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According to Alexa website ranking metrics, YouTube still ranks #2 position for most popular websites in the world followed by Big Google and Facebook.

What can we conclude from the above website ranking report?

Yes, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. It receives more traffic than Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined. And probably Baidu and Yandex search engines can be added to that list too.

YouTube is a search engine, right?

But, you heard that it is a video sharing website where people upload a total of 300 hours of lengthier videos every minute.

Even YouTube is a video-sharing website, still millions of people use YouTube’s search box to find new information.

Information is answers to their problems, entertaining resources and sources buy products/services online.

If there is a search box, we know what comes to next.

Yes, it is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

As we use content SEO strategies to optimize blog entries for search engines, we can use specific YouTube SEO strategies to optimize videos for YouTube and all other search engines.

There are not huge differences between YouTube SEO and content SEO.

All search engines needs are to satisfy people by ranking the best results at the top of search engine result pages (SERPs).

As the most important component of search engine optimization is keyword research (also similar to marketing research), you need to utilize a proven, strategic and actionable keyword strategy to optimize your YouTube videos for search engines.

And in this post, I will guide you on how to do that properly.

5 Ways to Find Keywords for Your YouTube Videos

Here are five actionable methods to find keywords for your next and existing YouTube videos.

Method #1: YouTube AutoComplete

You would probably already know that you get related searches when you start typing your query. If you don’t get this, so you might have turned off this feature on your account or from your web browser.

YouTube uses a specific algorithm to set up keywords to show up when someone starts entering a few words. For instance, check this example.

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I entered “make a coffee” to the YouTube search box. And I received 5+ phrase-match related search queries which people use on YouTube.

These are the top picked keywords by YouTube. As there is no other way to find out the search volume for these keywords, you should use them for your videos and track the YouTube video rankings and obviously the search volume.

Notice: YouTube’s algorithm changes frequently. So this is not a “done and gone” SEO strategy for YouTube. You need to keep up with new techniques for keyword research. At this time, YouTube uses a specific algorithm to array keywords.

Takeaway: YouTube’s autosuggest feature is a one of the easiest ways to generate keywords for videos. But, the downside of this strategy is you will get inconsistent keywords (their trend changes over time). Many of keywords get from YouTube’s autocomplete feature are less competitive long-tail keywords. So you don’t need to work hard to rank your videos for those keywords higher in YouTube SERP.

Method #2: Your Video Keywords

Many try to find new keywords for YouTube videos. But, they don’t know that their videos are already ranking for hundreds of keywords, even thousands of keywords as your total number of videos and the market. These are the video keywords that can bring targeted visitors to your videos.

In my previous article on how to increase website traffic using Google webmaster tool search data, I explained how existing long-tail keywords can increase the targeted traffic, conversions and sales by making a few adjustments of your on-page SEO strategies.

As same as that strategy, you can use existing video keywords for your next video campaigns.

How do you find your existing video keywords?

It is easy to find your YouTube video keywords. YouTube track search queries that people use just before watching your videos.

Step #1: Sign in to your Google account and choose the YouTube channel your videos are located.

Step #2: Go to Analytics >> Select the video you want to get keywords.

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Step #3: Find the “top traffic sources” box at the bottom of the page and click on it.

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Step #4: Now you would see a few traffic sources that drive visitors to your video. Click on the YouTube search.

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Step #5: You will see the SEO keywords that your YouTube video is ranking for on YouTube SERPs.

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Step #6: Download the keywords report.

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Now you can optimize those keywords for your existing videos or create new videos around those keywords. As you know the total views amount, estimated watched time and audience retention percentages, you can create new videos targeting that audience.

Takeaway: You would probably don’t know that your existing videos are ranking for hundreds of buyers keywords, yet need some boost to increase their rankings and quality, informative videos to provide what your potential customers want. By analyzing the keywords of your videos, you can list a few top-notch search queries that you are sure that they will drive traffic to your videos.

Method #3: Competitors Video Analysis

If you are in a competitive niche such as insurance, finance, SEO, link building and internet marketing, you know well that you have lots of competitors.

Competitors make a competition in your niche. So make it harder to rank higher for some specific and targeted keywords.

And on the other side, you can think that they might probably use keywords that you don’t use on your videos. So their videos get more views and so increase the audience retention time and total watched time.

You are right! Many competitors use keywords that even you don’t assume they might use.

So how do you find them easily within a few seconds without using an SEO tool?

It is very easy. Just think about how YouTube works.

Yes, YouTube still uses old-SEO techniques to detect what about the video.

