YouTube Ranking Algorithm: How to Rank Videos on YouTube

YouTube. Is there anyone these days who had never used it? Well, I bet you’re not one of those people since you arrived at this article. The fact is that YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. This by itself tells you that many people must be using it daily.

But let’s see some statistics: for example, every month, there are 1,8 billion people using YouTube. A huge number, right?

Here’s another one: over 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. No surprise, you need a good algorithm to be able to rank your videos easier, amongst this huge amount of content.

This next fact is really staggering: almost 5 billion YouTube videos are watched every single day. I already mentioned that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine after Google. Now you know how is that possible.

This is the last I’m going to mention here (but there are many more): each month, approximately 3.25 billion hours of video content is being watched on YouTube.

I think you get the point: YouTube can be a great source of visitor traffic and possibly customers for pretty much any niche. The numbers speak for themselves.

If you are the owner of a website, you can even get visitors to go there from YouTube. The idea is, that YouTube can be a real source of visitors to pretty much any type of website.

But there’s one question that arises (and it’s totally a fair one): how can you, a simple YouTube user, get your videos to rank high, and be able to get a lot of traffic? Good question!

And there’s a good reason why many people ask this. Just think about the fact, that many YouTube channels are already owned by very famous YouTubers. There are the ones like PewDiePie, Justin Bieber, Unbox Therapy, and many others owned by real celebrities. It’s natural to think that any channel owned by a celebrity will get more traffic easier.

So, how can a simple YouTube channel owner get new viewers and even subscribers in a relatively simple way?

That’s exactly what we’ll talk about in this article. You’ll find out what is an efficient method to get your videos noticed and ranked high on YouTube. We’ll mention multiple steps that must be taken, for that to happen.

YouTube SEO – How it Works?

I mentioned previously, that YouTube is also a search engine, just like Google. The only difference being, that YouTube works solely with videos, not any other type of content.

So, it’s natural that we have to talk about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for YouTube as well. But is it any different from the traditional SEO that is used for Google?

In essence, it’s the same process: you need to optimize what the title, description, content, and tags are, that YouTube is using to display results after a search. The keywords that describe your YouTube channel are also important to get the best results. The difference is, that all this is done for videos, not just articles or blog posts, like most websites, do on Google. There are other differences as well, but for the purpose of this article, they are not very important.

Now, we’ll take a look at all these areas:

YouTube Channel Keywords

Just like pretty much any website, a YouTube channel has a description or an ’about page’ as well. This is the most important place, where you can tell YouTube what your channel is about and what type of video content it will find on it. So, pay much attention to how you handle keywords in this section.

For instance, YouTube is putting a great accent on short, 1- or 2-word descriptions that will tell the user exactly what a channel is about. Just like on Google, you have to pick the keywords that are most likely to be looked up by a possible visitor.

To do this, you can use the Google Keyword Planner. Just in our case, you use it for videos not for all types of content like you would normally use it. This way, you will get a pretty good idea about what people type in to find certain videos. This way, you can use the found keywords in your YouTube channel’s description.

But don’t forget, to be succinct and to the point. And use keywords that are directly related to the content of your channel. For example, if you create videos about new movies, then you can choose keywords like new movies, best movies 2019, latest movies, movies worth checking out etc. Like this, you will have more chance of getting noticed.

YouTube Video Title and Description

The second most important area where you must use an efficient SEO tactic is the video itself (that you upload). To be able to get people to find and watch your video, it’s of utmost importance to give it a proper title and to write an efficient description of it. How can you do that?

First, let’s talk about the title. In this case, you can use the method I described at the previous point when I talked about your channel’s description. It’s important to find the best keyword that matches exactly what your video at hand will be about.

The first impression a video will give YouTube is from its title. Be short, because a short title is working better in most cases. And don’t forget to put your keywords (if possible) in first positions.

For instance, if you have a video about the best movies that came out in 2018, you could write this text as its title:

‘’Best movies of 2018’’ or ‘’Must-watch movies from 2018’’

Now let’s see how the description for your video should look like. To be able to understand how important this step is, you should know that YouTube isn’t able to extract information from a certain video you uploaded. That’s why you need a description, and a good one.

Just like in the title’s case, you should have your best keywords at the start of the video description. This way you can boost your chances of getting ranked higher. Something you could do is to give a short overview of what a viewer will see in your video. Basically, describe what the video is about. But, be concise and exactly to the point.

A good way to increase your traffic using the video description is by writing timestamps in it. This way, you can rewrite at what time certain subjects appear in the video. Doing this, your main subject, thus keywords can appear multiple times in the description, raising your chances of getting noticed.

A last advice regarding video description is to check the effectiveness of it. How can you do this? When you finish writing your description, it can be a good idea to load your video on various mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), to see if the most important information is visible. If something isn’t the way it should be, you can go back and change that.

Another way to see how your description is performing is to check YouTube Analytics. This tool will tell you which keywords are the ones that drive people to your video. This way, if an important (or more) keywords don’t show up there, you can tweak your description even further to get better results.

How to Use YouTube Tags?

Tags are important in any search engine. Even other types of websites are using them. So, it’s normal that here on YouTube, we should mention them as well. They play a big part in helping YouTubers getting their videos noticed by a big crowd. Not as big as the title, but they are still relevant. How? We’ll see right below:

Basically, tags are simple words that will give YouTube a proper idea about your video’s theme. They are added to a new field, right after your video description. You have 500 characters available to add tags.

