Why Obsessing Over YouTube Channel Keywords Won’t Bring You Traffic

If you seek some online advice, you’re likely to run into a ton of articles telling you to optimize your YouTube channel and videos with the right keywords and – ta-da! You’ll be ranking first in no time. Are you sure about that?

In online marketing, favoring one platform over the other is a luxury you can no longer afford. This is particularly true for video content. Although it takes more money, time and effort to produce, the engagement and conversion you can get from a video are a perfect incentive to invest in this type of content. Not convinced? Let’s look at the stats.

The online video traffic is constantly growing – and in several years, it will represent a lion’s share of consumer traffic.

Video content

According to Brightcove’s ‘The Science of Social Video: Turning Views into Value’ report –nearly half of viewers purchased a product after seeing a video on social media, and additional 32% considered a purchase. So don’t waste your time and start your YouTube channel. Here you will find all the information you need to start this project from scratch.

Video content

But before you even start thinking about converting those views to sales, you have to bring people to your YouTube channel. How do you come from nowhere and get people to click on your video when hundreds of thousands of businesses are trying to achieve the exact same thing?

Conventional YouTube SEO Wisdom

So what are some of the myths that need busting before you get to work? Per old-school SEO, if you want to hitch a ride to the top of YouTube (and Google) mountain, you need A LOT of keywords and you need to stuff them in any place you find convenient. Some of the holy commandments are these:

  • Put keywords as your channel tags
  • Put keywords in the video description
  • Make sure you put keywords in video filename
  • Stuff your keywords with as many related topics and variations as possible

On top of everything, you’ve always been told to create short, concise videos, because people nowadays have attention span of a goldfish.

How will that go down? Like this. 

“I have videos perfectly optimized in terms of metadata and then when you go check the tags I’m targeting, there are other videos ahead of mine and guess what? Their titles, tags, and description are not even optimized,” says a disappointed YouTube user.

Youtube comment

“It gets to the point that I even laugh at how unoptimized their metadata is, but they simply rank for just about anything because of their channel sizes and audience. It brings what’s most important for ranking for any keyword or getting youtube to recommend your content – high click-through rate, audience retention and watch time.”

But maybe he’s just using overused keywords? Maybe he should just look for some less competitive keywords since it can be an effective technique for written content? So, you create an account with online software TubeBuddy, which will give you the information on competitors’ videos, and more importantly, the keywords for each of them.

Why Obsessing Over YouTube Channel Keywords Won’t Bring You Traffic
Source: YouTube Help Forum

You do the brainstorming session, enter the keywords and TubeBuddy shows you the search volume, competition and the keyword rank on a scale from 0 to 100, where higher result means an easier ranking. Awesome, you beat the system, right? Ha ha. NO.

“My friends complain about the exact same thing, they waste hours researching for keywords, in the end, to get outranked. And the low competition keywords literally drive 0 traffic,” says another disappointed YouTube user.

Youtube comment

Why is this happening? Because times change and SEO algorithms change with them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try several SEO strategies at your disposal, or that your keywords should be a mess – but a different perspective should help you prioritize the things that really matter.

So, What Should I Do About YouTube Channel Keywords?

Let’s start with this – you came to YouTube for a reason. You want to reach and engage a certain audience – so they should be your guide in deciding which topics and tags could describe your content.

For ideas, look into the similar channels and explore their keywords with a simple trick – right-click anywhere on the page, left click on View Page source. You’ll see a bit intimidating ocean of code, but just ignore it, type CTRL+F (or Command+F on Mac) and type ‘keywords’. This will show you the YouTube channel keywords used by your competitor.

For example, Emergency Awesome channel is well-known for its daily content about “geeky” things, such as Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Marvel and DC comics, etc.

Emergency Awesome

This channel cuts it right to the core with keywords relevant to the content the author is creating.

youtube channel keywords

When you are adding keywords, you want to strategically place them in each section:

  • YouTube channel keywords
  • YouTube channel title
  • YouTube channel description
  • YouTube video title
  • YouTube video description
  • YouTube video keywords

Try to think about these elements as a part of the bigger picture and harmonize tags you will use to describe them. Don’t stuff keywords mindlessly – make sure they are connected and make sense. For example, if you have a channel with specific hairstyle tutorials, like this one…


…think about these keywords.

  • HAIR

YouTube channel keywords allow you to get a bit more creative, as you can include phrases such as ‘how to make a French braid.’ But even if your YouTube channel tags don’t ask every question your viewers may come up with, such as these…

YouTube Channel Keywords

…your video can still end up among the top ranking content – the channel with these fairly simple keywords ranked fifth for this search. Now we get to the point.

Youtube search results

What Will Help My YouTube Videos Rank High?

Focus on the substance – your videos. Once you have good videos, you can easily use little tweaks that are favored by the YouTube search algorithm. What are those?

1. Take Your Time

Although creating long videos sounds like a counterintuitive suggestion, think about it better – YouTube wants people to spend time on YouTube, not click away elsewhere. How do you get people to spend more time there? Well, favor the videos that make them stay.

For YouTube, cumulative time spent on watching one video is more valuable than a number of sheer clicks – so take your time and be as detailed as you need. This, of course, does not give you permission to bore people with needless fluff. Speaking of fluff…

2. Get Straight to the Point

If you want people to stick around for 10 minutes of your commentary on the latest episode of Westworld, you want to tell them straight away why they should stick with you when there are thousands of videos talking about the same thing.

Cut to the core and say – in this video, I’ll tell you 10 reasons why Dolores is the best/worst and click on the subscribe button cause we offer you the most extensive commentary on Westworld universe.

3. Optimize Title and the Content of the Video

There is no point in promising people 10 ways to repair damaged hair and then remembering after all is said, done, and uploaded, that you were talking about bleached hair. YouTube is now listening to what you say, and if your title, description and actual content don’t match, get ready to remain in the depths of page 50 of hair tutorials search.

4. Shiny Thumbnail

Start with yourself – do you look at headlines or thumbnails when you’re trying to decide which video to click on? A thumbnail with your face looking like you’re in mid-sneeze won’t help your rankings. Also, here’s a little dirty trick – search your competitors for a certain keyword and color your thumbnail to clash with their thumbnails.

5. Encourage Engagement

Remind your viewers to subscribe. Invite them to comment. Reply to their comments. Incentivize engagement – for example, Emergency Awesome organizes a weekly giveaway for subscribers who comment on a particular video. This is another metric that YouTube cares deeply about since engagement means more time spent on the website.

6. Find Original Ways to Capture Attention

If your potential viewers are found on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, do you know what could lead them to your YouTube video? As crazy as it sounds, a quiz. It only takes a little bit of imagination. For example, here we laid out a strategy to draw an average millennial to your startup funding page.

Similarly, if you create hair tutorials, you could make a quiz such as “Solve this quiz and we’ll tell you which hair routine suits you best” and the result could take them to your video tutorial. So why not give it a try here?


The chase for clicks and attempts at “cracking the algorithm” all too often put content creators and marketers in a situation of a lazy school student who will spend hours devising a cheating method – only to realize he could have studied the entire time.

If obsessing over keywords does not seem logical to you, be sure that it won’t be logical to an increasingly sensitive algorithm either. While knowing the basics of the algorithm will help you outline your video marketing strategy, it should not guide your creative process – so relax and have fun with your video content, and the viewers will come.

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