You know YouTube still can’t watch the video and identify what about the video is and who should watch the video. That’s why they still ask people’s help for ranking videos. (Ex: likes, favorites, reports)

If you guess YouTube uses the Meta keywords tag, you’re right!

YouTube uses the Meta keywords tag to list keywords/tags of the video.

How to find competitor YouTube Videos Keywords

You can easily find keywords/tags of competitor videos. Here’s to do it.

Step #1: Go to YouTube.com and enter your keyword to find top ranking videos on YouTube SERP (our target is to get the YouTube video URL or video ID). Also, you can get the competitor’s video URL yourself from anywhere outside of YouTube. For this example, I entered the ‘dog training’ keyword. Then I got lots of video suggestions.

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Step #2: The video titled “Dog Training 101: How to Train ANY DOG the Basics” got my attention. So I copied the video URL.

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Step #3: Open a new browser tab and copy & paste this address into the address bar.


Replace “XXXXXXXXXXX” with your competitors YouTube video ID. Ex: view-source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFMA5ggFsXU

Then hit the enter button.

Step #4: Now you will see the source code of the YouTube video page.

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Step #5: Use CTRL + F keyboard shortcut key to get the inbuilt search box. Now type “Keywords” query into the search box. We need to find the placements where the “Keywords” word is located.

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You will get a total two placements where the “keywords” word is located.

Note: If your competitors YouTube video is about keyword research, SEO or keyword, you will get more than one placements.

For this example, I got two placements.

The first one is located within the head tag. It is the meta keywords tag that we used a few years ago for content blog posts.

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The second one is the longer version which includes all the tags which your competitor added to YouTube video.

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These are the tags which your competitor added to YouTube video. So now you know that tags are similar to keywords in YouTube SEO. That means tags are a YouTube ranking factor.

Tools that make the process easier:

Actually, you don’t need to manually type the address to view the source of a video.

I use a browser extension called SEOQuake to get information on a webpage. By using this tool, you can view the source of a URL easily.

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Download SEOQuake to your browser over here and learn more about this SEO extension over here.

Alternatively, you can install this extension for your browser to fetch important data from a YouTube video.

Takeaway: Video tags are a YouTube ranking factor. We can find how much tags effect video ranking by analyzing the video page source code and seeing the keywords which drive the most traffic to the video. Analyze your competitor’s video tags and use them in your video’s proper places. You can see an increase in your search traffic within a few weeks.

Method #4: Find Video Keyword Ideas through Advertising

You might already know that YouTube retired its YouTube keyword tool. It’s a big slap for vloggers, right?

But, we shouldn’t regret it. Why? Because Google has shown a way to generate new keywords for YouTube videos easily without spending a dime.

As over 90% of Google’s revenue come from advertising, Google needs to retain its existing customers and generate new paths for advertising.

Google was able to double YouTube’s profit for four years in a row.

larry page statement: The profit of YouTube
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Larry Page’s statement: They were able to double YouTube’s Profit for 4 years in a row (Source)

Now it’s time for YouTube advertising.

It’s a great way to increase the views, subscribers, and engagement of your videos.

And it is a perfect way to find video keywords too.

How to Find Keyword for YouTube Videos through Advertising

To use this method, you should have a Google Adwords account, which you can set up for free. Use the Google account that is associated with your YouTube channel for setting up the Adwords account.  By using the associated Google account for Adwords, you can easily use Adwords Video ads pages.

Step #1: Go to Adwords for videos and sign in to your account.

Step #2: Click on Create campaign button.

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Step #3: Name your campaign, set a daily budget, and select “YouTube Search” as the network.

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Step #4: Select locations your target audience is hanging in. This is similar to the local search function in the Google keyword planner. For my video campaign, I chose all the countries and terrorists.

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Step #5: Paste the target video URL you want to drive traffic to. Design your in-display video ad and click on “Save and continue” to start targeting your audience.

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Step #6: After setting the ad bid, click the EDIT link under keywords.

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Step #7: Now enter your broad keyword and hit Enter button. Ex: SEO tips, Inbound marketing, Fiverr ideas, affiliate marketing. After a few seconds, you will see a few keywords that people use on YouTube.

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These are the keywords that I was searching for.

By doing a few searches, I found 241 awesome video keywords.

list of video keywords
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Step #8: After adding keywords to your campaign, save your targeting group settings.

save targeting group
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Step #9: Now follow steps as shown in the screenshot below.

download video keywords from Adwords
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Here are the video keywords…

video keywords list
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Takeaway: Even though YouTube retired the YouTube video keyword tool, you can still generate tons of video keywords for free. YouTube advertising is a technique like using Google Adwords to generate content keywords. With this method, you can find top-notch keywords for videos that your potential audience uses to find solutions that you can offer.

