Elle & Company

7 Key Components of a Successful YouTube Video

Jenn CoyleLauren Hooker6 Comments

Videos are a great way to diversify your content on your blog. Plus, your readers will love getting to know you through another medium other than just reading what you write!

The other important thing about video is it can help drive traffic to your blog. Did you know YouTube is the second biggest search engine to Google? People want video content not only for entertainment, but also for education and how-to’s.

Remember my case study about my viral post? The post in question is a step-by-step guide on how to digitize your hand lettering using Image Trace in Illustrator. I’ve learned so much from experiencing the awesome results from that post, including the power of Pinterest, good SEO, and writing a helpful tutorial in general.

What continues to intrigue me most is the success of the post’s corresponding YouTube tutorial video, which I uploaded in March, one month after I published the blog post. Back when I wrote the viral post case study for Elle & Company, the YouTube tutorial video had about 50,000 views. That was at the end of September, just a little less than one month ago at this point. Now, the video is up to 71,500 views. I’ve never experienced this much success on YouTube, even when I ran a beauty vlogging channel and uploaded videos regularly!

7 Key Components of a Successful YouTube Video - The Elle & Company Collaborative

The thing that’s even cooler? I published this video on March 9, 2015. According to my YouTube Analytics, I had exactly 0 subscribers to my YouTube channel then. ZERO. Now I have a whopping 1,818 YouTube subscribers, and it appears as if I’ve gained as much as 26 YouTube subscribers in one day.

Here’s the chart from analytics, showing the number of subscribers I’ve gained each day. Even on the slower days, I still continue to gain at least 3 or 4 subscribers per day since the video picked up viewing pace in April.

In fact, the video grabbed the attention of YouTube! Imagine my surprise when they contacted me and asked me to hop on a call with them. They were so helpful—they went over my video and talked about what I was doing right, how my video got to be so popular, what I could do to improve, and how I could further grow my YouTube channel activity and audience.

Granted, I’m not doing everything right when it comes to YouTube videos. My success on YouTube might be exponentially larger if I’d continued to upload videos regularly since March. But after talking to YouTube content management staffers and figuring out what works well for videos, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to have a video be super successful on YouTube.

Here are 7 key components of a successful YouTube video!


1  |  Thinking About Content: Your Video Needs to be Helpful


Much like regular blog content, you’re going to find that you can gain a lot more attention if you’re looking to help others and answer your audience’s questions rather than just talk about yourself.

Think about the main purpose of your blog. Do your topics mainly help others? Great! Now, would your audience benefit from watching your content in addition to reading your post? There are a lot of how-to articles that lend themselves to being great candidates for YouTube videos.

One thing I’ll note—it’s important you plan your video to correspond with your blog post instead of replacing blog posts altogether. It can be quite jarring for your audience to get used to reading your great posts, then suddenly have the rug ripped out from under them and only have video content available. There are ways to get around this if you’re thinking you don’t want to do double work, but I can’t advise completely replacing your blog posts with videos.


2  |  Thinking About Duration: Your YouTube Video Needs to Be Short


YouTube watchers are looking for their answers right away. If someone searches for “How to digitize hand lettering in Illustrator” and sees one video that’s 15 minutes long, and then sees my video at 6 minutes long, they’re more likely to choose the shorter video. I’m sure you’ve clicked off a video that rambled or had a lot of dead air.

Even my -minute video only has a 45% average percentage viewed, which means most people clicked away at 2 minutes and 46 seconds. Shorter videos mean better audience retention. (You can find information about your audience retention for all of your videos or specific ones under YouTube Creator Studio > Analytics > Views Reports > Audience Retention.)

Even though these stats seem… well… bad, what’s even more interesting is what’s under the Relative audience retention tab:

So even though the video’s average view duration seems short, it’s still outperforming most other YouTube videos of a similar length.

The shorter your video, the better! I aim for most of my videos to be under 5 minutes long.


3  |  Production Quality: Have Good Lighting, Sound, and Quality


Good production quality in YouTube is important. Here are a few tips, but the most basic one is to shoot all of your video in landscape (pretty please).

Make sure you can see the subject (you or whatever you’re demonstrating) really well—this means good lighting will go a LONG way. If you’re able to film during the day, natural diffused sunlight is best. If your natural lighting source is a little fickle, it may be best to invest in photography or video lighting. I personally use the Diva Ring light (you can find them on Amazon, they run about $200). If you’re going to be shooting a lot of video and want to be taken seriously, invest the cash into good lighting equipment.

Video quality is easier to come by than it used to be; I’ve recorded all of my current YouTube videos on my iPhone 5S. Just make sure to use your rear-facing camera, as the quality is a lot higher than the front-facing camera. Don’t worry about not being able to see yourself; it can actually be quite weird if a YouTuber is clearly checking him or herself out in the viewfinder.

Sound quality is also important, and also made easier than it used to be thanks to good technology. When I record a talking head demonstration, like the intro of my Illustrator video, I just talk at a normal level at my iPhone. It’s usually close enough and picks up the sound quite well. Whenever I’m doing a demonstration or a screencast, I record myself using my iPhone headphones.

For all of these production equipment elements—use what works for you. If you’re just getting started with video, you’ll need to do some testing and see where you might need to invest in some better equipment, and where your existing equipment will work just fine.


