5 Fundamentals of a Successful YouTube Channel
From the simple fact that you’re here, you’ve already figured that out. So let’s get right into how we can set you up for success. Below are some of the key pillars that support every great YouTube channel.
1) Great Content
YouTube, just like any other social media platform, is driven by content.
But what is great content?
To start off, you need to keep in mind, that content is only as good as how it is received or consumed by the people it is intended for.
Which means you have to:
Define your target audience:: The more specific, the better and more targeted your videos will be. For instance, as a fitness blogger, are you trying to guide beginners or more advanced individuals? what kind of training do you specialize in?
Don’t try to appeal to everyone, you will always be alienating a part of your audience, and be at risk of diluting your offering.
Have a distinct value proposition: don’t be the proverbial ‘Jack Of All Trades’, narrow down your content offering to focus on one niche, ideally one that isn’t too crowded (why research is so crucial).
Is your aim to educate or entertain?
Keep it fresh and time relevant. Hot topics get the most attention and are most likely to go viral as a result.
Use tools like Google Trends and Alerts to keep up to date. Or if you’re willing to spend a bit of money, invest in a tool like BuzzSumo, which allows you to track trending content across the web by region and industry.
2) Ensure High Video Quality
Gone are the times where one can achieve YouTube fame, with half-baked production efforts. Maybe Snapchat (see our article on the same), but not YouTube.
Key components you need to be paying attention to, are:
- Good lighting: Not too bright (shouldn’t hurt the eyes), not too dim (they should be able to see who’s talking to them).
- High Definition: A minimum of 720p
- Suitable Background: You’ll often find people telling you to invest in a white backdrop, or maybe a green screen. But this would really depend on the type of content you’re putting together. Fitness videos benefit from having access to a nice clean gym, for example.
- Themed Intro: A nice 3-5 second introduction should reaffirm your branding and mention what your channel is about. If your video editing skills are not up to par just yet, you could use tools like https://www.blender.org (free with templates), or www.renderforest.com (only $9.99 without watermarks).
- Awesome (branded) end cards: YouTube provides the option to create this little closing slot at the end of your videos, use that to reaffirm branding, encourage subscription, or make short, snappy promos of videos to come. Jimmy Kimmel and other talk show hosts do a great job of these.
- A hook point: The rule of thumb is that you have about 5-10 seconds to convince your user to watch the rest of your video. So the ideal structure should be introduction > Branded Intro > Body > Conclusion > End Card.
- The ideal length: Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all here, it depends on the type of video, if entertaining, it’s best kept short, active and energetic; if a tutorial, guide, or conference, you could easily go 1 hour or more.
Just starting out and not sure what to use to make some of the optimisations above, here are a few free video editing software’s you could use for practice:
- iMovie (Mac)
- Movie Maker (Windows)
- YouTube Free Video Editor
- LighWorks (Windows & Mac)
3. Unique & Recognisable Branding
Apple wouldn’t sell an iPhone without its trademark box and cover, why would you do the same with your content?
Especially on YouTube, if you don’t brand right, you run the risk of sneaky freeloaders redistributing your content.
Make sure all the elements of your channel are branded, from the profile picture to the banner and we can’t stress this enough, don’t get lazy with your video thumbnails!
A couple of great services if you’re trying to keep your cost on the lower side, one is Tailor, a custom and instant logo and collateral maker. And the second would be Design Pickle, where you can hire these guys for a very, very affordable retainer, and they do all your design work for you.
4. A Glamourised Homepage
When you first create a YouTube page, and even after you’ve uploaded a few videos, you’ll notice your page doesn’t quite resemble those you’ve been admiring. All of that needs to be done manually.
To up the ante simply open your YouTube profile, you’ll immediately be taken to the homepage. From there, the first thing you need to do is update your profile and channel art.
Then create and upload a trailer for your channel, the first empty slot on your homepage. Your intro video should ideally be about 3 minutes or less, summarising what your channel is about, why people should tune in, and perhaps how often you’ll be posting (see point below).
Lastly, right underneath, you’ll see the option to ‘Add Section’ this is where you can add rows of well-organised content. They can be arranged vertically or horizontally, and present categories like Recent Uploads, Most Popular, Featured, etc.
4. Post with Consistency
There is nothing more annoying than liking someone’s content, and not getting enough of it or knowing when the YouTuber will post again. So figure out the right posting schedule for you, whether once or twice a week, etc. and let your audience know and stick to it!
In terms of what’s recommended, you should ideally shoot for a minimum of 1/ week, but it really depends on how long you need to develop that video while maintaining high standards of quality. At the risk of sounding cliché, never break quality for quantity.
5. Optimised for Search
The harsh reality of YouTube, just as with websites, is when it comes to whether or not your content shows up in the search results, it has more to do with technicalities and minor optimisations than the quality of the video itself.
Below are some of the key elements YouTube looks at when determining the value of your content:
- Watch Time: Aggregate time spent watching your video, tells YouTube how valuable your video is. Remember what we said about ‘’hook’’, this is where they come in handy. If you’ve followed steps 1-4, when developing your content, this shouldn’t be an issue.
- Keywords: Optimize your Meta data e.g. title, description, tags, ensuring it’s riddled with keywords relevant to your video. This is done through Edit Video > Actions. In the actions sub list, you should see the option to edit the description, title, etc.
- User engagement: In common with Facebook, the more users who engage with your content, the more YouTube prioritizes it. Apart from following the steps above, other things you could do to encourage participation include hosting Q&A’s with your fans, comment/like/subscription contests, or even accepting videos requests from your audience.
- Subscriber count: Same as the point above, except focus more of your CTA (Call To Actions) on encouraging subscription.