Last weekend, I snagged a place at the 2016 YouTube Creator Day in Manchester, a packed day of workshops and presentations for people finding their feet on YouTube.
That’ll be me, then.
I’m not going to lie – it’s a special sort of terrifying walking into a room of people you don’t know AT ALL, but I survived. And I learned a lot – not least that YouTube creators are a diverse bunch. I met people who vlog about gaming, and sailing, and retro bikes, and knitting and oh so much more.
I also learned a LOT of stuff. Almost too much to absorb, really – it’s going to take a few weeks to sort out in my head what I need to change about my YouTube channel, and where to start.
Some blogger friends have asked if I’ll share some of the tips I picked up, so here goes. You ready?
Grabbing your Audience
- There are three ways to getting good views on YouTube. Either create content that’s useful (how to make a Christmas cracker), relatable (does anyone else find Christmas crackers scary?) or topical (hey, it’s Christmas!). Whenever you make a video, start by asking yourself which of those three things you’re doing. In other words, who’s going to watch that video, and why?
- When it comes to deciding on topics to vlog about, Google Trends is a great way of finding inspiration for what to post, and WHEN people are searching for that content. If you find out for example, that searches for cycling tips peak in January, you might want to hold off on posting that content in December. Trends will help you spot when to schedule evergreen content and when to react to current topics.
- Uploading seasonal content too early won’t work on YouTube – the algorithm reacts best to content that gets lots of views and interaction in the first few hours. If a video is live for two weeks with little interaction, it’s unlikely to rank highly when the seasonal event rolls around.
- The thumbnail on your video is the most important factor in your CTR (clickthrough rate). Always consider that 50% of people (or more) will see it on a mobile phone. Try to use a single image, with as little text as possible – text overlays look great on a desktop or tablet, but are mostly illegible on a phone. Use the image to tell a strong story and give someone an idea of what will be in the video.
- A good thumbnail should have good contrast, work on all devices and be intriguing – it’s good to get people wondering what might happen next.
- The second most important factor is the video title. YouTube’s algorithm will use this as the most important factor in deciding what your video is about. Your title should use keywords that people will search for – again, use Google Trends if you’re unsure.
- Don’t clickbait! If people click on a video and it isn’t what they expect, they’ll leave after a few seconds and what’s called your video’s “watch time” will be terrible. This will cause YouTube’s algorithm to downgrade your video in search results.
- If your video is part of a series, mention this in the title, as it encourages people to look for and watch other videos if they liked it.
- After the title and thumbnail, think about the description text. Again, think about search keywords here and use them. A good rule of thumb is to have 2-3 sentences on the video content, and a couple of links – one to a playlist, and one to subscribe to your channel. After that you can add extra info if you’d like to, like links to buy etc.
Increasing Watch Time
- The most important metric to watch on your YouTube channel is NOT number of views, or even number of subscribers. It’s Watch Time. This is a measure of how long people spend watching your content on the session and determines how well your videos will rank, AND your earnings on a monetised channel. Always be focusing on ways to increase watch time, not views.
- If someone visits YouTube and watches your playlist, you get Watch Time credit EVEN if the videos in the playlist aren’t yours. So don’t be afraid to feature other people’s great content on your channel and in your playlists. It will help your videos rank higher in the algorithm.
- Don’t only collaborate on videos with other YouTubers – consider collaborating on playlists.
- Having translations can help a video rank more highly. You can do it automatically within YouTube, for just a few pounds – simply tick the languages you’d like content translated into.
- Using a Content Management System (CMS) can help you do things like bulk upload videos, bulk add watermarks, channel intros and keywords/tags.
- Don’t have too long an intro to videos – you’ll lose 50% of viewers in the first minute, so make sure you’re getting to the point in around 15 seconds or less.
- Use playlists to organise content, and episode numbers for series-style content. Encourage people to watch via a playlist when you’re embedding content into your blog.
- Don’t let your playlists get too long. They’re not a tool for YOU to organise content, they’re a tool for VIEWERS to find and watch similar content. A good playlist should be about 6-8 videos long. Once it’s longer than that, make a new playlist. Use analytics (see below) to see which playlists have the best watch time and make tweaks accordingly.
- YouTube has a relatively new feature to allow you to “feature” a single video on all your channel videos. This is a GREAT way to promote a new video and drive views and interaction as soon as it goes live. Look at your videos to see where is the average point a user typically stops watching your video, and insert the link to the featured content at that point. Make this a part of your “launch strategy”.
Using Analytics to grow your YouTube channel
- Analytics are the most important tool in growing a channel quickly – it will help you understand what to post more of, what to do less of, and when to do it!
- Within your YouTube analytics you can ‘group’ videos of similar styles and compare things like the relative watch time, click through rate etc. This will allow you to see for example, that videos about cooking generally get a longer watch time than videos about beauty. Or perhaps use it to show whether your short videos or long videos get the best watch time, or that people subscribe more after watching a DITL style video than a tutorial style video… the possibilities are pretty endless.
