YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google and one of the most popular websites in the world. With over 2 billion monthly logged-in users, YouTube provides a massive platform to reach potential customers. Using YouTube as part of your SEO and content marketing strategy can help boost your website’s authority and rankings.

Is YouTube a good backlink?

But is YouTube an effective backlink source? This comprehensive guide examines using YouTube for backlinks from all angles, including pros, cons, best practices, and alternatives. By the end, you’ll know whether YouTube backlinks belong in your linking building toolkit.

What is a Backlink?

Before diving into YouTube backlinks, let’s define what a backlink is and why they matter for SEO.

A backlink is any link from an external website that points back to a page on your own site. Backlinks serve as votes of confidence in your content. Search engines like Google use backlinks as one of the top ranking factors. More backlinks from authoritative sites indicate a trustworthy, qualitative website.

There are two types of backlinks:

  • Organic backlinks – Naturally earned links that happen when other sites reference your content.
  • Manual backlinks – Intentionally built links via outreach and other link building tactics.

Search engines strongly prefer organic backlinks. But strategic manual backlinks from relevant quality sites still provide SEO value.

In particular, backlinks help with:

  • Domain authority – More backlinks improve your overall domain authority and ranking ability.
  • Page authority – Backlinks directly to a page boost that page’s authority and keywords.
  • Anchor text – Anchor text in backlinks (text linked) helps associate keywords to your site.

So in short, backlinks remain a crucial signal for SEO success. Now let’s analyze YouTube specifically for backlink purposes.

YouTube Backlink Overview

YouTube offers several options for earning backlinks:

  • Link in video description
  • Link in comments
  • Link on channel homepage
  • Link in channel “About” section
  • Links in other channel content

The most common and scalable approach is placing your site’s link in the video description.

Here is a quick pro vs con evaluation of using YouTube for backlinks:


  • Massive authority site – has extremely high domain authority.
  • Huge referral traffic source – YouTube garners over 1 billion visits per day.
  • Video helps improve click-through rate – Videos convert viewers better than standard text links.
  • Embeddable – YouTube videos can be embedded on other sites, compounding links.
  • Owned media – You fully control your video content and channels.


  • Difficult to earn organic links – People don’t often organically link out from videos.
  • Link oversaturation – Many people spam or over-optimize links.
  • Manual outreach still needed – Best results require active outreach to YouTube creators.
  • More for branding than SEO – Views don’t necessarily equal backlinks; focus is more on exposure.

Now let’s dig deeper into pros and cons analyzing YouTube backlinks for SEO…

Evaluating YouTube Backlinks for SEO

While YouTube offers opportunities for backlinks, there are definite limitations to its value for SEO compared to other types of links. Let’s look at the key considerations.

Domain Authority

YouTube has extremely high domain authority as the 2nd largest search engine and #2 website globally. ranks at a perfect 100 domain authority score on Moz.

  • This means links from YouTube pass a lot of “link juice” and authority to your site.

However, a link from YouTube itself is different than a link from an individual YouTube video page or channel.

  • Individual videos and channels have much lower authority than the main YouTube domain.
  • So you generally want links from popular YouTube channels in your niche, not just random videos.

Still, YouTube remains a very authoritative domain to get backlinks from in aggregate.

Referral Traffic Potential

As the 2nd most visited website worldwide, YouTube drives massive referral traffic. YouTube generates over 1 billion visits per day, with over 1 billion hours watched daily.

  • This creates huge potential for referral visitors to your site from YouTube links.
  • However, most viewers are there for entertainment rather than following links.

A video with millions of views will not necessarily result in anywhere close to the same number of clicks. View count does not equate to link click-throughs.

  • Having an actual popular YouTube channel in your industry helps drive higher quality referral traffic. But it requires an engaged subscriber base.

So in summary, YouTube offers very high referral traffic potential on paper, but likelihood of clicks depends on context and audience relevance.

Link Saturation

The massive popularity of YouTube also creates challenges with link oversaturation. Too many people spam or over-optimize links in YouTube descriptions and comments.

  • Finding channels and videos relevant to your niche is important to avoid becoming part of generic link spamming.
  • Manual YouTube outreach should be contextually relevant, not mass blasting spam links.

