YouTube Suggested Video Optimization: Step-By-Step Guide

YouTube Suggested Video Optimization: Step-By-Step Guide

Getting your video to show up as a YouTube Suggested Video is one of the best ways to get more views on YouTube.

But how do you do it?

How does YouTube Suggested Video work?

How do you get the YouTube algorithm to start pushing your videos as the best option for “Up Next”?

YouTube is the second most visited site in the world with over 4 billion hours of video watched every month on the platform.

That’s a lot of competition, but with Suggested Video Optimization (SVO), you can set your videos apart and increase the likelihood of being discovered.

I have personally managed over a dozen YouTube channels across various industries. Some of these channels “popped” using YouTube SVO, while others didn’t.

In fact, one video on a travel channel recently got a huge boost from suggested video that resulted in an additional:

  • $3,461.70 in AdSense revenue,
  • Over 13,500+ new subscribers, and
  • 1.3 Million views

In just 5 days…


Here’s the proof:

That massive spike in the chart is because this video was suggested to viewers watching similar content.

So how did we do it? 

Now that you know I know what I’m talking about, let’s get into the steps. 

These are the exact steps we followed to produce these results. 

Let’s get started… 

This is a complete step-by-step guide for how to maximize YouTube Suggested Video Optimization (also known as YouTube SVO).

 If you follow these steps this correctly, your videos will have a much higher chance of being recommended by YouTube through what they call their ‘video discovery’ features.

Video discovery features allow YouTube viewers to find content they actually care about.

The YouTube algorithm currently analyzes over 80,000,000+ data points to determine which videos to display to viewers.

That’s a LOT of data! So let’s break it down to the most important factors you should be controlling and optimizing in your videos…

When selecting suggested videos, YouTube analyzes each individual viewer’s:

  • Search history
  • Viewing history
  • Channel subscriptions
  • Other channels that similar viewers are subscribed to that they have not yet subscribed to
  • Viewing choices (in other words, which thumbnails does the viewer have a history of clicking on?)
  • and much more…

The amount of data that YouTube analyzes and stores is insane.

To really “get” how suggested video works, you need to understand that YouTube doesn’t just consider what’s relevant content-wise in the videos themselves.

It’s also analyzing what’s relevant to each individual viewer.

With over 1.3 billion registered users (and many more without official YouTube accounts), needless to say YouTube is crushing it in the data department.

So let’s make sure you understand how to analyze and optimize your videos and data to get the most bang for your buck on YouTube.

YouTube’s primary job is to figure out what the viewer wants to watch next so it can keep that viewer on the platform longer.

Your job is to make sure you optimize every video you create so that it has the largest possible reach and gets as many impressions as possible.

Follow the steps in this YouTube SVO guide to take advantage of this particular YouTube discovery feature so you can get:

  • More Views
  • More Subscribers
  • More Leads
  • More Sales

It’s not an easy process, but I’ve done everything I can to simplify the steps to follow for YouTube Suggested Video Optimization in this article.

Why YouTube Suggested Video Optimization Matters

YouTube’s primary goal is to increase Watch Time, not just on your videos, but on YouTube as a whole.

They do this via what they call video discovery features, which include:

  • Search
  • Suggested Video
  • Browse Features
  • Other YouTube Features (Partner Promotions, Dashboard, etc)
  • Other (External, Notifications, End Screens, Video Cards and Annotations, Playlists and Playlist Pages, Channel Pages)
  • YouTube Advertising

These are all the different possible Traffic Sources that can bring viewers to your videos.

To locate where your traffic is currently coming from, inside your YouTube Studio, navigate to ‘Analytics’ and select the ‘Reach Viewers’ tab.

YouTube provides direct, actionable data for you here so you can see what’s already working for you (and what’s not).

It’s easy to get lost in the analytics of your channel, so let’s focus on what matters.

Step 1 – Optimize Watch Time

Watch time is the most important factor to optimize if you want YouTube’s algorithm to push your content.

Watch time helps creators understand the quality of their videos and how well different videos keep viewers engaged.

YouTube Help

In fact, YouTube has confirmed that Session Watch Time — which is the total amount of time a viewer spends on YouTube as a whole — is the most important factor the algorithm looks at when selecting videos to suggest.

“When we suggest videos, we focus on those that increase the amount of time that the viewer will spend watching videos on YouTube, not only on the next view, but also successive views thereafter.

If viewers are watching more YouTube, it signals to us that they’re happier with the content they’ve found. It means that creators are attracting more engaged audiences. It also opens up more opportunities to generate revenue for our partners.”

