To continue our series on YouTube SEO, today we’ll explore YouTube tags.
What are video tags?
YouTube tags are keywords and key phrases used to let YouTube know what your video is about.
Even though it seems that YouTube is placing less emphasis on tags these days, likely in response to YouTubers adding irrelevant keywords and engaging in keyword stuffing, however, it’s still important to add them.
Why add tags to your YouTube videos?
YouTube viewers won’t see your tags but that doesn’t mean you can skip this section. In fact, it’s a rather important section for YouTube. These meta tags give YouTube additional context about your video and can therefore help your video rank better in search results and as suggested video alongside other YouTube content.
How you use them matters. YouTube’s algorithm can indeed identify if your tags are in alignment with your video content or not. So, resist the temptation to insert trending tags if your video is not actually relevant to these tags. YouTube’s algorithm also understands when you’ve tricked people into watching your video because they will likely be abandoning your video shortly after arriving. There is no positive outcome for this. If YouTube determines that you tricked people into watching your video, you face consequences ranging from lower ranking to your video getting taken down. It’s not worth the hassle, so play by the rules and watch your channel thrive!
How many video tags do you need?
YouTube allows each tag to be a maximum of 30 characters long and the tags section can hold an unlimited number of tags until the 500 character-limit is reached. In other words, you could include 16 tags of 30 characters each if you wanted to, or 30 tags of 10 characters each. How you distribute them depends on you, as long as you stay within the character limits.
An “unlimited number tags” is not an invitation to engage in keyword stuffing. This is a practice you should steer clear off at all costs, because it can impact your ranking negatively. Why? Well, if you’re including 30 tags to describe your video, YouTube will struggle to identify exactly what your video is about. And why could blame them? Look at the following list of tags. Would you know what this is about? It turns out, these tags describe a parrot eating fruits. Who knew…
My recommendation is to include no more than 10 tags. The length for each tag should be around 2-3 words.
What video tag types are there?
YouTube tags can be placed into 2 different tag types.
Generic tags are made up of one word to two words phrases. Generally speaking, generic tags are highly competitive (e.g. “cars”) and don’t provide much context or value to your video. It is important, however, to include brand-related tags, as generic tag types and I would even recommend including them via the “upload defaults” so you can’t forget adding them.
Why are generic tags important?
Including a few sets of the same generic tags matters for “suggested videos.” If someone is watching your video and another video in your channel includes the same generic tag as the video the viewer is currently watching, the chances that videos with the same tag will be included in the “suggested videos” list is higher.
Specific tags describe this particular video. They consist of keywords that provide context and help categorize your video. I’d recommend not describing your video via generic tags, because these are highly competitive and untelling. If your video is about life insurance, for example, “insurance” would be a generic term, while “life insurance” is already a lot more specific, hence it qualifies as “specific tag.”
YouTube often helps you in this endeavour by suggesting related keywords. Pick and choose them carefully.
When drafting tags that consist of three or more words, it’s best to drop prepositions and articles. YouTube automatically ignores so-called stopwords (such as “of”, “the”, “and”, etc.), yet they count toward the character limit.
It’s important to included branded terms to your video tags. Not only will this allow your biggest fans to find your videos, it will also increase the chances that your own videos will show up as recommendations alongside your other videos.
Finding ideas for your video tags
Research your competitors’ video tags
YouTube does not publically display video tags. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be found. There are various ways that you can utilize to quickly and easily find out what tags competing videos are using.
1) My favourite tool to extract video tags from YouTube videos is Online Free Tools. Just copy-paste the YouTube URL into the search bar and it will return all tags that are associated with the video. It even allows you to copy these tags for further processing. Genius!
2) If you prefer a more time-consuming, hands-on approach, you can also open the source code for that YouTube video. As an example, in Chrome this would be under View >> Developper >> View Source. Then you can search for “keywords” (Ctr + F on PC || Cmd. + F on Mac). You can now copy these tags.
3) You can also access the tag list via TubeBuddy if you’ve installed this Chrome extension.
Tools for finding the right video tags
Writing your video tags shouldn’t be an “afterthought.” In fact, it is part of your keyword research. If you have done a good job with your keyword research pre-production, you should have already identified the most important focus keywords. Along with one or two branded terms, you’re already halfway there. If you are lacking inspiration for the other 50%, here are some tools that you can utilize.
YouTube searchYouTube’s algorithm tries to anticipate your search with autocomplete suggestions based on popular search terms. For this reason, it is a great resource for ideas, whether that’d be for YouTube titles or YouTube tags. Adding two dots between search terms, e.g. “how to..zero waste” creates a placeholder. You are now telling YouTube to suggest results where this placeholder is filled with various alternatives.
This free resource can help you identify popular YouTube search terms. It has its limitations, like all tools and platforms, but it’s a great resource to get you started.
If you’re serious about growing your YouTube channel, you may want to consider signing up for an account with videIQ. Keyword research is one of the many things that this fantastic tool can help you with.
This is a great tool that will built a keyword list for you, once you’ve entered your focus keyword.
How to add tags to your YouTube video
Now that you’ve identified the most important keywords and key phrases that you’d like to use as YouTube tags, I’ll show you how to add them to your video. When you upload a new video, YouTube gives you the option to add the tags right then and there. I’d highly recommend doing this right upon upload, as there is less chance that you’ll forget to upload them later.
If you add tags to an already existing video, here’s how to do that:
Step 1: Open your YouTube Creator Studio.
Step 2: Next to the video you’d like to add the tags for, click “Edit”
Step 3: Add your video tags and save.
When it comes to adding your video tags, make sure to add your most important focus keyword first, followed by the second most important keyword and so forth. Finish with branding related keywords (that you keep always the same).
When adding branding related keywords, consistency is important. For example, if our company name consists of multiple words, choose a style and consistently apply it, e.g. CompanyName, “Company Name”, etc. I’d recommend typing company names consisting of multiple words the way a customer might search for it.
Make sure that your keyword phrases don’t get separated into multiple tags when you copy-paste your tags into YouTube. If this keeps happening, right-click and select “paste and match style.”
To finish a keyword and start a new one, enter a comma. The comma tells YouTube that this tag has ended.
To make your life a lot easier, consider adding your most used keywords, such as branding related keywords, as channel defaults. To do this, follow these steps:
Step 1: In your YouTube Creator Studio, click on “Channel” in the left hand menu.
Step 2: Select “Upload defaults”.
Step 3: In the “tags” section, type the keywords that you’d like to see included in each video. Please note that this is not a short-cut for tagging individual videos; each video needs to get its own descriptive tags. This section will, however, save you time and help ensure that your videos always contain consistent branding related terms, for example.
Best practices for YouTube video tags
When you are adding your tags to your YouTube videos, keep these best practices in mind:
- Your focus keyword should always be your first tag.
- List your tags in order of importance from most important to least important.
- Drop “stop” words from your tags, specifically articles (the, a/an).
- If YouTube is suggesting a similar term, go for it!
- If you’re unsure whether to use the singular or plural of a noun, opting for the plural is usually your best bet.
- With adjectives, choose generic over specific ones, e.g. “funny” is better than “delightful.”
- Don’t forget to include branding related tags.
- Include variations of your keywords.
- Include specific and generic tags.
- Include no more than 10 tags.
- The length for each tag should be around 2-3 words.
- Review your tag list and determine if you can tell just from the tags what your video is about. If not, revise your tags.