How We Outranked Home Depot for the #1 Position

Early in 2020, Renogy approached Tuff to handle all of their SEO needs for their US and international websites. 

Tuff had previously been creating blog content for Renogy’s US website but was not managing technical SEO or anything else.

We analyzed all of their existing websites and put together a comprehensive SEO strategy to increase organic traffic and revenue. This is how we did it.

Technical SEO

When we first took over SEO implementation for all of Renogy’s international sites nobody had previously been maintaining their technical SEO. With that being said, it’s no surprise that there were quite a few errors that needed to be addressed.

This isn’t to say that the websites were in bad shape, they just weren’t SEO-optimized and there’s a big difference. So our first step was to make sure that all the international websites were SEO-optimized. This is how we did it…

International SEO (hreflang tags)

The first issue to tackle was the hreflang tags, and Renogy had about 16,000 of them. 

If you have multiple versions of a page for different languages or regions, hreflang tags are a way to tell Google about these variations. 

For instance, you may have a US and UK website and they’re both in English but one is in US English and one is in British English. Aside from having two different URLs – either uk.domain, domain.uk, or domain.com/uk – we need to specifically tell Google about the language differences.

The same goes for international versions with completely different languages such as German, French, or Chinese, etc.,

Some of the most common hreflang tag errors are:

  1. Not having any hreflang tags
  2. Having incorrect hreflang tags (Ex. having your French tags on your German site)
  3. Hreflang tags being incorrectly coded
  4. No self-referencing hreflang tags

The most common issue is not having any self-referencing hreflang tags, and that’s the issue that we were dealing with on Renogy’s websites. Fortunately, this can be solved programmatically so it’s not extremely time-consuming to fix all 16,000+ errors.

Meta Descriptions

Once the hreflang tags were fixed, one of the most common technical SEO errors across all websites has to do with meta descriptions. Whether it be missing or duplicate meta descriptions, this is something that commonly goes unnoticed.

Sometimes these fixes can be done programmatically by pulling the first sentence on the page and setting it as the meta description but for a variety of reasons, this wasn’t possible for Renogy. One of those reasons is that their website is hosted on Big Commerce and this makes it more difficult. Another reason is that the first sentence wasn’t ideal for a meta description.

So long story short, I began manually fixing and creating hundreds of meta descriptions so that there weren’t duplicate or missing meta descriptions across all of their international websites. 

Internal Linking & Broken Internal Links

Internal links are a very important part of technical SEO, whether it be improving the internal linking throughout the website or fixing the broken links. We did both, starting with the broken links. 

Having broken internal links on your website is another common SEO issue that can not only harm your organic performance but also your user experience and revenue. 

When fixing the broken links, my initial focus was on top-performing product pages to make sure we weren’t losing revenue due to users not being able to purchase the product. 

This is another manual fix so some of it was done in unison with the meta description fixes since I was already going through the pages manually.

No-indexing Pages

It’s important to remove low-quality pages from Google’s search engine. 

Most of us have a habit of wanting all pages to be indexed in Google and I understand it. But when we think about how Google ranks a website, it doesn’t make sense to have our blog tag archives, author archive pages, and other similar pages indexed in Google, for a few reasons. 

  1. When you search for something in Google, you are presented with its search engine results page (SERP) and for that reason, Google doesn’t like to direct traffic to another SERP, even if it’s your own website’s SERP. 
  2. This typically isn’t a good user experience. If someone is searching for 
  3. For these reasons, Google won’t rank these pages very well and if you have a lot of low-quality pages, it will eventually harm your whole website.

For these reasons, we no-indexed any low-quality archive pages that were on the Renogy website. 

Content Creation

Now that the technical SEO is all done, let’s talk about the SEO content strategy and content creation that we executed. 

We began by creating a few pillar pieces of content that we could build a cluster strategy around. We defined a few high-traffic keywords that were essential to the business and created high-quality content around those topics. These pieces of content live at the top of the Renogy blog. 

We then created 3 to 4 pieces of related content that we used to link to these hub pages as well as internally linked dozens of existing content.

Aside from the hub pages, we consistently produce one new blog post each week for each of Renogy’s website properties. 

The other main piece of content that we created was what we refer to as customer service content.

E-commerce Customer Service Content

E-commerce Customer Service Content is essentially FAQ data that is specific to the page that it is on. Not only is it helpful for SEO, but it’s also helpful for the user experience. 

