Confession: I am definitely not an expert when it comes to YouTube.
So, naturally, here I am writing a post about advice on creating food content on YouTube. 🙂
I know it seems a wee bit cray-zee, but I’m a huge believer in the idea of expert enough. As a matter of fact, I’ll go so far as to say that sometimes not being the ultimate expert can actually make you a better teacher (see the above link for reasons why).
So if this isn’t The Expert’s Guide to YouTube, then what is it?
I think a better way to describe this post would be A Look into My Notebook: My Personal Top 5 Tips for Food Bloggers on YouTube.
Try implementing one (or all) of these, and I bet you’ll start to see more success on YouTube!
So, without further ado, here are some of my tips:
1. Aim for consistency above all else.
Above everything else, consistency is honestly the most important.
In order for your YouTube channel to be successful, you have to deliver consistent content.
Dane Boedigheimer, the creator of the insanely popular YouTube show AnnoyingOrange, used this comparison when explaining the importance of consistently publishing new content:
You can rely on this show the same way you can rely on a television show.
Have you ever turned on the TV to watch your favorite show only to see a blank screen? Neither have I. Successful YouTube channels need to have that same level of reliability and consistency.
Even more, the YouTube algorithm favors channels that have higher watch time, and a great way to improve your watch time is by posting on a consistent basis. Subscribers look forward to and devote time to watch your video if you consistently upload on the same day each week.
To have the most success, you should ideally aim to post a new video once a week. However, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep to that schedule! Just try and post as often as you can while still creating high-quality videos.
Here are some tips for staying consistent on YouTube:
- Batch film your videos. Set aside a day on the weekend and film 2-4 videos at once. That way, you have enough content for the entire month, but you don’t have to film a brand new video each week.
- Quick tip: Make sure to change your outfit for each video! 😉 This will keep your viewers from realizing that you’re filming several videos in one day.
- Create a content calendar and plan your videos out ahead of time. Having a set plan will keep you focused and on-schedule with your videos. Try using a tool like Asana to keep yourself on track!
- Develop videos as a series. The ultimate goal on YouTube is to get your viewers hooked and clicking from one video to the next. You can easily do this by creating a multi-video series focused on one particular topic. For instance, you could do a holiday cookie baking series where you have individual videos showcasing how to make sugar cookies, royal icing, gingerbread cookies, etc.
- Quick tip: As you post videos in a series, make sure to create a series playlist to gather them all in one place. Then, if your viewers have autoplay turned on, they can easily play one video after another.
2. Create a strategy for your video thumbnails.
Food bloggers don’t need to be told the importance of images. We’ve all been coached on how a recipe’s food photo can make or break its popularity on Pinterest, Foodgawker, or the hundred other food sharing sites that exist.
We do eat with our eyes, after all!
The same concept is true for YouTube. A video’s thumbnail image can make or break the popularity of a YouTube video.
And, just like your video schedule, the most important part about thumbnails is consistency. Viewers should be able to come to your channel and instantly pick up on your aesthetic and understand what your brand is all about.
For example, the popular YouTube channel Pick Up Limes uses just pictures (no text) for thumbnails. Instantly, you’re able to pick up on this channel’s cozy, natural vibe because of all the colorful food and abundance of plants.
On the other hand, the YouTube channel SORTEDfood incorporates really vibrant colors and bold text into their thumbnails. When you look at one of their thumbnails, there’s no doubting it’s one of their videos.
Here are some things to consider when creating your video thumbnail:
- Use a photo for your video thumbnail. A photo will almost always look better than a frame selected from the video. Both Pick Up Limes and SORTEDfood both do a really great job of using appealing photos that showcase a certain part of the video.
- Consider adding text to the thumbnail. As you can see above, SORTEDfood uses epic text in their video thumbnails. If you decide to use text in your thumbnail, be sure to make it large so that it catches the eye of potential viewers—tiny text is effectively useless when it comes to thumbnails.
- Quick tip: Don’t know Photoshop? Use Canva to create your custom video thumbnail. They even have hundreds of premade YouTube thumbnail templates that you can use as a starting point.
- Keep it simple. Even though YouTube recommends using a size of 1280×720, the thumbnail itself will usually be pretty small. Keeping your photo simple will make it easier for people to understand what it’s about. For example, check out this screenshot of a YouTube video in a Google search result. The width is 120px on that lil’ guy!
3. Be deliberate with your links.
Just like links within blog posts, links within videos are really important.
Video is an awesome medium for mentioning a product, service, or website that your viewers can check out. Plus, there are so many different places you can put links on YouTube, so the options are truly endless!
Once a viewer subscribes to your channel, there’s a good chance they’ll want to follow you in other places as well. Why not make it as easy as possible for them?
Another awesome place for links is the description box of videos. Here are some great ideas for items to include in the description box:
- An outline of what the video will discuss (including keywords in the first 1-2 sentences)
- Links to your related videos/blog posts (including those you mention in the video)
- Your social media links
- Affiliate links (just make sure to include a disclaimer)
Have you ever watched a YouTube video and saw that little ‘i’ pop up in the top right-hand corner? That’s called a card!
