How To Rank YouTube Videos, Guaranteed: Is YouTube Search REALLY Dead..?

Trying to work out how to rank YouTube videos? There are two main ways you can grow on YouTube. You can try to strike for gold by hitting and hoping a viral video takes off. Or you can build reliable and replicable traffic by targeting the YouTube search engine.

You might have heard from ‘YouTube experts’ that targeting YouTube search isn’t a solid YouTube marketing strategy… But – in our humble opinion – targeting YouTube SEO (using a proven, dependable process) is the #1 traffic source on YouTube.

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Of course, there isn’t one best way to grow on YouTube, these are just different strategies. But if you ask us, attempting to hack the YouTube algorithm with a viral video can be exhausting.

Plus as AI content takes big leaps thanks to AI tools like ChatGPT, we think creating high quality search optimized content sharing your own unique perspective will be more important than ever.

So, is YouTube search dead when it comes to YouTube growth? We’ll compare trying to ‘go viral’ with targeting the YouTube search engine using SEO.  

You’ll learn how to get more views on YouTube and more subscribers using our tried and tested YouTube marketing processes. Plus we’ll share some awesome YouTube SEO tips along the way so you can get your videos ranking sooner!

Here’s exactly what we’ll cover:

Let’s dive in.

How To Rank YouTube Videos

Let’s take a step back and look at what YouTube actually is. It’s a search engine!  

But there also isn’t one best way to grow your YouTube channel. There are different strategies for success.

Having said that, we think that targeting YouTube search is an awesome strategy and one of the most effective ways to generate organic traffic for the long term. It most definitely isn’t dead. Here’s proof…

Primal Video YouTube videos showing up 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in YouTube search results
Our videos are the top 4 in YouTube search results for this search term

Let’s jump over to YouTube in an incognito window. If we search for ‘video editing on mac’, you’ll see a couple of ads and then our YouTube videos rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th in the YouTube search results!

Let’s try another one. When searching for ‘how to film on iPhone’ our video that’s two years old shows up in the TOP spot.

Primal Video YouTube video showing up 1st in search results
Here’s another example where our YouTube video is ranking number one

It’s not just YouTube where this search engine optimization works. It filters through into Google search results as well.

If we jump over to Google and search for ‘film on Android’, our videos show up in the top two spots! That’s before any ads or other content. Then if we scroll down a bit you’ll see the blog post on our website is showing up right at the top as well.

Primal Video YouTube videos ranking 1st and 2nd in Google search results
This SEO strategy filters through to Google search results as well!

Now this isn’t just working for us. Let’s try another search term, ‘how to create a Facebook group’. Our good friend Jerry Potter is taking out multiple of the top spots with the strategic content he’s created.

Then there’s our friend Russell who’s niche is manufactured homes in Florida. If you search for ‘manufactured homes Florida’, Russell absolutely dominates for that search term in YouTube search results. His channel appears and then strategic YouTube video after strategic YouTube video that he’s released.

Russell Watson's YouTube videos taking out the first three spots in search results
It’s not just us that this YouTube SEO strategy works for

Who This YouTube Strategy Is For

We need to say this upfront. If your goal is to build an audience rather than build a business, then targeting YouTube search might not be for your YouTube channel.

Vlogs, entertainment-style content and anything that capitalizes on short-term trends won’t suit this strategy, because people don’t usually search for that type of thing.

A young woman doing a dance in front of a camera
If you want to keep up with the latest viral dance crazes, this strategy probably isn’t for you!

This SEO strategy will only be really effective for content where you’re solving a direct pain or problem for people.

The main idea behind the search engine optimization strategy is to figure out what people are actively searching for, and then for your video to be the one that shows up to help them.

For our channel specifically, we don’t have that really outgoing YouTuber personality and we don’t want to be ‘full-time YouTube content creators’. For us, learning into search is a much smarter way to grow on YouTube because we want to build a business, not become influencers.

