How (and Why) to Use Tags on YouTube

What are YouTube tags?

Tags are nothing but keywords that help describe a video and provide context to YouTube. Tags are used by YouTube’s algorithm to categorize your videos and make them discoverable, allowing viewers to find your content more easily.

Best Practices for Tags

Use the ‘focus keyword’ as your first tag. The ‘focus keyword’ is the core of the video, something that you would want to show up for in YouTube search results.

As a general rule of thumb for tagging YouTube videos, I use the keywords in the title word-for-word (exact match) as the first tag.

using focus keyword as the first tag
Use the focus keyword as the first tag

This is followed by three to four allied keywords that possibly have a higher search volume than my exact match keyword. It is always recommended to include some long-tail keywords as tags. According to a study conducted by Briggsby, the best tag length for YouTube is 2-3 words.

an example of allied keyword tags
Allied keyword tags

Make sure to include some broad-match tags that provide connections to an overarching category or a high-level topic.

an example of broad keyword tags
Broad keyword tags

Using YouTube auto-suggestions as tags is also a great strategy as these keywords are deemed by YouTube as popular, trending or having a high search volume.

How Many Tags Should You Use?

Although you need not have a fixed number associated with YouTube tags, including a mix of broad and specific tags is essential. Stuffing videos with too many tags is not a great strategy as you may end up confusing YouTube’s search algorithm. Upon analysis of Colorado State University’s YouTube channel, I could not find an absolute correlation between the tags and view count. However, I did observe that our best performing videos had a tag count between 8 and 12.

Should You Use Hashtags on YouTube?

Absolutely! Hashtags are an important element for any social channel including YouTube. Hashtags add to your video’s searchability and also help viewers track down trending content. More importantly on YouTube, hashtags help create an organic playlist for your content. Some of the hashtags being used by #CSUSocial on YouTube are:



You can include the desired hashtags within the description of your video instead of placing them with regular tags.

Bonus tip: Search for your competitors’ tags

You can view your competitor’s video tags by following this simple technique:

  1. Go to the ranking video’s watch page in your web browser.
  2. Right-click the page, and select View Page Source from the drop-down.
  3. Use the browser’s find feature (shortcut: Ctrl + F) and search for the word ‘keywords’ in the source code.
  4. Your search should take you to the actual tags used for that video. It should look like this:

search for 'keyword' on page sourcecde

Although tags’ significance as a metadata element has gradually decreased over the years, YouTube still uses them to categorize your video.

Make sure you are using some (or all) of the tagging tips above to be more discoverable on YouTube.