If you’re like me, you don’t obsess over YouTube or videos in general. Maybe it’s tough to do videos in your industry, and tougher in your particular situation. You may have your hands full with all of the other SEO and marketing stuff. You may not like handing over so much of your intellectual property to Google (and you’re not too interested in TikTok). Just the same, whenever you DO have some videos that you’ve sent off to YouTube Camp, you want to make sure they at least come home with some local rankings or other souvenirs in the backpack.
YouTube optimization is a lot like most other areas of SEO. For one thing, most of your rewards come from nailing the basics consistently. Also, it’s especially like local SEO in that the rankings are murky: Often you can’t tell how much any one action or ranking factor helps you, but you usually see a big difference when you hit the optimization from many angles. This post is about how you can do that – how you can get any YouTube efforts to pull your local visibility up.
I’m not saying that simply having YouTube videos help your rankings one pinch. I’ve never seen that they do. Nor am I saying that you should start doing videos if your local visibility is in terrible shape (you have bigger fish to fry), or if your local SEO is dialed-in and generating great business already, or if videos just aren’t your thing. All I’m saying is that some best-practices on videos can strengthen your local SEO in ways big and small.
So exactly how can strong video SOPs help your local SEO?
- Some videos can rank for local search terms. (Duh.)
- Some videos can rank in a specific area for non-location-specific search terms.
- They help you create more pages on your site, of the kind that can rank in the local organic results or pull you into the 3-pack.
- They can help you improve or interlink existing pages on your site, perhaps to the point that you get their rankings unstuck.
- If a video really has legs it may win you some good backlinks over time. (Of course, a lot of “ifs” determine how likely that is.)
- You’ll be more visible IN YouTube to the relatively few people who use YouTube to research and compare specific businesses (local and non-local) they plan to pay in one way or another.
- They can bring in more customers/clients/patients who in time may review you, give you occasion to produce more photos or videos, give you ideas for written content you might not have thought of, drive word-of-mouth and more brand-name searches for your business, etc.
Here I’d be remiss not to mention this 2013 post from the great Chris Silver Smith. I found it useful earlier in the game, and to date it’s one of the only posts specifically about YouTube for local SEO (and it’s the only solid one I’ve seen in my travels). Some of the specific steps have changed since 2013, but the basics have stayed the same. You may want to read that post before digging into the checklist in my post, because Chris explains some things more than I will.
Anyway, I spend a good chunk of time helping certain clients on YouTube, and have learned a few things along the way.
Below is a 38-point checklist that I suggest you stick to as much as you can, for as many videos as you can. Next to most of the checklist items is a little color commentary, but you can get just the checklist here (or here, in case that link doesn’t work). The checklist isn’t laid out sequentially, so you wouldn’t necessarily do item #5 before #35.
1. Is the topic highly specialized? That is, is it of great interest to relatively few people, or only to people in a certain location or area? If the topic is too broad, the video is less likely to rank, at least any time soon.
2. Do you have a version in another language, if you speak another language or can realistically produce a video in one? For instance, maybe the English-language version of the video won’t get much traction, but the Spanish-language one might.
3. Have you chopped out unnecessary footage so as to make the video as brief and compact as possible?
4. If it’s a longer video, have you chopped it up into shorter videos on specific topics and uploaded and optimized each shorter video? Think of the latter as chapters, and the former as the book. Perhaps the longer video is too broad to rank for much or to get lots of views, but the more-focused videos may rank for more-specialized terms, rack up more views, rank even better, get even more views, and so on. This approach usually is a good idea even when the “long” version is pretty brief (e.g. 10 minutes), but it’s almost obligatory if the long video is long.
Why do those steps matter? You can fine-tune a video, plaster it all over your site, and plug it on your social media accounts all day long, but if you get certain basics wrong you’re just polishing a pile of guano.
Does the title of your YouTube video include a…
5. Question or implied question that a would-be customer/client/patient might type into Google?
6. Related question, related phrase, or synonym? (As space permits: you’ve got only 100 characters to work with.)
7. Location? Either where your business is located, where the video was shot, the area where most of your viewers probably live or work, etc.