You can find this content on all the major ecommerce websites. 

Ex. Amazon

Ex. Best Buy

Renogy was missing this content on their core category solar panel listing pages, including their solar panel kits listing page, and by adding it, it helped us increase organic rankings of these pages and in return, drive more sales.

We’ve seen the most significant organic improvements to the pages that we added this customer service content to.

Results

After all of these improvements and about 6 months’ time, we are ranking #1 in Google for ‘solar panel kits’ – outranking Amazon and Home Depot when we previously weren’t ranking in the top 100. We also rank #4 for ‘solar kit’ when we previously weren’t ranking in the top 100.

In addition to that, we increased our ranking for ‘solar panels for sale’ from position 12 to position 5.

We’ve also seen significant improvements in tons of other organic keywords that are essential to Renogy’s business and bottom line. 

As I write this, organic traffic is up over 32% from when we finished our implementations and organic revenue is steadily increasing and growing about 37% quarter over quarter.

 

tuff seo chsrt

How We Increased Our Organic Traffic by 630% in 12 months (And as a result, increased our monthly revenue by over 60%)

tuff seo chsrt

As a growth marketing agency, we work hard to balance quick wins with long-term strategy. Our process helps us identify which channels to test first based on our target audience and what combination of tactics will help us hit our goals. We’ve done this for over 35 different businesses in the last 3 years. 

Last year, though, we decided to get serious about our own growth strategy at Tuff. We help companies grow every day with a combination of different marketing tactics, what will happen if we test some of those out for our own growth? 

Up until this year, we had grown steadily through referrals – either from an existing client or from someone finding our Google Reviews and reaching out. Then, in November 2019, we did three things: 

  • Identified our USP (value props!)
  • Did a deep dive on our competitors
  • Fleshed out our ICP (target client!) 

With this research, we then put together a full growth marketing strategy for Tuff, with the primary focus on organic growth. While organic is tough, takes patience, consistency, and time, we knew it was the one channel that could bring us compounding growth if done right. 

For us, SEO has turned out to be a game-changer…

  • We rank for top keywords
  • Leads come knocking on our door 
  • Sales are steady and consistent (we don’t spend any money on lead gen) 

tuff seo chsrt

tuff keywords

In this post, we’ll take you through the exact steps we took to jumpstart our organic performance at Tuff. 

  1. Wrote down all the questions we get from prospects and clients 
  2. Mapped these questions to each stage of the user journey 
  3. Did an SEO audit on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO
  4. Identified the keywords we were already ranking for on Google 
  5. Listed the keywords we wanted to rank for on Google
  6. Made significant improvements to the content and internal linking on the Tuff website with landing pages 
  7. Developed an editorial calendar with content clusters for our target keyword list 
  8. Committed to consistently publishing 5-7 articles a month on the Tuff blog (internal team and freelancers) 

Let’s dive in! 

Wrote down all the questions we get from prospects and clients 

High-quality content is all about providing value to your customers and you can’t do that if you don’t know what your customers are looking for. 

The first step in building an SEO strategy for a B2B company is to understand who the target audience is and what they’re looking for. The best way to know what your customers want is to ask them, or to build a list of all the questions they ask you, which is what we did.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have a list of customer questions then the next best step is to build a buyer persona.

These were questions like: 

  • I’m trying to figure out if I should hire an agency or bring it in-house – what do you think?
  • How much money do we need to set aside for a testing budget? 
  • How do we decide what budget is enough? 
  • Do you offer a performance-based pricing structure? 
  • What should we expect from hiring an agency? 
  • Do you do any YouTube ads? 
  • How long does it take to see results? 

We paired the above list, and others, with more qualitative research as well. We read blogs, we chatted with other business owners, and we studied all our existing and previous clients. 

Mapped these questions to each stage of the user journey 

Once we had our list of questions, we began to conduct keyword research and map out the buyer journey. This is how we did it. 

We cross-referenced the list of questions with target keyword research to find the questions with the most value to our customers. We did this by focusing on a few different metrics, amongst others: 

  1. Search volume – how many professionals have this exact or similar question.  
  2. Keyword difficulty – do we have a chance of ranking for this keyword
  3. Keyword cannibalization – do we already have content around this keyword that we can improve

Once we finished cross-referencing our list of questions with our keyword research and narrowed it down to a dozen or so keywords, we had to figure out where these keywords fit in the buyer journey. 

tuff buyer journey

We wanted to make sure that we weren’t targeting a ton of top-of-funnel or bottom-of-funnel keywords. The goal is to use high-quality content to properly guide the customer through the sales funnel.

