Everyone wants to make a viral video these days. But I argue that it’s much more impressive to have 50 videos with 100,000 views than one video with over 5 million. It’s nice being the flavor of the month, but sustained excellence is much better for brand building. One of my favorite examples is Food Wishes, a popular cooking YouTube channel. While the content is superb, the channel also employs YouTube best practices like an art form. Read on to learn what the channel does well and how you can adapt its video practices to your brand.
Title, Thumbnail, and Description
These three elements are the most important in making sure your content gets found by the people who would enjoy viewing it. And it’s especially important that all three work together to compliment your videos.
1. Your Title and Thumbnail Should Tell the Same Story
Your title and thumbnail do a lot of work for you. They tell potential viewers why they should watch and provide an introduction to the video. That way, you don’t have to start the video with a long explanation of what the video is about. You can just jump right in.
Take the Food Wishes example below. Because of an accurate title and beautiful photograph of the end product, there’s no confusion as to what you’re about to watch after you click. The title is also crammed with keywords like “Recipe,” “How to,” and “Fancy Tartar Sauce.”
2. When it Comes to Titles, Concision is King
YouTube gives you 100 characters to work with, but you want to keep titles under 70 characters to make sure they aren’t truncated by most search engines (that includes YouTube). If you’re interested in some bonus points, I would suggest keeping it less than 50 characters. That just about makes it truncate-proof.
3. Think About Adding a Custom Thumbnail
Thumbnails are intended to give the viewer a visual preview of the video, kind of like a mini-movie poster. YouTube usually gives you a nice variety of images to choose from, but sometimes there aren’t any stills in your video that properly represent the content within. That’s where custom thumbnails come in.
Take a look at the example below. In honor of the channel’s 1000th video, Chef John decided to post a video responding to some of the most frequently asked questions he receives from fans. In this instance, he didn’t want to risk having people click on the video expecting a recipe and being disappointed, possibly resulting in dislikes. This custom thumbnail shows viewers something is different about this video and the title corroborates the story.
So, if YouTube isn’t giving you what you need, or you feel like your thumbnail needs more information, think about adding a custom thumbnail. One important thing to remember: your account must be verified and in good standing to upload a custom thumbnail.
4. Make the Most of Your Descriptions (in 157 Characters or Less)
This is where you have a little more room to be creative. In the description, you can explain the background of the video, provide links to products mentioned, list timestamps to important sections, and more. It’s really up to you.
YouTube gives you 157 characters before making viewers click “Show More” to keep reading. So make sure you get all of your important keywords in before then. If there’s an important link you want to send viewers to, make sure you have it early in the description.
As you can see below, a huge benefit of having a link early in a description is that it is clickable right from the search results page.
There is a lot of visual evidence that shows why Food Wishes employs YouTube best practices, but it’s what you can’t see that really makes this channel shine.
5. Limitations Can Actually Strengthen Your Content
If you’ve watched a video or two, you’ve probably noticed how the only parts of the host that appear in his videos are his hands and his voice. Chef John explains in his FAQ video that this style was born out of lack of equipment. He only had one camera and a microphone so instead of a traditional multi-camera cooking show where the chef walks around the kitchen, he just focused on the food.
As the saying goes, “But out of limitations comes creativity.” This style is actually what makes Food Wishes so successful. It helps the viewer feel like they’re cooking along with the host and removes a lot of the intimidation that comes along with cooking.
6. Have a Clear Mission
From day one, Chef John’s mission has been about one thing: helping people learn how to cook. That mission has determined everything he does, from the recipes he selects to his explanations to his filming style. Having a clear strategy and mission is the most important factor in successful brand building. Once you have a solid foundation, the rest (brand identity, brainstorming, content creation, marketing, etc.) becomes so much easier.
Follow these YouTube best practices and you’re sure to see an increase in viewership. To what YouTube channels do you subscribe? Why do you like them? Share in the comments.