John McDougall of Talk Marketing Academy talks with Pete Bennett from Pictory.ai. Pete is a longtime YouTuber, and a YouTube optimization consultant. He walks us through many ways of optimizing your YouTube channel, depending on what your goals are.
John McDougall: Hey, this is John McDougall with Talk Marketing Academy, and I’m here today with Pete Bennett from pictory.ai, and he is a longtime YouTuber and a consultant for YouTube optimization. Welcome, Pete.
Pete Bennett: Well, thank you very much for inviting me on the show, John. It’s great to be here.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Tell us what you’ve been up to lately with YouTube optimization.
Pete: Well, I’ve been in the YouTube space now for many years. As you can see, I’ve got the gray hairs too…
John: I’m right there with you.
Pete: Yeah. But YouTube, I don’t know, it’s been part of my life for a long time. Going back way, way, way back now, one of my employees and friends who worked for me when I ran a conference call company started a children’s YouTube channel. And a bit like you, John, I’ve been a long term SEO guy, knowing all about the keyword research and all that kind of stuff.
And so I helped him apply some of those strategies around keyword research to his new YouTube channel. And to cut a very long story short, he grew that channel to be the biggest channel on the entire YouTube platform. Absolutely huge. And anybody who has kids out there will know the name of the channel that he built with those techniques. It’s called Little Baby Bum.
John: Yeah, I’ve run across it from my little one, for sure.
Pete: Yeah, a huge global brand. And that was the first of many channels. I have a children’s channel myself — nowhere near as big as his, for reasons which we can get onto later, because there are some things that you need to be aware of, nowadays, when starting a YouTube channel, that you didn’t 10 years ago. But anyway, that channel was sold, I don’t know the amount, but more money than you can reasonably spend in a lifetime if you try hard, and they’re trying hard.
John: Yeah, that sounds fun.
Stay Away from Children’s Content
Pete: Yeah, have a look now. I think it’s got literally billions of views and tens of millions of subscribers. But around the year 2000, there were some changes to YouTube’s advertising policies, which means it’s no longer very profitable to make content for children. So the first tip before we get into any YouTube stuff is stay well away from anything which is designed to appeal to children or YouTube may, in its infinite wisdom, deign it’s designed for children, even if it isn’t, because that will kill your advertising revenues.
John: If that’s the focus.
Pete: I mean, my channel has hundreds of millions of views, but it’s not going to sell for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars because of that change in advertising.
Pete: But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t great money to be made on YouTube. You’ve just got to know what niche to go for and what strategies to use. And subsequent to doing that YouTube work, I’d built numerous channels and helped many people build their own channels.
And everybody has a different objective on YouTube. So the strategy that you use will depend upon where you want to get. If you want to make millions of dollars on AdSense, you’d do it very differently than if you’re running an ad agency or a consultancy and you wanted to generate leads for your business. So although YouTube is one platform, there are so many ways of leveraging the power of YouTube to meet your objective, but the first thing you have to be clear on is, “what’s your objective?”
The First Step for Beginners to Get Started With YouTube
John: Yeah, I was going to say, what’s the first step for beginners to get started with YouTube? But is that roughly what you would say is getting your objective clear or where do you start?
Pete: Yeah, I mean, I always say start with the end in mind with anything that you do. So is it to make money by just getting views and getting the advertising revenue from the adverts that people place on your videos? And that’s known as AdSense. And YouTube is actually very generous. It gives you, as the creator, 55% of the money that advertisers pay to advertise on your video, YouTube gives to you. So over half of the money coming into YouTube ads goes straight out to the creators.
That’s pretty generous given that YouTube is handling all of the expensive stuff like hosting your videos. And if you’ve ever looked at how much it costs to pay for a streaming service where it will host your videos with unlimited bandwidth and give you a global audience, you’d pay a lot of money for that. But YouTube gives it to you for free and pays you half of the money it generates, or over half the money it generates, for doing that. So it’s very generous. But you do need to get a lot of views if you’re going to make a lot of money. It’s very simple.
John: Yeah. Well, we used to have these two awesome guys, Jimmy and Justin from Fat Awesome, this viral video group. And they were in our office for a couple years and it was so fun, they’d be making these crazy videos. They had me on a tricycle riding around the office one day…and they got millions and millions of views and YouTube stuff would show up in our office like director’s chairs and popcorn machines and things from Google. But they said that it was a little frustrating that even with those crazy amounts of views, the amount of money was…because they had quit full-time jobs to go do that. Can people expect to, with AdSense, replace a job, or is it a great side thing? Or does it really depend?
Can You Replace a Job with YouTube AdSense Money?
Pete: Well, consultants always say this, don’t they? It depends. It does depend. And I can tell you what it depends on, really simply. It depends on the niche that you are in and the number of views that you can generate, and the number of views that you can generate is dependent really on how good your videos are and how many people want to watch them. So let’s unpack that a little bit.
The niche that you’re in is going to make a big difference.
I’ve already mentioned the worst niche to be in is children at the moment because you will be getting almost no money for millions of views. At the other extreme, some of the best niches to be in will be things like finance, luxury goods, travel, things aimed at older people rather than younger people. Because frankly, gray hairs normally means money in the bank.
So off the top of my head, something like luxury travel for retired millionaires, clearly advertisers would want to get in front of those. So if you’ve got an audience of retired millionaires looking to travel, then advertisers are going to be very generous in what they pay, which would translate into something like, I don’t know, pick a number. I have heard of people getting $60 per thousand views for that kind of…
John: Okay. Yeah.
