With 4 billion video views per day, YouTube isn’t just the third most popular site in the world. It has also quietly become one of the world’s biggest search engines. Meanwhile, Google has shifted it algorithms to favor videos, often putting YouTube videos near the top of its results.
Some have taken advantage of YouTube’s incredible power to expand their influence and make money online.
Below, I’ll share with you 21 ways you can follow in their footsteps.
#1 Keep it Short
People are more likely to begin watching shorter videos. They’re also more likely to finish watching them.
So do everything you can to be brief.
#2 Pay Attention to Lighting
One of the biggest problems plaguing YouTube videos is poor lighting. Even the finest video camera can’t capture vivid detail when the real-world lighting is poor.
You can invest in a soft-box lighting kit, but usually a well-positioned household lamp will do fine. Just make sure there is an even, continuous source of light on the subject of your video and that there’s no overwhelming backlighting (like from an open window).
#3 Edit Your Videos
Hollywood’s best actors don’t shoot scenes in one take. But that doesn’t stop many YouTubers from posting unedited webcam videos of them rambling and tripping over their words.
If you want thousands of people to be watching your videos, you owe it to them to trim the fat and move things along. Editing together the best parts and cutting out pauses will quicken the video’s pace and remove the pressure on you to deliver a flawless performance.
If this sounds too expensive or advanced for you, you’re wrong. Video editing software like Movie Maker, iMovie, and VirtualDub are all free and easy to learn.
#4 Brand Your Videos
When you’re watching a YouTube video, how often do you read the name of the channel?
Probably not very often. That’s why it’s important that you let people know who you are within the videos themselves.
I recommend starting and ending each video with a quick shot of your logo, your channel name, and a tagline that demonstrates the unique value of your videos. If you want to really impress, then hire a video effects editor to animate your logo and create an accompanying jingle.
#5 Include Background Music
One way to make your videos more professional and more enjoyable to watch is to include background music. You can find a quiet instrumental track that’s free to use at the free music archive.
#6 Research Your Keywords
Choosing keywords for your video is essential for ranking well. Just like with standard SEO, a little bit of research goes a long way. I recommend that you consult YouTube’s keyword tool before you decide which words and phrases you’ll be targeting.
#7 Put a Link in the Description
If you’re looking to build your own website, then you’ll need to give people a way to get there. While you can mention the name of your site during the video, few people will actually write out the address into their browser.
The best way to drive traffic to an outside website is through the description box. Make sure to start with http:// or it won’t be recognized as a link. You’ll also want to put the link in right away, because after 27 characters, the description is hidden unless the ‘show more’ button is clicked.
#8 Put Keywords in the Description
The link is the most important part of your description, but if you stop there you’re missing an opportunity to further your video search engine optimization.
Write out a thorough description that will help YouTube and Google rank your video for the keywords you’re targeting.
#9 Pick the Right Title
If ranking for a few keywords is your primary concern, then make sure to put them in your title. In fact, if you can fit them in twice, you’ll rank even better.
But ranking well doesn’t matter if nobody clicks on your video. That’s why it’s also important that your video title be something that induces curiosity, promises a benefit to the viewer, or otherwise explains why someone should watch the video right away.
A good title can make all the difference in the world. It’s worth it to take a few minutes and brainstorm the best possible title for your video.
#10 Pick the Right Thumbnail
YouTube will give you three choices for your video thumbnail: one at the 1/4 mark, the ½ mark, and the ¾ mark. Just like with the headline, it’s important to pick an image that’s going to make people want to click on.
If you’re really clever, you can design your video to have an engaging image around one of those markers.
#11 Make Playlists
YouTube’s playlists allow you to string a group of videos together in a sequence that plays one after the next.
If your videos benefit from being watched in a particular order (e.g. a series of videos about building a website), then creating a playlist that reflects that will help your viewer get more out of your videos. Of course, it will also help ramp up your views across the channel.
Playlists have an additional benefit: since they show up separately in YouTube searches, every new playlist is another opportunity to show up on the front page of search results.
