YouTube SEO Tips for 2011

This tutorial will examine the important video ranking factors of YouTube for 2011, in the hopes of helping you achieve higher ranking in the YouTube search results.

YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/) has undergone some major changes in the last 6-9 months. They replaced their rating system from 1 to 5 stars to simply “like” and “dislike”. Also “favorites” seem to be prominent in YouTube videos but you can hardly see the number of favorites in the current implementation (except if you view video statistics). Also, you can now get a glimpse of a video’s popularity using "video statistics". There are also some noticeable changes in the video ranking you can see when you do searches using the YouTube search box.

If you are interested in the old ranking factors (study conducted in June 2010), you can read this article: http://www.seochat.com/c/a/Search-Engine-Optimization-Help/YouTube-Video-Search-Ranking-Factors-A-Closer-Look/

Factors to Be Examined

As of this moment, you may not have any new information regarding what factors are important in regards to YouTube video ranking. But you may be able to list the “candidate” factors and then do a more in-depth analysis. There might be more ranking factors to be examined and not included in the list below. For the sake of simplicity in the analysis, this study is limited to examining only the most common/easily measurable factors. These are the factors:

Relevance:

1.) Title tag relevance of the video – same concept as ranking for search engines. Title tag is the most important onsite optimization ranking factor. Let’s see if this holds true for YouTube search ranking.

User engagement factors:

2.) Number of Likes - more likes indicate high quality video content, though this can easily be manipulated.
3.) Percentage of Likes to Total Views – a ratio of the total number of likes to the total number of views.
4.) Number of Views – a simple measurement of video popularity.

Trust and Authority of Video Publisher/Creator

5.) Number of years since joining YouTube (for the video owner/publisher/creator) – the older the publisher on Youtube, typically the higher the reputation they have earned (though not always true).
6.) Total Channel Views for the publisher – a higher number of channel views indicates that the publisher is popular or has authority.
7.) Total number of subscribers – a better measurement of authority. A higher number of subscribers implies that the video creator is an authority and has good reputation.

Methodology and Data Gathering

Below are the keywords that will be used in this examination (similar to the old study):

a.) Tips to play piano
b.) Guitar lessons
c.) Laptop repair
d.) PHP Developer
e.) Mountain Climbing

The first step is data gathering. Each of those keywords will be entered into the Youtube search box and then the information of the Top 3 ranking videos will be gathered (number of likes, views, subscriber information, etc).

In addition, the top 3 bottom videos of those keywords will be gathered.  The selected rankings are at position 152, 153 and 154.

All the data is tabulated in an Excel spreadsheet and the relative percentages are computed. You can download and see the raw data here: http://www.php-developer.org/wp-content/uploads/tutorials/YouTube_ranking_factors_2011_rawdata.zip

Once all of the data is gathered, it is summarized in table format for analysis.

The analysis assumes that ranking of videos in YouTube search are arranged in terms of “ranking score”. This is the algorithmic sum of all factors. The “ranking score” of a video in Position 1 is higher than in Position 2 through Position 154. Since not all possible factors are examined, the study is expected to have a margin of error.

Let:
Title tag relevance of the video =a
Number of Likes = b
Percentage of Likes to Total Views = c
Number of Views =d
Number of years since joining YouTube =e
Total Channel Views for the publisher = f
Total number of subscribers =g

Then let:

Title% = the %importance of Title tag relevance
Like% = the %importance of Number of likes

For other factors importance assignment:

%LikesTotalViews
%NumberofViews
%NumberofYears
%TotalChannelViews
%Subscribers

Therefore the ranking score can be calculated by using a linear regression model:

Estimated ranking score of video = aTitle% + bLike% + cLikesTotalViews + d%NumberofViews + e%NumberofYears + f%TotalChannelViews + g%Subscribers

The challenge is that you do not know how much importance is given to title tags, number of likes, total number of subscribers, etc. when ranking videos. Some factors are more important than others.

The solution is to use MS Excel Solver: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel-help/introduction-to-optimization-with-the-excel-solver-tool-HA001124595.aspx , to arrive at the %importance using the numerical data/relative percentage shown in the raw data. Since the ranking score will be decreasing from top to bottom, you can approximate its correlation by:

Correlation coefficient = Correlation of ranking score vs. Ranking positions.

The objective of the Solver is to solve how much %importance should be assigned to each of those factors to give the maximum possible correlation which is 100%. To visualize and see how this is computed, you can see the complete analysis here: http://www.php-developer.org/wp-content/uploads/tutorials/analysismodel.zip

Results and Conclusions

The analysis reveals that YouTube ranking factors for video currently focuses on these three factors:

a.) Total number of views for the video = 65% importance
b.) Total number of Youtube subscribers = 32% importance
c.) Title tag relevance = 3%

Here is the pie chart:

The primary reason might be obvious. Title tags are easy to manipulate, and Youtube contains less text content than a normal HTML web page. To really rank great videos coming from great publishers, YouTube seems to put more importance on the number of views (measurement of video popularity, either created by buzz or other marketing methods) and number of subscribers (measurement of video publisher authority).

But of course, assigning some importance to title tags is essential for returning relevant videos. In terms of category, the following is the pie chart breakdown:



YouTube places more emphasis on user engagement, which of course is very important. If you have noticed, most YouTube publishers often focus on getting video views and subscribers than working hard on creating more relevant titles.

YouTube does not have text content like what is normally ranked on the Google web search engine. So YouTube needs to rely on other “quality” signals such as those provided by social factors like user engagement.

Confirmation of Results

It is important to validate our findings to find out if the %importance holds true for all Youtube videos and not just the selected keywords used in this study. The following are some randomly chosen keywords:

1.) Learn how to sing
2.) Automatic Driving Lesson
3.) World Cup

This is the data of the confirmation analysis: http://www.php-developer.org/wp-content/uploads/tutorials/confirmationstudy.zip

Below is the plot between the ranking score (generated using the %importance determined in the analysis) vs. the video ranking positions:

The % importance model used by the top 3 ranking factors fits very well to other keywords. The ranking score is logically decreasing from the top positions to the bottom positions as expected.

A lot of new information has been revealed in this study:

1.) If you need to rank your video higher in YouTube, it is not as simple as formulating a great title (although this helps).

2.) The key to ranking higher is to increase views and get more subscribers.

Of course, this is not always a simple task. Here are some tips to help you achieve this goal:

1.) Create an original, useful and captivating video.
2.) Embed the video in your website. A high traffic website can help increase the views.
3.) If possible, make a habit of creating video content and embed it in your website. Text content combined with videos often gets more links, more page views which also translate to higher views.
4.) Any form of video content that is viral in nature can really drive the views up. Be creative when making videos and make sure that you are not only aiming to be viral but useful as well. A lot of viral videos nowadays does not make sense and will just fade away.

To get more subscribers:

1.) Connect and socialize with other Youtube users.
2.) Be friendly. Sometimes when you comment in videos, a helpful positive comment can help. It’s because when the user appreciates your comment; the user will be more likely to subscribe also to you also.
3.) Put “Subscribe to my videos” everywhere in your site especially on high traffic pages with your videos. This increases the conversion rate of your normal visitors turning into YouTube subscribers.

 

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