Pete: That’s very high end. Probably more likely $20 per a thousand views, but significant. If you’re getting millions of views a month, then I don’t know, you could probably live on that, couldn’t you?
Pete: At the other end of the scale, if you’re only getting a few thousand views in a niche where nobody cares, then advertisers are not going to be paying you enough to probably even cover a moderate drinking habit, nevermind about a full-time job.
John: So, it could have been that — and I don’t know, I haven’t talked to Jimmy in a little bit or Justin from Fat Awesome — but I’d be interested to hear lately what’s going on. Or should they have switched it up to be viral videos and luxury travel or something?
Pete: Well, actually, you make a good point. Viral videos is something which…everybody wants a video to go viral, but I’ve known lots of channels where one viral video has killed an otherwise good channel.
John: Yeah. And I don’t sit around and watch…I mean, I watch YouTube constantly, but I watch Neil Patel on SEO and Brian Dean and AHREFS. Or gardening, I love organic gardening. So I watch the GrowingYourGreens channel with John Kohler in California. I’m constantly learning from YouTube and it’s cool. The cat videos are…or Jimmy and Justin used to do super-creative viral videos, but that’s not mostly what people do, but that’s what sometimes people think they need to do on YouTube.
Pete: The problem with the viral video is, first of all, it’s very hard to sit down and design a viral video. There’s a very large luck component in there. And what can happen, let’s say that you do have a viral video that blows up about cats, for instance, on your gardening channel. I don’t know, maybe a cat runs across your garden and it goes viral. I don’t know, it falls in the water, but whatever. Suddenly you’ve got loads of traffic that’s coming to your site to see that one short video and then they’re never going to come back because they’re not interested in gardening. They’re just…
John: It almost sends a really negative, confusing signal to the algorithm.
Pete: Exactly that, because the algorithm is going to go, wow, I’ve been growing John’s channel gently, slowly, maybe starting to go exponential because I know I found his crowd. And suddenly, all of this stuff is coming in from all over the world and I just don’t know where to find more of those people. And anyway, there’s no more of that content on John’s channel. So the focus moves on to the next cat video.
What Value Are You Delivering?
I always say, and again we’re jumping around a little bit, but I always say that once you are clear about what you want out of YouTube, the next thing that you’ve got to do, and this is so important, is what’s the value that you’re going to deliver your potential audience? And a lot of this is not actually down to ninja tricks on YouTube to start with. It’s about getting clear in your mind what the value you’re going to deliver to the audience is.
And on YouTube’s channel, there’s a text section called About, and I think from memory it’s a thousand characters in there where you get a thousand characters that you should talk about what your channel is. And the number of people that either don’t fill that in, because they haven’t put the thought into what they’re going to deliver, or when they fill that in, they’re talking about themselves all the time, “I’m the best dentist in Chicago and I’ve done this, I’ve done that. Lots of links to buy my stuff, come and join my mastermind.”
No, no, no, no, no. What value are you going to deliver to the people that are going to invest the most valuable thing that they have, which is the time that they spend with you? So what are you going to deliver and are you going to deliver it in a way that’s entertaining, consistent, authoritative, and if not well-produced in terms of production quality, because it doesn’t have to be, but well-produced in terms of the knowledge that you are imparting or the value that you’re delivering? Because you may not be sharing knowledge, and maybe you’re making someone laugh, but that’s the value proposition. What is it that you’re giving your audience? Don’t be selfish, because no one cares about you, it’s about what you can deliver to them.
John: And one quick case study from one of our clients, just to kind of back that up, it’s an HVAC company and we do fairly simple videos for them, but we’ve been consistent pumping out these talking-head videos with the founder and some of the engineers that do these ductless systems. And then we said, well, we should show the prospects or clients of this company how to use the remote control because it’s a little confusing, the Mitsubishi ductless system remote. We did a few videos, and now we have a million views, one has 600,000 views on how to use the remote control. But we weren’t, “Oh, we’re so great about this and that.” We’re just simply saying, here’s some valuable stuff that we want to sell you a ductless system and we’re willing to share with you on our channel. And it’s like, wow, we’re well over a million views on very simple, super basic, talking head videos. Yeah, I mean, we had focused on the remote and did a little bit of video editing, but not much. It’s mostly like we’re being helpful.
Pete: And this is a common thing when I talk to people about why they’re not starting. People want to start a YouTube channel, but the first thing they do is they go down the gear, thinking, well, I need the latest… I need a new mic, I need a new camera, I need a… No, you don’t. If you’ve got one of these iPhones or a smartphone, it doesn’t even have… This is an iPhone 8. Most of the videos that I’ve made have been on an iPhone 5, believe it or not.
Pete: You’ve got everything that you need. The great thing about using a smartphone is that because it’s obvious that you haven’t got a professional setup and you’re not trying to be Hollywood, people will be very forgiving with the quality of the video. So long as they can hear you properly, as long as the audio is good, then your video quality doesn’t matter. Most of the time when people talk about needing the latest and greatest gear, it’s procrastination and fear.
