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5 Hours of YouTube SEO and Marketing | It All Starts with Content: The 10 Commandments of YouTube Content Strategy




Bengü: Hi everyone. A big welcome to our 5 Hours of YouTube Marketing and SEO webinar, which is brought to you by SEMrush. I am delighted to be one of the hosts today. My name is Bengü Atamer and I'm the co-founder of BuzzMyVideos. BuzzMyVideos is a company that's focusing on all things YouTube. 

The first session, we will start with content strategy because content is king. Content is the base for everything on YouTube, and Yalin who's joining me today is going to be presenting you 10 Commandments of content strategy on YouTube. 

Maybe I can just start by introducing my guests, Yalin and Nikki. Yalin is actually an ex YouTube employee as well, although we've never worked together. We've been sitting on the different sides of the table and I've had the privilege to listen to some of his great presentations over the years. 

To be honest with you, I can't think of anyone else who can speak of creating a great narrative, making it interactive and engaging and building a content strategy. I am so pleased that he will be presenting this session.

Then also I am joined by Nikki Wicks, who is actually head of content strategy and innovation for Joe Wicks, The Body Coach channel, which has become a national phenomenon here in the UK. They have been keeping us lean for the last 18 weeks, so huge thanks for that. Yalin, you can take it over and start your presentation.

Yalin: I am Yalin and I am a co-founder of Navivest, which is a digital mindset consultancy based in London for growth capital and venture capital. But as Bengü mentioned, prior to co-founding Navivest, I actually worked at YouTube for six-and-a-half years and always lived in the creative partnerships team. 

With that, I'm going to share my screen and we're going to go a little bit of a presentation format first because there's a couple of things that I want to impart to the audience. But then we're going to go quickly to the practical side of the presentation with Nikki. 

We wanted to call this session: “it all starts with content” because when Bengü and SEMrush approached me for the session, we thought that we would want to start there because without a great content strategy, any optimizations that you do on your YouTube channel is not necessarily meaningful. So it all really has to start with content.

The agenda today of what I want to go through with you today is focus on first the storytelling side of things. Because really good content is anchored on great storytelling, which a lot of brands actually tend to forget. Whereas for creators, it's really innate to what they do on YouTube. 

First and foremost, I want to take a quick side step and show the marketing trifecta. For those of you who are in marketing, this is not going to be anything new, but when people think of YouTube marketing, they really only think about the paid media side of things. 

Besides the paid media, you have earned media, which comes really from mentions, shares, reposts, and reviews. This is essentially marketing that you earn through your user base and through the services that you provide. They're happy to share and repost and do your work for you essentially. 

Last but not least is your owned media and this includes your website, your social media channels. And this is where your YouTube channel would fit straight into here, square in the middle. In this session specifically, we're going to be focusing on the owned media side of things. 

The Power of Good Storytelling

Let's move on to Tenets of Storytelling. When I wanted to go into this, I wanted to show a quick example of what I mean by this. We'll do a little history lesson. We'll go back to 1983. This is essentially the Apple Lisa computer advertising spread that Steve Jobs and the team at Apple had put together in the New York Times.

This is a nine-page spread, and as you can see, it literally shows you how you can use the computer. The last page, the ninth page is essentially where you can buy it, so it has a list of addresses of the dealers that you can do. 

Normally in a live audience, I would ask, "How many computers do you guys think they sold with this strategy?" They only sold about 10,000 Lisa Computers, which is not that great. And actually, Steve Jobs leaves Apple after this. It's all geek-speak, it's not really a great marketing move.

Then let's fast forward 14 years, Steve Jobs returns to Apple, and in his first campaign back, this is the first campaign that he releases across billboards in the U.S. There's a dramatic difference between what you saw before and what you see now on your screens. Essentially, what he does here is there's no product, there's no service. He basically shows these amazing people and what they've accomplished, and there's a tagline called “think different”. 

