How to Build a Successful YouTube Channel

With more than 2.6 billion users logging on each month, YouTube is a valuable platform for businesses to reach their audiences. 96% of Gen Z have an account, as does 87% of millennials, so it’s vital to have a presence there if your target audience largely consists of this demographic.   

Another benefit of using this social media platform is that it provides an additional source of traffic to your website, social media pages, or wherever you want to direct users. And of course, monetising your YouTube channel brings in another source of revenue, whether that’s through ads, paid membership plans, or both.  

Before you open a YouTube channel, it’s important to have a content plan, be prepared with the right equipment, do keyword research, and decide how to promote your content. In this article, I’ll guide you through the essential factors you need to keep in mind when setting up a new channel or improving an existing one. 

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Channel Design

The design of your channel sets users’ first impression of your brand. Make sure your cover picture and video thumbnails are aligned with your branding and brand guidelines. Thumbnails should be eye-catching in order to stand out in searches and gain clicks.  

Many YouTubers use click-bait within their thumbnails. For example, along with an eye-catching image, there will be some text making some sort of enticing or outlandish claim. While clickbait is not something to indulge in all the time, when used in moderation, it will help to cut through all the other content and get your videos noticed.  

Use wording that will intrigue viewers and compel them to click; just make sure it doesn’t promise something concrete that the video doesn’t deliver on. The same goes for video titles and descriptions.

Your Channel Name

It should be clear from your channel name what the channel is about. It may be the name of your brand, your own name (if you are a personal brand), or it can be descriptive, explaining what you do. It can also be a combination  i.e., “ABC Company Photoshop Tips”. Descriptive channel names also provide an opportunity to include your main target keyword.  

Plan Your Content

The key to building a successful YouTube channel lies in the content of your videos and their ability to draw users in. You must also upload content often – something you can ensure by creating a plan ahead of time as part of your overall content strategy 

In terms of what to talk about, it will depend largely on what your business does. However, some general suggestions include explainer videos, educational content, product or event announcements, company news, industry news, customer testimonials, ‘a day in the life’ videos, and so on. You can also create thought-provoking/thought leadership videos that will truly engage your viewers and establish you as an authority in your industry.   

Whatever the topic, make your videos as interesting and valuable as possible, and cut out any sections that are not truly relevant to what the audience wants to know. 

Video Structure

You also need to master the structure of your videos. Start each video with a hook that captures attention, concisely discuss the topic, and end it with a CTA. For example, you may ask them to subscribe, visit your website, click to view a related video, and so on. You can also apply copywriting frameworks to your video structure, such as AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.  

It’s also important to prompt viewers to like, share and comment on your video – this increases the likelihood of the algorithm promoting your video to more people, helping expand your reach. This is not as important as it used to be; YouTube establishes the value you’re providing by monitoring the metric known as ‘watch time’ – the amount of time viewers watch your video for. However, likes, comments and shares still make a difference.   

Compared to platforms like TikTok and Instagram, YouTube is the place to upload longer videos.  

You should still include videos that offer information in bite-sized chunks – many people prefer this, whether that’s due to short attention spans or simply finding it easier to process information that way. Include a variety of content, from YouTube shorts to short videos under three minutes, to longer videos.

If there is a topic you want to discuss that will take 60 minutes to cover in-depth, you can upload both the full version, and a playlist containing the video split into six 10-minute parts, for example. This enhances the user experience by catering to all preferences. In addition, it will increase your view count, improving your rankings.

Experiment with Live Streaming

Live streaming has grown in popularity on various platforms and YouTube is no exception. It’s a great way to engage your audience in a more personal way by allowing you to interact with them in real-time. Q&A sessions, live interviews and behind the scenes videos are a few examples of what you can use live streaming for.  

Let your subscribers know ahead of time that you have a live session planned. They will be notified about it anyway if they have set up alerts for your channel, but you can always make a short video letting them know when it’s scheduled for and what it’s about. You can also use this as an opportunity to reel them in by not divulging too much information about what they can expect, leaving them curious. 