John: Right. And it can be helpful, but you don’t start there. Another quick side note from one of our agency clients, a dentist. She said, “Oh, how can I get going on YouTube?” I said, well since you’re in California, we’re in the Boston area. Maybe you could do the raw videos on your phone. She used her iPhone, she said, “I’ll get you a hundred videos.” She gave us two or three, it’s like a gaudy wallpaper behind her and she’s standing too close to it. The focus was off, the sound was bad. So John Maher, my right-hand man, he said, “Stand a little bit away from the wall and make a simpler background and get a simple mic.” Or I forget how he helped her get the sound quality a little better and then she came back and put up on our Box folder that we gave her access to dump stuff on, 80 videos. So we were pumped…
John: Yeah, 80. A dentist.
Pete: Well done, her. Yeah.
John: Yeah. She’s like number one or two in Google for “biological dentist”, “green dentist” and number six for “holistic dentist”.
Pete: Wow. Yeah, she deserves it as well.
John: Yeah, she deserves it. She really knocked them out and they were one- or two-minute short videos, like “why are mercury fillings bad”, for example? And she just went off on that very quickly and she had the courage to just do them back-to-back-to-back. So considering that, I mean, that was a lot, and that’s unusual, but how often should people put videos on YouTube and how long should they be?
How Often Should You Publish Videos?
Pete: Okay, well, how often is quite easy to answer, really. It’s how often you are comfortable doing it without losing consistency or without losing the will to live. So if you want to be Casey Neistat, who’s a vlogger, video blogger. And famously, I think he did a video a day, and not just a simple video, quite a well-produced video a day for a year. And it about killed him, and he’s a big YouTuber with a team and everything else, it about killed him.
Pete: Don’t do that. I mean…
John: A video a day he did with editing and…
Pete: Yeah, and they were good videos. It’s not the sort of stuff that you would do on your own without a production team, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I think what you do is you pick a cadence and then you stick to it. So at absolute minimum, once a month. Frankly, if you’re only doing it once a month, ask yourself, are you serious about this?
John: Right. It’s going to go so slow.
Pete: Yeah, once a week, that’s cool. Twice a week, three times a week. If you really want to give yourself a head start, what I normally say is why not for the first few weeks, or first few months even, produce videos at twice the rate that you intend to keep up with going forward, because then what you’ve got is a bunch of videos in the bank that you can post when you’re on vacation or maybe you’re not feeling too well. Sometimes people get ill, people need to go away. Then you’ve got some in the bank, haven’t you?
YouTube’s algorithm is actually quite forgiving nowadays. If you did take a break and then come back to it, then it’s not the end of the world. It used to be a lot stricter about being regular, but I always say to my consultancy clients, think of it a little bit like the gym, that your membership won’t be canceled if you don’t go for a few weeks, but your results will start to suffer if you consistently don’t go. So it’s really about self-discipline, and a lot of things are in business, and YouTube’s no exception. It’s about doing things consistently for longer than you perhaps feel that you’ve got the motivation to do.
John: And longer than your competitors are doing. Because if they’re doing it in a burst and then they give up, you’re going to win. It’s the turtle and the hare thing, right?
John: Neil Patel constantly is talking about that with SEO and I’ve seen it to be true. Our clients, that HVAC client, we sort of doubled down for the summer with content and Google was really just rewarding us like crazy. Then when we ran out of content for the contract for the year and we were saying, hey, we should sign the contract for next year so that we get more going, there was a slight lull and I saw the ranks dip and now we’re going back up again. We signed for the next year and we’re starting it back up. But the YouTube general algorithm is pretty picky. I think if you’re not consistent…
John: …you’re kind of invisible. You run a great risk of pretty quickly…Google’s going to notice that two, three times a week cadence of blogging like we were on with them, you drop off of that regular cadence, and it’s rough. So you’re saying there’s a little more forgiveness in the YouTube algorithm, but you’re going to suffer too, to a degree.
Pete: There is, but I probably shouldn’t have said that because that will give people excuses to be lazy and they don’t need any more excuses.
Repurposing YouTube Content
John: And with Talk Marketing, the way that we tell people to repurpose that content when you’re putting your content on YouTube, also then put that embed code on a blog post, put the transcript under it. You can put that blog post, in some cases, maybe on a service page or a product page as well. You only put the transcript in one place. But would that screw up or be bad for the YouTube algorithm if you are sending those signals that you’re sharing it on, as a new channel, and is it different for each channel?
Pete: Yeah, it’s an interesting point and different people have different opinions. Here’s what I see based upon the numbers that I look at. If you’re starting a brand new channel and your objective is to grow that channel, not necessarily grow as quickly as possible, but give yourself the best foundation to grow a channel long-term, then the best thing to do is a little bit like Fight Club. We talked about this, the movie Fight Club, what you don’t do when you’re in Fight Club is talk about Fight Club, right?
Pete: With a YouTube channel, do it right from the start. So get it optimized and all the kind of stuff that you would do if you want to start a channel and are serious about it, but then keep your mouth shut. Don’t tell all your friends and family, don’t necessarily tell all your social media friends, don’t email your list out. And here’s why. Because at least in the initial stages, the algorithm is going to be focusing on trying to create a… Or there are many algorithms in YouTube, so the main algorithm, which is learning about how to profile your viewers so that it can find more of the similar people, is going to be looking very carefully at how people are finding your video, what kind of profile of viewing they have, whether or not they are similar to other people that are going to want to watch your video.
And gently, over a period of time, it’s going to build up a very clear picture of the type of person that if it puts your video in front of them, they are going to watch it and enjoy it and stay around to watch more. So if you were to post it all over the place, friends, family, everywhere, suddenly the YouTube’s going to be inundated with mixed signals of all sorts of people from different demographics, different geographic areas, different ages, different interests, and it’s going to say, of all of this data, how am I going to find someone who is similar to all of this to show your video to next?
