With nearly 300 hours of new video content uploaded to YouTube every minute, more creators are joining the platform to share ideas, make a living, and to establish a sense of global community.
As our world rapidly changes and adapts to new times, YouTube has surely followed by providing its users with new features and interface updates to help us connect, learn, and explore.
For many, YouTube has become their main social and entertainment platform, or even income stream. For this reason, The Orchard is glad to share our updated 2022 YouTube Best Practices, where you can learn about new features, branding tips, and how to complete the puzzle that is the YouTube algorithm.
Channel Features & Optimizations
Every solid house starts with a solid foundation. Having your channel well branded and organized is the start of captivating your audience and potential subscribers.
Official Artist Channel vs. Verified
One of the most often asked questions is: what is the difference between Official Artist Channel and Verification? Once your channel meets a certain amount of engagement and traffic requirements, you can take it to the next level by transforming it into one of two types of channels. Depending on the type of content you want to share with the world, you could either shift to an Official Artist Channel (OAC) or a Verified Channel.
OACs (indicated with a music note) are recommended for artist channels. An OAC aggregates content & subscriber count from various YouTube artist channels (official YouTube channel, Vevo channel, and Topic channel) into one place.
Verifications (symbolized by a check) are for label and non-artist channels. You can request verification for a channel once the channel reaches 100K subscribers. This is a great way signify to viewers the channel is the official channel for your labels and non artists content.
Now that your channel is official, let’s get into the visuals. You want to establish your brand by creating custom visually appealing channel art through the banner and icon. The icon should be clear, and both desktop and mobile-friendly. Use the channel banner as a billboard to market recent releases, tours, upcoming collaborations, etc. Your banner should be updated often and make the audience feel like they’re connecting with a personality, and not just a brand.
Along with the channel banner, you should not forget to add banner links. You can overlay up to 5 social links in the banner, driving to other social media profiles, official websites, streaming platforms, etc. If you have more than five, those additional links can be added to the channel description.
Here are the recommended formats for the icon and banner:
- Icon: JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG file (no animated GIFs); 800 x 800 px image (recommended); Square or round image that renders at 98 x 98 px
- Banner: Channel art looks different on desktop, mobile, and TV displays — larger images may be cropped. For the best results on all devices, one 2560 x 1440 px image is recommended. File size should be 6MB or smaller.
Curated Channel Layout
Sections function as the main organizational tool for channel homepages. They make the channel page easy to browse and can be created from playlists.
Consider curating channel sections to organize your content into different groups and playlist shelves such as new album playlists, “My Album” playlist, etc, as well as organizing content from other channels’ content.
Playlists should be an essential part of a channel strategy as they increase watch-time and create another asset that appears in search results and Suggested Videos.
As mentioned in channel sections, create playlists using the channel’s videos, videos from other channels, or a combination of both. Optimize the playlists’ metadata to work for you, and direct viewers to these playlists via cards, end screens, community, and links.
Playlists can be series or mood playlists, albums, lives, etc. Use a strong title and description to help people find the playlist.
Now that your channel foundation is built, channel descriptions is where you start to work with the algorithm. Channel descriptions should be added in two places: the “About” tab and “Artist Center” in the creator studio.
YouTube uses the “About” tab to populate SEO (Search Engine Optimization); adding a detailed description with key terms assists YouTube in surfacing the channel higher in search. Remember to include the artist’s most popular songs, album names, genres, labels, locations, milestones, and any other search terms relevant to the artist or channel.
Artist Profile (OAC)
Artist profiles are associated with OACs. Artist profiles can be updated in the “Artist Center” tab in Creator Studio. Here you can add pictures and a biography that will populate under the “About” description but is also reflected on the YouTube Music app.
Similar to video tags, channel tags help surface the channel in YouTube search and in other algorithms, such as Google. Use relevant keywords that describe the channel, such as artist name, hit songs, genres, or content that lives on the channel.
For cross-promotion, link featured channels in the “Channels” tab to promote other content and drive traffic between two channels.