Did an SEO audit on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO 

After doing an initial technical SEO audit on our own website, we conducted competitive analysis on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO. What we found was rather interesting and helped us create additional pieces of content.

We found that some agencies were utilizing list posts to drive organic traffic to their website. We took this with a grain of salt as these articles definitely helped to drive organic traffic but were very top-of-funnel. Taking that into consideration, we included a few of these list posts into our SEO content strategy wherever we had additional content to follow it up with. 

I recorded a short video explaining this SEO competitive analysis more in-depth if you’re interested in watching it.

Identified the keywords we were already ranking for on Google 

On top of the initial keyword research that was done, we looked for “quick wins” where we were ranking on page 2 or 3 and thought we had a good chance to move up to page 1. We looked at the keyword volume, difficulty, and top-10 ranking pages to decide if we had a good chance of ranking for that keyword or not. In regards to the keyword difficulty, we typically try to focus on keywords that have a difficulty of less than 70% but this isn’t a hard rule.

We also take into consideration whether or not this is a valuable keyword for our business and if it’s going to drive not just organic traffic but sales leads.

For Q4 2020, these are a few of the keywords that we’ve identified and are strengthening:

tuff q4 keywords

We also took a look at what page we currently had ranking and how we could improve it and support it with additional content. 

Seeing what’s currently ranking in the top-10 and analyzing those pages is one of the best ways to figure out what Google is looking for. Some important things to look for are word count, the quality of the content, rich media, the authoritativeness of the brand, and how unique the content is compared to the other rankings. Then the ultimate question becomes, can we produce better content than what is currently ranking in the top-10?

In regards to the authoritativeness of the brand, if you’re unsure about the particular brand, you can check their domain authority in SEMrush, ahrefs, Moz, or several other tools. 

Listed the keywords we wanted to rank for on Google

After all of that research, we adjusted and narrowed our focus down to about 10 primary keywords that are vital to our business. We work on quarterly SEO sprints because SEO is not a quick solution and in order to rank on page 1 for 10 keywords we need to consistently produce high-quality comprehensive content, which takes a while. 

Comprehensive coverage is typically at least 4 pieces of content and includes a high-quality landing page and 3 corresponding blog posts that internally link to that landing page. This is often referred to as a cluster strategy or a pillar page with supporting content.

At the end of the quarter, we review all of our content efforts to see where we won and lost. We also review our keyword rankings in SEMrush and Google Search Console to determine which keywords we want to focus on for the next quarter. A few of the keywords will be chosen based on where we’re currently ranking and what probability we have of ranking on the first page.

Made significant improvements to the content and internal linking on the Tuff website with landing pages 

As mentioned earlier, whenever creating content we want to make sure that we have comprehensive coverage on that topic. We want to be seen as an authoritative voice in the industry and you can’t do that by creating just 1 or 2 pieces of content. 

One way to stand out from the competition and let customers know that this is one of your core services is to create a landing page or pillar page, which is exactly what we did.

We rolled out a 12-page landing page strategy that was backed by blog posts, case studies, and more. 

tuff footer

Some of these landing pages are focused on our core services while others are focused on our culture, the industries we serve, and the processes we follow when working with clients. All of these pages have not only helped with organic traffic but also with leading customers through the sales funnel. 

Developed an editorial calendar with content clusters for our target keyword list 

We wanted to tackle the website content first because we knew it would have the biggest impact on our organic growth. This isn’t always the case but our website, at the time, was pretty thin. The content was generic, duplicated in some areas, and in need of a revamp.

Once we got through the website content updates, we went back to our target keyword list, reviewed our target audience information one more time, and then built out an editorial calendar. Here were the details: 

  • Dates: April – September 
  • Target Number of Articles: 42
  • Actual Number of Articles Published: 25  

At first, we built this out in excel, using tabs to differentiate between content priorities. For us, we have the below categories: 

tuff content categories

Over time, we moved this over to Trello so we could. The idea was to get moving on articles (balance the quality and quantity conundrum) with an easy-to-use spreadsheet. Once we started getting traction, we upgraded to a project management tool to help us streamline the process and give the internal team more visibility on the content queue. 

