How to Optimize Your YouTube Channel

Written by Emily Hill and Kevin Williams

This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most out of your website.

So, you’ve set up a YouTube channel for your business and now you need to build your audience. And not just any audience – an audience that will grow into a community that has a strong relationship with your brand. 

How do you do that? Optimize your channel. As HostGator’s YouTube web pros, we know that YouTube can be a beast to work with at first, because there are so many things to learn. But that learning curve can help you grow your audience and your customer base. 

Also, YouTube can be super powerful for SEO because Google owns it—something to think about if you’re trying to boost your visibility in Google search results. Your content doesn’t need to be overly produced to get results, but it does need to get found. If you create useful content and optimize it, you can start showing up in YouTube and Google search results, attracting viewers and growing your brand.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Plan your YouTube content schedule for consistency and focus

Before you start posting videos, there are a few things to do first. Taking these steps now can help you start off strong and avoid having to redo your strategy in a few weeks or months.

1. Decide how often you’re going to post 

If you look at the most successful YouTubers, what you’ll notice is that they keep to a schedule and their fans know when videos are coming out. Consistently delivering new content is the key to setting and meeting YouTube audience expectations, so you need a schedule

That doesn’t mean you have to produce a new video every day or every week. Once a month can be plenty, especially if you run a small business and don’t have time to devote to constant video shoots. Once you decide on a schedule, include it in your banner or a card (which we’ll explain in a bit), so viewers know to expect new videos, say, every Wednesday at 1 p.m. or on the first Monday of every month. 

Whatever schedule you set, stick to it so that viewers know you’re reliable—and so they’ll build the habit of watching your content when it drops.

2. Focus on your niche and audience

Remember that you’re creating content for your target audience persona – a very specific type of person with distinct habits, needs and preferences. When you focus on niche content for your audience, you can see your views increase. But if you start adding in content that’s not relevant to your audience, you may lose viewers. 

For example, if you run a niche comic book brand for dudes who love to argue, and you start posting reviews of shows from the CW, those guys are going to unsubscribe. They don’t want to follow that content. So, keep your content focused on your audience’s interests. If you add another audience persona later, you can branch out carefully and slowly. But for starters, stay tightly focused on your core persona.

3. Evergreen videos versus trending and timely videos

Timeless (aka “evergreen”) content like our how-to videos with Josh can be great for earning views. But it’s usually not the heaviest draw for subscribers. 

hostgator how to videos on youtube

To get people to subscribe, you may want to create some lighter or timely content, too. That way your YouTube channel can attract people who are looking for information on a specific issue and people who subscribe because they want to see more from your brand.

hostgator youtube video series on top website tips

4. Plan your first half dozen videos before you launch

Map out the content for your first few videos so you don’t get stuck and fall behind on your schedule right after you start. Having a plan will give you more confidence to keep going—and it will keep you focused on the topics your audience cares about.

Know the key things you’ll want to optimize with every video

Don’t ignore any little part of YouTube when you’re uploading new videos or optimizing your existing content. Here are some of the most important elements to include and refine.

1. Keywords

Already have keywords that work? Great! If you don’t—or if you want to find more—Google and YouTube’s autofill function can help you see what people are searching for in your niche.

For example, a physical therapist making a video series on back pain could check the autofill results on “back pain” to find new topics to tackle. 

You can also look at channels like yours to see what your competition is doing and what they haven’t covered yet. Our physical therapist might find that their closest competitors are doing a lot of videos lately on “back pain when you work from home,” because it’s a trending topic. They might also discover that no one’s done a lot on “sports massage for back pain when you work from home,” so that’s a niche they can work on that ties their area of expertise to a popular topic. 

Finally, check out resources like Ahrefs’ YouTube Keyword Tool, which will generate a list of the 100 most frequent phrases and questions YouTube users search for that include your keywords.

2. Title

Keywords belong in your video titles, too. The more specific your titles are, the more helpful they are to viewers. In our physical therapy example, they might want to use search autosuggestions like “back pain stretches” and “back pain treatment” in the titles of their videos.

3. Description

Give viewers a specific reason to click on your YouTube video. Be sure to use your keywords! Our philosophy is to use as many keywords in the description as possible—without making the copy feel like it was written by a robot. 

4. Thumbnail

Many people only look at the thumbnail images when they’re searching. Your thumbnail image needs to pop to get noticed, and if your image doesn’t explain at a glance what your video is about,  it should include text so people know what they’re looking at. 

hostgator youtube thumbnail images include video title

One of our favorite YouTube hacks is to create a branded slide you can use for all your thumbnails, like HostGator does with our “Hosted” with Scott web series pictured above. Spend some time creating a beautiful thumbnail upfront, and then you can quickly change out part of the image and text for each video. It’s a win–win-win:

  • Viewers know right away that it’s your content and can see what each video is about. 
  • You don’t have to spend time and money creating unique thumbnails for each video launch. 
  • You avoid getting burned out on thumbnail slide creation.

Pro tip: Remember that when thumbnails are viewed in playlists, the right side is covered up. Because of that, we always put our text on the left:

youtube video playlist thumbnails cover up right side of thumbnail

This kind of visual consistency is important for building your brand and establishing trust in your audience. If someone watches your first video and likes it, they’re likely to seek out your content again the next time they’re looking for something. If your content is easy to spot, they’re probably going to click your videos instead of going to an unfamiliar channel. When more viewers start looking for and choosing your videos, you’re growing your brand!

5. Tags

Use your keywords as tags so more people will find your videos in search results. 

