How to Smash YouTube Keyword Research with TubeBuddy

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Carla Marshall
April 13, 2022
How to Smash YouTube Keyword Research

As a YouTube creator, a hugely important key to success is to find relevant keywords and phrases that best describe our video content. Why? So YouTube can serve up a video of yours when a viewer searches for content using specific words and phrases.

Keywords are simply informative words and phrases that help represent the significance and context of your video, both to YouTube and your target audience.

Of course, it isn’t always that easy as many other factors prompt YouTube to include your content in a search result. However, it’s a step you shouldn’t miss out on, especially if you want to grow your YouTube channel.

Keyword research can seem daunting to anyone who hasn’t done it before or someone who doesn’t know how to do it effectively. 

There are also several ways to do the research, but this post covers how to use TubeBuddy’s Keyword Explorer feature to kickstart the process.

Keyword Research 101: Not All Keywords are the Same

The first step in that learning process is understanding how YouTube works. YouTube is a platform of prediction. At any given moment, it’s doing its best to predict what to serve a viewer to get them watching videos and keep them watching videos.

Whether or not you rank in search results for a particular search phrase is a highly complex algorithm based on many factors.

It’s crucial to note that, as a small channel, keywords aren’t going to work for you precisely the same as a bigger or more established channel.

If one creator has 100,000 subscribers and you have 1,000 subscribers, the bigger creator has more authority on the platform than you do. It’s just how the platform works. So if you both went after a really competitive key term, the bigger channel will likely have more of a chance to rank for that keyword than you would.

That does not mean that keywords do not work if you are a smaller channel. You just have to figure out which keywords work for you.

TubeBuddy’s Keyword Explorer: Uncover Winning Keywords Today

TubeBuddy’s Keyword Explorer is built around and for your channel and shows you what keywords might do best for you. The tool is designed to help you do two things:

  • Understand what your target audience seems to be interested in, and
  • Help you figure out what video you might want to make next

Daniel Batal, a silver play button content creator and channel growth strategies coach, has helped countless channels succeed on YouTube. 

In an exclusive video for TubeBuddy, he explains just how he uses our Keyword Explorer tool as a shortcut to find opportunities for your channel and videos to be found in search and discovery:

What the Keyword Explorer tool does is help you understand the kinds of relevant words and phrases that viewers on YouTube use in actual searches when they use YouTube as a search engine. 

Keyword Explorer also helps creators find opportunities for new content to make.

Make sure you’re signed in to your TubeBuddy account on YouTube to access the tool. Then just open the dashboard and click on ‘Launch Keyword Explorer Now.’ The feature is available for all license levels, although the Starter License has limited daily searches available.

Let’s pick a topic to do some keyword research around. How about “1966 Ford Mustang.’

As a creator, should you even make a video about this American classic? Are people interested in it as a subject (meaning will they search for it and watch it?)

The best chance for discovery on YouTube is to identify whether there are a lot of other videos around your subject that have strong relevance, performance, and satisfaction metrics. If so, the competition for discovery on the platform may be more challenging.

Creator Tip: It’s a great idea to forget the title for the moment and just focus on what your video is actually about.

Start by choosing the simplest, most descriptive words to connect with the broadest target audience possible. 

Type in the keywords “1966 Ford Mustang.”

You’re learning the language that your target audience is familiar with and the words they’ll use to search YouTube if they’re looking for this type of car or interested in content about it. 

When it comes to the overall ‘Keyword Score,’ don’t put too much thought into that for now. The scores are just a quick reference to help you understand if something is completely off base as a target or is something worth looking a little deeper into.

Keyword Explorer: Weighted vs Unweighted Score

The area of the Keyword Explorer you want to focus on is ‘Score Analysis.’ Make sure you click on the ‘Weighted’ tab in this dashboard. Can’t access the Weighted tab? Be sure to upgrade to our Pro or higher license to access this crucial feature.’

Why? The unweighted score is just a general score. While it is somewhat beneficial, it’s very broad and not calculated for your own YouTube channel. Using the unweighted score may throw you off course because it doesn’t take into account your past content, metadata, views, and engagements.

To get the score calculated for your specific channel, click on Weighted. The Weighted score does require a paid TubeBuddy license to access, but it is invaluable in gaining a unique insight into what should work for you as a creator on your channel specifically.

You can use your “Weighted Score” to get a good sense of whether or not you have a good chance at ranking for a particular keyword. 

As you can see, the search volume for this target keyphrase is excellent. The Weighted competition of other videos for the same keyphrase is good, which means that it’s a good set of keywords to focus on for your channel.

The optimization strength (meaning how many of the highest performing videos include “1966 Ford Mustang” in that order in their titles) is very good. Ideally, this metric would be ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’ to allow you to rank, but we can live with that.

At the bottom of the dashboard, you’ll also see a video ranking in the top 20 on YouTube for this very keyword target that generates around 1K views. So that will give you an idea of the minimum amount of traffic you have to generate to rank in the top 20.

The next step is to click on the ‘Results’ tab. From here, you can see the videos that are well optimized for this target because those keywords, when they’re in the exact order, will be highlighted in bright yellow.

When only a portion of that keyword target is in the titles of the top ranking videos, it’ll show up highlighted but in a much lighter yellow color. 

Think of these videos as semantically similar, meaning they’re using some of the same keywords in their title but not the exact words in the exact order.

Keyword Explorer: What the Other Features Mean


Competition is another relative score based on several factors. We look at how many results there are for a specific keyword or phrase and how many views the video results have. Also, how many times your search term appears in the title, tags, and description of each video in the results. These things help predict how hard it would be for you to rank high in the search results. 


This section corresponds to how well optimized the search results are. Do the top-ranking videos use the keyword in their titles? In their descriptions & tags? Are there exact matches or just partial matches? All of this factors into a score.

Use the Keyword Explorer Tool to Your Advantage

Once you’ve done the keyword research, it’s time for you to put your creative twist to craft a compelling title. 

TubeBuddy has another excellent tool to help you here too. SEO Studio, available to anyone with a Pro license and above, will optimize your video’s metadata for a specific keyword. If you want your video to appear in search, this tool will ensure you have leveraged the keywords you’ve spent time researching. 

TubeBuddy is just a tool, and tools only work when you know what you’re trying to build and how to use that tool effectively. Get a head start on your competitors with keyword research today.

Carla Marshall Author

Carla Marshall

Carla Marshall is the Content Marketing Manager at TubeBuddy. She has 10+ years of experience in video marketing, social media management, content marketing, DRM, & SEO