More than 1 billion people use YouTube each month. That’s more than 12% of the world’s population, and a huge market your business can use to build your audience.
As the second-largest search engine on the internet and with the largest audience of any video-hosting site, YouTube should be a vital part of your video marketing as well as your overall marketing strategy. In fact, video marketing is one of the best-driving platforms with the best return on investment: 88% of marketers report being pleased with the ROI of their video marketing.
To demonstrate the importance of a YouTube strategy, we conducted a case study into the success of one of our YouTube channels after it hit four million views this spring. On their way to this milestone, our YouTube team learned exactly what it takes to create a successful strategy.
Here’s a peek into the data behind those four million views and how you can apply winning principles to your own YouTube channel.
Our study focused on a channel that publishes reviews and comparisons of tech products and services—a popular category on YouTube. For this study, we used the data YouTube collects in its analytics platform. Specifically, we compared data from 2019 and 2018 to lifetime information. All of the data referenced here was pulled from YouTube analytics in May 2019.
We examined the following data points to come to conclusions about our analytics and determine results:
- Audience retention
- Device data
- Likes and dislikes
- Traffic sources
Clearlink’s YouTube Strategy Findings
The channel we used as our research subject has been operating since March 2016. From then until May 2019, it amassed four million views, twenty-three thousand subscribers, and a total of fourteen million watch time minutes.
Looking at the demographic information from the channel, men are an overwhelming majority of the audience (84.3%). Geographically, viewers are predominately from the United States (91.2%), followed by Canada (2.3%) and the United Kingdom (1.2%). Our largest audience segment was between 25 and 34 years old (37%), but 25-to-44-year-olds made up about a quarter of the audience (23.4%).
Understanding who is watching your video content helps you understand more about the makeup of your audience and gives context to viewership metrics.
However, when measuring the success of specific videos or your YouTube strategy as a whole, don’t rely on a single metric. While view counts in the millions will be helpful for brand recognition and relevance, relying on views alone won’t help you understand what content your audience likes and responds to. Instead of focusing on one metric, take all of them into account to paint a broader picture of the health of your video marketing efforts.
Higher Views Don’t Necessarily Mean Better Rankings
One of the most important takeaways from this research is that higher views don’t always mean higher rankings. According to YouTube Creator Academy, videos with higher watch times—not view counts—are more likely to rank higher. Keep in mind, though, that watch time is a more complicated metric than it sounds.
One high-ranking, highly viewed video on our channel had an average watch time of 7:02, or 40% of the total video. The most-viewed video on the channel has a lower average watch time of 3:44, but that’s a much higher percentage of that particular video: 61%.
Watch time alone doesn’t tell the whole story of a video’s ranking—or success.
So which is YouTube’s algorithm rewarding more? Longer watch time, which keeps viewers on YouTube longer? Or percentage viewed, which indicates the video was more helpful to the viewer? It’s impossible to know for sure. Our team’s most successful approach has been to target both metrics, creating longer videos that are packed top to bottom with helpful information. However, we continue to test various combinations of video length and content types like product reviews, service comparisons, and beginner FAQs to understand what our viewers enjoy most.
Mobile Rules in Devices Used
Our audiences prefer to access YouTube via mobile, hands down. Despite the larger screens on computers and TVs, 49% of our lifetime views came from mobile phones. Computer-viewing made up 27% of devices used to access the channel—and we’re on the low end of the scale: according to YouTube, 70% of view time on the site comes from mobile devices.
Mobile views also generally lead to more engagement, confirming that not all views are created equally. In fact, some estimates show that up to 92% of mobile viewers share videos with people they know.
We found our TV YouTube viewers had higher engagement than our mobile viewers.
Smart TVs made up a sizable percentage of connected devices used to access our content, which is consistent with reports that, as of 2018, YouTube’s fastest-growing area is TV. The audience data shows that a significant group of viewers prefers to watch our review-focused content this way. Over the channel’s lifetime, 13% of views came from streaming TVs. And while mobile viewers stayed engaged for an average of 3:11, TV viewers stayed engaged for 4:47. Finding ways to appeal to both types of users to gain different types of engagement is imperative.
Biggest Traffic Sources Point to the Importance of SEO
A combined 60% of views so far this year on our channel came from YouTube’s search and browse features. Our channel’s audience could not have found this content if we had not implemented long-term SEO strategies.
Lifetime traffic sources differ slightly. Nearly 70% of our channel’s lifetime views come from a combination of YouTube search and suggested videos. The popularity of both browsing and automated suggestions shows that it’s not enough to focus on writing for just people or just bots. You must create written content that will appeal to both.
