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How to Rank YouTube Videos on Google – 5 Steps to Success

Struggling to appear on the first page of Google? With the influential search engine now displaying videos amongst its top results, there’s no better time to optimise your visual content. Read on to discover Swanky’s top tips for video SEO; a handy guide to ranking YouTube videos on Google.

Written By
Han Dickson

Is your YouTube content Google-friendly? Just because a keyword ranks well on YouTube (think cat videos), this doesn’t mean it will be as successful on Google search. 

Today, we explore five effective ways to optimise your YouTube videos and have them rank on Google.

Why you should optimise your YouTube content for Google

Whilst YouTube boasts 2+ billion monthly users, more than 3.5 billion searches are made on Google each and every day. 

By harnessing the power of both platforms, you could be increasing organic traffic to your website exponentially. 

Here’s how to get started:

#1 Adapt content to inform

This one’s for all you visual learners out there. 

It may come as no surprise that some of the most frequent Google searches include the key phrase “how to…”. Everyday, people turn to Google in the hopes of uncovering the answers to their burning questions and finally discovering how to make the perfect pancakes, lose weight or tie a tie (in that order, of course). 

As opposed to reading purely text-based answers, users are increasingly turning to those video results which appear at the top of the search page. Some topics are just so much easier to explain with visuals.

“The logic here is that because Google aims to give users what they want, seeing videos in the search results is a clear sign that searchers want to watch a video.” – Joshua Hardwick, Ahrefs.

In order to appeal to these inquisitive searchers, try adapting your video content to inform rather than exclusively advertise your business. An informative video will always leave a better first impression than an advert.

But, you may be thinking, how can I inform as a retailer? 

Check out the following ideas:

  • Clothing/jewellery brand: How-to styling videos
  • Food supplements: Recipes
  • Gym gear: Workouts, equipment tutorials

By sharing useful knowledge, teaching and ultimately helping users with your content, you increase the chances of having your YouTube videos rank on the first page of Google, tapping into new audiences and therefore driving traffic to your website. 

#2 Create enticing thumbnails

Whilst the famous saying tells us not to judge a book by its cover, with over 90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube featuring a custom thumbnail, it’s clear that viewers cannot help but do just that. 

As one of the first things a viewer sees when they come across your video, the thumbnail needs to really sell your content and therefore your brand, earning that all-important click. 

Create an engaging custom thumbnail following the guidelines from YouTube’s Creator Academy below:


  • Use a high-quality image with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (minimum width is 640 pixels).
  • Upload in an image format such as JPEG, GIF or PNG.
  • Keep under the 2MB file size limit.
  • Try to use a 16:9 aspect ratio – it’s the most used in YouTube players and previews.


  • Select an easy-to-read font.
  • Ensure the text accurately describes your content.
  • Go for a colour which contrasts with your image.
  • Test whether the text can be read as a large and small thumbnail.

Experiment with different fonts, images and colour schemes to produce a strong, vibrant thumbnail. Try your best to stand out from the crowd and you’ll be well on your way!

#3 Optimise video titles

Much like the thumbnail, it’s essential that your video title accurately reflects what’s in your content. Clickbait may earn you the clicks but watch-time will be dramatically affected, as summarised on YouTube’s Creator Academy:

“It’s important to accurately describe your video so that viewers stay to watch. If viewers don’t stick around because the video didn’t match their expectations, you’ll see a drop in your audience retention, which can result in your video being less likely to be recommended on YouTube.”

And if it’s less likely to be recommended on YouTube, it’ll be even less likely to rank on Google.

Remember these key points:

  • Keep titles concise (up to 60 characters) with the most significant information and keywords at the front.
  • Leave any branding and episode numbers for the end.
  • Precision is key: check for any typos that may lose you the click.
  • Ensure that your titles don’t get cut-off in search results, suggested videos, and on mobile.

#4 Enhance your descriptions

Descriptions are a vital part of video SEO as they provide Google with the information it needs to read and understand what viewers can expect from your YouTube content. 

YouTube’s Creator Academy explains that you can enter up to 5000 characters in any given description, which equates to anywhere between 500-1000 words, depending on the words that you choose. This leaves you with plenty of room to play with!

Try following these simple pointers:

  • The longer the better: Aim for 250+ words to provide Google with as much readable data as possible.
  • Make each description unique: avoid repeating generic copy.
  • Link to your website.
  • Optimise for keywords and their synonyms using Google Trends and Google Ads Keyword Planner to maximise traffic from search, but;
  • Don’t ‘keyword-stuff’: Google will penalise this as it would with any other site.

It may sound easier said than done, but writing well-crafted descriptions can really make or break your YouTube x Google SEO experience. With just the right amount of keywords and natural language, this often overlooked feature could become a searchable goldmine which boosts views, increases watch time, and crucially helps your YouTube videos to rank on Google.

#5 Don’t forget the captions

With more and more of us consuming video content on the go, closed captions have become an indispensable tool, no longer just for the hard of hearing but for those occasions when playing audio just isn’t an option (we all hate it when we’ve forgotten to bring our headphones on the commute). Since autoplay mutes video audio across many platforms, text on screen can often catch the eye of a serial scroller, convincing viewers to watch until completion.

More importantly, captions completely open up your video to search engines. By providing a text-based transcript of your entire video, closed-captions offer Google an even better chance of understanding your content. 

As YouTube’s Jessica Kellgren-Fozard explains:

“In terms of search, discovery, and engagement, captions are one of the most powerful pieces of data out there. The internet is text-based, so your video is going to stay hidden from search engines unless the text attached to it can be picked up.”

Whilst YouTube uses speech-recognition technology to automatically generate captions for your videos, this does come with its fair share of mistakes. Make sure you watch these back closely and edit in YouTube Studio or, better still, upload your own transcript to correct these speech-recognition errors and provide Google with even more accurate information about your video.

Paired with a detailed description, captions can lead to a monumental gain in SEO ranking and engagement, subsequently helping your YouTube videos to rank on Google. 


Without a doubt, YouTube is an incredibly powerful tool. But by implementing these simple tips and tricks for video SEO, you could be boosting your rankings on both YouTube and Google, instantly driving organic traffic to your website. So what are you waiting for?

Find out more

Check out our Ultimate SEO Checklist for more Shopify SEO tips! 

If you’re interested in finding out more about our SEO or paid advertising services for Shopify stores, get in touch with our friendly team of marketing experts today who can help you unlock your ecommerce potential.

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