How to grow a YouTube channel for business with Devin Pickell
In this episode, Devin Pickell from Nextiva will share his secrets to running a successful B2B YouTube channel.
Here's what you'll learn
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Hello, Devin, and welcome to the show.
Hey, Anna. Great to be here.
It’s so awesome to have you. This time, we have a really, really interesting and very, very relevant topic, which is YouTube optimization, YouTube Analytics, creating videos in YouTube. And I originally encountered Devin on Twitter, and I think it was a colleague of yours or a friend of yours, who shared that you had massive success with Nextiva’s YouTube channel. So, my first question to you would be, why did Nextiva decide to choose YouTube as a marketing channel? How does YouTube fit into the marketing strategy?
Sure. So, I’ll start out by saying, I’m maybe a bit biased, but I like to believe that Nextiva is really the leader in voice over IP, business communications, unified communications. So, this is all jargon for … Basically, the podcast we’re having right now is like a virtual voice session, which is the technology that Nextiva is in. So, I really like to believe we’re a leader in that when it comes to creating high-performing content, high-quality content, particularly when it comes to written content.
However, as like most B2B brands still suffer from today is a huge gap in video marketing and YouTube. A lot of the videos you’re going to see from B2B brands are really stale, really dry, a lot of product demos that are 30, 40 minutes long. A lot of 15-second commercial spots, customer case studies, product content, like new features and stuff. And Nextiva, we had fallen into a pitfall to that, just like many other YouTube brands. You start your YouTube channel, you have a bunch of this video content you’re excited to throw up, but you realize it’s not getting any traction.
You quickly realize that YouTube is an educational platform. People go there to learn something new or they need a question answered, or they want to discover something and pique their curiosity. They don’t want to exactly go there to find out what’s the latest Nextiva customer case study. They really want content that by the end of the video, they’re going to get something out of it, what we call evergreen content, that has lasting power. Yeah, Nextiva’s channel had a bit of an audience when I first started on it, last August 2020. So, knowing we had that video marketing gap, my manager Gaetano came to me and said, “Being in growth, let’s see what we can do with this.”
I had never worked on YouTube before that. Maybe growing up, I had a video here or there, using my webcam, but I never had the experience with YouTube. So, this was definitely new and exciting to me, and being in growth marketing, I always like a new challenge. So yeah, we had that audience on YouTube. So far, a couple of thousand followers, we started out with and it was pretty much my sandbox to play with.
Awesome. And I do definitely agree with you that many, many B2B brands have quite stale and dry videos on their channels. So, I’m super excited to hear how you managed to grow it. And actually, I didn’t know that you’ve never done YouTube before. So, now I’m especially curious to hear how you managed to achieve this fantastic growth. So, my next question to you would be, what strategy or tactics did you use to improve the performance? And maybe, you could elaborate a bit on how the channel looked like, what kind of videos were there, and then what did you start doing to improve the performance?
Yeah. So, in August, I know the exact date, August 4th, because I’m always looking at the growth charts. When I first took over the channel, I immediately looked at the charts. The channel had been around, I want to say since 2012 or something, 2013, pretty much in the early YouTube days. Far before I had ever joined Nextiva. But growth was pretty stagnant. We’d pretty much flat-lined for subscribers, for reviews outside of what we were doing in paid ads. I noticed in the project management software we were using, it was like a legacy task from 2018. There were many, many layers of colleagues that had tried to come up with video ideas, work with the video team, work through that production process, and never really got off the ground. It always hits a roadblock somewhere. And then, it was a thing where, “All right, let’s revisit this at a later time.”
I came in and took over the channel. Our video team is crazy talented. I’ll just give them a shout-out now, Tom, Tony, and Dan. Those are our editors, producers, and animators. Crazy talented guys. They just needed some direction and ideas on what to produce. They needed that vision for the YouTube channel and where we were headed. So, organic growth of the channel would allow us to be less reliant on the paid advertising side of YouTube, to reach a point where we could supplement that with just organic views and organic growth.
How I approached that, some of the strategies immediately, coming from a content marketing background, I knew we were going to need to do some keyword research. So, I used the keyword research tool that gave us rough estimates on what the search volume is for specific keywords on YouTube to maximize our organic views on YouTube, because it is a search engine at the end of the day. When you think of it, similar to how you would create content for Google and view it in the eyes of a search engine, things start to click.
So, I would say, start off with some really good keyword research, get your ideas out on there. Another strategy to supplement that. So, I went to Google Analytics. I’m like, “All right, what are the top 15, 20 blogs right now, in terms of traffic and engagement?” And those were obviously working for a reason, they’re ranking number one, getting tons of traffic. What was the reason? The reason was almost always, really great, long-form content, images. So be it. And we know that we could take that, basically repackage it in a video and it was going to perform well. So, if you’re at a loss on like, “How do I even begin creating content for our B2B YouTube channel?” Check out some of the blogs, see what’s performing really well, and you could use that as your test case.