Cards make your videos more interactive, and they can feature a video, playlist, channel, or link. You can easily add them in before publishing your video.
To add cards to your video, follow these steps:
- Open the Videos page in YouTube Studio and select a video.
- Scroll down and select ‘Cards’ on the right-hand side.
- Add cards as desired and press ‘Save.’
Here are a few tips when using in-video cards:
- Place cards with external links towards the end of your video. You don’t want viewers to be clicking away too soon, so keep them watching until the end!
- Keep the cards as relevant as possible. Don’t overwhelm your viewers with unrelated links or content—try to use the cards as organically as possible.
I don’t know about you, but I always find that YouTube videos without end screens finish a bit too abruptly—it’s nice to have that smooth transition out of watching the video.
And, when it comes to extending the watch time on your channel, end screens are the way to go. You can add them to the last 5-20 seconds of your video.
To add an end screen to your video, follow these steps:
- Open the Videos page in YouTube Studio and select a video.
- From the left menu, select Editor.
- Select ‘Add an end screen.’
With end screens, you can promote any of the four elements:
- Other videos
- Playlists or channels
- Call for subscriptions
- Websites, merchandise, etc.
Once you have an established workflow with end screens, you can also choose to import an end screen template from a previous video. Figure out what strategy works best for you and save some time by doing that!
4. Don’t forget about SEO.
Just like when it comes to blogging, SEO is so important on YouTube.
So here are a few areas to focus on in particular:
Before posting your video, make sure to come up with a distinct keyword strategy.
Above all else, you want to make sure that you’re creating content that people are looking for, as well as content that will rank well in search.
So how do you do that? Start by doing a bit of keyword research to determine a plan of attack.
As you research your keywords, make sure to keep a running list of your ideas so that you can reference them later when it comes time to plan and make your videos.
Okay, got those keywords ready to go? Here are a few tips when it comes to naming your videos:
- Feature your keywords in the beginning of the title. You want your viewers (and YouTube) to instantly know what the video is all about.
- Include brackets or parentheses. Titles with these elements seem to perform 38% than those without!
- Be descriptive. Instead of titling your video ‘How to Make Banana Bread,’ try something like ‘The PERFECT Moist Banana Bread Recipe!’ Well, that is if you don’t hate the word moist like the rest of the world. 😉
- Include your brand name. A lot of channels like to include their brand name at the end of their title (Hot for Food does this in all their video titles). This can help increase your visibility if and when people search for your channel name on YouTube.
As a rule of thumb, you should try and make your actual video as long as it makes sense for your topic. Don’t stuff your video with unnecessary information, but aim for longer rather than shorter!
In general, videos ranging from 7-15 minutes perform best on YouTube. If you have ads enabled on your channel, you will also earn more money and have more spots for ads with longer videos.
Before you hit publish on a video, make sure to add some relevant tags to let viewers know what the video is all about. Even more, these tags give YouTube a bit more information about the video.
When YouTube better understands the content of your video, it is able to increase the reach of that video.
Lead with your most relevant tags, and don’t just add irrelevant tags because you think they might help you get more views. Google knows all!
Did you know that playlists are searchable and can actually show up as suggestions in YouTube?
If you haven’t yet, go set some playlists up!
When creating your playlists, make sure to include a proper title and description that focuses on specific keywords.
Besides organizing your playlists by categories, you might also want to create a ‘Best Of’ playlist featuring your most popular videos.
5. Work on improving your watch time.
Do you ever start to watch a YouTube video, but then get bored and click out of it?
That behavior contributes to the watch time of that video.
YouTube tracks how engaging a video is by analyzing how many people start and continue watching it. If YouTube notices a video is performing poorly (i.e. lots of people leaving before it’s done), then it won’t show that video at the top of search results as often.
YouTube wants people to have a great experience when using their site, and the best way to do that is by showing the videos that are the most engaging and helpful at the top of the search results.
This same concept also applies to YouTube’s suggested videos. If your video is highly engaging, then YouTube will want to suggest it to other people.
The bottom line is this: YouTube doesn’t want to promote crummy videos. That’s why YouTube tracks engagement and favors the videos that are most engaging.
You can see how engaging your videos are by looking at your channel’s analytics and examining the audience retention.
Give it a try for yourself by following these steps:
- Go into your YouTube studio and select an individual video.
- Click on Analytics, then tab over to Engagement.
- Scroll down, and your Audience Retention will be on the left-hand side.
Is there a big dip in the Audience Retention graph at a certain point? That’s a hint that something is off with your video. It’s possible that the intro isn’t enticing, the title is misleading, or the video isn’t as engaging as other videos about similar topics.
It’s difficult (and probably impossible!) to get your watch time up to 100%, but it’s great to work on improving that percentage little by little over time.
What about you?
Do you have a YouTube account? Are there other tips or tricks that you think are important to know? What are your favorite channels to follow and why do you like them?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice!P.S. If you’re looking to start and grow a YouTube Channel…