ARTICLE

Nine Critical Best Practices for YouTube Success

by | Thu 18 Feb 2021

Looking for more YouTube channel success? If so, read on, I’ll be giving you 9 tips to make sure you can get there.

But First.. Why YouTube?

With over 2 billion monthly active users, and over one billion hours of video watched every single day, YouTube’s power and reach are almost incomprehensible. Indeed, the content is available in over 100 countries and in eighty languages—a truly global audience. The opportunities for reaching an audience are astounding.

YouTube really is the best place to be making content right now. However, getting a successful Youtube channel is no easy feat!

When you put content on YouTube, you face fierce competition. There are slightly more than 37 million channels on the platform, with the number growing every month. Indeed, 500 hours of video are uploaded every minute. So when you upload your video, it’s like squeezing a drop of water into the ocean.

How can you possibly gain and grow an audience when you’re just one voice in a sea of millions of voices? Beyond that, how do you even begin to measure success on YouTube?

Well, as it turns out, I have nine critical best practices for you today that will make sure your channel is more successful. These tips will make growing your audience and making an impact with YouTube videos easier!

But first.. we need to talk about metrics.

The Metrics that Matter Most for YouTube Success

The critical metrics for measuring success on YouTube are watch time, views, and subscribers. Let’s take a quick look at these three metrics, so you know how to track your own growth on the platform.

Watch time simply refers to the total number of minutes that people have watched your videos. The minimum threshold for monetizing your YouTube channel is 4,000 hours of watch time over the course of twelve consecutive months, so it’s one the biggest hurdles for new channels. Beyond that, if you’re getting a ton of views but your watch time is low, it means people are finding your content somehow, but they’re not consuming it. Clearly, that’s not what you want!

Views is fairly obvious. This metric refers to the number of times that a user intentionally initiated watching one of your videos, but YouTube only counts it if they watch for at least thirty seconds. The minimum threshold for new channels to get monetized is a whopping 10,000 views, so if you’re just starting out, you’ve got your cut work out for you!

Subscribers are those consumers of your YouTube content who decide to follow your channel. Ideally, you don’t just want people to wander onto your YouTube video, watch a few minutes, and then leave, never to return. Rather, you want to establish an ongoing relationship with them by convincing them to subscribe to your channels. You need 1,000 subscribers to monetize your channels, but the most popular “YouTubers” have hundreds of millions of subscribers! Imagine the reach!

Creating Content Isn’t Enough for Growth

Some companies think that if they simply create video content and post it regularly on their YouTube channel, they are bound to get traction sooner or later. While consistency is very important, bad, boring, or misaligned content probably won’t get recommended by YouTube’s algorithm, so it won’t land in front of your target audience.

If your audience does watch some of your content but finds that it provides little value, or doesn’t resonate with their needs and interests, they’re going to stop clicking on your videos. They may unsubscribe, even block your channel. Over time, if you’re not smart about the content you create, you can kill your channel, and once you do, it’s very hard to resurrect it.

Fortunately, if you implement a few best practices, you will avoid “channel death” and position yourself better to achieve healthy growth in all three key metrics: watch time, views, and subscribers.

Best Practice 1: Design Content for Your Audience

The key to growing your YouTube channel is to consistently provide value for your target audience.

For example, Oliver is the founder of a small but growing meal-kit company that provides organic and healthy food options. He wants to use YouTube to reach his target audience of up-and-coming young professionals. Creating regular videos that provide interesting and useful advice about nutrition, staying active, and making healthy choices — along with a generous dash of humor and personality — is going to reach his audience a lot better than straightforward boring ads, weird attempts at viral content, or dry “talking head” videos.

Best Practice 2: Make Your Videos Longer than Ten Minutes

In the early years of YouTube, videos were limited to ten minutes. Eventually, they bumped that to fifteen minutes, and then they removed the limit altogether. Ironically, these days YouTube encourages creators to make videos that are longer than ten minutes, because it keeps people watching and provides more opportunities for ads and ad revenue.

Oblige YouTube in this regard, and you’re more likely to get recommended to potential viewers, but beware! Don’t pad your videos with filler content. If you do, viewers will drop out early, and that could reduce your chances that they’ll watch future content. Make sure every minute of your video is chock-full of valuable or entertaining content.

For example, Helen is a motivational speaker with an emphasis on helping college students excel academically. If she wants to grow her channel, a video that provides thirty seconds of studying tips followed by eleven minutes of bad jokes, lame skits, and meaningless filler isn’t going to cut it.  Viewers will drop out fast, and they’ll be less likely to watch her future content.

Best Practice 3: The First Minute Needs to Grab Them

Attention spans are shorter than ever. With millions of videos to choose from, YouTube viewers are quick to drop out of a video if it doesn’t grab them right away. You’ve got about a minute to gain their full attention, so put some compelling information up front. A good way to hook people fast is to open the video by telling them about the value you’re going to deliver, then get to the good stuff quickly.