Another tactic I used, just like Google, just like any search engine, you can’t rely on solely building growth on one channel. Just like Google has algorithm updates constantly that can affect your rankings, so does YouTube. New videos are being created every day. Fortunately, we’re in the VoIP space, where a lot of the content already there is really dry. So, there was an opportunity for us to create more modern content. If you go on our YouTube channel, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
Another strategy I had was, I mentioned earlier, seeing which blogs were already getting a good amount of traffic, but if you want to drill down even deeper on that, see those keywords, those blogs are ranking for, go and Google and see what’s returning a video snippet. We know Google has so many different types of SERP features nowadays, Knowledge Panel, Featured Snippet. Go and see, all right, so there’s videos that Google is returning from YouTube on this specific keyword, that alone tells you right there, not only am I going to get traction on YouTube from this, I’m also going to get some traction on Google, which I’ll talk about a little later in terms of referral views from people clicking through.
And I would say, probably one of the most important tactics for improving performance is to stick to a regular posting schedule. So, me and my colleague, Joe, did a ton of research, before even doing the keyword research and ideating on topics, on what YouTube prefers, because while it is a Google product, it’s a search engine, they have their differences. When it comes to video, stick to a regular posting schedule. So, right now, we have one video every Monday. That’s been going on for months and months now. We’ve been filming them, producing them, post edits, and SEO. And we have videos, I think, coming out, at the time of this podcast that are going to be going out through late July. So, stick to a regular posting schedule. YouTube likes consistency from its creators. Don’t do a video dump, all right, we’re going to throw 15 videos on, on this day and now we’re screwed for the next two months. And now, we’ve got to get back to filming. Yeah, stick to consistency.
Right. I think these were super amazing tips. And I do really agree that you should focus on the keyword research itself. This is something we do a lot for our content as well. And it’s great that you can pretty much use the same tactics and strategies you are using in your content these days. And you mentioned that there was a SERP snippet for Google. And I think Google has really gone far with indexing and providing tools for YouTube video optimization. So, could you please elaborate more on that? So, what was your process for YouTube SEO and what should marketers pay attention to during this process? And maybe you could provide a few examples, which kind of things worked with a particular video tag?
Sure. So, I can get more into the nitty-gritty of the YouTube SEO process and what are some things marketers should pay attention to. On the topic of keywords, I would say first and foremost, you need to fit your target keyword in the title, but really don’t be bored with it. Like, what is that? What is this? How does that work? You can include that, but I would try to spin it in a way, toward the end text. I wish I had a good example off the top of my head. I should probably go to the YouTube channel. But the idea is that YouTube looks at click-through rates. They look at click-through data when it comes to their rankings. So, you’re going to need to entice users to actually click on the video.
If your title looks the exact same as every other title, if people are clicking through, you’ll be fine, but you’re going to need to entice those clicks. So, another way to do this, fortunately with YouTube, their version of a featured image is the thumbnail image. So, I’m sure it doesn’t matter what type of YouTube creators we follow, if you see a really clickbait thumbnail image, that’ll entice someone to click through. So, I mentioned in the VoIP space, a lot of dry content. One way we were able to separate our brand from other brands is we had good previews and thumbnail images, really high quality, well-produced. You could tell, once you clicked on it, you were going to get a high-quality video. It’s not some guy using Zoom for a video recording, giving you 30 minutes of content. You knew it was going to be a high-quality video.
I would also say, focus on writing a thorough description. Again, relating it back to blog content. We try to keep meta descriptions pretty short in terms of the blog. I would say, don’t go that route for YouTube, based on my research and what’s worked for us. Expand on it, use at least 200 words in your description, make sure it’s keyword-rich, but provide that context to the viewer. Don’t just rely on the video to give them all the info they need. Explain, do a two to 300-word explainer of what they should expect to see in the video. People are going to click on the descriptions. They might not even be looking at the video, maybe just listening to audio while they click-through the description and read some of that content.
I do it. I know our viewers do it. And just a tip on that, include some links in your description as well. So, we are always linking our pricing page, if someone’s interested to learn more about our plans and our packages. We also link free tools or resources we’ve developed, that we may hit in the video. For example, we have a speed test. So, if you’re using a VoIP product, but you want to see if your internet speed is good enough, we’ll have Tony or Tom, the faces of our videos, hint, “Hey, if you want to get your network speed, click the description below, take your speed test.” So, fill it with links, don’t spam it, but people will click-through. Our data shows us that we’re getting thousands of click-throughs just from YouTube.
