YouTube Keyword Research: Tutorial + 3 Tools

Last Updated on May 15, 2022 by Alex Birkett

720,000 hours of video are uploaded every day to YouTube.

Yet the vast majority of videos receive very few views:


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While making content is getting easier every day, breaking through the noise and competition is getting more difficult.

And here is where YouTube SEO can become your secret weapon to building your channel and audience.

Table of Contents

The 2 Ways to Approach YouTube SEO

In terms of video optimization, we distinguish two approaches: whether we are promoting a video inside YouTube itself or we want to make it more visible on the wider web, on Google search in particular.

1. YouTube Search Engine Optimization

YouTube can be regarded as a separate search engine with its own algorithms and ranking factors. YouTube sets out clear technical guidelines for publishing. Meanwhile, we can single out three common factors that help videos rank well on YouTube:

  • Content quality: longer videos of better quality and stronger appeal will eventually rank up.
  • User engagement: Youtube algorithm figures out if users enjoy a certain video and pushes it up in recommendations.
  • A consistent strategy: with a well-optimized YouTube channel and a consistent content strategy, creators get growth and lots of monetization opportunities.

2. Getting Videos Ranked in Google Search

Meantime, Google lets you embrace much wider audiences from the open web, and this is where keyword optimization is crucial. When Google algorithms notice a well-performing video, they rank it up in search results and even highlight the video in rich results.

A website sharing a video can use structured data that triggers rich results in Google. This refers to some types of content, like recipes that appear with preview thumbnails


Or how-to step-by-step guides, exposed on Google with timecodes and steps.


The Basics: 7 Best Practices for YouTube SEO

Optimized videos have higher chances to appear in YouTube searches and in Google video results, which will get them more clicks and views. So, you should implement these best practices to give your videos a ranking boost:

  • Add your target keyword to the YouTube video titles and descriptions.
  • Add a high-resolution thumbnail with a call to action to your video.
  • Add end cards and embed links to other videos you posted to increase clicks.
  • Add hashtags and video meta tags to provide some additional information about your videos.
  • Add closed captions; although YouTube is capable of understanding spoken language, it is helpful, especially to minor languages.
  • Add timestamps, or chapters on YouTube, for users to navigate through your video in case it’s too long.
  • Encourage comments, respond to them, add pinned and liked comments under your video.

All these steps will significantly improve the performance of your videos.  And once ranking algorithms pick up your content, it will appear in suggested searches.

How to Conduct YouTube Keyword Research

The question here is: how do we find those profitable keyword ideas that will bring us tons of viewers? The first place is to search for them by hand on YouTube.

YouTube makes search predictions based on such factors as popularity or similarity.

YouTube automatic suggestions are a great tool to research your keywords for video optimization. Paste the topic into the search bar, and you will get the most popular queries that lots of viewers are searching for. This is the source of long-tail keywords that bring highly targeted traffic.


Next to the playing video, you can explore the Related videos tab, as well as other topics broadly related to the major search term.


Collecting such keywords may become time-consuming and puzzling since you cannot guess which keywords are worth the effort. And this is where keyword research tools help you make an informed decision.

Keyword tools let you research all of the above automatically, collecting dozens of suggestions in a blink of an eye.

Besides, keyword tools examine the estimated search volume in Google search and other search engines, analyzing the competition, and calculating the optimization score. By comparing SEO data, you can pick the best keywords that are likely to draw more clicks and views.

There is a large choice of keyword research tools out there to help video content creators.

Here are a few popular ones, each focused on a slightly different aspect of video optimization.

3 YouTube Keyword Tools

While there are many SEO tools out there, we’ll cover three YouTube keyword tools specifically to help you with YouTube keyword research:

  1. Rank Tracker
  2. Tubbeddy
  3. VidIQ

1. Rank Tracker

Rank Tracker is keyword software from SEO PowerSuite, providing a complete optimization toolkit, from keyword research to analytics and rank tracking.

This is a desktop tool, so first, you will need to download and install the software (this will take only a few minutes). Then, to start using Rank Tracker, launch the tool and paste the URL of your website (or a page from YouTube) to create a project. Now you can research keywords for your video.

First of all, you need to find the keywords your video is already ranking for on Google. Once you set up your project, go to Keyword Research > Ranking Keywords and discover the top keywords for your video.

