YouTube uses the metadata that you share with your video to understand the content and its context. One of them is YouTube tags. In this article, you’ll learn how to tag YouTube videos to improve their performance. Let’s start with the basics.
Note: This article is not about YouTube hashtags, which are also YouTube metadata.
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What Are YouTube Tags?
They are the descriptive phrases that a creator uses while uploading their videos from the YouTube Studio to describe its content and help people find them.
You can add multiple tags for every YouTube video, separated by commas — the upper limit on tags for YouTube is 500 characters. Here’s an example from one of my videos which ranks for multiple keyword tags:
So what are the best YouTube tags to use in your videos?
Or the better question to ask first is:
Can YouTube Video Tags Help You Get More Visibility?
As per YouTube: “Tags can be useful if the content of your video is commonly misspelled. Otherwise, tags play a minimal role in your video’s discovery.”
A 2017 Backlinko study of 1.3M YouTube videos also confirmed that keyword-rich video tags have a weak correlation with rankings.
In most cases, your thumbnails and titles of videos play a more important role than keyword tags.
It’s also worth noting that the weight of keyword tags falls over time as per a Briggsby study of 100k videos across 75k YouTube channels. So focusing on YouTube tags when launching your video is important, but as it ages they don’t make a lot of difference.
The reason for the fall in the value of tags over time may be attributed to the lack of data points early on in its YouTube lifespan. Once users start watching it, YouTube gets data to make connections on the subject matter of the video.
Justin Briggs from Briggsby explains:
“My theory on why this happens is that YouTube is more reliant on creator contributed video data early on, when it has fewer usage data points to determine what a video is about. As a result, creator-defined data is given more weight, and YouTube must rely on it during the first few months of a video’s lifespan.
However, once it has sufficient view data, cowatch data, watch time, CTR, and keyword specific watch time data (how many minutes watched by users who clicked on it from SERPs for a particular keyword), YouTube can be much more confident about the video’s subject and where it’ll perform best.”
With the caveats of tags carrying minimal value out of the way, let’s explore how to use YouTube tags to help your videos perform better — even if only a little.
How To Add Tags On YouTube: 3 Simple Steps
Here are the three simple steps to go about YouTube tagging your new videos to increase their chances of ranking in search. The right kind of tags, unsurprisingly, begin with finding the right subjects for your videos — so I’m labeling it as step zero.
If you already know how to perform keyword research to find subjects that you should target for producing your channel’s videos, then jump to step one directly.
Step #0: Create Videos On The Right Subjects
Before you begin adding tags, it’s important that you target the right topics in the videos on your channel. Generally, these are the kind of phrases a lot of your target audience is searching for yet they have relatively low competition.
TubeBuddy has a robust Keyword Explorer for this which allocates an “Overall Score” to the phrases you search. If a keyword tag gets a low score, you’re better off considering keywords from the “Related” section which have a better score.
For example, “how to tie a tie” has a poor score.
Sidenote: This is a “weighted” score specific to your channel. It considers the relevance of the phrase to your channel and how you compare with others that rank in search.
You can browse related searches to find out phrases with a better score. If even these efforts fail, consider exploring other subjects.
In the above case, I was able to find a keyword — “how to tie a windsor knot step by step” — with an excellent score. But I had to rely on an “unweighted” score as this subject wasn’t related to my channel, so TubeBuddy would only allocate a “poor” score for any of its variants.
Once you’ve found the right phrases and produced videos on them, move on to the first step below.
Step #1: Upload Your Video And Add Your Target Keyword As The First Tag…
Once your video is ready, start uploading it from the YouTube Studio. In the upload flow, click on “More Options.”
You’ll now find the “Tags” field where you can start adding tags related to your video. This field is also available for your already uploaded videos through the YouTube Studio. The keyword you target for your video could act as the first tag for your video. This is not compulsory, but the first few tags could be given a special preference.
For instance, in my video below, I used the keyword I want to rank my video for as the second tag. But it still ranks because YouTube gets sufficient context about the video through its title and description.
Step #2: Add A Few Tags From Each Of These Three Categories…
YouTube in one of their videos about writing tags on the YouTube Creators channel advises “to use the keywords or phrases that make the most sense for your video.” For this video itself, note the variety in usage of tags — there are single words, the channel’s name, and longer phrases.