8. Mention of the news channel or other organization that shot the video, if applicable?
Why do those steps matter? The title of the video is a big influence on rankings, and even more so on who clicks, who bothers to watch, and who ends up liking the video enough to take some action that helps you. Without other optimization or a crazy number of views that the video gets almost by accident (like if it went “viral”), then the title is one of just a few ways Google can tell what the video is about and whom it’s relevant to. Sometimes Google doesn’t have too much else to go on.
Does the description of your YouTube video include a…
9. Couple of paragraphs (at least), or a transcript, to summarize what’s in the video?
10. Naked link to (at least) one relevant page, post, or other resource on your site?
11. Naked link to your homepage?
12. Brief description of your service area or a mention of your location?
13. NAP blob, if applicable?
14. Clear call-to-action geared toward potential customers/clients/patients?
15. Link to related videos you hope the viewer checks out?
16. Link to a version of the same video in a different language, if applicable?
17. Some hashtags, if applicable?
Why do those steps matter? Unlike in the “title” field, there’s a lot you can shoehorn into the description, with few limitations. It’s where YouTube/Google can chow down on what you say about your video, and can square that with what YouTube understands from the audio of your video. So you want the description to reflect the subject matter of the video and maybe add some detail to it.
Of course, you can take the description too far and lose viewers’ interest, though I doubt YouTube/Google would ding you in any way for that. The above-mentioned items are easy to work into your description and still not have the whole thing run too long or be too flabby. If you stick to the above points, your description will probably still seem businesslike and restrained.
In the other fields that YouTube lets you customize for any given video, have you…
18. Added as many tags as you can into the “tags” field? Include individual keywords and longer search phrases that reflect the specific topics you touch on in the video, synonyms, relevant locations, your name or the name of your business, and anything else that seems relevant.
19. Have you renamed the raw video file to something relevant? No reason not to. You’d just need to do it before you upload the video to YouTube. (I don’t think there’s a way to rename the file post facto.)
20. Specified the language of the audio?
21. Specified the language of the subtitles?
22. Specified the “Location” of filming, if applicable?
23. Specified the recording date?
Why do those steps matter? It’s safe to assume each YouTube setting is there for a reason. If it doesn’t factor into Google’s rankings outright, then it helps Google categorize your video a little more accurately or show it to specific people, or it tells viewers what to expect. Anything you can do to make your video a great fit in a specific niche – and not try to interest everyone everywhere – is usually worth doing. Punch a little below your weight class, at least at first.
On your website, have you…
24. Embedded every video on at least one page (or blog post)?
25. Embedded the most-relevant, most-urgent, or most-popular video(s) on critical pages of your site? (E.g. homepage, contact page, major service pages, “areas served” page, etc.)
26. Embedded videos that are about or were shot in in a specific city on the corresponding “city” pages?
27. Linked to your YouTube channel in at least a few noticeable spots, and encouraged visitors to watch more of your videos and to subscribe?
28. Created a main “Video Gallery” page, featuring all or most of your videos?
29. Created a page for each topic you’ve got a video on?
30. Put low-views videos higher up on the pages where you’ve embedded them?
Why do those steps matter? Perhaps it’s common knowledge, but I’ve found that the view count of a video is a huge determinant of how well it ranks, especially over the long haul. But then how’s it supposed to get a lot of views if it doesn’t rank for jack? You can see the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.
Turns out the easiest (and I’d say best) way to build up the views over time is to build off of your existing site traffic. Presumably you have at least a little traffic. (And if you don’t, you probably shouldn’t be digging into YouTube SEO just yet.)
My advice is simple: go heavy on the YouTube embeds on your site. Embed your videos early and often. If your site’s already pretty visible but your videos aren’t, that will help the videos catch up. If your site isn’t too visible yet, either, both it and your videos should slowly float up together.
If your video hasn’t gotten much traction, have you…
31. Tried watching the videos on different devices and browsers?
32. Used a video-preview thumbnail that won’t scare viewers away?
33. Tried adding a call-to-action to get website visitors to watch the embedded video? As in, “Watch the 2-minute video below.”
