Have you ever noticed that you can search for the exact title of a video on YouTube and sometimes that video isn't at the top of the search results?  This is due to YouTube SEO (search engine optimisation).

In this post I will be giving you a brief guide to the 3 main factors that affect YouTube SEO with a more detailed blog post for each area in the coming months.

Watch Time

This is the Grandaddy of all YouTube SEO. To put it simply, YouTube is a business that makes its money through advertising.  Therefore the goal of YouTube is to get people to the website and keep them satisfied so that they stay there and watch more videos.

YouTube used to rank search results by number of views but this was flawed.  How many times have you been suckered in to watching a video based on a good thumbnail and catchy title only to find that the video isn't related to what you were looking for?  The idea behind watch time is to rectify this problem.  The more time people spend watching a video related to a search query then the more relevant that video must be to said query.

Watch time can be broken down in to two main areas:

  • Audience retention - How long a viewer spends on an individual video.  A higher audience retention indicates a videos ability to hold peoples attention.
  • Estimated minutes watched - This is not just related to your video but how long the viewer continues watching other videos after yours.

It is more important that a viewer keeps clicking through to related videos based on your result than watching the whole of your video.

For example if a user does a search on YouTube then watches a series of videos with yours being the first, every video played in the series is factored into your watch time.  However if they click on your video then immediately go back and re-search the query, your watch time will suffer.

Finally, YouTube love new visitors coming from outside sources. For example if a person clicks on a link to your video from Facebook or Twitter this will positively affect your watch time as you have directly brought a new visitor to their website.

Google's YouTube Algorithm

I touched on this in the last section but basically if someone types in a query such as 'rock function band London' and they click on your video (and continue watching), then this will tell YouTube that this query and your video are related and should feature higher in the search results.

This can lead to videos and playlists being featured highly in search results where no words in the query are featured in the title.


You might be asking 'How do I get watch time when my video has just gone live? Surely my videos will always be at the bottom of the search results.'.  To get around this YouTube have a one week grace period.  For the first week YouTube will feature your video fairly high in search results.

As YouTube hasn't had a chance to use it's algorithm to work out what your video is about yet it uses the tags you entered when uploading your video to get an idea of the subject of your video.

I wouldn't recommend writing an abundance of tags as YouTube will see this as spam.  A helpful tip is to think about how you would explain or describe your video to friends and then use that description to form the tags.

After the first week the tags will be used less and less and the watch time and algorithm will take over.


If you want your videos to rank highly in search results then the first week is very important.  You want to use the one week grace period to promote the video as much as possible and accrue as much watch time as you can.

There are some creative ways to increase your watch time such as making a playlist of related videos to guide your viewers towards more content.  I will cover different ways of increasing your watch time in the next post.

Have you found this post helpful?  Is there a particular subject you would like me to cover in the future?  Then let me know by leaving a comment below or getting in touch through our Facebook page.

Dave Proud