Production Tips

Your videos don’t have to be highly polished to begin with. You can even start out by recording using a smartphone, then invest in a proper camera, mic and lighting later on. The same goes with editing – start out using some basic software then hone your production with experience (or outsource it). 

With time, you want to provide high quality visuals and audio as that is what users expect for the most part, and this will help you compete with other channels. However, from time to time, it may suit your brand to post something more raw and unrefined – for example, some users will post videos while on the go i.e., from their car. This can help them look authentic and human. In many cases it can be on-brand to do so – think of all those businesses promoting ways to make a passive income in order to live your desired lifestyle – they show the entrepreneur/channel owner travelling and enjoying life, for example, and this approach serves to promote their products or services.

Promoting Your YouTube Channel

With more than 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s essential to do everything you can to promote your content. Below are some of the essential tactics to keep in mind to make your channel stand out.

YouTube SEO

Your SEO strategy is as important on YouTube as it is on any other platform. You’ll want to include keywords and phrases in your channel title, tags, About page, video descriptions, and metadata. 

Another less obvious place to optimise is the name of the video file itself. It should feature the keywords, separated by a hyphen. This is the way that YouTube determines what your video is about. The same applies with subtitles and closed captions – make sure you add an SRT file so your keywords are picked up.

Other YouTube SEO tips include making sure you choose a category in the video’s settings and use relevant hashtags. Creating SEO-optimised playlists is another important way to let the algorithm know what your content is about.

Collaborate with Other Channels

You can collaborate with other channels in your niche, or related niches – this will help cross promote your content to their followers and vice versa – and of course, this is highly valuable if they have a large audience. 

YouTube is also the second most popular platform for influencer marketing. Collaborators may review your products, record product tutorials, or collaborate with you on contests and giveaways.

Engaging with Viewers

It’s important to keep your channel active and engage with your followers by answering their comments as often as is feasible. It’s also good practice to revisit new comments on older videos to show that you are continuing to engage with them.  

Of course, as you gain subscribers, it would be impossible to respond to everyone, so look out for the comments that may help the most people – for example, if a user asks a question which could be common among your audience, that would be the comment to reply to. (You can also create an FAQ video to address common questions, and this is also a way to provide added value to your audience). Responding to users makes them feel appreciated and may convert an occasional viewer into part of your cult following. 

Pinning comments are a good strategy to not only engage viewers but to also increase your rankings due to the number of comments they generate from users. 

Another way to engage your viewers is to host giveaways and contents. You can also make use of the community feature to share updates, host polls, and post images and other content you would post on any other social media platform.

Master YouTube Analytics

To understand what viewers are engaging with, you’ll want to use YouTube analytics. That way, you can see which videos are getting the most views, likes vs dislikes, how many people are watching your videos, and how often they’re being shared. It also provides insights about your audience such as demographic information, which will help refine your targeting later on.  

The most important metrics to keep an eye on are:  

  • Watch time (the total number of minutes watched by all viewers) 
  • Average percentage viewed 
  • Average view duration 
  • Audience retention rate (the number of viewers that click off of your video at each moment) 
  • Re-watches

Reviewing these metrics will help determine how effective your videos are in keeping viewers’ attention and will help you troubleshoot in case engagement is sub-optimal. Once your channel is up and running, make sure to review these essential metrics often – and others – to measure how your content is performing and determine how to improve.  

Wrapping Up

With video being the most popular content format these days, YouTube is an essential platform to harness within your content strategy – especially if your target audience consists of younger consumers.  

Make sure you familiarise yourself with all of YouTube’s features and plan your content ahead of time. Make sure your channel branding (including video thumbnails, titles and descriptions) is compelling, and your design is consistent with your overall branding. Make engaging, valuable videos that answer your audience’s pressing questions and make sure that – even with long-form videos – you cut out anything that is not relevant or does not add value.  

Promote your content through following proper SEO practices, collaborating with other channels, and keeping an eye on YouTube’s analytics. Finally, engage with your community through live streaming, responding to comments as often as is feasible, hosting contests, and using the community feature.  

If you need any assistance in developing and executing your marketing strategy, please feel free to reach out to mehere– my team and I would be happy to assist.  

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