YouTube Ranking Factors – You Can’t Miss in [2023]

Table of Contents

Video content assets tend to have a higher conversion rate compared to text, infographic or image making it crucial to understand how Youtube ranking works.

In addition, YouTube Videos drives a 157% increase in organic traffic from SERPs (Wordstream, 2018), making it one of the most effective channels to increase a brand’s visibility exponentially.

3 of the common reasons why businesses need video production are corporate branding, customer acquisition, and lead generation.

YouTube Channel SEO Optimization Checklist

Here are optimization tips for your YouTube channel and videos that will help you to start doing better in search, get recommended, and gain more traction.

YouTube Branding Checklist

YouTube On-page SEO Checklist

How to increase YouTube Video Engagement

  • Add Featured Content (Returning & New Visitor)
  • Add Closed Captions
  • Setup End Screen
  • Setup Upload Defaults
  • Add email for business inquiries
  • Share content on YouTube feed

YouTube Ranking Algorithm

YouTube doesn’t use backlinks, it analyzes user experience metrics to determine the quality of your content. If YouTube sees that your video engages users (i.e. has lots of comments, likes, and shares), it will rank better than a video with little engagement.

Key User Experience Metrics

  • Comment count
  • Length of the video
  • Video Views
  • Number of times the video has been shared
  • Video Likes
  • Subscription driven videos tend to rank higher
  • Small correlation with keyword-rich video tags and rankings
  • Exact match keyword at the start of the Video title
  • Zero correlation between video descriptions and rankings
  • 68.2% of videos on the first page of YouTube are in HD (Backlinko, 2017)

Verify YouTube channel

Youtube Verification Badge
YouTube Verification Badge

Verification badge indicates the channel belongs to an established creator or is the official channel of a brand. Getting your verification is easy as long as you have met the verification badge requirement.

I was going through the requirements and it said “Once your channel reaches 100,000 subscribers, you’re eligible to submit a request to YouTube for a verification badge” – In contrast I have seen channels who have less subscribers and have the verification badge. See Qualcomm Example.

Qualcomm Youtube Verification Badge
Qualcomm Youtube Verification Badge

Seems a visit is required to the Google support team and find out.

Visit the link to start your YouTube channel badge verification process.

YouTube Hompage Structure

YouTube homepage structure is key to driving engagement. Of course, you would want to start with the latest videos and then highlight videos representing your product or services. 

Having an unstructured youtube homepage means users, are not able to find your latest videos buried in the stack or playlists. 

Here is an example of an unstructured YouTube homepage. As you can see one cannot differentiate between the videos. It’s not segmented by the video category and is not utilizing all the YouTube homepage layout features.

Example Of Unstructured - Youtube Homepage

One of the features I like is – how YouTUbe allows highlighting vertical and horizontally, allowing users to read the full title and description similar to Google search where meta description and Title clicks and improve CTR.

Youtube Hompage Structure Increase Engagement 1 Youtube Ranking Factors

Add your business social media links by clicking customize. Here is an example YouTube channel with example links.

Youtube Channel Social Media Links Youtube Ranking Factors
Nest YouTube Channel – Example for adding Social Media Links

Add Channel Art

Cover photos as we have seen on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are key to a brand’s online success. Normally cover photo’s is an area to highlight business mission statement, upcoming events, or updates. As soon as a viewer lands on your channel automatically the focus goes to the cover photo.

Here is an example of a great cover photo from Taylor Swift’s YouTube page.

Taylor Swift Youtube Channel
Taylor Swift YouTube Channel

YouTube Branding WaterMark

A Branding Watermark is a YouTube feature that allows creators to add a branded image typically a logo transparent background to all of the videos on that channel. When clicked on, the watermark allows viewers to subscribe to a channel from within the video itself.

Ht4 Hr3 Branding Watermark Youtube Ranking Factors
Branding Watermark –

YouTube Channel keywords

YouTube uses Channel Keywords, Description and Videos to understand your channel’s overall topic and category. If channel keywords optimized the right way, you can boost the rankings for all of the uploaded videos into the channel.