Essentially the message here is, "If you want to think differently like these revolutionaries, like these innovative people, you can do that through Apple." And they've used this campaign for over five years and it is credited for turning Apple's fortunes around. The reason I start there is really because people don't buy the best product; they buy the best story. This isn't only true for video content, it has always been true.

That's also why I wanted to show you a print example from history. And the best story gets you customer loyalty and pipeline because you really have to build an emotional connection and a community around your brand. 

3 Tenets of Storytelling

The three tenets of storytelling, at least for me: the first is purpose. The content that you produce has to be purposeful. It cannot be just to get popular or to go viral, it really has to serve a purpose. The second is, it has to be authentic. 

Authenticity is super key, especially on YouTube. It's key in all the social media, but it's especially true on YouTube because of the level of engagement that you get on the platform. And people, especially YouTube viewers are very, very adept after so many years of watching YouTube, they can sniff authenticity from a mile away. 

Finally, empathy. Because empathy is how you really connect with people. It's not sympathy. After the sessions that you'd like to watch, just go to YouTube and search for Brene Brown on Empathy. It's a three-minute video. It's probably the best three-minute video that I've ever seen talking about empathy and how it's different to sympathy. 

The Hero-Hub-Help Content Strategy

With those three values out of the way, because they're really like the crux and the core of how you approach your YouTube channel, let's talk about the purposeful side of things. The Hero-Hub-Help approach is developed so that...you can essentially take your content category and figure out what to expect from each of your videos. 

When you're thinking of your content category, usually what brands will do is they'll just talk about their product. They'll just create videos about their product, which really doesn't work, especially on YouTube, because it's seen as advertising. 

Instead, what I recommend you do is you look at your values, not just your product. Look at these inspirations behind the brand, behind the company, behind the product. Look at your mission, look at what you're trying to advocate for, and then see where you're overlapping with your audience's views, passions, goals, idols, and communities. This is a great place to start for how you can widen your content territory so you don't feel so constrained by what you can do. 

Then you can really apply the Hero-Hub-Help strategy to really whittle down how to approach and what to expect from each of your videos. When you look at a customer funnel, it's really just one inverted pyramid. But in YouTube, it's not necessarily just the pyramid, that's why I came up with this visual of an hourglass, but it's turned on sideways because there's really two entry points into your channel on YouTube. 

On the left side, people come to YouTube to browse. These are the users that come to youtube.com and they seek inspiring new content. These are the people that leverage the algorithm the most. 

This is where you want to create videos that will be featured, so you want to create inspiring new content for these kinds of users, not necessarily targeted to your product. What you're trying to do with the hero content is raise broad awareness because you're essentially accessing a very mainstream audience by other browsers and support major brand moments.

On the right side of the funnel, which is another entry point into YouTube, is searching. YouTube is actually the second biggest search engine after Google. This is where users seek relevant content. They will come in and search for how-tos, et cetera. 

And to get viewership from that user funnel, you want to create what we call help videos. These are the ones that you do... This is essentially ‘pull’ content and you're trying to get discovered with always on what's sometimes referred to as evergreen content.

Searching can also mean that you do videos for trending topics as well if you're especially quick to respond to that trend. But ideally, what you're trying to do is you're trying to funnel these two entry points into your channel. 

You're trying to get them to watch other videos on your channel, which are the videos that we call your hub videos. And this is what people actually then subscribe to your channel for. The two sides, the hero and the hub is really how you try to get discovered by different user behaviors on the platform. 

You try to get people to subscribe to your channel with the hub content. This is where you really want to create regularly scheduled push content so your subscribers can enjoy. 

Hero-Hub-Help Timeline on a Typical YouTube Channel

I'll give you guys a couple of examples on this. But before I do, I want to quickly give you an expectation of how this really plays out in the timeline of a channel when you look at the dealership. If you have on X-axis time and the Y-axis, you have viewership, really the help videos are there and generating constant viewership for your channel. 

They tend to be evergreen, but they're not really the ones that are getting the most viewership. Then the hub series and formats behind the scenes, collaborations, this type of hub content then drives the channel because the more viewers that you convert to subscribers, the more then they're willing to engage with the existing content, the hub content on the channel, driving majority of the viewership.