Whereas if you’ve let YouTube’s algorithms gently test different audiences, it will have a very clear idea after a few weeks or a few months, this is the crowd that I should be showing the video to, therefore I’ll go and find more people who are members of that crowd.
Training the YouTube Algorithm
John: So, you need to train the algorithm first as a new channel?
Pete: I’d like to think of the algorithm as a Labrador, basically, you got to train it. When you get the new Labrador, it’s yapping, it’s all over the place. You got to train it so that it knows that you are the boss and it can serve you, as opposed to having lots and lots of people training it to do lots of different things and just get confused. Lots of people will disagree with that, by the way, what I’ve just said.
John: Yeah, it’s a counterintuitive thing that I hadn’t heard before meeting you.
Pete: And here’s why they’ll disagree, right? Because using that strategy in the first few months, yes, you will get fewer views than if you were to spam it all over social media and to your email list. Yes, you will get fewer subscribers, but the point is you’ll get fewer which are of a better quality, which will then be the foundation for the springboard, as you said, the tortoise and the hare, later on, you’ll surpass them.
John: And then eventually you can do more of that. As you’re a successful channel, then you’re sharing to your list and doing all those standard things. And so for the first year, or what?
Pete: Yeah, I mean, I’ve got YouTube channels that I never mentioned. Really there’s no need to, and if I did I’d probably damage them.
John: So you don’t need to go crazy sharing this content. But let me ask a different way. We do like to have our clients leverage their YouTube content in marketing emails and even with HubSpot workflows, but that sounds like that could hurt the algorithm.
Pete: Well again, it comes back to, “what’s your objective?” If your objective is to get leads to your business, then certainly sharing your videos with the people that are likely to buy from you is likely to bring you leads. It may ultimately attenuate the growth of your channel, but do you care that much, because you’re getting leads.
John: Yeah, that’s a good point to just bring it back to that. If it’s like you’re a hundred percent AdSense or just want the biggest channel in the world, maybe you follow those things much more strictly. But yeah, if you want leads and you want to get extra energy out of those hard-made videos, share them. Just go for it.
Pete: I mean, also we can take it one step further is do you want to build an asset in a YouTube channel that you can then sell later on, in which case you don’t even want your face on the YouTube channel, do you? You want to do it using a faceless video model, which is using animations or using stock footage. Pictory, for instance, is a way of doing that — pictory.ai. But again, it comes down to what are you trying to build here?
John: So, with my channel, for example, that I’m building out, it’s I think very common to put your face and put yourself out there as an expert. But do you see better results in general with a Neil Patel, again as an example, or some expert in whatever niche, you always see the faces of the person and they’re pointing…and then the title.
Pete: It’s more if you put your face on a video, it’s more likely that you’re going to get good engagement because it’s more personal and therefore you can grow your YouTube channel, but you can’t then sell that channel. So it honestly really depends on what your objective is.
John: Depends on the goal. Yeah.
Pete: The channel that I mentioned with the nursery rhymes was sold for huge amounts of money because the moment that the channel was sold, nothing changed. The revenues were still coming in, all of the content was outsourced and made by people. It was a production line, basically, generating a revenue-generating asset. Neil Patel or any other big name YouTuber…
John: Without him, it’s tough to transition.
Pete: It’s tough to transition. Now you could do it, but again, his objective is clearly not to build a channel to sell because his business revolves around being Neil Patel and the expert and the authority. And to be fair, that’s what most people probably want if they’re running a business and using YouTube as a marketing channel, as opposed to building an asset that generates revenue and possibly a capital exit at the end.
Including a Link to Your Site in the Description
John: So roughly related to this, what about in the description linking to your own site? How does that play a part in the algorithm?
Pete: Well again, as a YouTube purist, I would say when you start your channel, don’t link out of YouTube to your website because, let’s think about this from YouTube’s point of view, if we can almost pretend we’re YouTube and think through the implications. So I’m YouTube, the only way that I make money is by serving people with adverts while they’re watching the videos that people have uploaded to me.
John: And if they’re on my blog, they’re not doing that.
Pete: Well, yeah. So here we go, we’ve got a brand new channel. I’m the YouTube algorithm, I don’t know you, I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know whether people like your videos or not. The only thing I can see is that when people start to watch your video of say you make a 10 minute video, 30 seconds in, they stop watching your video and disappear off to your blog site.
Pete: Why am I going to pick your video from the millions of potential candidates to put in front of the next guy, because you are costing me money. Because when people watch your video, they go to your website, you get paid. I’ve lost out, why would I do that? So again, when the channel’s small, much as people don’t want to hear this, I would say don’t link out to your own website, invest time in making friends with the YouTube algorithm and then reap later once you’re starting to get the traffic.
John: So literally zero links in the description, that’s your preference. You’ve seen good results with that.
Pete: I’m very careful with my words. If your objective is to build a YouTube channel and get the maximum watch time, maximum views, possibly maximum ad revenue, that’s what I suggest. If you’re running a business and you only make money when people go to your website, then there’s a compromise, isn’t there? Because building your YouTube channel to be the absolute biggest in the world probably isn’t your objective. It’s building a marketing channel that has a positive return on investment. So there are compromises in everything and that’s the compromise.