YouTube Creator Blog

How To Increase Watch Time

Optimize Video Length

Video length is a huge factor in increasing overall watch time. Everyone wants to know “How long should my YouTube videos be?”

Since YouTube prioritizes watch time over every other data point, it makes sense that longer videos tend to perform much better on YouTube as a whole.

After extensive testing across multiple channels, we discovered that videos that are 5 minutes or less tend to perform horribly in the YouTube algorithm.

Videos that exceed 10+ minutes almost always perform better.

Think about it…

If watch time is a priority, and Video 1 is only 4 minutes long while Video 2 is around 15 minutes long — and the average View Duration for BOTH videos is the same (let’s say 50% to keep this simple) — then:

Video 1 will produce 2 minutes of watch time (50% of 4 mins), and

Video 2 will produce 7:30 minutes of watch time (50% of 15 mins).

Which video is YouTube going to recommend first?

Yeah, you guessed it. Video 2 which has over 3x as much total watch time.

However, there’s no “one size fits all” answer for optimal video length.

It’s important to analyze your own channel metrics to identify the ideal video length for your specific audience and content style.

I always recommend beginning with videos in the 10-15 minute range, and testing out longer videos later to see if they resonate with your audience.

Understanding your YouTube Analytics data is crucial for determining the ideal length of your videos.

Inside your YouTube Studio, navigate to your channel’s Analytics section and select the “Interest Viewers” tab.

Scroll down and you’ll see the videos on your channel that are driving the most watch time.

Analyze the individual lengths of these videos as well as your average view duration to determine how long to make your future videos.

Optimize for Audience Retention

It’s too shortsighted to just say “longer videos always perform better,” because that’s not always the case.

If your video is boring as hell, no one is going to stick around for the whole thing. This is where audience retention optimization comes in.

Audience retention is how well your video keeps people watching.

It’s measured by the percentage of time a user stays on your video before dropping off or clicking away, also known as average view duration.


A healthy average view duration typically looks like this:

This shows where people start falling off on each video.

If you ever notice any massive declines in this line, you’ll know you need to watch the video at that time signature to see why people are falling off at that particular junction.

Using this strategy, we discovered that a long branded intro (10 seconds) was killing our watch time.

We used this data to shorten that branded intro to 3 seconds instead and were subsequently able to retain more viewers for much longer.

To further optimize your audience retention, aim to make your video interesting.

Also, use pattern interrupts whenever possible to help keep the viewer’s attention.

Pattern interrupts can include:

  • Jump Cuts
  • Camera Angle Changes
  • Sound Effects
  • Motion Graphics
  • Music
  • B-Roll Footage
  • Info Cards
  • and More…

People are used to a fast pace on YouTube. So keep up with the pace!

You don’t need to be Speedy Gonzales and say 100 words per minute, but you do need to be quick, captivating and concise with your delivery.

To help you with this, I highly recommend scripting outlines for your videos so they stay concise yet structured.

Also, consider using a teaser at the beginning to encourage viewers to stick around, something like:

For a special bonus tip, watch all the way to the end of the video. I’m saving the extra juicy stuff for last…

Knowing that a video is going to be covering ‘XYZ’ on any given topic can help encourage the audience to stick around and watch the whole thing.

Optimize for User Engagement

There are several user experience signals that tell YouTube your content is worthy of engaging with.

Increasing these user experience signals helps boost your chances of being recommended in suggested video because these signals imply that your video is beneficial to the viewer in some way.

At least, it was beneficial enough for the user to engage with it.

Remember – YouTube’s job is to recommend content that is beneficial to the viewer, so optimizing your videos for user engagement is critical.

If people engage more with your video, it helps YouTube know that it’s worth suggesting.

User engagement signals on YouTube include:


If people comment, they probably enjoyed the video (or at least watched it)

Likes / Dislikes

This tells the algorithms that your users are engaged and watching enough of your video to know what’s good and bad


The number of people that “favorite” your video or add it to their “Watch Later” playlist


If someone subscribes to your channel during or after watching your video that sends a HUGE signal that you have an amazing video

Social Shares

How many people share your video on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

Audience Retention

As mentioned, this is the percentage of your video people tend to watch (the more, the better)

Make sure you’re adding call-to-actions in your videos to encourage people to engage with the video in these important ways.