Then the hero content that you do once in a while. This normally this only happens, let's say twice a year or up to four times a year because these are the things that you do that go above and beyond what you normally would do from a budget perspective, from a narrative perspective, et cetera. 

A couple of examples that I'll highlight on the collaborative side of things, you've got GoPro and Red Bull. These guys do their own content, but they heavily leverage user-generated content, and GoPro really goes into adjacent interest as much as possible, unlike Red Bull. 

When you look at Lego, for instance, I think they're snuck in the middle because they do a lot of content that's animated, that leverages the Lego approach. They do a lot of narrative storytelling. They don't do as much collaborative creation on their channel. Hopefully, this gives you a good idea of the map of content territory and how each of these different companies approach the Hero-Hub-Help strategy to define purposeful content. 

The 10 YouTube Commandments Explained

Finally, in the last section of my presentation, I'm going to focus more on the 10 Commandments of YouTube. I'm assuming that up until this point, you have defined as a brand what your values are, so your purpose, your authenticity, and your empathy points. 

When I look at all these 10, so this is how I've laid out the 10. I've added another layer on top just because I believe that certain things are foundational in my opinion. Inspiration, sustainability, and consistency are key to getting a great YouTube presence. I call these the foundation commandments. 

Then the next bucket is how do you get viewers? ‘Getting viewer’ commandments. These are targeting, discoverability, accessibility, and shareability.

Then finally, the engage and build community. This is where conversation, interactivity, and collaboration comes in. And as you'll see, collaboration is a darker color because I believe collaboration is something that everyone should strive to get at, but it's usually the hardest to get right.

If I go into each of these, what I thought might be helpful is actually to give you a couple of questions and triggers that you can use in your brainstorming sessions to really consider ideas. 

Inspiration, the question to ask is really, "Are we passionate about this topic? Or are we just trying to be popular?" This goes to the authenticity side of things a little bit. It's a very, very crucial question to ask when you're planning your content, because if you're not passionate about it, it will come across very, very easily and your viewership will understand very easily. 

Secondly, sustainability. The question here that I came up with for you to use is, “can we create this easily? Can we block shoot? Is this way above our ability?” Because one of the mistakes that a lot of brands will think about YouTube creation is that you need to have a lot of equipment, you need to have a lot of production capability to do a lot of the stuff, which you really don't. 

Make sure that whatever you're coming up with for your idea doesn't require a ton of equipment, a ton of production. This also gets into a little bit of looking into formats because if you can block shoot something, you can get into the studio, you can shoot three, four videos in one go, and then it's just up to the editing team to edit and then essentially schedule them out. 

The last one in foundation is consistency. This is where we would look for recurring elements. And this recurring element doesn't have to be a personality, although it could be, but it could also be a format. It could be an upload schedule.

Now, when we look at getting viewers, the first thing to really look at is targeting. And the questions here are, are we attracting the right viewers? And are we only focusing on our core fans or are we also targeting adjacent viewers? This is what I was mentioning before with the content territory. And I think it's really, really important to be able to appeal to a mass, to a wider audience, and to a potential customer base. 

Next one is discoverability. The question here to ask you, are we optimized for search? And are we tapping into trending or evergreen topics? This is where a lot of the optimizations will come into play like titles, custom thumbnails, tags, et cetera. 

Accessibility: this is quite key actually because I talk about formats, I talk about doing episodic content, which really, really works. But these videos need to stand on their own, they need to be accessible. 

Shareability: and really the question here is, would you share it actually? But you could ask yourself, is our content topical, relatable and or valuable? Because when you look at when people share things in the scenarios in which people share, it's really because they want to be the first ones to share something. 

Engage and build community. These are very, very important. Conversation is very important because YouTube is a two-way platform. I might be preaching to the choir here a little bit because you obviously know the power of YouTube, that's why you're on this webinar. But a lot of people will mistake it and still won't talk directly to the camera. 