Here’s what it looks like now: 

Committed to consistently publishing 5-7 articles a month on the Tuff blog (internal team and freelancers) 

We had the editorial calendar, the target keywords, and the due dates. But who the heck was going to write all the content? 

Our industry isn’t overly complex but we wanted to make sure the articles we published reflected real results, accurate analysis, and our experience working with almost every type of client on 20+ marketing channels. 

We decided to produce 70% of the content in-house and outsource 30%.

For the in-house articles, we leaned on the internal team to help support. Each team member was asked to write 1 to 2 articles a month, based on their area of expertise. These could include case studies, channel deep dives, campaign results, and strategy – but needed to map back to our editorial calendar and keyword list. 

For the out-source articles, we found a combination of freelancers who we could onboard to the Tuff voice. We identified 5-6 posts, wrote outlines, and gave to a freelancer to help us bulk up content efforts on a particular keyword. 

While we would like to (one day) write all the Tuff content in-house, this was a helpful split to offset the workload. The content was primarily written by the team, we had oversight on strategic direction for anything we outsourced and were able to push out high-value articles on a variety of topics. We couldn’t have done this without the internal team willing to contribute or freelancers to help fill gaps. 

Next Up 

For the next couple of months, our focus is still on feeding our content process with high-quality, diverse content for the Tuff blog.  Here’s what we have on the roadmap to keep improving our organic performance: 

  • Implement UX fixes on the blog to make it easier to navigate 
  • Add author pages to the blog so users can filter by each team member at Tuff 
  • Implement a remediation plan to make sure we remove any content that is outdated, irrelevant, and not bringing value 
  • Launch two new core playlists on the blog – SEO and LinkedIn Ads 

If you’re curious about what we did to get these results, have feedback on our process, or simply want to chat about organic performance, shoot us a note. We can chat in more detail about the content plan and SEO strategy we used that might work for your businesses in a similar way.

typing on the computer

How to Create a B2B SEO Strategy in 2020

typing on the computer

In this post you’ll learn:

  • What is B2B SEO?
  • How B2B SEO works
  • How SEO for B2B is different than B2C SEO
  • How to create content that turns into leads
  • B2B SEO Best Practices
  • And more…

What is B2B SEO?

B2B SEO is about driving professionals to your website via organic traffic. 

It doesn’t matter what professional industry you’re in. If you’re in a B2B business and have a website, you can and should take advantage of SEO. By effectively implementing these SEO best practices, B2B organizations can improve lead quality, build valuable relationships, and drive organic sales.

Some examples of B2B SEO search terms are:

“enterprise cybersecurity software”

“YouTube ads agency”

Assuming the person searching these keywords is a business professional, this is an example of B2B SEO. 

How B2B SEO works

SEO is SEO. Whether we’re talking about YouTube SEO, B2C SEO, or B2B, we typically follow the same best practices and break SEO down into three categories.

  1. Technical SEO is one of the most important aspects of SEO. Technical SEO ensures that your website is functioning properly and is SEO-optimized for your target audience. 
  2. Onpage SEO is typically what B2B companies will focus on most when it comes to SEO. This may include landing pages, white papers, blog posts, case studies, and more.
  3. Offpage SEO is tough no matter whether you’re a B2B or B2C company and involves getting other websites in your industry to link to you. 

How SEO for B2B is different than B2C

Where B2B SEO really differs is in the keyword and topic research. B2B companies typically have a narrower target audience than B2C companies and we want to make sure that we’re properly targeting that audience of professionals correctly. We do that by choosing the correct keywords and using content to lead the user through the buyer journey. 

Generally, B2B companies that focus on SEO face less competition than B2C companies. From my experience, most B2B companies focus their resources on paid advertising, causing paid advertising to be more competitive, CPCs to skyrocket, and organic search to be less competitive. 

One reason for this is because B2B companies put their most valuable content in white paper downloads, PDFs, and behind paywalls. This makes it difficult for this content to rank in SERP because it is not easily accessible to search engines.

This offers an advantage to most B2B companies, depending on what industry you’re in. The SaaS industry is super competitive and SEO is no exception, but I still find that most SaaS companies have a ton of room for improvement when it comes to SEO.

One SEO ‘hack’ that a lot of B2C companies don’t have the opportunity to take advantage of is optimizing your support and knowledge base content.

DigitalOcean is an example of a company that does this very well. They blend their tutorials, guides, and knowledgebase content very seamlessly and optimize it so that it is generating a ton of organic traffic.