- Analytics will also show you how your videos rank against similar content – this is a GREAT way to see how your videos are performing in YouTube’s algorithm. The most important metric to observe here is audience retention and watch time – try to keep these above the average rank displayed and your video will perform well in search.
YouTube Cards v Annotations
- If 50% of more of your audience is viewing content on mobile, then cards are better than annotations.
- Figures suggest that the best number of cards to use it two – use one to link to a playlist and one to merchandise or your blog.
- The new end slate feature is great because it’s simple but do some A/B testing with your audience to see if they are actually driving more subscriptions or increasing watch time over a custom graphic of your own.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
- If you want to grow a channel, consistency is important. This means consistent formats, regular uploads, a consistent personality and consistent branding.
- There are third party social media tools that will analyse your channel and subscribers to tell you the best days and times to post. Or you can figure it out yourself from your Analytics. Don’t rely on what someone else tells you because THEIR audience could be entirely different to YOUR audience.
- Give people a reason to come back to your channel – mention in your video you’ll be back next Tuesday. Add details of your schedule to your channel header image. If you use a custom endslate, consider adding “New Videos Mondays 8pm” on there.
- Test changes to your schedule – if you upload 3 times a week versus 2, does your watch time increase? Do you gain or lose subscribers? Each channel will have its own saturation point after which people won’t watch any more content – again, don’t rely on how often someone else tells you to post, look at what’s right for your audience, and your channel.
Turning Viewers into Fans
- If you want people to buy into your channel, understand that people on YouTube don’t see YouTubers quite like celebs – they’re more like friends you just haven’t met in person yet. So as a channel owner, you need to engage with those viewers. There are LOADS of ways to do this.
- Why not try asking in a video if your viewers have questions? People want to know more about their favourite channel owners. Utilise other social media for this – if you have a strong Snapchat audience, ask questions there, and then that audience will follow you over to YouTube to see the answers.
- Consider buying a PO box for people to send you things. Do a video where you open “fan mail” and give people “shout outs”
- Pick a favourite comment, read it out at the end of a video, and thank that person for watching – especially if they’re a regular commenter.
- Use polls to ask your viewers what they’d like to see, or what direction they want you to take. Involve your viewers and it helps to create a community.
- Respond to positive comments. Don’t feel you need to respond to negative comments and use the new blacklist feature to hide comments that you feel would upset or hurt your regular community members (the commenter won’t even realise their comment has been hidden)
- Use “http:://” and “google search” on your blacklist word list to avoid people dropping spam links into your comments. You can also type “*links*” to block all links.
- New features from YouTube allow you to get warm and fuzzy with commenters, adding heart emojis to liked comments and allowing you to pick and highlight a favourite comment which will appear under the video description. This is also a useful feature if commenters ask the same question over and over 🙂
- Collabs are one of the most poorly used ways to grow YouTube channels overall. Often it’s just a case of, “You have a lot of subs, can I make a video with you?” But a smart collab is actually the best way to rapidly grow your subscriber base. Remember YouTube is a community and people generally WANT to find great new stuff and people to watch
- Know your value – there’s a rule of thumb that you should collab with people with similar subs numbers to you (plus or minus 10%) but there are exceptions if you can show value in another area. For example, maybe you have access to a special piece of kit that will let someone make an amazing video. Maybe you’ve got an amazing reach on a social network that’s much bigger than your potential collaborator’s? Your value isn’t just in subs – it’s in skills, access, audience and equipment, too.
- Regardless of sub numbers, look for someone who has a similar audience demographic to you – they don’t need to be in the same sector, though. So if your audience is women in their 20s, you can reach that demographic in lots of different ways – maybe they watch fashion videos, but they’re also watching videos about specific video games, or backpacker travel?
- If you’d like to collaborate with someone, send them a pitch. Tell them why you like their channel, and what your channel is about, and what you have in common. Then give them an idea (“Here’s a quick summary of the video I’d love to make with you…”) and some specifics – are you in the same location, could you meet up at an event, or similar?
- If you don’t know the person you want to collab with, put in some groundwork, by commenting on and watching videos, engaging with them on Twitter. Think of it as dating. You don’t just want to tell them to get their coat, they’ve pulled. Compliment the coat, first.
There you go! I really hope you found the tips useful, it was a LOT to take in on one day, and I’ve not included everything we’ve discussed here. I really recommend going along to a Creator Day if you get the chance. Thanks so much to everyone at YouTube for sharing their knowledge and providing such a fab event. If you’ve got tips or questions, then please do let me know in the comments.
And I would love for you to check out my channel on YouTube – although obviously, I’m hoping to improve it once I get around to putting all these ideas into practice!