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!

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!

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

Making a Travel Show is Harder Than It Looks

Texas Travel Show

Texas Travel Show
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know I’ve been traveling even more than normal and going to some pretty strange places. I’m happy to announce that the reason for all the travel is that we’re making a travel show. Or… kind of a travel show. It’s definitely a show with a lot of travel in it.

Some of the most popular episodes of Hilah Cooking have been our field trip episodes where we go meet up with local farmers, BBQ experts and other interesting characters. Last year we started pitching the idea of a travel show to some of the new YouTube networks. Nothing came of it until our recent trip to the Tastemade Studios. Now, I’m happy to report that we are moving full-speed ahead on Hilah’s Texas Kitchen: a new travel/eating/cooking show that will launch next month. This is an exciting opportunity to not only build on the Hilah Cooking brand but to stretch ourselves creatively.

When we brainstormed the project, I thought it would be easier than it has turned out to be. However, the obstacles that we’ve run into have actually shaped the direction and format of the show in a way that is going to make the finished project even stronger.

We are still in the middle of this project, but I want to share a few things I learned when we were out on our first travel shoot in Port Aransas, Texas.

Continue reading “Making a Travel Show is Harder Than It Looks”

YouTube for Small Business: Trophy Boutique Case Study

In addition to cranking out episodes for my two web series, last year I found myself increasingly interested in how to use YouTube for small business marketing. I wanted to do a small scale experiment to see what might work. I immediately thought of my friend Laurel, a personal stylist here in Austin Texas. I’ve known Laurel for awhile, she’s made a few guest appearances on Hilah Cooking and we even did one of the Learn To Cook photo shoots in her kitchen. She was the perfect guinea pig for my YouTube marketing experiment.

Laurel’s personal styling business actually grew out of Trophy Boutique, her fashion blog. She’s awesome at what she does and has tons of very satisfied clients, so word of mouth was already working well for her. Her blog already did a great job of explaining her services and offering photographic proof that she knew what she was doing as far as fashion. I wanted to build on this with a small no-budget video campaign.
Continue reading “YouTube for Small Business: Trophy Boutique Case Study”