Consistency is Key to Building a Successful YouTube Channel

Content is King is a popular concept in the world of bloggers and internet content creators. Apparently it was first used in an article by Bill Gates wayyyy back in 1996. The concept of the original article was quite prescient. Unfortunately, a lot of content creators have pulled that slogan and put a Field of Dreams spin on it: “If you create content, they will come.”

Since you’re reading this post, I’m sure you are already convinced of the importance of creating and owning content, but what good is your content if nobody can find it. For building a successful YouTube channel, I’ve found that Consistency is one of the most critical factors.

There are countless things to think about when planning the content for YouTube. Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with quantity, quality, upload times, scheduling and even not publishing anything. I’ve found that implementing a clock-work like schedule can help to increase views, audience engagement and subscribers.

Last summer, I decided to see if publishing more videos would increase overall channel views and subscribers. We ramped up publishing frequency for both of the main channels I produce. At Hilah Cooking, we published three videos a week. For Yoga With Adriene we attempted two a week but didn’t always make it. Even though we had increased the amount of content, our publishing schedule was inconsistent.

It was a LOT of work, but I figured it would be worth it if it boosted all our numbers.

It didn’t.

Here’s what our views look like for the last part of 2013. We published videos on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, but not always at the same time.

Hilah Cooking 2014 Publishing Schedule

Looking at December is particularly disheartening. We published 5 videos per week to take advantage of the holiday season when food/recipe traffic is normally really high. The videos were great and we weren’t slacking on quality, but it was still a flop. I believe we were publishing TOO MUCH content for our audience to consume and this was causing our engagement and watch time to drop – which means these videos were not getting pushed out in Subscriber Feeds or Related/Recommended Video feeds.

By the beginning of 2014 we were burned out and took some time off. When we had regrouped we made the decision to publish once per week – every Friday at 7:00p Central Time. Here’s what the analytics look like since making that decision:

Hilah Cooking 2014 publishing schedule

It takes a few weeks before anything becomes noticeably different. There was a peak when we release the first new (heavily promoted video) but then there are minor upticks on the days we released new videos. Nothing crazy. Then after we hit this publishing schedule on a consistent basis for four weeks, the peaks start to get regularly higher and now we are exceeding our previous publishing day numbers.

So what’s going on here? Are we just picking better video topics and optimizing the videos better?

Nope.

The views we’re getting on publish days are NOT via the search feature. Instead, they’re coming from subscribers feeds and the What To Watch area of their logged-in home pages. Engagement with a channels videos is one of the key factors for how these are selected. So two things are happening:

  1. Our subscribers have come to expect a video is coming at a specific time. They watch the video (engagement).
  2. YouTube picks up on this engagement and delivers more of our videos to the subscribers during those key engagement times.

We also get a nice boost in subscribers during this time period.

I’ve seen similar growth on the Yoga With Adriene channel. Here’s what the views look like for Yoga With Adriene in 2014 since implementing our once per week schedule:
Yoga With Adriene 2014 Publishing Schedule

January is traditionally an awesome month for traffic in the fitness and health niche but it starts to drift downward in March. But this isn’t the case here. The consistent schedule increased engagement across the board.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If you’re creating content on a regular basis, publish it on a regular basis down to the exact time of day. Use your analytics to look at certain times when your subscribers are engaging with your content, pick something that looks good and then stick with it for at least three months.

5 Things I Learned at “YouTube Camp”

Last summer, YouTube asked Hilah and I if we wanted to take part in a top-secret program. The program involved three trips to LA to go to workshops and shoot collaboration videos with other YouTubers at YouTube Space LA. It sounded like summer camp for internet video creators. Of course, we said yes.

I’ve alluded to my recent batch of LA trips, but because it was a top-secret program, we couldn’t talk about it or even say what it was called. Until now. YouTube has finally spilled the beans with the video above and I’m happy to report that we were participants in the first ever YouTube Creator Accelerator — and that it was an incredible experience.

There were some really great workshops, but – just like summer camp – the real lessons were things I learned from hanging out with other YouTube Creators (and pestering YouTube staff with questions about my analytics).

Here are my 5 big takeaways from “YouTube Camp”:

1. YouTube Space LA is Worth The Trip.

youtubespace

In case you’re not familiar with it, YouTube Space LA is a huge production facility that YouTube has built to help improve the quality of YouTube videos. For someone who started out shooting and cutting on 16mm film, this place feels like a utopian film school.

There are several huge studios to shoot in, smaller green screen studios, a post production area with workstations for editing and motion graphics and just about every kind of camera you could possibly want to shoot with. The building was once an airplane hangar where Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose. It’s been complete remodeled with a Google-sized budget and they did a beautiful job. Everything is still brand-new and in great condition.

Hilah Cooking at the youTube Space
Hilah goofing around at the YouTube Space

You can use the Space for free if you have over 10,000 subscribers and have taken a workshop. The only other qualifications are that the videos you create be approved by the legal team and premiere on YouTube first. They also have open Happy Hours on Friday afternoons which are great for connecting and networking with other video creators.