Best Ninja Hacks to Increase User Engagement

  • Use a “Subscribe” Channel Watermark to help increase subscribers
  • Add a verbal CTA after the first 15 seconds of your video such as, “If you like this video, hit the thumbs up button so that I know and don’t forget to subscribe!”
  • Repeat this same CTA at the end of your video
  • Add subliminal CTAs to subscribe, like and share by using motion graphics templates 1-3 times throughout your video (these are known as .mogrt files in Adobe Premiere, and you can find several templates here plus learn how to install and customize them here
  • Use photos in your background or wear clothes that say “Subscribe”
  • Ask your audience a specific question and tell them to answer you in the comments
  • Poll your audience using the Poll Cards feature
  • Use Info Cards to link to your other videos and playlists
  • Pin a comment to the top of the Comments section with a question for the audience

Bonus Tip: The better your user YouTube experience signals, the higher you’ll also rank on YouTube because increasing these metrics also helps your video SEO. You can outrank competitors with 10x more views if your video has better user experience signals.

Step 2 – Use Similar Titles & Keywords to Videos That Are Already Performing Well on the Same Topic

This is a big one for YouTube SVO.

The more similar your video is to a video that’s already performing well on YouTube, the more likely YouTube will suggest your video as one to watch next.

There are 4 main places you should mirror other videos to maximize SVO.

Video Title

Your video title should closely match the videos that are already performing well and being suggested. Titles should always include your target keyword.

The goal of a good title is to increase your clickthrough rate (CTR).

Include your target keyword once in your title, as close to the beginning as possible, and make it enticing while mirroring similar videos.

Your title needs to be something your target viewer will actually click on in order for it to be effective.

Video Description

Your video description should aim to include the same target keywords that other popular videos have in their descriptions.

Video descriptions help YouTube better understand what your video is about, so I recommend adding 200+ word descriptions to your videos.

The more in-depth your description is, the better it helps YouTube understand the contents of your video which helps it know to suggest your video.

Place your target keyword as close to the beginning of your video description as possible, and write a few more relevant keywords into your description to supplement it.

YouTube Video Tags

Video tags are less important than they used to be, but you should still use similar tags to your target SVO video.

YouTube allows you to add up to 500 characters in your tags.

I recommend using at least 5+ video tags, with your target keyword as the first tag.

Say Your Target Keyword in the Beginning of the Video

The last way to mirror similar videos is by making sure you say the title or target keyword in the beginning of your video.

This first 15 seconds of your video is the most important real estate you have available to you.

It is also known as your “hook,” and a good hook can help draw viewers in, keep them watching and boost your chances of being suggested by YouTube.

YouTube can actually understand the words you say in your videos, and though it’s not a perfect system, it does help to say your target keyword right away.

I recommend focusing in on grabbing the viewer’s attention in the first 5-10 seconds especially, since attention spans are getting shorter and shorter.


Step 3 – Optimize Your Thumbnails for Higher CTR

Custom thumbnails make your video pop and significantly increase the click-through-rate from search and suggested videos.

Think of your thumbnails as a “billboard ad” for each video.

Thumbnails on YouTube are extremely important and can make or break your video.

Great thumbnails are one of the biggest determining factors of success on YouTube because they help increase clickthrough rates, which leads to more views.

You can measure the overall performance of your thumbnails using the Impressions:CTR ratio in your Analytics dashboard.

Go to your YouTube Studio and select ‘Analytics,’ then navigate to the ‘Reach Viewers’ tab and you can see how your individual thumbnails are performing.

You’ll notice the Impressions click-through rate metric YouTube now tracks for you. This is a good indicator of how well your thumbnail performs. 

A good Impressions:CTR is around 7-10%, so gauge your thumbnails accordingly.

Make sure they’re always keyword-targeted, clear and easy to read. 

Best YouTube Thumbnail Specifications

  • Do not include more than 5-7 words of written text, one of which should be your target keyword
  • Image dimensions: 1280 x 720 pixels
  • Title your custom thumbnail image files as follows: target-keyword.png (or .jpg)
  • Use bright, contrasting colors to help your thumbnails stand out from the rest of the YouTube videos that search features will pull up
  • Do not include your logo on your thumbnail (it takes up too much real estate)

Step 4 – Promote Your Videos

Obviously once you’ve covered all of these steps, the last step is to get as many views on the video as you can, especially within the first 24 hours of publishing it.

To do this, you’ll want to drive traffic to your video in as many ways as possible.

Here are some of teh best ways to do that.

Embed Your Video On Your Blog or Website

Once your video is uploaded to YouTube, make sure you have a high quality SEO blog post or article on your website to help promote it.

This gives your video a permanent place to live where Google can also index the content.

It’s like killing two birds with one stone.

Email Your Mailing List

Announce your video to your email list as soon as it’s published.

I recommend sending people to your embedded blog post for this step (versus the video on YouTube itself) if you’re using intelligent retargeting campaigns.

NOTE: If you’re not using retargeting campaigns yet, you can send them to the video directly but then you won’t have a way to easily pixelate the audience for remarketing purposes, other than through your own Custom Audiences.

