How to Use YouTube SEO to Generate Content Ideas for Your Channel - A Simple 5-Step Guide

YouTube SEO

At first glance, YouTube SEO doesn’t seem to have much to do with finding content ideas for your channel. After all, Search Engine Optimization on YouTube is all about getting your video title right and putting keywords in tags, right? 

Not anymore. 

Over the years, YouTube’s algorithm has evolved – a lot. Today, it considers a huge number of aspects to decide what to show in response to a user’s search – from video captions to hashtags. 

However, at the algorithm’s core are two basic considerations: One is the quality of your content. The other is how closely it matches the intent behind a user’s search. 

And that’s why proper content research is essential for SEO. And why SEO resources are invaluable on your hunt for content ideas that will resonate with your audience. 

If you’re just getting started out with YouTube SEO – or if you need a quick refresher – this guide will take you through the process step by step. 

YouTube SEO

Keyword Volume and Difficulty: The Central Metrics

The central premise of SEO is to identify keywords. These are words, phrases or even complete sentences and questions that people actively use to search for content. 

The more closely your videos match these, the more likely it is that they’ll rank highly in search results (leaving aside competition for the moment).

This means putting them into the title and description, yes. More than that, though, the video itself also needs to contain them, and more generally be about that topic. And unlike a thumbnail, that’s not something you can easily change later on. 

That’s why it’s so important to evaluate your keywords – and luckly  there are a few different ways to do that. The most important are the metrics keyword difficulty and search volume

A keyword’s search volume describes how often people use it to search for content in a given time. Usually, that’ll be for a month.

Keyword difficulty, in contrast, tells you how hard it would be for a new piece of content to rank for that keyword. This is where the competition comes in: The higher the score, the more high-quality rival content is already out there.  

If you’re looking for content ideas for your channel, digging up good keywords can be a great source of inspiration. Plus, it’s much more likely that the awesome content you create will rank high up in search results, garnering lots of views. 

YouTube SEO

Step 1 - Evaluate What Content and Searches Are Popular In Your Niche

First, start by checking what keywords are doing well in your niche, whether that is fashion, cooking, or tech reviews. 

A great place to start is by checking YouTube’s autosuggest feature with some generic keywords. This will give you some insights into popular searches the algorithm associates with them. 

Another excellent way to find common searches associated with a certain topic is to use tools like AnswerThePublic.

AnswerThePublic gives you a ton of fairly specific suggestions at the tap of a button.

Then, move on to using specific tools that can help you analyze what keywords your competitors are using successfully. 

All-in-one SEO suites like SEMrush and Ahrefs can analyze competitor domains for keywords that generate a lot of engagement. Video-specific tools, like YTCockpit, will do the same more narrowly for video platforms. 

Plus, there are dedicated tools like Rival IQ that can track keywords across several social media platforms. That’s a good way of having a peek at what the content strategy of a successful channel or brand looks like.

YouTube SEO

Step 2 - Find Your Own Keywords

Next, set out to find your own keywords to target. 

This is where SEO keyword research tools become invaluable, especially when it comes to looking at keyword difficulty and search volume. 

Some of the most popular keyword research tools are Ubersuggest, Ahrefs, and SEMrush. There’s also BuzzSumo and 

Most of these tools offer a limited free version, which should be enough to generate some initial ideas. 

If you want to grow your channel further, though, consider investing in a subscription. You could also outsource this part of the video creation process to an expert who has access to advanced tools, not least because those can be a bit pricey. 

Generally, you begin your search with generic starter keywords, and then look for related keywords and phrases. What you’ll want are keywords have both a decent search volume and relatively low keyword difficulty.

If you see a topic that looks good and intrigues you, note it down along with its metrics. The easiest way to collect all possible ideas is in a spreadsheet. 

In addition to going on the hunt for new keyword ideas, check which ones you already rank for. For this, simply open YouTube Studio Analytics and check the bottom right corner – it’ll show you what search keywords have recently sent people your way.

Additionally, external tools like TubeBuddy can also show you which keywords videos rank for, and in which spots – both your own and those of competitors. 

keywordtool interface
Keywordtool helps you get keywords for a bunch of platforms in one place.
YouTube SEO

Step 3 - Decide Which Keywords to Target

Once you’ve collected enough ideas, compare the search volumes and keyword difficulties and try to find a good balance between the two. 

Ideally, you want to identify keywords and -phrases with a high volume and a low to medium difficulty. 

As a rule of thumb, longer keywords (often called long-tail keywords) are usually easier to rank for. For example, ‘how to make knotless box braids’ is going to be much easier to target than ‘how to braid’. 

That’s because the people who search for them tend to have more specific needs. Consequently, search volumes are usually lower. 

However, targeting long-tail keywords can still benefit you. If people have very specific questions that your content can answer well, your engagement scores will be much higher. This means people are more likely to watch your video to the end, like, share, subscribe, and leave comments. 

Overall, these high engagement scores are hugely important for YouTube’s algorithm – especially the recommendations. Since a lot of viewers find your content through recommendations, this is important to keep in mind when picking your keywords. 

YouTube SEO

Step 4 - Form Your Ideas Into a Coherent Strategy

As a next step, arrange your selection of keyword-based content ideas into a coherent content strategy

If you’ve got several larger, but somewhat distinct topics in your content ideas, tackle them one after another, rather than jumping between them. 

For one thing, it’s easier to rank for a particular search – or get recommended – when you have several related pieces of content

For another, it’s easier to build an audience that’s interested in a particular aspect of your niche. That’s because you’ll have less competition from large, established – and less specific – channels. 

At the end of the day, you’ll be left with a content strategy – and ideas to keep your creative process going for a few weeks, if not months, at a time. 

YouTube SEO

Step 5 - Incorporate Your Keywords into Your Content

Finally, you have to actually incorporate your keywords into the content you create on their basis. 

This means adding them to your script and saying them at several points throughout the video. Make sure that they feature in your title, description, tags, and possibly hashtags. 

You’ll also be able to upload your own video captions – in several languages. If you do, make sure that your keywords are mentioned explicitly. 

Plus, you can use key moments and chapters to target very specific long-tail keywords and structure your video into subsections all at the same time.

The Bottom Line

YouTube SEO research can seem daunting at first, but it’s a great way to generate popular, engaging content ideas

Investing some time and effort in the research process – or outsourcing it to an expert – will pay off in the long run. You’ll be able to find amazing ideas for captivating content to pave your way to YouTube success.

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  • Alex Lefkowitz

    Alex Lefkowitz is the founder and CEO of Tasty Edits. He holds a BA in Entrepreneurship and is an experienced video editor, having edited hundreds of videos for dozens of creators before starting his own video editing company. Since launching Tasty Edits, he has directly managed thousands of video and thumbnail orders. Now, he draws on his experience working with professional creators to write about video editing, the creator economy, and video marketing. You can also read his work on Hackernoon and Medium. Plus, he's contributed several expert opinions in interviews and articles as a guest on platforms like Jotform.

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