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How To Develop a YouTube Content Strategy

With insights from YouTube content experts


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Deborah Oyegue

a year ago | 15 min read

YouTube is the bitcoin of video streaming. 14 years since its launch and it has spurred a generation of young wealthy entrepreneurs; all defying the traditional route to wealth and acclaim.

It is the largest video search engine in the world, and can serve as a constant lead generation system for brand expansion opportunities — if you are strategic with your positioning. In 2020 alone, small YouTubers enjoyed massive success by doing something as simple as posting the right video at the right time.

If you are currently starting your channel, or returning to your YouTube channel, intent on catching up with YouTube’s upward trajectory train, then you are in the right place.

In this guide, I will break down YouTube content strategies that have led to the growth of YouTube experts such as Vanessa Lau; who grew her 7-figure coaching business in just two years of starting a YouTube channel, Mrbeast;

who currently holds the number one spot of YouTube’s top Creators, and also the number 5 spot on top ten trending videos in 2020, and Kelly Stamps; who grew her channel from 6000 subscribers in January 2020 to over 515, 000 subscribers in December 2020.

Also, I will break down how the YouTube algorithm works so you can either create a new strategy or fix your current strategy to position your brand for fast growth in 2021.

What Makes Some Channels Grow Faster Than Others

Three elements determine the growth of the average YouTube channel: the content-type or niche, upload frequency, and quality of their YouTube strategy.

Content or Niche

You might observe faster or slower growth based on your niche. Also, your niche determines how profitable you will be on the platform.

Image via Canva
Image via Canva

First, to be eligible to earn money via YouTube AdSense, you must have 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours (240,000 minutes) of watch time. Even after you’ve crossed those milestones, your earnings would depend on how much the advertiser will pay you to reach your audience. We know this as cost per mile (per 1000 views).

If you have figured out your niche and want to learn how to generate content that your target audience would find valuable, here are the three steps you need to follow:

  • Identify your target audience
  • Look are what they are searching for
  • Create content to answer those questions
  1. Identify your target audience

The marketing term for this is creating your buyer’s persona. It is a detailed description of what you envision your target audience to be like. This would give you insight into what their problems are and where you can find them. The more you can say about that persona, the better you are at identifying their interests.

Look at what they are searching for

This is a matter of finding the questions behind their problems.

There are a lot of online tools that will help you find out the questions your target audience is asking; the most accessible is YouTube’s search suggestion section.

When you type in a keyword, YouTube suggests related queries to you. From this, you deduce what people are also searching for.

Another is the YouTube comment section of popular creators in your niche.

If you haven’t started creating content that drives demand, study people who are successfully doing such in your niche. You can get a hang of the most in-demand queries by reading through the comments on their most popular videos to identify content gaps that your content could fill. This is to creators what book reviews are to authors or publishers. And it applies to evergreen content as much as it does to trending topics.

When you see a comment that drives an impressive amount of likes, you know it resonates with many people, then you can create content that reflects the essence or answers the question behind the comment.

Create content to answer those questions

For instance, if you are a skincare professional and your target demographics are teenagers, you can share hacks or solutions that can help them through puberty.

It is easier to build a community when you are seen as an expert in your chosen field.

This is what Vanessa Lau did. She built a coaching empire by teaching people how to use Instagram’s features to grow their following and position their content to grow their business. She positioned herself as an expert and grew faster because she focused on one area of social media: Instagram growth hacking.

In the ‘Quality of their YouTube content strategy,’ section, I will explain how content can attract new audiences and how you can optimize your channel to get a share of YouTube’s search traffic.

Upload Frequency

The quantity approach works if you are enthusiastic about sharing your ideas or testing your ideas. Here, you have the freedom to try out what works and what doesn’t.

The quality approach works if you are experienced in your field and want to build your brand quickly in a short timeframe.

Quality vs Quantity: Created with Canva
Quality vs Quantity: Created with Canva

So while the quantity approach works to get your foot in the door, the quantity approach is bound to get you bursting in.

