YouTube is king (or queen) of the Internet when it comes to watching videos online. The video hosting service, founded in 2005, grew to become the second largest search engine after Google, its parent company since 2006. Therefore, YouTube is the essential platform to promote your brand, products and services through video.
In just a single minute, 400 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube, according to a keynote by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki at VidCon 2015. With so much competition, how can your content stand out?
Actually, nobody has the answer (sorry!). YouTube’s algorithm is a mystery, but tests have proven that overall watch time, video title, description and even the Likes/Dislikes ratio will affect the position of your videos on search results, related videos, recommendations… On top of that, the algorithm also considers each user’s watch history, preferences and more. Not easy, right?
My message here is that your video content itself is as important as optimizing it for YouTube through metadata, playlists and more.
If you are struggling with it, fear not! Get in touch and I can help.
Barring that, here are five common YouTube mistakes that you shouldn’t make as the person responsible for managing a YouTube channel.
#1 Think of YouTube as just a free and popular video hosting service
As I said before, uploading your videos to YouTube, just because it’s free, and expect users will easily find your content “because is good” is the wrong approach. Yes, you can upload a video, put a title and embed it to your website, share it on social media or promote it through a TrueView campaign on Google Adwords. However, if you do that, you are missing out on all the organic traffic you could get through search results, recommendations and related videos.
You have to make the most of all the features YouTube has to increase your channel’s traffic and your subscribers: playlists, cards, end screens, etc. Doing so might bring more attention to your channel and content, thanks to the logic of the YouTube algorithm.
Last and not least, connect your channel to your website, as an associated website, to generate more traffic to your online store, portfolio, etc. through your videos, if that is something you need. Likewise, don’t forget to share the link to your YouTube channel on your website and social media, to bring all the attention towards it.
#2 Forget search engine optimization (SEO) on the channel, videos, playlists…
If you think about the SEO of your channel, playlists and videos as just naming an attractive title on them, you are setting them up to fail. Doing that could affect drastically the impact that your videos and your channel overall could have.
Don’t get me wrong, titles are important, but video descriptions are essential, too. Everything on your YouTube channel must have a title and a description, including channel description and all the public videos and playlists. The video tags are crucial to increase the discoverability of your videos. You have 500 characters to fill in with keywords (30 characters per tag, max). Use them wisely!
Pablo Gomez-Rodulfo is the Senior Branded Content Manager on the Olympic Channel and previously worked on Google and Vevo, so he knows what he is doing. One day, in September 2018, I came across a tweet that I’m going to translate and decode for you:
SEO en YouTube para despistados:
Contenido evergreen + Posicionamiento longtail + Redirecciòn a vídeos + CTAs = Aumentar tiempo de visionado. Mejor posicionamiento para tus vìdeos, màs anuncios para ellos. Ale, menos crear a lo loco y más pensar. pic.twitter.com/j6JXJIyj3N
— PabloLeGentil (@PabloLeGentil) September 8, 2018
SEO on YouTube if you are clueless: Evergreen content + Longtail positioning + Redirect to videos + CTAs = Increase watch time.
- Evergreen content: As explained by the Digital Marketing Institute, this is content that has not expiration date, is not related to current events or trending topics and stays relevant over time. For example, this video explains how to tie a tie and it was uploaded 9 years ago, but stays relevant showing on top results organically.
- Longtail positioning: If your channel is about cooking and your new video is about a delicious recipe for a chocolate cake, please don’t simply title the video “Cake recipe,” it’ll struggle to stand out amongst all the other “cake recipes” that were uploaded on YouTube before yours. You have to be more specific, using keywords. What about “Chocolate cake for your birthday party”? Everybody loves a birthday party! Do you get the idea? Moz explains it better here:
- Redirect to videos: I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to encourage traffic within your own channel, to increase your overall watch time. Do that through video playlists, recommending related videos in the video description, using cards and the end screens, etc.
- Calls-to-action (or CTAs): Have a clear message for the action that you want from the viewers. You have heard the phrase “Like, comment and subscribe” before at the end of so many videos? Yes, that’s it. It works! You can also invite viewers to visit your website or online store, whatever applies to your channel. If the viewers take the desired action, that sends a signal to YouTube that your audience is engaged with your content and it will be more likely to appear on recommendations for other videos, related channels or even, if you’re truly lucky, be featured on the Trending page (that’s very difficult, though).
- Increase watch time: Did you notice I’m talking about watch time and not about views? That was absolutely intentional. Back in 2012, YouTube started a transition to value quality over quantity. Instead of unique views – to videos that sometimes were really short – the algorithm started appreciating more the amount of minutes watched (or watch time). This change didn’t necessarily mean that all the channels had to start uploading longer content, but they had to start considering different metrics, like the average percentage of video watched, and analyze what could be the causes if it was low. Short or long, you need to create videos that retain audience throughout completion.