Note. You can add YouTube as your preferred search engine and track rankings there as well. Rank Tracker supports over 500 localized search engines from across the globe. So, by adding your custom search engine, you will make keyword research more relevant to your specific geo-location.


Here we’ve found out that the video is ranking for two keywords on YouTube and appears in two video results, which are called SERP Features in Rank Tracker.


What we can do is discover more phrases related to our ranking keyword and, with a little optimization effort, push our video up and draw more visitors from Google.

Rank Tracker has 24 keyword research methods, and the YouTube keyword tool is only one of them. The in-built YouTube autocomplete feature pulls data from YouTube suggestions. So, we paste our target keywords and collect more ideas for keyword optimization.


The software will pull SEO data that will help you evaluate the prominence of a certain keyword on the web. It provides such SEO stats about the keyword as:

  • Number of searches on Google, or the search volume
  • Competition
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Keyword effectiveness index (KEI)
  • Estimated cost per click
  • Expected visitors if the page takes #1 ranking position in Google.

There are also certain stats pulled from Google Ads Keyword Planner, such as Expected Ads Click and PPC costs (you can integrate Google Analytics and Google Ads Keyword Planner to make predictions more precise).

For a keyword to be effective on Google, it should have a decent search volume. Here, Rank Tracker has found that the URL is ranking #15 on YouTube for the keyword term “developers for SEO”.


From the keyword research that we’ve just conducted with the YouTube suggestions feature, we’ve discovered several related keywords, like “SEO for developers”, “SEO for web developers”. If you move them to the Rank Tracking module, you’ll be able to examine their stats in the Keyword Map.

SEO/PPC analysis will help you decide whether it’s worth it or not to optimize your video for the keywords. If the search volume of the keyword is high, it will be more effective in optimization. But if competition is high, it will be harder to compete for the keyword, and you will need more optimization efforts to reach #1 position. These are the two metrics on which Keyword Difficulty and Keyword Effectiveness Index are calculated.


Besides, the rank checker lets you track historical ranks and analyze Google SERP features. Once you track rankings of certain pages alongside your competitors’, you will find more optimization opportunities and keywords related to your topics.

For example, when your page ranks in the top 10 for a certain keyword, and you notice a video feature available for the keyword on Google, think of creating an optimized video. The odds are high that your page might also get highlighted with the rich feature as well.


Rank Tracker will be valuable for SEOs doing YouTube optimization as part of a broader optimization strategy.

The advantage of this tool is that it allows unlimited keyword research, for as many projects and keywords as you need.

However, to make use of its advanced features, including historical ranking checks and recording SERP features, you will need to upgrade the software to a Pro version, which costs $149 per year.

2. Tubebuddy

Tubebuddy is a YouTube keyword tool and browser plugin designed for YouTube creators.

Tubebuddy is convenient for quick analysis of trending YouTube videos. To start using it, install the plugin, create an account, and sign in. By clicking on any video on YouTube, you will see insights into the popularity of the episode and its optimization rate.


The Videolytics section shows the stats about the total views count, comments, social popularity on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, as well as the statistics for the channel in general.

For video optimization, it shows the average SEO score and the ranked tags. The tags are the video keywords that the episode ranks for in search results.


The green mark next to the keyword means the video episode appears on the first page in YouTube search results (i.e. ranked tags).

The SEO score shows the optimization rate of the video: how many times the tags appear in the titles, descriptions, etc.

Also, the tool shows the checklist of the best SEO practices implemented for this very episode.

The Channelytics section opens in a separate tab, showing the general information about the channel. Here, you will find the performance graph and the channel’s top keywords.


You can use TubeBuddy’s Keyword Explorer to research a keyword’s SEO potential. Type in the keyword in YouTube’s search bar and click on the plugin icon on the right to find statistics about the keyword. You will see the overall keyword score, or optimization strength. It is estimated from the search volume per month on YouTube and competition. These stats go unweighted, i.e. the average optimization value, and weighted, i.e. as calculated for your particular channel. To get the latter, you will need to upgrade.


For more details about the keyword, switch to the graphs showing the keyword popularity trends on YouTube and Google. You will also get common tags with this keyword (only 3 of them in the free version of the plugin) and trending video topics related to the keyword.

