The keys to a successful YouTube channel

Success on YouTube is not only defined by the production value of your videos. Data optimisation and analysis are important, too.

The keys to a successful YouTube channel

You can have a beautifully shot video that is informative, entertaining or educational but — unless you are considering the specific requirements of YouTube, making the most of all the available features and looking at the analytics regularly to get some data-based feedback on your channel performance — it will be really hard for you to become a successful youtuber and make your channel a sustainable long-term business, no matter what kind of content you are producing or who is your target audience.

Use the following best practices to manage and optimize your YouTube channel: learn how to make a video that works specifically for YouTube, optimize all the necessary metadata and use of all the metrics available on YouTube Analytics to improve your strategy.

How to make a video for YouTube?

You don’t really need a high-end equipment to make a good video, you could even film and edit it with a smartphone or tablet. Whatever device is that you are using, before you press the ‘Record’ button, make sure you are recording with the highest image quality available, an optimal sound quality and using good lighting. Otherwise, if these three aspects don’t work on your video, it could turn your viewers off.

Where to start? For example, take a look at Think Media and his equipment checklist to start making videos: cameras, microphones, lighting… Here’s all you need!

All of the above actually applies to make a good video, just in general, but, to make a good video specifically for YouTube, remember to have one or more clear call-to-actions at the beginning, middle and/or end of your video. What do you need your viewers to do? Subscribe to the channel, visit your website, like the video, comment, enter a contest, purchase a product or service, etc. Tell them! You want an engaged audience that takes the desired action, that’s what will make your videos and channel stand out from the rest.

Optimize your channel

When you’re creating a channel from scratch, you need to define, first of all, if you want a personal or a business channel. For instance, a personal channel cannot have multiple administrators, a business channel could. Don’t panic! If you have already created a personal channel but you need access for multiple channel administrators, there’s a way to make the switch without losing any information or previous videos. Drop me a message and I can tell you more!

To position your channel correctly, make sure you choose the right content category and repeat to yourself a question that you must answer every time you come up with a new idea for a video: what’s the kind of content on my channel and who is the target audience?

To optimize a YouTube channel, keep in mind these best practices:

  • Create a channel trailer, a short video presenting your content proposal. It can be found on search but it’s usually intended to appear highlighted on the top section of your channel. As an example, see what actor and entertainer Will Smith did to introduce his YouTube channel.
  • Add links to your website, blog or social media in the About tab of your channel (five of these links could appear on top of the channel banner) and, likewise, link your website to your YouTube channel, increasing cross-promotion and improving your overall positioning.
  • Apply a consistent visual branding on your channel – including the icon (or profile picture) your channel art (banner or header), video thumbnails and channel watermark – to quickly identify everything as part of a cohesive brand identity. Ideally, connect your YouTube visual identity to your visual identity elsewhere (your website, social media, etc.).
  • Keep a video title under 45 characters so it will appear complete on search results. Always identify the type of content (trailer, vlog Q&A…) and the number on a video series, when applicable. For example: Welcome to my Daily Vlogs! (Day 1)
  • Use keywords on the first sentence of a description for your channel, videos or playlists, that’s what will preview on search results and other elements of the platform, so it should indicate the call-to-action, too. Follow that first phrase with additional information and links. Keep in mind that the limit is on 1,000 characters, overall.

In order to increase traffic within your YouTube channel, keep in mind:



  • Add End screens on the last 20 seconds and Cards on the entire video to promote other related videos, generate more traffic to your channel, increase your subscribers count or send referral traffic to your associated website, online store, etc.

After you applied all these best practices to your channel, you need to evaluate if they are giving you the desired outcome. If you have read my previous post 5 mistakes to avoid as a YouTube Channel Manager you are already familiar with the value of YouTube Analytics, but it’s always good to refresh your memory and what you learned. You need to continuously evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your channel, see what is working poorly and what is performing nicely, to do more of the latter.

Analyze data to boost your YouTube channel performance

These are key performance indicators (KPIs) that will keep you informed to help you evaluate the performance of your channel:

  • The difference between views and watch time: in the origins, YouTube based its algorithm on reviewing the number of views on a video. Clickbait was too tempting and many channels created videos with attractive titles and intriguing video thumbnails, misleading on what the content was actually about once watched the video. The viewers left these video traps quickly (after just a few seconds of video watch) but the channels already earned a new view.. After the 2012 YouTube algorithm update, the amount of minutes you watched in a video (or watch time) became the first metric YouTube considers to rank your channel and the overall amount of minutes of video that viewers consumed on your channel became the key to position your videos on search results, related videos, etc. Nowadays, the audience retention (% of your video that viewers watched) is decisive to determine your success on YouTube.