You Can’t Plan Success, but You Can Prepare for It
There’s a single moment that seemed to skyrocket our YouTube success. Through miraculous timing, we published a video related to a streaming company’s relevance right as the company raised prices. This action led thousands of angry customers to YouTube to find an alternative.
The magic ingredients for success include optimized thumbnails, titles, video descriptions, and content tone.
While there’s no way we could have planned this, we were prepared for it. We’d taken the time beforehand to help boost our YouTube strategy and improve audience retention. The magic ingredients included optimized thumbnails, titles, video descriptions, and content tone. We’d also leaned into topics that our target audience wanted to see. Overall, these ingredients created the perfect storm of success.
YouTube Strategies You Should Implement Today
A study into the success of one of our teams is a great way to see YouTube strategy in action. Here are five strategies you should implement in order to see the same kind of success.
1. Utilize Data to Understand Your Audience
Whatever type of business you run, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t if you don’t have data to measure your journey. YouTube analytics will help you understand who is watching your videos and how they’re accessing your content. General stats are helpful, but your audience is unique and so is your data. Review it regularly to better inform your strategy—from your keywords and video length to your tone and content types.
Listening to your audience and creating content they want to consume is the best way to grow your YouTube platform. But you won’t know how to do that if you’re not paying attention to your audience usage data.
2. Focus on Content That Appeals to Your Audience
While you shouldn’t completely change your voice for YouTube, certain types of content perform better than others. Humor tends to perform well, as it keeps viewers engaged and entertained. You may find that sarcasm is truer to your brand and more appealing to your audience. Or perhaps your target audience prefers a no-nonsense professional tone for the content they consume.
Either way, your content needs to focus on being valuable and helpful for your audience, in a way that is authentic to you and your brand. Focusing solely on sales or tricking people with misleading titles will drive people away and lose you viewers—fast. We were able to see success with our channel because we proactively created content that would be useful and informative for our audience.
To be truly helpful, try creating customer care content that helps your audience solve the problems they’re facing on their own. This will help them feel like you care about the issues they’re experiencing, and they’ll naturally be drawn to your product or service.
3. Reference Your Other Videos
There’s no way to tell which of your videos will go viral or when. You never know when something relevant to your business will pop up or if someone popular will give you a shout-out. If it eventually happens for you, referencing your other videos will give your entire channel a boost.
When your videos are interlinked, one-time viewers will be able to find more of your content. This is an almost effortless way of increasing audience interaction and converting viewers to long-term customers.
4. Make Thumbnails and Title Formats More Eye-Catching
YouTube is an incredibly visual platform. If your thumbnails don’t look good and your titles aren’t engaging, people won’t click on them. The best content or SEO strategy in the world won’t help you if no one clicks on your video because you have a grainy image and a boring title.
Using a still from your video is easy, but it won’t stand out from all the other videos on the platform. Custom thumbnails with graphics or the video title embedded look more professional and engaging and are generally worth the extra effort. While there’s no way to know for sure what will perform well with your audience without some level of A/B testing, following basic design principles will help you create more eye-catching thumbnails.
Similarly, create titles that your audience feels compelled to watch. Be descriptive so your audience knows exactly what to expect—and don’t forget to include your keywords. Keep in mind character count limits and avoid misleading or spammy titles.
5. Add Longer Video Descriptions for SEO Focus
The SEO value of a good video title can mean the difference between being a big hit and being forgotten amongst the thousands of other videos that go up every day. Writing longer video descriptions also makes it easier to naturally include SEO keywords your audience is already using to find content they want to watch.
Using keywords and tags—as well as YouTube’s new hashtag feature—appropriately in your video descriptions helps both viewers and algorithms find your content. After all, your description is where the YouTube search algorithm looks when conducting searches.
Creating effective video descriptions means finding a balance between writing for people and writing for bots. Make sure you include keywords in the title, tags, and description. When browsing search results, viewers can see the top three lines of your video description. Focus the majority of your video description effort on these three lines, as that will greatly impact your appeal to viewers. Together with your thumbnail image and captivating title, these strategies will help you be found and get people to click.
You Can Create a Successful YouTube Strategy
Creating a YouTube marketing campaign is one aspect of creating a greater overall customer experience. Everything you put on YouTube should match the rest of your branding while working for the audience that interacts with you through this specific platform.
If you need more ideas on how to create a stellar experience that’s the same across all of your marketing channels, check out our Intelligent CX Solutions.