YouTube SEO

YouTube is often used like a search engine; displaying video results for basically any topic that could possibly be searched for. It's clear that ranking high within these results is an advantage, just as if it were Google. YouTube results also will show up in the SERPs, creating more saturated results, thus more likely for a visitor to view your content.

Just like the written content that is so vital to driving traffic to your site; a strong video can do the same to attract targeted eyes.

After creating your video and uploading it to YouTube, there are many ways to optimize it:


The title of the video needs to include your keyword or phrase that you are targeting. This is usually the first thing that is truly read as a user scans the SERP.


Just like a meta description – the first 155 characters are what the searcher will see in the SERP. The description doesn’t have to be limited to that, but it needs to include the keyword or phrase within those first 155 characters. Be sure to include links to supplementary pages, and/or a call to action.


Tag your brand name, topic and any other base level keywords with likely and specific variations.

Call-to-action Overlay

YouTube SEO Call-to-action Overlay

If you have an AdWords account (if you don’t, up can sign up without publishing ads) – you can create an overlay on your video at no charge. By setting up a new video campaign and creating a video ad for your recently made video, you can then return to Youtube (assuming your AdWords ad is active) and you’ll see a new tab called “Call-to-action overlay” in the edit video screen. Once you’ve completed those steps, you can save the changes, go back into AdWords and pause that video ad. This will still allow the CTA overlay to function.

Transcript / Captions

Transcripts essentially allow Google to crawl the video content (which it cannot do otherwise).

Auto captions are unintentionally hilarious and miss important keywords.

YouTube Video Content and Channel Authority

User Engagement YouTube

The most important thing in all of this is to make a video worth watching. The random “caught on camera” videos that make it “viral” are rare. For every video with millions of views, there are literally millions of videos that don’t. Your YouTube channel should have a perceived quality. A video is after user engagement.

User engagement is the result of visitor interaction. These can be measured with views, inbound links, shares via social networks, video embedding, likes (or dislikes), comments, and subscriptions. These interactions tell Google that your video is useful or valuable to users.

Just as with any website page, backlinks play an important role in ranking. Videos that are embedded on third party sites, shared on Google + or Facebook or just linked to in a body of text all improve a YouTube video's ranking.

Reverse YouTube SEO

Other benefits to uploading and optimizing YouTube videos come from the links back to a website. Whether from the CTA overlay or in the description, these links hold value.

Measuring YouTube SEO

YouTube Analytics

Success is a measurement that is specific to each type of video. Total views isn't the only way to measure success. Just as with a webpage, getting a person to the page (or video in this case) can just be half the battle. It's what the user does once they're there that can be the true measure of success. If views are all you’re hoping to achieve, then views, duration and shares are probably the only tracking factors that need be observed.

In many cases, the video itself is the call-to-action. The user is being pushed to fill out a form, go to a website or purchase something directly. A video with fewer views, but more click-throughs can be viewed as a success compared to a video with many views, but is the end of the line in regards to interaction or engagement. Determining your success factors should be clear before the video is even produced.

A Quick SEO Audit

This is an SEO audit focused on the most important parts of a website from the client’s point of view. There are many other site features and architecture that can be audited, but a quick audit such as this can give plenty of insight into what a site is doing well, and what it is missing from a SEO perspective.

General Site Description

Give a quick overview of what the website is about and what the site’s purpose is.

Defined Sections (main)

If there are obvious sections to the site, these should be noted:

For Example:

  • Products
  • Articles/Blog
  • Forum

Traffic and Conversion Analysis

Make note of trends in traffic and conversions. Peaks and valleys outside of the mean should be investigated further.  Significant conclusions can be made based on the traffic reaction to specific content or video releases, social sharing, search engine algorithm changes resulting in decreased or increased rankings, and internal site changes (like a redesign) among other factors.