Creating a custom URL allows fans to easily find and remember your channel. It should be something clear and memorable such as /ArtistName /ArtistOfficial /LabelRecords /LabelMusic.
Video Optimizations & Features
Video Titles, Descriptions and Tags
Your video’s title, tags, thumbnail, and description are important pieces of metadata for your video’s discovery. These main pieces of information help viewers decide which videos to watch.
Video titles give viewers a sense of what to expect from a video, and aid in SEO optimization. For titles, you want the strongest keyword at the beginning and call out if it’s an Official Audio/Video/Lyric Video/Behind The Scenes/ Live @ X etc at the end. For videos with feature artists, you can mention other artists or channels using the @ symbol and a channel name search.
Similar to channel tags, video tags are descriptive keywords you can add to your video to help viewers find your content. They should include a mix of general and specific tags to accurately describe each video. The more tags added to videos, the better, as long as they remain relevant to the video. If you think like a potential viewer, you’ll tag like a pro. Tags are most useful when your content is commonly misspelled, so include tags like easily common misspelling of artist’s name or title, notable song lyrics, genre, video type as examples of tags that helps your content stand out above the crowd.
A well-composed video description is a key source to utilize SEO and help viewers find your videos. It can hold up to 5000 characters; plenty of space to utilize keywords. The first two sentences of the description are shown in search and on the video page- so make it powerful. A few examples of what to include in your video description are:
- Links to subscribe, links to social platforms, links to other videos or playlists, mentions of other artists or channels with @ symbol, and any purchase links (merch/song/album).
- Add the video’s song lyrics.
- Include appropriate hashtags without spaces; the first 3 hashtags appear below the video and above the video title. Use hashtags that are a part of larger searches, such as “#NewMusic, #Artist, #Album, #Genre, #Event” but be sure not to over hashtag – more than 15 tags could go against YouTube community policies.
Once the core of your video is all set with some hearty metadata (SEO, titles, descriptions, etc.), you can use these additional video features to enhance the accessibility and promotional potential of your content.
Use cards to make your videos more interactive. The card button appears as an “i” in the top right-hand corner throughout the video. Up to 5 cards can be added per video and can promote a video, relevant playlist or another channel or link to sites (merch, streaming, donation sites, tour tickets, etc.). Cards aren’t available on videos set as made for kids.
End-screens are an important feature that help curate and lengthen a viewer’s watch session. Add up to four different end screen elements at the end of a video. It is recommended to always include a subscribe button and a video/playlist element to keep the viewer engaged and with the hope that they continue to watch more videos from the channel. End screen elements should be kept updated to push to relevant and/or priority content.
Thumbnails are your “first impressions” in search and suggested videos, so make them count! Thumbnails should be bright and easy to see (not dark or blurry), with a clear picture of the artist or a striking image that’s on-brand to grab the attention of potential fans.
Use distinct thumbnails for each video to aid user experience and don’t forget to always optimize for mobile.
YouTube viewers are global. Enabling subtitles (CC)/translations opens the content to a larger audience – including those who don’t speak the language or would prefer to have the lyrics on the screen. Translations contribute to the overall metadata of the video.
Another important watch session feature to add is the “branding watermark” button. It sits on the lower right hand corner of each video and, without even leaving the video, viewers can directly subscribe to your channel when using YouTube on a computer.
Merch shelf allows eligible channels to showcase official merchandise on a shelf below the video page, and on the “Store” tab on the main channel. You can organize your merch by default or change it up by selecting up to 12 items to display. This can be enabled for the entire channel or on individual videos. If you’re eligible for the merch shelf, you can also add merch to your end screens, links in channel descriptions, and live stream feeds. Currently, only viewers in 29 countries are able to view the merch self and related features
Engaging With Viewers
YouTube continues to offer new ways for artists and creators to connect with their audience.
There are now various features to enhance artist-fan interactions, including live chats, YouTube stories, and much more!
