A social network, a video platform, a marketing engine, a search engine. A connector, an informer, an entertainer, an inspirer. With over one billion users (aka almost one-third of the internet) and over one billion hours watched daily, YouTube is a must for the digitally driven music landscape.
Creating a channel and uploading some music videos is just the beginning, especially with new features, interface updates, short-form content pushes, and more. Ensuring your YouTube channel is optimized in every aspect is critical to your overall audience growth and success.
How do you ensure that your artist’s content and channel get noticed? Luckily, The Orchard has your back with all the tools necessary to complete the puzzle that is the YouTube algorithm and reach your goals successfully.
Channel Features & Optimizations
While it’s important to not judge a book by its cover, it’s also important to provide your viewers with an easy understanding of who you are, what your channel has to offer, and what kind of content they’ll be consuming. Having a put together channel view will be an easy way to captivate your audience and move a casual viewer… to a subscriber.
Official Artist Channel vs. Verified
When a viewer first finds your channel, you want them to know it’s you and not a fan account. This is where the official channel symbols come in. There are two options: official artist channel, and verification.
So, what are the differences and which one is right for you?
An Official Artist Channel or OAC (indicated with a music note) is strongly recommended for artist channels and not available for label/non-artist channels. An OAC aggregates content & subscriber count from official YouTube channel, Topic channel, and Vevo channel into one place.
Verifications (symbolized by a check) are for label and non-artist channels. A verified channel provides a more established presence on YouTube, as well as a sense of authenticity. Once a non-artist channel reaches 100K subscribers, you can request verification for the channel.
Now that your channel is confirmed as yours, let’s make it more personalized. Channel art should be customized, visually compelling, and relevant. Let your branding and who you are, what type of content you’ll have be reflected, along with recent release(s), tours, merch, etc. Make the audience feel like they’re connecting with a personality, and not just a brand.
The channel avatar or icon as well as the channel banner should be visually appealing and clear from a mobile and desktop view.
The icon will be how you’re recognized throughout the platform and on videos. Make sure it can be seen as smaller resolutions.
Think of the banner as a free billboard. Use this to promote new photo art, recent releases, tours, upcoming collabs, a YouTube series, and more. The banner should be updated often. On the channel banner, you should include the artist website, socials, merch, smartlinks, and DSP links. (Up to 5 links will be overlaid on desktop channel art; the rest will live in the About tab.)
Here are the recommended formats for the icon and banner:
- Icon: JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG file (no animated GIFs); 800 x 800 px image (recommended); Square or round image that renders at 98 x 98 px
- Banner: Channel art looks different on desktop, mobile, and TV displays — larger images may be cropped. For the best results on all devices, one 2560 x 1440 px image is recommended. File size should be 6MB or smaller.
Now that you have the sturdy avatar and banner branded, let’s make sure the rest of the channel is easy for viewers to navigate and watch your content. Channel sections and shelves are a way to organize your content to curate viewer’s listening sessions.
The channel trailer is an elevator pitch to potential subscribers. It’s featured first on the channel and auto-plays, so it needs to hook the viewer.
There are two customizable views: Channel Trailer and Featured Video. For returning and already subscribed users, add a new release or a playlist as the Featured Video. For unsubscribed users, add a channel intro or your most popular video as the Channel Trailer.
Below that channel trailer, lives the channel sections or shelves.These are the main organizational tool for channel homepages. They make the channel page easy to browse and can be created dynamically from playlists. Organizing videos into playlists, adding them as shelves, or putting multiple playlists into shelves to promote can be helpful in guiding the viewing experience. You can also promote other featured channels.
Let’s talk about the importance of playlists that live in those shelves. Playlists should be an essential part of a channel strategy; they increase watch-time and create another asset that appears in search results and Suggested Videos. Create playlists using the channel’s videos and/or videos from other channels. Optimize the playlists’ metadata (a strong title and description will help people find the playlist), and direct viewers to these playlists via cards, end screens, community and links, etc. You’re able to put single playlists as shelves, or put multiple playlists in one shelf to highlight full projects, for example.
From the first glance, your channel is really coming together. Let’s get a little more into the nitty gritty and work with YouTube’s SEO algorithm. Channel descriptions should be added in two places: the “About” tab and “Artist Profile” in the creator studio. Please note the Artist Profile is only for OACs.