A little more technical, but not as time-consuming as utilizing video tags. These, I just keep as my target keywords. So, we just released a video on customer service automation. So, I know that long-tail keywords have volume. I know automated customer service or a bit of a mix-up, but the same idea. I would use those as your tags, but I would cap it at five. Don’t start spamming it and get too crazy with it. On the topic of video SERPs on Google, I’m sure there’s a case where you’ve typed in just a keyword and you’ll scroll down a bit and you’ll see, all right, there are three videos Google is displaying for this SERP. And then, they’re pulling them directly from YouTube.
In some cases, and I could actually share with you after the podcast because it’s like some visually you’d have to see, it’ll give you what they call key moments. So, these are timestamps within the video. You could actually manually enter those timestamps in the description, which I highly recommend doing. That’s just another way to get a rich result on Google and it just doesn’t hurt. It’s good for the user experience. Someone who doesn’t want to watch a full video, that you give them the timestamps upfront, they know exactly where to click, what to watch.
Finally, I would say, embed. Embed your videos on blogs, on landing pages, wherever it makes sense. They need to live somewhere outside of Google. You’re just going to maximize the number of external views, referral views you can get. Don’t just rely on YouTube for your traffic. I’m a big proponent of not relying on search engines alone because they are so volatile. So, if they can live somewhere on your website, that’s a sure-fire way that you’re going to get at least some referral traffic from that.
All right. These were super, super solid tips. So, thank you so much for sharing. And now, let’s talk about reporting a little bit, because you mentioned that you wouldn’t rely on search engines, solely. You would actually embed these videos on the blogs, which is something I’m super curious about because that brings us to the question of, okay, I have the video metrics and now that I embed these videos, I also have blog views and maybe website hits, and lots of other metrics.
So, how would you analyze all this data and how would you track which leading indicators contribute to your channel performance? And ultimately, how would you measure conversions? Because I would imagine that again, once you have so many YouTube videos, you would want people to click on your website and then ultimately, make a purchase. So, how would you approach analyzing this data and what are the key metrics to pay attention to here?
Sure. That’s probably the one part of my YouTube journey that I could get better at, is the reporting aspect. But I do use YouTube… They have an advanced analytics dashboard, that’s native to the platform. You can get some pretty thorough insights. Although, I know there are other third-party tools out there for measuring performance that is probably just as good, if not better, for giving you insights.
I look at video engagement. So, one nice thing that YouTube Analytics does, it’ll give you benchmarks compared to your normal standard video views, subscriber rates. And each video is measured based on those benchmarks. So, that alone, you could see immediately what’s working, what’s not. They have AI that would even suggest what are some things you could do to improve the video, although they’re not the most helpful suggestions. But yeah, I look at a video engagement. So, each video will tell you, it’ll give you a nice little graph, telling you where 50% of the viewers start to fall off or 80% of the viewers start to fall off.
And that’s why, particularly for us, short-form content worked really well because of this data that we saw. We had some longer videos early on that we saw by the end of the video, almost no one was looking at it anymore. And we were able to tweak and based on the data for creating future videos, we go within that two to four-minute mark, and we almost always have a good amount of people. I would say, 20 to 30% of the viewers stay all the way to the end, which based on our benchmarks is pretty dang good. But yeah, I would say use that. You’ll get that data within YouTube’s dashboards of fall-off rates.
Other KPIs I look at like I mentioned, are external views from videos embedded on the Nextiva site. So, you’ll get that reported on YouTube as well. We have a technical data analyst who, admittedly it’s outside my knowledge gap, but he has set up event tracking, which you can through Google Analytics, to see, for example, if a video is embedded on one of your landing pages, there’s a snippet code where you can measure, someone has clicked on the video. And the next step, did they start a live chat? Did they fill out a demo form? So, that is, admittedly, Andrew, shout-out to you, man, I don’t know how you do it, but there is a way to do that through Google Analytics, thankfully.
I look at YouTube videos, our YouTube views. So, these are basically organic views. This is a good indicator of organic performance on YouTube. And they’ll even give you where your video is ranked in terms of a specific keyword, very similar to Google Search Console almost. In the backend of the YouTube dashboard, you can also see views coming from Google Video search results. That would be, like I had mentioned earlier, like the Video SERP on Google, but also the video section. So, the video tab, right next to the images tab. People surprisingly … I never really click on that tab, but people do click on it and they’ll click-through and then watch videos from there. So, there’s that section.
