How to Optimize Your YouTube Videos for Google Search Visibility

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Are you using YouTube to grow your business? Wondering how to get your videos in front of more people?

In this article, you’ll discover how to optimize your YouTube videos for more visibility in Google search results.

Why Optimize YouTube Videos for Google and YouTube Search?

YouTube is the world’s most popular video sharing site and the second most visited website. On its own, the platform presents a massive opportunity for video creators to reach global audiences. Combined with the power of YouTube’s parent company, Google, that opportunity increases exponentially.

The relationship between Google and YouTube started in November 2006 when Google acquired the video sharing platform. Since then, YouTube has grown to become one of the world’s largest search engines, second in size only to its parent, Google.

Today, both YouTube’s and Google’s algorithms present content according to relevance and importance. This means that just as Google finds a page with lots of visitors desirable, YouTube prefers videos with lots of viewers. Whenever possible, Google serves video results from YouTube before serving video from other host websites.

By focusing on getting ranked on both Google and YouTube—meaning your videos appear in relevant searches on both platforms—you have the opportunity to make a bigger impact with your video marketing efforts.

Read on for a step-by-step process for creating content that focuses on SEO and improves the chances of appearing as embedded video on Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

#1: Develop Your YouTube Video

Not every video posted on YouTube has the potential to rank high on Google but video results are more likely for certain queries, particularly how-to queries.

To increase the likelihood that your YouTube video will attract lots of viewers and rank on SERPs, it should be based on a topic that people are searching for. After all, if no one is searching for it, no one will click on the video—even if Google does rank it.

Additionally, choose a topic that users will prefer to consume via video rather than text.

In my experience, longer videos stand a better chance of being ranked than shorter ones because YouTube wants to keep active users on the platform as long as possible. For this reason, I recommend making lengthier videos (as long as they’re engaging) to increase your watch time which will inevitably increase your chance of ranking.

If your video satisfies these criteria, it stands a good chance of ranking high on Google SERPs.

Conduct Keyword Research to Identify a Viable Video Topic

To find potential topics for your YouTube video, use your preferred keyword research tool and/or YouTube’s autosuggest. Conduct keyword research for your YouTube SEO just as you would for your normal SEO.

example of keyword research in youtube for the phrase 'how to draw'

Research Similar Videos

After you choose a potential video topic, check Google and YouTube to see the results for that search term. For example, if “how to draw a rose” is your search term, this is the first result that comes up for Google:

example of top youtube video in google search results for 'how to draw a rose'

However, YouTube shows a different result in the top spot:

example of top youtube video in youtube search results for 'how to draw a rose'

Google seems to crawl and embed videos more slowly in the main SERP while YouTube is generally faster. So watch the top three videos on YouTube (not Google because Google is usually delayed) and note their lengths; see if the video creator is doing anything to keep viewers engaged to the end of the video. Make a note of the tactics the creator used.

Produce Your Video

Use what you’ve learned to create a video of a similar or longer length in your style. Focus on making it more engaging than competing YouTube videos.

#2: Optimize Your YouTube Video for Google SERPs

When it comes to video SEO, there are a lot of details you need to focus on including titles, tags, descriptions, thumbnails, captions, and everything that makes up the video metadata. YouTube takes into consideration all of these factors when ranking videos so reliable data is paramount.

Tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Keywords Everywhere, and vidIQ are extremely useful for gathering information and gaining insights to help you rank higher in search engines.

Optimize Your YouTube Video for Google’s Key Moments

Google has added “key moments” to videos on the SERPs. Key moments are designed to make it easier for users to quickly jump to the specific points in the video that best fulfill the search query. This feature is particularly helpful with long documentaries, speeches, or how-to videos with multiple steps.

example of top youtube video in google search results for 'how to shoot video with phone' with a suggested clip at 98 seconds to best fulfill the search inquiry

To improve the chance that your YouTube videos will be included in key moments, be sure to add timestamps to your content. When adding timestamps, keep these points in mind:

  • Don’t place timestamps in a pinned comment; add them to the video description.
  • List timestamps in chronological order.
  • Add each timestamp on a new line and specify the label on that same line.
  • Don’t add too many timestamps; about 10 per video is a good practice.

example of youtube video time stamps and the title of each timestamp section to help direct google to the best section of the video

#3: Measure the Impact of Google SERPs as a Traffic Source

After you post your video to YouTube, monitor the SERP. Be patient; SERP results of video embeds will usually update within 2–3 weeks.

