The emergence and popularity of short-form media-sharing social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, has made it difficult for brands to justify using other video-sharing platforms, especially YouTube. It would be easy to assume that YouTube is losing users to these short-form video giants and is becoming an outdated way for businesses to reach potential customers, but that assumption is wildly inaccurate.
According to Search Engine Journal, YouTube was the second most popular search engine in the world in 2021. The site currently boasts more than 2 billion logged-in users per month, plus scores more users without accounts. With that information in mind, companies need to stop thinking of it as another video-sharing social media site and start thinking of it as a platform that can bring awareness to their business.
The biggest mistake brands make when they start on YouTube is using their channel as a dumping ground for whatever content they post on their primary media platforms. Posting such a variety of content, most of which has not been optimized for YouTube’s algorithms, gives branded YouTube channels an inconsistent voice and gives audiences little incentive to engage with that content and even less reason to support the channel.
A well-crafted and curated YouTube page will not only make it more likely that people will subscribe to your channel and engage with and share your content more, but it will also net your business more exposure, conversions and, hopefully, customer acquisitions.
TIPS TO GIVE YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL A MAKEOVER
The best way to make your channel more visually appealing is to make sure it is organized. Both subscribers and newcomers to the channel should be able to navigate your page with ease and find content they are looking for on your feed quickly.
You can achieve this by understanding the functions of each subsection of your channel page. Make sure to create numerous curated playlists of your best content, whether it’s tutorials or highlight reels, which will be featured on the “Home” section. The “Community” section is a fantastic tool that serves the same functions as other social media platforms without ever having to leave YouTube; you can make announcements for product news, advertise your primary store page, post other media photos and GIFs, and even create polls to engage with your users.
If your channel has more than 10,000 subscribers, is part of the YouTube Partner program and is free of any community guideline violations, it will become eligible to use the YouTube Merchandise Shelf. You can use this feature as a secondary storefront to sell your products directly from your YouTube channel.
Another organizational strategy that makes your channel more appealing is cohesive video titles. Your video titles should have a consistent format that includes both the subject of the video and your company name. Be sure to naturally insert SEO keywords to further prioritize your business’ content when people search for the videos relating to those subjects.
It is also important to optimize your video descriptions and put all of the most significant information first (video context, calls-to-action, important links), since YouTube only displays the first two to three lines, which is about 100 characters, before users have to click “Read More.” YouTube takes SEO keyword-laden video descriptions into account when choosing videos to display in the “Suggested” feed on the sidebar of videos people watch, which can be a great source for video views and help people discover your channel.
Furthermore, YouTube utilizes tags to identify what a video’s content is about, tie videos with similar content together and put them on the coveted sidebar. Make sure to use relevant tags to help the algorithm associate your content with other videos, which can help your videos reach wider audiences.
HOW TO BOOST VIDEO TRAFFIC WITH THUMBNAILS
Video thumbnails help users decide whether or not to click on your videos. A weak thumbnail will likely yield noticeably fewer views. The good news is that you can go back and change thumbnails of your older videos and potentially gain tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands more views. In fact, it is common practice for larger channels to update thumbnails for older videos as the YouTube algorithm changes, so they can continue to generate traffic from that content.
“If I have a video come out and it’s doing really, really bad, believe it or not the first thing I do is change the thumbnail,” said David Patterson, owner of the ThatDudeinBlue YouTube channel which currently has 1.17 million subscribers. “You would not believe the kind of effect that [has], the human eye on YouTube tends to look at the thumbnail first and the title second.”
According to Patterson, changing thumbnails is much safer than changing the video title or description because the YouTube algorithm does not need to reprocess any data. When you change a video title or description, YouTube has to rethink how to place your video in people’s “Suggested” feeds. This is a problem because in the process of sorting your video, the algorithm may take it out of your target audience’s feeds and bury it in “Suggested” tabs where it may not be relevant.
In order to craft a good thumbnail, it is important to find a consistent but modular design that denotes your company and its voice. Your thumbnails need to stand out from those of similar pages and get your audiences to instantly recognize your brand’s channel from the thumbnail alone.
“It’s almost like a video editing style,” Patterson said. “How can you get people to look at your thumbnail and go ‘oh I know that’s David’s video because that’s his style of thumbnails’ in a world where millions of videos are being uploaded every day?”
Many users are on mobile devices, so it is important to optimize your thumbnails for small screens, which means they should have a single subject and a clean background with bright colors. YouTube audiences want to see the human side of brands, so thumbnails with faces in them are ideal. The subject’s face should be expressive and audiences should be able to see the whites of the person’s eyes.
“Bright colors really help, text on the thumbnail tends to really help,” Patterson said. “It’s important to know how to use Photoshop or other image editing software because that way you can get a lot more creative with your thumbnails.”
However, it is important to know the difference between a good, emotion-sparking thumbnail and clickbait. The thin line separating the two is marked by intention and honesty. If the video title and thumbnail accurately reflect what the video will be about, viewers will be fine with it. However, if the title and thumbnail over exaggerate events that occur in the video or those events simply do not happen, viewers will feel that their time was wasted and will be unlikely to watch more content from your channel.
“If [your thumbnail is] completely lying to your audience to get people in the door, I’ve never been a fan of that,” Patterson said. “Whatever your hook is, you better back it up.”
While clickbait has become more normalized, audiences can and will call out clickbait elements in videos. If this happens, it is important to show that you are listening to your viewers by engaging with those comments and reworking the offending title or thumbnail.
“If it means that it helps my career and everybody in the comments section is happy and they enjoyed the video, then I’m fine with it,” Patterson said. “If I ride that line and a lot of people in the comments are like ‘David this video is clickbaity and I don’t like that you did that,’ believe it or not I’ll change the thumbnail and title.”
The bottom line is that YouTube remains one of the dominant methods in which people discover creators, products and businesses, so it is critical that brands understand how to optimize their channels and videos to the platform’s algorithms and land on the right “Recommended” pages. Developing a good thumbnail strategy and changing out bad thumbnails is the least risky and, arguably, the most effective way to increase the chance your brand’s YouTube channel will garner more engagement, a wider reach and new customers.