YouTube Video Length
John: Yeah, good insights. And what about the length of videos? Has that changed a lot recently or is there even an ideal length or is it just what the topic needs? Or when you said consistency, try and show people maybe after a burst of three weeks or three months, you do a daily video or whatever it is. But then when you get down to your real editorial calendar, we’re doing one long one-a-week and two shorts or whatever it is. Should that long one-a-week be three to five minutes, like I see some people do it, or eight or more minutes, or 45 minutes?
Pete: Okay, well there are a few things that would point to the right answer there. And again, without wishing to sound like a broken record, it depends. So let’s assume that you want to maximize the ad revenue from your channel to start with. Then what you want to be doing is making videos which are interesting and watched through to the end of at least eight minutes long. Why eight minutes? Well, after eight minutes then… Actually to be really pedantic, it should be eight minutes and one second at minimum. So at least eight minutes. Go for 8-10 minutes, because after you get past eight minutes, then one of YouTube’s features known as mid-roll adverts become activated, which means that you can put adverts at the beginning and in the middle of your video and then at the end of the video. So somebody watching one of your videos has the opportunity to watch adverts during your video rather than just at the beginning and the end.
And then obviously, you’ve got more opportunity to get paid. If it’s less than eight minutes, then that feature isn’t available so you won’t be able to put adverts in the middle of the video. Having said that, there’s no point making videos which are 8-10 minutes long if most people are bailing and stopping watching the video after the first minute, because that will send the signal to the algorithm that your videos are boring and people are not watching very much of them, therefore I’ve got more in my inventory, which has been proven to lead to better watch time. So I’ll put those in instead.
So if you just want to put short marketing messages out there, keep them short, do YouTube shorts even. There’s a category of YouTube video called YouTube shorts, the definition of which is less than 60 seconds long and in portrait or square format.
John: And those are separated now, when you’re looking at the channel, YouTube has a navigation tab for shorts. So you shouldn’t worry that people that are watching, even if you had one five-minute video a week and now all of a sudden there’s like three shorts a week, you’re not going to freak people out necessarily because YouTube has a little place for that.
Pete: Yeah, it’s called the “shorts shelf”. And you can see in your analytics whether people are watching the videos on their main channel or in the shorts shelf. And quite recently, actually, things have got more integrated. So people who are watching your short videos are now more likely to be shown, through the recommendations algorithm, your longer form content. Until quite recently, they were very separate systems. They were beta testing it, and they started rolling it out in India I think in 2020.
But now they’ve integrated everything together. But again, watch your analytics because, quite aside from YouTube, there is people’s preferences. So I have some channels which are all shorts, and I put nothing but shorts on there. The reason for that is that part of the value proposition of the channel is that you will get everything you need within 60 seconds. So if I start then putting longer videos on a channel which has become known for giving everything you need within 60 seconds, I’m breaking my brand promise, which I’ve articulated in my about section and suddenly why would people want to watch a five-minute, 10-minute, 15-minute video from someone who’s built a reputation of delivering value within a minute. Similarly, I know some of the big podcasters, Joe Rogan I guess is the most famous example, he’s famous for having videos which take hours.
John: Long-form, crazy long. Yeah.
Pete: Lots of people tune in because of that. So if he was to stop doing long-form videos-
John: And all of a sudden he is doing 10-minute little things, you’re like, what happened?
Pete: Or even one-minute little things. But I think in his case he’s moved over to Spotify now. But what Joe Rogan can do and people like him is you could produce a short video, which is snippets of a longer interview, and use that to as a way of enticing people to watch the full video.
John: And so, for example, the channel for Talk Marketing Academy that we’re just kicking off today with a clip from this, if I have a five-minute video every week and then segments from expert interviews like this that are shorts or various types of shorts, maybe I do two or three a week or something, is it unreasonable then to, once a quarter or even once a year, do a really intense two, three-hour, the ultimate guide to SEO or podcasting?
Pete: Yeah, you can put those up there. You can do compilation videos. That’s what a lot of people do is you smash them all together. At the moment, YouTube’s algorithm doesn’t have an equivalent of the Google Panda algorithm in that it doesn’t really penalize duplicate content. It’s starting to become more aware of that. And if you project forward, my guess is eventually they will start to very much dislike repeated content. There is still some stuff in there about not using repetitive content, where you’re taking content from other channels or you are just producing rubbish using… I was going to say AI, but not AI particularly, but people just upload…
John: Not properly using AI…
John: You can do it with great effect like with Pictory, but some people just do it haphazardly and then it’s not helpful.
Pete: I always think of it this way, people ask me, “Should I post this video?” I say, well look, if you were in front of the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, and she says, “Look, why did you post this video? What value have you just added to YouTube by posting this video?” Could you look her in the eye and explain what value you’ve just added to the platform? Or would you be looking at your shoes thinking I better come up with an excuse here, because actually I was just trying to make a quick buck or I was being lazy.
John: But the key is to have some kind of editorial calendar that you mostly stick to with maybe on occasion you go outside of that with one or two things that you let your audience know, but you keep that main format going.
Pete: And look in the analytics and see how it went.
Pete: The analytics are your friend here, everything that you need to grow your YouTube channel is in the analytics, if you know where to look, and if you’re prepared to listen. This is another problem I have with a lot of consultancy clients is that I tell them what they need to do to be successful and then they carry on and do what they were going to do anyway, because that’s what they want to do.
The Most Important YouTube Algorithmic Factors
John: And what are the most important factors in the algorithm that you tell your consulting clients, from keywords to the watch time? Or what are the key things?