And make sure you're addressing your audience directly, you're talking directly to them. Make sure you use you. It's these little things that sound really common sense that a lot of people fail at and it really helps to have a conversational aspect to your YouTube channel.

When you have the conversational aspect really uniquely inherent to your channel, then the next one is try to make it as interactive as possible. Are there ways that you can involve your audience in the channel? This could be as simple as doing polls in the community tab, or it could be things like allowing users to submit ideas, asking them at the end of the video to comment. 

Finally, collaboration. Like I said, this is the gold star of YouTube. Really you will be looking at different creators and brands that you can engage with, but really the question to ask here, is this creator or brand the right fit for my audience or topic? There has to be inherent overlap between the two and make sure you always do two videos, one for your channel and one for their channel, so you can do audience transfer essentially. 

It's a great way to increase your YouTube audience because of the fact that even though YouTube has an extremely large audience, it's over 1.7 billion, it's also a bit of a microcosm. If you're starting out at YouTube new, it really does help to collaborate with existing YouTube creators and brands to really tap into their audience. 

Use these 10 Commandments as a way to filter down your ideas. These 10 Commandments don't exist in the sense that every single idea that you come up with has to adhere to all of them because that's really hard to do. Just use these as a guideline to make sure that they pass at least a couple of these for you to put them in the Hero-Hub-Help buckets. 

That is the presentation side of things. I'm going to stop sharing my screen so that we can go into the practical side of the discussion with Nikki. Hopefully, I didn't talk too fast, Bengü. I don't know if that was okay. I tend to talk very fast.

Bengü: I am a fast talker as well, so I did enjoy your pay and I really enjoyed your presentation, so did I think everybody. From what I can see from the live chat and the feedback, everybody else really enjoyed it as well. Thank you so much. We can switch onto some of the questions and potentially also switch onto discussing a little bit of the success of The Body Coach TV.

Yalin: Sounds good. Thank you, Bengü. Like Nikki said earlier, when I was working at YouTube, Nikki and I were working together to make sure that The Body Coach was launching a YouTube channel. I've really watched them grow and expand, and really do this in a masterful way. This is why I thought Nikki is the best place for this penal. 

Most recently, for those of you who are in the UK or actually globally, if you did PE with Joe during the pandemic, you will know the amazing things that these guys have done. They did 78 workouts, 80 million views across all of these, and they've raised 580,000 pounds for the NHS charities. 

I think it deserves a round of applause. You guys have done an amazing job. Talk about building a community. 

The Body Coach: A Case Study in YouTube Success

Bengü: Thank you so much. Exactly as Yalin said, it was, I think, phenomenal. Especially the timing was so appropriate that it uplifted everybody's mood and as a nation, I guess. With that Yalin, there are a few questions specifically for your session.

I think it's time for us to potentially understand a little bit of the background magic of The Body Coach TV. Maybe Yalin, I'll leave it up to you to ask some questions to Nikki. I have one question for him, but I'm going to keep it until the end.

Yalin: Okay. Maybe we start at the beginning, Nikki.  When I tried to get in touch with you guys and I was like, "You need to have a YouTube channel." What really motivated you to start the YouTube channel and continue to build on it, despite everything else that you guys have been doing? And you've been very busy with lots of other initiatives.

Nikki: I think it was four or five years ago when we really started to think about new ways to engage people with fitness and food. The thing that we found was we had found real success with Instagram. And I would always say that's where The Body Coach brand was born, on Instagram with very short snappy, 15-second video recipes that obviously went on to launch the Lean in 15 brand and became successful with the books and everything else. 

But the thing that we found was that there was nowhere really for longer-form video to live that was doing the job that we needed it to. We tried with Facebook and different platforms, but really it was... I think originally we were looking for somewhere for longer-form video to live, and that's where it started, I would say.

Yalin: Yeah. And what was the intention behind focusing more on fitness on the YouTube side?

