Updated on February 25, 2021, to reflect platform updates, algorithmic changes, and recommended best practices.
Across paid and organic media, it’s clear video is here to stay. And for many of us in the social media space, YouTube is frequently overlooked as a viable channel in any media mix.
Admittedly, YouTube blurs the line between a social network and a video hosting platform. But if you do not take advantage of YouTube, you could be missing the opportunity to get in front of 2 billion logged-in monthly users.
Besides quality content, there are a few ways to enhance your YouTube presence. Check out the five best practices below.
1. Optimize Your Account and Channel
If you haven’t already done so, a great place to begin is by creating a Brand Account with Google. This allows multiple authorized users to log in at once and ensures you can prevent the classic “who has the login credentials for this account?” scenario. With a Brand Account, you can also create and manage multiple YouTube channels, particularly if you have a family of brands or products under one umbrella.
Being strategic when optimizing your channel is crucial from an algorithmic perspective. Your profile setup can impact how you appear in search results, video views, and channel follows.
For example, take a look at Sephora’s Youtube channel. It’s no secret that beauty-related content is huge on the platform. In 2018, videos in the beauty category amassed 169 billion views. So how does Sephora stand out from the rest?
Their channel is thoughtfully curated to ensure a consistent experience that reflects their brand across all existing social properties.
- Their logo and banner are high resolution and aligned with the brand ethos
- Channel verification signals to users that this is the official brand channel. *Note: verification badges are only available to channels with more than 100,000 subscribers. Learn more about the verification process.
- The featured video is regularly updated to highlight product launches, collaborations, or seasonal shopping experiences
- Sephora’s social media links are present in the banner as well as the About tab
- The channel description sets clear expectations regarding the type of content Sephora shares and features keywords relevant to the brand (more on this later)
- Playlists can have a big impact on total watch time. Sephora’s playlists encourage users to keep watching the channel once a video ends, thanks to the auto-play feature
2. Promote Video Across Your Channels
Targeting your content distribution to different–and specific–channels can be an effective tactic for reaching your desired audience. But that doesn’t mean that you should let content published to YouTube exist as an island unto itself. If you do not leverage your best video content across channels, you could miss out on your videos’ reach, views, and potential ROI.
Here are some easy ways to approach cross-channel promotion:
- Tweet video links out to your followers
- Embed a video in a post on your blog
- Feature your most engaging YouTube content on your website
- When it makes sense, rebroadcast your videos on LinkedIn
Facebook hasn’t been mentioned here for a good reason. Videos uploaded natively to Facebook receive exponentially higher engagement than shared YouTube links. Given what we know about algorithmic ranking signals on the platform, it’s in your brand’s best interest to avoid sharing YouTube links on Facebook when it comes to video distribution.
3. Lean on Analytics
If you already have a channel up and running, you should be leveraging channel analytics to monitor performance and glean audience insights. Want a better understanding of who’s watching your videos? Get insights on unique viewers, age and gender, top countries, and more in the Audience tab. Want to see the top external video sources for your channel or compare video impressions vs. views within the platform? Check out the Reach tab.
Use these reports to cross-reference demographic data from YouTube with other social platforms. This way, you can see where audiences overlap and identify new targeting opportunities.
4. Don’t Forget About SEO
YouTube is the second-largest search engine on the internet. It’s no surprise that the SEO principles that improve rankings in the Google SERPs play a role on YouTube as well.
YouTube attempted to demystify their algorithm in 2020, revealing the major ranking factors for YouTube: relevance, quality, and engagement.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when it comes to rankability:
- Are the video title, tags, descriptions, and content related to the query?
- Does the video and channel communicate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness?
- What do aggregate factors like watch time say about a video’s relevance for a particular search term?
With these things in mind, here are some best practices to consider when optimizing your videos for YouTube search:
- Use keyword research tactics to figure out what search terms to include in your video title and description.
- Consider creating a custom thumbnail—90% of the best performing videos on YouTube do!
- Tags are less important but can be helpful to include if the content of a video is commonly misspelled.
- Think about accessibility. Adding captions to videos can improve UX for people with different levels of ability. This can have an impact on video engagement and affect rankings as a result.
- Look at the big picture: consider how your channel’s optimization and cross-platform content promotion can impact video performance and rankings.
To learn more about the YouTube algorithm, HootSuite has a helpful blog post detailing the latest algorithm changes.
5. Consider Paid, Even If You “Don’t Have the Budget”
In addition to an organic social media strategy, you typically have to pay to play to make up for organic impressions lost to algorithmic updates. Plus, chances are your competitors are claiming impression share, engagement, and potential conversions by investing in paid promotion. Not utilizing paid media means you’re likely stunting your growth before it even starts.
If you’re running PPC campaigns, you could very well already be serving in-stream video, discovery, or banner ads on YouTube. In any case, think strategically about the YouTube ads can support your existing paid strategy across platforms or push your organic efforts to the next level.
While it may be tempting to rush to YouTube and create a channel for your business or client, slow down. The most impactful Youtube strategy is thoughtful and consistent. Build and develop a clear plan for how you’ll produce, promote, measure, amplify, and iterate on YouTube in conjunction with your other platforms. By looking at the big picture, you can convert these paid and earned impressions into loyal followers on platforms that you truly own.