You want to optimize your YouTube channel. You’ve done the research and stumbled upon YouTube tags. In theory, they sound like a great place to start if you want to optimize your videos. But did you know that YouTube tags aren’t especially important for discoverability? They can still be useful, though. Read on to learn more!
The truth about YouTube tags
Suggesting relevant keywords directly to YouTube and Google sounds like a good idea. However, the truth is that the YouTube and Google algorithms have evolved to be able to read and parse the words used in the audio of your video. They can therefore determine context and relevancy in a much more sophisticated way than through relying on tags.
Just as Google stopped taking notice of the meta keyword tag since before at least 2009, their admission that tags are not very important for discoverability on YouTube suggests that YouTube tags are largely an irrelevance in terms of YouTube optimization. Studies also suggest a low correlation between rankings and tag inclusions.
So, you generally shouldn’t worry about your approach to YouTube tags. If you’re not including any in your videos, it’s probably not doing you any harm. However, it’s still worth including a few relevant tags when you upload your content. In doing so, you help Google and YouTube understand what terms and topics your video is relevant for.
Where tags matter
Now you know that tags don’t help your videos to rank higher. But don’t dismiss them just yet! Google states that tags can be useful if the content of your video is commonly misspelled. Tags also help when automated captioning struggles to understand what’s being said in a video.
Google knows the English language best, so it might not be as accurate with automated captions for different languages. This is where tags can give you an edge. The same applies for videos that cover topics with a lot of technical terms and esoteric jargon.
Tags vs. hashtags
Let’s look at hashtags in video descriptions for a moment. They are more useful than tags, because they do form a minor part of YouTube’s discovery mechanisms. How do they work? Users can click on a hashtag above a video title or within a video’s description and see a list of all the videos which also include this hashtag in their description.
To include a hashtag above the video title, just ensure they are included within the video description. The first three hashtags will feature above the video title on the YouTube watch page.
How many tags is too many tags?
Don’t worry, there’s no right or wrong number of tags to use. As mentioned before, they have minimal to no impact on rankings, so you can be fairly liberal when you upload a video. As a rule of thumb, between five and twenty feels about right. Some studies suggest that videos with more than thirty tags correlate with higher numbers of views. However, I don’t think there is a causal relationship between the two.
Rather than worrying about the number of tags, instead, focus on ensuring all of the appropriate and relevant tags are included. This way, your video has the best chance possible to rank for relevant queries. There are some good tools to use to determine which tags are most appropriate, which I’ll cover at the end of this post.
Only three hashtags are featured above the YouTube title. A good rule of thumb is to use three to five hashtags in the description of your video. Keep in mind that Google suggested they look unfavorably on videos that have an excess of hashtags in the description. So, don’t go overboard. A wall of ten hashtags becomes hard to read and browse through.
Tools to find the right tags
There are a number of free and paid tools available that help you work out which tags to use across your videos.
In my opinion, the most useful tool is TubeBuddy. It works as a plugin to your YouTube account and integrates with the YouTube Creator Studio workflow, so you can see the recommended tags in the interface when you want to include them.
TubeRanker has two useful tools. First: the “Tag Extractor” tool, which allows you to see which tags were used on any public video. And second: the “Hashtag Generator” tool, which suggests appropriate hashtags you can use for any given topic.
YouTube Analytics can be very helpful to guide you on which hashtags to use. By looking through the traffic source report for any given video or the channel as a whole, you can see the number of views coming from “hashtag pages”—more specifically, which tags have driven the largest number of views.
If a hashtag is driving a significant number of views and is relevant to new videos you are creating, make sure to include it!
In summary, it’s more important to include the right tags than worry too much about the number. As long as you don’t overdo it, and ensure every tag is relevant, you will be fine. Just make sure to optimize for hashtags as well, because they normally have a bigger impact on the number of overall views than tags. That said, both tags and hashtags are a relatively minor part of the overall YouTube infrastructure. Elements such as titles and thumbnails have a bigger impact on view counts and rankings.
Read more: How to add captions to your videos »