How to Do YouTube Keyword Research in 4 Simple Ways

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Carla Marshall
September 19, 2023
How to Smash YouTube Keyword Research

As a creator, YouTube keyword research is key to your channel’s success. 


Because when viewers use specific words and phrases to search on YouTube, you want your video to be one of the top results they see. Keywords are also important in helping YouTube’s algorithms and your target audience understand the context of your video.

But conducting keyword research can seem overwhelming for those new to the process or unfamiliar with effective techniques.

Through this article, you’ll learn how to do keyword research for YouTube to give your videos a better chance of reaching a wider audience and gaining more views and engagement.

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Keyword Research for YouTube

YouTube is a prediction platform. Its main goal is to anticipate what kind of videos will capture a viewer’s interest and retain their attention. So, getting your content to rank in search requires a specific search phrase and a highly intricate algorithm that considers various factors.

Let’s clarify something: keywords won’t have the same impact on small channel as they would on a larger or more established channel.

Suppose one creator has 100,000 subscribers while you have 1,000 subscribers. In this case, the larger creator holds more authority on the platform than you. So if you both went after a really competitive key term, the bigger channel would be more likely to rank for that keyword.

Yet, just because a YouTube channel has a smaller audience doesn’t mean keywords won’t work. You simply need to figure out which keywords are effective for your content. TubeBuddy Keyword Explorer can help.

How to do Effective Keyword Research for YouTube

  1. Use a keyword research tool
  2. YouTube autocomplete
  3. Analyze competitor videos
  4. Find trending keywords with Google Trends

Step #1: Use a Keyword Research Tool

Using a YouTube keyword research tool helps you identify popular search terms and phrases with high search volumes. These tools provide insights into competition levels, search trends, related keywords, and more, allowing creators to make data-driven decisions about their YouTube content strategy.

YouTube Keyword Research – You’re Doing it WRONG!

TubeBuddy is a free browser extension for — among many other things — YouTube keyword research. TubeBuddy Keyword Explorer helps you understand the relevant phrases that viewers on YouTube use in actual searches. This tool serves two main purposes:

  • It helps you comprehend the topics and subjects that your intended audience finds intriguing.
  • It helps in determining the type of video content you should create next.

Now, let’s select a topic to conduct some keyword research on. How about “sustainable gardening“?

As a content creator, you may wonder if it’s worth making a video about this niche topic.

The key to maximizing your chances of being discovered on YouTube lies in assessing the presence of other videos related to your chosen subject, particularly those with strong relevance, performance, and satisfaction metrics.

If you come across many videos that closely relate to your content idea, and they have attracted substantial views or engagements, it indicates a strong interest in the topic. On the flip side, this abundance of similar content might also suggest that the competition for visibility could be more intense.

Our search on “sustainable gardening” turns out to be a topic with a good number of monthly searches. The search volume for this topic is rated as “fair,” and an estimated 14.8K searches are conducted for this keyword.

2 important metrics you keep your eye on are competition and optimization strength.

  • Competition: TubeBuddy looks at how many results come up when you search for a specific keyword and how many views those videos have. It also considers how often your search term appears in the titles, tags, and descriptions of the videos in the search results.
  • Optimization strength: This is a score that shows how well the search results are optimized. TubeBuddy checks if the top-ranking videos use the keyword in their titles, descriptions, and tags. It also looks at whether there are exact matches for the keyword or only partial matches.

Also, take a look at the bottom right corner. There, you’ll see a list of long-tail keywords connected to your main keyword—sustainable gardening. These words are really useful when you want to increase the likelihood of people finding your content in search results.

So, by understanding the competition, you can make better decisions about your content creation strategy. You may choose to differentiate your approach, offer a unique perspective, or turn your attention to related niches.

Download the TubeBuddy extension

FREE YouTube Keyword Research tool WHILE You search! TubeBuddy Search Explorer

Step #2: YouTube Autocomplete

YouTube autocomplete is a feature that suggests search terms as you type into the search bar on YouTube. It is designed to make it easier for users to find videos on YouTube search results relevant to their interests.

According to Google, Autocomplete predictions are based on actual searches conducted on their platform. To determine which predictions to display, Google considers several factors, including:

  • The language used in the query
  • The location from which the query originates
  • The current popularity of the query
  • Your previous search history

Let’s see how it works. For example, let’s say we want to find ideas for the keyword “best vacation.”

When you begin typing this keyword on the YouTube search bar, it instantly suggests various related variations and keyword ideas. That’s a helpful and time-saving way of conducting keyword research directly on Youtube.

While YouTube’s autocomplete feature is useful, its predictions aren’t always perfect. Sometimes, you may come across unexpected suggestions that may not be entirely reliable, so they have a lower likelihood of leading you to reliable content.

Step #3: Analyze Competitor Videos 

Another great way of conducting keyword research for YouTube is to review your competitors’ content, as this method can serve as a source of inspiration.

To begin, pull up some of your competitors’ videos and look through their video titles and descriptions. Take note of the specific keywords they use and how they incorporate them. By carefully analyzing their keyword choices, you can identify patterns and uncover the most relevant and high-performing keywords for your own videos.

Besides examining the keywords, observe whether your competitors employ any keyword variations. Variations in keywords can provide a broader reach and cater to different search queries. By understanding how your competitors use these variations, you can gain insights into how keywords can be used effectively and influence your own optimization strategy.

Lastly, pay attention to the flow and natural placement of keywords. This analysis will help you understand how to organically include keywords in your own content without appearing spammy.

Imagine you are a content creator specializing in car-related topics, specifically focusing on the “BMW M” series. Take a moment to review the below example, where you’ll notice some quick observations.

