Planning an Outstanding YouTube Channel

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

YouTube rewards you with higher search rankings and supplementary video recommendations based first and foremost on your channel and individual video watch times. In addition, YouTube looks at factors such as viewer engagement and video sharing rates. Your job in the planning process is to identify and coordinate each component so that you’re in a position to keep your channel active.

Having a spokesperson

Okay, you’ve analyzed your target fan base and figured out what motivates them on YouTube. Now you need to determine whether a specific channel spokesperson would be the right fit for your target fan base. This is a critical decision for both independent creators and organizations.

Typically, an audience gravitates toward either a personality or content, but not toward any old personality or content. Whatever you choose to prioritize, it has to have a high level of authenticity. If the viewers in your topic area engage more with personality, for example, be sure to choose a spokesperson with credibility and appeal.

Aim for the same voice across your content because it will provide the consistency that your audience needs across different types of video.

A good example of a brand with a consistent voice is the personal care company e.l.f. Cosmetics, which consistently uses Achelle Dunaway as the voice of its videos. Achelle isn’t terribly famous, but the fans of e.l.f. have come to know her and expect to see or hear her in every video the channel produces. They trust her and associate her with the e.l.f. brand. Often, they give her both feedback and praise in the individual video comments.

Branding

Branding can be a large and complex topic, but we’re going to keep it simple: Branding is about naming and design that is unique to you. Need an example? Think about Apple. You see consistency in all its products, naming conventions, website, and packaging. Over time, that branding symbolism — the look and feel — becomes synonymous with who you are.

Your YouTube channel and videos are powerful extensions of your brand. If you have an existing website, logo, or color pattern, bring it over to your YouTube channel and use it for the branded elements of your videos as well. If you give your viewers a great experience on YouTube, chances are that they’ll end up on your website, too. Keep the branding consistent. Your viewers will appreciate it.

Planning the channel layout

Your channel must be visually representative of the video content you create. When a viewer first visits your channel, it’s important that they understand what kind of videos your produce or curate. You also want viewers to be in a position to quickly find out when new content is expected from your channel. A great design layout makes these tasks a lot easier.

When coming up with a design layout, keep these elements in mind:

  • Channel art: The banner you see across the top of your YouTube channel’s home page is the welcome mat for your viewer, so make it as appealing as possible. A good channel art design is device agnostic — it looks good on mobile devices, desktops, smart TVs, or what‐have‐you. To help you make the creation of your channel art easier, you can download a customized graphical template for your YouTube channel.

  • Channel trailer: The channel trailer is the first video that visitors see when viewing your channel. This is where you need to captivate your new viewers and get them to subscribe to your channel. You can customize the channel trailer for subscribers or nonsubscribers.

  • Channel icon: This icon indicates who you are when you post a comment, release a new video, or show up in search results and many more locations across YouTube and Google+.

    The channel icon can be changed only from the Google+ account associated with your YouTube channel.

  • Channel links: The small icons that live in the lower-right corner of your channel art direct viewers to your other digital properties, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. The complete list of digital properties is under the About section of your YouTube channel, and you can choose whether to display icons for some or all of your properties.

  • Custom sections: Visually dividing your channel page into sections is a great way to help your viewers find the most relevant content on your channel. One way to customize your sections is to create unique playlists or groupings of videos per section.

  • Custom thumbnails: Thumbnails are visual snapshots of your video, similar to a poster for a movie. They are chosen by default by YouTube — three optional frames from the beginning, middle, and end of your video are provided for every video asset that’s uploaded. You can, however, create a custom thumbnail for each video. If you do so, choose a thumbnail that is illustrative of the content in the video.

    Thumbnails have a tremendous impact on a video’s view rate. With that fact in mind, always choose or create a good thumbnail, especially for videos shown in sections.

  • Featured channels: Channels that you own or like or that are simply relevant for your audience are best included in the Featured Channels section on the right side of your channel page.

    Under Featured Channels, you control the additional section Related Channels, which YouTube populates with channels that it considers to be like yours. Though YouTube doesn’t disclose the exact criteria, it’s likely based on content type and what viewers search for. You can turn off this feature, but by doing so, YouTube won’t put your channel on the Related Channel feeds of other users. You benefit only by keeping it on.

  • Verified name: A verification badge, identified by a gray check mark, signals viewers that a channel associated with a celebrity or brand is legitimate. You need a Google+ account with the name authorized to receive a verified name for your channel.

    With so many channels on YouTube, viewers may think they’re viewing the appropriate channel for an organization or famous personality. The verification badge shows up to the right of the channel name and helps alleviate any viewer concerns about the legitimacy of the channel.