Hamish owns a handmade candy company, which he promotes in fun ways through a YouTube channel. To grab viewers right away, he might put some fascinating trivia about the history of a popular candy right up front (e.g., “Did you know gummy bears were inspired by trained performing bears at European street festivals in the 19th century?”). By demonstrating value right away, Oliver ensures that his viewers will stick around.

Best Practice 4: Deliver Amazing Content

Early YouTube videos had no production values. They were usually shaky videos with poor sound quality and awkward delivery from people who were clearly unprofessional. For the most part, viewers were fine with this. But those days are long gone. Viewers today expect interesting content that is well-written, designed, and presented.

It won’t reflect well on Oliver’s meal-kit company if his videos are comprised of the company vice president, Amy, who is clearly not a professional actor, standing in her garage, slightly out of focus, rambling about the importance of eating vegetables. He needs well-designed videos that look professionally (or, at least, semi-professionally) made.

Best Practice 5: Invest in High-Quality Editing

Similarly, viewers today expect videos to be well-edited, with crisp video, good sound quality, and creative visuals or special effects. Invest in some good video editing software (or hire a video editor), and spend time developing high-quality content.

Our motivational speaker, Helen, doesn’t simply stare into the camera and talk for ten minutes about raising your grades. She also includes plenty of visual aids, maybe a few graphs and charts, some creative pop-up graphics, and plenty of good editing. This will reflect well on her company and cast her services in a better light.

Best Practice 6: Pick a Compelling Title

In just a few short words, the title of your YouTube video must communicate the value of the content in a way that will make potential viewers notice and want to watch. However, the title also has to accurately tell them what they’re going to see. “Clickbait” titles that make promises the video can’t keep will drive your audience away.

Use titles that speak directly to the needs and interests of your target audience, but mind the length. A long title will get truncated after about ten words, so make sure the best part of your title doesn’t get lost.

Here are some potential interesting titles for Oliver’s meal-kit channel. Notice how they speak to specific needs of his target audience:

“5 Tactics for Getting Exercise When You Work Too Much”

“All You Need to Know About Living a Longer, Happier Life”

“3 Easy Steps for Eating Organic Without Going Broke”

Best Practice 7: Create Vibrant Thumbnails

Your video thumbnail gives viewers a glimpse of what they’re going to be watching if they click on your video. That means it needs to be compelling. It’s also usually the first thing viewers see when browsing for content on YouTube. Be creative and find a way to represent the video in a way that will grab attention. Make sure your thumbnail is bright and bold, so it stands out. It’s always good to include people in the image.

Oliver’s video titled “5 Tactics for Getting Exercise When You Work Too Much” might include a thumbnail that shows him running on a jogging track in a suit and tie with a briefcase in hand.  That single image will speak volumes to his target audience.

Best Practice 8: Optimize for Keywords and Tags

Keywords and tags are used by YouTube’s algorithm to categorize your video. This is how your video can appear in search results and recommended video lists for potential viewers. While some keywords might seem obvious, it’s worth spending a little time to research what’s working in your niche. Bear in mind, YouTube doesn’t particularly care for long-tail keywords, so limit them to around two to four words.

When selecting tags for his “Surprising History of Gummy Candy” video, Hamish does some research using a free YouTube keyword research tool to determine that popular video tags on the subject include phrases like “how gummy candy is made,” “best gummy candy,” and “eating gummy bears.” These also happen to reflect the content of his video perfectly, so he includes them in the “tags” section of his video information page.

Best Practice 9: Use End Screens Wisely

If you’ve done your job well, viewers will get all the way to the end screen of your video. What’s the last thing you want to show them before the video ends and a new video automatically starts playing? Think about this carefully. It’s a good idea to have an end card that provides thumbnail links to other videos on your channel, as well as a subscribe button, and maybe even a small promotional link. Take this opportunity to continue the relationship beyond a single video!

For example, Helen decides to add a link to a related video titled “3 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Professors,” along with a subscribe button that shows his happy, smiling face, and another link to her company’s website.

The Sky’s the Limit

Effective content on YouTube does three things: 1) entices viewers to start watching, 2) convinces viewers to keep watching, 3) make viewers want to come back for more.

By following each of the tips provided in this article, you will find that it is much easier to do all three. As long as you are providing real value to your target audience consistently in a way that is well-produced and interesting to watch, you’re going to start getting noticed.

Once you start growing, the sky’s the limit. Maybe someday you, too, will join the ranks of the multi-million-subscriber YouTube channels.

Image credit: https://www.panayiotisgeorgiou.net/youtube-growth-hacks/

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