Share Your Video to Social Media

YouTube allows you to share your video directly from the YouTube platform, but you probably already know it’s much better to share videos by uploading them natively to each platform.

Facebook and Instagram are Google and YouTube’s biggest competitors, so both platforms typically hide links that send people off-site.

(Especially if your link routes to their direct competitor)

If you have the resources to take this one extra step, I recommend creating a “teaser trailer” for each video that you can upload natively to each social media platform instead.

Teasers are a shortened version of the video that highlights the best part of the video and includes a CTA to watch the full video on YouTube for more.

Post the video link in the comments section instead, because otherwise you’ll get crushed by the competing algorithms on Facebook and Instagram.

I also highly recommend creating infographics and Pinnable images for Pinterest.

This is another reason why you want to embed your YouTube videos on a blog post instead of sending traffic directly to YouTube.

Embedding your videos allows you to share your content to social media directly from your website.

Share Your Video on Forums and Quora

Forums like Reddit or Quora are a great place to share your videos.

These are the places people go to find answers to questions they have, and if your video helps answer those questions, you can get a lot of traction doing this.

Link Your Video in Your Email Signatures

Consider adding a text link, gif or jpg image to your email signatures to help push more traffic to your video over time.

Share Your Video on Facebook Messenger Using ManyChat

We’ve seen massive success with our clients who use ManyChat for Facebook messenger.

Share your videos out to your ManyChat subscribers list to boost views instantly.

YouTube SVO Summary

Overall, getting YouTube to suggest your videos is no easy task. But it’s incredibly worth it!

YouTube SVO can bring in a flood of new traffic to your videos and help you skyrocket your channel, leads, views, subscribers and sales much faster.

If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, leave a comment below and share any questions you still have.

I’ll check back in weekly to answer them!

Liz Germain is a leading expert in video and YouTube marketing. Liz has generated over 50+ million organic views and tens of thousands of leads for online businesses using YouTube. She helps people set up video automation systems that help increase passive income and 10x their impact online with YouTube.

Liz Germain

CEO and Founder, Vidfluence LLC

Want Personalized YouTube Growth Support?

Check out the Vidfluence trainings and services.

Our mission is to help your brand leverage the best video marketing automation tools and strategies to help you grow a loyal consumer fan base.

© 2019 Vidfluence LLC, All Rights Reserved.

Scared of Starting a YouTube Channel?

Scared of Starting a YouTube Channel?

Starting or growing a YouTube channel can be intimidating AF…

You’ll think about ALL the scary things that could happen or that currently stand between you and mastering your video influence…


Fears like:

  • What if no one watches?
  • Who am I to put myself out there like this?
  • What if I look stupid on camera? (or just plain “I hate the way I show up on camera, this is embarrassing and making me cringe”)
  • I don’t know how to even USE a camera
  • I’m frustrated with this whole process, I should just quit
  • Is this even going to work?
  • How long is this going to take to work?
  • I don’t think I’ll ever “get big,” so why bother trying?
  • Instagram is easier, I’ll just do that for now and figure this out later…
  • No one seems to care what I have to say
  • My videos keep getting crickets…
  • I know nothing about tech or SEO, and this feels really complicated…
  • How do I know which keywords should I target?
  • What should I even make my channel about?
  • What do I say in my videos to make them convert?
  • How can I actually monetize this?
  • Am I wasting my time? Who am I kidding? Maybe this isn’t what I want to do after all…
  • Is this really worth all this effort?

If you’ve ever had any of these thoughts, good news!

You’re not alone.

I call this phase of scary questioning the “initiation” period.

Literally ALL of our clients have had every single one of these thoughts.

We’ve seen ALL the familiar fear gremlins pop up for every single person I’ve ever worked with, and it’s our job to remind them (and you) immediately:


Every single person who does YouTube and video marketing has had all of these exact same thoughts in the beginning, myself included.

It’s how you address the thoughts, and the actions you take AFTER having the thought, that makes all the difference.

The difference between success and lack thereof when it comes to YouTube is determined by these 3 things…



& Trust

1. Be patient.

Get the information and YouTube SEO education you need before you ever hit record.

If you don’t know what your target viewer is even searching for, you NEED to learn that asap before you film another video.

Trust me on this one, it’s huge.

2. Be persistent.

Keep going even when it feels tough.

Use your data and analytics to figure out what’s working. Keep adapting your strategy as you move forward based on THE DATA.

Your YouTube channel WILL work if you give it some time and make smart, informed decisions, adjusting based on the feedback you’re receiving.

Stay the course. Be persistent and it will become obvious what you need to do over time.