How many? We’re advocates of smushing as many tags in as you can fit for each video — up to 500 characters total. If you don’t have enough keywords to hit the character limit, consider using a tool like vidIQ. You can do keyword research, score your keywords and use vidIQ’s Tag Autocomplete function to get keyword suggestions as you add your tags.

6. Timestamps

If you’re posting longer videos, like webinars or live event recaps, viewers may be more likely to watch if you include timestamps for the most relevant parts in the description. 

For example, our 2020 tutorial on How to Build a WordPress Website is awesome. It’s also 24 minutes long. To keep busy viewers from bouncing, we’ve included timestamps for each section, so they can go right to the part of the video that tells them exactly what they want to know.

hostgator youtube video with timestamps in description

7. Subtitles

Subtitles or closed captions are important for accessibility and convenience. They can also help with SEO. You can upload your own .SRT file for closed captioning, or you can let YouTube automatically generate subtitles (which you can edit) by selecting those options in YouTube Studio. 

8. Info and end cards

If one of your popular videos gets out of date, should you take it down? Not necessarily. For SEO, it can be smarter to leave it up and add an info card directing viewers to a newer, updated version of the video. 

That’s because it can take a few weeks or months for your new video to start ranking well in YouTube search results. If you pull down your old video, you’ll lose your presence in search results for that topic, at least for a while.

To give your viewers the latest info without losing SEO juice, add an info or end card to the out-of-date video directing people to your new video. We used this approach to point viewers to our recent video “How to Create & Login to Free HostGator Email” from an older video that needed an update.

This graph is the conversion rate of the card on the old video. It doesn’t tell us exactly how many people were redirected, but it does show an ever-increasing percentage of click-through-rate until the new video replaced it in YouTube’s rankings. 

youtube analytics with increasing click through rate

Meanwhile, the new video’s average views per day increased from around 23 to 55, an increase of about 130%. It’s pretty evident that our redirection using the card was successful, based on the way views increased on the new video and all but stopped on the old one. 

youtube analytics show increasing views on video

Promote future engagement with every video

Encourage viewers to stick around after your video ends. When you’re building a brand, try as hard as possible to keep people in your YouTube network by directing them to another relevant video. Don’t send them off your channel unless you’re sending them to download an e-book or make a purchase. Here’s how you can get viewers to stay for more.

1. Add end cards and info cards

Use a branded end card on each video to show them where they can go next. For example, viewers who just finished this video on speeding up their website can check out 5 ways to customize their WordPress theme. You can also use info cards during the video to direct viewers to related videos.

hostgator branded youtube end card

2. Create playlists 

Group your videos together by general topic to create playlists that viewers can watch in sequence. You can also put together playlists that tell a story. For example, if you sell a software solution, you might have a series of videos that follow users through setting things up, customizing the software and using it to do cool things—the story of what they can do with your technology.

Remember that you can have the same video in multiple playlists. If it fits in multiple categories, include it!

3. Invite viewers to subscribe

Superstar how-to YouTuber Dave Hax has more than 5 million subscribers—and he invites people to subscribe at the start and end of his videos. You should, too. Think of your request as a video call-to-action.

youtube video with subscribe button

4. Create your community

The Community tab on your YouTube page is the place where you can post questions, answer questions, share memes and, yep, promote your videos. It’s like a mini blog within your video channel, and it’s a great place to engage with your viewers and get them to check out more of your content. 

hostgator youtube community page

The Community section is especially helpful if you only post one or two times a month, because you can drop in short pieces of content to keep your subscribers engaged between videos.

Check your results and keep experimenting

Don’t be afraid to go back and analyze your YouTube video data to see what’s working and what needs to be changed. That doesn’t mean you should constantly change up your posting schedule, branded thumbnails or end cards—you want those to stay as consistent as possible. 

But you can study your data and sometimes something will pop out. For example, maybe if you post a little earlier or later you can get more traffic. Or maybe you can move the call to action to the start of your video instead of having that at the end, where a lot of people aren’t seeing it. Maybe you can ask viewers to subscribe earlier. Try those changes, see what the results are and stick with the changes that work.

A lot of working on YouTube is problem-solving. So, you might notice that viewers are dropping off a video after 20 seconds and you’re not sure why. When you re-watch it you see that there’s an audio problem at 20 seconds, so you need to fix that. Whatever’s affecting your video performance, try to figure it out and improve it.

On the YouTube Studio app, you can see your top playlists to get a sense of which groupings are most popular with your viewers. You can also see statistics for retention, which is how long someone is watching your video. A good goal is 50%, although a lot of serious YouTubers set a retention goal of 70 to 75%. Retention increases over time, so you may want to wait until your videos are a few months old before you start reviewing their retention statistics.

Drive traffic to your YouTube channel

Link to your videos anywhere and everywhere you can—on your other social media platforms, in your blog posts, in online articles. Those external links can boost the SEO for your videos and help you do better in search results. You can also engage with your audience in those other channels to find out what kinds of videos they’d like to see—and then deliver!

Keep learning about YouTube

The great part about learning about YouTube is that every single tool you need to succeed on YouTube other than the content itself is there for you, in how-to videos and in online courses. YouTube’s Creator Academy has loads of courses to help you build your channel

Keep learning, keep improving your videos, and keep focusing on your audience to build a YouTube channel that gets found, earns viewers and supports your business. 

Oh, and make sure to subscribe to HostGator’s YouTube channel here!

Kevin Williams bio photo

Kevin Williams is part of HostGator’s social media team, where he’s like our go-to resident nerdy-tech guy. But he was once that guy answering the phones on our support staff. When he’s not playing the voice of Snappy on social, Kevin is reading, hiking, building PCs, and playing videos games. You know, the stuff that makes him our resident nerdy-tech guy.