4  |  Recording and Post-Production: Edit Out the Um’s and Uh’s


Talking by yourself for an extended period of time can be tough. You may find yourself pausing, saying um, ah, uh, like, ok, or you know a lot. Don’t get me wrong—you want to be yourself when you’re recording video—you just want to make sure you’re presenting your best speech patterns. Cut out the vocal tics and your audience will thank you (and will probably stick around to watch the rest of your video!).

The other thing? Mistakes happen. I can’t tell you the number of times I was recording a screencast tutorial and forgot where a menu item was in an application. Be prepared: this will happen. Don’t hesitate to do multiple takes.

When you’re done recording, edit together your best takes and edit out the blips.


5  |  Make Your Video Easy to Understand


Hey—not all of your video watchers are going to be native English speakers! Or, maybe you’re talking about a lot of complicated steps in a tutorial. Either way, it’s important to think about how you can visually make your video easier to follow along with.

If you’re presenting a list of ideas, it might help to add a bottom-third effect for each section’s subject (Marie Forleo’s team does a great job with this!). If you’re recording a screencast walking people through how to use a program, you might want to consider adding in visual cues for the keyboard shortcuts.

Again—your audience will thank you for making your video even more accessible.


6  |  Pick a Good Video Title


Like blog posts, YouTube videos need a good title. This isn’t the time to be mysterious: tell your potential viewers exactly what your video is about, and make it short and snappy!

The title of my viral video is “Digitize Your Hand Lettering Easily Using Image Trace in Illustrator” and it works for several reasons: not only am I telling you what the video will show you how to do (Digitize Your Hand Lettering), but I also include the name of the program (Illustrator) and the name of the tool within Illustrator (Image Trace). Finally, including “Easily” speaks to the true nature of the tutorial—and can attract potential viewers who are looking for a simple solution to their design problem.

In the sidebar of suggested videos that YouTube provides, some similar videos titles are:

  • How to Digitize Hand Lettering
  • How to Vectorize Hand Lettering
  • How to Use The Auto Trace in Adobe Illustrator
  • Image Trace in Illustrator CS6

You can see how the title of these popular and related videos are descriptive, but not fully so.

Choose a title that fully explains the subject and focus of the video. Then, add important keywords that highlight the features of what you’ll be discussing in the video. Not only will the extra words help YouTube browsers figure out what you talk about in the video (and what you don’t talk about in the video), but it will also help with your SEO within YouTube. In fact—and this is directly from YouTube—the video title is the most important factor for SEO!


7  |  Add Important Keywords


While we’re on the topic of SEO: keywords are also extremely important in terms of the ranking of your YouTube video in search results. Add your video’s keywords when you upload the video. This is a quick but important tip: the order of your keywords matters (again, this information is directly from YouTube). The most important keywords need to be added first. So, if you’re uploading a video on How to Take Pictures of Puppies Using Your iPhone—make sure to add “photography” as your first keyword, and not “puppies”.


8  |  Add A Great Description For Your Video (and Include a Transcript)


The description for your YouTube video is also crucial for SEO. Having a “naked” video with only a good title, good keywords, and a link back to your blog may do well enough. But if you take the time to add a thorough description to your video, this will help search engines crawl your video and rank it better in search results.

Take a look at my video description. Included, in order:

  • A quick summary of what the video covers
  • An invitation to read the full step-by-step tutorial on my blog
  • A link to subscribe to my channel
  • My bio
  • The title of the video again
  • The transcript, broken down by sentences and tagged with time markers
  • Another invitation to subscribe to my channel
  • A call to action to hang out on my blog and social media channels
  • Links to my blog, Twitter, Instagram, and email newsletter

The transcript is key! Remember when I talked about making your video accessible for non-native English speakers in tip 5? Not only will a transcript help those who speak a foreign language, but it will also help people who simply have a hard time understanding what you’re saying. And the best reason to include a transcript? People who are hearing impaired will be able to follow along with your video, too.

The cool thing about adding a transcript with time markers? YouTube will automatically make these time stamps (like 1:03) clickable for your viewers, so people can easily skip to a specific section of your video.

It can feel a little overwhelming to transcribe your video, but it’s worth it. Not only can you include your transcript in the YouTube description, you can also paste it in your blog under your embedded video. Hello, SEO!

YouTube recently changed the functionality for transcripts: they now make it quite easy to add subtitles and transcribe your video. After you upload your video, click over to the Subtitles and CC tab of the video manager, and start typing! There’s even an in-browser feature in YouTube that will pause the video while you’re typing. This is SO helpful. I recommend completing your transcript within YouTube first and then copying and pasting it into your blog post.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, it can help to combine your YouTube-generated transcript into more logical chunks of information when you’re including the transcript within your description as well, so people can easily see and click around to the different sections of your video. You can see how the transcript box within YouTube isn’t super reader-friendly:

Don’t get overwhelmed—no matter how you decide to include a transcript, it’s worth the work!


If you’re blogging, chances are you have important information to share over video. These tips will get you on your way to creating achievable and top-notch videos your viewers will appreciate.


About the Author


I'm Jenn Coyle, a Philadelphia-based designer and writer. INFJ. I live for funky-cute illustration styles and have a passion for typography. Follow my tutorials on HelloBrio.com about digital illustration, and learn more about how to personalize your blog photos with your own handwriting with my free course, PhotoLettering.