TIP: If you’re close to LA, I would highly recommend signing up for a workshop or just making an appearance at the next Happy Hour. The Space and the staff who work there and the people who use it will definitely inspire you.

2. Watch Time. Watch Time. Watch Time.

In the workshops, one concept was hammered home over and over again: Watch Time. This is the metric to pay attention to right now. If you want your videos to rank well in YouTube’s search engine you can forget about thumbs up, social signals and even subscriber and view counts. YouTube wants people to stay on YouTube for as long as possible so they can watch as many ads as possible and Google can make as much money as possible.

watch time graph

You also get “credit” for session time. I’m not totally clear on the details of this, but even sending viewers to other channels helps you out to some degree.

TIP:If you want your videos to rank well, make things that people spend a lot of time watching. That’s why video game play-throughs do so well. Make playlists, do series of related videos, interlink between your videos with annotations and do whatever you can to keep them watching.

3. Use End Cards to Keep Viewers Engaged

End Cards are the graphics at the end of your videos that you can use as a Call To Action. Popular uses for them are to ask people to subscribe, check out another video or click through to a website. For most of my YouTube “career,” I’ve been really lazy when it comes to end cards.

We did a deep-dive into our channel with a member of the YouTube Analytics team. While almost everything was positive, she pointed out that we had a lot viewers bouncing off about a minute before the end of each video. It seemed to be pretty consistent across our videos and when we looked closer we pinpointed that people were leaving the video as soon as the recipe was complete. Our videos tended to spend another minute or so wrapping up. So we changed our video format and added annotations to subscribe and check out other videos as soon as the recipe was complete. We basically moved our end card stuff to inside the video. This has actually helped our overall watch time and boosted our rate of new subscribers.

YouTube End Cards
We moved our “end cards” to before the end of the video.
TIP: Check the watch time for your videos and see when people are clicking away. Put an end card or some other kind of call to action before the big drop-off. If they’re going to leave the video, send them somewhere else on your channel or even to somewhere else on YouTube. Keep them watching.

4. Beware Content ID

The number one concern of the creators in this program was: How Do I Make More Money?

The number two concern: How do I keep my videos getting flagged with Content ID claims?

The Content ID situation at YouTube is very serious and I’m not confident it will be resolved quickly. Content ID is the system that allows copyright holders to easily identify and monetize their content on YouTube.

An overly simple example: You use a Justin Bieber song in your video. Content ID scans the video and flags it. You have a window of time to appeal it. During that time, Justin Bieber makes all the revenue from your video. If your appeal doesn’t go through, all the money from that video will go to Justin Bieber. Forever.

Of course, you aren’t going to use a Justin Bieber song. The above example is how the system is supposed to work. Unfortunately, the real problem are Content ID claims from shady companies. Videos have even gotten flagged for featuring chirping birds in the background. It’s very similar to patent trolling. This is one of the reasons you have to be really careful when using stock music on YouTube. Several creators in the program had Content ID claims on some very high profit videos on which they had used legally licensed stock music. Their appeals didn’t go through and they lost all the revenues on those videos. Personally, I’ve had two videos flagged with no reason given. The only music used in the videos are ambient tracks made with Garage Band loops. I own the license to Garage Band and this still wasn’t good enough. Even though I appealed it to YouTube AND own the rights to all the content, someone else now makes the revenue from those videos.

This is a major problem. The people from YouTube we talked to know it’s a major problem but there doesn’t seem to be anything in the pipeline that’s going to fix it.

TIP: Be VERY careful about the music and sound effects you use in your videos. Garage Band loops are incredibly risky. I’ve never had a problem with Premium Beat or the Vimeo Music library. Keep records of every piece of music. I would go as far as printing out the licenses and keeping them somewhere very safe. If you can’t prove that you own the rights to everything in your video, somebody else might end up earning money from it.

5. YouTube Wants You To Succeed

Considering it is a free platform on which anybody can make and share videos, there is a LOT of hate out there for YouTube. And let’s face facts, it can be easy to hate. We were at the Space for week 2 of the program when the notorious Google+ comments switchover happened. It did not go over well. Even though YouTube had funded an amazing trip for all of us, the rage was palpable. You would have thought that Google was killing kittens.

Every tiny change to YouTube provokes a huge uproar of angry complaints and threats to leave YouTube. I’ve been guilty of this almost every time YouTube has rolled out new features. But ultimately, people who are much smarter than me are steering the direction of the platform in a direction that they think will create more views and more money. Your success on YouTube means that YouTube makes even more money.

YouTube can seem like a faceless machine when you are first starting out. But there are real people hard at work behind the scenes. All of the YouTube staff involved with the program were incredibly smart, nice and helpful. They were authentically invested in helping us make better videos and grow stronger channels. Of course with an hour of video uploaded every second, even a massive company like YouTube is not going to have enough staff to help everybody.