A good method that works for many users, is to add tags that already appear in your title and video description. This is a good idea that is quite efficient because you will reinforce what your video covers. To get the most out of these tags, it’s best if you use all the 500 characters available. But do this in an efficient manner.

Don’t write tags that aren’t directly tied to your video’s subject. These tags have to specifically tell YouTube what your video’s content is.

There is an exception here though: you can write more generic tags, but these should be important to let people know that they found what they were searching for. For example, if you do vlogging, you could add the word ‘vlog’ as a tag to every video you upload. This way, people who are looking for vlogging channels about certain subjects (that you cover with specific tags) will find your video easier.

Maybe you’re thinking how to arrange these tags. The same idea is true here: you must put your most relevant tags at first.

It’s a good idea to keep around some default tags that will appear on every video you upload. This is directly related to the main subject of your channel, not only the video at hand. Let’s stick with the previous example: if you own a movie review channel, you should have tags that appear for every video you upload. Some examples could be a movie review, latest movie, my thoughts on …, review, etc.

Now that you know how to use YouTube tags in an efficient way, let’s move on and talk about the next aspect that needs to be taken into account for your videos to rank higher:

Preparing Catchy YouTube Video Thumbnails

I’m pretty sure you know what a YouTube thumbnail is. It’s basically, the picture/image you see for a specific video that appears when someone does a search. But why is your video’s thumbnail important for YouTube ranking? Let’s find out!

It’s no secret that thumbnails can have a positive or negative effect on a certain video. YouTube can generate thumbnails automatically from your video, but you should not rely on this. Why is that? Because YouTube will rank higher a video that has a custom-made thumbnail, over one that comes with an automatically generated one.

Keeping this in mind, you should pay close attention to what your video’s thumbnail is and how it looks. You know the saying: a picture is worth 1000 words. If you’re not very good at image editing, you can hire someone to this for you, or learn this skill on your own.

It’s important that your image used as a thumbnail captures perfectly the idea and feel of your video. This way, new viewers will be more inclined to click on your new content.

Here’s a technical fact: pictures that have a 1280×720 px resolution are the best to be used as YouTube thumbnails. The aspect ratio should be 16:9 for such images. These work perfectly with any new video, and time has shown that these will perform better.

What Video Quality to Use for YouTube

Do you like watching a movie or even a short video that’s got a low quality? I’m quite sure you don’t. So, why should your viewers like that? That is why, you as a content creator for YouTube, have to pay great attention to the quality of your videos.

The most important aspect to be mentioned here is that HD videos (or Full HD) will be ranked a lot higher than low-quality ones (360p or 480p). Even if you put a lot of work into shooting and editing your newest video, if you don’t release it in HD, many users will be turned down from watching it. So, pay attention to this aspect.

Something else that is also related to quality is the number of videos you release in a certain period of time. Quality has to be more important than quantity. In YouTube’s case, this is a good tactic to get new viewers faster.

You might think that many videos released in a short time period will result in a lot more visitors. Well, that’s not at all true. These days, many YouTube users want to get good, quality videos that they can learn from. As a content creator, it’s very hard to do that if you want to release new videos every day.

Give it more time, and do everything in your power to make a video count. Many successful YouTube channels are only releasing 1, 2 or maybe 3 videos a week. This way they are able to create quality content that matters.

A good example of this working process could be the Unbox Therapy channel. This is a YouTube channel where videos are released every 2 or 3 days about certain cool and interesting gadgets. There are times when they do it more often, but the main method is that.

Is it efficient? Just look at the channel’s numbers: they have more than 13 million subscribers when the video count is only more than 1,500. Another number is the video views they have: more than 2,5 billion since the channel was first released in 2010.

You could be the next channel who achieves such results. To do that, concentrate on quality over quantity.

Creating the Best User Experience with Your Video

This is one of the most important factors and the last one that I’m going to mention in this article. Being last doesn’t mean that it’s not important. The exact opposite is true.

How can user experience help you in ranking your videos higher in the search results? Let’s see!

The 3 most looked at aspects that YouTube users are the number of likes, shares, and dislikes. It’s quite obvious why. If a video has a big number of like and shares, that will send a signal to YouTube. It will know that your video is very popular and will rank it higher, or even put it on the first page at the trending videos.

Another thing that is very important that YouTube takes into consideration, is the number of subscribers that a certain video results in. Higher the number of subscribers, higher the ranking.

The last but not least aspect is the number of user interaction that is present in the comment section. If a video gets a lot of comments and interactions, it will result in a higher ranking as well.

You can use these metrics to see how your videos are performing on YouTube and take the necessary actions to make them stand out more. When you release new videos, you can take precautions, using what you learned from your previous videos.


We reached the end of this article. Let’s quickly recap what we talked about:

  1. We’ve seen why YouTube is the 2nd most important search engine and why it’s a good method to get new traffic.
  2. I mentioned why SEO is important for YouTube just like in the case of Google
  3. Later, we’ve seen how you can tweak your channel’s title and description to get a better ranking.
  4. Having well titled and described videos are also important, and we’ve talked about how that is done using keywords and tags.
  5. Thumbnails are also of great importance when it comes to getting new viewers.
  6. Quality is more important than quantity. You had an example that could show you that.
  7. The last factor that I mentioned is the user experience that can help you to further manage your channel and videos to get more viewers and higher rankings.

Now, it’s all up to you. If you’re persistent and you set out some goals for what you want to achieve with your YouTube channel, you can surely succeed. But know that it takes patience and work to grow a channel. But from this article, you know exactly how to do that. Just follow closely this algorithm, and you won’t fail.

Scroll to Top