How to Rank on Youtube

After sending my intern on a fact finding mission, experimenting on my own, consulting some SEO experts, and talking to other webmasters, I have a good theory as to ways to help push yourself up the Youtube ranking system.

What is it? Complicated. And that’s being kind.

Youtube search uses a combination of tags and social ranking factors. For starters, everyone (and this was confirmed by google) agrees that descriptive keywords are important. Google can’t crawl your video so it relies heavily on your title, description, and tags to determine what your video is about. Therefore, be very, very descriptive. Don’t be spammy though- Google knows if your tags are relevant or not.

After that, things get much, much more complicated. While those 3 factors form a basis for your rankings and can be enough to rank you for a weird, unpopular term like maori cultural show (i’m #3), ranking for something more competitive is much different.

For something competitive, Youtube relies on a complex and shifting system involving social factors, including:

Video views
External Links
Channel Popularity
Video Responses
Channel Subscribers
Video Age
Embedded version of the video
How many people watch until the end
That’s how a video on can out rank an older video on

In my opinion, these factors represent about 70% of what Youtube looks for in ranking on a competitive term. What are the most important factors? Well, based on my own experiments with my channel, I would say this is the order:

Video Age
Channel Popularity
Channel Subscribers
Embedded version of the video
External Links
How many people watch until the end

I rank them in this order because Youtube seems to be about social interaction with the videos so those videos that produce the most interactions will then move up the search results or get video responses and thus more views. A video with a lot of views is of course popular and should rank high but you can manipulate view counts. My video on Scottish musicians has over 17,000 views….thanks to stumble upon not Youtube.

Next I think your user popularity is important. This is Youtube version of trustrank. Just like Google automatically ranks anything high because they are a trusted website, if you have a channel with a lot of followers, high views, and lots of socially popular videos, Youtube trusts you and thus ranks your videos higher. Back in the day, I remember there was a big to do about this because youtube changed how they ranked videos and it took importance off this so a lot of people were upset. I still think this is important though. The other factors are so minor they aren’t worth going into detail over.

Here’s an example of all of this playing out. Take the search “la tomatina.” Let’s look at the top 4 plus my video:

  1. Video Number #1: This by Journeymanpictures. The channel is huge with over 79,000 subscribers and a million views. The video has 61,000 views, 59 ratings, 101 comments, and 214 favorites.
  2. Video Number #2: This is by brendanmcwilliams. This channel small with 6 subscribers and 120,00 views. The video has 103,000 views, 54 comments, 44 favorites, and 30 ratings.
  3. Video Number #3: This is by awheewall. The channel has 9 subscribers and 130,00 views. The video has 7,000 views, 6 comments, 10 favorites, and 13 ratings.
  4. Video Number #4: This video is interesting. It’s way newer than anything on the first page but it ranks #4. Look at the channel, it has 99 uploads, 1500 subscribers, and close to a million views. The video has 2000 views, 13 comments, 5 favorites and 6 ratings.

Now my video is #6 when i looked it up. My channel has 123 subscribers and about 60,000 views. The video has 15,000 views, 14 comments, 27 favorites, and 10 ratings.

So Video #1, despite having less views than #2 has the most comments, ratings, favorites and comes from a strong channel. Clearly a winner. Video #2 has the second most so easy to see why it is #2. But why do video #3 and #4 outrank me if I have more views? My theory is that video #3 is about even with ratings but the channel is popular and video is older. So this is why video age is important. It’s not the most popular video but it is an old video and just like in Google search, age is an important factor.

And #4? This is all about trustrank. That channel is very popular and well viewed so in a short time, it’s new video could rank very high with just a few comments, ratings, and favorites.

So that being said, let’s do a little quid pro quo and test this all out more. I’m really interested in getting my video on la tomatina and I want to see if a new video, like mine on the great barrier reef, can move up quickly with sudden rush of all those social factors i just talked about as it ranks nowhere now!

If you could star them, favorite them, and leave a comment on both of them, I will return the favor for videos of your choice. Let’s help each other here.

If you want to subscribe to my youtube channel, you can find it here:

Explore posts in the same categories: Social Media, videos

4 Comments on “How to Rank on Youtube”

  1. Thanks for that analysis Matt!! Makes great sense – I’ve always scratched my head at youtube’s system and have had to rely mostly on embeds on my site and others to actually make a video popular.
    Good work!

  2. Thanks for the tips Matt. So when do we get a YouTube Comment and Rating group started?

  3. Gayle Pescud Says:

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for this. I’ve been trying to work this out for a while, but it’s obviously not that simple. This is a great post and when I get to the point of referring to this on my blog I’ll link to your post so others can find it.

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