The ninja guide to hashtags on YouTube

Hashtags on YouTube: The Ultimate Ninja Guide

Hashtags on YouTube, if used the WRONG way, can actually send people AWAY from your videos and hurt your YouTube SEO.

In this guide, I'm going to explain exactly how YouTube hashtags work and show you how to avoid the mistakes that can hurt your channel growth… so you can start using hashtags in a way that will grow your channel and boost your YouTube SEO.

First time here?

Every tip, trick, technique and tool that you find here on Ninja Tricks is part of a bigger strategy that is designed to help you grow your YouTube channel.

The experience I have gained over the last 11 years of digital marketing and social media wrangling has shown me that success on YouTube requires both momentum and consistency. It's about more than just having the tools. It's about using those tools strategically to build momentum and about consistently engaging with your audience.

That's why I show you:

  • How to set your channel up for success, right from the start
  • How to promote your videos using a strategy that's perfect for new and small channels
  • How to consistently engage and grow your audience

This strategy is suitable for any niche and even for the newest of channels. It's also the exact same strategy that I'm using to grow the Ninja Tricks channel.

If you'd like to know more, it's all explained in my free 3-day YouTube Fast Start program.

What are YouTube hashtags and how do they work?

Just like on Instagram, hashtags on YouTube are a way for people to find content and they also help give the YouTube algorithm clues about what the topic of a video is all about.

Don’t get them confused with regular YouTube tags – because they work in a totally different way.

Basically, hashtags on YouTube are clickable links and when someone clicks on a hashtag, they get taken to a page of video search results full of videos that have been tagged with the same hashtag.

YouTube search results for #youtubetips and #youtubeninjatricks

Where are hashtags displayed on YouTube?

You’ll see hashtags in three main places on YouTube –

(1) in the video title itself

Screenshot showing hashtag in the title of a YouTube video, highlighted by an orange rectangle

(2) as blue links above the video title

screenshot of youtube video showing hashtags above the video title

(3) in the video description box

screenshot of a video description, showing hashtags at the bottom, highlighted by an orange rectangle

How to add hashtags to your videos

Adding them is really simple – to use a hashtag in a video’s title, just type it in as part of your title – and to add hashtags to your video description, just type them in anywhere you want.

Once your video has been published, they'll show up as blue hashtag links.

contrast between the view in the YouTube creator studio and the published version of the same text with the hashtags shown in blue

YouTube will also automatically grab the first three hashtags that it finds in your description and display them above your title.

diagram showing Youtube 'finds them here' and 'adds them here'

YouTube guidelines for Hashtag use

YouTube has some fairly straight forward guidelines about using hashtags that you can read about here, but basically you'll need to make sure your hashtags don’t have spaces between the words, aren’t abusive and don’t contain inappropriate content or misleading claims.

Sounds pretty easy so far… right?

The problem with using Hashtags on YouTube

Well, there are actually 3 problems:

First, by displaying hashtags above your title, you’re adding an enticing clickable link that encourages your viewer to click away from your video and watch other content that’s also been tagged with the same hashtag.

That’s a potential disaster for your video’s audience retention, especially if you’re a smaller channel in a busy niche.

screenshot showing hashtags above the video title, with a large speech bubble saying 'hey! let's go somewhere else' coming out from the hashtag

Second, there’s also the potential that the hashtags you choose could confuse the YouTube algorithm and water down your video SEO efforts if they’re not directly related to the content of your video.

play button with cartoon speech bubble saying "I'm confused?!?! I thought this was a video about.."

Third, if you choose to use more than 15 hashtags, YouTube will choose to ignore ALL of them. So don't copy and paste your hashtags from Instagram!

play button with cartoon speech bubble saying 'no way!! too many hashtags' and 16 numbered hashtags in the background

Hashtags on YouTube the RIGHT way…

It's actually pretty easy to avoid these problems when you know how.

