Mining YouTube for Keyword Research

Some possible keyword research resources sit so out in the open that they get overlooked. Such is the case with YouTube. This free video site, by turns entertaining and educational, provides a treasure trove of keywords.

I never thought of YouTube as a keyword resource myself until I read Kieron Hughes on the subject. While many SEOs prefer to work their magic in fields with which they’re intimately familiar (like a dentist-turned-SEO optimizing sites for dentists), that’s not always possible. In that case, the SEO must be prepared to become an instant expert.

Some of us have a lot of practice with that kind of research. A few of us even prefer it that way; it keeps us from getting bored. But we’re still faced with a problem. Most clients know their own fields and subject matter inside and out, and this kind of knowledge brings its own peculiar kind of blindness with it. The expert clients don’t know where they’re coming up short in explaining their fields and jargon, and we “instant experts” don’t yet know quite enough to ask the right questions of them to get the best keywords!

This is where YouTube can help fill in the gap. Like Hughes, I want to emphasize that YouTube shouldn’t be your only keyword research resource. But watching some videos in the field for which you’re doing SEO can help turn up keywords that you won’t find in the Google AdWords Keywords Tool. As Hughes notes, “the results displayed by the Google Keyword Tool might be relevant to what you are looking for, [but] they don’t provide the bigger picture, which is what you should be looking for.”

And what should you be looking for? In part, that depends on your client’s specific field. But in general, you’ll need to get a handle on common phrases used by both clients and consumers, and some sense of how they’re used (the word “sugar” will mean something a bit different if you’re optimizing for a pastry school from what it means if you’re optimizing for a diabetes education website).

You might also want to look at whether your client could offer related services that they simply haven’t mentioned. This will give you keywords in similar areas that will draw in clients who may be interested in other services. For example, I have a neighbor who does personal one-on-one exercise training; she also teaches Zumba classes. Those are clearly related services. But she was also a nurse for 18 years, and has a strong background in nutrition. She could offer some kind of nutritional counseling if she wanted to. While that may be less directly related to the personal training and Zumba classes, it’s a good bet that anyone interested enough in their own fitness to check into exercise might be interested in help with their diet – and vice versa.

That brings us indirectly to the third point you should keep in mind as you do your research. Certain conditions or situations will make someone seek out your client’s product or services. What are they? Find that out and you’re looking at another great trove of keyword options.

Okay, so now that we know what we’re looking for, how do we find it on YouTube? As it turns out, when users upload a video to Google, they’re putting in keywords to help you find it. It’s not ideal, of course, but Google requests that users include explanatory text, a relevant title, and some tags. By the time you’re ready to use YouTube for your keyword research, you should already have a few keywords with which you can start your search. So go over to YouTube, put them in, and get your list of videos.

I’m going to use the idea of a diabetes educational site, and “glucose testing” as my keyword. YouTube recommended a few other terms that might be appropriate as a drop-down while I typed this term in, so already I’m getting more terms. My search turned up 947 results. By watching a couple of videos, I found out the proper terms for the supplies used for blood glucose testing, plus one for a condition caused by diabetes (diabetic retinopathy). There are even videos on how to do blood glucose testing on cats and dogs (admittedly a different area, but it’s good to know it’s there).

But the videos themselves, and their descriptions, aren’t the only possible sources of keywords. You can also read through video comments for greater insight. Hughes uses the example of research for a speech therapist’s website. In the comments for one of the videos he viewed, he found three keywords he would never have known to look for: two were terms for conditions that could lead to the need for a speech therapist, and one referred to a particular type of therapy that a speech therapist might offer. Following up with the Google AdWords Keyword Tool revealed that most of the terms saw thousands of searches every month.

Once you get a good grasp of the bigger picture, you can flesh out the different categories for your client’s website. A bare bones website for a speech therapist, for instance, might sprout separate areas for specific services, conditions leading to the services, and helpful therapeutic tools. “By following an iterative process of looking at YouTube, understanding the opportunities, and analyzing the search volumes, you can begin to form a visual picture of how products and services are related – something that can be then portrayed back to the client for approval of additional ideas,” Hughes explained.

As with any tool you use in SEO, you shouldn’t depend on YouTube to the exclusion of your other keyword research tools and resources. But it’s a great way to get a leg up on becoming an instant expert. Good luck!

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