YouTube uses the About tab to populate SEO; adding a detailed bio and description with key terms assists YouTube in surfacing the channel higher in search. Remember to include the artist’s most popular songs, album names, genres, labels, locations, milestones, and any other search terms relevant to the artist or channel.
In the Artist Center tab in Creator Studio, add pictures and a biography to the About tab as well as the YouTube Music app. It’s important to keep the branding across platforms consistent for familiarity, and ensure the channel comes across to fans as the official source of the artist’s content on YouTube.
Let’s keep digging and ensuring that we’re utilizing all of the features YouTube has to offer to really grow our channel.
Similar to video tags, channel tags help surface the channel in YouTube search and in other algorithms, such as Google. Add the year, common misspellings of popular song titles or albums or names, genres, song titles, albums, geography; the more, the better, as long as they’re relevant. YouTube will penalize channels for including irrelevant tags.
You can also cross promote other channels by linking featured channels. Promote other content and drive traffic between two channels to expand your audience. This will also appear as a shelf on your channel, as well as the Channels tab.
Handles (previously custom URL) are unique, short channel identifiers distinct from channel names starting with the “@” symbol (@KelseaBallerini, for example). You will be able to see this newly introduced feature in comments, mentions, and Shorts. Note that you can also use your handle outside of YouTube to promote all of your YouTube related content on other platforms to make it an easy way to share.
Video Optimizations & Features
Now that your channel is in tip-top shape, let’s make sure we give the same TLC to each and every video uploaded. The content is of course what you want the world to see to expand your audience and music! Title, tags, description, and thumbnail are important pieces of metadata to help with discovery.
As mentioned before, SEO is super important in working with YouTube’s algorithm and having your video promoted across its site (it is, of course, the second largest search engine on the internet).
Video titles give viewers a sense of what to expect from a video, and aid in SEO optimization. Including the type of video such as “Artist – Song (Official Audio/Video/Lyric Video/Behind The Scenes/ Live @ X etc/ Series Name/ Vlog #, etc)” is recommended. Mention other artists or channels with @ symbol.
Adding more tags to videos, the better, as long as they remain relevant to the video (500 character limit). Include a mix of general and specific tags to accurately describe each video. Easily misspelled words that people may be searching for, artist names, albums, songs, the year, genre, geography, new music tags, the type of video, etc.
Video descriptions are another way YouTube is able to utilize SEO to help viewers find your videos. The first two sentences of the description are shown in search and on the video page so be sure to include important keywords and links here. Include links to subscribe, all social platforms, links to other videos or playlists, mention other artists or channels with @ symbol, and any purchase links (merch/song/album). Add the video’s song lyrics (ensuring you are not using words against YouTube’s Community Guidelines). Include appropriate hashtags without spaces; the first 3 hashtags appear below the video and above the video title. Use hashtags that are a part of larger searches, such as “#NewMusic, #Artist, #Album, #Genre, #Event”
Wow, all of the important keywords on your channel and videos are looking great. Let’s now get into some of the extra features YouTube has on videos that can aid with SEO and discovery, but without using words.
Cards make your video interactive. The card button appears as the “i” in the top right hand corner throughout the video, and up to 5 cards can be added per video. Link to sites (merch, streaming, donation sites, tour tickets, playlists, etc), or promote relevant videos, playlists or other channels, so viewers can follow through on another call-to-action without having to stop the video.
End-screens are an important feature that help curate and lengthen a viewer’s watch session; they appear at the end of the viewer’s currently watched video. Add up to four different end-screen elements, such as the subscribe button, a playlist, a link, or a video. Make sure to keep these updated to push to relevant and/or priority content.
Thumbnails are the first thing seen in search and suggested videos, so make them count. Thumbnails should be bright and easy to see, with a clear picture of the artist or a striking image that’s on-brand to grab the attention of potential fans. Use distinct thumbnails for each video to aid user experience and always optimize for mobile — this can sometimes be more of an advert than the title.
