YouTube video content improves your local search rankings and boosts your chances of being found by target customers.


The business case for using YouTube is clear. More than 2.5 billion people log in at least once a month to watch a combined total of more than one billion hours of videos every day on YouTube. It is also the top social channel for consumers around the globe, with 62 per cent using it, according to the latest research.

Another important fact about YouTube: It is the world’s second most popular search engine after its parent company, Google.

However, with so many influencers and high-profile content creators on YouTube grabbing users’ attention and so much content to choose from, it’s hard to stand out and easy to go unnoticed. This likely explains why only five per cent of businesses invest in YouTube videos to attract customers. It’s also a missed opportunity.

The best way to ensure your audience will find you on YouTube is to make sure your YouTube videos are designed for local search engine optimization (SEO). This will help YouTube’s algorithms pick you out and rank you above competitors.

A quick word about local SEO and local YouTube SEO

Local SEO marketing helps boost a business’s ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) when users search using geographic information, such as a city or postal code, as well as search terms such as “near me.”

Location is a big deal for Google’s local search algorithm and will help drive users to your website. If you haven’t done this already, it’s time to build local SEO into your marketing strategy and optimize your website for local SEO.

With more than 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute and YouTube’s growing influence as a search engine, ranking high on YouTube’s SERPs is just as important as earning a top spot on Google.

Fast fact: YouTube has launched local versions in more than 100 countries in 80 languages.

How YouTube’s search and recommendation algorithms work

YouTube has shared how its search and recommendation algorithms work to help marketers drive people to their sites and keep them engaged.

The algorithm recommendation system is designed with two key objectives: to match viewers with the videos they want to watch and to recommend videos that make them happy. By doing this, YouTube is aiming to maximize long-term customer satisfaction so people will keep returning.

YouTube uses multiple algorithm systems depending on whether users are interacting with home, search or suggested videos.

Most viewers watch and discover videos on YouTube’s home and suggested sections, so this is likely where most of your traffic will come from.

Home ranks videos based on two main categories:

  • Performance. This is based on signals such as click-through-rate, average view duration and if the viewers are happy. Essentially, the algorithm wants to understand what viewers do with videos recommended on the home page.
  • Personalization. YouTube recommends videos based on the viewer’s interests as reflected by factors such as how much an individual viewer watches a channel or topic over time and their recent watch history. This helps the algorithm understand whether a recommendation is relevant for a specific user.

Tip: To build an audience, YouTube recommends looking at your content as though you were a new viewer. Would your title and thumbnail resonate with them? Would they click to watch?

Suggested videos appear at the side of your screen when you’re watching a video. The algorithm is designed to offer the best videos you are most likely to watch next. Videos are ranked by signals such as how often they are watched together, whether they are related by topic and the viewer’s past watch history.

Tip: To keep people watching your channel, YouTube recommends developing a series of videos about the same topic.

Eight steps to optimize your YouTube video content for search

1.   Understand what YouTube’s algorithms are looking for

As noted above, YouTube wants to ensure its users are happy and enticed to return over the long term. It’s all about customer satisfaction. To that end, it’s up to brands to create videos that:

  • Focus on relevancy: Make sure the title, keywords, description and content are all aligned to and deliver on what users expect to find.
  • Build engagement: The more clicks your videos get based on the search query, the higher their ranking.
  • Hold a viewer’s interest: Watch time is another key signal YouTube’s algorithms focus on. The longer people spend watching a video they discovered based on their search query, the higher it will rank.

2.   Use keywords strategically

This comes down to having a deep understanding of your customers and what they want to see in your videos. With this knowledge, you can select keywords they are likely to use in their search. Use these keywords in your title to make it searchable and interesting enough for people to view the video. For example, if you know your customers like tutorials (one of the biggest reasons people turn to YouTube) titles that begin with “how to,” “everything to know about” or “three tips to” will tell them what to expect and entice them to click. Lists are a great way to attract viewers and get them to watch to the end.

Tip: Video titles should be about 60 characters. This will ensure they are displayed in full on SERPs.

3.   Keep location front and centre

Include your business’s name, address and phone number, and a call to action in your video description. This will help YouTube know who you are and rank you higher, as a result.

Tip: Add geotags to your videos. You can do this directly on YouTube’s advanced video settings tab. These geographic coordinates are an easy way to boost local SEO. 

4.   Put your descriptions to work

YouTube gives you up to 5,000 characters to create a video description. Use those characters wisely. The goal of your description is to capture your audience’s interest and encourage people to watch your video. Make sure your descriptions are accurate, relevant to users and searchable. Think about the viewer experience. This is your opportunity to sell people on your video by telling them what it’s about in an engaging way. As well, using keywords to describe your content can increase your chances of being discovered on YouTube.

Tip: Add your website URL in the description box and YouTube will make it clickable. Use captioning and translation tools to reach the widest possible audience.

5.   Optimize your thumbnails

YouTube reports that 90 per cent of the best performing videos have custom thumbnails. That’s because they stand out. Here are a few of YouTube’s best practices when it comes to designing effective thumbnails.

  • Make your thumbnail image as large as possible so it stands out on all devices.
  • Create interesting (but not too complex) images by effectively composing and using colour to enhance the thumbnail.
  • Overlay branding and easy-to-read text on the image.
  • Create images that you know your target audience wants to see.

6.   Stay on top of the latest trends

YouTube’s trending feed lists new and popular videos specific to a viewer’s country. The goal is to combine popularity with novelty. To land on the trending tab, YouTube considers view count, growth in views and where the views are coming from.

Tip: Regularly visit your trending tab to scout topic ideas that align with your channel. Making shareable videos with broad appeal will help videos show up on the trending tab.

7.   Focus on growing your subscriber base

Subscribers are your core audience and biggest fans. They are also a great resource to understand your videos’ performance.

How can you get viewers to subscribe? Ask. Be upfront. Explain how their subscription supports you.

Tip: Look at your watch analytics and make your videos public when your viewers are most likely watching. Encourage your subscribers to turn on notifications to receive alerts when new content is on the way.

8. Tap into insights from YouTube analytics to make videos your audience wants to see

YouTube analytics will allow you to understand what’s resonating with viewers and what’s not. You will learn how your videos rank by views. You will gain insights into real-time performance and how people find your channel, as well as key metrics such as impressions, click-through-rate, views and unique viewers. You will also have a window into how long viewers are engaging with your video and when they’re on YouTube. Most importantly, you will better understand who your viewers are.

Optimizing your YouTube video content for local SEO will improve your local search rankings and increase the likelihood your target audience will find you – the critical first step to turning them into customers. Implementing the best practices we’ve outlined here will give you an edge over competitors and help you stand out to YouTube’s massive audience.