It’s the most popular video search engine in the world, the second largest search engine just behind Google (its parent company), and ranks the second most popular social media network. It has reached 1.9 billion monthly registered users and over 2 billion users in 2020. To ignore the power of YouTube would be a mistake. Looking at the social network, the video platform, the marketing engine – it may seem a bit overwhelming. And that’s why The Orchard has your back with these 2020 YouTube Best Practices to help you grow and optimize your channel, content, engagement, and in turn, revenue. Stay tuned for the key points and a slideshow presentation at the end!
First impressions are important. When viewers head to your YouTube channel with the choice of making the decision of truly becoming a fan and subscribing, you want to ensure you’ve convinced them properly. To do this, your channel presentation must be up to par. If you’re not sure where to start – to turn the once visitor to a subscribing and engaging fan – we’ve got your back.
Firstly, you want to ensure your channel looks legit. If an artist channel, is it an OAC (Official Artist Channel)? If a label channel and over 100K subscribers, are you verified? An OAC aggregates your content & subscriber count from your various YouTube channels (official YouTube, Vevo and a Topic channel) into one place, making it easy for the viewer to know that this is the artist’s official channel where all their content can be found. Once verified, to a similar point, the viewer knows they’re watching from the correct source.
The next step is branding. Utilizing YouTube’s channel art – its banner and icon image – are important in creating familiarity from other digital presences. You also want to utilize your channel properly by promoting upcoming or recent releases, tours, or any other important and relevant information. The banner should be updated relatively often and should be visible on desktop and mobile. Banner links can show five links on the main page of the channel, so include your most important links on your main page, and other links live on the About page. Examples of promotional links include: an auto-subscribe link, smartURLs, DSPs, socials, merch and tour links, official sites, and more.
Once the top of your channel looks presentable, it’s time to focus on what your viewers came here for: the videos. YouTube allows you to customize the layout of your videos to curate the viewer’s watch session. Above the fold is a space for two different trailer videos – one for already subscribed users, and one for non-subscribed users. This gives you the opportunity to target these viewers differently, as they should be. For example, new users can be presented with the most popular content on the channel, while returning fans can view a new release or priority content.
Below the trailer video, the main page leaves space to place playlists of your choice. If an OAC, there will be two automated YouTube playlists: titled Music videos and Albums. These playlists can’t be moved or changed, but a playlist can be placed in the first slot as well as after these automated shelves. If a non-OAC channel, you have free range to organize as you please. Since playlists are so important in curating that watch session and increasing channel watch time, we recommend creating many playlists filled with videos. You should also be sharing playlists when sharing a new video – simply place the new video first in the list. When setting up a playlist, include a proper title and description, and be sure to update descriptions as needed. We recommend listing a priority playlist first. If there are no priority releases at the moment, then we recommend a “Most Popular” or “Taste of…” playlist to grab the attention of the viewer before even scrolling. Below that and below the automated shelves, we recommend giving the user a variety of options to choose from.
Search Engine Optimization
YouTube being the second largest search engine on the internet means the SEO holds a lot of value to ensure your great content is being surfaced and reached by the target audience. As we’re talking firstly about the overall channel, you want to be sure that your channel SEO is up to par. This means having important keywords and information in the About tab and if an OAC, including a biography and images in the Artist Center. Keywords could mean popular songs, albums, artists, genres, locations, milestones – anything that people might be searching for surrounding the artist or label. Next, you want to add similar keywords to the channel tags to aid in populating the channel in both Google and YouTube search. Having a custom URL for your channel can be an easy way for fans and algorithms to find your channel as well. Including Featured channels (that will live in the Channels tab as well as on the main page of your channel) can help direct traffic to similar/relevant channels thus expanding your audience from other channels.
Titles and Descriptions
Aside from the main channel page, each video you publish will also have its own watch page that can be optimized with SEO for the same reason of helping your target audience find your great content. The title gives a sense of what the video will be, so be sure to identify that. For example: Lyric Video, Official Music Video, Live @ X, Behind the Scenes, etc. Below the titles be sure to leave a description. Be sure to take advantage of the description page as you can include a lot more information on your video. In the description, repeat the title and song information, utilize important keywords or information within the first few sentences, add the lyrics, use relevant hashtags, perhaps a blurb, and all of the artist’s or label’s relevant links (to other playlists, socials, to subscribe, and more). Lastly but still very important is including video tags in the metadata. These tags should include all relevant keywords and should fill all of the available characters, including easily misspelled words, the year, album, song, label, geography, featured artists, the type of video, and more.
Although SEO proves to be an important feature in optimizing videos, that’s not all YouTube provides to make sure your video has the resources to be successful. End-screens are an important feature that help curate and lengthen a viewer’s watch session, driving them to other (chosen) videos or playlists at the end of the video they were watching. Enabling cards are played during the video and similarly drive viewers to more content on your channel (or outside verified websites such as a tour website). Utilizing both of these features are important in keeping the viewers watching your content.
Two more engaging watch session features are the branding watermark and subtitles. The branding watermark is a logo that when scrolled over, allows the user to subscribe to the channel without leaving the video, which makes becoming a fan easier. The other feature, subtitles, can help broaden your audience and really keep viewers engaged while watching. Fans who might use subtitles are people who enjoy reading the lyrics, are hard of hearing, speak another language, or more.
Lastly, and arguably one of the most important optimizations for videos, would be regarding thumbnails – the first glimpse of what a video is to the viewer’s eyes. Thumbnails should be bright, easy to see, with a clear picture of the artist or a striking image that’s on brand to grab someone’s attention easily. No thumbnail should look all too similar to the others as to avoid confusion to viewers.
Engaging With Viewers
YouTube provides so much more than just being a video hosting service; YouTube builds communities. It’s a space where artists and labels can build a direct connection with the music and the fans. Because creating this community is so important, especially for releases, YouTube makes it easy to engage with fans in numerous spaces.
Community Tab & Comments
The Community tab (YT’s version of a social feed) is a place to directly engage with your audience through gifs, polls, photos, text statuses, and other content. Replying and liking – interacting – within the tab will have fans realize the importance of being notified in this space and subscribe. Posting in Community can also be a good way to keep the channel active, even without any new big releases.
Just like interacting through the Community tab, it’s important to interact with comments and fans in the watch pages to have them continually coming back to the video. Heart, like, reply, and pin a comment to start even more engagement.
YT Stories, YT Live-Streaming, YT Premiere
Three direct ways to engage with viewers are YT Stories, utilizing YT live-streaming, and YT Premiere. YT Stories are similar to Instagram Stories, but can be 15 seconds long and last for 7 days. This is a great way to show on-the-go engagement and a cool way to answer fans questions in real time. With live-streaming, you can’t get any more real-time which makes it the best way to genuinely communicate with your audience. It’s important to use live-streams to keep audiences feeling part of a larger community. The larger community can also come together as a whole to create an event for a release with YT Premiere – a feature that creates a countdown, hype, around a new video alongside a live-chat where fans can show their excitement and the artist can engage by commenting along.
Engaging with viewers doesn’t end with YouTube’s features that make it easy to do so; engaging with viewers also means continued content and pushing YT from other places. Continued consistent, engaging, and creative content creation such as vlogs, Q&A, behind the music, personal videos, serialized content, and setting a schedule so viewers know when to expect new content, are key in creating a strong, loyal fanbase; and pushing this content from other socials, having it in bios and smartURLs can help bring a new fanbase to your videos.
For a slideshow presentation of our 2020 YouTube Best Practices see below!