Method #5: Research Keywords of competitors’ videos (Only for Google & Bing)

This is one of my favorite ways to generate keywords for my videos. This method will reveal keywords that bring traffic to YouTube videos from Google and other search engines.

You need to use an SEO tool to find competitors’ keywords. SEMrush is the tool that we are going to use to find keywords. You can learn more about SEMrush from this detailed review post.

SEMrush paid packages start from $69.95 per month. For a limited time, I can give you a free SEMrush Pro account for 14 days (worth $69.95) This includes all the features and tools such as competitor keyword research, backlink checker tool, PLA research, keyword tracking, and SEO site audit. Click this link to create your SEMrush Pro account for free.

How to find Google Organic Keywords of a YouTube Video using SEMrush

Step #1: Go to SEMrush and login to your account.

Step #2: Now enter your competitor’s YouTube video URL. In this instance, I will use the previously used video URL.

Make sure you paste the video address with http:// block. Else you will get results for the root domain (www.youtube.com). By default, you will get results for Google.com (US version). If you want to get search results for any other country/terrorist, you can select the desired search engine.

semrush search box
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Step #3: I got lots of information about the dog training 101 video. Here is the information we want basically.

organic traffic to YouTube video
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This video receives 133 daily visitors from Google.com and it ranks on Google’s US search engine for 8 keywords.

Here are the keywords… You can download them by clicking the “Export” link.

top organic keywords for youtube video - semrush
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When I search “puppy training 101” on Google.com, I found the same status I got from SEMrush.

targeted video ranking on Google SERP - The proof
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You can repeat this method for Bing and other Google country domains as well. If you are not sure what keywords your own YouTube videos are ranking on search engines, you can use SEMrush SEO tool to find them.

Takeaway: By using SEMrush, you can find keywords of your competitors’ videos. Usually, those keywords might have a high monthly search volume. By utilizing specific methods, you can outrank competitor videos and get more views.

What we can learn from using these keyword research techniques

Here are a few lessons we can learn by following the above keyword research methods.

  • Keywords still matter: Without content, it is hard to understand the core of videos.
  • YouTube uses people’s signals to rank videos: If you target a wrong audience, they won’t watch your video thoroughly and/or report an abuse (inappropriate video, wrong category) and might dislike/downvote the video.
  • Video tags are a ranking factor: By adding the most important keywords first, you can increase the traffic coming from YouTube search.
  • AutoSuggest phrases are keywords: YouTube arrays phrases in a specific manner. Usually, they have huge monthly search volumes.
  • Wrong keywords == Bad responses == Decrease video ranking: Like content SEO, you need to use keywords for YouTube videos after thinking more than once. You need to understand the keyword intent and user behavior after watching the video. Even your videos get hundreds of thousands of views for non-targeted keywords, your conversion rates, sales and ultimately profit will not increase as you assumed.


SEO can be broken down into a few categories – content SEO, Video SEO, Image SEO, eCommerce SEO, etc. But, they all put into one basket. Search engines want to show the most correct result at the top of SERP.

Yes, in some cases, that doesn’t happen. Still for some keywords, old, non-informative and ugly webpages rank higher on SERP.

Yet, you shouldn’t try to control search engine rankings yourself. Search engines don’t like that.

But, you can do your part greatly.

In YouTube on-page SEO, keyword optimization matters a lot. After your quality video, keyword research is the next thing you want to think. Probably before creating your video.

By using the above video keyword research methods, you can come up with tons of ideas for your future videos.

So what techniques do you use to find keywords for YouTube videos?

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About the author 

Chamal Rathnayaka

A blogger, Growth Hacker, and Internet Marketer since 2012. Chamal Rathnayaka is the founder of this very site and he's sharing his experience and knowledge on Internet marketing through Pitiya blog. Send him a message on Pitiya.com/contact.

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  • Very well written and properly guided on the topic. I am a digital marketing and SEO coach and I am going to use this copy to show my students how to do the keyword research for our Youtube videos. Bookmarked and shared on my network channels. Appreciate your knowledge and thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Nidhi,

      Glad you found this guide helpful. Above methods can generate tons of keyword ideas for videos. I personally use them for a few channels and so far got great results. I will update the guide once i found a new keyword research method for YouTube. Thanks for sharing your valuable comment.

  • Oh thank you very much for your efforts ! … that was absolutely very informative.. i really appreciate your work !

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