5 Hacks to Make the Most of YouTube

At The 2018 NAMM Show, Dan Abel, director of marketing for Reverb, shared top-level information about YouTube, designed for music retailers who are already managing a YouTube presence—and for anyone interested in making YouTube more than just a video archive. As a former YouTube staff member who developed strategic partnerships, Abel emphasized the need to think about how you use YouTube.

He then offered five ideas to make your videos relevant and to ensure you’re getting in front of the right people, in the right way, in an ongoing fashion.

1. Get discovered with Search
Think about YouTube as a search engine. You have to tell YouTube what your video is, so YouTube knows where to put it. Metadata is your barcode and the information you’re feeding the platform. This is critical to people who are searching to find your video.

Title. This is the most important element of your metadata. Put the most relevant piece first in the title. When you’re creating videos, the concept of “how to” is so important in your title because people are searching with these types of phrases.

Description. Be specific. It’s you telling people what to expect.

Tags. You can use tags to inform the YouTube algorithm about your video’s specific category. Use 10 or fewer relevant tags. Don’t just add a popular hashtag if it doesn’t apply to your video. When someone clicks on that video, realizes the content isn’t what he or she expected and leaves, YouTube will deprioritize the video.

Thumbnails. Always create a custom thumbnail. (If you don’t, YouTube will automatically create one when you upload a video.) YouTube notes your interaction and surfaces your content more readily.

The first 3 seconds. The first 3 seconds of your video captures attention and identifies what the video is about. Use this for your title card and branding.

Channel and banner image. Keep in mind how your images are translating from the desktop to a smaller screen on a mobile device.

2. Retain to Sustain
Now you have to get someone to watch your video. Studies have shown that people ask themselves in the first 3 seconds “What is this?,” and in the first 6 seconds, “Do I want to watch it?” Within the first 16 seconds, you have to get to the point of the video or you’ll lose viewers.

Get to the point. YouTube cares less about the number of views a video gets and more about the watch time (how long the viewer is engaged).

Quality is subjective. Ultimately, it’s more about what’s communicated versus what’s seen.

Converse and collaborate. When you want to get someone to watch an entire video, think, “How can I get someone in a conversation?” Ask questions in your video. Face the camera and talk to your audience.

Short-form video, long-term vision. Think more about creating episodic content that gets people to come back versus a long, network-ready piece of content

3. Understand Your Viewers
Next, you need to know how to read into YouTube data. Stop paying attention to views. Would you rather have a million 3-second views or a 100,000 3-minute views? The latter, of course. The key metrics to pay attention to are: 1) watch time and retention and 2) source.

Watch time and retention. This tells YouTube that your content is good, and people are watching it almost to the end. When you lose your audience sooner (low retention), YouTube identifies the video as ineffective content.

Source. YouTube tells you where your views are coming from. When traffic to your website spikes from a video, then the YouTube algorithm traffic follows suit. This tells you how responsive the YouTube algorithm is for getting other people to share your content.

Engagement. This is YouTube’s way of having a conversation. When you ask a question in your video, you’re going to see engagement—along with your YouTube score—boosted. (Your videos are more readily surfaced.)

Subscribers. In reality, subscribers to your YouTube channel don’t matter as much as you may think. If you create a video that attracts a large proportion of subscriber viewers, you’re not reaching the audience you could be reaching (non-subscribers). You’re simply pandering to the subscriber audience.

4. Create Your Cadence
If you create a cadence with your audience, people are much more likely to come back and subscribe. Creating videos in an episodic arc or as a series and releasing them one at a time can work well. It tells YouTube that you’re an ongoing content creator and you should be kept at the top of the algorithm.

Drive a reason to come back. Tell your audience at the end of a video, “Thanks for watching. This video is part of a series. Make sure you come back next (Tuesday) to catch more.”

Create content you can repeat. The bottom line: It’s more important to create consistent content.

Establish a reliable perspective. Set the expectations for your viewers.

Stay relevant and timeless. Speak to what’s culturally relevant but that can be evergreen. (No matter what part of the year, it’s relevant.)

Keep the engine warm. Upload videos regularly, so the YouTube search engine is thinking about your content, your channel and the way people are engaging with your content.

5. Hack Below the Fold
If you want to keep viewers coming back and maximize your YouTube opportunity, here are more tactics:

Eye and say “you.” If you say “you” in the first 15 seconds of a video, you’re twice as likely to get the person to finish watching the video. The same goes for eye contact and looking at the camera. Don’t say, “Hey, you guys,” because you’re speaking to one person.

Make the most of CTAs. Always have one. People want to interact with and support you, so give them an action to take through a CTA.

Share playlists. This beats the YouTube algorithm. Give people the series playlist when you’re sharing a new episode.

Prioritize embeds. If you’re sending people to your YouTube videos through platforms outside of the site, YouTube recognizes the content as popular and prioritizes it.

Third-party resources. There are a million different apps and systems that support YouTube. Abel listed two that he uses, TubeBuddy and vidIQ, that will create insights for you. Abel highly recommended that you take advantage of these tools.