Advantages of Quality over Quantity

  1. You learn to invest in yourself and your business
  2. You put in a lot of effort into achieving the result
  3. You challenge yourself to grow

Disadvantages of Quality over Quantity

  1. It can lead to burnout.
  2. It can lead to wasted ideas
  3. It is an expensive way to learn

One thing you have to know about Quality over Quantity is the system is always better than the goal, and your first attempt will be the least quality attempt.

Advantages of Quantity over Quality

  1. You learn your strong points
  2. You establish a system and build discipline
  3. You get better, faster
  4. An opportunity to record your rags to riches story

Disadvantages of Quantity over Quality

  1. It might take a long time before you see traction
  2. Your growth depends on how fast you adopt the lessons you pick up
  3. It is easy to give up when your efforts show little to no results

If you want to give your brand an edge, it will be great to start strong; Invest in equipment and learn how to edit videos or source it out to people who know how to.

People can’t resist good content, especially when it provides answers to questions they may or may not have had.

Quality of YouTube Strategy

“If you treat content creation as a hobby, it will pay you as a hobby.” — Dimejistories

All successful content creators follow a formula that generates results.

YouTube content strategy is the strategic positioning of content to deliver the best results. Elements of a solid YouTube strategy include posting time, posting frequency, analytics, SEO, collaboration, and promotion.

Posting time

Different platforms have different content life-cycles. For Instagram, it’s the first 30mins. Based on engagement, the algorithm knows if to promote the video to your followers. For YouTube, it is the first 24 hours.

Hence if you post at a time where most of your target audience is asleep, the algorithm which knows neither sleep nor awake hours assumes few people are interested in that content.

If you properly researched your audience, you will know the period they are most active. With that, you can schedule your post to go live around the period where you know they are available to watch it.

Promotion

YouTube recently released YouTube Shorts, a beta feature that allows you promote your brand organically by uploading up to one-minute videos and using shorts as a tag i.e. #shorts. But Don’t wait for the algorithm to do all the promotions.

Self-promotion works if you are strategic about it, and can give your post the boost it needs to attract favor from the algorithm.

When your post goes live, do your due diligence by sharing the link with a community you are active in. It could be a WhatsApp group, your Twitter account, or a Reddit community. As long as the content is relevant and valuable to them, share. This was part of Dream’s strategy, and he blew up in the Gaming niche in under a year.

For links, you can reach out to bloggers in your niche to share your video with their audience. This move brought Peter McKinnon his first million views.

Posting frequency

Before you commit to a posting pattern, consider the technicality: How often can you afford to put out content without compromising on the quality?

Invariably, the upload frequency depends on your niche and capacity.

For vlogging channels, aim for bi-weekly vlog uploads.

For skill-specific channels, aim for weekly uploads.

Naka and Dom upload twice a week and have grown to 700, 000+ subscribers in barely two years.

Social Blade channel stat
Social Blade channel stat

Kelly Stamps got serious with her channel in mid-2019 and stuck to her plan of uploading twice a week, and grew her channel to 516, 000+ subscribers.

Social Blade channel stat
Social Blade channel stat

Vannessa Lau uploaded once a week and grew her channel to 400, 000+ subscribers in two years.

Social Blad channel stat
Social Blad channel stat

Strive to put out one video content on your channel every week. And make it as high-quality and valuable as you can.

Users can tell when you put a lot of effort into your videos and when you didn’t (remember you need to charm your viewers to attract the favor of the algorithm).

Collaboration

Growing your channel doesn’t have to be a race against everyone else in your niche. You can collaborate with other creators as long as the cooperation is mutually beneficial.

Growth hacking your channel using SEO

This means optimizing your channel to get a share of traffic from YouTube.

Kelly Stamps grew her channel x8483% during the pandemic; from 6000 followers in January to 500, 000+ in December.

She did so using the three-step approach:

  1. Create content around relevant topics

Creating content around relevant topics makes it easier for new audiences to find you.

The best way to do that is by ranking amongst the first five results for your target keyword. To implement this strategy, you need to balance evergreen content and trending content. Do too much of either, and you have a problem.