Pete: Again, everyone starts from a different place, but if you were starting a brand new channel, we really are back in the old keyword research days, really. We need to find out where there is demand and not too much competition. So you can even use the old tools that we used to use for Google. The keyword research tools for Google will give you some idea of what’s en vogue and what isn’t.
John: Or TubeBuddy or something.
Pete: Yeah, I use TubeBuddy for a lot of things. VidIQ is another one. Even just typing into the Google search bar and looking at the suggested search terms. It doesn’t give you the competition, but it’ll give you some idea of demand. So find something which is in demand without too much competition, something that you’re interested in or know enough about or can hire somebody to be interested and know enough about, because otherwise you’re going to run out steam pretty quickly and run out of enthusiasm, so the consistency will go down.
And then consistently produce content that’s optimized for those search terms. And optimization of the videos is not too difficult, really. It’s something that can be taught and can be learned, can be applied. The old Google stuff about putting the keywords in the right place, not stuffing too much, getting the tagging right, the quite advanced stuff about tagging, but just sticking the keywords in the tags will help. Because arguably, tags are not as important as they used to be, but with a few tweaks you can certainly optimize the tagging. And then put it up there and then do it again and then do it again and then do it again. And then look in the analytics and see how things are going, and course correct if things are not going as well as you’d like them to go. Or if they’re doing really well, do more of it.
John: So, start with search, but eventually, isn’t it something like 70% of views on YouTube are not from search, but you should start with it. Is that what you’re saying?
Pete: Start with search and then after you start getting views with search, so long as you are not confusing the algorithm by throwing all sorts of traffic at it from all over the place, the YouTube suggestion algorithms will start to build a profile of the people that are watching your videos and then go out and find similar people from within its cohort of other profiled users. So you’ll know when your channel is taking off when the majority of the traffic is not coming from search, it’s coming from recommended or coming from browse features, because that means that the algorithm is doing the work for you rather than waiting for people to come and find you.
John: And the key to that is also producing videos that people engage with and don’t bail out of, right? The average watch time or…
Pete: The most important thing to YouTube is known as session time, which is the time that you’re on YouTube altogether, whether or not you’re watching your videos or anyone else’s. The next one is watch time, so the amount of time that people are watching your video. And of course, to get a good overall watch time, then you want the average watch time of your videos to go up, and you can see that profile within the analytics. And I would suggest there’s a ballpark figure, you ought to be aiming for 60% retention. So over half of your video is being watched.
John: And how important are end screens and getting people to, almost a topic cluster, like we do in SEO, or what you were saying earlier with playlists. And at the end of this video, the next logical thing you’re going to be thinking about is in the video here, click on this. And really when you think of your editorial calendar, okay, I’m going to do a five-minute video a week, but over the next three months I’m going to make 12 videos about podcasting, for example. And we’re starting here and then just keep this daisy chain where people naturally just binge watch like it’s Netflix. That’s what you want, right?
Pete: So, if you’ve got the luxury of planning out your content in advance, as you should do, but not too far in advance for reasons we’ll come to in a minute, then when you get to the end of the video, then you would want to signal the next video that’s appropriate to them. But what you don’t say is something like, “At the end of this video, go here.” Or, “This video is now over. Thank you very much for watching, please watch this one.” Because the moment you signal that the video is over, then you risk losing people. So you’d want to weave into the story, the narrative, that as a next obvious step is to go here. I mean, you might literally say, “To learn how to implement what I’ve just said, go here” and then point to the video, or, “If you’d like to learn about something else, go here.”
But don’t say that the video’s over. Again, we’re getting quite detailed here, but you can specify a video or you can let YouTube’s algorithm suggest the best one. And usually it’s best to at least have one of the options there of the algorithm suggestion, because it knows the viewers better than you do. A reason not to plan your videos too much in advance is because you’ll be wanting to course correct. So if you make a dozen videos all about something that no one’s interested in and have them up there to go out in advance, then you probably don’t want to actually release those because you’ll know from the analytics that they’re likely to bomb. So you don’t want to put too much in the bank, you want to have some in the bank.
What Would You Do Different If You Started Over?
John: And if you were going to go back in time when… Imagine you’re just starting a YouTube channel when you first started, but with what you know now, what would you do different?
Pete: Certainly, wouldn’t go into the kids, I wouldn’t go into the kids space.
John: Yep. Well, you couldn’t have predicted Google would do that.
Pete: No, no. I mean, that slashed revenues by 98%. Yeah, but things happen. That’s business. I think what I would do is, I would certainly have started earlier, but you can always say that.
John: The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago, or today.
Pete: So, we’d better hurry up, right? Because we’re already 30 years too late. I think probably what I would do is I would concentrate less on worrying about getting everything right to start with and just start and then be guided by the data. Because I spend a long time thinking about things, a bit like you in some ways in SEO, you tend to, we like data…
Pete: Yeah, yeah. We like data..
John: Over-analyze it.
Pete: Yeah. But the biggest decision that you’re going to make, really, or the two biggest decisions you’re going to make, are one, what niche are you going to be in? Because if you’re into AdSense revenue, that’s going to be the biggest predictor of what you’d likely to get in terms of revenue per thousand views. And also what value am I going to give to the viewers? Because ultimately, whatever I teach you as a consultant or whatever you learn from others, the only thing that’s going to make you successful is whether or not you are providing value, however that’s defined to the users. And I say value doesn’t necessarily mean education. It could mean making them laugh, could mean entertaining them, but it’s got to be all about them, not about you.
