How to Optimize YouTube Videos for Search

How to Optimize YouTube Videos for Search

YouTube was an extremely popular site even before Google acquired it for $1.65 billion in 2006. Since then, its spectacular growth has continued. Today it’s the third most visited site on the internet, lagging only behind Google and Facebook. (Alexa, 2016)

The sheer volume of visitors to YouTube alone is a compelling reason to consider creating a channel for your school; over a billion users watch hundreds of millions of hours every day and generate billions of views.

YouTube has become a popular site for all types of videos, not just silly videos of people or animals doing crazy things. People look to YouTube for “How To,” “Expert Advice” and many other types of videos. Schools that want to gain a competitive edge should consider publishing videos on YouTube to help build relationships with potential parents as well as enrolled parents, students, and staff.

The first step to getting started with your YouTube channel is to set up an account for your school (e.g., When creating an account, pick a name that matches your school’s name because this will also become the name of your YouTube channel.

The Importance of Visual Images

In all types of social media, visual imagery is very important because it helps to capture the attention of potential fans, brands your content, and inspires engagement. Your visuals help people understand what you offer and connect to you in a visceral way.

YouTube visuals can greatly enhance your content. In general, we create the following graphics for our YouTube channel:

  • Channel art – the banner at the top of your channel.
  • Custom thumbnail – for each video uploaded.

There are several online tools that make graphic design easy. One tool that takes the guesswork out of designing graphics for social media is Canva. Canva offers pre-determined graphic layouts, backgrounds, and fonts in a simple text editing format that is specifically designed for social media – all for free unless you decide to purchase certain images or fonts. It is free to upload and use your own images.

Another commonly used free online graphic tool is PicMonkey. PicMonkey is primarily a photo editor, but you can create designs using images as well.

Optimize Your Channel

Take advantage of YouTube’s free channel branding features. Once you are logged into your channel, make sure you have completely filled out all applicable features of your channel.

  1. Customize the background of your channel by editing your channel art.
  2. Showcase your other social networks by adding your social links to the header.
  3. Add a link to your website or blog so that visitors to your channel can easily link to the correct URL.
  4. Customize the About section at the upper right of your channel. Click on the About tab and write a short bio or the background “story” of your business. Make sure you use searchable keywords and add links to your website and social accounts.

Create Compelling Content

Once you have your channel optimized, the next step is to create compelling content (uploading videos is pretty straightforward.) Since YouTube hosts videos for free, you don’t have to worry about bandwidth or storage costs.

Videos are a great way to educate people, so it pays to build a library of short videos that your target audience would find interesting and helpful to their jobs.

The key to success on YouTube, as is the case with all online marketing channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) is to produce likable, helpful content that people will want to watch and share. Avoid producing a video that is a boring commercial for your product or service.

Recording short, high-quality videos can be created with most smartphone digital cameras. (Click here to see a list of recommended equipment.) With a small amount of preparation and practice, you can, with relatively little expense and experience, record videos and share them with your audience on YouTube.

Drive Traffic to Your Channel

Once your video is uploaded to YouTube, you will need to drive traffic to it. The best way is to use the same channels you’d use to promote any of the content you produce – your website, your blog, and your social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) Posting to YouTube is fast and easy, and little editing is required (although you can get more creative and sophisticated.)

One suggestion is to embed your video right within your webpage using the YouTube embed URL so that your audience can view the video right on your website or blog. By putting your video right on your website or blog, you ensure that at least your visitors and/or subscribers see them.

Once you have uploaded your video to YouTube, it’s time to optimize your video for YouTube’s search engines. As you might expect, YouTube has a search feature that allows people to find videos related to specific topics. This works much like Google search but is much simpler. Here are ways to ensure your videos will be discovered, watched, and shared.

Optimize the Metadata for Your Video

Metadata is how we refer to the information you submit with your video that helps the YouTube search engine index and catalog your video. The metadata includes the title, description, and tags related to your video.

  1. Start by clicking “Video Manager” under your video to access your editing page. Click on “Edit” to begin.
  2. The editor opens in the “Basic Info” setting under “Info and Settings.” From here, edit your metadata.
  3. Title. Write a compelling title for your video. It should be concise, include key search words or phrases, and “hook” the audience with power words.
  4. Description. Take advantage of the video description field. List the key points that are contained in your video, followed by a short bio of the author as well as links to your other social accounts.
  5. Tags. Add keyword and/or keyword phrases that are specific to your video. There are lots of keyword suggestion tools that you can use; one we particularly like is Űber Suggest. Google’s Keyword Planner is also a standard in the industry; you will need a Google Adwords account to access the planner.
  6. Custom Thumbnail. While logged into your video manager, you will see a custom thumbnail link directly to the right of your video. This is where you can upload graphic art you’ve designed and individualized for your video. As mentioned previously, Canva is an excellent free resource for creating customized YouTube Thumbnails and channel art.

Add Cards

YouTube offers a feature where you can customize cards (formerly annotations) that will display during your video. This is a way to help your audience interact with your video by understanding the actions you’d like them to take. Here’s how to add cards to your videos.

1. Select “Cards” from the main menu. Choose the type of card you’d like to add (merchandise, fundraising, video, and more.)

2. Once they’re set up, you’ll notice a small box will appear at the top right corner. If viewers click on the teaser, the card will appear. The idea is to time your card with your script for relevancy. Viewers can click on the card and be linked to the content you’re referring to.

End Screens

End screens are a really powerful way to end your video. This is where you will want to include your call to action. What action do you want the viewer to take next?  

Here’s how to customize your end screens:

Go to your video and select Edit > End screen

Unpublish any annotations you have (they don’t work anymore.) Add Elements to your end screen. You can choose up to 4 elements (1 must be a video or playlist.)

From here, you can adjust the placement and size of each element. You can also adjust the time you want the end screen element to be viewed.

For more in-depth instructions, go to Add End Screens to Videos


YouTube has a built-in analytics feature that allows you to see how many times your video has been viewed, average time duration, and other pertinent information. This information is invaluable for helping you create future videos that are appealing to your audience, so pay attention to the statistics.

Finally, remember that it takes time and effort to build an effective YouTube channel. The results may not be easy to tie to direct outcomes (e.g., sales.) However, the impact of a community that is well-nurtured will grow exponentially over time.

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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