Subscriber growth rate, which is very important. This is how you prove that stuff is working. Outside of just views, you could see how many of these views are converting just a normal viewer into a subscriber. How many of our subscribers are actually watching our videos once they are published? Do they have notifications turned on? These are all good indicators to use in future videos. You see a lot of really high-quality creators right off the bat, tell you, “Hey, if you want more content like this, click the bell, subscribe. You’ll be the first to know when I post my new videos.”
So, we see subscriber growth rate and we’re also able to see which videos capture the most subscribers. And this allows us, one, it gives us an idea of, all right, these keywords have good volume and how can we expand on this? Where else can we embed these videos? Because we know people enjoy videos like this. So, those are just some of the metrics that I look at on YouTube.
Great. Thank you so much for such a deep dive. I took notes and this was super, super useful. So, thanks a lot for that. And now that we’ve covered the analytics part, but there are so many things to pay attention to and so many factors to consider when marketers are creating videos and optimizing them. So, what would you say are the typical mistakes marketers should avoid when it comes to YouTube content production, SEO, and analytics, maybe some of your learnings or something you’ve noticed others did?
Yeah. I would say, it starts from the production process really. I mentioned earlier, don’t be the brand that goes on YouTube and thinking you can throw up your brand videos, “Oh, we are the greatest brand ever. We just ranked number one on G2 or Capterra.” Those videos are great for brand and plastering them on your website, but these aren’t videos built for YouTube. Don’t throw up your 40-minute product demo video on there. If you’re going to run ads, keep them as ads, but you don’t need to post those 10 to 15-second videos, they’re not going to get organic views, and if they do, you’re not going to get subscribers from them. People, frankly, don’t care about that content on YouTube.
It’s good for the brand and it’s good to sprinkle those videos in, but you sprinkle them in with your evergreen content. So, I would say, if you’re a marketer looking to get into the B2B YouTube, come with an evergreen mindset. What videos are going to have lasting power? What videos are going to get to a point where I don’t even have to worry about them garnering views and subscribers? And that’s all top of the funnel, evergreen content, it’s informative content, educational, people want something out of it by the end of the video. Videos that entice comments, and you get to engage with your viewers and spark those discussions. And that’s not going to take place on your heavy brand videos.
I would say, in terms of honing in on the production process, so like I mentioned earlier, this starts with really great keyword research. And it starts from analyzing not just Google Video SERPs, but also, YouTube Video SERPs. Watch a couple of videos. If you have an idea of, “I want to create a video of this type,” I would watch what’s ranking right now. What are the first top-five videos? What kind of content do they have? You want to replicate that success, but also find ways to innovate on it. And you want to make sure that you’re watching videos and understand what YouTube is prioritizing, and you don’t want to deviate too far from that. That’ll give you a good idea.
Keep everything organized. We use project management software. So I would say, definitely use that from start to finish in terms of ideation, writing a solid script, producing the video, editing, video animations, image thumbnails. Make sub-tasks for those and make sure … Because this is how you create a process. This is how it goes from just a one-off idea to an actual strategy that you could replicate over and over again. There are also technical requirements. So, the old days of YouTube standard definition videos were fine, but nowadays there’s no excuse to be posting, like I said, Zoom conference videos up on YouTube. Get a camera that can film in 1080P resolution. Get a high-quality microphone.
If you’re creating videos as we have with Tony and Tom, where it’s like a third-person, someone’s speaking to the camera, get a nice, high-quality shirt mic. If you can’t do that, there’s a ton of high-quality microphones on the market right now that are inexpensive. I’m sure your company will hook you up with them. A lighting device. Everyone’s got a ring light nowadays, from the remote work revolution. So, it’s just another nice touch for enhancing the visual quality of your videos. If you can, use a green screen or a non-gloss background.
I also know, just from talking with our video team, that this helps in the animation and editing phase if they need to add some coloring in here or there, or whatever they need to do on the more technical side. Make sure you got the right equipment. Don’t rush into this. If you want it done right, take your time. And that really, I would say, the equipment is equally as important as the SEO side and the post-production side.
Great. This is fantastic and I do agree that the right equipment is super, super important. And I think a quality video really tells a story about your brand and emphasizes that the brand is also of high quality. Now, Devin, if the audience would love to learn more about you, where can they find you?
So, I would say I’m mostly active on Twitter. I was tweeting just before the podcast. You’ll see all of my marketing insights, a bit of my personality on Twitter. That’s @DevinPickell, it’s all one word. So, D-E-V-I-N-P-I-C-K-E-L-L. That’s the best way to interact with me. Let’s follow each other, and I’m happy to share more YouTube insights on Twitter.
Awesome, Devin, thank you so much for the great tips, and thank you for coming on the show today.
Yeah, it was my pleasure. This was really fun.
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