Why Should You Do Keyword Research For YouTube?
The simple answer to that question is because YouTube is a search engine and you can’t expect that users will find your videos if you do no optimization on them.
But you may already know that, and today you’re reading this guide to learn how.
Or you may be new to YouTube keyword research. In that case, now you know why it exists and why it’s critical that you learn how to optimize your videos for the widest reach possible.
In this guide we’ll show you the foundations of YouTube keyword research and give you some tools to help you in the process, making the whole research task easy and doable for every video creative with a YouTube channel.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is YouTube Keyword Research?
YouTube keyword research is the activity of researching good keywords around which to build your videos.
Keywords (or key phrases) are terms that users input into YouTube’s search engine to find what interests them.
What follows is that when you optimize your video for keywords or key phrases, it’s easier for YouTube’s algorithm to rank it among the first results.
The Basics of YouTube Keyword Research
Because a building is built from its foundations, we’ll also start at the beginning:
“What kind of keyword optimization can I do on my videos?”
The answer to this question is twofold:
- Pre-publishing optimization
- Post-publishing optimization
In pre-publishing optimization you will do keyword research before you create your video and then go on to create it around that keyword or key phrase which, among the things, involves saying the key phrase out loud in your video several times, as YouTube also ranks videos for words spoken.
In post-publishing optimization you will use keyword research to optimize your already published video filename, title, description, tags, and subtitles.
You will decide what type of optimization to do based on what stage of video creation you’re at.
What matters is that, at the end of the optimization process, your video has more chances to rank.
How to Find the Right Keywords
Before we dive in the exact strategy and tools to find the right keywords for your videos, let’s get something straight.
Google is not against optimizing for keywords. YouTube itself encourages to do keyword research for your videos, as you can see from the video below:
So feel free to optimize your videos to your heart’s content! YouTube/Google will not penalize you for it.
Now that we have that clear, let’s get to some preliminaries.
When you do keyword research, both high and low volume keywords are important to rank well.
With low volume keywords (10-1,000 searches/mo) you go niche and attract those users who are looking for something specific that not many search. It’s easy enough to rank for these keywords.
High volume keywords (10,000+ searches/mo), on the other hand, can help you reach more viewers and boost your traffic and views.
We suggest that you create a mix of videos based on both low and high search volume, so that you can reach the majority of your audience.
Coming to the optimization strategy, we’re happy to tell you it’s just one:
The one strategy to find the right keywords for your video is to get a clear idea of what your video is or will be about. Only when you have the topic clear in your mind you can put your idea in simple words and use keyword research tools to turn that idea into one or more keywords you can optimize your video for.
We suggest that you do a brainstorming session to come up with your idea. Mapping on paper is helpful, but you can also create one with free mind map tools like MindMup.
When you have your idea ready, there are 9 tools you can use. We describe them in detail below.
YouTube‘s search engine has an Autocomplete feature when you search for videos. YouTube will suggest keywords on the basis of what you type into the search field, the same way it happens on Google.
Autocomplete is a fantastic free tool that allows you to see the most popular searches for a given topic. You could extract as many keywords as possible and build an editorial calendar for your channel using only this feature.
However, since Autocomplete doesn’t come with additional information like search volume and CPC, you may want to couple this tool with Keywords Everywhere, which is an affordable credit-based keyword tool that works with your browser (Chrome and Firefox).
To get to YouTube Analytics, open YouTube Studio, go to Analytics on the left sidebar.
This section of YouTube Studio comes with a lot of free data. For example, you can click the Audience tab under Analytics and scroll down to find Other videos your audience watched, that gives you information on what kind of other topics your audience likes to watch videos about. It’s an opportunity to cover some of those topics yourself, too.
Another essential tool for video planning is Audience -> When your viewers are on YouTube that tells you at what time most of your audience is using the platform so you can schedule your videos or Premières to go live at a certain time.
Finally, you’ll find a real goldmine under Reach -> Traffic source: YouTube search because this is where YouTube Studio shows which keywords your content was found for in YouTube search. This is a great tool to optimize your video post-publishing!
KeywordTool.io YouTube is a simple keyword research tool that comes with a free and and a pro version:
- The free version only shows the keywords without metrics
- The pro version comes with search volume, CPC, competition and search trend
You can work with the basic version but you will have then to run your keywords in another tool that shows you the metrics. If you can afford it, we suggest upgrading.
Ahrefs’ YouTube Keyword Tool
Ahrefs’ YouTube Keyword Tool is a limited tool in its free version, showing you only 3 keyword suggestions for your Phrase search and 7 for the Questions search, of which only the first comes with search volume.
However, you can use Ahrefs’ tool to get started with YouTube keyword research and get at least one keyword with search volume to use in your videos.
Upgrading will get you the whole Ahrefs package at $99/mo.
HyperSuggest is a pretty good tool in its free version. It comes with a search volume estimate (PSV, Potential Search Volume) that uses a 0-100 score and it displays up to 10 results for free.
Also, it gives you metrics for the keyword you searched in the first place, and for each result, a link to go directly to the SERPs.
Upgrading costs €11.90/mo (about $15/mo), which is inexpensive enough for us to encourage it if you really like this tool.
YouTube Keyword Tool by Keyword Tool Dominator
YouTube Keyword Tool by Keyword Tool Dominator is a pretty good keyword research tool that allows up to 2 searches per day in its free version.
