Tag: youtube tips

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.


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.


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.


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

Pann's restaurant
Pann’s Restaurant

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)