Creating a playlist is easy. Simply click on the ‘Playlists’ tab while you’re in the Video Manager and then click ‘+ New playlist’.
#12 Create Interactivity with Annotations
One of the most powerful features of YouTube videos is their ability to be interlinked through annotations.
Some YouTubers put annotations in the top-left and top-right corners of each of their videos. The annotation in the top-left links to the previous video and the annotation in the top right links to the next video.
Annotations can be used to create a menu screen at the end of your video. The viewer is presented with a selection of other videos and the viewer gets to pick whichever one they would like to watch. This makes it easier for people to navigate between your videos (and therefore watch more of them).
Annotations point users to a playlist or a page where viewers can subscribe to your channel.
#13 Use Captions
These are YouTube’s version of subtitles. Not only are they great for the hearing impaired and people who don’t have their volume turned on, the text you provide as a transcript is also read by YouTube’s search engine. That means more opportunity to rank for more terms.
Add captions by choosing to edit a video and then selecting the ‘Captions’ tab.
#14 Promote with Social Media
In 2012, this one is a bit of a no-brainer. There isn’t a viral video in existence that hasn’t been shared through social media.
Facebook is a particularly powerful platform for video, as they can be embedded directly into a post (unlike with Twitter). But it’s not the only platform you should be using. I’ve also noticed that many of the biggest viral video sensations of 2012 (including Dollar Shave Club and Kony 2012) rose to prominence thanks partly to reaching the front page of Reddit.
I recommend trying out a few different social media strategies with your videos and then seeing what works best for niche.
#15 Post Regularly
Like with a website, you absolutely need to update your YouTube channel regularly if you want a shot at success. Commit yourself to uploading a new video once a week or once a month (whatever you’re capable of) and stick to it.
#16 Encourage Community
YouTube can be an amazing community. Your viewers can respond to your questions in the comment section, send you material for future videos, and make video responses to your videos. But you have to encourage this type of behavior if you want to see it happen.
For some real life examples, Mystery Guitar Man is a YouTube channel that has done an amazing job building a community around its videos.
#17 Become a Partner
If you want to make money directly from your YouTube account, you can allow YouTube to put advertisements in or alongside your video and then link your YouTube account to an Adsense account.
You aren’t likely to make a living from these earnings unless your view counts are through the roof (that’s why I recommend having a monetization strategy through your own website), but every little bit helps.
To get started, simply click ‘Settings’ while looking at your channel and then select ‘Monetization’.
#18 Respond to Popular Videos
One of the easiest ways to get more views is to identify your video as a “video response” to a popular video. Your video will show up underneath the original video and also possibly in the sidebar adjacent to it: that could mean 100,000’s of eyes on the link to your video.
I’ve personally used this method twice to get over 30,000 views.
#19 Contact Bloggers in Your Niche
Most bloggers love to feature high quality video content on their site. It entertains their readers and give them something to write about.
For you, the benefits are even greater: more views, more subscribers, and a valuable backlink to your video. When a website with a high Page Rank embeds your video, Google recognizes it and begins to rank the video higher in its searches.
Of course, in order for these bloggers to feature your great video content, you must first reach out to them and let them know about it.
#20 Create a Blog Post around Your Video
If you have a blog in the same niche as your video (and in a perfect world you do) then you should make a separate post for each video you upload to YouTube.
Optimize this page for search using the same title and keywords as your video and your video is more likely to show up at the top of Google’s results.
#21 Use a Call to Action
Simply asking your viewers to do something greatly increases their chances of doing it. On YouTube, there’s no shortage of actions you can ask viewers to take:
“Subscribe to my channel.”
“Share with your friends.”
“Click the like button below.”
“Add this video to your favorites.”
“Leave a comment.”
“Follow the link in the description.”
Which call to action to use and how you deliver it (in person or through an annotation) depends on your style and your audience. Just make sure that you’re asking your viewers to do something – or else you’re missing a big opportunity to grow your channel.