Starting YouTube can be daunting. Not only do you have to learn how to talk to your audience, alone, through a camera, you need to make sure you’re not just shouting into the void. When it comes to making killer videos, there are a few things you should keep in mind – here are 10 of them.
We’ll start right at the beginning with this one, given you’ve already set up a channel, that is. If you’re going to make a video, you need an idea; a general concept for what the video will be about. Obviously, this will vary from channel to channel, but depending on your particular niche, thinking up video ideas isn’t as hard as creative blocks make it seem.
In a video by ChannelNotes, a YouTube channel dedicated to helping other creators along their YouTube journey, host MuchelleB advocates for mind mapping. If you don’t know what a mind map is, it’s essentially a visual organization tool or a diagram where you map out your ideas using sub-ideas that offshoot from a central idea. For example, your ‘video ideas’ mind map might include sub-ideas like ‘trend/challenge ideas’, ‘how to videos’, ‘vlogs’ and whatever else is relevant to your channel. Mind maps are great for igniting creative thinking, too.
Another great way to generate new ideas if you’ve been creating videos for a while is to ask your subscribers – after all, they’re the ones who are going to watch them. Checking out comments on your previous videos, posting a suggestion box to your Instagram story or even just asking your friends and family members what they’d like to see from you. Think of it as market research. You might even come up with a completely new concept.
If you’re hoping to create a video that will get your channel noticed by the masses, it’s a good idea to have a look at what’s trending. A lot of creators were happily making videos for their small subscriber base until one of their videos was picked up by the YouTube algorithm and paraded for all to see across the Trending page. The YouTube algorithm is a tricky one, but if you go for something relevant (like the most recent beauty guru drama, for instance) or a challenge that everyone in your subsection of YouTube is doing right now, or even a high profile collaboration, there’s a good chance your video will get picked up, too.
Once you’ve got your idea down you need a plan. You don’t need me to tell you this (but I will anyway), plans are important if you want your video to flow coherently. Whether it’s a sit down, informational video, a Get Ready with Me or even a vlog, you will need some type of structure.
For an informative video, a script or queue cards are probably your best bet. That way, you won’t miss anything out or go off on a tangent (maybe). If you’re daily or weekly vlogging, it’s good to know what you’ve got going on that particular week. If your day is full of meetings and admin, is daily vlogging really a good idea? You could wait until you’re going on that scenic walk on the weekend, or trying out a new restaurant on Thursday date night. Make sure you plan your intros and outros, too – we’ll get to that.
Before you turn the camera on, the perfect set up is essential. When it comes to your “set up,” I am talking about equipment, but I’m also talking about background, lighting and environment, too.
First, you need to think about where you want to film. For a sit down video, your bedroom or office is fine – a neutral background with a nice, clean space (you can keep that pile of clothes behind your camera) is preferable. If you’re making a workout video, though, you need to make sure either you have all the equipment you need at home, or you’re going to be in a gym that allows filming and will give you the space you need to make your video. A tripod will be especially helpful if you’re filming outside because it will ensure you get decent angles that are easy to watch. If you’re just filming at home, though, a pile of books will do the trick
Lighting is important. If you’re lucky enough to have large windows that let in natural sunlight all day, you’ll be fine. But if not, you’ll either have to make sure to film while the sun is out, or invest in a ring light. Professional lighting will severely improve the quality which is a must if you’re hoping to hit the big numbers.
Sound is another massively important factor which is easy to forget about, especially as a viewer. But if you’ve ever been watching a video in which the audio suddenly trails off, only to be replaced by subtitles for a minute or so, you’ll know how annoying it can be. A microphone will be life-changing when it comes to sound quality, and they don’t have to be expensive.
Obviously, if you want to film a YouTube video, you need a camera. You don’t need to go all out and get the fanciest DSLR or mirrorless camera right off the bat, though they will be worth it once you’re ready to upgrade. You essentially need anything that can record content at least 1080p (quality is king remember) but a webcam or phone can do that if you’re trying to cut costs.
The introduction to your video is massively important because, according to the Youtube Creator Playbook, the first 15 seconds will make the difference between whether a viewer stays and watches the whole video (or at least more than the first 15 seconds), or clicks off to find a new one.
A custom intro edit, with music and graphics, make YouTube videos look more professional and help with branding. You can make one of these yourself and use it for every video to keep it consistent. It’s also important to have what BackLinko calls a “hook”. Essentially a hook is anything that grabs your viewer’s attention – it could be “a brief summary of what your video’s about, an eye-catching visual, an attention-grabbing line [or] a teaser for what’s coming up later”.