34. Confirmed that the each page you’ve embedded the video on shows up as an indexed “Video Page” in Search Console?
35. Checked out others’ (especially competitors‘) videos on the topic and determined there isn’t an obvious “quick win” they’re taking advantage of that you’re not?
36. Tried linking to the video (where appropriate), in lieu of embedding the video on your site?
37. Given it a couple of months? Even if you’ve done most of steps I’ve recommended, your video may not see much action right away. Often it just takes time, as most things in SEO do.
38. Uploaded the raw video file to your Google Business Profile page (if appropriate)? That won’t help the YouTube video, but you will get a better sense how many would-be customers want to watch a video by you, and you’ll get some of them accustomed to watching your videos.
Why do those steps matter? You won’t always get a video to yield any candy after one whack at the piñata. Sometimes you need to take another swing at it. Troubleshooting is critical in most areas of local SEO – from figuring out your review- or link-earning strategy, to getting specific pages to perform better, to figuring out what just happened to your GBP page, and so on. YouTube SEO is no different. Even if you troubleshoot and do a round 2, a video still might not produce all you wanted it to, but it probably will produce more of what you want. Meanwhile, you can turn your attention other videos or other marketing-related chores.
Below are some examples of “local” businesses that have used videos effectively in at least one way or another. (Yes, some of these include my handiwork.)
One thing you’ll notice that most of the videos aren’t “viral.” Not only is “viral” not the goal or the product of most effective YouTube work, but it also seldom helps your visibility or profitability in any describable way. The whole idea has always been overrated and overhyped.
The other thing you may notice is that none of these is a tourist destination, a famous restaurant, an institution, or in a glamorous industry. In other words, it’s hard to say, “Yeah, that’s easy for them to do, but what about everyday businesses run by everyday people?” These businesses wear different colors of collar, have different budgets and resources, and work in different areas. Yet their YouTube videos pull plenty of freight.
Carpet cleaning: youtube.com/@CitruScrubCarpetCleaning – citruscrub.com
Auto detailing: youtube.com/@detailgroove – r3detailing.com
Patent law: youtube.com/@ocpatentlawyer773 – ocpatentlawyer.com
Facial surgery: email@example.com – houstonfaces.com
Ice dam removal youtube.com/@IceDamGuys – icedamremovalguys.com/videos
Shoreline restoration: youtube.com/@lakeshoreguys – lakeshoreguys.com/videos
Gutter guard installation: youtube.com/@gutterguardsdirect/videos – gutterguardsdirect.com/gutter-guard-challenge
Bankruptcy trustees: youtube.com/@hoyesmichalos/videos – hoyes.com
Test-prep tutoring: youtube.com/@VinceKotchian/videos – vincekotchian.com
Tree removal: youtube.com/@770arborist/videos – 770arborist.com/videos
Auto repair: youtube.com/@pawlikautorepairVancouver/videos – pawlikautomotive.com (thanks to Mark Bossert for mentioning this example in his great comment)
More auto repair: youtube.com/@KneblesAutoServiceCenter – kneblesauto.com (thanks to Grant Austin for mentioning this excellent example on Twitter, and then in his comment, where you can also see some industrial-strength YouTube tips that I wish I remembered to mention in the post)
Have you seen examples of local businesses in a pretty standard situation that seem extra visible because they’ve done very solid videos?
Any YouTube SEO / local SEO steps I left off of the checklist? (By the way, please let me know if you couldn’t access the checklist, which is also available here.)
What’s worked (or not worked) for you?
Leave a comment!
Mark Bossert says
I’ve been getting your emails for a long time, and using the valuable info to benefit clients for all that time.
I recognized 11 years ago that content, regularly created would be the almost unbeatable differentiator in local search… the long slow path to consistent, reliable customer creation.
Except a small business operator who wants to write an article a week is scarcer than hen’s teeth!
