YouTube playlists are essential to position your video, but they are often treated as a secondary feature that goes unnoticed when you are managing a channel.
A fully optimised YouTube playlist can make your content more discoverable on the platform, increase your views and, by keeping your audience engaged, grow the total amount of watch time on your channel.
Using a playlist you can organize the content from your channel, help users find specific types of content or one of your series and facilitate they stay on the platform binge-watching similar content, ideally remaining on your channel.
Even more important, a good YouTube playlist influences the algorithm that selects recommended videos or what video is played next automatically.
The essentials of a YouTube playlist
For the perfect playlist on YouTube you must consider:
- Writing a title with keywords that position this specific set of content, followed by the name of the channel to keep a consistent branding across all the playlists from your channel.
- Composing a short description (generally a single paragraph), followed by a call to action (Subscribe, Find more info…) and a link(s).
- Deciding an order for the playlist, choosing from one of the six available options: Most popular is highly recommended, in order to highlight your most watched content. You can also arrange your videos chronologically (Date added or Date published). Alternatively, if none of these options is what you are looking for, use Manual to set up a different order. Playlist can be rearranged anytime.
Use playlists as sections on your channel homepage
The homepage is an introduction to the content offer of your YouTube channel. There are multiple options to organize it in a way that highlights your most popular, relevant or recent content, presenting the different series of videos you uploaded or even cross-promoting videos and playlists from other channels.
If your channel homepage is just a chronology of the channel activity – videos posted, channels subscribed, videos liked or added to a playlist (see an example) you are doing something wrong. ‘Why is this happening? Is YouTube broken?’ No, YouTube channels used to look like before the new layouts were made available in 2014, so you are basically telling the YouTube algorithm that you didn’t pay attention to your channel management and optimisation for more than five years, which (let’s be honest) is true, and the algorithm will probably ignore your new video, but now you know why.
In other channels there’s no chronological feed but, even if the channel has many subscribers and videos uploaded, the only message on the homepage is as follows: “This channel doesn’t have any content” (see example). ‘WTF? Where are my videos?’ Go the the ‘Videos’ tab, your videos are still there, don’t panic! What happened here is that you enabled the option to customize your channel layout, but you need to continue reading to learn how you can personalize the structure of your channel with sections.
DISCLAIMER: Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, the previous two channels I used as examples are no longer valid, because they found this and learned what they were doing wrong. If that’s the case: you’re welcome!
What can you personalize on your channel homepage?
First of all, you can set up a Channel trailer on top of your channel homepage, which can be different for new visitors – create a short and descriptive video about your channel – or your returning subscribers – that’s for recent or relevant video, or playlist.
Below your channel trailer, you can enable up to 10 sections. You have different types of sections – uploads, most popular videos, single or multiple playlists, channels, etc. – but you should mainly use individual playlists to highlight ten of your playlists, generally the most recent and/or popular. If you have several playlists with a common link, you can also create a section of multiple playlists to group seasons of the same show or organize playlists by years, for example.
A best practice to follow is to create a main playlist with all the public videos on your channel, arranged chronologically or by popularity, highlighted in order to increase traffic within the channel and its overall positioning in the algorithm.
Translate your playlists
If the audience of your channel is multilingual, you should know and enable the options to translate, on a video and a playlist level, both the description and the title. You can even have the channel title and description in different languages if you want!
By setting up a title and playlist description in different languages, users will find it on their most suitable language, what is set up in their browser, if it’s one of the languages that the playlist was translated to (otherwise, the original language will prevail). Translations are applied to the same playlist, which means you have the same link for the different languages available, and these will show on search results according to the language settings of each individual user.
I’m going to be honest: this option, on a playlist level, is not easy to find, but it may change
your life the performance of your channel once you find it. If you are struggling to find it, drop me a message.
The privacy of a YouTube playlist
The playlists Liked Videos or Favorites are generated by default and a best practice is to set them Private, to be hidden from the public. There are two more things you can choose to hide from the public to control your privacy: channels you are subscribed to and playlists you saved. I recommend you to hide these from the public, as well.
Instead of automatically show all the channels you are subscribed to, you can make a customizable list of Featured Channels (shown in the right column) and, if you want to curate content from other channels, you can always create a new playlist that you have more control over, where you can change the title, add a description, etc.
Keep in mind that when a video is removed from YouTube or set as Private it must be removed from the playlist(s) it was added to. Otherwise it still appears on the list as a grey box with the text [Deleted video] or [Private video], not a good look for your playlist.
On the other hand, when a video set as Unlisted (only people with the link can watch it) is added to a public playlist, the video is always visible from that public playlist. Therefore, if you want to hide an Unlisted video from the public, don’t add it to a created playlist until the video is set as Public.
Automate your playlists
The more advanced options on Playlist settings are to allow or prevent playlist embedding, set up playlists as collaborative, allowing other users to add new videos, or automate them defining rules to add new videos to the playlists automatically.
To automatically add videos to a playlists define one or more keywords that, when found on the title, description or tags of a new video, will automatically add that video to that given playlist.
What else can you do with playlists?
The main focus of this article was to explain how can you optimize YouTube playlists to highlight your own videos – boosting views, watch time and overall performance – but let’s make this clear: you can also make playlists of videos from other channels.
Curate interesting content, make music playlists or even create music or topic playlists combining your own videos with others, more popular. You can start these playlists with the more popular content, to attract user’s attention, and share your videos next, positively influencing their overall positioning in the platform.
If you don’t have time to produce new videos but you see yourself as a curator, there are examples of channels building an audience out of curating playlists: creating music playlists by genre, collecting interesting talks by topic… What’s your idea?
As a channel manager, playlists are also a useful way to point more links towards your channel, collecting videos from other users reacting to your content, videos related to your product, influencers talking about your brand, etc. Playlists, playlists everywhere!
DID YOU KNOW…
If you have a user created on YouTube and use the platform regularly, YouTube has a way to keep you engaged by creating Mixes that appear on the top of the home page and in the section of Suggested videos for some of the video pages.
These are endless playlists (mainly made of music content) tailored to you, based on your subscriptions, watching history, etc. They are not always right, but you can always educate the YouTube algorithm by clicking in “Non Interested” when applicable.
For a channel manager, these Mixes can be a significant sources of watch time for a channel (look for Traffic Sources on the Analytics). Another reason why you should keep your audience engaged with the content: the more they watch your video, the more likely they will be featured in these personalized and auto-generated playlists.
WHO AM I?
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. I optimize existing video content and devise tailored content strategies for YouTube channels to become sustainable long-term projects. Revising all the channel metadata, SEO, resolving copyright issues, enabling all the monetisation features available or setting up TrueView campaigns are just some of the actions I can focus on, either as an in-house channel manager or as a consultant, running an accurate audit of your channel.
If you are struggling with your channel, message me!