To manage your keywords, you can create a topic planner, topic lists, or copy discovered keywords to a spreadsheet.

Premium features of TubeBuddy offer enhanced functionalities for video optimization in-channel.

The tool enables scheduled posting, bulk optimization, automatic keyword sorting, generating comment cloud, and tons of other helpful features. For advanced subscribers, there is a whole SEO studio, with tag rankings, search tracking, instant tag suggestions, A/B testing, and even tag translation.

You can give it a go with a free version, and upgrade to a blogger’s version for only $2.5 per month. By the way, there is a limited free mobile version of the app.

The premium versions offer productivity tools for video bloggers, which will be a real time-saver in their work on channel growth.

3. VidIQ

VidIQ is another browser plugin somewhat similar to TubeBuddy in terms of YouTube analytics on video performance: you get an average view count and view performance chart, social engagement overview (you’ll need to connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts), and subscribers count.

Just like TubeBuddy, VidIQ provides the optimization score, suggesting related keyword tags and related trending videos for your target keyword.

You will get a video scorecard to see what’s working and what’s not for your videos, as well as compare it with some other videos of interest.


You will also get tags suggestions for the video and the channel. Besides, the tool summarizes the topics the video is related to. It also provides you with an optimization checklist, showing implemented and missing best practices.

VidIQ lets you analyze a keyword right in the search bar. You will see the overall score, based on search volume and competition. The data shows how many times the keyword appears in various SEO elements of top-performing videos: in titles, meta descriptions, and even in subtitles. Also, the tool shows the top three creator channels for the keyword.


VidIQ suggests related keywords from YouTube (only 3 of them in a free version, and there is a limit to around 70 in the Pro version) and related queries pulled from Google Trends if any.


Basic SEO keyword research lets you discover keyword suggestions, also with certain limitations. The tool shows the estimated search volume, competition, and the total score measuring how much the keywords are suitable for your video optimization (the higher the score, the better).

The Keyword Inspection tool has a unique metric called Related score which measures how much the keyword is related to your target search.


VidIQ is great to keep an eye on trends. Not only does it show top-viewed videos, but you can also set up the Trends alert to be sent to your email, once your tracked keyword appears in the trending videos.

The Bulk keyword tool (available in the Boost plan) lets you discover relevant video tags, sort them, and add tags to your videos, one by one or in bulk. With an upgrade to Pro, the tool offers to review controversial keywords that could result in being flagged for demonetization.

Unlike Rank Tracker and TubeBuddy, VidIQ is more focused on monetization, giving creators guidelines for their video marketing strategies. Having signed in to your YouTube account, you can get up to 3 topic suggestions per day, with the view prediction rate (medium, high, or very high). The ideas will update daily. You can save or dismiss the ideas to help the artificial intelligence in VidIQ find the topics that are best suited to your channel.


Once you check your saved ideas, the plugin will suggest the top 10 ranking videos for the saved topic, showing their publication date and view stats.

The monetization tracker shows the number of new subscribers and the total watch time. It sets milestones for monetization and sums up your achievements. In its premium subscription version, VidIQ turns into a real YouTube marketing assistant.

VidIQ unlocks many more functions for paying users, such as competitor and subscriber analysis, with costs starting from $10 per month (if billed monthly) for the Pro version. Upgraded pricing plans allow viewing more data and managing more channels.


Optimization gives more visibility to your videos in search engines. This is how you can get through to much bigger audiences.

If you’re optimizing for the web, and video SEO is only part of your job, then Rank Tracker is a great tool. The free version of the software lets you research keywords with no limits.

If you’re a blogger optimizing a series of videos, TubeBuddy is a great tool to give it a start. A lot of keyword research data and insightful analytics can be extracted for free. And with an upgrade, you will get advanced features, such as bulk optimization tools that simplify the publication process.

If YouTube is your major and you do a lot of video optimization, especially when you manage several video channels, you can get a lot from VidIQ’s pro versions. It is a great analytics tool and an assistant to guided keyword research. With premium plans, though rather costly, you will get AI-assisted tips for your YouTube marketing strategy.

About the author

Tatiana Tsyulia – is Marketing Specialist for SEO PowerSuite, specializing in SEO Outreach and Content Marketing, Product Research of Keyword Tools.