  • Use Approximately 5-7 Keywords – If used too many, you dilute the importance of each one.
  • 50 Character keywords are the sweet spot for channel keywords.
  • You can also get channel keyword ideas by going to competitors’ Youtube channel. Visit the link to find the steps.
  • Keywords related to industry and brand
How To Find - Channel Keywords Youtube
How To Find – Channel Keywords Youtube

YouTube Video title

  • YouTube Video Title is important for the overall performance of the video on YouTube for two main reasons: 1: CTR 2: Video SEO
  • Include exact match Keyword in Video Title
  • Shorter titles work best as longer titles can be cut off depending on the browser, search engine or device people use. limit video titles to five words or less
  • Limit your video titles to 66 characters at maximum because Google truncates the rest in search results
  • Update your video titles occasionally to keep your videos evergreen so they continue to attract viewership over time
  • Use a headline analyzer: CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer
  • Tips to help boost your Title CTR
    • Add a Number i.e – 5 Tips, I spent $1 Million, 5 Reasons, etc
    • Use Attention-Grabbing words and phrases – “WoW” or “I cried”
    • Get Emotional

YouTube Video description

  • Video description is a piece of metadata that helps YouTube understand the content & context of the video. If you skip giving a description to a video Google will assume something different and your rankings will suffer.
  • At least 150+ words. Just like the title, make sure to include relevant keywords & Optimize for CTR
  • YouTube recommends that you: “Put the most important keywords toward the beginning of your description”.
  • Repeat Target Keyword 2-3 times and description and use related keywords.
  • YouTube states that your video’s metadata (including your title & description) plays a role in the Suggested Video Algorithm. Suggested videos are generated based on videos that viewers may be interested in watching next, depending on what they were doing and watching beforehand.

Follow This Video Description Template from

Ht3 Hr3 Description Template Youtube Ranking Factors

YouTube Video Tags

  • Tags are another piece of metadata to give YouTube and Google information about your video including videos topic, category and more.
  • A recent study found a small but significant relationship between tags and YouTube rankings (Backlinko)
  • Make sure that your first tag is the exact match keyword that you want to rank.
  • Use a mix of Broad and Focused (2-3 words) Keywords
  • Stuffing videos with dozens of tags can do more harm than good.
  • 5-8 well-researched and relevant tags are better than 20 generic ones that will get lost in the shuffle.
  • TagsYouTube is a free tool that generates a list of related tags for you to use on your YouTube videos.
  • VidIQ Boost also suggests tags for you within the YouTube video editor
  • You can easily see a video’s tags using TubeBuddy

YouTube Video quality

  • Video quality is an incredibly important ranking factor, and high-definition (HD) videos rank better than lower-quality ones. In fact, YouTube prominently highlights HD videos in its search results:
  • Most importantly, video quality has a huge effect on the user experience – a low-quality video containing top-notch content could potentially send viewers elsewhere.

YouTube Video Thumbnails

  • Thumbnails have a big effect on CTR (click-through rates) – meaning the right one could maximize your views and thus your ranking.
  • Videos that have customized thumbnails always outperform those that use automatically generated images. Create and upload a custom thumbnail for each of your videos.
  • It’s a good idea to create a general template for your video thumbnails where your logo is prominently displayed in a fixed place and background colors are the same.
  • Include human faces whenever possible as they draw attention and make sure the foreground stands out from the background
  • Google displays thumbnail at a smaller size in search results. It’s a good idea to test your thumbnails in smaller sizes to make sure they still look clear.

YouTube Video Closed Captions

  • For videos that contain spoken-word content, YouTube allows you to add captions. However, adding closed captions is something that a lot of publishers neglect to do, which is a big mistake.
  • Adding closed captions to your videos is beneficial for rankings for two key reasons:
  • It opens up your video to a much larger audience, including deaf viewers. Viewers who speak a different language to the one spoken in the video. All this boost view counts, and thus, your rankings.
  • YouTube does offer automatic captioning, which is far from perfect, and you may have to make corrections. Alternatively, you can upload the captions yourself.

YouTube Video File Names SEO Optimization

Optimize the raw file names of your videos and thumbnail images for SEO by including keywords separated by -or _ in the saved file names. For example, your video file name can have the format keyword1- keyword2.wmv and your thumbnail image file name can be in the format keyword1- keyword2.jpg.

Search Engine People

FAQ’s – YouTube Ranking Factors

What is the most important ranking factor for a YouTube video?

The most important ranking factor for a YouTube video is the Meta. YouTube video Meta's include, Title, Description, Keywords & Tags.

About the Author

Zabi Niazi - Director of Search Marketing SEM and SEO

Hands-on execution & Revenue-focused digital marketer with expertise in Design & Operations centered around people, processes & technology engineering a Demand-Gen Engine capable of delivering innovative experiences that tell the brand story and map to the buyer's journey generating awareness, acquisition, retention, and advocacy.