Web Traffic Trends

SERP Results (Visibility Report)

In most cases you should have access to the website’s analytics or webmasters account. With this access you can get a look at important keyword ranks, landing pages, traffic sources as well as general traffic trends. From this you can determine how well the site is viewed in the search engines.

Meta and HTML Tags

Meta Description

Review HTML Improvements in Webmaster Tools. This will help find missing, short, long or duplicate meta descriptions. Meta descriptions contribute to SEO as well as the first call-to-action that a searcher will see.

Title Tag

Title tags can also be reviewed in Webmaster Tools. Title tags are essential to SEO and is usually the first thing a searcher sees on the SERP. Essentially is the most important call to action because it reaffirms what was being search and if it is relevant.

Headers Tags

Using a SEO Crawling tool (Screaming Frog SEO Spider) and it can determine if H1s and H2s are missing, duplicate or are too long.


Images should be checked for relevant file names. If it is picture of a panda, the file name should probably have “panda” in it, not “image546.png.” The alt and title tags should be relevant to the image as well.

Anchor Text

Ensure that the anchor text is varied and relevant to the link, but not always including the exact keyword term.  Using the same anchor text for the same link multiple times is not natural and will not be seen as such from Google.  Cases in which the same anchor text is ok would be for branded terms like the company name and website.

HTML Tag and Structured Data Insights from Webmaster Tools

rel=”author” and rel=”publisher”

These are used to connect Google+. While Google has yet to officially admit author rank as a ranking factor, it still provides many advantages in search engines such as acting as a call-to-action, search engine real estate (SERE) or tying all of the author’s posts together.

Schema Markup

Schema markups are used to add structured data to web pages that help search engines crawl sites more easily.  Checking to make sure these data tags are implemented, and if they are implemented correctly will ensures search bot crawling efficiency.

Design Functionality

Functionality is all about how easy it is for a user to traverse the site. If finding the information you are looking for is challenging, the site doesn’t have good functionality.  This can be arguing semantics to a point, but examples of poor functionality should be fairly cut and dry.


Backlinks are one of, if not the largest contributing factor to ranking. The backlinks should be analyzed from a quality standpoint and not in quantity. Ensure that links are not from article directories, comment or forum plugs, etc. Many times links can be promoted via a press release service (Vocus, PRNewswire), and while these are not high quality, in most cases will not be penalized.

Social Reach

Take stock of the different social avenues the company uses and measure their effectiveness. Most analytics programs allow for social signal tracking and much knowledge can be gained from studying those, but measuring effectiveness is constituted on what the intended result is to be. Social can be used for a myriad of actions such as traffic, conversions, sharing, link building, public relations, interactivity, etc. Just like anything, there must be a return on investment. Simple things like how many comments, shares, clicks, “likes,” “+ 1’s” can all be measured fairly easily.

Sharable Content

The onsite content should be easily shared, and it should be obvious through tracking data if it is getting shared. There are many different configurations of sharing buttons and prominence and ease-of-use are determining factors of their effectiveness.


Similar to social media, interactions with videos can be measured. What videos have been watched the most? Are visitors taking action on the call-to-action? How long are they watching? If the videos are hosted on site, are they employing structured data and getting linked to? If hosted on a third party site such as YouTube they need to be optimized with titles, description, free ads as a call-to-action and closed captions.

Conclusions / Actionable Items

This is basically an executive summary of the most important findings and what can be done about them. This is the real selling point to the client. In my experience this should generally be at the top of the list because it is really the only thing the client is going to read.

The SEO audit is not only beneficial to the client, but is a useful tool for an SEO. Sometimes new avenues of optimization can be made aware, or new solutions arise out of a website analysis. Most importantly, and SEO audit allows for a measurable look into a website’s performance and gives evidence for the decision maker to take action.

Graham McConnell

Search Engine Real Estate

What is Search Engine Real Estate?