Nikki: This came with a bit of experimenting really. I always say that The Body Coach brand is 50/50 food and fitness. We have experimented a lot over the years to get to where we are now. We tried things that have failed and we've tried other things that have been really successful. But what we found was that YouTube for us really, it became a home for fitness because food was doing so well on Instagram and Facebook.

And we just realized that the appetite for the fitness content was just outperforming the food stuff. It was really a case of trying stuff in the early days, seeing what worked and really just finding that fitness became such... It was performing much better on YouTube.

Yalin: Yeah. Yeah. And I remember when we were talking about this too, we felt, and this is good advice for anyone with multiple social media channels, which pretty much every brand has. Make sure that all of your destinations have unique content. I would never recommend that you post the same thing on multiple places because it disincentivizes people to follow you on those different destinations. 

Why Consistency is so Important for YouTube Success

I would argue that YouTube is the place where consistency matters the most out of all of our channels, social channels, because consistency has been really key on YouTube, but also patience. But we always said, "If one person does one of our workouts, then it was worth filming that piece of content and putting it out." And we've always stayed true to that. We're very fortunate our channel has grown from when we started and we met.

Bengü: That's great. Can I just jump in? I think it's like there's a consistent kind of a question coming from the audience and it just ties in really well to what you've said, that you've started, that it takes a longer time. YouTube is like a place where you need to commit and you need to have that consistency, and you just don't give up. It's like really starting a startup really.

When it comes to like if you're a no-name or if you're just starting really from scratch, and if you don't necessarily have the biggest budgets on the planet, then how do you see this working? Or where would you recommend starting? What would be the strategy to start? Or are there any hacks or tips that you could share? 

Nikki: I think Yalin's points do apply to everyone. I think consistency with YouTube is key. I think it'd be very easy to start making videos, put them out, and get disheartened by not getting many views or certainly organically if you're not spending any money, which as a business we've never spent any money on YouTube.

But I think patience and consistency really do nurture growth on YouTube. It's not something that can happen overnight. I do think that some of these commandments and some of these things Yalin has shared today can be applied to any small brand and actually in any sector. 

I always think Gary Vaynerchuk is a good example of this. He started making videos on YouTube about wine, tasting wine many years ago. And he talks about this a lot that nobody was watching these videos, about 20, 30 views. He's now a huge name in the marketing world. But when he started, he just was relentless, just kept on turning up, kept on making those videos. 

Yalin: I completely agree. I think the production side of things is daunting, but like I mentioned, you don't really need that much equipment. The production side of it is actually the least. The thing that should worry you the most for a small and medium-size business, I think the content and what you're going to actually record is key to having a successful YouTube presence. Then as Nikki said, continuing to do it.

YouTube is a long game. It's not a short game, it's not meant for instant satisfaction, unlike some of the other social media places. And I would actually argue that YouTube is not a social media platform, it's a video platform, first and foremost. It's an entertainment destination that people come and watch more than an hour a day if you can believe that. That's why we say content is king and you're up against more than 450 hours of content uploaded every minute.

Nikki: Just to add to that because I know we touched on that budget. We still produce our YouTube content on basically zero budget. We have one camera, a tripod and a light, and all of our content is still filmed and shot in real-time, so we keep our editing cost down. I know this applies for all forms of content, but you can produce content on a small budget.

And in fact, some of the higher produced content that we've experimented with over time has actually not performed as well. Yeah, to think that you need a lot of equipment and a big budget to make good content is a real dangerous place to be because it isn't the case at all.

Bengü: I think it also goes back to what you're saying is going back to the authenticity of the platform. It really favors real content that comes really raw and not necessarily super shiny and big production budget, because it's real and people could relate to it. 

What Content to Focus on for a New YouTube Channel

Going back to hub, hero and help videos as a starting point, Yalin, do you think that there should be a strategy when you're starting your first YouTube channel, you need to focus on X, Y and Z content? Or is it just a combination of all these three things?