For simplicity, I want to distill the usage of tags into three categories. I would recommend adding a few tags for your video from each of these as a starting point.
The recommendation is in line with the Briggsby research which found that the usage of 31 to 40 unique keyword tags — which are 2 to 4-word phrases — is optimal for getting views.
Here are the three categories you can start adding YouTube tags from:
1. Relevant subject-matter tags: There are related phrases for the topic represented in your videos. Generally they will be a cluster of words. For example, “how to choose tags” is a long phrase that aptly summarizes what the above video by YouTube Creators is about.
2. Broad tags: Consider these as the overarching themes that describe your video or its high-level topic. In the case of the YouTube Creators video above, these were words such as “tips”, “tags”, “discovery”, and “optimize.”
3. Branded tags: All of your videos can also carry the name of your brand and channel, or misspelled variations if any. It helps YouTube identify and suggest more videos from your channel in its recommendations, thereby increasing your watch time.
For that YouTube Creators video, these were tags such as “creator academy”, “ytca”, and “creator hub.”
Now, YouTube is an influencer-driven platform where people like watching and searching for videos by a specific personality.
So I also like to add the names of my team members — the video editor, actor(s), and other people involved in filming — and myself as YouTube tags. If you and your team have a personal brand or aim to work towards it, then this is a good practice.
How to find such tags?
If you’ve installed TubeBuddy on your browser, you can run its Keyword Explorer by double-clicking on any tag you’ve entered.
Once you plug a tag or any phrase describing your video, head over to the section listing “common video tags.” It’s handy to discover tags which establish the subject matter of your video from the first two categories (we discussed above).
Step #3 (Optional): Rake Views From YouTube Recommendations
I recommend this as an optional step because:
- You shouldn’t go overboard in using tags,
- It makes sense to use only if there are “popular” videos with at least hundreds of thousands of views you can get recommended from.
70% of views on YouTube are powered by its artificial intelligence algorithm. Meaning most videos earn views when YouTube “suggests” them while they are watching other videos.
So how could you get more views from YouTube recommendations?
By stealing the “relevant” tags of popular videos in your niche. It could lead to YouTube listing your video beside them and you getting some love from the users.
Briggsby research confirms that providing more information through keyword tags could result in more average views through recommended videos.
To go about this, head over to a competitor’s popular video. For example, suppose you’re a travel vlogger and want to get tags for a video about your trip to New Zealand. I found this video with over 2.1M views on backpacking around New Zealand.
TubeBuddy Videolytics in the right sidebar displays the tags this video is using.
It’s easy to copy tags from here. TubeBuddy lets you copy these to your own created “tag lists” as well.
Caution: Keeping It “On Topic” Is Better Than Adding Popular YouTube Tags For Views…
If YouTube returns a message along the lines “your tags are too long”, then you’re overdoing tags.
See, the video platform allows you to use up to 500 characters in tags. But 200-300 characters using moderate-length tags could work best for getting higher rankings.
I know the above finding goes against the previous one wherein using the complete character count made sense. But it’s paramount to stay tightly “focused” on the topic of your video when using tags — even if that means using fewer characters.
Don’t try to mislead the YouTube algorithm, and the viewers, to believe your content is about “tech” when it’s about “travel.”
Adding names of celebrities and competitors as tags probably won’t rake in more views. The spam policy of YouTube states they are against such deceptive practices.
Similarly, don’t add tags to your YouTube description. YouTube on the same policies page above, states: “Placing excessive tags in the video description (‘tag stuffing’) rather than placing them as tags upon upload” is not allowed.
If you violate any of the above policies, then YouTube might send you a warning, issue community strikes, and even permanently remove your channel.
Isn’t it better to stay on the right side of YouTube so that you don’t lose’em hard-earned subscribers?
Next let’s look at a few YouTube tag generators to generate a few ideas for your tag keywords. Remember even if they promise “quick growth”, they aren’t a magic pill to catapult your growth — so use their suggestions conservatively.
5 Top YouTube Tag Generators
For your YouTube tag search, don’t rely on your whims. Here are a few tools you can use for finding relevant tags for your YouTube videos.