It’s definitely a tiered system and it isn’t perfect by any means. Your channel won’t even be on their radar until you have 10,000 subs or a ridiculous viral hit. But as you put in the time and build a following for your channel, you will start to gradually see the human face of YouTube. Despite having some medium sized channels, I still often feel like I am on the bottom rung of the ladder. But when I step back and look at it, YouTube has really made what I do possible. In addition to building a great platform, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in programs like the YouTube Creator Accelerator, YouTube Next Chef and more.

(Now if they can just do something about Content ID.)

TIP: I don’t have anything ground-breaking on this one and I refuse to be another person telling you to make better videos and everything will fall into place. Spend some time checking out the YouTube Creators Hub. Stay up to date on the Playbook. If there is any YouTube program or contest that fits what you’re doing, ask your viewers to nominate you for it. Getting accepted into YouTube Next Chef was a huge turning point for our channel. On The Rise is another great program. These are all great ways to get on the radars of actual people at YouTube.

IN CLOSING

I feel really honored to have been part of the YouTube Creator Accelerator. It was a great experience and while the education was great, the best part was connecting with other video creators. It’s easy to feel like you are creating all of this stuff in a vacuum. Most people have no understanding of what I really do. Then suddenly you are in a room filled with 50 people who all “get it” and are doing similar things.

The YouTube ecosystem is a real and growing thing. There are huge corporations investing lots of money in online video. But to me the really exciting part are the thousands of thriving businesses being built out of people’s houses. A few years ago I never thought I would make my living producing a cooking show in my kitchen. But now that show is seen all over the world and the business around it continues to grow every day.

This is a very exciting time.

This is not movies. This is not TV. This is not radio.

Online video is a new medium and we are here on the ground floor of it.

BONUS TIP

Pann’s has the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever eaten.

Pann's restaurant
Pann’s Restaurant

Yoga With Adriene – Progress Update

ywa-reboot-shoot
It’s been a little over a year since we launched Yoga With Adriene. I figured it was time to finally update you on how things are going.

Right now we’ve got almost 40,000 YouTube subscribers and our daily video views are consistent and trending upwards. Our email list is healthy and growing (despite a lot of neglect). We also just had a very successful product launch. Despite some really bumpy spots in 2013, I think things are actually going really well.

YouTube views for Yoga With Adriene
YouTube views for the Yoga With Adriene channel.

I knew YWA had a lot of potential, but I had always planned on using it as a case study. I had learned a lot through the creation and production of Hilah Cooking and I wanted to implement some of those things and launch a new project. Yoga seemed like the perfect fit and I knew Adriene would be the perfect host.
Continue reading “Yoga With Adriene – Progress Update”

2013 – My Year in Review

YouTube Space LA cinematography workshop

After an incredibly busy year of non-stop travel and work, my body has finally succumbed to some kind of virus. So, I’ve been drinking glasses of effervescent cold/flu medicine and slowly but surely wrapping up the last bits of work for the year. We’re launching the first Yoga With Adriene product on January 2nd so there is still a lot to do.

So far I’ve done a pretty good job at staying in “the zone,” but it’s the end of the year and my thoughts keep reflecting on the past 12 months. 2013 was a blur filled with a lot of big milestones that I don’t want to forget. This year was also filled with some pretty intense emotional stuff that I would prefer to forget (but Hilah has already documented it in detail here). We all cope with things in different ways, and I definitely coped by throwing myself into work.

So here’s a quick recap of the highlights of 2013.

I quit my job.

This is probably the big one. I left my super-stable, ultra-cushy government job and started concentrating on the internet businesses full-time. This was a major goal I had been working towards since we first launched Hilah Cooking. Unlike a lot of people, I actually enjoyed my job but my projects outside of work had grown so much that I couldn’t afford to spend 8 hours a day working for somebody else. I thought quitting my job would actually result in some free-time to goof around but the reality is that I’ve never worked harder in my life.

We turned a “hobby” into a business

I spent a lot of time thinking about and working on the business side of both Hilah Cooking and Yoga With Adriene. We have an attorney, an accountant and an intern now. Although I still shot all the videos this year, I was able to delegate more and more of the editing. We have established workflows for everything that seem to be working really well. I also started to outsource some of the web design work. Now that we know which parts of the business make how much money, it’s going to be easier to intelligently outsource certain tasks.

We Produced Work For Other Companies

We produced two series for other people: Hilah’s Texas Kitchen (for Tastemade) and Cooking With Kids (for Scripps/Ulive). These jobs were a critical factor in the transformation from hobby to business. Both shows were successful and we proved that we can do work above and beyond what we do on the YouTube channels.

We travelled … a lot.

