YouTube SEO & Channel Optimization Best Practices - Optimizing Your Channel (Part 1)

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by Emilie DeLong
Senior Creative Producer, Odyssey Studios

A guide to optimizing your YouTube channel and uploading content with SEO best practices in mind

Create video content, they said.  It would be fun, they said. And it is...until all that time and creativity nets you with disappointing views and little engagement. So, what’s the deal?  What’s the secret sauce to unraveling the mysteries of YouTube and its sacred algorithm? 

If you don’t understand how YouTube’s algorithm works, it can make it difficult to present your content on your channel in a way that will get the right viewers to watch and engage with your video. And while YouTube is constantly tweaking the way its algorithm operates to control viewer behavior, here are some of our suggestions on how to optimize your content and channel for the best possible organic results.

Let’s Get Basic

Why do we even care about YouTube anyhow? When you’re the second most-used search engine in the world, built on the first most-used search engine in the world (Google), your reign as the king of video platforms is going to be pretty hard to shake. Secondly, YouTube viewers watch an amazing amount of content numbering into the billions of hours per month across millions of viewers. That’s a whole lot of captive eyeballs to get your videos in front of. But, in order to get your video in front of those viewers, you need to embrace the algorithm by targeting, optimizing and promoting your content. It’s all about harnessing the power of that Google ranking, friends.

At present, YouTube favors audience retention and engagement above all other metrics. That’s right, long gone are the days when impressions and views were the most valuable metrics in determining your search rank, YouTube cares about keeping viewers on its site and the best way to do that is serving up engaging content that is relevant to what the viewer is looking for. 

Optimizing your Channel

First things first, take the time to create a channel that viewers want to engage with.  Use YouTube’s channel design features to your advantage to showcase your brand and organize your content. In addition to including basic text information like the description of your channel, website, URL, etc., the items below are also worth considering when building out the landing page for your YouTube channel.

Let’s talk about look n’ feel. The banner image appears at the top of the homepage and should be relevant to both your brand and the content people can find on your channel. It’s recommended that the image should be eye-catching and potentially contain text relevant to your brand messaging. Next, you’ll want to select an appropriate profile image. This is what identifies you as the creator. Since it will follow you throughout all of your interactions on YouTube beyond your channel, choose something that makes sense for you/your brand that also displays well at a small size. A logo or profile image that works well when reduced to thumbnail size is ideal. You’ll want to choose a channel title, something that makes sense for your company or the kind of content you’re creating.  (Pro Tip: If possible, use a target keyword within your channel title - something relating to your content, industry, brand, etc.).  Fill out the “About Us” section. Keep in mind that the first 48 characters of this section display in search results so use this wisely to describe your page and also insert target keywords as appropriate.

Often overlooked but a nice feature to include where possible is the channel trailer. You have the option of featuring a video on your channel’s homepage. This is a great opportunity to showcase what your channel’s all about with an eye-catching sizzle reel - keep it short (30-60 seconds) and keep it exciting!

Pro Tip: You also have the option of changing how your landing page looks depending on whether your viewer is new to your page or a returning visitor. Using a sizzle reel or other introductory video to what your channel is all about is a great way to familiarize new viewers with what they can expect from your content in the view designed for new visitors to your channel.  Consider using this featured video as an opportunity to showcase a recent upload within the view designed for a returning visitor.

After you’ve styled your channel to your liking, it’s time to upload some videos!  Learn more about that in Part 2.

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