Common YouTube Mistakes
John: And is there a biggest mistake, or two or three common mistakes you see people making?
Pete: Yeah, I think the common mistake is making content that they like, but nobody else likes. Not getting to the point quickly enough. Here’s a classic, right? It’s got a script outline. “Hello, my name’s Pete, I’ve been in the YouTube space for 30 years” or 10 years, whatever it is, “Please like my channel, please share please.” And then I might start delivering my content. But by the time I get to that part of the video, most people are “Who the hell is he?” Gone.
Or here’s another, here’s a great one, I love this one. So first thing, it’s like when you set up a company, what’s the first thing you do when you set a company up? Got to have a logo, you got to have a logo. So you get on Fiverr and you get a logo designed. If you’re going to have a YouTube channel, you’ve got to have an intro. You can’t possibly have a YouTube…
John: It’s the nineties, it’s got to spin and explode.
Pete: It’s got to spin on fire on motorbikes, jumping through hoops and I want it to be at least 20 seconds, otherwise I’ve not got my Fiverr’s worth of value from Fiverr. And this kills channels that you see people open with a big logo, a stinger.
John: Me, me, me. Logo, logo, logo, just all that stuff is not what they’re after.
Pete: And I’ll look in their YouTube analytics and I’ll see a huge drop and by the time they open their mouth, most people are gone.
John: So, in the analytics, you see it directly lined up with the logo stinger with the begging and all that stuff.
Pete: And you can see it. I mean, honestly, I’ve worked with clients and they’re saying, “Well, I’m not getting any leads. I’m not getting… My message isn’t getting out.” Yeah, because literally nobody has heard you speak, because they’re all gone by the time your logos finished. So that five bucks on Fiverr has just killed your channel. Well done.
John: Yeah, that’s a great takeaway.
Pete: Good thing though. Good thing now though, with YouTube, is you can chop a lot of that out. You hadn’t used to be able to. Once you’d uploaded it, that was it. But now with the rather clunky YouTube editor, you can chop…
John: Oh, really? How does that work? And when did that happen, that YouTube only recently lets you go back in?
Pete: I say recently. Recently in my world, maybe it’s been there for a couple years now.
John: Right, right.
Pete: Not many people know about it. It’s in YouTube studio.
Pete: It’s called the editor, but it’s very clunky. It’s not…
John: You have to do it in there.
Pete: Yeah. So you’d upload your video. I mean, ideally, don’t upload a video with a logo Stinger in the first place.
John: Well, yeah. Yeah.
Pete: But if you’ve done it, then you can go in and edit it out.
Pete: That used to be, once it was uploaded, you couldn’t touch it.
John: Right. You’d have to take it down. I remember we did that a lot because it’s like, oh crap, we’ll have to take it down and then edit it, put it up as a different video basically.
Pete: And you can do that, by the way, with live. That’s another common problem. People do live streams, and there’s nothing wrong with those. They can work very well. But as you know, when you go live the first few minutes it’s waiting for people to arrive and sort of, “hello, nice to see you again”. “Hello, Jim in the comments”, which is great on a live event, but no one wants to sit and watch through that when they’re watching the recording. So upload it and then chop out all of that stuff.
YouTube Titles and Thumbnails
John: And so, wrapping up with one or two more questions, I think we should probably address titles and thumbnails, because everything I’m watching lately is how critical the thumbnail is, and people don’t necessarily realize how much effort needs to go into that and the title. Is that true?
Pete: Yeah. Well, the thumbnail and the title both affect something called click-through rate, CTR, which as a SEO, you’ll know a lot about. So the click-through rate is whether or not someone clicks on your video having been given the opportunity to by the YouTube algorithm, whether it’s search or whether it’s the suggested one. The thumbnail is important because it’s a visual representation of what the content of the video is going to be. And one of the biggest YouTubers actually, Mr. Beast, you will have heard of…
John: Yeah, yeah.
Pete: He won’t make a video until he’s got a clear idea of what the thumbnail would be.
Pete: He starts with the thumbnail, he won’t even do a video.
John: I’ve heard other people say that. Yeah, it’s that important. Really map out what that thumbnail is and then go make a video that just is aligned beautifully with it.
Pete: Yeah, I probably wouldn’t be that…
John: Yeah, that’s pretty intense.
Pete: And most people watching this probably wouldn’t be either, because you’re using videos as a tool rather than being an artist in the YouTube area. But some simple ideas for you for thumbnails is make them consistent, so that you’ve got some branding in there, so that if people see your thumbnail amongst a lot of other candidates, they know to click on yours. Faces work really well, people like to see people. There’s a trend for people over-exaggerating expressions, which is getting a bit tired now, looking horrified at something. Yeah, we’re grownups, tone it down a little bit.
John: A little overdone. Yeah.
Pete: But don’t put too much text on a thumbnail either, because a lot of people will be reading them on mobile devices.
John: You don’t want to throw your whole title in the thumbnail, the picture, just like four or five words or something?
Pete: Yeah. Don’t repeat the title verbatim in the thumbnail, because they will see the title as well. And you want the thumbnail title and the text title to support each other. Now YouTube will actually read the text in the thumbnail so it can index that as a search term. So if you possibly put the search term in there, but that’s not the main…
John: Right, not the main thing you’re after. You want people to be, “Oh, I get it,” right away from just a few words or so.