SEO keyword research & how to create content that turns into leads

When conducting B2B SEO, we want to make sure that we have a clear sales funnel in place and that our keywords fit within that sales funnel. We also need a clear buyer persona to truly understand the target customer and to understand where they’re in the buying cycle. I won’t dive into how to create a buyer persona in this article but it’s certainly one of the first steps to consider when building a content strategy.

content funnel

What I mean by this is that we need to be aware of where in the funnel our keywords fit and that is going to dictate what type of content we create. For instance, is it a top of funnel keyword or is it a keyword with direct buyer intent?

After finding 5 or 10 target keywords that we want to rank for, we need to know where in the buyer journey these keywords belong. Is this keyword going to be for an introductory informational blog post or is it going to be on the landing page where we are collecting leads? The difference is super important. 

Whenever creating content that is top of the funnel, we want to have another piece of content that follows it up. That way we can lead the user through the buyer journey using content. For that reason, it’s important to understand the whole buyer journey before creating the first piece of content.

Unlike B2C SEO where you can target high-volume keywords that don’t necessarily have buyer intent, B2B content is a lot more strategical and focused on low-volume keywords with real benefits to the business. 

B2B buyers want personalized content so it’s important to think from the buyer’s perspective when building an SEO strategy.

B2B SEO Best Practices

Let’s take a look at some of the top B2B SEO best practices that all B2B companies should be aware of. Following these best practices will certainly improve your SEO strategy in 2020 and beyond.

  1. Publish content strategically that targets decision-makers.
  2. Target low-volume keywords that have buyer intent.
  3. Utilize CTAs within the content to convert that organic traffic to leads.
  4. Optimize technical SEO before focusing on content.
  5. SEO-optimize your support and knowledgebase content if you have it.
  6. Publish high-quality landing pages that target different decision-makers.
  7. Create a buyer persona.

Conclusion

For the most part, SEO is SEO and for that reason, the same SEO best practices that work for B2C companies will also work for B2B corporations. With that being said, there are a lot of differences between B2C and B2B SEO when it comes to content and SEO strategy. 

B2B SEO focuses more heavily on the target customer than B2C SEO does. It makes sense considering that a B2B customer typically pays a lot more than a B2C customer and the sales process is considerably longer.

When it comes to B2B, your target market isn’t typically a broad audience such as “newlyweds” or “college athletes” and for this reason, your content and SEO strategy needs to be significantly more targeted and thought out. 

SEO search console

How to Conduct SEO Competitive Analysis

SEO search console

Competitive analysis can be conducted in many different ways and it is something that all website owners and business owners should be doing. A thorough SEO competitive analysis can be the founding block for a very successful SEO strategy.

It can help you identify who your search competitors are, what they are strong at, and where they are weak. Along with keyword research, it can help you identify new topics to focus on.

This competitive analysis is going to focus solely on SEO content because technical SEO is something that you should optimize to the best of your ability, regardless of what your competition is doing. There is a slim chance that you may be able to deduce a technical SEO strategy from your competitors that you hadn’t thought of but I’ll save that for another day.

So what exactly is SEO competitive analysis and how do we begin?

Build a Competitor List – Search Competitors & Business Competitors

First, let’s start by building a list of competitors. This list should include search competitors and business competitors. 

A search competitor is a website that appears in search results for a keyword that you’re trying to rank for but is not a direct business competitor. If you’re in the e-commerce space, this may be a retailer who sells your products as well as competitors’ products. they are not a direct competitor but they are a search competitor and for that reason, we want to outrank them in SERP.

You can find a list of search competitors by doing a quick Google search and seeing who appears in the top 10 or by using a tool such as SEMrush or ahrefs.

Keyword Gap Analysis

Once we’ve built a list of competitors, the next thing to do is run a keyword Gap analysis. A keyword gap analysis allows you to see what keywords you and your competitors are both ranking for, which keywords your competitors are outperforming you for, and which keywords you are outperforming your competitors for.

This is helpful because it allows you to find keywords and topics that you can improve on in order to outrank your competitors. It also shows you which keywords they are focusing most heavily on. 

All of this information is helpful and necessary to build a comprehensive SEO strategy. In order to beat your competition, you must know yours and their strengths and weaknesses.

Backlink Audit

The next step in SEO competitive analysis is a backlink audit. The purpose of the backlink audit is to find out which of your competitor’s pages are the most popular, the most linked to, and why. Once you have that information, you can develop a strategy to effectively replicate that success.

