Keywords and relevance decide the ranking of your web pages in Google. Unsurprisingly, the same applies to all content, including video.
Keep in mind though, that even if you know every white hat SEO trick, it won’t help if your content isn’t up to scratch. User experience is also important, it must be a delight to interact with your brand, not a disappointment.
Guidelines for optimizing your YouTube channel
1. Get your branding consistent
Why is branding your channel important for your YouTube strategy?
Aligning your videos with your brand creates a consistent experience for your audience. When existing and potential customers visit your YouTube channel, they need to feel that it is part of a greater whole.
To help you with this, YouTube already offers free branding features. You can customize your channel background, upload custom thumbnails and link to other social networks. If tech brands can do it, you can do it too.
Customize your channel art
A custom background is an easy way to communicate that this is the official YouTube channel for your brand. It needs to be simple, high quality and highlight what you do best. The recommended image size is currently 2560 x 1440 px. (source: YouTube Help)
Apple’s themed YouTube channel art for WWDC 2016. Source: Apple’s YouTube channel.
Showcase your social channels
It’s important to list your active social media profiles and update them frequently for social proof. This increases your credibility and exposure as segments of your audience may have differing preferred networks.
Check the bottom right corner of your channel art, right above the Subscribe button. Here, you can add links to the leading social networks including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and also your website. In the About section you can describe your business and highlight how you provide a better solution than competitors. Make sure it is short and descriptive.
Customize the layout of your channel
Once you have verified your YouTube channel, you will be able to create a custom layout for your channel. You can set it up so that new visitors see the channel trailer while returning subscribers see suggested content instead.
It is also possible to customize sections on your channel to highlight specific themes and playlists. Not only is this handy if you have a lot of videos, it also encourages viewers to watch more content.
Update your YouTube channel trailer (or create one)
A trailer is your chance to introduce yourself and your business, and explain the benefits of subscription.
And just like at the movies, a good trailer can make the viewers want to see more. YouTube trailers appear at the top of the channel for new visitors and can help drive subscriptions. If you don’t have one, or it hasn’t been updated in the last 5 years, it’s time to get a new one.
There are some simple tips from YouTube on how to create a good channel trailer:
- Assume the viewer has never heard of you
- Keep it short
- Hook your viewers in the first few seconds
- Show, don’t tell
- Ask viewers to subscribe in your video and with annotation
Thumbnails convey the subject of the video and attract potential viewers to click-through. Using the cinema analogy – they are like the movie’s poster. YouTube has a thumbnail algorithm, which means that there’s one for every video you upload. But with millions of videos to choose from, you will need a way to differentiate your brand.
To put things in perspective, over 400 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute and their average length is 4 minutes and 20 seconds. So, in the time it took you read this far, another 12,000 videos have been uploaded.
There are a number ways to create custom thumbnails that stand out. Use action shots, branded images with text, specific color themes for each video type (that’s us!). But the main takeaway is to keep them consistent.
Custom thumbnails with action shots, source: Reelseo.com
On the technical side, always remember to use optimized images. It’s likely that your videos will be viewed on different devices, so always bear in mind the smartphone and tablets users.
Optimized thumbnails have a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, are under 2 MB and have a recognizable file format, e.g. .JPG or .PNG (source: YouTube Help).
2. Technical stuff that improves your YouTube Channel
Why is your video’s metadata an important part of YouTube strategy?
Titles, descriptions and tags help YouTube and Google’s search algorithms identify the subject of your videos to rank them in their search results. Optimizing your metadata helps your audience find videos more often, meaning more video views. The more views your video gets in a short time period, the higher it will rank across the relevant key phrases.
Write a descriptive title using key phrases that people would search to find your video. Remember to be concise as any longer than 66 characters may be truncated in search. Be as natural as possible, but do keep keyword search volumes in mind. Use a keyword finder tool to check for general trends (we use Google’s Keyword Planner).
Each video should have a 200-500 word description, summarizing the video (you have 5000 characters to play with). Remember that only about 157 characters will display, so you must make them compelling enough for users to click the Show More button. YouTube video descriptions can be hard to master, but once you’ve developed a template, it gets much easier.
Always include strong call-to-actions and URLs for relevant pages on your website. Your viewers will appreciate it if they can easily connect to the supporting information on your website and you will benefit from the extra traffic. Everybody wins.
Consider transcribing your video
Another nice addition to your content could be a transcript. Especially if your videos long or have lots of takeaways. In this way, your video content can be repurposed to create a blog post or even downloadable content. Doing it manually can be time-consuming, so if you don’t have any scripts already written, consider using a paid video transcription service.
Tag your YouTube videos
No doubt you will have keywords that didn’t fit naturally into your title or description. Well, you can still make use of them by adding around five to seven as tags for your video. Tags can just be a single word, but ideally you should try to use more phrases. Remember that they have to be relevant to the content of the video and help users to find it.
3. Increase visibility and engagement with video annotations
Use annotations wisely
Make the most of YouTube annotations, as essentially, they are call-to-action buttons in disguise. Well crafted pop-ups encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel, watch more videos, follow you on social media or find out more from your website. Each of the five annotation types can be used to achieve a different goal.
- Speech bubble: for creating pop-up speech bubbles with text.
- Spotlight: for highlighting areas in a video; when the user moves the mouse over these areas the text you enter will appear.
- Note: for creating pop-up boxes containing text.
- Title: for creating a text overlay to title your video.
- Label: for creating a label to call out and name a specific part of your video.
Go beyond YouTube
Similar to blog posts, videos can be linked to other videos with the use of annotations, as long as it improves the viewer’s experience. You can even link to external sites once your YouTube channel has been verified and is in good standing. Refrain from doing it with your first videos though, as linking externally is only considered good practice when you have an established channel.
You can also invest in YouTube advertising if you feel your business needs a push that goes beyond organic reach. If you don’t have much experience creating short, promotional videos, don’t worry. Just recently, this Google-owned social media network launched the YouTube Director app, making it much easier to create videos. It’s currently available to all businesses in the US and Canada, on iPhone (they promise to launch an Android app soon).
4. Organize your videos by topic or theme into playlists
Just as you would organize your favorite songs, playlists help to group videos based on a common theme. It increases the likelihood that viewers will watch more than one video. Not just because they are easier to find, but also because the videos will play automatically in the sequence you created.
You may like to use custom thumbnails to visually distinguish your playlists. Below is a wonderful example from Microsoft.
Themed playlists done exceptionally well by Microsoft. Source: Microsoft’s YouTube channel.
Playlists also help to define the subject of your videos for YouTube’s search algorithm. And they also rank in Google and YouTube searches, giving you yet another way to display your content.
Keep your playlist titles short and descriptive, then add a keyword focused description (up to 5,000 characters). Each playlist can have up to 200 videos and there are currently no limitations on the number of playlists users can create.
If you only want to share content with specific users (contest winners, influencers etc.) then you can make your playlist private, so only those with the link can access it. Otherwise, always ensure that your privacy setting is to public – you want your playlists to be found!