The straightforward way to do that is to find trending topics/keywords to create content, optimize your channel to get a share of traffic from YouTube’s search engine and direct those visitors to your evergreen content.

Kelly has three videos still visible on YouTube’s search page for the keywords “Quarantine vlog”

There are several ways to discover relevant topics, but center of them all is: using keywords.

When you learn how to perform a keyword search, you will never run out of content ideas.

Google search engine

This is the most common way to find keyword ideas.

Also, when you type in a keyword or key phrase to the search engine, Google shares related search phrases. This way, you know what your audience is also searching for.

Google Trends

Google trend is great for researching trends and comparing search (trend) demands.

With the graph, you can identify and compare keywords with the most demand.

Google Trend identifies keywords with the potential to grow as a ‘breakout’ keyword, and If you notice the search results are incomprehensive or unclear, you can work on creating content that delivers best on them. With this knowledge, you can create proactively and position yourself as an early bird.

TubeBuddy

TubeBuddy is an advanced keyword research tool. It is mandatory if you want to create content that ranks on YouTube.

It allows you to search for competitiveness and demand for keywords. This tells you if it is worth implementing a video idea or not. More, it provides related keywords to help you rank for your chosen topic.

Also, Tube-buddy automatically adds a metric board showing the SEO ratings of every single video you play on YouTube. This way, you are constantly learning.

You can get the chrome browser extension here.

Other Social Media platforms

When you see a topic blow up on a different social media platform, you can create content around that trend, and immediately drive traffic to your channel. Relatively new social media platforms like Tiktok offer non-stop viral content ideas which you can implement in your content creation strategy.

One way you can extend the engagement chain is by referring a similar video to them via end cards. You can set this up when you edit an unlisted video via YouTube Creator Studio.

What is the YouTube Creator studio?

YouTube Creator Studio is an in-house app that extends YouTube’s functionality to improve the content creation experience. It also has a mobile app, but with reduced features from the web version.

With YouTube creators' studio, you can add non-copyrighted sound effects to your videos, upload attractive thumbnails, edit videos, create channel playlists, and schedule your uploads.

📷📷

It also provides you the opportunity to implement SEO by adding related (hopefully, researched using TubeBuddy) keywords and meta description to your videos.

You can access it through your YouTube homepage by clicking on your avatar or clicking (https://studio.youtube.com/).

To access it via a mobile device, you need to download the app separately from App or Google store.

To ensure your video is ready, ensure you check off the following requirements. You have:

A video title that drives curiosity — not more than 60 characters

A high-quality thumbnail that reflects the message of the video

A no-fluff video, edited to precision — Mrbeast swears he has found the algorithm’s sweet spot for videos between the 10 and 20 minutes mark. If you have a longer video, make it into a series.

2. Create a system that turns those traffic-directed visitors into subscribers.

Don’t stifle your personality. As much as you should try to position yourself as an expert, remember that people connect with people they find relatable. Create content, but don’t leave your personality at the door.

Create a system to turn those visitors into subscribers = create tactics or tools around your content to keep your audience coming back to you.

Kelly Stamp’s system was her Authenticity.

On a platform where most creators are loud and shiny, Kelly Stamp’s down-to-earth persona was a breath of fresh air. She has such an authentic and charming personality that her fans (Stampedes) swear they would gladly watch her stare at a rock.

Though Kelly Stamps set a system to get picked up by the search engine, her personality did a magnificent job at converting the visitors to fans.

3. Create content consistently

Stick to your posting schedule no matter what happens (or doesn’t happen).

It is easy to give up when you don’t see immediate traction, but always remember the only reason other top creators got noticed is that they kept on creating.

How The Algorithm Works

The goal of the algorithm is to keep users on the platform. Hence, it rewards creators with high-video retention.

If you can keep an impressive number of your audience till the end of your video, the algorithm will reward you for keeping users on the platform by recommending your video to people with similar interests. Also, the algorithm will keep recommending your other videos to your recent viewers, irrespective of whether or not they subscribed.

