What Exactly Are the YouTube Ranking Factors? As a channel owner, you need to understand how these rankings are made so that you can make your own content appear in the faces of searchers more often

By Anirban Roy

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How exactly does YouTube rank videos? Has it ever occurred to you?

You type in a query into the search bar; then, the app pops some answers in your face. Perhaps if you were a normal user, you wouldn't worry about how YouTube does its thing, as long as you get the video you want to watch.

But as a channel owner, you need to understand how these rankings are made so that you can make your own content appear in the faces of searchers more often. In this guide, we will uncover some of the biggest ranking factors used by YouTube.

Video Keywords

No search engine can survive without paying attention to keywords. And YouTube is no exception.

One of the biggest ranking factors considered by YouTube is video keywords; that is, the keywords used, mentioned, and tagged in your videos.

How well a keyword describes a video is what helps the YouTube algorithm understand the video. And the better the algorithm understands the content of a video, the higher it ranks the video.

The right places to place keywords include:

  • Within channel description (added from the advanced settings of the Creator Studio within your YouTube dashboard)
  • Within video descriptions
  • Inside video titles
  • Mentioned within the video content itself
  • Within video transcripts
  • Within video tags

Video title

Looking at the title of this post you're reading, you can easily tell what to expect in the post even before clicking on the headline. That's the power of a title.

YouTube places so much emphasis on video titles because that's what helps them understand what a video will give users.

Generally speaking, shorter titles generally work best. I recommend you avoid long-form titles at all costs because most searchers' browsers cut them off, and YouTube considers this possibility, too.

Video description

It is said that YouTube receives over 300 million hours of video uploads per minute.

With such numbers, it is clear that they cannot watch every video to tell exactly what each one is about.

They can, however, employ the help of textual descriptions. And that's where the 250-words space given for every video comes in.

Every creator has up to 250 words to tell YouTube what their video is about. The more precise and accurate you can be in your descriptions, the easier it is for YouTube to rank you on its SERPs.

To be very much precise, we recommend placing your "Main Keyword" in the first 25 words of the description and then adopting the use of off-keywords (words similar in meaning to the main keyword) throughout the rest of the description.

View count

How many people are watching or have watched your video?

That is another thing YouTube looks at.

In fact, this factor was once the most important ranking factor on YouTube. Back in the day, when a video has more views than others, it automatically ranks higher than them.

Although things have changed recently, and more emphasis is now placed on watch time, view count is still a highly important factor.

This is the reason why some creators go the extra mile to buy YouTube organic views for their videos. They know that once YouTube sees that their content has more views than its competitors, YouTube will automatically rank it higher.

It's not too late to buy views for your videos, too.


YouTube needs all the help it can get to understand the content of videos. This is why they added the "Tags" feature to video descriptions.

Once you've readied a video for publication, YouTube expects you to add some tags to the video description to help them better understand what your content is about.

Now, these tags have to extremely relevant and connected to the actual content of your video.

The more relevant your tags are, the easier it is for YouTube to find and understand your videos. And ultimately, the higher your position in the rankings.

To find the best tags for your videos, follow these steps:

  1. Make your first tag your target keyword and order the rest by importance.
  2. Use some broad keywords that describe the overarching topic your video falls under as other tags.
  3. Use some specific keywords that describe the topics you covered in your video as other tags.

Look at an example below:

From the figure above, you can tell that this is a tag description for a video about SEO Software. The red arrow is pointing to the main keyword addressed in that video. And the blue arrow is indicating the video tags.

As you can see, all the tags added are related to the main keyword in one way or another. For example, link building tools relate to SEO software.

With the help of these tags, YouTube can easily rank this video for search queries relating to SEO software because that's the direction the tags are pointing at.

Video quality

Imagine you see these two videos talking about the same subject on YouTube; which one are you likely going to click on?

The second, most definitely. Why because it looks clearer, cleaner, and has better visual quality.

YouTube feels the same way, too.

Just the way Google places so much emphasis on content quality, YouTube is so big on video quality, too.

Before they rank a video, they first check its quality to determine it is low-quality or high-definition (HD). As expected, high-quality high-definition (HD) videos rank higher and better thantheir low-quality counterparts.

YouTube knows that people want to watch the clearest and cleanest videos. And so, they filter their search results to first display high-quality videos before the low-quality ones.


Just by looking at the thumbnail of a video, users and search algorithm should be able to tell what a video is about.

This is the dream of YouTube. Being a video and visual platform, YouTube's dream is to limit the need for textual content.

As such, they place so much emphasis on using the right thumbnails in videos.

This is why you, too, have to try your best to create the most descriptive and captivating thumbnails for your videos.

Although YouTube helps people automatically generate thumbnails for their videos by taking screenshots from the videos, it's always better to create your own customized thumbnails.

Watch time

Watch time is the length of time viewers spend watching a video.

Watch time is probably the biggest YouTube ranking factor. And for a good reason.

We say this because it is the factor YouTube uses to separate two or more video results that are tie on all the fronts we've discussed so far.

That is, when two or more videos have good enough titles, thumbnails, view count, video quality, descriptions, and tags, YouTube checks which ones have the longest watch time and then ranks them accordingly.

The idea behind this logic is that if people are watching a particular video longer than other videos of similar content, then it's likely because this video is better than them. Hence, it deserves a higher position on the rank so that other viewers can quickly see it and benefit from its better offerings.

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