YouTube SEO (Podcast)

C: Itamar is a YouTube SEO specialist and SEO Consultant and a guy that I’ve been in contact with for a while on Facebook. He knows the ins and outs of video marketing, YouTube, and everything else, so we’re going to be talking about that today. Welcome Itamar, how are things with you?

I: Thanks for having me, Craig. That’s quite a warm introduction, making me feel all special. All good on my end. How are you doing?

C: Good. I’ve got to make you feel special so that you’re dropping off information to make it worthwhile.

I: It’s all exclusive to Craig’s podcast here, to everyone else but myself.

C: So for anyone who’s never heard of you, obviously I’ve been speaking to you for probably a year or so on Facebook, or whatever it is, but what is it you do day-to-day? Are you in-house, are you freelance?

I: I’ve done the agency side, I’ve done freelance side. Currently, it’s more freelance projects, so I’ve been helping clients with their websites, with their video marketing, with their YouTube channels, all around that. I do consult as well for YouTube, and for YouTube SEO. But it’s all based around organic search and video marketing.

YouTube and Video Marketing

Youtube SEO

C: I know this is going to sound stupid, but I’m assuming that video marketing and YouTube, and everything else is very much an important part of today’s online marketing?

I: Oh, absolutely. If you don’t know how important video is, then it’s like you’ve been living under a rock because you see all of these trends, and all of the data that comes out about how many people actually enjoy consuming video content, as opposed to traditional text, or even infographics, and then blog posts, et cetera. So video is such a booming aspect of online digital platforms, and it’s something that pretty much everyone should be getting into if they haven’t already.

C: Personally, I hate reading books, and I hate reading blog posts that are 5,000 words long. I’d much rather either listen or watch a video. That’s what I do at night before I go to bed – just check out YouTube videos. I’ve done webinars and the likes, but I’ve not done a huge amount of YouTube, done a few tutorials and whatnot, but it’s not something I would say that I’m personally fully engaged in, though I do realize I’m missing a trick by not doing that. And it’s all good and well, I’ve got videos there, but I’m not doing what people like you would do with those videos.

YouTube SEO Basics

C: And obviously that’s something I want to dig into because it’s all good and well setting up a YouTube channel, and chucking a few videos up, but that’s when someone like you is going to step in and say, you’re not even doing the basics right here, there’s a lot more to it. So what is the process that a person like you would take, as opposed to me just chucking an interview up on YouTube? Where am I going wrong with that? And what should I be doing?

I: Well, I think it’s all just down to strategy, so a video should be a part of your overall marketing strategy for your brand, your business. It doesn’t matter what it is. I think if you just try and have a video uploaded, say on YouTube, without having any attribution to your website, or for a greater goal, be that being to generate some leads, or things like that, then I think you’re just like on an island by yourself. Your videos are hosted on YouTube, that’s great, but are people watching it? What do you want to get people to do when they’ve seen it?

I: So these are all sorts of questions that you first have to ask yourself because I’ve seen loads of people who just rush into video and say, “Okay, I’m going to create a YouTube channel. I’m going to be very successful. I’m going to get loads of views.” But it just doesn’t happen because there’s no real strategy to it, and all that begins with, really, is you need to just ask yourself these questions like, what is the purpose of what you’re doing? Because it’s so saturated.

I: YouTube is such a saturated platform, it’s the second-largest search engine in the world, and to think that all of the content there is in video form, then there’s just so, so much content on there. That if you really want to differentiate yourself and use YouTube solely as your only way of getting traction, then it’s not really going to work. You need to have good social media marketing strategies in place so that you’re able to at least share your content around the right audience, and get people engaging with your stuff.

C: I think that’s obviously where I see a lot of people going wrong with it, including myself, and I think I spoke to yourself a few months ago, asking you what an end screen was, and stuff like that. I’m listening to someone talk about it somewhere, and I’m like, I don’t have an end screen. I’ve always had an intro because I thought it’s always cool to have the same intro, but I’ve seen lots of videos where people, at the very start, I’ve seen subscribe to my channel now, and the end card, and everything else.

On-page Youtube SEO

C: But in terms of getting traffic to these videos, YouTube, SEO and whatnot, I take it that’s something you do as part of a service where you’re going to do the research, and obviously put in the title, whether it’s your SEO tutorials, or whatever that kind of thing is going to be. I’m assuming there’s an on-page element to YouTube SEO?

