arrow_back YouTube Playbook

Optimize Your Content

Creating great content is essential to finding success on YouTube, but it's only half the battle. YouTube is a big place with lots of content for viewers to choose from. A successful optimization strategy will help you take full benefit of the platform's functionalities and avoid execution mistakes.

 
Key Concept

Thumbnails

Thumbnails show up in different sizes and formats all across the platform and outside of it. Make sure you've got a strong, vibrant image that pops no matter what size it is.

General guidelines

  • When shooting a video, take shots that will make great thumbnails.
  • Always upload custom thumbnails with the video file.
  • Make sure the thumbnail is not racy.
  • Consider the legibility of your thumbnail at multiple sizes. Thumbnails change size depending on the YouTube placement and device.

Visual guidelines

  • Use visual cues (colors, images, shapes, personalities) that are consistent with your brand.
  • Clear, in-focus, high-resolution (640px x 360px min., 16:9 aspect ratio)
  • Bright, high-contrast
  • Close-ups of faces
  • Visually compelling imagery
  • Well-framed, good composition
  • Foreground stands out from background
  • Looks great at both small and large sizes
  • Accurately represents the content
Tip:

Upload high-resolution thumbnails so they appear crisp and clear wherever viewers happen to see them.

Thumbnails
The images selected to represent your videos or playlists on the site.
Ok, got it
 
Example

Thumbnails: Examples

Vogue
GoPro
BMW
 
Key Concept

Cards

Cards are a way to complement your video's content and enhance the viewer experience with contextually relevant information.

Cards are a great way to encourage your viewers to engage with your video and take meaningful actions as a result. The key is to use cards to deliver additional value to your viewer.

Card use cases

  • Drive viewers to your other videos, playlists and channel.
  • Drive viewers to your website to check out product information.

Card best practices

  • When appropriate, set cards to open a new window when clicked. Be careful! Don't take viewers away from a video too soon.
  • Cards at the end of a video should open in the same window.
Tip:

Measure the effects of your cards in YouTube Analytics with the "Cards" report.

Cards
You can use cards to add interactivity to your videos. Cards can point viewers to a specific URL (from a list of eligible sites) and show customized images, titles, and calls to action, depending on the card type. Cards are shown on the right-hand side of the video on desktop and below the video on mobile. If there are multiple cards on a video, viewers can scroll through them while the video is playing. You add cards in the Video Manager section of your YouTube account.
Ok, got it
Playlist
A playlist is a collection of videos that can be viewed, shared and embedded like an individual video. You can create playlists using any videos on YouTube. Videos can be in multiple playlists. Uploaded videos are favorited videos are default playlists on your channel.
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Engagement
Interaction between the creator and the audience, the viewer and the video, or the creator and the site. Can be measured by the number of interactions (comments, favorites, likes or new subscriptions) per views.
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YouTube Analytics
A tool that provides information across various metrics for videos, channels and audience. Available in your user account.
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Thumbnails
The images selected to represent your videos or playlists on the site.
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Calls to Action
These prompt the viewer to take an action.
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Like
A user action that shows appreciation for a video. This action can be broadcast to subscribers in the feed.
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Key Concept

Playlists

Playlists allow you to collect, organize and publish multiple videos together. This increases watch time and creates another asset that will appear in search results and in Suggested Videos. You can create playlists using your own videos, other videos, or a combination of both.

Playlist use cases

  • Group a set of videos that you want viewers to enjoy in a single session or in a particular order.
  • Organize videos around a theme or a tent-pole event.
  • Separate multiple shows into playlists and feature on your channel.
  • Combine your most-viewed videos with new uploads.
  • Curate good brand-advocating videos (reviews, testimonials, help, etc) created by your community.