3. Trust yourself.

And trust that the call inside of you to start this YouTube journey is there for a reason.

It’s not going away FOR A REASON.

The thing about YouTube is that you are literally creating a DIGITAL LEGACY when you upload your videos.

They will stay there forever, and they’re searchable 24/7.

So what will your legacy be? What impact will you leave on the world with your videos?

How will you help people grow, learn, improve or enhance their lives?

Your YouTube channel will be doing this long after you yourself die… I know that’s a little morbid, but it’s absolutely true.

No one will believe you until you believe in yourself. You must lead the way if you want others to follow.

So now what?

Let’s say you get it, and this message is resonating with you, but you still don’t know what to do next…

If you’ve had any of the thoughts above and you keep putting your YouTube dreams on the backburner because of them, I am talking to YOU.

I want to help you get out of your own way.

Schedule a discovery call and tell me your channel idea…

Or join the free YouTube group I created.

I’ll let you know if we can help you.

There are people around the world right now who NEED the information only you can teach and provide by sharing your unique life experience, skills and gifts.

When you let your fear gremlins run the show instead of taking the reigns and doing the thing that intimidates you most…

When you continue to procrastinate on this YouTube goal week after week…

You’re doing them (and yourself) a disservice, and you know it.

It’s easy to do nothing and to keep putting it off. It’s easy to make excuses for why you will just “figure it out later.”

Let’s change that internal conversation and get you moving.

If you don’t do it now, will you ever? Just something to think about…

Book your discovery call here and let’s get your YouTube wheels turning.

Liz Germain is a leading expert in video and YouTube marketing. Liz has generated over 50+ million organic views and tens of thousands of leads for online businesses using YouTube. She helps people set up video automation systems that help increase passive income and 10x their impact online with YouTube.

Liz Germain

CEO and Founder, Vidfluence LLC

Want Personalized YouTube Growth Support?

Check out the Vidfluence trainings and services.

Our mission is to help your brand leverage the best video marketing automation tools and strategies to help you grow a loyal consumer fan base.

© 2019 Vidfluence LLC, All Rights Reserved.

How To Make YouTube Custom Thumbnails

How To Make YouTube Custom Thumbnails

How do you make YouTube thumbnails that actually get clicks?

This is a great question that all YouTube marketers have. This post will share with you all the best ways to optimize your thumbnails so you can get:

  • More clickthroughs
  • More views
  • More subscribers
  • More engagement

Sound good?

Cool, let’s dive in!

What are YouTube thumbnails?

Thumbnails are extremely important on YouTube. They are the small images that populate on YouTube as a preview of your video.

Think of a YouTube thumbnail as its own little mini “billboard” ad for your video.

Great YouTube thumbnail images increase the odds that people will click to watch your videos, not your competitor’s.

So how do you set yourself apart on YouTube using thumbnails? If you want to know how to make YouTube thumbnails the right way, keep reading…

How To Optimize YouTube Thumbnails

  1. Having high quality, simple and easy-to-read thumbnail images

Today’s office hours covers this question in detail, as well as provides 3 basic tips and some additional free resources you can use to make high quality YouTube thumbnails that actually get clicked on.

Click here to join the FB group & watch now. 

How To Make YouTube Thumbnails for Free

The best resource I’ve found for creating thumbnail templates for free is

You can set up a free account and save your designs as templates for the next time you need to design new thumbnails.

Trust me, this will save you a LOT of time in the long run.

Canva is great because you can also download free templates from professional designers (some for free, some for $1), so you get to take out the heavy lifting of designing your thumbnails yourself.

That’s especially useful for newbs, because you need your thumbnails to look very professional and simple and what better way to do that than by outsourcing that job to a designer without the designer expense!

I also like Canva because it allows you to save up to 3 fonts, as well as standard colors for your “defaults.”

This helps to save time long term, because you’ll be making lots of thumbnails during your YouTube career.

The easier it is for you, the better!

Here are some simple tips for making sure the thumbnails you’re creating are high quality, easy-to-read, and branded.

  • Keep your channel branding consistent by sticking to the same 2-3 colors and 2-3 fonts
  • Do not use more than 5-7 words max on your thumbnail images
  • Use a relevant, eye-catching image that relates to the content of the video
  • Face closeups (with interesting and emotive facial expressions) have been shown to get more clicks
  • Title your .jpg or .png thumbnail image the same thing as your target keyword to help with video SEO

In this video, I also cover 3 simple tips for how to revive a “dead channel.”

These tips could also apply if you’re in the process of setting up a brand new channel and want to do it the right way.

Leave your questions in the group if you’d like to get your questions answered.