We don’t care about vanity metrics, we just want reliable and consistent growth over time.

A man typing on a keyboard
This strategy requires figuring out what people are searching for in YouTube and Google

Why People Think It Doesn’t Work

As we touched on before, people who think this strategy doesn’t work, likely just aren’t doing it right. They might not be optimizing correctly or baking the information in at every level.

A lot of people are also relying on tools like TubeBuddy or VidIQ, which are useful data points but they do miss a lot of nuance when it comes to creating content.

Content creation tools in TubeBuddy and VidIQ
We love TubeBuddy and VidIQ but their video creation tools can miss some key nuances

They really don’t help your content stand out from everyone else who’s fed the same information & recommendations from those tools.

Then it becomes a race to the bottom because everyone’s optimizing for the same stuff.

But we’re not just doing keyword research to find which target keywords and keyphrases to insert into the video title, video description and tags.

We’re going through this keyword research process to find out the extra nuances that a lot of people miss. We’re getting insights into exactly what the viewer wants from this video content so we can create the best video possible for the viewer.

A Primal Video YouTube video on a laptop screen
Your goal is to show up and help people with their pain or problem

We’re gathering extra information about the YouTube audience and their pain or problem based on what they’re searching for so we can articulate that problem in their words.

Then when we get in front of the camera to start recording the video, we’re not just creating a video. We’re creating a video with all that extra insight so we can make content that speaks directly to the viewers and creates an amazing experience for them.

This leads to the YouTube users enjoying your content, so they stick around longer which increases your watch time.

All of this helps us align with YouTube’s goal of getting the right video, in front of the right person, at the right time.

It’s all about coming from the place of providing something of value to the viewer. And keyword research gives you those insights if you look for them.

A man scrolling through the Primal Video YouTube channel on his desktop computer
Research allows you to provide as much value for your viewers as possible

Forget The Vanity Metrics

If you’re targeting YouTube search, you pretty much need to forget about the vanity metrics! At least starting out, anyway.

It can take a while for the views to filter in, so you likely won’t see big numbers up front.

Let’s take a look at the Primal Video YouTube channel page as an example.

If we look at our most recent videos, the views look something like this:

  • 2.5k views after one day
  • 9.8k views after one week
  • 15k views after two weeks
  • 8.9k views after three weeks
The most recent videos on the Primal Video YouTube channel
If you’re targeting search, you likely won’t hit big numbers straight away

As you can see, we’re not hitting massive numbers right off the bat.

But that’s okay, because we’re playing the long game. We’re creating this content strategically and we know it will perform for years afterwards.

Now let’s look at the most popular videos on our channel:

  • 9.1 million views after three years
  • 3.7 million views after four years
  • 3 million views after three years
  • 2.8 million views after two years
Wondering how to rank YouTube videos? It can take time!
The biggest videos on our channel have taken 2-3 years to reach those numbers

So we’re seeing a lot of videos around that 2-3 million views mark but it does take some time for that to happen.

Like we said, this strategy is about playing the long game. It’s not where you post videos for the sake of posting YouTube videos, or jumping from trend to trend or trying for YouTube video content that goes viral and then suddenly disappears into the YouTube abyss. This YouTube SEO strategy is far more reliable and replicable.

We’re looking at long term traffic vs hit and disappear.

If you want to approach YouTube as a business owner, rather than rolling the dice every week, this strategy is for you. It’s a far more effective investment of your time and effort.

A team of colleagues looking at a computer in an office
This is the right strategy for you if you want to approach YouTube as a business owner

YouTube SEO Tip

An added bonus of this strategy is that if you check your YouTube analytics and a video isn’t performing as well as you thought it would, you can go in and re-optimize it.

You can adjust the video titles, video descriptions, update the relevant keywords, try a new video thumbnail to give YouTube videos another shot. And there’s no limit to how many times you can do this – you can keep going until you hit the right combination.