I: Yeah, absolutely. There’s on-page and off-page. This is where it gets very similar to how you’d optimize a website because there are a few different aspects, and quite a lot of different elements that you can optimize and work with in order to overtime, start increasing your rankings for certain videos, for the keywords that you’re targeting. So yeah, there’s loads of different elements. So the on-page stuff per se would be things like your titles, your descriptions, your tags, and there are also other elements, that aren’t stuff that you can necessarily optimize.

I: If we’re talking, for example, thumbnails, the only thing you can really do with your thumbnails is just A, you’d want to make it eye-catching and consistent with your brand. And B, I suppose would just be the name of the file that you save it as if you want to include the keywords there, which you should generally do because when you upload images, it shouldn’t be like IMG4321.PNG or.JPEG. It should be at least relevant to whatever it is that the image is. But yeah, so in terms of main on-page stuff, it will definitely be well, your channel name would be one, but if we’re talking video specifically, then yeah, the titles, descriptions, tags.

YouTube SEO Keyword research

Keyword Research

C: I’m assuming if you’re doing research on that, you would use similar tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs or something like that, to see what the search volume is prior to doing that? Or is there somewhere else that YouTube guys go to, to get that kind of data?

I: Well, there are quite a few different tools that will give you search volume data, but the thing is with those is, that they’re never going to be 100% accurate just because Google don’t tell you what YouTube search volume is exactly. I know that Ahrefs, they do have YouTube keyword research, and they use clickstream data to obtain that. But at the same time it’s never going to be 100% accurate. So that’s also why it can be quite tricky.

I: But what I’d recommend is just finding trends. So Google trends is really good, identifying what’s popular, and then just trying to create content for that if you’re thinking about what types of content to make, you can compare different terms, and see what’s more popular. And the other thing is just the auto-suggest that you have when you start typing things into YouTube, because YouTube will know what people are searching, right? And they’ll try and best help the user find the more relevant searches. So then even just using that, it’s so simple, but I think it’s quite underutilized when it comes to thinking of what kind of keywords to target.

YouTube SEO Tools

C: When I’ve been doing research on YouTube and stuff in the past, I’ve seen tools like TubeBuddy or YouTube Buddy, or something which gives you pointers, and the right direction of what you should be doing on the on-page side of things. Is that something you’d recommend? I’d love to know from an expert, is that something you would use, or not?

I: I’ve had a look into it, I’ve had it downloaded. There’s quite a few like TubeBuddy, different Chrome extensions, there’s vidIQ, I’ve had a mess around with all of those. They all do different things, I suppose in some ways they’re similar, in other ways they’re not. But they’re all pointers and I suppose if they’re free, why not use them? In terms of the search volume and stuff, you’re never going to get an exact number, but for other things they can be quite useful.

I: I think that vidIQ for example, will tell you the amount of times in the search result, the amount of videos that have the exact order of the keywords as you’ve placed them, in the video title. And it’s just little things like that that can just help make your research a lot easier. And it also tells you who the top creators are and things like that, so you can get an idea as to how competitive is this keyword for the videos that are already ranking for it. If a tool is free, there’s no harm in using it I suppose, and that’s the thing to take away.

I: But at the end of the day, you shouldn’t rely on these tools to get you loads of views, if that makes sense. The majority of the work has to be done through yourself, through the content that you’re making, through how you’re spreading it. It’s all about your network as well, that’s really, really important to help gain traction. Because if you’ve got a strong network of people who are interested in what you’re putting out, then most likely they’ll watch the majority, if not all, of your video content.

I: So the underlying concept is that your video has to be really, really good so that people want to watch it, not so that they kind of go on it, and click off. Because watch time is really important for YouTube because when YouTube shows videos on the results, they want to show videos that people deem to be relevant, and a video that people watch only 10% of, isn’t going to be as relevant in YouTube’s eyes as a video that has 90% of it being watched by the audiences.

YouTube SEO Equipment

Search Engine Optimization

C: Obviously, you’ve covered the on-site side of things. I’m assuming things like having the right camera, the right background, and all of that kind of stuff, is also something that, if someone was coming to you for consultancy, you would advise on better lights, better background, better everything. Is that a big thing for you? Or if someone hadn’t done this before, and was stepping into this, is there any kind of advice on what you’d advise people to buy? Or how much to spend? Or where to buy it?

I: Yeah. Equipment is very, very crucial when it comes to video because at the end of the day this is your brand, and you want to present your brand in the best possible light. No pun intended, but lighting is really, really important amongst your microphone, your camera, things like that, even how you present yourself on video is really important. You need to be comfortable speaking in front of a video camera, and there’s all sorts of these different elements, and not all of them stem from the equipment, but a lot of it is actually the person behind the screen. The person who’s actually featuring in the video because that plays a very, very important role for example, in how to increase your retention, and how to keep people watching your videos.

