Practical Ecommerce

7 tips for building your YouTube channel

My company’s YouTube channel has roughly 1.2 million subscribers. Here are seven pointers that have helped us reach that number.

1. Determine Your Goals for the Channel

First, it’s important to decide if you even want a YouTube channel for your store. It’s a lot of work, but the benefit to your business could be astounding.

Having a YouTube channel affords you a free method of marketing to potential customers. Think of it just like an email list. Your YouTube subscribers are signing up to be notified when you release new video content. This can be a powerful force if built and maintained correctly.

It has taken years and over 700 videos to reach our 1.2 million subscribers. However, our website traffic is comprised predominantly of visits from YouTube as well as direct visits. In fact, these two segments account for 50 percent of our traffic. Add in organic search traffic (thank you universal search results) and nearly 75 percent of our traffic is “free.” We spend very little on traditional Internet advertising because we’ve built a name for ourselves via YouTube.

Now that you’ve decided to create a YouTube channel, your second step is determining what you want to achieve with your channel. Are you trying to build loyalty with current customers or obtain new customers? What type of customers are you looking for on YouTube? Experienced or newbies? Until you can answer these questions, you can’t start creating content.

Let’s assume that you sell dollhouse supplies. Do you want to offer tips-and-tricks videos? Do you want to showcase new products with video? Do you want to highlight amazing dollhouses from around the world? You may wish to do all of these things, but it’s probably best to have a laser-like focus when you begin.

Determining the focus of your channel should be the result of researching other channels on YouTube as well as your innate knowledge of your business. So, don’t duplicate what other channels are doing. Think about the common questions your customers ask. They’re probably also looking for these answers on Google (which loves to show videos from YouTube in its search results). Use these resources to refine the purpose of your channel.

2. Invest in Ideas and Concepts, Not Equipment

You probably already own all of the equipment you need to start your YouTube channel: a smartphone. But what you probably desperately lack is a great idea and a great concept for your channel. You should spend a ton of time figuring out your niche.

Start by writing down 50 to 100 ideas for videos. Think deeply about the titles of these videos. Type them into YouTube’s search box to see what comes up. See what your competitors are doing. See what hobbyists are doing. Figure out where they’re falling short and devise a way to create better content.

Content is king. Nothing is more important. Launching your YouTube channel is akin to launching a new business. Treat it as such.

3. Keep Your Videos Short

In today’s world, viewers want bite-sized chunks of information. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you won’t be able to get away with videos more than 2 minutes long.

Remember that when you’re starting out, viewers don’t know you. All they have to judge whether they’ll click to watch your video is the title, thumbnail, and length of the video. If they see a long video (anything more than 2 minutes), they may not even bother to click.

4. Design Thumbnails That Pop

Thumbnails, along with the title of your video, are really all you have to market your video (until you start to build an audience).

Sure, YouTube uses your video’s description and tags in its search index. But on the results page, where you’re competing with all of the other videos available for viewers to watch, your title and thumbnail are all you have to separate yourself. So make sure your thumbnail stands out.

Check out the YouTube search result for “pranks.” When I do this, I am drawn most to the thumbnails with the large text on them.

Thumbnails with larger text stand out in YouTube's search results.

Thumbnails with larger text stand out in YouTube’s search results.

Other tips include using a face as well as designing simple images with only a few elements, a solid (and bright) background color, and a solitary foreground image that pops off the page. Check out some of these examples.

Compelling thumbnails on YouTube.

Compelling thumbnails on YouTube.

Simple images are effective.

Simple images are effective.

Thumbnails with text stand out.

Thumbnails with text stand out.

The bottom line is that you should never use one of the suggested thumbnail images that YouTube provides when you upload your video. You should be designing them yourself.

5. Title Your Videos with Search Engines and Humans in Mind

The same SEO techniques that you’re using on your web pages apply to your video titles. Include a keyword, but make sure the title is enticing to a human.

Also, the first two lines of your video’s description are usually shown on YouTube’s search results. Make those two lines count.

Make the first two lines count for your video's description.

Make the first two lines count for your video’s description.

6. Engage Your Audience Via Comments

Don’t be a nameless and faceless entity. Audiences on YouTube want to connect with their favorite channels. One simple way to do this is to engage in the comments section of your videos. Yes, this can be time consuming. But anything worth doing is worth doing right.

7. Ask Viewers to Subscribe to Your Channel Everywhere You Can

At the end of your videos, tell your viewers to subscribe to your channel. One common technique is to create an “end slate” for every one of your videos where you ask viewers to subscribe to your channel and to check out some of your other videos.

On Facebook, tell your followers to subscribe to your channel. Do the same on Twitter and Instagram. Do this on your website, too. Don’t be shy. You’re creating terrific content, right? So tell your viewers how to get more of it.

Here’s a screenshot from one of our end slates.

Create an "end slate" to ask viewers to subscribe to your channel and to check out other videos.

Create an “end slate” to ask viewers to subscribe to your channel and to check out other videos.

8. Make Your Videos Not Suck

Whatever the goal of your video, make sure you achieve it. If you’re giving advice, make it powerful and lasting. If you’re showing off a tip or a trick, make it immensely useful. If you’re providing a review, make it informed. If you’re providing entertainment, make it entertaining. You get the picture.


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  1. Brandon April 16, 2015 Reply

    Great list. What if the goal of your YouTube channel is to create revenue from monetized videos? You also left out linking your videos to your site and using as many relevant tags as possible. As for equipment, yes a smartphone is adequate, but if you’re producing content using the bare minimum then users might assume that if the quality of the video is low then the quality of your product isn’t that great either. Unless you’re just posting cat videos.

  2. Bonnie April 19, 2015 Reply

    Good point Brandon!

  3. Phillip Lopez October 27, 2015 Reply

    Great tips here Jamie!

    It’s cool to learn what a successful channel is doing!

  4. Victor Pinkney January 6, 2016 Reply

    The best trick is to use youtube tags to optimize your channel. This article was helpful to me

  5. Darcy October 30, 2016 Reply

    I strongly disagree with number 6 and 7. I have read the comments section to many videos before and they are just full of rubbish, it consists of off topic comments and very abusive people. I don’t understand why people would want to have comments enabled on there content. your point number seven, I loath videos that ask me to like comment and subscribe. I think that the majority of people who watch You Tube know how it works. 99% of the time I click on a video because the content interests me and most (if not all) of the time I don’t care who is making the video and I don’t care about there channel. So why should I subscribe, because that are telling me to, when I hear like comment and subscribe it makes me want to do the exact opposite.

  6. Prayank Chopra February 14, 2017 Reply

    You may also get listed on popular business portals like IndiaBizCLub

  7. Kevin March 15, 2017 Reply

    Agree with previous comment. Tags are very important in promoting.
    But I think that two minute videos are pretty short. 3-4 is more like it.
    Here are some tips on creating a YouTube channel:
    Thanks for sharing!