For my YouTube channel, the Google SERP is the number-one source of external traffic. YouTube search is at the forefront, followed by suggested videos, and external traffic sources comes in third.

example of google search traffic noting traffic source types with youtube search accounting for 52.2% of the traffic with the next popular source at 14.6% as youtube suggested videos traffic

The Google SERP brings in over half of my external traffic on YouTube and will keep growing as Google continues to embed videos in the SERP.

example of google search traffic noting external traffic sources with google search search accounting for 55.1% of the traffic with the next popular source as direct website traffic

Here’s how you can find out how much traffic the Google SERP contributes to your YouTube channel.

Start by opening YouTube Studio for your channel and navigating to the Analytics section. dashboard menu with the analytics option highlighted

Next, click on the Reach tab at the top of the screen.

channel analytics tab in youtube studio with the reach tab highlighted across the top menu

Scroll down and find the Traffic Source Types module and click See More.

traffic source types module example in youtube studio with the bottom see more button highlighted

On the Traffic Source tab, scroll down to the list of traffic sources and select the External checkbox to filter your data.

traffic source data example in youtube studio with the 'external' traffic source highlighted

From here, you’ll see Google Search with the associated metrics. This data reveals how much external traffic is coming to your YouTube channel from Google.

Your watch time report shows how much watch time your YouTube videos have accumulated. You can easily rank the videos by watch time or group them by theme, length, style, and so on to reveal which videos are the most engaging for your audience.

Here’s how you can find your watch time report. On the main YouTube analytics page, click on the Engagement tab and then click See More.

channel analytics tab in youtube studio with the engagement tab selected and the see more button highlighted

Now you’ll be able to see the watch time of each video. (Note that I removed the video titles from the YouTube analytics images for the purposes of this article.)

example channel analytics in youtube studio with watch time of top videos highlighted

Average View Duration

One of the most important YouTube metrics for you to keep track of is the Average View Duration. This is the amount of watch time that your video has amassed divided by the total number of video plays—replays included.

This metric measures how successfully your video engages viewers. If your video is engaging, the viewers will stick around longer, increasing your average view duration, as well as your total watch time. This will boost your rankings in both search and recommendations.

If your video fails to engage viewers, they’ll bounce quickly, lowering your average view duration.

To find your Average View Duration report, go to the main YouTube analytics screen and click on the Engagement tab. Below the graph, click on See More.

Next, you’ll see the screen below, showing Average View Duration for each YouTube video.

example channel analytics in youtube studio with average view duration of top videos highlighted

Average Percentage Viewed

Another important YouTube metric is the Average Percentage Viewed. This is the percentage of each video watched by the average viewer.

This metric measures the ability of your video to capture the viewer’s attention for its duration. If your video can keep people engaged for its entirety, YouTube rewards it with a boost in its search and recommendation ranking. This is an important metric to track closely if you want to grow your YouTube channel.

To find your Average Percentage Viewed report in YouTube Analytics, navigate to the same page where you found average view duration. But this time, click on the blue + icon.

example channel analytics in youtube studio with average view duration search but the blue + icon is highlighted

In the pop-up menu shown below, click Average Percentage Viewed.

example channel analytics in youtube studio with average view duration + menu displayed with average percentage viewed highlighted

Now you’ll see that the Average Percentage Viewed column was added to your report. As a general rule, anything above 50% is a high-performing YouTube video.

example channel analytics in youtube studio with average percentage viewed now part of the report and highlighted


YouTube video SEO is a dynamic topic as Google is continually changing how videos are displayed in search results. However, two best practices have remained constant:

  • Help Google understand your content better.
  • Create engaging, intent-based YouTube videos for your audience.

The tips above will help you leverage the power of Google and YouTube—the two most powerful search platforms on the planet—to grow your channel. As you get more views, you can further monetize your YouTube channel to boost your business’s bottom line.

What do you think? Have you tried some of these tactics to optimize your YouTube videos for Google search? Do you have any tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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