YouTube has also gotten stricter over the years in penalizing overused or irrelevant links. They may be devalued or ignored by Google for SEO purposes.

  • Best practice is to avoid overusing links and make sure they are useful and relevant for the target audience.

So while the high user volume is attractive, actual backlink value depends on avoiding saturation.

Manual Outreach

Unlike some social sites, YouTube does not facilitate viral organic linking very well. You won’t find many websites naturally linking out to videos.

  • Successful YouTube backlinking requires active outreach to channels and creators in your niche.
  • But cold outreach is difficult due to the massive volume of videos and channels.

Building an owned YouTube channel and community over time creates opportunities for earned backlinks:

  • Collaborations with other channels
  • Giveaways/contests
  • Having an engaged subscriber base that shares your videos

Manual outreach can be worthwhile but requires labor intensive research and targeting.

Branding vs Rankings

The primary SEO value in YouTube links is for branding and awareness rather than direct rankings boosts. Pageviews and exposure are great. But…

  • Views do not necessarily translate into recognized backlinks.
  • Even popular videos might not move the needle for target keywords.

So YouTube is better for supplementary SEO value vs direct ranking factors. Metrics like click-through rate matter more than just big view counts.

  • A smaller niche video driving highly engaged traffic can be more effective for SEO than a viral video.

In summary, YouTube is fantastic for exposure. But actual link value depends on context, optimization, and click-through rate.

Recommended Best Practices

Given the pros and cons, here are some best practices for maximizing YouTube backlinking:

  • Focus on video optimization – Well-optimized videos integrated into your content strategy perform better long-term. Quick spam links have minimal value.
  • Research and target key channels – Identify popular channels with engaged audiences in your niche for outreach.
  • Prioritize contextual relevance – Links shared with channels in your industry are usually higher quality.
  • Avoid over-optimization – Use links sparingly and appropriately in descriptions to still look natural.
  • Encourage click-throughs – Using your brand, images, infographics etc can help boost CTR and convert views to visits.
  • Diversify link types – Place links across videos, channel homepage, about section etc. But avoid looking spammy.
  • Build organic awareness – Develop owned YouTube assets and community for long-term visibility vs one-off links.
  • Track performance – Monitor traffic sources, engagement metrics, and conversions to optimize efforts.

With the right strategy and expectations, YouTube can move the needle for SEO and traffic generation.

YouTube Backlink Alternatives

While YouTube remains a viable backlink option, diversity is key for modern link building. Here are some alternative backlink sources to incorporate:

Social Media Profiles

Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest etc allow link inclusion and deliver referral traffic.

  • Benefits include diversity, branding, and traffic generation.
  • Best practices are similar to YouTube – be organic, contextual, optimized, etc.

Niche Forums

Active participation and engagement on forums in your industry create opportunities for valuable organic backlinks.

  • Adds diversity and niche relevance.
  • Follow guidelines and avoid spammy overlinking.

Quora and Q&A Sites

Providing helpful answers allows inclusion of useful links as citations on high authority sites.

  • Builds credibility through knowledge and helps SEO.
  • Answer reader questions not just to link spam.

Guest Contributor Outreach

Contacting websites and blogs to contribute content as a guest author can earn high quality backlinks.

  • Focuses on value-add authoritative content vs spammy links.
  • Allows brand exposure to new audiences.

Strategic Partnerships

Partnerships with complimentary brands in your space can include mutual content linking.

  • Features co-created resources allowing natural contextual linking.
  • Provides direct referral traffic benefits.

The essentials are balancing variety, relevance, and organic value. Avoid over-reliance on any one link source or tactic.


At the end of the day, YouTube has definite SEO and traffic potential as part of your overall backlinking strategy. But it requires avoiding spam tactics and focusing on driving engaged traffic from authority channels. The high domain authority and massive exposure opportunity are attractive. Yet conversion rates and clicks are not guaranteed.

Proper optimization, branding, and diversification are key to maximizing YouTube’s unique advantages for SEO while mitigating the limitations. Treat it as supplementary to other types of referral traffic and links. Measure engagement and conversions vs only watching vanity metrics.