Enabling subtitles (CC)/translations open the content to a larger audience – including those who don’t speak the language or would prefer to have the lyrics on the screen. Translations contribute to the overall metadata of the video. Translations can also be automated for the title and description, found under the Subtitles tab. To enable this feature in the video manager, select the video, and select “edit.” Then click on the “Subtitles/CC” tab and “add new.” YouTube has a global audience, let’s make sure your content can be spread to that audience.
Another important watch session feature to add is the branding watermark button. It sits on the lower right-hand corner of each video and when scrolled over, allows the user to subscribe to the channel without leaving the video. To enable this feature in the Creator Studio, select channel > branding, and then ”add a watermark.”
Merch shelf allows eligible channels to showcase official merchandise on a shelf below the video page, and on the Store tab on the main channel. To promote your own products across YouTube, you have to meet these minimum requirements:
- You are based in an eligible region, and your channel has been approved for monetization.
- Your channel has more than 1,000 subscribers or is an Official Artist Channel.
- Your channel audience isn’t set as Made for Kids, and your channel doesn’t have a significant number of videos set as made for kids.
- Your channel doesn’t have a significant number of videos that violate our Channel Monetization Policies.
- Your channel hasn’t received any Hate Speech Community Guideline Strikes.
To see if the channel is eligible, click into Creator Studio > Monetization > and see if there is a Merchandise tab available.
Engaging With Viewers
You’re building a genuine community with your viewers; you don’t want to appear one-dimensional. YouTube provides the space to create this community in multiple ways than one through their new features and artist-fan interactions.
Community is YouTube’s version of a social feed, and a great way to directly engage with your audience, to offer your fans access to unique content and general updates. Posting keeps the channel active in YouTube’s algorithm, especially when the artist goes a length of time without uploading new content. Replying/liking to comments within the Community page fosters a more connected fanbase.
Create engaging posts such as: polls (and the newly added image polls), open questions, Q&A, and scheduled content, such as pictures, carousels, GIFs. For video posts, instead of clicking the video option, post the video link in the copy.
YouTube Premiere enables fans to virtually gather, engage, and enjoy a shared experience together. Using the Premiere feature allows you to schedule a video upload, and create a shareable watch page, stirring up buzz around the release. There are three different ways to hold a Premiere:
- Live Redirect is a livestream event that automatically “redirects” the viewer from one premiere to another. For example, a live stream that redirects into an official music video premiere.
- Trailers place an unlisted video 15 seconds to 3 minute hype video that will be played on loop on the watch page in advance to the Premiere.
- Countdown Themes and Custom Countdown gives you the option to choose from a range of themes, vibes and moods to personalize the viewer’s Premiere countdown experience. A custom countdown is currently in beta, where you are able to pitch to YouTube your own video file to match your channel and music video. The asset needs to be submitted no later than 72 hours before the premiere.
Video Chapters break long-form videos into selectable sections, each with a corresponding thumbnail. These chapters can be entered manually or automatically assigned by YouTube. This helps with viewers’ experience and watch time.
To add video chapters, enter the chapter title in the description and place the timecode of the chapter start time in a HH:MM:SS format.Chapters will appear on the video timeline. Hovering over the timeline will display the chapter so users can easily navigate through video segments. Clicking the arrow next to the chapter title on the video will expand a chapter list menu that displays a thumbnail for each listed chapter.
Super Chat is a feature that allows viewers to voluntarily pay for their messages to be highlighted and pinned to the top of the live chat box on a livestream or Premiere video. The color of the chat and the amount of time pinned to the top depends on how much the viewer spends.
Viewers can also purchase Super Stickers, which are digital or animated images that pop up in the live chat feed and can also be pinned to the top of the chat box.
YouTube Giving allows creators to support the charitable causes they care about. Eligible channels can fundraise for nonprofits by adding a donate button to their videos and live streams. Viewers can donate directly on the video watch page or in live chat.
*Super Chat and Super Stickers aren’t available on live streams with Live Chat Donations.
YouTube Live gives you a way to connect with new and old fans and creates a real time experience to engage with viewers directly. You’re also able to set up a YT Live live-chat with subscribers only for an incentive to subscribe to your channel and connect with closer fans.
For live production, make sure encoding software is set up and the preview works
If streaming from mobile, turn that phone to landscape for the best viewer experience.