I: So yeah, I would advise a lot about what sort of equipment to get, like the cameras, microphones, lighting, green screens if people need them, et cetera. But a lot of it is also just down to you as a person, so some people have told me in the past that they want advice on what to do when they speak on camera, and there’s certain things that I found in my experience, that I’ve got better at over time, in terms of portraying myself, to speaking, and all sorts of other things. This is really, really good practice, so just helping people from my experience on how to do that.

C: Because when I started out over 11 years ago, the way I would be on camera would be very, very kind of poor.. There’d be lots of monotone talking, there wouldn’t be too much expression. And a lot of times that stuff you’ll see when people start out because if they hadn’t had this prior experience, some people might find it difficult to show themselves on camera. Even if they’re actually quite different and are perfectly fine in real life, but then some people might have that fear of going on video. So that’s all stuff that I talk about and help people know about what to get, but also how to be more comfortable when you’re shooting videos.

C: Interesting. So, on the off-page stuff that you do with YouTube SEO, can you touch on a few things that would potentially matter (obviously link building’s not going to be a thing) – I’m assuming things like traffic, and user engagement, and all that kind of stuff are what you would deem off-page SEO when it comes to YouTube?

I: Absolutely. I think when we’re saying off-page, like you mentioned, we’re not talking about backlinks and things like that, but we’re talking about the broader, more external things that you can tap into in order to help increase your engagement, and potentially the amount of traffic that you get to your videos. So the first thing that I would do is help figure out where are your audience is placed, where are they? There are things such as brand communities or forums, loads of different things where people come together who are interested in one particular niche. And then the job is to find that, capture it, help people build ways to engage with that niche, and then when suitable, then pointing towards their video content.

I: Because it’s a very tricky thing to go and do, and I think what people usually get wrong is that they lack the patience in order to help make them a part of a community. Whereas instead they’re just going on different Facebook groups, they join a group, and they’ll just put a link to the video without any context or things like that. And that’s stuff that I see happening so much, but it’s just so ineffective, and a lot of times people think it’s quite effective but it really isn’t.

I: So the way I would do it is, you need to be able to find people, you need to know what platforms to use to find these communities. So Reddit is a gold mine of finding these niche communities, where people will be interested more likely than not, within the niche or the types of content that you’re making, and all you have to do is really just go in there and engage. You need to put in the time to provide useful material and build yourself up in these communities, before you can then start advertising yourself.

I: Because you know, if you want people to go and view your content first you have to give, right? And when I say give, I don’t mean just link to your post if you think it’s relevant, like if you find opportunities to link to your content when it’s relevant, at least provide a more in-depth answer, let’s say if you’re commenting on Reddit, and then put a link to your video. Because more likely than not, people will end up clicking on the video if you’ve actually added some context in there, as opposed to somebody just seeing a YouTube link and they’re just not going to click on it because they don’t really know what it’s about, they don’t know who you are.

Off page SEO

I: So a lot of times when we’re talking about the off-page stuff, it’s more about finding these communities and being able to engage, and get people interested in you as a person. They need to be invested in you before they can be invested in your content. And I think that’s one of the main things I see people get wrong, is that they keep trying to bombard people with videos. But if no one really knows who you are, and why you’re doing this, they’ll just think it’s spam, and people can detect spam so easily nowadays because it’s everywhere.

C: Yeah, I probably spend about 15 minutes of every morning before I do a single thing, just deleting all the spam from last thing, and that’s what I do first thing in the morning. Obviously you’re saying you need engagement through Reddit and the likes and that makes sense. It’s like networking with other SEOs — you’ve got to put the time in, get to know the community, and obviously things will happen, opportunities happen. I’m assuming it’s similar on Reddit and stuff like that, but I do hear a lot of people saying buy YouTube subscribers, buy YouTube links, buy YouTube views, does any of that stuff actually work? Or are people wasting their time with bought traffic, or whatever kind of stuff they’re buying out there?

I: No. It’s not going to do anything for you. It’s a waste of money, it’s a waste of time, and you’re harming yourself because you’re not really getting the true picture of your audience. And all that kind of stuff does, it just skews it, and it’s misinformation. You can buy likes, you can buy views, or whatever, but even if you’re buying views where they’ll get bots to watch the entire video, it’s just what’s it going to really do for you at the end of the day? It’s not going to be increasing your rankings, it’s not going to be getting you conversions, it’s not going to get people talking about your brand. Anything YouTube related, if you need to purchase something, then you’re doing it wrong, and you’ve got the wrong mindset because everyone has to start from zero.

