YouTube has become more competitive for brands. The platform’s trends report found that channels trying to create an audience were up by 95% from last year. Yet, the engagement and interest on the video platform remain higher than ever.
How can you ensure that you stand out and get a slice of attention from viewers on your YouTube videos?
Understand that retaining people to watch your videos is key. If people “watch more”, YouTube gets to show them more ads, and your channel gets in the company’s good books. Monitoring your watch time and optimizing your channel for more watch time is one of the best ways to grow your channel.
So in this article, I’ll introduce you to five elements that your videos should adhere to – all of them work cohesively to increase your watch time. Here’s the first element:
1. Informational, inspirational, educational, or entertaining value
YouTube has many use cases, but viewers broadly look for videos by creators who either educate, teach them new skills or keep them entertained.
YouTube trends report (that I shared above) found that successful creators tend to have an element of comedy. A survey of viewers even found 47% agreeing that their favorite creators are difficult to classify under one genre.
But what do successful channels and videos have in common?
They appeal to viewers’ interests and passions – it’s even more important than production value, the presence of celebrities, and the like. Here are the three reasons – clubbed together under “personal relevance” – indicating the same:
So, if you want to make a living through YouTube or promote your brand effectively on the platform: follow your audience. Research their preferences, listen to their feedback and create videos on topics that interest them. If you haven’t already chosen a niche for your channel, then go back to the drawing board and do it first.
Narrow down your channel’s video production efforts to a few “true” fans to whom you want to appeal. If you haven’t heard of the 1000 true fans theory, then Tim Ferriss gives a great overview:
Next, use a tool like TubeBuddy to perform some keyword research on what topics are getting decent searches every month yet are relatively less competitive.
These subjects would be worth going after so that once you rank, you can snag traffic from YouTube search for a few months (if not more).
2. Clickworthy thumbnails
Hundreds of hours of videos are uploaded on YouTube every single minute. They end up in homepage feeds, subscription feeds, and other parts of the YouTube platform, appearing in front of your prospective viewers based on different factors.
The only commonality for getting a user to click on a video is a compelling thumbnail. It’s a seemingly ordinary image, but it’s pivotal in getting more clicks on your videos from those casual browsers on the platform.
As per a YouTube help center article: “Half of all channels and videos on YouTube have an impressions CTR that can range between 2% and 10%.” Depending on your channel’s size, even a 1% increase could result in hundreds to one thousand extra YouTube views.
Of course, using clickbait is out of the question because YouTube recommendations also take the average view duration into account. Videos with clickbaity headlines and images typically fail at them.
As YouTube viewers relate to personalities better than brands, begin using your pictures or photos of the people who present the video. Also, create a consistent template for these thumbnails so that they become recognizable for your subscribers. Choose a color palette, font, and the like, and stick with it. Here’s an example of Nick Nimmin’s channel:
Note the consistency in his colors, titles, branding, and overall style?
Also, understand that the click-through-rate (CTR) is dependent on the traffic source of your video. Your subscribers vs. search can have substantially different numbers. Your goal should be to keep improving your CTR year-over-year realistically.
3. Engaging hook
Retaining your viewers once they click through your thumbnail and start watching your videos is crucial. It determines if the YouTube algorithm will push your videos further in user feeds.
So don’t turn off your viewers. Once they click on your video, you have to meet the promise you made through your thumbnail and title. Get to the point directly – delivering the information your viewers are after at the start of the video itself. If it’s an entertaining sketch, try using an attention-grabbing precap.
Noah Kagan does a great job at this on his channel. In the video below dissecting the Dude Perfect channel, he begins with a quick, interesting fact about them in 20 seconds. Then he transitions seamlessly into their first income stream:
Calls-to-action to press the bell icon, watch their videos, buy your stuff, and other such “fillers” could lead to a drop off in the viewership. So keep them short and preferably place them in the middle of your videos.
Once you’ve hooked a viewer for about a minute, they tend to be more forgiving of the creator’s mistakes. But a compelling introduction is important for higher retention.
4. Crystal clear audio quality
Ironically if your video quality isn’t HDR, your information and content quality can make up for it on a “video” platform. Viewers don’t choose what to watch based on the production quality of videos. But without clear audio, your viewers will get annoyed and drop off your channel because the information you share won’t be comprehensible.
That’s why the first investment you should make in your video production is buying professional audio equipment.
Keep The Background Music Subtle
The music you use in your video should aid the “mood” you’re trying to create. It should blend such that the viewer doesn’t even remember if your video used any background music or effects.
It especially shouldn’t be so loud that the voices of the actors and narration in the video aren’t audible – else you’ll end up attracting dislikes and troll comments from angry viewers.
Here’s an example of a comment on a professionally produced video series by Beastly.
5. Persuasive call-to-action (CTA)
If your video ticks all of the above boxes, congratulations! The viewers who watched it till the end are primed for you to make an ask. They would love to return the favor in exchange for the value you provided.
The most common CTAs you might already know are liking, sharing, subscribing, and commenting on your video. These are fairly common and acceptable to a majority of YouTube viewers – it’s even a running joke:
As a brand, you can also consider inviting viewers to sign up for a webinar, download a lead magnet, check out a blog post, or even view another related video. Just keep it crisp and clear. Also, multiple CTAs might confuse viewers, so tread carefully.
Here’s an example from vidIQ, where Rob, the host, shares his advice on starting a YouTube channel. Then he draws attention to a video guide on setting up a video channel:
If you change your frame or the energy from the last part of your video to the CTA, viewers might immediately disengage. So consider placing a CTA in the middle of your videos for subscribing to your channel because viewers might not expect it there.
Experiment with creative CTAs so that the viewers don’t “see them coming.” Crack a joke, have fun, and keep it lighthearted – making the viewers smile could just get them to take the action you want them to. For instance, in the video below, the HubSpot channel’s host dances and wishes the viewer good luck with implementing the strategy they shared.
YouTube is the home of online video, and 2021 remains an opportune time to start a new channel or grow your existing one. The tips I shared for producing videos in this article will hopefully give you an edge over other creators.
Do you have other tips for creating successful YouTube videos? Let me know in the comments below.