  • Make sure your first three hashtags, the ones that will be automatically displayed above your video title, are unique BRANDED hashtags – that way, if someone happens to click one of them, they’ll be taken to a set of search results where your videos dominate and what you lose in one video’s audience retention, you’ll gain in channel watch time.
  • Don’t use ANY hashtags that aren’t absolutely related to your content, your channel, or your brand.
  • If you notice that some of the bigger channels are using topic based hashtags on their videos and you want to increase your chances of showing up in the hashtag search results for those hashtags, add those hashtags to your description but make sure it’s AFTER your three branded hashtags. That way they won’t show up as links above your title and encourage people to click away from your content, but they MIGHT just help your video to rank in the hashtag search results. The same thing goes for keyword hashtags. Make sure you add them AFTER your branded hashtags.

My 4-part Ninja Strategy for YouTube Hashtags

So as promised, here’s the ninja hashtag strategy that I’m using on my videos:

ninja hashtag strategy diagram

The strategy is based on four key priorities.

1: Linking videos from the same playlist to one another

My first hashtag on each video links that current video with my other videos from the same series. If the video is part of a series of YouTube ninja tricks – then giving them the hashtag #youtubeninjatricks helps viewers find the entire series through the hashtag.

#youtubeninjatricks hashtag and orange arrow pointing to YouTube search results for #YouTube ninja tricks

2: Reinforcing my brand identity

My second hashtag is all about brand identity, so that if people click, they’ll see all my other videos.

I, personally, choose not to associate my full name with the Ninja Tricks brand because this is not my main niche that I make videos for – but if you want people to find your videos by searching for your name, this is definitely where you’d add your name as a hashtag.

#yourbrand
#yourchannel
#yourname

3: Identifying with a movement that’s bigger than my channel

My third hashtag is about identifying with a bigger movement – hashtag ninja YouTuber – which is a way for us smaller channels to get connected, work together and help each other grow.

#ninjayoutuber

If you’re using some of my tips and strategies to grow your channel, feel free to use this hashtag on your videos, and make sure you support the other growing channels who use this hashtag too by watching and interacting with their videos, just like I do.

4: Showing up in hashtag search results

The final way that I use hashtags is to position my videos to show up in hashtag search results for popular hashtags in my niche.

This is a bit like having your cake and eating it too – because while I don’t want any non-branded hashtags showing up as my top 3 and encouraging people to click away from my videos, I DO want my videos to show up in the hashtag results for popular topics in my video’s niche.

Search results for #YouTubeTips

Where do I find these ‘popular' hashtags?

  • If I see a big channel in my niche using hashtags, I take notice of what they are.
  • If, when I’m doing my keyword research for a particular topic, I notice that the top videos use a hashtag that’s also relevant to my video, I’ll add those keywords to my list.
  • And I’ll also add a hashtag for my exact match video keyword.

Make sure you don’t use too many hashtags, 15 is the absolute maximum, but I try to keep them to 8 or less.

Finally don’t be tempted to add a hashtag that’s not actually related to the content of your video, because it’s not just bad for your SEO, it potentially triggers YouTube's misleading metadata policies.

rubbish bin with caption 'the best place for unrelated hashtags' and large orange arrow pointing towards the bin

How to get the most out of this tip

So you've just read about using hashtags on YouTube but at this point, they're not going to make any difference to your channel.

Remember, just reading about ways to improve your YouTube SEO won't actually improve your channel's growth – you need to take action and implement these tips to actually benefit from the results.

If you don't have time to do them all right now, make sure you save this post for later by pinning it to your YouTube SEO board on Pinterest.

The ninja guide to YouTube hashtags, cartoon hashtag image

Will this information help anyone you know?

Feel free to share it around!

Be as involved as you can with your YouTube marketing and you'll see success with your channel growth. To learn more about YouTube marketing, how it works, and the best ways to grow your channel, make sure you grab my free 3-day YouTube Fast Start program.

Blue skies!

P.S. If you've changed the way you use YouTube hashtags since reading this post, would you please let me know? I'd love to find out how it went and see if there's anything that needs to be updated in this guide. Feel free to leave a comment below or connect with me on social… or both!

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