I: I’ve started from zero many, many times. I’ve had countless, countless YouTube channels on all sorts of different topics, be it gaming, technology, sports, you have to start from zero. But YouTube and video content creation is a thing you do need to invest time in, and it’s something that you need to treat really, really well because as soon as you start purchasing views or likes, or whatever, then all the hard work that you’ve done just goes out the window. Because these are not good signals, and it’s not accurate, and the thing is with YouTube you want it to be accurate. Even the amount of dislikes you get.

I: Every YouTube video will have dislikes, that’s just how YouTube is, that’s how the internet is. There’s people who will dislike your content, which is fine, but I’ve seen a lot of times people complaining about this as well, and I’m just like, well, somebody who’s watching the video cares more about what you’re saying as opposed to likes to dislikes. Which I guess in some ways, if it’s somebody new watching a video who’s never seen you before, that may be an indication, but more often than not, you will get more likes than dislikes if you have a good video, right? Because that’s just how it is.

I: If you need help getting more likes, just ask in your video. Don’t just ask every few seconds, but ask towards the end. I don’t like it when people ask for likes as soon as the video begins, because they don’t really know what you’re saying, so you’re just asking for these things straight away. And it just seems like you don’t really care too much about them, you care about these metrics. So you just need to be strategic, you need to be honest, and I think being transparent goes a long way. Not just on YouTube but generally, you need to be really honest with what you have.

C: In the SEO world you can be honest and transparent, and hope that you put out a bit of content, and everyone’s going to like it, and that’s what Google want you to believe. As there are people out there who are cheating and gaming the system on YouTube, and what you’re saying, it’s just going to slow you down. I’m not a YouTube expert, so I’m not trying to suggest otherwise, but you get guys in SEO who are white hat, who don’t push the boundaries, and I’m assuming you probably get similar on YouTube.

C: Is there any evidence to suggest that YouTube actually do ignore those fake bots and traffic? Because I hear conflicting information, and it’s the same as SEO, you walk in, and you don’t know who to believe. I just wanted to know if you’re playing the white hat side of things on YouTube, and there is a black hat that could potentially work, even if it’s for the shorter term?

I: There are people who will obviously try, like if we’re saying black hat techniques in terms of buying views, buying likes, things like that. If we go all the way back to when YouTube started, you could refresh on your video as many times as you wanted and you could get more views, and then they realized that it’s quite a broken system. So then they ended up capping it for the same IP, and then if you were to do that, it would come up in like the three hundreds, and then it would just stop there, until it’s noticed that it’s getting more traction from different IPs.

Hats in SEO

I: The reason why it’s different when we talk white hat, black hat when we’re saying SEO compared with YouTube and YouTube SEO, is because there’s a lot more elements on websites, and what you can do for Google search than you can really on YouTube because YouTube is really based about, when people are subscribed to channels and audience retention, those kinds of things. That’s why it makes it a lot more difficult to implement black hat techniques that will work on the platform. So it just doesn’t seem to be too viable to say, “Oh, I’ve bought loads of subscribers, and I buy loads of views.” But that won’t mean too much. I’m pretty sure YouTube is smart enough to detect where views are coming from. Watch time is obviously very important, likes are very important, comments, and they also know because they have data about the accounts.

Does buying Youtube subscribers work?

I: So for example, if you’re buying subscribers, YouTube will know these are accounts with maybe they’ll have a profile picture, sure, but they just subscribe to loads of different channels, they don’t really watch any of the videos, and that is a red flag. And over time the algorithms get a lot better at detecting this. And of course they’ve thought about it, so it’s not something new for them. So I think black hat techniques don’t really work on YouTube. If anyone has had success with it, that has legitimate long-term sustainable views, and a fan base is doing that, then let me know because I personally don’t know any.

C: As I say, I can only compare it to what I do in SEO, and people say, listen, I don’t believe in this waiting, organic links, and all that kind of stuff. And obviously, we know with SEO that you can bend rules slightly, but I was just curious to know if it was the same with YouTube. But it makes total sense, if people have been spamming, and you can see your IP address, or your accounts that are subscribing to every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s YouTube channel, then it’d make perfect sense for them to give no weight to those kind of subscribers. But as I say, you’ve got to ask the question.