Using SEMrush, we can quickly see which pages have the most backlinks, sorted by domains or individual pages. With a little bit of work, we can filter out the low-quality backlinks and only focus on pages with high-quality backlinks. This is important because the larger the website, the more low quality backlinks they will have, by nature. we don’t want to take these low-quality backlinks into consideration so it’s important to filter them out.

 

backlink analysis

We can also see the most powerful backlinks our competitor has and choose to see only one backlink per domain and to filter out the nofollow backlinks.

backlink audit

 

By analyzing the backlinks we may be able to figure out if they have an outreach strategy or if the backlinks are coming in naturally.

We can also quickly see which pages are driving the most organic traffic in which keywords are driving that traffic. After finding these top-performing pages, we manually analyze them to figure out why they are performing so well.

Types of Content & Content Gap Analysis

When analyzing the top-performing content, the first thing we want to look at is what type of content is it? Is it an infographic, a lengthy blog post, a video, or something else?

If you noticed that your competitor’s top-performing organic pages all have something in common, then that is most likely their SEO strategy. If their top-performing organic pages are all list pages or comparisons or reviews, etc., then that may be something that you want to incorporate into your own SEO content strategy.

If your competitors are generating more organic traffic based on the sheer number of pages that they have, then you may want to build a content strategy to beef up the number of pages that you have on your website.

This is essentially a content gap analysis, similar to a keyword gap analysis, but on a broader level. It’s important that you know where your content gaps are if you intend to improve them.

Paid Ads Keywords

Though this is not technically organic traffic, it’s important to see which keywords your competitors are spending money on. This can be done through SEMrush or SpyFu or other ads spying tools. This information is helpful because it shows you the keywords that they want to rank number one for. The keywords that they are willing to pay money for.

This may allow you to discover which of the products have the highest profit margin or which of their pages have the highest conversion rate. If all of their paid ads are leading to one product category or one landing page then there is probably a good reason for that and a lot that you can learn from that.

backlink audit

 

Conclusion

SEO competitive analysis is a very powerful tool when done correctly. It can be the basis of your own SEO content strategy or simply a small addition to your current SEO strategy. If you would like to know more, please reach out to Tuff’s SEO department.

tuff-growth-marketing

YouTube SEO: 12 Ways to Optimize YouTube Videos

SEO for youtube search results.

YouTube is many things. It’s a place to share your creativity with the world. A platform for aspiring artists to garner fame. A source of unlimited entertainment. It also happens to be the second-largest search engine in the world, behind its parent company – Google. 

Luckily for us, a lot of SEO best practices for ranking in Google also apply to ranking in YouTube. Additionally, a well-optimized YouTube video may also appear in Google search results so it’s important to follow the YouTube SEO best practices. If you’re unfamiliar with SEO or YouTube best practices, it may be best to hire a YouTube Ads agency to manage all of your YouTube marketing needs.

Curious to find out more on YouTube SEO? Read on for our top optimization tips.

1. Rename your video file to include a target keyword.

If you’re familiar with the SEO best practices for images, then this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The same way that naming images for SEO will improve your search engine rankings and website traffic, naming your YouTube videos will have the same effect in YouTube search results. It’s another way to tell YouTube’s algorithms what this video is about so that they can display it accordingly.

2. Naturally Insert your keyword in the title of the video.

Although you may have a target keyword in mind that you want to rank for, it’s important that it matches when a viewer will be searching on YouTube. Research conducted by Backlinko found that videos with an exact keyword match in the title have only a slight advantage over those that don’t.

I’ve mentioned targeting keywords a bit but exactly how do you conduct keyword research for YouTube? YouTube keyword research has a whole new set of keyword research tools. There are a few to choose from but I recommend VidIQ to find new keywords, tags, and categories for your YT video. 

Example of keywords in a title of a YouTube video.

3. SEO-Optimize your video description.

YouTube uses your video description to understand what the video is about. A well-optimized description can boost your video’s rankings in YouTube search and Suggested Video. According to SearchEngineJournal, “More than 70% of YouTube watch time comes from mobile devices, so you need a mobile-first strategy for suggested videos.”

If you do choose to write a longer description, keep in mind that YouTube only displays the first two or three lines of text — that amounts to about 100 characters

4. Transcribe your video and include the transcription in the description.

This is another best practice that comes from Google SEO. Transcribing the video and including it in the description allows you to add a lot more indexable content to your YouTube video page. This way you can be discovered for a lot more content than was originally included in the description. The best part is that YouTube automatically transcribes all videos, you just need to edit it and include it in the description.

