How to multiply your YouTube search traffic in 4 steps

To get traffic to your videos on YouTube, there's no secret sauce or silver bullet. YouTube have closed all the loop holes for gaming the system.

Since 2012 YouTube has ranked watch time per viewer as it’s number 1 factor in determining your success in search and on the platform in general. 

So if people switch off 5 seconds into your video, it won’t last long in the YouTube search results. 

Having said that, if you have great content and it’s relevant to the topic being searched for, do these few simple tasks for each video and you give yourself a big advantage in leveraging the great opportunity of YouTube. 


I’m going to show you a simple example from, one of my clients who had a mostly flat-lining channel, that we at least doubled their monthly traffic with some of these techniques among other tweaks. 


Step 1. Multiply your primary keyword.

Each video should have 1 primary keyword or phrase it aims to be discovered for. Usually the most relevant to the content and the most popular way it is referenced. 

In our example, the video is a review of a utility vehicle, the Toyota Hilux, so my primary keyword phrase is “toyota hilux”. 

Now we want to see what are other ways people search for this term so we can capture that search behaviour. 

You can simply enter the term into YouTube's search and note down what auto-complete entries YouTube serves up. These are the most popular terms people are using in YouTube Australia. 

Another method which provides more information in a global context is to use an auto-complete tool, I like to use SEO CHAT's Suggest Tool. This provides a lot more information and you can export the results more easily

Using this tool, I can see the top iterations of my primary keyword, we’ll use these in the next steps (see image right). This tool also allows you to add more long tail variations on your keyword for more inspiration, really useful. 

Top key phrases

  • toyota hilux
  • toyota hilux top gear
  • toyota hilux 2015
  • toyota hilux 2016
  • toyota hilux off road
  • toyota hilux off road
  • toyota hilux 2016 test drive
  • toyota hilux revo
  • toyota hilux 4x4
  • toyota hilux 6x6
  • toyota hilux surf

There are other tools out there that integrate the auto-complete data right into YouTube via chrome extensions, including TubeBuddy and VidIQ. I’m going to focus on free tools in this post, but these are good options that speed up the process for a small monthly fee. 

Step 2: Ensure your primary keyword is in your video title. 

Make sure you include the whole keyword phrase in the title and if you can include longer tale keywords from the autocomplete keywords, even better. In our example the most popular long tail term is “toyota hilux top gear”. Our video isn’t Top Gear but our review is of a 2016 model so the next best thing to use would be “toyota hilux 2016” & “off road”. So we include all these in the title: 2016 Toyota Hilux Review: on- and off-road. This of course has to make gramatical sense and not just a keyword stuffed title! (YouTube knows when you're trying to game the system). 

Step 3: Add the most searched for key phrases as tags in that order in the tags section. 

People usually underestimate the importance of tags, next to description, I’ve found it’s the most important element to rank for search. See the tags I’ve added in the image, you want to use all of the space here you can for the most key word variations possible. 

Step 4: Create a Custom Thumbnail

When your video comes up in search, you want people to click it, this is critical otherwise you’ll drop in the rankings pretty much straight away. 

Try to create a thumbnail that illustrates the keyword in question.  This doesn’t have to be complicated, in our example, we’ve used a still photograph of the Toyota Hilux doing it’s thing crossing a river with the CarAdvice logo for consistency.



Step 4.5 - Description to contain keywords. 

I’m not going to talk in depth about the description as I’ve found it’s not as important. Sure if you’ve done the first steps completely and you have time, then you’ll get some incremental improvements by adding a good description of what’s in the video including your primary keyword in the text. 

Other factors to consider & conclusion: 

YouTube factors in many elements of your video and channel when ranking it in search for a particular keyword. 

Some of these include: 

  • The watch time your video is getting per viewer (the longer your video keeps people engaged the better)
  • Your CTR (Click Through Rate) on search results
  • How many likes and shares on YouTube and other social media the video has received
  • How many subscribers your channel has
  • How many views the video is getting from external embeds. 
  • How many subscribers this video has driven

Keep these elements in mind when you’re up against some tough competition and channels with more subscribers and larger social communities than you. I know it’s tedious but it’s completely worth it for the search traffic, particularly if you have educational content and you’re in a crowded niche.