So I started interviewing clients weekly on Google Hangouts (remember that? – what a POS, but it worked… mostly). Many many videos later, (and just a couple clients left – other interests beckoned) weekly videos drive the majority of their new client business each and every month. Has worked for years and continues to work, extremely well.
Example Client: Pawlik Automotive Vancouver – 5x growth over the last 9 years
Video subject: Car repair of the week
Youtube channel: https://youtube.com/@pawlikautorepairVancouver
Bernie Still reports new clients coming in from the videos… eg. We do a video about a specific Range Rover repair and over the following 2-4 weeks more Range Rovers show up.
He’s had calls from all over and people drive for hours to get service and repairs at his shop. Videos generate trust.
I still wonder why no other sharp SEO’s have not really jumped on this. (Not saying I’m a sharp seo…) In my experience it’s the easiest fastest way to create useful, ranking content.
It also takes a 6 month or so investment in the grind of minor results until the lead flow, phone calls start to ramp, but hey what doesn’t on the internet these days?
Note: I ain’t taking new clients!!!
Thanks, Mark! That is a super-smart strategy: be clients’ sparring partner, so not all the pressure is on them to make a good video. Very clever and doable. Love it. I’d be interested to hear more some time. In the meantime, you’ll see I updated the “Examples” section of my post.
Awesome idea Mark!
Hope you don’t mind if I steal a couple of your ideas.
Lenny Mauricio says
You can upload it to Facebook and run ads within your local area to rank that FB watch URL. Guess this media parasite tactic but you could also run FB ad traffic to that YT URL w/in that locality as well.
That’s a good idea, Lenny. Especially the 2nd part, given that FB clicks tend to be nice and cheap and could realistically bump a video.
Ken Fagan says
I hope that you, your family (including pets) will have a great 2023!
Extremely helpful, as always.
Q: Could the 38 above tips also be effective using what I would call extremely low- (or no-)tech videos (i.e. videos with only text and audio with little or no “design” and without any humans)? Or does Google frown on such basic videos?
(As you know) I’m an independent Legal English teacher working out of a home office in a suburb of Paris, France (99% of my lawyer prospects work IN Paris).
It would be relatively easy for me to, for example, create a 5-minute YouTube “video” on, say, “The 20 Legal English Preposition Mistakes made by most French Lawyers”. The “video” would be a caveman-like list of those mistakes/the corrections and me simply reading the sentences (French people are self-conscious about their accent in English, so they would like this). It’d be easy for me to create the text content for at least 20 such videos.
I could tell my 37 K LinkedIn connections and followers about the Channel (if I decide to set one up) and a decent number of whom would check out and “Like” my videos (IF they are very short).
Bonsoir, Ken! Thanks, and it’s good to hear from you. Happy 2023.
Yes, I’d say that those points are equally effective for slideshow, montage, and audio-only videos. Perhaps even more so, because for a simpler video there may be more pressure on you to provide extra context to make it a good watch and help Google figure out what it IS.
As long as it’s not illegal or in the crosshairs of Google’s censorship, $GOOG/YT doesn’t frown on much. If the view count is solid, Google pretty much always will like it. From what I’ve seen, at least.
So if you’ve created what you know to be a good video, the combination of (1) the basic optimization and (2) embedding it generously on the site should help you get some solid views. Those lead to more visibility, which leads to more views, which lead to more visibility, and so on.
Your LI following also could help you set off that chain reaction. That’s a great idea. In that sense it’s like the “seed audience” strategy I usually suggest for blogging.
Ken Fagan says
THANK YOU, Phil:-)
Ken Fagan says
I’m guessing that Google is easily able to distinguish between YouTube “Likes” and actual views?
Meaning, if someone asks their friends to “Like” a YT video, but those people don’t actually WATCH at least part of that video, Google will be less impressed? Dwell time?
Great question, Ken. I would guess that’s the case, just because it’s easier to hustle hundreds of “likes” than hundreds of views, but that one is above my pay grade.
Will Scott says
Since view count seems to matter, we’ve bought ads for the video to increase the view count.
I’ve presented this before, but In the old days, when you could get a large video in the answer box position, we had a plastic surgeon video ranking #1 for “Bounce like Beyonce.”
