Searching on Google to find out "Do YouTube Tags Matter?" will bring up plenty of examples of industry experts claiming that they're still an important ranking factor...
I decided to run a scientific test, to find out...
Now, just to be clear, I've run these experiments before, so I had a good idea of what to expect, but I just wanted to confirm it was still true in 2021.
Let me show you exactly how I setup the test...
As you know, Google and YouTube try to always bring back some search results...
Even if you type strange keywords, they'll try to guess what you mean.
For example, look at this weird keyword and the YouTube search results:
As you can see, they don't give up easily...
But, when they have absolutely no idea what you're looking for, and have no possible alternative results (which is very rarely the case), you get the "No results found" screen.
The "Do YouTube Tags Matter" Experiment...
So, to setup this test, I made up three fake words that resulted in YouTube returning "No Results Found".
Next, I made a 36 second video of nothing in particular. (I recorded myself scribbling in Microsoft Paint and you can hear typing sounds in the background.)
I used that video to create 3 different versions, so I could run three tests.
For each of these three videos, I put the fake word "Shrobiquinysal" in the Title, "Dosqueraspin" in the Description, and "Niqcsabigny" in the Tag section.
Now for the fun part...
After the videos were uploaded and indexed, I searched for the fake Title word: Shrobiquinysal
Here's what I got back...
As you can see, all three videos are now showing as search results for this Title keyword.
The "No Results Found" screen is gone, and YouTube is serving up the only three relevant videos they have.
This proves that the Title of a YouTube video is a ranking factor, which you already knew.
Next, I searched for this fake Description word: Dosqueraspin
Again, all three videos are also showing for this Description word.
This means that the Description of your video is also a YouTube SEO ranking factor.
Finally, I searched for the fake Tag word: Niqcsabigny
This is where it gets interesting...
Take a look at this screenshot:
As you can see, YouTube still gives the "No Results Found" screen.
And, as you saw from the previous two searches, YouTube always tries to return some results, even if they don't know what the word means. (After all, YouTube doesn't know anything about our fake Title and Description words either, but we still got 3 results.)
So, what does this mean?...
It appears that adding video tags doesn't affect the YouTube SERPs.
These test results indicate that tags don't even appear to be indexed for search, which may explain the fact that the Tags section is no longer prominent on the video uploading form:
This also means that you don't need to waste your money buying tools (or courses), that promise to help you find the best tags for your videos, or place a big emphasis on the importance of YouTube tags.
Final Thoughts - Do YouTube Tags Matter?
After seeing these test results, I'd be skeptical of any "expert" who teaches that YouTube tags are important for ranking videos, unless they can prove it with a scientific test, beyond anecdotal evidence of their own video rankings.
Having said that, this particular test doesn't rule out the possibility that tags (or hashtags) could be used for grouping similar videos together, which could play a part in deciding which videos show up in the "Recommended" video section on the right side of the YouTube video player.
However, I have run some other tests that seem to show that Tags aren't even important for Recommended video rankings. (Those tests indicated that user behavior is the primary ranking factor for Recommended videos.)
I was able to find some old YouTube company documents and employee videos that indicate tags were initially used for organizing videos and training their algorithm...and they might still be using them for this purpose in 2021.
"Do YouTube Video Tags Matter in 2021?"...I'd say "No", based on this test, if you're trying to get your videos ranked higher in YouTube search and get lots of views.
YouTube may have stopped using Tags as a ranking factor because they felt they were too easy to manipulate.
The good news is that you don't need to spend time trying to get more views by copying the "best tags" or finding popular trending tags. You don't need to buy an app to extract tags from the most popular YouTube Channel, or worry about the length, or if tags are case sensitive, or if you should have spaces between tags, etc...
It really is a waste of time if they aren't even going to index tags for their search results.
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