Community is YouTube’s version of a social feed, and a great way to directly engage with your audience. Community posts can give you more reach on YouTube and greater engagement with your audience. Posting in the Community tab keeps the channel active in YouTube’s algorithm, especially when the artist goes a length of time without posting. It can also help jumpstart a channel in the algorithm before uploading new content.
To foster a more connected fanbase, reply and like comments within the Community page. Use Community as a space to offer your fans access to unique content and general updates. Create engaging posts such as: polls, open questions, Q&A, and scheduled content.
YouTube Premieres lets you and your viewers watch and experience a new video together in real-time. Create buzz for your Premiere by sharing the watch page so viewers can set reminders, chat, and leave comments.
Recently, YouTube added new features to Premiere:
- Live Redirect is a livestream pre-show event that automatically “redirects” the viewer to your Premiere after the livestream has ended.
- Trailers place a pre-recorded 15 seconds to 3 minute hype video that will be played on the watch page in advance to the Premiere.
- Countdown Themes gives you the option to choose from a range of themes, vibes and moods to personalize the viewer’s Premiere countdown experience.
Long-form video content is now easier to navigate than ever, thanks to YouTube’s Video Chapters feature. Video chapters break the video into selectable sections, each with a corresponding thumbnail. These chapters can be entered manually or automatically assigned by YouTube. Chapters will appear on the video timeline and hovering over the timeline will display the chapter so users can easily navigate through video segments.
Super Chat & Super Stickers
Super Chat is a feature that allows viewers to voluntarily pay for their messages to be highlighted and pinned to the top of the live chat box on a livestream or Premiere video. The color of the chat and amount of time pinned to the top depends on how much the viewer spends.
Viewers can also purchase Super Stickers, which are digital or animated images that pop up in the live chat feed and can also be pinned to the top of the chat box.
Once enabled, these features will automatically be on all future livestreams and Premieres.
YouTube Giving allows creators to support the charitable causes they care about. Eligible channels can fundraise for nonprofits by adding a donate button to their videos and live streams. Viewers can donate directly on the video watch page or in live chat.
*Super Chat and Super Stickers aren’t available on live streams with Live Chat Donations.
Live streaming lets you interact and connect with old and new fans, reach new audiences in real time and create a buzz with a video feed, chat, and more.
For live production, make sure encoding software is set up and the preview works
If streaming from mobile, turn that phone to landscape for the best viewer experience.
Lives are scanned by Content ID, so it’s important to only stream content you own, as claims from third-party rights holders can result in the stream being interrupted.
Think Instagram stories but YouTube style! YouTube Stories are 15-second-long photo or video footage that expires after 7 days. Stories are on-the-go engagement from the artists, as they can be done through the YouTube app on mobile. To create a story, it’s as simple as tapping the camera icon button, recording, editing, adding text, links, filters, stickers and music.
Following the extremely viral vertical video format seen on Tiktok and Instagram Reels, YouTube’s newest video feature, Shorts, provides users with an endless scrolling field. Content on Shots if recommended based on subscription status to the creator, video traffic and engagement, and similar tags. You can find Shorts on YouTube’s homepage, channel pages, subscriptions, and through the search feature.
As the Shorts feature continues to grow, more creators are sharing their snappy vertical content on their channels and storing and displaying it on their Shorts shelf (as seen below). This newly added channel section allows visiting users to view all of your shorts in one place!
With Shorts being a focus for 2022, YouTube is concentrated on building its foundation across 3 main areas:
- Creation– Making it fun and easy by providing plenty of formatting and editing options.
- Discover– Enabling the next generation of mobile creators to grow a Shorts community.
- Watch- Introducing a new vertical watch experience.
YT Studio Mobile App
YouTube Studio is the home for creators. Now you can manage your presence, grow your channel, interact with your audience, and make money all on-the-go. The YouTube Studio app allows you to edit video info, such as title and description, and set video visibility settings while away from your computer. Keep up with your channel’s video analytics at any time! Many of the desktop platform metrics, including real time stats, are visible on the app. To stay connected with your audience, you can monitor user likes and comments and respond right from the app.
For more details on the 2022 YouTube Best Practices, check out the presentation below!