Firstly, you’ll notice that the seed keyword, “BMW M,” is seamlessly incorporated into the video title, instantly capturing the viewers’ attention. That part is easy to observe. However, what makes this example interesting is the strategic use of the seed keyword within the video description, specifically within the opening sentence.

While this method will help you get insights, you should never directly copy your competitors’ titles or video descriptions. After all, the goal is not to replicate them but to get inspiration to inform your content creation and optimization efforts.

Step #4: Find Trending Keywords Using Google Trends

Google Trends is a free tool that shows you how popular certain search terms are on Google using real-time data. When using Google Trends to search for a term or terms, you’ll be presented with a visual representation of its popularity over time. See the below example where we compared three terms:

  1. cryptocurrency
  2. stock market
  3. NFT

As you can see, the time frame is set to “Past 30 days,” and the location is set to “Worldwide.” You can adjust those settings as per your needs.

The graph clearly indicates that the term “stock market” has been consistently more popular than other terms worldwide over the last month. Also, while the popularity of “NFT” and “cryptocurrency” has remained almost unchanged, the term “stock market” has seen significant spikes.

Take note that the numbers displayed on the graph don’t indicate the exact volume of searches, as the data is standardized and displayed on a scale of 0-100. So, the numbers accompanying the search terms represent cumulative totals.

How to optimize YouTube videos for keywords

  1. Use SEO Studio by TubeBuddy
  2. Use keywords prominently in video titles and descriptions
  3. Use video tags that include your keywords
  4. Add timestamps to your videos

1. Use SEO Studio by TubeBuddy

The TubeBuddy SEO Studio is a tool provided by TubeBuddy, a popular YouTube channel management and optimization platform. Its purpose is to assist YouTubers in enhancing the visibility and viewership of their videos and channels through SEO.

The TubeBuddy SEO Studio analyzes your YouTube videos and channel and suggests the best keywords to enhance your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. This entails optimizing elements such as video titles, tags, descriptions, and more and identifying long-tail keywords and phrases that can improve your ranking in search results.

SEO Studio includes features that allow you to optimize your video titles, descriptions, and tags for YouTube SEO, including the best YouTube keywords, search volume data, and more.

TubeBuddy SEO Studio Tool! Come up with the perfect Title, Description and Tags!

2. Optimize Video Description

Crafting descriptions using relevant keywords can enhance the discoverability of your videos in search results. Descriptions serve as a means to inform both the YouTube algorithm and your audience about the content of your video.

YouTube video descriptions are limited to a maximum of 5000 characters. We recommend providing each video with a unique description to optimize your video’s visibility. This helps with searchability and enables your content to stand out from similar content.

Additionally, consider including your social media profiles in the descriptions of your YouTube videos. These additional links can serve as CTAs for various purposes, such as directing viewers to your community, podcasts, or blog posts for more information. See the above video description for one of the TubeBuddy videos.

3. Use Video Hashtags 

Hashtags help categorize and classify your video content, making it easier for viewers to find your videos when they search for specific topics or hashtags. They are also considered in search, but not as importantly as video title (first) and description (second). By including relevant hashtags, you increase the chances of your video appearing in search results or on the YouTube homepage when users explore related content.

screen capture highlighting YouTube keyword research examples

Hashtags also allow you to reach a specific target audience interested in your video’s topic or theme. When users click on a hashtag, they are directed to a dedicated page displaying videos related to that hashtag. So, make sure you embed relevant hashtags into your videos.

4. Customize Your Thumbnail Image

The initial impression viewers get of your video is through its thumbnail, so it’s vital that it looks great and grabs attention. Remember that this can impact whether a viewer chooses to click on your video or not.

Plus, thumbnails often include elements like titles, text, and images that provide a preview of the video’s content. They can give viewers a sense of what to expect, helping them decide whether the video aligns with their interests or needs. Here’s an intriguing example of a customized thumbnail (if we do say so ourselves):

keyword research for thumbnail specifics

Another beauty of using custom thumbnails is that custom thumbnails allow creators to maintain a consistent visual style across their videos, establishing a recognizable brand identity. Using consistent branding elements like colors, fonts, or logos in thumbnails can help viewers associate them with your channel and content.

TubeBuddy offers the Thumbnail Analyzer, a feature that allows you to assess various YouTube thumbnails and discover the most impactful for you. Our AI detects the elements in your thumbnails that attract viewers, such as text placement or other visual aspects. You’ll then receive a predictive score indicating the probability of attracting viewers and increasing video engagement compared to your current thumbnail.

5. Add Timestamps to Your Video

YouTube timestamps help improve the overall user experience and optimize your video’s visibility on the platform. By indicating the specific moments within your video, timestamps allow viewers to navigate to the most relevant sections that pique their interest.

These timestamps can be particularly advantageous for longer videos, such as tutorials, lectures, or interviews, where viewers may want to jump to specific sections without watching the entire video.

Streamline Your Keyword Research with TubeBuddy

Without a reliable keyword research tool like TubeBuddy, creators have to manually go through data, attempting to identify relevant keywords that can improve their YouTube visibility. This process is time-consuming and monotonous, taking away time that could be spent on creating high-quality content.

TubeBuddy presents a comprehensive solution to all the above challenges. TubeBuddy streamlines the keyword research process, helping creators find high-performing keywords for their target audience. Download the TubeBuddy extension and get a head start on your competitors.

get an unfair advantage on YouTube

Give your YouTube channel the upper hand and easily optimize for more views, more subs, and more of every metric that matters.

get started
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