What Is YouTube Keyword Research?
YouTube keyword research is the task of investigating for words and phrases that YouTube viewers use to search for video content. So, let’s put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and follow along.
Why is YouTube Keyword Research Important?
YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, and over 400 hours of content are uploaded to this platform every single minute. To make your videos stand out from the rest, you need to properly optimize it for YouTube’s search engine.
The first step in YouTube SEO is keyword research. Knowing what keywords your viewers (and potential viewers) are searching for helps you optimize your video around those keywords, and increases the chances that your video will rank high in YouTube’s search results.
Step 1: Start Your YouTube Keyword Research Right
How you approach your YouTube keyword research determines the outcome, so it’s important to start on the right foot. Move beyond the basics. One-word keywords are too competitive and let’s be honest, most people type more than one word into a search bar. So, this is how you should approach your keyword research as well.
Jolt down keywords and phrases that come to mind.
When you’re thinking about the topic that you’re itching to create a video about, what keywords and phrases come to mind if you were to search for related content on YouTube? Write those down as they will guide your keyword research efforts.
Use YouTube Search Suggestions for Your YouTube Keyword Research
YouTube is always eager to help its viewers find what they are looking for. One way YouTube is assisting with this quest is by showing its users suggestions to auto-complete their searches.
If you’ve already made up your mind that you’d like to create a “how to” guide but aren’t happy with the keyword suggestions you’re getting on YouTube search, here’s another tip: add two dots between the “how to” and your search term. YouTube will then fill the placeholder of the two dots with words that complete this search term and ended with your desired keyword.
Use Google Search for Your YouTube Keyword Research
The same tip that I just shared about YouTube’s Search Suggestion feature also works for the autocomplete functionality on Google Search.
The underlying principle is the same, although obviously the searches suggestions that you see apply to Google Search specifically, not YouTube. That said, highly relevant YouTube videos are often shown on Google Search, the world’s largest search engine, so one strategy could be to aim for a spot in these organic listings.
Whatever your strategy, Google Search is great in helping you identify search terms that you can implement either in your video’s meta data (title, description, and tags) or your video’s content (to have them appear in your video’s captions).
Research Your Competitor’s Titles, Descriptions, and Tags
Why reinvent the wheel? Instead of fretting over the fact that your competitor occupies the spot that you wish to hold, investigate what landed them the top spot in YouTube’s search result for the keyword in question, and learn from it.
I know what you’re thinking… No, you can’t know for sure all the ingredients that led to this success, however, you can analyze the components that are known to you and implement those.
What title and descriptions were they using?
What tags were they using? Tags aren’t publicly displayed on YouTube, however, you can use a tool, like this one to extract the tags from a YouTube video to gain insights into their tagging strategy.
Use Google Trends for Your YouTube Keyword Research
Use Google Trends to find out what viewers are currently searching for online and build your video around those or similar keywords.
Step 1: Head to Google Trends
Step 2: Enter a very high-level, generic search term (e.g. “seo”)
Step 3: Now filter the results:
Choose your targeted country, e.g. United States
Select time frame, e.g. Past 30 days or Past 12 months
Either leave “All Categories” or narrow your search here further
Swap “Web Search” out for “YouTube Search”
Step 4: Scroll down to “Related queries” and either make a note of the currently “rising” terms (which I’d recommend) or the top terms for your selected time period.
Use a Keyword Research Tool such as Keyword.io
Navigate to KeywordTool.io and select “YouTube” above the search box.
You can sign up for the paid version to gain more granular insights. If you’re using it for keyword brainstorming only, the free version is fine. By default, these results are sorted by search volume, so the higher up on the list, the more valuable the keyword might be. At the same time, expect high-volume keywords to also be highly competitive.
Use KeyWord Keg for Your YouTube Keyword Research
Another neat little tool is Keyword Keg. It help you get started with your keyword research. The beauty of this tool is that it allows you to sort by various criteria, including “buyer intent” (under result type).
Use TubeBuddy for Your YouTube Keyword Research
Download the TubeBuddy Chrome Extension to get keyword suggestions (in the “tags” display).
Disclaimer: It requests “access to all websites you visit.” I personally am not a fan of access requests of this kind for security reasons. If you plan to use it, I’d recommend creating a separate YouTube account and using it in a separate browser that you only use for keyword research.
Use VidIQ’s Keyword Tool for Your YouTube Keyword Research
VidIQ is a great tool to get keyword ideas for your YouTube video. With the free account, you’re limited to 4 keyword results. The neat thing about the results is that they provide you with a keyword competition score. The lower the number, the less competition there is and the more valuable this keyword might be for you, especially if search volume for this keyword is high.
Use YouTube Analytics for Your YouTube Keyword Research
Did you know that in your YouTube Analytics you can find what search queries triggered your video to appear and which keyword resulted in the highest watch time?
Why would this be useful? These keywords can help guide you when you optimize the existing video, need inspiration for additional videos around this topic, or when you investigate if you’ve done a good job with your previous YouTube SEO efforts.
In the old interface, you can find these insights under Analytics >> Traffic Sources >> YouTube Search. In the new (beta) version, you can find them under Analytics >> Reach Viewers.
Step 2: Grouping Your Keywords
During the keyword research phase it’s not unusual to come up with hundreds of potential keywords. Obviously, you won’t be able to focus your attention on all of them as you create your video.
Group your keywords based on relevance and topics. Pick a group of around 5-10 keywords per video. You can keep all remaining keywords on the back burner for future videos around similar topics.
Step 3: Research Keyword Competition
Now that you’ve selected your top 10 keywords, the fun part starts: Selecting your most important focus keyword. The most relevant keyword might not always become your focus keyword, because high competition might impact your ranking, specifically when you’re a small channel.
To know which low-competition keyword to focus on, you can use some of the tools I’ve already highlighted before. In TubeBuddy, for example, you can use the Tag Explorer to see a keyword score that indicates how competitive this keyword is.
YouTube Keyword Research for Monetization
To appeal to advertisers who are running (TrueView and/or display) ads on YouTube, always include terms and keywords that they might be targeting (e.g. “workout, extreme sports, bodybuilding, fitness, sports, exercise, athletes, weight lifting, etc.). That said, for product reviews and product descriptions, I’d recommend checking the box that disables competitors to run ads on those videos.
Marketers run ads on YouTube videos via the Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) interface. So, it makes sense to investigate what keywords marketers are bidding on. These insights you can gain via the Google Ads keyword planner. This is a great tool if you are interested in learning more about Google search queries. These don’t always apply to YouTube, but the results you’ll get can certainly help ignite your brainstorming session. In the old interface you can find it under Tools >> Keyword Planner. In the new interface, it is under Tools >> Planning >> Keyword Planner. The search results that you will now see include an approximation of the search volume. As always, the more generic and the higher the search volume, the higher the competition for this keyword might be. You can ignore the bidding information, as these approximations refers only to Google Ads.