It is still possible to use ads to drive the view count 🙂
That’s pretty smart, Will. Definitely good for a marquee video. Perhaps also beneficial to everyday, smaller, also-ran videos, especially if the clicks are cheap.
I imagine the ads for that particular surgeon required a little fancy footwork, so as not to bump into trademarks and Bey’s attorneys.
If you’d like to mention a specific video / channel / client here, I’d be interested to add another People’s Exhibit to the post.
Phillip SEO says
Very helpful as usual. We have a newish client who writes about historic figures and subjects, and we have been embedding videos on his site for a few months. I am going to put some of your suggestions to work and report back in a couple of months.
Thanks, as always, for the great info.
G’day, Phillip, and thanks for your compliments. Yes, I’d love to hear how it goes.
Grant Austin says
This blog post is fantastic and uses all these tips for my family’s Auto Repair business (Mark).
You can find our homepage which features the latest videos: https://kneblesauto.com/
Our YouTube Channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/@KneblesAutoServiceCenter/videos
Here is a sample of one of our posts with some of the tips I’ve explained below: https://kneblesauto.com/videos/wheels-tires/how-to-check-your-tires-before-your-road-trip/
As I mentioned on Twitter, here are a few additional tips that can be added to enhance those strategies even further.
-Add captions to all videos: Not only does this ensure proper spelling, but it’s also important to note that 69% of people view videos with the sound off.
-Include transcripts in the video description or on the website: This provides opportunities for internal linking and allows viewers to continue watching your videos.
– Use schema markup to get the videos indexed on Google easier. I pay for Yoast Video, which handles everything for me except for the transcript.
– Include timestamps for critical moments in the video. This can be used for keywords to get the video picked up even further.
– We are about to utilize YouTube Shorts / Tiktoks / Reels for consistent Q&A and FAQs for the business as a whole and individual services
– Videos are great for staff biographies
– Utilize something like the WP Rocket plugin to replace the YouTube iframe with a preview image, in combination with lazy loading and a CDN, to improve speed and performance on the website.
It is great because all these videos are utilized to showcase the team’s experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).
In the case of Kneble’s Auto, our service writers are the ones that write and film the videos. Still, they are edited and reviewed by ASE Certified Master Technician with 40+ years of experience to ensure the viewers are getting the most accurate information to trust.
Thanks for the super comment, Grant, and for the equally super example of Kneble’s. Nice work. I’ve included you / them in the post, under the “Examples” section. You sure use every part of the pig. Dang.
Walker Porterfield says
Hello, I had a question when it comes to YouTube shorts. Do you find those to be helpful in SEO, or does it need to be a full blown video. Thanks so much for your blog, really learned a lot!
Not to sound like an attorney, but: it depends.
If the information is great or if it’s just really entertaining, some Shorts have legs. But, as with the classic-length videos, most of the videos aren’t so good and never go anywhere. Also, it can be a minor hassle to embed Shorts on one’s site, and the description is tucked-away. The format just makes it a harder to engineer a win, and I definitely prefer the longer format. But YMMV, so you’ll want to see what works for you.
Steve Gardner says
Phil, I can’t thank you enough for all your work – the xray vision project you did for me, or whatever it was called, and your many very helpful newsletters throughout the years. This one, and the action list you sent afterwards is just what I need going forward. I’ve had a few videos I’ve created over the years, but I need to do many more. Regardless, I had no idea how to maximize for local SEO. Until now. When it comes to marketing, you are a treasure house!!
You’re a prince of a guy, Steve. Thanks for your compliments. I enjoyed doing that audit back in 2015 or 2016 (or thereabouts).
Even just a couple of videos can pull the weight of their caboose plus some. Basic optimization is extra effective if those videos have already covered some miles. One nice thing about YTSEO is that you pretty much need to do it piecemeal, so it rarely becomes a big errand. As you do more videos long-term, you’ll incorporate most of the checklist items in one fluid motion each time you put up a new video.
Hope business is great, and I’d love to hear how it goes.