One of the personal goals I set for myself a few years ago was to do more traveling. This year I may have over did it. In addition to traveling all over Texas for the travel show, we went to LA (4 times), NYC, Yellowstone Park, Oklahoma City (twice) New Orleans and some other places I am forgetting at the moment. By November I was ready to stay home. But here are some highlights:

  • Eating scalding hot octopus balls and wandering the streets of NYC with with Jen and Leo from Just Eat Life
  • Wrecking a rental car in Yellowstone Park and waiting forever for a tow truck that may or may not be actually on its way.
  • Shooting an improv comedy video with some YouTuber friends. I’ve only shot non-fiction instructional stuff for the past few years and this was a reminder of what I love to do.
  • Biscuits and Gravy at Pann’s. Twice.
  • Making S’Mores over an open fire and drinking too many drinks outside our Explorer Cabins with Diana, Veronica and Jason
  • An afternoon of old-school Texas Day Drinking with Hilah at the patio bar of our super-fancy hotel in SoHo.
  • An unforgettable night in Koreatown (including unbelievable Korean BBQ and an underground Korean Taxi service) with “http://www.youtube.com/maangchi”>Maangchi and Dave.
  • Hanging out at the YouTube Space…

We went to YouTube Camp!

YouTube Space LA cinematography workshop
Learning about Native ISO at YouTube Space LA

I think this is still top-secret so I can’t tell you much about it until next year. But because of the popularity of the Hilah Cooking channel, Hilah and I were selected to participate in an advanced YouTube training program. We went to the YouTube space for a week in August and a week in November for training and collaborating with other YouTube creators. I’ve learned a lot from this program and I can’t wait to share it with you. Unfortunately, it has to wait until next year!

I met some incredible new people.

Maangchi teaching Hilah all about Korean BBQ (at Pailsaik BBQ)
Maangchi teaching Hilah all about Korean BBQ (at Pailsaik BBQ)

We did a ton of travel this year and although we saw some great places, the best part of it was meeting a ton of new people – most of them fellow YouTubers. There aren’t that many people here in Austin who are seriously focused on internet video and it’s easy to feel like you are the only one in the world who is. This year, I met people from all over the world who were passionately involved in this medium. Some of them are in it for the creativity and fun and sense of connection. Others are building incredibly profitable businesses. The opportunity to hang out and talk with these creators has been invaluable. At the very least it makes me feel less like a crazy person.

I produced 191 videos.

I haven’t added up how many videos I produced last year, but this has got to beat that number. Part of the reason for this number is that we experimented with publishing 3 Hilah Cooking videos per week at the end of this year. Our numbers grew, but I’m not sure they grew enough to justify the amount of additional work. So we’re taking a hiatus and when we return with new episodes in 2014, we will be dialing it back to one per week. I still have 4 big videos (ReBoot) in the production queue but those will be finished and uploaded before the end of the year, so I’m adding those to the tally.

So a grand total of 191. One of my goals for 2013 was to get better at shooting and I think I have definitely improved. At the beginning of 2013 I didn’t even know how to manually set the white balance on any of our cameras. The more I shoot, the happier I am with the results (and the less color-correction we do per episode).

In Conclusion…

While 2013 definitely had it’s highs and low, I feel like we did a pretty awesome job of meeting the challenges. I look back on it with a sense of accomplishment and a readiness to tackle whatever 2014 has in store for us.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a kick-ass New Year!

How To Integrate Google+ With Your YouTube Channel

google+youtube-integration

UPDATED: This post has generated a ton of feedback and I’ve tried to respond to all of it. There may be some minor differences between your control panels and what you see in the screen captures. So if you don’t see the setting you’re looking for in the exact location shown in this tutorial, keep looking. Since writing this post, I’ve connected all my channels to Google+ pages and it’s worked like a charm. If you’re still on the fence, rumor has it that there are more Pages features in the pipeline and some of these will directly impact your YouTube channel. I suggest working out the kinks now so you can take advantage of them as soon as possible.

I’ve been getting lots of questions lately about how to connect Google+ to a YouTube channel. Google has been changing things up so rapidly that to be honest I’ve just now figured out a system that I like.

This post will show you how to do it step-by-step and there are two reasons I really recommend you take the time.

1. If you’re not taking advantage of Google+ you’re missing out and you’re falling behind. If you’ve been dragging your heels it’s time to give it another look. Get rid of your preconceptions and stop thinking of it as a Facebook competitor. Think of it as a connective layer that ties the various Google services together. There is a social component to it, but it’s not for talking to your high school friends. It’s for communicating with people you don’t know yet. It’s also the most effective tool at the moment for getting your content ranked quickly in Google search.

2. By connecting your YouTube channel to a Google+ page, you can have multiple managers for the channel. In addition to the channels I’m personally working on, I can now have a client give me access to their channel without giving me their log-in information. This is huge. It also allows me to access everything I need from one account. The levels of control are still very basic right now so you still need to trust the people you assign as Managers, but it’s way better than giving your login and password out to someone every time you need a little help.

3. You now have a lot more options for naming your Channel. On the Yoga With Adriene channel we were stuck for a long time with an awkward channel name because we had set up a main Google profile which requires a real first and last name. Now that we’ve associated it with the Yoga With Adriene page, it appears exactly how we want it to and we have started really climbing the search engine results since doing it.