An example of transcribing a video for YouTube SEO.

5. Tag your video with SEO-optimized relevant tags.

YouTube’s official Creator Academy suggests including tags to let viewers know what your video is about. Just like normal SEO, you’re not just informing your viewers — you’re also informing YouTube itself.

Don’t use irrelevant tags because you think you’ll get more views – Google might penalize you for that.

According to VidIQ, “58% of viewers arrive at your videos because of YouTube Search and Related Videos. We’ll help you increase your library of tags by 10x in less than 10 minutes, and discover content opportunities you’re missing out on.”

6. Categorize your video.

After you upload your video, you can categorize it under “Advanced settings.” Choosing a category is another way to group your video with similar content on YouTube so it ends up in other playlists and gains exposure to more viewers who identify with your audience. If you’re a musical artist, this is similar to adding a genre to your music with the hopes that Spotify will include it in a genre-specific playlist. You don’t want a country song to appear on a hip hop playlist so it’s important that you categorize your video correctly. 

Look at some of the top creators within the category. Research what they’re known for and see what they do well and how you can replicate their success and make it your own. Figure out if your video fits into this category before categorizing it.

Try to look for patterns between audiences to discover new categories and content ideas. 

Also, make sure that your video production quality is on par with some of the other videos in the category. If you accidentally

7. Promote your video.

A lot of the YouTube ranking factors depend on how much engagement your video is receiving. YouTube algorithms take into account how many comments your video has, how many views your video has, how many upvotes it has, and how many views it has. By sending your video out to friends on Facebook or an email list, this will help speed up the process and show YouTube that people are interested in your video. 

8. Upload a custom thumbnail.

The Creator Academy reports that “90% of the best performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails,” recommending the use of images that are 1280×720 pixels — representing a 16:9 ratio — that are saved as 2MB or smaller .jpg, .gif, .bmp, or .png files. If you follow those parameters, it can help to ensure that your thumbnail appears with equally high quality across multiple viewing platforms.

Choose a great thumbnail that teases a great scene from the video and makes people want to click on it.

Custom thumbnail example for YouTube SEO.

9. Use an SRT File to add subtitles & closed captions.

Subtitles and closed captions can improve YouTube search visibility and improve the user experience by highlighting important keywords. The more visually appealing the video is, the more likely it is to be organically shared with friends, thus improving your YouTube rank.

To add subtitles or closed captions to your video, you need to upload a text transcript or subtitles file. I recommend reading the Creator Academy caption guidelines if this is your first time doing so.

10. Add Cards and End Screens to increase your YouTube channel’s viewership.

Cards

When you’re watching a YouTube video, have you ever seen a small white, circular icon with an “i” in the center appear in the corner of your video? Or a translucent bar of text asking you to subscribe? Those are Cards, which Creator Academy describes as “preformatted notifications that appear on desktop and mobile which you can set up to promote your brand and other videos on your channel.”

You can add up to five cards to a single video, and there are six types:

  • Channel cards send viewers to another channel
  • Donation cards to encourage fundraising on behalf of a U.S. nonprofit
  • Fan cards to ask viewers to help support you
  • Link cards, which send viewers to external sites
  • Poll cards allow viewers to vote on a response
  • Video/playlist cards link to other YouTube videos and playlists.

End Screens

End screens display information similar to cards, but they only appear at the end of video. They’re usually a bit more visual and take up the whole screen. If a user watches your whole video, this may be a good time to ask them to subscribe to your YouTube channel to check out more of your videos. This is your chance to persuade viewers why they should go and watch another video in your series.

11. Create playlists

If you have a lot of videos then it’s best to split them up into different playlists to make it easier for your viewers to find them. If you have a lot of videos, then I recommend developing a series of videos that are organically connected so that YouTube will use one of those videos in the Suggested Videos when someone is watching another one of the videos in the series.

Example of a playlist on YouTube.

12. Great content

This one is a no-brainer so I saved it for the end. It’s also a bit discouraging to click on a post about how to optimize your content only to have it say “create amazing content that people want to share”. Duh. So why did I include it at all? Because content is king now more than ever. Similar to an article or a song, you need to create a compelling intro that will keep your viewers interested.

 

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