The best way to capture its attention is to deliver engaging content that either gets most of your audience to the end of your videos or binging on your content playlists.

To make the experience better for your viewers, make your content more interactive. Ask them questions. Get them to take action even as they watch your videos; write in the comment section, or like the video. While the subscriber count is vital to getting your channel eligible for monetization, having visitors interact with your content increases the chances of your other content being suggested by the algorithm.

Some people complain the algorithm is working against them, but it’s not true. The algorithm works with numbers. Pay your dues and it will pick up your content. Dues, in this context, are watch time and video engagement.

Your videos need to be long enough to guarantee a long watch-time (high-retention), yet engaging enough for them to stick around.

It sounds like two difficult tasks to juggle. But smart creators like Alex Cattoni and Zulie Rane have found a way to settle the algorithm’s watch time and high engagement mandate.

The two ways you can do this are by breaking your content into a Series and hosting Live sessions.

Instead of making a thirty minutes video, break it into two or three parts, then plan the videos such that each video leads to the next.

One benefit of having a content theme is the connectivity it affords your channel; When people enjoy a particular content, they are likely to enjoy your other content similar to the one they watched.

Hosting live sessions is an interactive form of engagement, and it also boosts your watch time (as long as you upload afterward).

Tip: Make sure you use the “with me” title format

Now let’s see how you can use call-to-action(CTA) to lure the algorithm.

Call-to-Action (CTA)

Each video should have two CTAs: primary and secondary.

The primary CTA should encourage the users to engage with your videos (high-engagement), and the secondary should direct them to what to do after watching your video (increase watch time).

A creator who has mastered both CTA methods is Kyle Exum. In the briefest time possible, he encourages the users to engage with his videos and also pins a reminder in his comment section.

Kyle Exum is a pro at getting his users to take action. His pattern is promising a feat, reward, or both.

Promise a feat — Kyle promises to reply to all comments if he gets a certain amount of likes or comments on his video. Most times, the comments run into tens of thousands.

Promise a reward — Kyle promises a subsequent release (version) if he gets a certain number of likes, comments, or views, in a specific time frame.

Secondary CTA entails making use of an end-card, where you promote similar videos to keep them on the platform. The more they binge on your content, the more valuable the algorithm reads your content to be.

Interactive videos are a recipe for viral content

Hot tip: Always include an end card to guide your users on what to do next after watching a video.

Always consult the analytics

This data provides insight into what you might be doing great or not so great. When you view the watch graph of a video, you can see where the attention dropped off, then you can fix that in subsequent videos. For instance, if you notice a dip in the first few seconds, then your intro is probably a hot mess.

If your video answers a question to a query they typed in, let them know they are in the right place.

Avoid long intros, be it visual or verbal. Just cut to the chase.

You only have 20 secs to charm them, don’t save the best for last unless you edit a teaser into the intro so they have a reason to stick around.

Mrbeast is the master at such, you can watch a few of his videos to understand his approach. He follows this pattern:

Hook the viewers by playing a snippet of the ending or promise to deliver on the video title — Introduce the video — Build momentum — sign off with a CTA

Already, he has such ludicrous ideas, one can’t help watching till the end to find out how it went.

For the vlogging niche, Kelly Stamps is one of the most creative vloggers when it comes to intros. She makes weird stunts such as coming out of the closet (literally), doing a mute fashion show with a spatula, or fake calling Rihanna.

Another method you can use to make your videos more interactive is the timestamp feature.

Timestamp

Timestamps (Video chapters) help your audience navigate your videos.

So even if you are discussing a topic, and your viewers haven’t got the patience to wait till you call out everything, they can click on certain areas in your video to consume the parts which interest them more.

You can learn how to add Timestamps here.

Conclusion

Running a YouTube channel demands a significant time investment, but if you play your cards right, it will be worth it.

In this guide, we covered the basics of developing a quality YouTube content strategy, with an emphasis on how to create content that people are searching for.

While it might seem like a lot to take in, it will make a lot more sense when you start creating /uploading videos.

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