digital marketing

How to Make Your YouTube Videos More Discoverable (Part 1)

The year was 1979. The Buggles sang “Video killed the radio star.” Flash forward to 2021, and those words couldn’t be truer.

Despite the buzz surrounding audio-only apps like Clubhouse, video remains as popular as ever. Wyzowl’s 2021 Video Marketing Statistics Report reveals a 41% increase in businesses using video as a marketing tool since 2016. 

And on average, viewers are watching 18 hours of video per week, with over two-and-a-half hours consumed per day. 

Where are the majority of these videos being watched? 


In fact, more than a billion hours a day are spent on the platform by people around the world. In today’s global economy, that means big benefits for businesses of any size. 

YouTube is more than a video hosting site

It’s a search engine, too – the second largest in the world, actually. YouTube processes more than three billion searches monthly, with one billion unique visitors each month. 

Which brings us to the question: how exactly do you optimize your videos for search on YouTube?

Three easy ways to rank videos on YouTube

A number of factors contribute to a video’s ranking – from clicks and comments to likes and shares to channel subscriptions after a video has been played through – but how can you increase the likelihood of your videos being discovered? 

Let’s take a look at three proven tactics to make your videos more discoverable on YouTube.

1. Optimize each video for the right keyword or phrase

Similar to optimizing a blog post for search, using relevant keywords and phrases improves the SEO of your YouTube videos. And there are several ways to inject a targeted keyword into a video, such as: 

  • Placing a keyword near the beginning of your video’s title
  • Inserting keywords as video tags and hashtags 
  • Adding a keyword or phrase within the first 25 words of your video’s description

Another way to target a keyword is to say it in your video

YouTube gives you the ability to transcribe your video for subtitles and closed captions, so when you speak the keyword you’re optimizing for, the algorithm ‘hears’ it. 

This allows YouTube to better understand what your video is about, which helps serve it up as a relevant result when users search that topic (see Part 2 of the guide for more on creating subtitles and closed captions). 

Of course, optimizing your videos around keywords is only effective if you’re targeting the right terms. So, how do you come up with the right keywords? 


The first place to start is YouTube’s search bar. Type in the topic of your video and let the suggestion feature populate a list of terms people are commonly searching. 

Another method is to select a high ranking video and review its title, description, and tags to see what keywords or phrases are being used. To see a video’s tags, check out the free VidIQ Chrome extension

After generating a list of potential keywords, it’s time to select the best one for the video you’re optimizing. This means choosing one with high search volume (the number of people searching that term) and low competition (the number of videos targeting that term).  

One of the easiest ways to determine search volume and competition is using the free Google Keyword Planner. 

If Google’s Keyword Planner is a foreign tool to you, Brian Dean from Backlinko walks you through the process in this ultimate how-to guide.  

2. Categorize each video 

Once you’ve uploaded a video to YouTube, it’s important to categorize it so YouTube can group it with similar content. 

Doing so not only increases the chances of your video being listed on others’ playlists, but it also improves the odds of it being suggested to those who view related content.  

To categorize your video, toggle the “SHOW MORE” menu below your video’s audience settings and click the “category” dropdown menu. You can only select one category per video, so be sure to choose the most appropriate

WARNING: YouTube’s algorithm penalizes videos categorized incorrectly – this applies to videos targeting keywords and phrases irrelevant to the topic, too. 

3. Upload a custom thumbnail 

Users visit YouTube to watch videos (duh!), but how do they select which videos to watch?

Often, people make their choice based on the thumbnail image, which means it plays an important role in your video’s ranking, clicks, and viewership. 

90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube include a custom thumbnail!

Yes, you can choose one of the three thumbnail images YouTube automatically generates for you. But these are taken directly from the video and typically catch you mid-sentence or in an unflattering pose. 

Not to mention, these images don’t include custom elements like vibrant graphics or the video’s title, and they don’t follow proper design parameters such as the rule of thirds – all of which help grab a user’s attention and encourage them to click on your video.

Luckily, creating a custom thumbnail is fast, easy, and doesn’t require a graphic designer (although using a designer is advantageous). 

Check out the video below to learn how you can quickly make a custom thumbnail.

This concludes Part 1 of our guide to YouTube SEO. If you’re ready to learn more about how to make your videos more discoverable, jump into Part 2.