In this tutorial, I’m using an example called SuperCinematico! It’s an idea for a goofy channel I’ve had for awhile. I’m not sure I will get around to actually producing content for it, but I’m using it as one of the example channels in my upcoming YouTube book. Here we go…

1. Set Up a Google Account

If you’ve already got a Google account or YouTube Channel you can skip to step #3. This is your base account and will give you access to all the Google services: Gmail, YouTube, Google+ etc. So pick a name that will work good as an email address. For now, set it up using your “real” name or at least a name that sounds like a real person. Google+ wants “real” person names not brand names for the profile pages.

YouTube account setup

2. Go to YouTube and Pick a Channel Name.

You only get one shot at setting this part up, but it’s very important. Whatever you set up here is going to be your permanent YouTube URL. Go to your YouTube settings and pick a name that is easy to remember and easy to type in. In an ideal scenario, I would be able to get supercinematico but it’s already taken. At this stage you can’t choose names with spaces or punctuation. We’ll get to that a little bit later.

youtube_tutorial_02

Luckily supercinematicotv is available. If you were able to register a Gmail account you should be able to get it for your YouTube channel. This is easy enough so I’ going to go with this.

youtube_tutorial_03

One this refreshes, go check out your channel. You’ll see that the new username is in all the important places. But we’re not done yet.

 

youtube_tutorial_05

3. Setup a Google+ Page

Ultimately we want the YouTube Channel connected to a Google+ Page. So bounce back over to Google+ and choose Pages from the main drop down menu.

youtube_tutorial_05a

Click “Create a page.”

 

youtube_tutorial_06

Select a category for your page. This doesn’t seem to be hugely important yet so don’t waste a lot of time deciding. Just pick something that seems to fit with your channel. I’m going for Entertainment.

youtube_tutorial_07

Choose a name for your page. Unlike with Google+ profiles you aren’t limited to a first and last name. You can have a single word or multiple. This is one of the BIG advantages to setting up a G+ page. So get your brand in here. If you have a website, enter it in for external website. I don’t have the website set up yet, so I’m just going to link to the YouTube channel.

youtube_tutorial_08

Connect your YouTube Channel to your Google+ Page

Now go back to your YouTube settings and click “Link channel with Google+”

youtube_tutorial_09

Now that your channel is linked up, you’ve got a lot more options! You can use the name of your G+ Page, your username or you can choose a name. But now you’ve got options for spaces and punctuation. And now everything is legit as far as Google/YouTube is concerned.

youtube_tutorial_10

Click Next and you’ll see that the channel has been updated with the name of the G+ page – or – the better name you chose in the previous step.

youtube_tutorial_11

Set up Managers for the Page (and by default, your Channel)

Bounce back over to your Google+ page and click on the Managers tab. I like to have the ability to manage channels and pages through my primary account. It reduces the amount of time I have to log-in and log-out and also helps reduce errors. If you are working as part of a team, you can also add your other team members as managers. This will allow them to control pretty much everything, so make sure you really trust them. Click “Add managers.”

youtube_tutorial_12

Add the email address of the person you want to set up as a manager. Once they accept, they will appear as one of the page managers. In this case, I added myself.

youtube_tutorial_12a

Now when I’m logged into my main Google account I can access all the sites I’m currently working on from the “Switch account” drop-down menu.

youtube_tutorial_13

YouTube Tips: OneChannel Trailers, Google Hangouts & More

YouTube Questions

In the last email newsletter I called for readers to ask me anything about YouTube. I got some really good questions and thought these YouTube Tips might be helpful to others. I’ve omitted the names just to keep everything confidential.

Q: Should we go with specially designed intros as our trailer or a short regular video to demonstrate our work as a trailer in the onechannel layout?

A: I would go with a custom trailer. Try to encapsulate what your channel is all about in 30 – 60 seconds. I don’t have good examples of this on my channels. I need to redo our trailers big-time. They can be a very effective tool. Think of it like a commercial. The quicker you can hook them the better.

Q: Have you guys tried Google Hangouts? Found any ranking advantages when posting these to your Youtube channel?

A: We have done some Google Hangouts and they worked really good when we were promoting the Learn To Cook book. We definitely plan on doing more but we’ve been so slammed with this production stuff we haven’t had time to put it together. Next month we’ll be doing some for sure though. I’m not sure about ranking advantages because we didn’t keep the videos on our channel, but I know some people are doing really well with their Hangout videos.

Q: Other creators have asked me if it is better to distribute your show on a single platform, like YouTube, or try to get your videos on as many sites as you can. If the objective is revenue, how would you look at this? Currently, I make revenue from YT, iFood.tv, Mypod studios, DIYchef and my network. I look at it like having a tv show. The more exposure, the more people are going to watch you, wherever they find it convenient.

A. This is a great question and I think the answer is a little complicated. We started out with your strategy of being everywhere to get the most people to find us. I still think it’s a totally solid strategy. I definitely don’t like having all my eggs in one basket.