Lives are scanned by Content ID, so it’s important to only stream content you own, as claims from third-party rights holders can result in the stream being interrupted.
- Before: Promote the link across socials, Community, other videos, ask fans to hit “Set Reminder”, chat on the livestream to ensure fans are tuned in prior, utilize YouTube features: trailer video, playlists, end-screens, cards, polls
- During: Repost on socials / cross-promote with other artists, engage directly with fans, answering questions, chatting in the live-chat, monitor live-chat for anything inappropriate
- After: Include in playlists, add end-screens/cards, promote from other videos, tags, descriptions, create more content derived from the stream or fan-spotlights, review analytics to see how to improve the next stream
YouTube Stories are like Instagram Stories – but the video segments can be 15 seconds long and expire after 7 days. You can download Stories to publish as videos on your channel.
To create a story, tap the camera icon button and record. There’s also the option to save, edit, add text, links, filters, music, other artists’ handles, stickers and comments.
With YouTube Clips, you and your viewers are able to share a small portion of your video or live stream with others. This clip can be anywhere between 5-60 seconds to highlight a particular engaging part of a video. These Clips can be watched by anyone with access and can be shared like a regular YouTube video – through copying the link, social networks, embeds, emails. Clips are Public, and can be watched by anyone with access to the Clip who can also watch the original video.
Communicate with viewers through liking or replying to comments on your channel videos and off-channel videos, or pinning a top comment – a question, a thank you, tour dates, lyrics, etc. Engaging with viewers will incentivize them to interact with the channel, as well as increase subscribers. Viewers can also be reached on the community page, and engage with other channels, videos, posts to broaden an audience.
Continued consistent, engaging, and creative content creation, such as vlogs, Q&A, behind-the-music, personal videos, serialized content, and setting a schedule so viewers know when to expect new content are key in creating a strong, loyal fanbase.
By creating social assets and having a call-to-action, driving to a new video, or to subscribe to the channel, it gathers a whole new audience to visit the platform and engage with the channel. Along with other socials, adding the YouTube channel or a new video to bios can help users find a channel and new content.
YT Studio Mobile App
YouTube Studio is the home for creators. Now you can manage your presence, grow your channel, interact with your audience, and make money all on-the-go. The YouTube Studio app allows you to edit video info, such as title and description, and set video visibility settings while away from your computer. Keep up with your channel’s video analytics at any time! Many of the desktop platform metrics, including real time stats, are visible on the app. To stay connected with your audience, you can monitor user likes and comments and respond right from the app.
Short Form content is everywhere and YouTube Shorts is YouTube’s version of engaging an audience in a simple, easy way to create and ingest short-form content.
Viewers may find your Shorts by:
- Tapping Shorts on the YouTube app
- On the YouTube homepage
- In their notifications
- Checking their Subscriptions
- Featured on your channel homepage
YouTube Shorts have now arrived on Smart TVs, game consoles, and other streaming devices. Short-form video does not monetize through advertising at the moment.
- 60 seconds or less
- Shot in vertical orientation
- Use up to 15 seconds of audio from YouTube’s music catalog
To create a short, tap the plus icon and select Create a Short. Record or upload your short, add transitions, music, sound effects, speed effects, and then post to your channel. Shorts can also be posted via desktop as long as you use the hashtag #Shorts in the title/description/tags.
Shorts can also be created directly from your official music video. Fans can click the “Create” button under the video, adjust the music, edit, and upload.
YouTube equipped YouTube Shorts with many features. You’re able to
- Add Audio
- Add text after you record
- Adjust recording speed
- Record with a timer (hands-free)
- Apply filters to change the vibe of your short
- Add a background as a green screen
- Turn Clips of your videos into Shorts (more info on Clips on slide #28). PS: Only you can create Shorts from your Clips, but viewers may still sample your other content to create Shorts.
- Remixing is where you can create a Short using a song from YouTube’s library, the original audio from many other Shorts and long-form videos, or a video segment from videos across YouTube.
- Audio Remix: The source of your remixed audio is credited on the Sound Library page
- Video Remix: The source of your sampled video is credited in the Shorts player with a link to the video.
- You get one notification per day (up to 3 per week) when your video is sampled by other creators.