How to Utilize Your YouTube Channel for Growth

Whether you’re working at a big organization, a small nonprofit, a church, or maybe even a one-person business, the principles we’ll unpack today will help you utilize your YouTube channel for growth.

We’ll look at utilizing growth in your reach to your desired audience, growth in engagement of your current audience, and ultimately, growth for your audience to take your desired actions or conversions.

Before we jump in, have you stopped to ask what YouTube really is?

YouTube is commonly seen as a video platform, but it’s actually more than that… it’s a search engine. A big one at that!

Over a billion hours of YouTube video are watched daily. And there are 2.6 billion registered users on YouTube each month. By the time you’re reading this number, this number has likely increased. This means it’s the second most used search engine in the world behind Google.

Originally a platform for high-quality, long-form videos (also known as vlogging), YouTube is continuing to evolve.

In 2020, many churches pivoted to broadcast their weekly services and events online, causing a surge in YouTube use. Many people also use YouTube as a streaming service for consuming music.

Now with the rise of podcasting, short form content, livestreams and so much more, the question being asked has changed from “Should I be on YouTube?” to “How do I stand out on YouTube?”

The bottom line is that your audience is likely already on YouTube. And that creates an opportunity for you to reach them right where they are.

Step One: Optimize Your YouTube Channel

Think of your YouTube channel as a miniature website or landing page. The user experience here should tell the user everything they need to know to point them to the desired action, which is usually first to watch your content.

To optimize your channel, make sure you’re checking off the following things:

  1. Consistent branding
    1. Make sure to include a profile image consistent with your other social media platforms.
    2. Does your channel have an optimized cover image that points people to other resources?
  2. Social and website links
    1. Include links to more channels where your audience can engage with your content in different forms.
  3. A channel trailer video
    1. This video can be your most recent or relevant video. Or you can go further, by creating a custom, personalized video welcoming users to your channel and sharing what they can expect to see.
    2. YouTube will allow you to select a video for new users and a separate one for returning users if you want to differentiate between the two.
  4. Curated playlists
    1. Creating playlists is the best way to organize your content in a consumable way for the users navigating your channel. The more content you put on your channel, the more important it is to help people find what they’re looking for.

Step Two: Optimize Your Individual Videos

Once you have an optimized profile for people to navigate, you then want to focus on your content.

But rather than talk about which content you should post, I want to point you to the methods to help people find your content.

You can have the best content ever, but if you aren’t playing into YouTube’s algorithm and structure, you’ll have a difficult time acquiring an audience.

So here are some things to keep in mind to optimize your videos…

  1. Create custom thumbnails
    1. YouTube reported that 90% of the best performing videos had custom thumbnails. This is your chance to tease your content in a visual way. Just as the subject line of an email can hook a reader, your thumbnail can help people make the decision to click to watch your video.
  2. Title your videos
    1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) matters on YouTube, just as it does for Google. As we identified earlier, people use YouTube as a search engine. Are you titling your videos to help people find what they’re looking for?
  3. Descriptions and Tags
    1. Think of your descriptions as a place to summarize what people can expect to find in your video. YouTube will index this along with your videos’ “tags” which are essentially keywords that help people find your videos. Utilize your description as a place to point people to other social channels, your website, and desired outcomes from the video content (shopping, donating, following, etc.).

The truth is most videos on YouTube are not optimized for SEO.

Just by thinking through these three quick steps above, you can increase the chances of people finding your content. But be careful that you don’t overdo it. Avoid things like:

  • Over tagging (you shouldn’t have more than 15 tags on your video!)
  • Misleading titles or “bait and switch” tactics
  • Harassment, hate speech, sexual content, and vulgar language

YouTube will flag you for these things and worse, could shut down your page. So, as you’re developing your content, make sure your titles, descriptions, and thumbnails are not misleading and actually deliver on the topics you’re claiming to be sharing.

Step Three: Maximize Watch Time by Perfecting Your Story Arc

Lastly, but most importantly, YouTube prioritizes watch time.

Have you ever started a video on YouTube only to look up and realize you’ve been watching videos for hours?

Just like TikTok and Netflix, YouTube wants people to stay on their platform and continue consuming content. That’s why they recommend content that you’re likely to watch—usually videos similar to what you’ve watched in the past or videos that have had great engagement from other people.

For you as a channel owner, the takeaway is that the more people watch your videos, the more likely the YouTube algorithm is to show your videos to others—growing your audience.

So how can you give your videos the best chance of engaging more viewers?

Well, when you create content, make sure to create something with an emerging story arc, rather than a traditional story arc.

Story Telling 2


As you can see in the diagram above, the traditional story arc starts slow, builds to the climax midway through, and dies back down.

With YouTube, you’ll need to focus on grabbing people’s attention right off the bat—teasing the felt need of why someone should continue watching your video.

As you do this, you’ll help increase your watch time, which will lead to more views and a greater likelihood of being recommended to a new audience.

So there you have it!

You can grow your YouTube channel by following these three steps:

  1. Optimize your channel.
  2. Title, tag, and describe your content with Search Engine Optimization in mind,
  3. Create content with a compelling story arc for a longer watch time.

And remember…

YouTube is constantly changing and adding new features. Some of these will change the way YouTube works while others may not make it.

It’s important to test these features and stay up to date with what YouTube offers.

But, at the end of the day, if your foundations are strong, your content has the best chance of being found. And from this strong foundation, you’ll have more freedom to test and grow when new things come along.

+ More Insights from Dunham+Company: “The Social Network Statistics

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.