Pete: So, the thumbnail should be indicative of what they can expect when they watch the video and enticing enough to persuade them to do so. You mustn’t do clickbait where the thumbnail promises something and then you fail to deliver on it because that will hit your retention, which will then ultimately hurt your channel. The title, that is read by the algorithm from left to right, so you should make sure you’ve got your keywords at the beginning towards the beginning of the title. But the title also has another job, in that it needs to sell them on the click, so you need to be a bit creative here. If you’re gardening, I don’t know, it might be something along the lines of “how to grow daffodils”, in brackets, it’s not as hard as you think.
Pete: Or be aware of this big mistake. In other words, sell them on clicking, and the title and the thumbnail together will add up to the click-through percentage that you’ve got. And you want to be trying to get that as high as you can, average on YouTube’s about 2%. I like to see people doing 10%. But again, it’ll depend upon your niche. Things vary. On some of my kids’ channel stuff, it’s ridiculous, like 23% click-through rate, which is crazy. You’re unlikely to get that in most niches.
And without getting too techy, again, if you change the title, YouTube’s algorithm will reindex the video. So if you’ve got a video that’s doing well, don’t touch the title. If you’ve got a video that’s not doing well, then changing the title might help. If you change the thumbnail, the video won’t be reindexed. So you can use tools like TubeBuddy to A/B test both of those. But be careful with the title that works because you might mess it up. TubeBuddy is the only tool that I’m aware of that properly A/B tests these things to statistical significance.
John: So, you don’t want to just set it to run for a week, you want to set it till it actually has enough data to prove that one thumbnail is better than the other.
Pete: If you make a video, upload two thumbnails and then set TubeBuddy to A/B test, it’ll run it to statistical significance and then automatically choose the best of those two and leave that there. It’s an amazing tool, but it’s not cheap. It’s 50 bucks a month,
John: But probably worth it. And so once you get started with all this stuff, if you like it and you keep moving, it’s a rinse and repeat. You have to keep testing and trying different things in. The best YouTubers are just living and breathing it, right?
Pete: Yeah. You never stop testing, which you shouldn’t do. But it does make a big difference, when you first start a channel, you haven’t got much data, it’s difficult to test, so you’ve just got try and error. But once you start getting a bigger channel, I mean, I’ve done some tests with TubeBuddy on thumbnails and it’s made over a hundred percent difference to the click-through rate and the number of views that I’ve got just by changing a very small part of the thumbnail, moving a logo from top left to top right, for instance.
Things like using emojis in your title on some channels, it’s made a big difference in a positive way by putting emojis in it, and on some of my other channels, it’s pretty much killed the video by putting an emoji in the title. And the only way you’ll know that is by A/B testing. There’s no empirical… There’s no scientific way of doing it apart from empirical proof testing it.
John: So, it’s really based on individual channels and individual audiences that are going to react a certain way. So there’s no exact recipe for YouTube. These tips that you’re giving are guidelines, but then you just have to really analyze your analytics and keep trying new things.
Pete: Yeah, there’s definitely things you should avoid. And we’ve covered a few of those, I think. But the key thing is find your niche, appeal to the algorithm and appeal to your viewers. And that isn’t necessarily doing the same as everybody else, but there are certain things that you should avoid. And we’ve covered a lot during this chat, haven’t we?
The Future of YouTube
John: Yeah. And so what’s the future of YouTube? Are you excited? It seems like it’s going to continue to blow up.
Pete: Yeah, it’s going to continue to blow up. It faces competition from TikTok, but they are very different animals and it’s almost like YouTube is the grownup, more mature platform now where the content there is more in-depth, there’s more of it and it’s of a higher value further up the food chain in terms of age and subject matter, depth. But I think TikTok has its place, it’s just the more people that get into TikTok will probably… They’ll appreciate the longer-form content that you can find on YouTube.
John: I don’t think there’s anything like it in history, really, YouTube. Hats off to Google for buying it and growing it. And for all the people out there that are just doing it, day in and day out. I get an incredible amount out of YouTube. And my son, he’s five, and he is watching how to draw this and how to draw that. And I’m blown away, at five, how much he’s learned. And it’s thanks to YouTube.
Pete: Oh, it’s brilliant, isn’t it? It’s absolutely brilliant. And it pays you. I mean, there’s been no other way that creators can get more than half the money that comes in from the advertisers. No, I love it. And I implore people that are not doing something on YouTube just to give it a go. And as I say, you literally have everything that you need in your pocket.
John: Just get past your fear and create habits like the Steven Pressfield, The War of Art thing.
Pete: And look at the analytics and do more of what’s working, do less of what isn’t and don’t give up. Bit like the gym, again, they all say at the gym, don’t buy trainers in January sales, because you can buy secondhand ones on eBay in February or March when people have given up.
John: Yeah. Well, words of wisdom today. Really appreciate all of the great insights.
Pete: Oh, my pleasure. It’s been real fun. I love talking about this stuff and helping people grow their channels. So yeah, just do it, as they say.
John: Yeah. And how can people find you and your services and things that you’re up to?
Pete: Best place to find me is Facebook, PeteBennettUK. I tend to hang out on that. I don’t really advertise my consultancy services a lot. I just pick up clients through word of mouth, so happy to help people if they want it.
John: Sounds good. Well, great talking to you today, Pete. Appreciate it.
Pete: Thank you. Thanks very much the opportunity. Bye for now.
John: All right, good. This is John McDougall and Pete Bennett with Talk Marketing Academy. Stay tuned for the next episode.