optimize youtube tags

If you’ve been working on your YouTube channel and have been trying to get better rankings, and thus more views, you surely have come across the advice to optimize your YouTube tags (if not, no worries, I’ll explain everything below). That’s easier said than done, though: How do you even optimize your tags? What are “better” YouTube tags and how do you find them?

Don’t despair, here’s all you need to know:

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What are YouTube Tags?

The term “YouTube Tag” can be a little confusing because it refers to two different things:

The tag that we’re not concerned with in this article is a specific kind of YouTube video that’s popular among vloggers. In the “Boyfriend Tag”, for example, a YouTuber asks their boyfriend questions about their relationship.

The tag I am talking about is a part of every YouTube video: When you upload a YouTube video, you can specify “tags” for it. In this case, “tags” mean keywords that describe your video. For example, a video about making green smoothies could contain tags such as “healthy”, “green smoothie recipe” or “how to make a smoothie”.

What are YouTube tags for and why are they so damn important?

Tags help YouTube to figure out what your video is about. Since the YouTube algorithm can’t understand the content of your videos (yet), it has to rely on other information such as your video description, your title and your tags.

When YouTube has a sense of what your video is about, it will be able to rank it for the right terms in its search engine as well as in the “recommended videos” sidebar and on the homepage.

In other words, the better you tag your videos, the more you can help your videos rank well.

And ranking well means getting more views.​

So, are you ready to get more views?

How to Find and Optimize YouTube Tags

Do a keyword research

In order to find the best tags for your video, you will need to do a thorough keyword research.

1. Brainstorm

The best way to start with that is to do some simple brainstorming.

Your video is about learning the D chord on the guitar. Then, appropriate keywords could be “d chord”, “learn d chord” or “d chord tutorial”.

Try to find at least 5 keywords that way.

2. Get broader

Now that you have brainstormed a few keywords, it’s time to look for more general keywords that are related to your video. Staying with the D Chord example, you might want to add keywords like “guitar”, “music” or “tutorial”.

Try to find at least 3 broad keywords.

3. Get more specific

What could help even more than broad keywords are very specific ones. Here are some examples: “how to play d chord”, “learn d-chord beginner” or “best techniques for d chord”.

Try to find at least 3 specific keywords.

So far, so good. You can already add these keywords as tags do your video. However, you probably still have lots of space in your tag field left. That’s why we’re gonna look for even more keywords:

4. Do a competitor research

You can actually spy on your competitors’ tags and use them for your own video. Maybe you don’t wanna copy them exactly but find out what you are missing.

Now, how do you know what tags someone else has used? To the normal user, tags are invisible. However, there are two tools that can uncover YouTube tags: VidIQ and TubeBuddy. Both work as simple browser extensions (you might have to create an account, though) and give you all kinds of data about every YouTube video you’re watching.

Here’s how this might look like with VidIQ:

This box shows the tags that a video is using.

Spying on competitors is one of my favorite ways to find good keywords. Lookespecially for videos that are ranking high for the keywords you already brainstormed.

5. Use a keyword tool

Now, here’s one other power move that can help you come up with good keyword ideas that you hadn’t thought of: Use a keyword tool.

Keyword tools are exactly built for that: finding more and better keywords.

A lot of YouTubers already use the Google Keyword Planner, but in my opinion, it’s not the best tool for YouTube. Instead, I mainly use these two:

Keywordtool.io

Keywordtool.io helps you find the most searched keyword combinations on YouTube based on a keyword you enter. So if you type in “d chord”, you’ll get suggestions like “d chord guitar finger position”, “d chord strumming” or “d chord progression”.

An alternative to keywordtool.io is Ubersuggest.

Answer The Public

Another tool I like to use, especially when it comes to “how to”/tutorial/informational videos, is Answer The Public. This is a website that suggests question and phrases for every keyword you enter. Looking for “d chord”, it came up with “d chord with thumb”, “d chord which notes” and “d chord without e string”.