Why Finding The Right Keyword Is So Important

You might be wondering why it’s so important to find the right keyword or language that the viewers are using.

Well, we’ve got a great example from one of our Primal Video Accelerator members, Doug.

Let’s jump over to YouTube with our keyword research tool, Keywords Everywhere, enabled. Doug wanted to create a video about his coffee machine which is the Breville Express.

Keyword Everywhere enabled on YouTube search displaying the search volume for 'breville express'
The search term ‘breville express’ has a search volume of 2,900 per month

So if we type ‘Breville Express’ into the YouTube search bar, the data from Keywords Everywhere tells us that this search term gets 2,900 searches per month.

This is good but if we continue doing some keyword research around this topic we can find that the search term ‘Breville Barista Express’ (which is the same machine) actually has 110,000 searches per month.

So by doing some research on the topic and by adding in one extra keyword, Doug can show up strategically in front of SO many more people.

Keyword Everywhere enabled on YouTube search displaying the search volume for 'breville barista express'
The search term ‘breville barista express’ has a search volume of 110,000 per month

PRO TIP: Looking at the other YouTube suggestions that pop up is a great way to find more future topic ideas for your YouTube videos.

How AI Tools Are Changing Content Creation

Things are definitely changing when it comes to content creation and AI tools are a big part of that.

These AI tools are a great way for new YouTubers to grow a successful YouTube channel faster and to help you do certain tasks in a fraction of the time.

They can help you do things like:

  • Generate video content outlines
  • Create first drafts
  • Assist with research
  • Create thumbnails
A graphic with the words 'AI Tools'
AI Tools are definitely changing the way content is created

You can think of these tools as your own Support team to help you get things done quicker and easier.

But we wouldn’t recommend using AI tools to create completely AI generated content. Ultimately, the real world value and the nuance should come from you – the human.

Platforms are going to become overwhelmed with a lot of generic content because that’s what the AI tools are creating.

But the problem with AI generated content is that it is so generic and it really misses a lot of the key nuances that a lot of people want.

Think about the YouTube channels you follow right now – why do you follow them?

Usually it’s because of their unique perspective or opinion that you trust.

A range of questions asked inside Open AI's tool ChatGPT
ChatGPT is helpful for questions with definitive answers or indisputable facts

You don’t get any of that with AI content. Usually it’s generic advice or step-by-step content without the human perspective.

This can be great for things like indisputable facts e.g. what’s the capital of Japan?

But an AI can’t test or compare different products, share specific recommendations, or give advice based on lived experience and years working in a specific field.

So it’s always going to be missing that human piece because it doesn’t have real world experiences.

A YouTube video in which Justin Brown is comparing two different smartphone gimbals
AI can’t test, compare and recommend different options based on its own experience

We’ll likely find that traffic for those generic search terms will move to entirely AI generated content.

But that’s why getting strategic about the content you’re creating to make sure it adds REAL value is so important. It always has been, but now more so than ever.

So no, YouTube search is NOT dead – it’s far from it! Now you know how to rank YouTube videos using our tried and tested YouTube SEO strategy.

You can use this YouTube SEO Tips to grow and promote your YouTube channel so you can show up in search results more reliably and replicably too!

To help with your YouTube keyword research, check out your free YouTube Ranking Guide. It takes you through our entire keyword research process and the top tools we recommend.

How do you rank on YouTube algorithm?

To reliably rank on YouTube, we highly recommend using a YouTube SEO strategy. We’ve used this strategy to consistently rank our videos in top spots on YouTube!

How long does it take for YouTube videos to rank?

If you’re targeting YouTube Search as opposed to ‘going viral’, it can take longer for your videos to rank. This can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.

What is SEO for YouTube?

SEO for YouTube is a growth strategy that involves optimizing your video title, description, tags and content in order to rank higher in YouTube search results.


Recommended Gear & Resources

Check out an up-to-date list of all the gear, software & tools we use and recommend right now at Primal Video on our resources page here!

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