#3 Dismiss the older videos that you uploaded on your channel years ago
When you’re running an audit to optimize your YouTube channel, the main focus is generally on the most recent and most popular videos that — even if they were uploaded a long time ago — keep attracting organic views because of the topic or type of content.
Actually, that’s not a bad approach, but it’d be a big mistake to deny a second chance for the first videos you uploaded. They probably took a lot of your time and effort and, while they might not have performed as expected, if you give them another opportunity (now that your channel is fully optimized) they might surprise you with some new extra views? The best practice advice would be to revise all the metadata – title, description and video tags – for all these videos and add them to playlists to improve their performance on YouTube. That way, hopefully, they’ll give you a return on all the resources you invested in them originally.
Make sure all these old videos are making the most of all the features YouTube currently has. Keep in mind, for instance, that end screens were implemented in 2016, adapting to the increasing consumption of videos on mobile devices. Previously we had the annotations (R.I.P.) but they only worked on mobile devices. After three years, back in January 2019 annotations disappeared for good on all your videos, so this is the time to go back to all your past videos and make sure that end screens are enabled.
#4 Upload a video on a brand new channel and expect it will go viral
Let me get this clear: There is no secret formula to create a viral video. Whoever said that to you was a liar. The factors that make a video go viral are countless, most of them are uncontrollable and unpredictable. A successful content strategy on YouTube is not a ‘one-hit wonder’, achieving long-standing success requires multiple videos that are uploaded regularly, over time.
There are two keywords here: commitment and consistency. It may sound like a lot of work, but YouTube favours channels that provide content regularly and consistently (daily, weekly, monthly).
When you’re planning your own content strategy for YouTube, you should break down the content into different pieces that could be delivered on different content formats, set up your filming sessions so that one results in more than just one video for your channel, etc.
A great example comes from the Fine Brothers Entertainment (FBE), formerly known as TheFineBros, who are mostly famous for their React videos, where different demographics (a group of kids, teens, adults…) react to some kind of cultural product, followed by a short interview about it. Guests spend a filming session reacting to three or four products so, on one day of filming, FBE has the material for, at least, three to four videos. Could you do something like that for your channel?
Let’s say you are investing a lot of money on filming an ad, a music video or a short film. Make sure you don’t simply record that, you can have a small crew to film a Behind the Scenes video, get interviews with the protagonists of your video, edit bloopers or even re-purpose the final footage into more than one final cut: teasers, trailers, etc. These new videos should be uploaded gradually, to increase the impact that your channel has over time and keep the audience engaged and looking forward for more content.
If you are starting a channel from scratch, don’t panic just yet! If you have some spare budget, remember that a video campaign on Google AdWords could give you the initial push to get your channel and videos in front of the right audience. Once you attract an audience, remember to have something to offer: more content and the promise of new videos coming soon, so these new viewers become subscribers.
#5 Ignore all the useful data that is available on YouTube Analytics
Never underestimate YouTube Analytics. Checking it out regularly should be a mandatory task for any YouTube Channel Manager. You can find out what are the most popular videos, who is watching them or where are they watching from, to strategize based on real data.
It can be overwhelming, but keep a close eye on these key metrics:
- Views and watch time: Analyzing these informs you on what videos are most popular and helps you identify possible issues; For example, a video that attracts a significant amount of views but not an equally significant watch time. What is happening here? You’re losing audience retention. Analyze why they’re leaving your video and try to not repeat that issue on future videos. On the other hand, replicate the structure of videos with a higher watch time.
- Traffic sources: Identify where people are discovering your channel and videos (YouTube homepage? search results? related videos?) to evaluate and improve your SEO strategy. Here you can also identify traffic that comes from Google or external sources, like websites that embed your video, among others.
- Demographics: Find out the country where are your viewers are watching from. You can also identify other data like age range or gender.
This is not enough for the data nerd living inside you? No problem! Other useful metrics to monitor on your channel analytics are knowing the Likes/Dislikes ratio, how many comments your videos received, on what public video playlists were your videos included or how they were shared (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp…)
To wrap it up, make sure you make the most of all the features available on YouTube; optimise the metadata across your channel, videos and playlists; commit to a consistent schedule if you want your channel to succeed in a long-term and use the data on YouTube Analytics to monitor and improve your strategy.
… Easy, eh?
DID YOU KNOW…
If you’re lucky to have more than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months, you can make money from your videos! Monetization on YouTube needs an entire blog post, maybe two. If that is something you’d be interested in reading more about, let me know in the comments!
WHO AM I?
My YouTube channel is actually pretty small and random. I could hide the counter from the public, but I can admit to you that I have less than 100 subscribers. However, for two years, I worked with channels that have thousands of subscribers and millions of views! I have official certifications from YouTube on Channel Growth, Audience Growth, Digital Rights and Content Ownership. That’s where all my expertise comes from. If you are struggling with your channel, message me!