Search engine real estate (SERE) is the amount of space that search results occupy on a singular search page. This can include everything from images and advertisements to organic results. Ranking high on the page is obviously an advantage, but many times it is out of reach. How can your page compete with the higher ranked search results?

What can you do to Improve Search Engine Real Estate?

There are several ways to increase your company’s, brand’s or a specific page’s SERE on Google;

Ad extensions (pink)

Ad extensions display links to other pages of your site. This obviously takes up more real estate compared to the other ads, but be warned, they may not always be relevant to the keyword terms you are resulting for. You cannot customize these links either, so you get what you get.  

Sony's Search Engine Real Estate

Sitelinks for organic results (blue)

Sitelinks are automatically generated by Google when they think it will help the searcher, which in most cases is always. This usually happens with a brand, and there isn’t a lot you can do to make sure these show up. The only thing you can really do to help this is; “…make sure you use anchor text and alt text that's informative, compact, and avoids repetition.” - Google Webmaster Tools

Google+ / Knowledge Graph (green)

Creating a Google+ profile for your company or brand will give you a nice chunk of real estate and even promotes your recent post. It is important that the Google+ profile is kept current and is truly a good exemplification of the brand or company it is representing. A Google+ profile result isn’t going to show up for non-brand related keywords, but it still makes it easier for a searcher to find you. This all contributes to the Knowledge Graph, which pulls from Google+, Wikipedia and Freebase.

Authorship for SERE

Google Authorship*

*No longer effective as of August 2014

By signing up for Google+ and adding your author tag to your online content you will see your headshot or at least an author link in the search result. The headshot really makes your result standout even among the higher ranked results. It can add a legitimacy that other results may not have and even links to other content your author tag has been added to.

Social Media

I talked about this in a recent blog; how social media can show up in SERPs next to the original content and it still holds true. Whether you share the content, or someone else does, that result can show up alongside the original source in the search.


Images show near the top of the SERP, so having an eye-catching image that also happens to be in that preview result is an advantage and takes up more search engine real estate.

Images for SERE

Youtube for SERE


Three of the five results shown are from Not only are there multiple results but they are larger because they include a screen shot from the video. This is another way to add legitimacy by having a good looking screenshot. Even above the two video results is a result for the DuraLabel - homepage. Two competitor results show up both above and below the Youtube results, but do not claim nearly as much search engine real estate. The size and the aesthetics really help differentiate the results.


Shopping results are also displayed near the top of the SERP. These are paid, “Sponsored” results, but also take a significant chunk of SERE.

Shopping for SERE

These tactics are used to saturate the SERP and make for multiple ways a searcher can find your page. It allows for pages that are not ranked at the top of the page to stand out and offer something that even the top results may not. It increases awareness and greatly enhances the odds that a searcher will visit your page.

Graham McConnell

Google’s Semantic Search is Broken

I use the same browser, and I don’t delete my cookies. I am signed into my Google account and I’ve searched for the same phrases hundreds of times. I search “5s” on this particular day, again one of those terms I search for several times a month. What I am expecting to find are a bunch of results for “5s” (a lean manufacturing term based on five Japanese words and transliterated into English), but outside of the Wikipedia page and the Environmental Protection Agency website the SERP is littered with results for the “iPhone 5S.” I still own a slide phone, have no intention of upgrading to a smart phone, and if I did, it wouldn’t be an iPhone, suffice it to say this isn’t a search or related website that I have done or visited. Google is making a false assumption that this was my intended search, and they are wrong and I am pissed.

Let’s take it back to one year ago, January 2013. The iPhone 5S had yet to be announced, despite that inevitability, and SERP results for the phone were limited to leaks of information or speculation on blogs. Most importantly, these results weren’t showing up for “5s.” No, all was grand in my little lean manufacturing world. The page I was working on was ranked high, it was on the first page, averaging a 2.2 rank. January saw a about a 1,000 visit dip (about 10%) from the previous year, but we had more relevant competition now, and our conversion rate was up, so I wasn’t concerned about it…yet.