Yalin: When you're first starting out, I wouldn't worry about the hero at all unless you have a brilliant idea that you can tack on. As a new channel, it's really hard to create a hero moment. If I were you, as a new channel, you're really trying to get discovered, I would really focus on help.

But having said that, for certain sectors, hub and help are intertwined, and I'll give you an example. If you're a beauty brand, the content that you will make, your hub content will likely be your help content. 

Because most likely you're going to be doing how-tos, like how to do certain types of makeup as a beauty brand. And that will be a help content just by definition of the fact that it's discoverable, it's search friendly, but it's also your hub content. That's what people expect from you. 

Don't think of these as very rigid buckets, but I would definitely focus more on as a starter is how can I get discovered, so being fully optimized in your titles, in your tags, in how you package your content. Because the titles, the tags, the custom thumbnails, they're the packaging of your "product", which is your content. They all need to be really targeted and hopefully targeting search keywords.

You can use Google Trends to look at what keywords are trending and what are people searching for. But that's what I would recommend you start with. Then I'll pass it over to Nikki.

Nikki: We didn't start to think about hero content for quite a while in our journey in the kind of way Yalin's described today. But one thing that struck me whilst looking at that model is I think you can also have hero content that doesn't necessarily live on YouTube, but can help you grow your YouTube. One of the things we've done, I think quite successfully is leverage our other channels that may have been bigger.

Whether it's an email mailing list or a Facebook page to drive traffic to our YouTube channel and to grow our YouTube presence. Even now, I think something like 11% of our YouTube views are Facebook referrals. I would say to really if you're starting YouTube but you have other platforms that you may be slightly bigger on, use those to help people discover YouTube content.

Yalin: That's a great tip. It's what every creator does, it's what every public figure does. It's a great way to use stories and other platforms, or even mini video posts and then link to YouTube to promote.

Bengü: That's a great tip as well. Definitely I agree. And also, if I may add one last tip, I think, again, it's going back to what you've suggested, Nikki. One of the best ways that I've seen in terms of growing is collaboration. You don't have to collaborate with a channel that has millions or hundreds of thousands of subscribers. You could start small and that's going to add up. I'm not sure if you would back me up on this one. 

Closing Tips on YouTube Success

With that, I just want to ask you where the audience could potentially find you after this chat. If you could tell us where they could find you and maybe your last tips, just a one-sentence tip.

Yalin: If there's any way I can help, you can tweet me @filmique. I think the team will be posting that in the live comments. You can reach out on Twitter. I just see it there, perfect. Or you can find me on LinkedIn under Yalin.

My last advice would be, even though I showed you guys lots of different models and approaches, like I said, don't think of these as rigid ways to approach your content. At the end of the day, everything that I've shared with you is things that we've learned from creators and brands on YouTube. We didn't write this book. The beauty of user-generated content platforms is the users generate the content and we learn from them.

Please surprise me, surprise us. Let us add another commandment, let us add another bucket of content, I don't know. I think there's a lot more creativity than what I've shared, but we just wanted to provide some sort of a framework so that it's not so daunting.

Nikki: But my key tips, I think I've touched on them, but I would say, experiment when you're starting out. Don't be scared to try things and you'll learn very quickly about what's working and what's not. When you start to see some positive engagement, then move more towards that. The numbers will tell you what the audience is, and the algorithm, and everything else is responding to.

Cross-pollinate your content, cross-promote it, but I think the main thing is be patient and consistent because it took us five years to get to 800,000 subscribers, and that was every week, posting a video every single week and it takes time. But there's a huge reward at the end of it. I think if you can get past those initial stages, YouTube is a fantastic platform I think for all businesses.

Bengü: Thank you so much. It has been an absolute pleasure having both of you and they're amazing tips. As you said, it's a long journey. I've been working in and out of YouTube for more than 10 years and I'm still learning. That's what keeps me having fun and going on. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed this chat and I'm sure everybody else did as well. 

Yalin: Perfect. Thanks for having us, Bengü.

Nikki: Thank you. Thanks for having us. Yeah. Enjoy the rest of the seminar.

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