Aside from being the central hub of all things video-related in the world today, YouTube is also the second-largest search engine in the world. This means keyword-optimizing your videos on the platform is just as important as keyword-optimizing your blog posts or web pages for Google search.

Regardless of if you are just trying to find out how to get started on YouTube, or you’ve just created what could be the next “David At The Dentist” video, users must remember that algorithms dictate which videos YouTube serves to its audience. And also, the ones it doesn’t.

One of the best methods to keyword-optimize your videos for YouTube is by leveraging tags. In this article, we’ve put together a guide that examines what YouTube tags are, the reason they’re important, and some of the best practices to follow. This is not a guide on how to become a social media influencer We’ll also t0uch base on some tools you can use to help you discover the keywords that could elevate your videos to the top of the search results.

woman searching for videos on youtube on a laptop computer

Why Are YouTube Tags Important?

You may be asking yourself this very question. So why are YouTube tags important?  The reason is that YouTube tags help the platform grasp the content and context of your video. If YouTube can understand your video’s topic and category, and accurately associate it with similar content, it can amplify the reach of your video.

YouTube video tags are valuable tools in establishing both the topic and relevance of your video. They are not only helpful for your viewers, but also for YouTube itself. So select your tags wisely in order to properly classify your content, so it can be found by the right audience.

YouTube allows you to use as many tags as you would like as long as the total character limit across all tags is less than 400 characters (approximately). For those wondering how many YouTube tags you should use, generally speaking, most videos should have around 5-8 tags.

10 Best Practices to Follow

Here is our list for the 10 best practices around YouTube video tagging. If you keep these practices in mind with your video tagging, you are sure to see an enhancement in the reach and engagement of your content.

laptop open to search results on youtube

1. Your target keyword should be your first tag

The first few tags of your video are absolutely crucial for keyword ranking. YouTube heavily accounts for these few tags when ranking content in their search results, particularly the first tag. Ensure your first tag is the exact keyword you are targeting, and order the words after by their relevance, from most relevant/important to least.

2. Use broad keywords that describe the overall theme of your video

While you don’t want to oversaturate your video tagging, using broad keywords as other tags help YouTube’s algorithm better understand your video’s context. For example, if you’re creating a video called “How to Shoot a Basketball”, you’d want to add “Basketball” as a broad tag. This indicates to YouTube that your video’s overarching theme is about basketball, and categorize it accordingly.

3. Add specific keywords that describe the topics you covered in your video as additional tags

Using specific keywords that describe the topics you cover in your video as other tags help YouTube understand your video’s content. For instance, in the same “How to Shoot a Basketball” video, adding “shooting 3-pointers” or “shooting free throws” as specific tags would indicate to YouTube the exact topics and themes your video covers. This can also provide you insight on dialogue and subjects you should incorporate into your social media content creation as well.

4. Conduct thorough keyword research

If you want to discover the right keywords for your video tags, you must conduct keyword research. Keyword research helps you find many of the various keyword possibilities you can use for tagging your videos. You want to rank for related keywords to ensure the correct target audience is consuming your content. And your audience doesn’t necessarily use only one single keyword to find the content they like. So it’s best practice to have a variety of related keywords for your YouTube video tags to ensure that you capture your target audience that may use different, but related keywords.

5. Research competitors

Looking to get more detailed with your keyword research? One option is to look at your competitors. Check out their videos and see what tags they use. It’s a great opportunity for you to see what your competitors are doing.

Let’s say you are an influencer marketing agency. Research your competitors content, and see what tags they are incorporating into their videos, and across social media. This will help you see what keywords they are using that you aren’t using. It helps your business generate more ideas for additional keywords. If you discover your competitors are using certain keywords, you may consider integrating those keywords into your tags if it can help your business compete, or gain the visibility it needs to be relevant within your vertical.

6. Use keyword variations

As we discussed above, your audience will often use different phrases in order to find the right YouTube video. Your audience will switch the order of certain keywords or change into their own specific variations in order to find the best results, so it’s important that you include variations of keywords in your tags so you appear in those results as well, in addition to your primary keyword.

This is also important to remember when you are conducting your initial keyword research. When you find keywords you want to use in your video tags, think about how someone may choose to alter those keywords and build your list off of that list of potential variations. You can use some of these as additional keywords for your video.

7. Utilize YouTube’s Native Search Bar

youtube autocomplete from the search bar

You can utilize YouTube’s own native search bar to help you figure out variations of a keyword. Ask yourself, “What are users typing in with your keyword to find a video like mine?” This process can give you a strong idea of how users go about finding the right video for a particular topic.

8. Use plural and singular forms of keywords

Users conduct searches using different types of keywords, so it’s important to use both singular and plural forms of keywords on your videos. Some may use singular forms while others use plural forms, so it is important that you have tags for both. When you’re conducting keyword research, also focus on long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that contain three or more words, as opposed to short-tail keywords, which only contain one or two words.

You don’t want to miss an opportunity to appear in certain search results because you only used the plural or singular form. So use both! When you integrate both forms, you will build more traffic on your YouTube videos because the algorithm will populate you more frequently as a piece of relevant content.

9. Make sure your tags support your title and description

The number one mistake we see today when it comes to tagging YouTube videos is when brands or users use popular tags that aren’t even related to their videos. This is counterproductive to your cause. The reason you want to avoid doing this is that YouTube will ban your channel if they notice you are using tags strictly for ranking purposes, rather than accurate, descriptive purposes.

But that isn’t the main issue with using unrelated tags. Truth is, even if you use high-volume, popular keywords that are unrelated to your brand or content, you aren’t attracting people who are truly interested. If anything, you are detracting anyone who comes across your video and feels underwhelmed or tricked to view a video that had nothing to do with what they were looking for. So it’s always best to only use tags that relate to your video.

10. Use Autocomplete to Find Long-tail Keywords

If you’ve immersed yourself into the world of SEO – or even just dipped your toes – you’re likely aware of how beloved the long-tail keyword is SEO specialists. We briefly touched on the topic of these keywords earlier in this article.

The reason behind this appeal? Long-tail keywords are often cheaper keywords to rank for, have less competition, and can target a more specifically defined audience. So similar to the way we described using YouTube’s native search bar to find potential keywords, use autocomplete in all your keyword search efforts to reveal additional options for keywords you may want to incorporate into your video tagging.


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