5s 12vs13.JPG

As the year progressed the variance widened. The iPhone 5S was officially announced on September 10th and released ten days later. August and September SERPs were flooded with iPhone 5S related results and kept pushing my page further and further down. I figured much of the news related results would drop out overtime, and some did, but the damage was done, “5s” searches now belonged to the iPhone.

Luckily, not all of the traffic to this page isn’t exclusively based on the “5s” search term. And I’ve seen a little growth back up through other keywords, but why can’t Google figure this out? With two completely different connotations, shouldn’t semantic search solve this problem? Look at the ads from Adwords on that SERP, “5s” returns only lean manufacturing related ads (at least at this time). It seems to me that his page was hijacked, something that before semantic search I would understand, but not now, not with my search tendencies and history taken into account.

The fact that an industrial worker who searches “5s” and ends up with iPhone results is “mind-bottling (thanks Will Ferrell).” This example completely exhibits what’s wrong with subjective search and defeats the purpose of Google’s semantic search. It’s even more frustrating when we’ve kept our ranking for Bing and Yahoo.

Undoubtedly semantic search is still finding its way, but I’d just like an unbiased approach to what I am searching for that doesn’t mean I have to hide my “private results.”

Graham McConnell

The Power of Social Media in SEO

Social media has no doubt had a huge influence on search. Most search result pages contain a link to a social media page. Whether this is a company page, or an article shared through social media, the page rankings are deeply affected…on Google.

Case in point: One website I have been working on has a landing page for a 5S Quiz.  5S is a lean manufacturing technique and while “5s quiz” as a keyword has low competition and only 320 searches per month I was surprised at what I found on the Google search engine results page.

In the case that the user is signed into their Google Plus account, and are only viewing personal results, the SERP would be littered with shared posts. Google plus is now the second largest social media network behind Facebook, with over 400+ million users. This is big business for Google, but in this instance these results were on a browser with a cleared cache and not signed into Google or viewing personal results.

Social Media for SEO SERP

Social Media for SEO SERP

The top result (highlighted in pink) is the original 5S Quiz landing page, which has been ranked at or near the top for a few years. The highlighted result near the bottom is the original 5S Quiz that was shared in March on There are indeed “5s quiz” results on the following page, so it just isn’t the bottom of the barrel in terms of results. The fact that it is ranked only behind its source is rather incredible, and Google has done a good job of discerning shared content from duplicate content. Moving to the third page (ranked 22), a result for the “5s quiz” is a shared link of the source on Google Plus from late April. That means there are three results from the same page, two of them posted much later and both from social media.

Looking at the same search term (“5s quiz”) on Bing and the result is different; the source link is ranked number one (an improvement of one over Google), but the share is on the third page, ranked 35th. On, the results are similar; again the source page is ranked number one, while the page is on the fourth page, but still ranked 35th. In both the cases of Bing and Yahoo, the eleventh result is of the same quiz. This was shared on a Blogger site ( ) which was shared back in 2008 and even links to the old site page (which has since been redirected with a 301).  This page is not ranked in the top ten pages on Google’s SERP (I got tired of looking).  What makes this interesting is that this blog has a Google author tag, which if anything would give it more credibility to Google, yet instead, is ranking higher on Bing and Yahoo. This contradicts the Google plus shared posting result on Google SERP, but it shows where the search engines differ: Google doesn’t necessarily consider Blogger to be social media, while Google Plus posts take precedence, while Bing/Yahoo all but ignore Google Plus and give the credence to blogger. This would make sense as Google is pushing G + like nobody’s business and Microsoft and Yahoo are direct competitors to Google. 

The fact that this result showed up almost as soon as it was indexed is the most impressive. Google, more so than Bing and Yahoo, is aggressively promoting shared content from their social platform which is obviously a very important aspect to any SEO.

- Graham McConnell