The tool tells if a keyword or key phrase is in the Top 10 ranked keywords in YouTube search, and it gives you a Rank (on a 1-10 scale) for each keyword, that tells you how popular that keyword is compared to other suggestions.
You can also select and export your keywords as a CSV or TSV file.
Upgrading will cost you a one-time payment of $29, which is really inexpensive and we strongly encourage you to upgrade if you like this tool.
TubeBuddy is a free browser extension that enables you to do a lot of things (e.g. topic planning, tag list) to improve your YouTube channel, including advanced keyword research.
Once you have installed the extension, simply sign in to the tool using your YouTube account and click the TubeBuddy button on the right side of the search field in your YouTube homepage:
As the next step, click Keyword Explorer on the right sidebar of the window that will open and you will be inside TubeBuddy’s keyword research tool. Search any keyword and the tool will report a lot of information, as you can see in the screenshot below:
As you can see, the tool tells you if the keyword you searched is hard to rank for, along with its search volume, competition and Optimization Strength, and it gives you up to 3 suggestions in the free version for related keywords you may want to optimize for. However, it doesn’t display metrics for the suggestions.
One interesting feature is Common Video Tags, that shows a few popularly used tags you may want to use in your video to enhance your reach.
Overall, this is a good comprehensive tool that offers a lot more than keyword research, and it’s inexpensive in its Pro version ($7.20/mo), so we strongly recommend upgrading.
Google Videos is the Videos tab in Google search results. Just search any keyword in Google as you would normally search for textual content and then click that tab.
For example, the search results URL for “how to study math” will be https://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+study+math&tbm=vid (as shown in the screenshot above).
Google Videos will return videos from both YouTube and other sources (e.g. WikiHow, Sciencing, universities, etc.), and obviously the videos on page one of the SERPs are what Google deems the highest quality.
Observe the results on page one (and page two) and take note of the keywords used in the title, description and in the video. More in the next section (after tools) about studying the competition.
Google Trends was recommended by YouTube Creator Channel (see the YouTube video linked earlier in this post) to stay up to date on interesting and popular topics that you can use in video creation.
You can also use this free tool to get an overview of the interest a specific keyword received over the past 12 months (see example in the screenshot above) and a set of related queries that you can turn into new videos (scroll down to see the Related queries box).
How to Use Keywords In Your Videos
As we mentioned earlier in this post, there are 6 areas in your videos that you can optimize:
Spoken Keywords In Video
This is a key optimization.
YouTube’s algorithm is smart and it scans the words you speak in the video, using them to return search results and rank the content.
When you speak your keywords out loud while you record the video, you are upping your chances to get that video ranked for those keywords.
Naturally, avoid keyword stuffing: your video has to make sense to users and it mustn’t sound like a sales pitch.
Your video title is the most obvious area that needs to be optimized.
Video title optimization involves using your target keyword in a way that appeals to users and encourages them to click to watch the video.
For example, if your chosen keyword is “how to study maths”, the video title should include that key phrase plus any words that invite clicks, like “How to Study Maths to Score 100% in Exams” (remember to make that a realistic title, not empty clickbait).
Another obvious place for keyword optimization is the video description.
Here you can post a short blurb that explains what’s in the video and invites users to watch it to the end (e.g. tell watchers about any special guests or non-sponsored products in the video) and you can use your target keyword to make your topic clear.
Tags are a great place to post your keywords.
Make sure you not only have your target keyword here, but also any related keywords that are still descriptive of your video content.
Tags will make it easier to find your video.
If you have spoken your keywords out loud in the video, it makes sense to have them in subtitles too.
While YouTube can add automatic subtitles, it’s always better to upload your own to avoid inaudible content issues and to remove any ‘uhms’ and ‘aah’ that might happen.
You can have a transcript of the video in the Description box.
This is helpful not only to hearing impaired people and users who don’t want to watch the whole thing to get what they want: it also helps YouTube algorithm to rank your video for the words in your transcript.
Especially if you have spoken your keywords out loud in the video, so you have them in the transcript as well.
Bonus tip: post your transcription on your website, too. And link it to the video. You will take advantage of Google search rankings in addition to YouTube rankings.
Studying Your Competition on YouTube
The best way to approach competitive analysis is to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your competition doing right?
- How are they optimizing their videos?
- What topic angles are they covering in their videos?
- Are they doing any promotional work?
Well, the only way to answer 3 our of 4 of those questions is to watch your competitors’ videos and take note. Which is good news! For promotional work, search the channel name to see if there are any collaborative videos with other youtubers, and visit the competitor’s website.
Here’s how to proceed to study your competitors’ videos:
- Pick a competitor who’s not too big (you will have a hard time trying to outrank big competitors)
- Go to their channel and click their Videos tab
- Order their videos by popularity:
- Analyze their title, description and any tags they’re using:
- Run any keyword you found on your competitor’s video through one of the tools we introduced earlier and see how popular it is
Can you create a video about the same topic as your competitor?
If the answer is yes, add that topic to your publishing calendar and work at it, with the goal to create a better product than your competitor.
Conclusions on YouTube Keyword Research
As you could learn in the guide, YouTube keyword research is very similar to keyword research for textual content.
You get an idea for a video, run your idea through keyword research tools and find the right keyword to optimize for, then you create and optimize your video (and its collateral areas, like title and description) around it.
And if you already created the video, you can still optimize it. (But the next time do your keyword research before you create the video!)
How do you optimize your YouTube videos for keywords? We’re very interested in your experience.
Feel free to share it in the comments below. Thank you for reading!