YouTube tag tips

Now you should have a nice list of keywords that you can use as tags. However, there are a few additional things you can do to create more tags and optimize your existing ones for maximum searchability:

Plural and singular variations

In many cases, it makes sense to use the singular and the plural version of a keyword. For example, if you are reviewing phones in your video, you could add “best phone” as well as “best phones” to your tags.

Misspellings

Are there any common misspellings of the words you’re using? If your videos teach freelancers how to grow their “business”, it might make sense to add “buisness” to your keywords. You can find a list of common misspelled English word here.

Compound combinations

It’s not completely clear if the word order inside your tags makes a difference in how YouTube understands and ranks your videos. What we do know is that changing the word order in search can affect the ranking of a video.

That’s why it can make sense to add a few variations of your most important tags where you change the word order. For example, instead of “how to play d chord” also use “d chord how to play”.

What you shouldn’t do with your YouTube tags

Maybe you’re are wondering now: What if I just use keywords that are searched a lot, even if my video has nothing to do with them? Wouldn’t that improve the exposure of my channel?

Well, first of all, tags only have a very small influence over your video. So, as long as your title and description don’t support your tags, you’re unlikely to rank high for an unrelated keyword.

Even if you do rank with it, though, you’d be violating the YouTube TOS. That means if YouTube randomly finds out, they could ban your channel. So in my opinion, it’s just not worth the risk!

A bonus trick for you, my esteemed attentive reader...

There’s another thing you can do to optimize your keywords. It doesn’t have anything to do with ranking in search, though. It’s about the video suggestions next to your videos:

There’s a broad consensus among YouTubers that adding a special keyword, which nobody else uses, on all of your videos will help these videos show up in each others’ video suggestions. So adding the same special keyword to Video A and Video B will make Video A appear in Video B’s suggestions and Video B in Video A’s. Or at least it will make it more likely.

Now, the thing is, I couldn’t find an official source that confirms this. When I added my special keyword to my videos, I did have the feeling it helped - but it could have been incidental, too. So who knows?

One thing that absolutely makes sense is to add your channel name as this “special keyword”. Even if it doesn’t help your sidebar visibility, it might be a good idea since it might make it easier for people who type your channel name into the YouTube search to find you.

Another idea is to have some standard tags that you use in all of your videos so your tags look more alike. This will give YouTube the impression that your videos are similar to each other.

Again, this is not a way to trick the system. Simply using “pewdiepie” as a tag won’t get you in the sidebar of a PewDiePie video.

Like I said, it’s a little unclear how much you can influence the suggested videos with your tags, but in my opinion, it’s worth a trial.

Frequently asked questions about YouTube tags

Q: How many tags should I use?

A: YouTube limits you to 500 characters in your tag field. Ideally, you should use as many of those as possible on relevant tags. YouTube doesn’t give you a counter that counts down how many tags are left, but it will inform you if you’ve crossed the limit when you’re trying to save your changes. Installing a tool like VidIQ can make the process of filling out your tags a little easier in that regard since this adds a counter below your tag box.

Q: I’ve seen some YouTubers rank with really spammy keywords. If it works for them, why shouldn’t I do it?

A: Only because YouTube hasn’t cracked down on all spammers yet; it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Do you really wanna risk your channel for that?

Q: Does it matter in which order I put my tags?

A: According to an old YouTube statement, it doesn’t. However, this article isn’t available on the Google website anymore - so currently we don’t know. If you’re a little superstitious like me, just put your most important tags in the beginning and you’ll be fine. 😉 Seriously, though, it’s unlikely that the order affects your ranking.

Optimize your tags, but don’t forget the rest

Optimizing your tags is still helpful to let YouTube know what your video is about. However, tags are only one small piece of the puzzle. Don’t expect big results if all you do is optimize your tags. Instead, make sure your description and title are on point, your videos are high-quality and you are creating inviting thumbnails.

In the comments, let us know what tag strategy you are using!

Written by Anna

Anna spends a lot of time thinking about YouTube, video and the future of TV. She has worked as a composer, actress, director, writer and online marketer. When she’s not working on a new creative project, she’s probably stuffing herself with vegan burgers. She’s German but spends most of her time in Barcelona because they have better beaches.