Playlist best practices

  • Choose a strong thumbnail for your playlist. Make it pop!
  • If a playlist needs context, upload a short, snappy intro video or interstitial videos with a host. Create a hosted playlist.
  • Make your metadata work for you. A strong title, tags and description will help people find your playlist. (See Metadata.)
  • Use Playlist Notes to write conversational asides about individual videos.
  • Use in-video messaging, cards, end-cards and links to send viewers to a playlist.
  • Feature your playlist on your channel page by creating a new "section."
Tip:

To link to a video in Autoplay playlist mode, click the share button and then copy and paste that URL. The video link will launch the whole playlist.

Playlist
A playlist is a collection of videos that can be viewed, shared and embedded like an individual video. You can create playlists using any videos on YouTube. Videos can be in multiple playlists. Uploaded videos are favorited videos are default playlists on your channel.
Ok, got it
Share
Ability to distribute videos via social media, email or direct links. This action can be broadcast to subscribers.
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Cards
You can use cards to add interactivity to your videos. Cards can point viewers to a specific URL (from a list of eligible sites) and show customized images, titles, and calls to action, depending on the card type. Cards are shown on the right-hand side of the video on desktop and below the video on mobile. If there are multiple cards on a video, viewers can scroll through them while the video is playing. You add cards in the Video Manager section of your YouTube account.
Ok, got it
Metadata
The textual information that describes a video, channel or playlist. Video metadata includes title, tags and description. Playlist metadata includes title and description. Channel metadata includes a description.
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Tags
Words or phrases used to describe the content of your videos. Added to videos at time of upload.
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Hosted playlist
A collection of videos linked by additional hosted videos. Hosted videos can act as intros, outros, and/or interstitials. Hosted videos can contain an actual host (person) or creative branding that acts as a host.
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Community
Any actions taken by a viewer on or around your channel and content. Includes likes, favorites, subscriptions and comments.
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Suggested videos
Video thumbnails that appear in the right-hand column of watch pages and the homepage, or the tiled thumbnails that appear when a video has finished playing.
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Watch time
The amount of time in aggregate that your viewers are watching your videos. Watch time is estimated in Analytics.
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End card or End slate
A graphic that creators include at the end of their videos. End-cards typically include specific Calls to Action to subscribe, watch more content, or visit a channel page. They may also contain credits for the video. Generally, end-cards prominently feature annotations.
Ok, got it
 
Example

Playlists: Examples

Playlist watch page

Covergirl Eye Makeup Tips Playlist

Curated playlist of videos hosted on other channels

Oreo Cookie
 
Key Concept

Channel Experience

Your channel is the face of your brand on YouTube. It allows you to collect and organize all your videos in one place. Several customizable channel features will help ensure that you'™re delivering the best experience for your viewers while making your brand more discoverable across YouTube.

Optimize your channel and brand across YouTube

A number of channel features will follow your videos across the YouTube site and on devices. Make sure that they effectively represent your brand personality.

Channel name

Pick a short, memorable channel name in line with your brand identity. This will appear widely across YouTube, so make sure it's the best representation of your brand.

Channel icon

Upload a square, high-resolution image to be your channel's icon across YouTube. The image will appear alongside all your videos on the watch page. (In most cases, you can use your brand'™s logo.)

Channel description

The first few words of your channel description appear most frequently across the site, so highlight your most important branding upfront.

Include your upload schedule, especially if you host multiple content types or series.

Channel art

Channel art is your channel'™s primary branding across all devices. Create customized, visually-compelling channel art. Busy images don'™t scale well, so keep the image simple.

Add website and social media links to the About tab. Include these links in your channel art to help tie your YouTube presence to the rest of your online brand.

Check how your channel looks in search, related channels and the channel browse page. Do your channel icon, channel name and channel art do a good job representing your brand to potential fans?

Optimizing for subscribed fans

What to watch next

Subscribed viewers see personalized recommendations of "œWhat to Watch Next" based on their viewing history.

Promote a video with Featured Content to make it appear first in the "What to Watch Next" recommendations.

Recent activity

Your most recent feed posts will appear on your channel page in the recent activity feed and on the activity tab.

Keep your feed active with uploads, likes and channel posts. This will give your fans another reason to come back regularly.