I: Yes. Just to add on that, the number of subscribers you have doesn’t actually do anything for you in terms of, it’s not going to help you make money off YouTube if you’re monetizing your videos, and it doesn’t necessarily make you rank higher. So that’s another thing to keep in mind. So when people are saying always like, “Oh, I need to buy subscribers, I need more subscribers.” It’s just vanity really. That’s all it is.

C:  Is there any one or two things that you do feel make a difference to YouTube — obviously you’re saying subscribers don’t make a bit of difference. But is there something that would move the needle, like maybe more comments? I know potentially real views would make sense, user signals to help with ranking, but is there anything that you can tell us that in your experience, you’ve seen that actually helps a lot? Because I’ve got my comments on my YouTube channel blocked, purely because I get a lot of trolls and stuff, and I just can’t be bothered looking at them going, “Oh you dick.” So I’ve got my comments disabled, and people are saying that could potentially be hampering the on-page, or the user signals, or whatever it may be on YouTube. Is that something you’d agree with?

I: Potentially, and the reason why I say that is because YouTube have recently started disabling comments on videos that contain kids, people under age, and things like that, so they automatically will block the comments, but that doesn’t stop those videos from ranking, if that makes sense. I think a bigger indication would be things such as watch time percentage, things like the click-through rate, because these are all signals where you think of it from a user perspective, and how YouTube wants people to find videos that are relevant. Your click-through rate is going to indicate relevancy, watch time percentage is going to indicate relevancy, because if people are watching almost the entire video, it means that they’re engaged with it, and that the information in that video is useful.


I: So I would say definitely things like watch time, click-through rates, but also likes can help. Unless you disable likes and disable comments, but they shouldn’t be at the top of your priority. So if we’re talking priorities, just make your titles eye-catching, make your thumbnails eye-catching, make them consistent, and then make sure that your video is good because if your video is not good, then your watch time is going to be really, really poor compared to the amount of views that you’re getting.

C: In terms of the end of videos and whatnot, the end screens, is that something you would highly recommend people use? And why would you use those if you are recommending it? Or is it take it or leave it, you don’t really have to do anything?

I: I think we should use them anyway because you have up to four modules in the last 20 seconds of the video to use the end screens, and you can use end screens, even if you’re not using it to show other videos, you could just have the icon of your channel where people can just easily click on it to subscribe. And the same thing with cards. I think cards are more selective because you should use them throughout the video. If there’s a certain point where you’re talking about something that you can provide extra information on, that you may have had on a different video, but end screens, there shouldn’t really be a reason not to use them.

I: The only thing you’d need to keep in mind is when you’re editing your video, if you want to have an end screen that’s 20 seconds long, then just leave an extra 20 seconds of your video, and just get a nice template for it, so at least people have time to go through what you have. If it’s like a different playlist you’re trying to show off, or another video that’s relevant, or to subscribe to your channel. Yeah, there really shouldn’t be a reason why people don’t use end screens. They’re available for you to use, so it’s just one of those things that just help differentiate yourself I suppose, just putting in the extra effort.

I: And speaking of extra effort, if you want to go and add subtitles and closed captions to your videos, that’s also really good because the YouTube bots can crawl that file that you’ve sent. So they’ll get a better understanding of what the video is about. And sometimes that’s important because whilst it will be able to detect what you’re saying, a lot of times it will get words mixed up, so it’s better to always have a really accurate file where you can transcribe the audio, and then that’s a lot better for the bots to crawl it and see what the video’s about.

C: Interesting. Sadly, we are just about out of time, and I feel as if we’ve only just scratched the surface. It’s a very interesting subject, but I think what you’ve done is give people a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes in terms of YouTube optimization, and that there are things to do other than shove a video up, and hope for the best. And where can people find you if they’re looking to get some YouTube tips, advice, or hire you for consultancy, or whatever it may be? Where is the best place for people to find you?

I: I’m pretty much active on the main social media, so we’re talking Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. I’m pretty active on those, so just send me a message anytime if you have any queries, and things like that. And yeah, that’s pretty much it.

C: And the name is Itamar Blauer. Is that correct?

I: Itamar Blauer. That was almost perfect, and I’m not saying that because of your accent, that was genuinely pretty close.

C: Yeah, I gave it a go. Where does that name actually come from?

I: Israel. Well, my first name is from Israel, my surname’s German.

C: A man of many cultures, and a perfect English accent. Thank you for coming on, it’s been a pleasure, and hopefully, we can maybe get you back on in the future for something a bit more in-depth in terms of YouTube if you’re up for that. Thank you for your time.

I: Thanks a lot for having me, Craig, and thanks to everyone watching at home or listening.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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