The freemium Chrome extension comes with a slew of tag tools that appear in your YouTube Studio once you’ve installed it on your browser.
I swear by it to explore related tags to the main keyword I’ve targeted in my videos.
While browsing my competitors on YouTube, I can also view, copy, and store their videos’ tags.
Its premium version also translates tags into other languages. For instance, a majority of my audience for one of my YouTube channels speaks Hindi. The TubeBuddy’s Tag Translator proves useful here in making the video accessible to a broader audience — that doesn’t speak English.
Read my complete TubeBuddy review where I also dive into its other powerful features.
Another robust Chrome extension, I like to use vidIQ by enabling its inline keywords functionality. It then starts showing the tags used by the videos currently ranking for the phrase you plugged in YouTube search.
A juicy way to extract tags quickly, aye?
Its “Trend alerts” also lets you find the trending subjects on YouTube and videos of competitors raking views right now. This could pave the way to find trending YouTube tags — on which you can create videos and ride the rising tide of interest on the topic(s).
Read my complete vidIQ review to learn more about its nifty features.
3. Keyword Tool
Touting itself as a Google Keyword Planner alternative, it scrapes keywords from YouTube Autocomplete for the seed keyword you plug. Here’s a glimpse from the 112 unique keywords it found for the phrase “how to become a writer.”
You need a premium subscription for accessing the search volume data, but the numerous ideas here are a great starting point. You can use the phrases relevant to the video you’re about to publish as tags. Otherwise you can always add the ones that interest you to your content calendar.
This is a free tool to find related keywords to a main keyword. Once you plug a phrase, simply press the “Get Keywords” button.
It generates a huge YouTube video tag list. You can select the ones you find relevant to your video by checking the box on the left beside them. To finalize your tags, you can copy tags from the “Selected #Tags” column to the last “Finalize #Tags” one.
5. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
Ahrefs is a robust SEO suite used primarily by content creators to grow their website’s search traffic. It also has a nifty YouTube keyword research tool that finds the monthly search volume for any phrases you plug.
You need to set the search engine as “YouTube” and enter all the phrases you want to find data for — separated by commas. I plugged four phrases below and clicked on the search button.
The tool returned data such as the monthly search volume, clicks, and Return Rate (RR) for these keywords:
You can also explore related keywords by clicking on the “All keyword ideas” tab from the top left.
Before we conclude the article, let’s use the next section to revisit the key information about YouTube tags.
Frequently Asked Questions About YouTube Tags
Here are the answers to the common doubts about how YouTube tags work, how to view a specific video’s tags, and more.What are tags on YouTube?
Tags are descriptive phrases about your video that provide information and context to YouTube about its content and help people find them. They are added by a creator from the YouTube Studio while uploading their videos.Do tags matter on YouTube?
YouTube claims tags are only useful when people misspell while trying to search for your video on YouTube. Even in another independent industry study, they were found to have a weak correlation with rankings.How do you see YouTube tags?
You can use YouTube tools such as TubeBuddy to find the tags used by a video. A Videolyrics panel appears in the right sidebar of the specific video you’re watching with its tags and the ones that rank.
If you don’t want to use Chrome extensions, then right click on a YouTube page and head over to “View Page Source.” In the source code, use Ctrl + F to open the find bar and plug “Keywords” to arrive at the tags used by the video.
How many tags are allowed on YouTube?
You can use up to 500 characters as tags and separate individual ones by commas. Adding 10 to 15 tags is also fine as long as they are relevant to your video, accurately describing its content, and not misleading the viewers.What is the difference between a tag and a hashtag?
A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded with a hashmark (symbolized as ‘#’) that’s often used to classify content. On YouTube, hashtags denote the video’s broad category, are used in titles or descriptions, and aid discoverability. YouTube Tags, on the other hand, are words or phrases used to give some context about your video. They also play a small role in YouTube rankings.
The best YouTube tags for your video are relevant to its subject matter, describe your brand, and are tightly focused on the broad topics. While you might have been programmed for over a decade to care a LOT about them, now they don’t matter as much as your thumbnails and titles.
But now that you’ve all the necessary tools and information about YouTube tags, start experimenting with them.
How much attention are you used to paying to the keyword tags for your YouTube videos? Share your experience in the comments below.