Optimizing for unsubscribed viewers

In the Browse view of the channel page, subscribed and unsubscribed viewers see different versions of your channel. The unsubscribed view is your first opportunity to convince potential fans to subscribe.

Channel trailer

Enable the channel trailer for unsubscribed viewers. This video will auto-play, so tell new visitors what your channel's all about and why they should subscribe.

Keep your trailer short, but make sure you ask the fans to subscribe!

Show, don'™t tell. Give potential fans a taste of your best content.

Sections

Sections organize videos, playlists and channels on your channel's Browse page. Subscribed and unsubscribed viewers will see them.

Sections can divide your content by genre, theme, show or any other criteria. Effective organization will help your audience find the content most relevant to them.

Gain subscribers by promoting your channel

Once you've optimized your channel for new viewers, it'™s time to use YouTube tools to bring new users to your channel.

Featured Content“ Channel Promotion

Enable Channel Promotion in Featured Content to place your channel icon across your entire video library.

Cards and calls to action

Use end-cards or other clickable cards to push viewers to your channel page.

Vocal calls to action along with cards or video description links can help increase click-through rates.

Linking with Google+

Link your YouTube channel to your Google+ page to amplify the social reach of your videos, increase discoverability of your content and offer a more streamlined Google experience. It is also meant to enable new features for easier management of your YouTube channel. See Amplify With Social.

Related Channels

Related Channels are promoted channels populated by YouTube that appear on your channel page. Recommendations are based on channels that are similar to yours.

Be sure to enable Related Channels. Disabling the feature will pull your channel from being promoted on other channels.

Featured Channels

Featured Channels are channels you choose to promote on your channel page. For instance, highlight other channels in your brand'™s portfolio.

If you are promoting a large number of channels, rotate through the list using the "œshuffle" feature. This ensures all your channels get visibility.

Learn how to gain subscribers using paid promotion in "œTurn Viewers Into Subscribers" in Promote Your Content.

Tip:

Associate your official website with your YouTube channel.

Your top section will show up most frequently across devices. Make sure it will draw in new viewers.

Make sure your icon doesn'€™t distract from the videos or overlap with existing cards.

Cards
You can use cards to add interactivity to your videos. Cards can point viewers to a specific URL (from a list of eligible sites) and show customized images, titles, and calls to action, depending on the card type. Cards are shown on the right-hand side of the video on desktop and below the video on mobile. If there are multiple cards on a video, viewers can scroll through them while the video is playing. You add cards in the Video Manager section of your YouTube account.
Ok, got it
Playlist
A playlist is a collection of videos that can be viewed, shared and embedded like an individual video. You can create playlists using any videos on YouTube. Videos can be in multiple playlists. Uploaded videos are favorited videos are default playlists on your channel.
Ok, got it
Feed
A stream of activity either for one channel (via the channel page feed) or for multiple channels (the homepage feed). Feed activities include uploads, updated playlists, video comments, channel comments, new subscriptions, bulletins, likes, favorites and sharing. Users control what feed activities they broadcast and, by subscribing to channels, what feed activities are broadcasted to them in their homepage feed.
Ok, got it
Watch page
The page where the majority of video viewing happens. URLs with the format youtube.com/watch?v=[video ID Here] are watch pages.
Ok, got it
 
Example

Channel Experience: Examples

For examples of great channel experiences, visit the Vice, TRX, and Glamour YouTube channels.

Checklist

Summary

  • Get your metadata in shape! Make your titles, tags and video descriptions work for you.
  • Create visually-compelling thumbnail images to make clicking on your videos irresistible.
  • Include a few well-placed cards in your videos. Ask for subscribers and drive viewers to other videos, but don'€™t overwhelm them.
  • Use playlists to group similar videos on your channel, and offer your viewers a curated, lean-back watching experience.
  • Make sure your channel, description and icon are optimized for discoverability across YouTube.
  • Consider featuring channels your brand supports on your brand'€™s channel page. This is a great opportunity for cross-promotion with YouTube creators.