After this change (and many many more changes that followed), some YouTube content creators just started producing long-format content.

This strategy is not correct or wrong per se, but it must be based on data from Analytics to make the informed decision that your audience is actually enjoying long-format content more, otherwise is lame and useless. Long or short, you still need your videos to be watched.

The video duration is not as important, what’s important is to create content that retains the audience attention throughout completion.

What should you do? Give your audience as many options as possible.

For instance, if you have a long video that was live streamed, keep the full video up to watch on-demand, but add short clips from the highlights of your streaming (key speakers, a music performance…). Link the short clips to the full video, inviting viewers to watch more and increasing your overall watch time!

  • The ratio between views and subscribers: this will help you define what success and growth for your channel looks like. A channel with millions of subscribers makes good PR and could bring brands and media attention, subscribers are an important indicator to define the most engaged audience in your channel, but it’s a weak metric if it doesn’t translate to more views (or more watch time).

To define the amount of subscribers as a feasible and useful KPI is necessary to look at the total amount of subscribers and the amount of average views for a new video on a channel.

It’s not easy to give a specific number for reference, it all depends of the type of channel, type of content, etc. But here’s a reference you can use: new videos on your channel should have an average number of views that represents at least the 10% of the total amount of subscribers.

For example, an average of 1,000 views per new video on a channel with 10,000 subscribers. If the percentage is higher, good! If it’s lower, audit your channel because there’s something you are doing wrong.

To calculate this ratio, it’s better to filter viewership data on YouTube Analytics by the latest 28 days, to have a more accurate picture on how your channel is performing recently.

  • YouTube search queries and other traffic sources: if you are starting your YouTube channel, before you have a loyal audience that picks the attention of the algorithm to get your new videos recommended to new viewers on related videos, your main source of traffic will probably be Google and YouTube’s own search engine.

On Traffic sources > YouTube search you can find all the search queries that led new viewers to find your content. Use these popular search queries in your favour to define the channel and video tags you are using, the keywords on your titles and descriptions, etc.

On YouTube Analytics you can also find what features (cards, end screens, etc.) generate the most traffic or what traffic comes from External sources like social media platforms or other websites. For instance, the views from your website or blog posts, if you are using an embed player, will appear here.

  • Suggested videos: besides search results or external sources, a good sign that your channel is getting more attention from new viewers is when YouTube starts highlighting your content organically on the right column, next to the videos currently playing.

Take a look at Traffic sources > Suggested videos to see where your videos were suggested and analyze what these other videos, that are related to yours, are.

Think about it, this is a hidden tool to conduct inexpensive competitor analysis. Use it at your favour to detect what the competition is doing and see what you can learn from them.

The behaviour of users watching the videos – for example, if they watch throughout completion – influences if/when they appear as suggested videos to other users. The percentage of audience retention or the ratio Likes/Dislikes on a video, among other metrics, also affect how videos are suggested to other users.

Make a good use of all the information that YouTube Analytics provides in order to improve the performance of your channel and the organic positioning of your videos. After all, it’s free!

Did you know…

The fight for the throne of ‘Most subscribed channel on YouTube’ received a lot of attention throughout the first quarter of 2019. For many YouTube users and fans, this is a battle that defines the future of the platform: Swedish content creator Pewdiepie represents the independent creators versus the Indian music label T-Series, representing the corporatism that is taking over YouTube. This war is not over anytime soon, who are you rooting for? Tell me in the comments.

Who am I?

My YouTube channel is quite small and semi-abandoned. The subscribers counter is hidden from the public, but I’m now very close to 100 subscribers (SUBSCRIBE!). But I worked for channels that have thousands of subscribers and millions of views and I have official certifications from YouTube on Channel Growth, Audience Growth, Digital Rights and Content Ownership. That’s where all my expertise comes from.

As I’m writing this, I was laid off my last job only a few days ago, so if you think I can you make the most of your YouTube channel, let’s chat!

Author: Oriol Salvador

Journalist in the age of new media. Pop culture nerd and social media Jedi. Exploring the potential of technology and media to deliver information and entertainment through digital platforms.

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