Over the past year we’ve been pretty immersed in the YouTube ecosystem. My focus has really been on YouTube SEO and getting our videos ranked for high traffic terms. As I was doing this I found that we were competing against ourselves for a lot of terms and I didn’t want a video on a lower paying site to outrank one of our YouTube videos. I ended up scaling back our uploads to a bunch of places to get the YouTube videos to rank #1. I do feel that the SEO push has greatly increased our subscribers and views on YouTube.

So, for a long-term strategy I think ultimately it’s a bland of the two approaches. I am good enough with the SEO stuff now that I can control which videos on which platforms rank. So I’m going to slowly start expanding our reach, but I want each upload destination to bring in at least SOME revenue.

SUMMARY: For people first starting out, I think they can build impressive numbers faster by focusing on YouTube and then gradually expanding out to other platforms that have a monetization system in place.

Q. YouTube is an extremely tough mountain to climb. Competing with millions of other videos being uploaded at the same time, it’s very easy for your video to get lost and disappear. We’re trying our best to consistently upload videos (twice a week), keep our channel fresh and to add value on other channels that are also trying to reach more viewers.

Since Feb 2013, I’ve come to know the theory of what to do with your YouTube video to increase your reach to thousands if not millions more. But putting the theory into practise is much more challenging. Crossing the thin line between thousands of views and only tens of views is quite difficult.

We’re averaging superior low views on our videos… my question would be, how long before one can expect views to increase after applying the theory of interesting titles, good descriptions, tag words, annotations,socializing with other YouTubers, etc?

A. You are right about YouTube being a tough mountain to climb. And it’s actually getting harder based on my personal experience. There are far more people publishing videos and YouTube has made it a little more difficult – because I’m pretty convinced they are promoting the channels that they have the best chance of making money on.

As far as a magic number to hit – I’m not sure what it is. It felt like a really long slow haul to get Hilah Cooking to the point where we were getting 1000 views per video. It’s definitely do-able but just takes a little time. I think things started to really click after we had been publishing consistently for 2 years. It seemed like forever. But that was also right around the time we had 100 videos and 10,000 subscribers. Then we could always count on 1,000 views per video.

After looking at your channel it seems like you are doing everything right. You are optimizing your videos really well for terms it seems people are searching for. Good examples are your “Tower of London” and “Iron Man 3” videos. Keep thinking of any way you can tie your videos in to things people might be searching for. Eventually search will start getting you traction

In the early days, we had several recipes get ranked pretty well from the beginning and that brought in a steady stream of viewers. Some of them hated our show but a bunch really liked it. The people who liked it became subscribers and continued to watch. But the traffic from search really made a huge difference.

You are doing a great job with the channel. 1) My only real suggestions at this point: Try to incorporate some voice over or on-camera intros to your travel videos. You can use the captions feature to easily transcribe those. That will give you a bunch of extra keyword stuff for Google to latch onto. With just a music track, you are missing out on a lot of keyword action. 2) Try to meet up with other YouTubers on your travels and figure out some simple collaboration videos. We did a ton of these in the early days and they really did help – even thought most of the videos themselves were not all that popular.

I hope my advice was helpful. As always, take everything with a grain of salt and continue to do your own tests to find what works. Do you have questions about YouTube? Do you think I’m totally off-base on my advice here? Leave a comment below and let me know! Thanks for reading.

(Photo by alexanderdrachmann)

YouTube SEO Guide

youtube seo guide

youtube seo

As I’ve already mentioned, YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world, following it’s big brother Google. It might seem like if you rank well in one, you’d rank well in the other, but that’s not the case. I still don’t know why some of our videos rank so well in Google and others are nowhere to be found.

When it comes to optimizing your content for search engines, we’re all playing a guessing game. Google offers the occasional hints about what works, but the algorithm is top secret. All we can do is experiment, share the knowledge and guess some more. There are some great resources on Google SEO and I’ll list them at the end of this chapter. But our focus is on ranking well in YouTube.

The YouTube search engine shares some characteristics with Google, but the current YouTube algorithm seems to be a lot more simple and much easier to crack.

YouTube SEO Part One: What the Hell is a Keyword?

Before we can move forward, it’s important that we nail down the concept of **keywords**. I’ve found that this concept confuses quite a few people at first. I don’t think “keyword” is a very accurate description, but it’s industry terminology at this point so we’re stuck with it.

A keyword is a word (or combination of words) that people type into a search engine when they’re looking for information. Certain words (or word combos) get typed in a lot of times so those become highly coveted keywords. High traffic keywords can bring in a TON of traffic if you rank well for them.

When we were first planning Hilah Cooking, I had just spent several months educating myself about SEO. My ultimate goal was to build an “authority site about cooking.” The plan was to have hundreds of recipe videos and rank well for as many as possible so that we would have an ever-increasing stream of traffic from search engines. Before we even shot an episode, we made a list of hundreds of potential recipes. Then we did some keyword research to see what people were searching for. Our initial list of episodes became a list of keywords.

My advice is to think about Keywords in pre-production. Don’t let it affect the content you’re going to produce, but use it as another tool to build an audience for your project.