If you got your first 15 seconds down and viewers made it to the end of your video, your outro – or end screen – is your best chance of retaining viewers and turning them into subscribers. Using your outro as a call to action (asking people to like, comment and subscribe to your channel, for instance) is a great way to boost the engagement of your video. You can also include elements such as a recent video or playlist, a subscribe button, a link to another channel (if you have one), or a link to another website, as long as it’s approved by YouTube. You can read about how to create an outro here.
When it comes to editing, it’s best to find a software you like and stick to it until you know it inside and out. There are a plethora of editing tools available, such as the built-in video editor on YouTube, ShotCut, iMovie, Lightworks or Adobe Premiere. Whichever you choose, as long as you master it, it will work great. To make editing your videos as painless and simple as possible, you’ll likely want to invest in a powerful PC and a decent graphics card if only to make things easier. It’s going to be part of your job, after all.
Cutting your clips and making your transitions as seamless as possible are the essential basics but, as a viewer, I love to see effects, graphics and gifs sprinkled throughout. If you can get that down, your videos are guaranteed to stand out.
To make sure your video beats the search engine and make it to the top of the search results and maybe even the trending page. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is crucial for YouTubers, but is often overlooked because it’s very much behind the scenes stuff.
In a blog post, Neil Patel outlines the best YouTube SEO hacks. Your first port of call should be keyword research. In layman’s terms, keywords are essentially the words that a potential viewer will type into the search box, like “How to Apply Winged Eyeliner” for example. In his article, Neil cites Brian Dean, who recommends using Google to search for different keywords in your niche and seeing if any keywords bring up video results.
You can use a variety of tools to research keywords and choose the ones with a decent number of monthly hits.
Keywords are especially important for your title, which should also be short and sweet and, potentially, solve a problem or ask a question, according to Neil. Another great use of keywords? Tags. Tagging videos allows you to input relevant keywords relating to your video and making it more likely to rack up the views. Don’t go too overboard with the tags, though. According to Neil, “around 10 to 12 are enough”.
Another sneaky hack that Neil recommends is to change your file name: “The idea is to rename your raw file so that it reflects your title or your focus keyword,” he writes. “So for example, your file may default to a name like “20170613.mp4.” But if you rename it and use your focus keyword (e.g., “how_to_use_hello_bar.mp4”), you’ll tell YouTube what your video is about”.
Just as important as your title is your thumbnail. That’s right, people will judge a book by its cover, no matter what they’ve been told. Or, more aptly, they will judge your video by its thumbnail. It’s human nature! Rather than the standard freeze frame YouTube offers, an eye catching thumbnail will reel in unsuspecting viewers when it pops up in recommended/related sections, search results and trending pages. You can use your thumbnail to convey the content of the video or the tone, with the right facial expressions.
You need a great photo for your thumbnail, one that’s particularly high quality and elicits the overall feeling you want from the video.
Once you’ve got that, you need to make sure you get the dimensions right. According to YouTube’s guidelines, 1280 x 720 pixels, with a minimum width of 640 pixels is just right.
It’s also great to include some text in your thumbnail; maybe the title of your video or something relating to it. In terms of font, it’s best to keep it consistent with every thumbnail to keep your branding intact. This way, people might begin to recognize your videos from the thumbnail alone. Adding a pop of colour will help your thumbnail to stand out, so make sure to use contrasting font colours and graphics. You can use a specific thumbnail making website to get your thumbnails down, such as Canva, Adobe Spark or Snappa.
This might seem obvious, but it’s another one of those behind the scenes things that doesn’t seem important. You might be tempted to think, well, the content is great and so is the quality – it will distract viewers all on its own. Well, sorry. It won’t. Not in this day and age when YouTube is saturated with similar videos. You need to utilize your other platforms, too like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You might attract viewers who don’t frequent YouTube and you’ll be able to guilt your friends and family into giving you some support. You didn’t hear that from us though.
Finally, just relax and be yourself. Authenticity shines through, especially on platforms like YouTube. You need to have fun with it, too. I’ve seen countless videos of people who clearly don’t feel comfortable or are putting on some kind of act. They’re the videos I don’t watch again. The best videos are conversational and friendly; It’s nice to feel like you’re listening to an old friend when you watch YouTube, so don’t be afraid to completely lean into your own personality.
So, there you have it. Follow these 10 tips on how to make a killer YouTube video and you’ll be hitting the big numbers in no time. See you on the trending page!