How To

How To Do YouTube Tags

Good metadata is the foundation of a successful YouTube channel.

Along with your optimized YouTube video Titles and Descriptions, Tags make up the foundations of your videos? SEO and play a huge role in a winning YouTube strategy.

With optimal Tags in place not only will your individual videos rank higher in Search and be surfaced more in Suggested Videos but you’ll create a relationship between your videos that lead to longer session times where people watch a number of your videos.

There are many myths surrounding Tags but if you watch my video and follow my 10 step guide below you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you’re creating Tags in a way that is optimized for YouTube’s algorithm.

10 Steps To Create Optimal Tags For YouTube Videos

#1 – Set Your Upload Default Tags
In YouTube’s Creator Hub it suggests that you should¬† include a mix of video-specific and more general (but still relevant) tags,? these default tags take care of the latter part (for the first part see point 2).

Default tags are present on the Basic Info tab of a video?s General Settings page and are auto populated for all new uploads, meaning that you don’t have to keep adding tags that you use regularly.

There’s a reason for using default Tags beyond convenience and that is that consistent Tags that are present in all videos on your channel create a relationship between your videos.

This relationship is invaluable to Creators as it means that more of your videos will be served in the Suggested Videos sidebar, which is a huge source of views.

For your default tags you want to include:

Channel Keywords: keywords that relate to your brand such as channel name, tagline, talent names etc. and
Subject Keywords: What topics do you cover? What categories? What keywords do you want your channel to rank for?
I’d suggest aiming for about 4-8 default Tags (see point 3 for more on the ideal number of Tags).

As an example here are my channel default tags:

upload default tags
And to learn how to set your Upload Defaults check out the video below:

#2 – Use Video Specific Tags
Now that you have channel default Tags in place you’ll see them on every new upload. You can place your video specific tags after them safe in the knowledge that Tag placement doesn’t affect ranking.

You want to use Tags that succinctly sum up the topic of your video and are not covered in your channel defaults.

These can be things like topics covered, names mentioned, themes looked at and formats used.

Here’s a short video of my own with the tags listed underneath as an example:

#3 – Use As Many Tags As Necessary

There is no magic number for the amount of Tags you should use. Use as many as is necessary, don’t try to keep them low or add extra ones to fill the box.

Use the amount of Tags needed to convey your major Keywords without becoming spammy. If this is 8 Tags, fine. If you fill-up the box, so be it.

You want to add enough hot water so that it isn’t too strong but not so much water that it becomes diluted or weak.

Like many things on YouTube it’s an art and a science.

Ask yourself this question for each tag you add:

If the person finds this video by searching for this keyword will they be disappointed by the video??

If the answer is Yes, then you shouldn’t be including the keyword as disappointed viewers will hurt your watch time when they click away.

#4 – DON’T Use Misleading Tags

I’ve seen numerous people advocating the use of popular channel names and other misleading keywords to create a false association between channels and rank for popular but unrelated keywords.

Do NOT do this.

In the short term you may see a boost in views but your watch time (arguably the biggest ranking factor for YouTube’s algorithm) will suffer when people click expecting one thing but receive something very different.

Stay honest and keep a long-term view of your channel’s success as you’ll get deeper engagement for delivering what you promise via accurate metadata.

It may be a slower route to the top of search rankings but it’s legitimate and more importantly, sustainable.

#5 – Keyword Research
This is such an important technique and is vital when tagging your videos.

It’s probably also the most underused weapon in the arsenal of a YouTube channel manager.

I expect keyword research is overlooked because it’s not easy and YouTube have made it harder by shutting down their own keyword tool back in 2014.

Bad news for all YouTube channel managers.

Luckily there are now alternative tools such as Vid IQ that allow you to still get this keyword data.

Keyword research techniques are beyond the scope of this article but I’ll be creating a dedicated resource on YouTube keyword research soon so if this is of interest to you click here to be notified when it comes out.

#6 – Don’t Split Key Phrases Into Separate Tags
If you have a keyword or key phrase that you want to rank for that contains multiple words don?t split them up.

For example if you are trying to rank for “Best BBQ Sauce Recipe” I would include that as a single tag.

What I would suggest however for very important terms within key phrases is to spin them out into their own tag.

For example in my Sauce Recipe video I would definitely want to rank for the term “BBQ Sauce” and as “Recipe” is also a general category I would probably include that too if it wasn’t already in my defaults:

bbq example tags
Use these “duplicate” Tags sparingly though as you don’t want to dilute your Tags.

#7 – Forget Misspellings & Synonyms
Don?t waste valuable tags by including misspellings of keywords in an attempt to mop up rogue search traffic.

Google powers YouTube’s algorithm and they use the same search conventions as their flagship search engine so your videos will also be found by misspellings and synonyms.

If you have the choice of two similar words but don’t want to tag them both, use a Google Trends search to see which word gets more search traffic and use that as a tag. See how to do this in the video below:

#8 – Use Auto-Suggested Tags
Once you’ve entered a title and started to enter your own video-specific Tags YouTube will start to provide commonly used suggestions that you can add to your Tags with a single click.


They are recommended because other people are using them for similar videos and they’re formatted in a consistent way so that people are using the same exact tag for the same keyword or key phrase across the platform.

**Update 2016** YouTube have retired this feature since the first publication of this guide, the reasons for which I will never understand but luckily there are alternatives.

Again VidIQ comes to the rescue? with their own auto suggested tags. The free account will give you limited suggestions with the paid account unlocking many more.

Let’s look at this logically:

People are already using these tags
They will be formatted in exactly the same way as other Creator’s tags
This will mean it’s much more likely that our video will be associated with other Creator’s videos and be served as a Suggested Video as they play.

It’s this relationship that we as channel managers strive for and YouTube are giving us a big helping hand here. Don’t overlook it.

One word of warning though – these are suggested by a machine so keep all of the previous points in mind and only use suggested Tags that are hyper relevant to your video.?

#9 – Look At Your Competitors Tags
This tip is so useful and gets such good results that I’ve dedicated a whole article to it.

Check out the guide, install this free tool and get an insight into how your competitors are tagging their videos and use this as inspiration and leverage for your own tagging.

It’s very important to keep point 4 in mind when using this technique.

#10 – Refresh Tags For New Trends
The great thing about YouTube is how you can adjust things even after they go live and refreshing your Tags is a perfect example of this.

If you’re keeping your eyes open for YouTube trends you may notice that a trending topic is relevant to one of your older videos. Add tags to the existing video that relate to the trending topic and hopefully it will be swept up in the search traffic and Suggested videos.

Leave a Reply