When people use a search engine, they have a “problem” and they are looking for a “solution.” Example: Someone doesn’t know how to poach an egg and they need to figure out how to do it. They type in “How To Poach an Egg” and the search engine tries to provide them with the best solution to their problem. If your video is the first result, you’re going to get a lot of views to your video.

The topic of keywords may seem to apply only to How-To or instructional types of videos, but it can be a powerful tool for scripted projects as well. We’ll explore that soon!

YouTube SEO Part 2: How To Do Keyword Research

Once you start thinking about SEO it’s easy to get distracted by all kinds of tools and on-line classes promising awesome results in return for varying amounts of money. My advice is to keep it simple and not get distracted. This step should only add a few minutes to yourproduction time for each video. Keep in mind that you’re a content creator first and the SEO skills you are developing are there to help get your work to a bigger audience.

With that in mind, here’s a quick and simple technique for Keyword Research. As an example, we’re going to use a video about How to Poach Eggs.

1. Launch the Google Keywords Tool. It’s free!
https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool

2. Put yourself in the brain of someone who wants/needs to learn how to poach an egg. Type a few words and phrases into the main box. Keep it quick and don’t over-think it or over-do it. I typed in “How to Poach an Egg” “poached eggs” and “how to poach eggs.”

3. Make sure you unclick the box for “Broad” and click the box for “Exact.” I also click the box for “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.”

YouTube SEO keyword research

4. Enter the dumb Captcha and click search.

5. A bunch of keywords will pop-up along with data about how many monthly searches there are and how competitive the keyword is. I’m mainly interested in Global Monthly Searches so I prioritize by that. Here’s what the results look like:

YouTube SEO keyword ideas

6. Decide what keyword to target. In this case it looks like there are quite a few searches for “How To Poach an Egg” so that’s what I’m going to target. But take a look at some of the other keywords that Google is suggesting. If you’ve are just starting out, I would suggest targeting keywords that have Low competition and at least 3,000-5,000 global monthly searches.

What To Do With Your Keyword

Now we’ve got a video and we’ve got a keyword. Now we’re going to bring the two together. This is a multi-step process that may sound totally crazy at first, but take it a step at a time and it will start to make sense.

1. Title your video file. Incorporate your keyword into the title of the video file. Don’t leave it as some non-descript title generated by your camera or editing software. In our example we are going to title the file “how-to-poach-an-egg.mov.”

2. Upload your video file directly to your YouTube account. Don’t use a third-party system for batch uploading. Do it manually.

3. Give the YouTube Video a Title. Make it descriptive and accurate. For our example, I’m going to go with “How To Poach an Egg.”

4. Fill out the Description Field. Use the description field to accurately describe your video. The first couple of lines are the most important. Try to include your keyword in the first sentence, i.e. “Learn how to fly a kite with this simple kite-flying tutorial.” Write a couple of paragraphs about what viewers can expect to find in the video. Think of the description field as a mini-blog post.

5. Tags. Fill out the tag section. Make sure to use your keyword and other keyword variations. Put your Keyword based tags first. If your subject is frequently misspelled, add some tags with common misspellings. Aim for at least 20 tags.

6. Annotate Video. Incorporate your keyword somewhere into your annotations. Use annotations to interlink this video with your other videos. Incorporate other call to actions like “Subscribe” “Thumbs Up” etc.

7. Upload Transcription. Transcribe your video or pay somebody to transcribe it. I usually use Fiverr. In your video manager, go to the CAPTIONS tab and add the text. It will take a few minutes, but YouTube will automatically sync things up. This is a lot more accurate than the weird YouTube generated captions.

Now YouTube and Google have a lot of information about what your video is all about and where it should be placed in the rankings. If you’re going after a Keyword that has a lot of competition it could take awhile, but once you add more subscribers and your channel becomes more authoritative it will be easier to move up in the rankings.

YouTube SEO Case Study

I’ve actually been going through all the steps in this series over the past month for our How To Poach an Egg video. So it’s something that really DOES exist.

When we first launched the video it was kind of DOA and seemed to be maxed out at about 2,000 views. But after optimizing it, it’s now ranked #2 on YouTube. We’ve beat everybody but Alton Brown and I’m not sure we will ever rank #1, but the video is generating consistent traffic now. This is all just to let you know that this stuff really does work. The top two videos are paid placements, which is actually a good sign. You’ve definitely picked a good keyword if people are running ads against it.

YouTube SEO search results

Producing videos on an ongoing basis is hard work, but it’s way more exciting than all this keyword stuff. Even though this stage falls into the “non sexy” part of things, spend a little time here and you will reap ongoing rewards.

Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment and let me know if this was helpful, what was unclear and what questions YOU have about YouTube SEO. -Chris

Thoughts on Directing For Web Series

Break The Fourth Wall

breaking-the-fourth-wall
I spend a lot of time (probably way too much) thinking about the difference between directing for film/television and directing for a web series. My background and education is in motion picture and narrative directing. In my previous work, I worked hard to create for the audience something that worked like a “vivid and continuous dream.” Now, I am using the same tools and techniques but actively working to create the opposite effect.

