”
“game name gameplay”
Or just use them separately:
Does that make a difference in SEO?
Took me a little while to figure out what you meant, but yes, that’s a good thing to do. It’s a great way to avoid overoptimization on a single keyword, while still writing relevant copy. If you kept using the sentence “watch me play X game in this Let’s Play” over and over again, you would most likely get an overoptimization penalty. But if you instead just said that, say, 3 times in all, and then also wrote sentences like: “X game is my favorite because bla bla bla”, “I love Let’s Play’s because bla bla bla”, the algorithm is more than smart enough to figure out, that it’s all connected.
So I notice you mentioned earlier that there’s a penalty for repetitious tags between videos. How do you get around that issue when your content is by nature repetitious and episodic?
It’s fine to have SOME repetition in certain areas, others less so. Tags for instance, tend to be more OK. Don’t have 100% of them the same, but it’s fine if 50% of the tags (or around there, less would be better though!) are the same. But try to have enough tags that you can vary them between videos.
For things like descriptions, it’s much less acceptable. It’s fine to have maybe a paragraf or two, but more than that and it starts getting penalized a bit. Better than nothing, but not particularly good. You’ll simply have to write a new description each time!
When I said 1-2 paragrafs were OK, that was in the context that you were writing out a full 5000 character description.
You should try and make sure that at least around 80-90% of your description is unique content – Right now, it’s more like 30% is unique content.
The thread I linked, was more for the borderlining overoptimization of your current tags, not changing them in a series.
And I understand your situation, but there’s not always something you can do about it. It’s a bit like saying “I create black and white cinema films, but I feel they lack color. Can you help me out?”
Sometimes there just isn’t a way out of it, unless you change what you’re doing. Not all content can be optimized “perfectly”. Not all topics have search data, not all topics are popular, not everything is being searched for.
But if you’re struggling to find different tags, might I suggest that could be a general problem with your channel and videos? If you can’t even find 5-10 unique words/sentences to describe a video, is it really of a quality YouTube should rank? Is it really something unique that should rank well for those terms?
I’m being deliberately harsh here, but from a marketing standpoint, that would definitely be a warning sign for me.
To your original question, however: All I can say is, use as unique tags (while filling them all out – seriously, it’s just 500 characters, it’s like 4 tweets) as you can. It’s fine, even good, to have a few standard tags for all your videos, but no more than 5 or so, roughly. Of course, you can have more if they are really short tags (such as one word), it’s all in percentages. Again, aim to have 80%’ish unique content all around.
You’ve mentioned several times that it’s valuable to write the full 5k character description. You’ve also mentioned that many people don’t because it takes way too long. Well, that’s me 🙂
If I can’t bring myself to do that much, would you say it’s still worth it to write as much as I can?
Short answer: Yes. Slightly longer answer: Yes, it’s worth it. 1000 is better than 500 characters, 3000 is better than 1000, and 500 is better than 200. So write as much as you can get yourself to do! Of course, it’s just as much about WHAT you write in there, as it is just writing it. I hope that’s clear!
Though I should add that your keyword density should be a bit higher on YouTube than on Google. Think “Google 3 years ago” when writing up your SEO copy.
Once you get to know your own niche well, and get used to writing the copy, you can end up writing the full descriptions in about 20-30 minutes.
I hope you “enjoyed” (perhaps joy is a bit big of a word for something like this!) reading, or re-reading, this. It was super cool doing, and definitely something I feel like doing again sometime soon!