Focus on providing viewer value with owned YouTube assets and partnerships for sustainable benefits. With the right niched approach, you can harness YouTube as part of a diversified SEO content marketing and link building strategy. Just maintain realistic expectations by evaluating links based on quality vs quantity.

Incorporating the best practices covered in this guide will help you determine if YouTube should remain part of your backlink toolkit.

Key Takeaway

  • YouTube has pros and cons for SEO backlinking. Maximum value requires an optimized, diversified strategy focused on engagement over spammy link metrics.


  1. Does YouTube follow nofollow for links?
    No, YouTube does not use nofollow for links in video descriptions, comments, and channels. So links have the potential to pass SEO value.

  2. How many links should you include in a YouTube video description?
    1-2 contextual links max is best practice. Avoid stuffing too many links which can seem spammy. Focus on useful resources for viewers.

  3. Is it better to link in YouTube video descriptions vs comments?
    Video descriptions tend to allow more characters and prominence. But linking in genuine comments on relevant videos can also provide value based on context.

  4. Does YouTube penalize linked websites?
    YouTube can apply manual review penalties or downrank sites that violate guidelines through spammy linking practices. Make sure links remain natural and useful.

  5. What are the best practices for YouTube video SEO?
    Optimize with keywords but avoid overstuffing. Create interesting thumbs and titles. Promote videos externally. Focus on watch time. Use YouTube cards/playlists to retain viewers etc.

  6. How important are YouTube views for SEO value?
    Views help but are “vanity metrics” on their own. Optimization for clicks, engagement, authority, and conversions matters more than just driving views from any source.

  7. Can I automate or purchase YouTube backlinks?
    Any automated or paid backlink tactics violate Google guidelines and can incur penalties. Focus on outreach for qualified organic placements.

  8. How many YouTube links per website is recommended?
    There is no specific limit, but links should be justified and varied across different videos/channels. Avoid mass duplicates or only relying on YouTube domains.

  9. What are other best practices for YouTube SEO?
    Transcribe videos, include links in description and pinned comment, optimize channel metadata, promote externally, collaborate with influencers, cross-promote content, analyze performance data etc.

  10. How else can I use YouTube for SEO beyond backlinks?
    YouTube provides additional SEO value through ranking directly in results for video content, driving inbound traffic to your site, and building brand visibility and authority.

  11. What are the best analytics for measuring YouTube SEO value?
    Key metrics include rankings directly in YouTube and Google video results, traffic sources and volume, click through rate, watch time metrics, engagement analytics, brand mentions etc.

  12. Should I focus on YouTube SEO or work on other backlink sources?
    A balanced and diversified strategy is best. YouTube can supplement your SEO efforts but not replace other types of quality links and content entirely.

  13. What is the average click-through rate on YouTube?
    The average YouTube CTR is between 3-5%, but this varies significantly based on niche, video quality, and optimization. Having engaging thumbnails and titles can help improve CTR.

  14. How quickly can you see results from YouTube backlinks?
    It depends on the authority and relevance of placements, but usually YouTube backlinks may take 2-3 weeks to start reflecting in search visibility and traffic. Ongoing optimization and new links continue increasing impact over time.

  15. What sites count as a good link source for YouTube SEO?
    Relevant sites in your niche with decent domain authority and traffic work best. Getting links from authority news sites, blogs, forums etc in your industry can maximize value.

  16. Can I rank my YouTube videos without links?
    It is possible with very strong watch time and engagement signals. But getting external links remains one of the strongest ranking factors for YouTube video SEO.

  17. What is a reasonable number of links to build per month?
    10-20 highly relevant, strong quality backlinks per month from varied authoritative sources is a reasonable goal. Focus on sustainability over large link spamming.

  18. How do I identify the best YouTube channels to pitch?
    Look for channels in your niche with an engaged subscriber base and existing high search rankings and traffic. Reach out professionally with value-focused personalized pitches.

  19. Should my YouTube videos directly embed links?
    Embedding obvious hard-sell links can seem overly promotional to viewers. Provide valuable content upfront and place useful links organically in descriptions.

  20. What are the penalties for getting too many YouTube backlinks?
    If Google identifies an unnatural link scheme, it may discount or ignore manipulative links. YouTube itself can also ban accounts for excessive spammy self-promotion.

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April 2024


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