(Since I am currently focused on producing non-fiction work, this post won’t concentrate on narrative series, but there are a few takeaways at the end of the post that could be helpful for scripted web series producers.)

We are still in the very beginning stages of this medium and we haven’t established a terminology that we can all agree on yet. So let’s work with what we’ve got. For the sake of this post we’ll use “the internet” to describe the network that can deliver any kind of content imaginable and “Web Series” as a series of videos designed with web browsers (desktop or mobile) as their primary viewing destination. Some of these web series will go on to be viewed through actual televisions via something like Apple TV or Roku but that’s not the environment they’re designed for.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Directing For Web Series”

Travel Video Gear: Putting Together a Run-and-Gun Travel Video Kit

Travel Gear

Since starting up Hilah Cooking, we’ve been very careful about keeping our production costs low. I am a firm believer in low-overhead and zero debt, so we try to keep our gear as minimal as possible.

We started out with a camcorder we had laying around and our only real upgrade was gear we won from YouTube. But when we lined up the deal to do Hilah’s Texas Kitchen, I knew it was time to (hopefully wisely) invest in a little more gear. This is still a micro-budget project, but we needed a little more firepower. I would be a one-person crew, and we would be shooting in awkward situations with very tight time frames.

My goal was to put together a run-and-gun travel video kit that would be easy to transport and allow me to shoot really fast whenever the opportunities presented themselves. This is the package I put together and it’s worked really well for me so far.

LowePro X200 Rolling Camera Bag

loweprox200I wanted something that could hold safely transport all of our gear and was easy to use in the field. This bag has been incredible. I’ve always been devoted to Pelican cases in the past, but I ended up with a bunch of cases holding individual pieces of gear. This case let me jam everything I needed into one bag with wheels. It even has a kickstand so if you’re on location you can set it up at a tilt and easily access whatever you need. Even though I’ve only had it since the beginning of the year, it’s seen some serious miles and been in some rough situations. It’s still in great shape and has done an awesome job of protecting the gear inside.

Canon XF100 Camcorder

canonxf100Buying a small sensor camcorder in this new age of DSLR video seems very old fashioned, but I needed something for run-and-gun shooting. The XF100 has been great. It’s small, has XLR inputs and shoots great images (once you take the time to figure out the picture profiles). I use this primarily for the interviews where we are following people around kitchens or other locations. The real unexpected joy of this camera has been the 4:2:2 50Mbps Codec. In post this footage feels very thick (in a good way). You can do a lot of color correction without the image ever breaking down. My only real complaint with this camera is that it doesn’t have dedicated focus and zoom rings. Instead, they’re combined into one ring and there is a switch to toggle it back and forth.

Rotolight LED Light

rotolightThis is a little round light that you can mount via hot shoe or directly onto a shotgun mic. The design is kind of weird and clunky but it’s really come in handy in a couple of dark locations. It’s not very powerful, but it’s enough to add a little light to your subjects. (TIP: If you’re shooting in a smoky BBQ pit, this is not going to be enough light.)

Sennheiser Wireless Lav System

sennheiserFor almost three years, I very proudly used only a $20 wired lavalier mic. We upgraded to this Sennheiser wireless kit a few months ago. It was the first time we actually bought new gear. This is pretty expensive, so it was a big deal. Thankfully, switching to this wireless kit has been absolutely life changing. I can’t recommend it highly enough. In fact, when we were commissioned to produce a series of kids cooking videos, I bought a second kit so I could mic both people. For most of our travel shoots, we just leave Hilah miked up and start rolling when a good situation presents itself.

Rode NTG1 Shotgun Mic

rodentg1I use this to record a second channel when I’m shooting with the XF100. I just turn it on and try to make sure the levels don’t go too hot. For our first batch of shoots we only had one wireless mic so I relied on this to get the vocals for whoever Hilah was talking to. I’ve been happy with it so far but haven’t had time to mix the sound on these videos yet.

Canon 60D

canon60dThis is the same camera we’ve been using for quite awhile. I wasn’t crazy about shooting video on it at first, but I realized on our first trip that I’ve really fallen in love with this camera. I thought I would primarily use the XF100 but if it was a shot that didn’t require tricky focus pulls, I kept coming back to the 60D.

There are some other odds and ends packed into the case – including a MacBook Air – so this really gave me a complete production kit in a rolling case. Not pictured here are a couple of Manfrotto tripods, but other than that all the gear we used to make the travel show is in the photo above and it’s worked out great. The only things I’ll definitely be adding before our next trip are some ND and Polarizing filters.

Now that I’ve geeked out about all of this gear, I’m excited to get back on the road and back to shooting!

NOTE: I want to thank Mark Shea at Overlander.tv for his helpful posts on lightweight travel gear.

I’d love to hear what YOU are using to make your videos. Also, am I missing out on anything obvious pieces of gear that would increase my either production quality or overall quality of life? Let me know in the comments below!