The YouTube Engagement Checklist to Explode Comments

Here’s what this article covers

1. Make videos for the audience not yourself

Create content people love, and they will engage. Knowing what people love can be difficult though. You might have ideas for topics you want to talk about, but you want to make sure the audience cares about hearing about these topics.

The easiest and quickest way to get an idea of what viewers want is to see what has worked well on similar channels.

Analyze your competitors’ channels to see the top videos with the most views. Then look at which of these top performing videos have the most comments. Sometimes a video with fewer views will have way more engagement in the form of comments and likes.

If you want to take things a step further…

It’s easy to make videos based on looking at historical data. It’s hard to make videos on a leap of faith when there’s no proof it’ll do well. Innovating with new videos could totally miss what your audience cares about, or it could be a home run.

Once you have a few videos with views and comments on them, you’ll be able to start your content idea flywheel by talking to people in the comments to get ideas for future videos.

People’s suggestions for videos won’t always be the most viral or most searched topics, but these videos could still perform well for engagement. If the video addresses a need, concern, or problem your audience has, chances are it will drive better engagement than a video that’s fun to watch but doesn’t solve people’s problems.

2. Use the first 15 seconds wisely

Should viewers keep watching or go do something else? Show them why they should keep watching in the first 15 seconds of the video. Skip the introduction and background story and save that for a little later in the video.

Use the first 15 seconds to really grab attention, make a bold statement, or raise a question that the rest of the video answers. The hook is what sets the tone for the rest of your video, so use these seconds intentionally.

3. Show the result upfront

This is ideal if the video is some kind of tutorial or progression. Whatever kind of progress or end result is at the end of the video, show some of that in the thumbnail. It will intrigue viewers, and it’ll give you a good click-through rate on the video.

If you’re building something, doing a transformation with before & after, or you’re making some kind of change in the video, showing a dramatic transformation will make people want to see how it actually happened.

4. Thumbnails that exaggerate but don’t lie

It’s okay to exaggerate the thumbnail for dramatic effect. That’s how you keep it interesting! But there’s a fine line between exaggeration and pure clickbait.

Don’t get me wrong, a little bit of clickbait won’t hurt if it makes your thumbnail interesting and shocking to get more clicks.

Thumbnail A-B

But the thumbnail still needs to be relevant to the video. It’s important to have some type of thumbnail checklist for videos you post. What you show in the thumbnail should actually appear in the video. Viewers are hyper-aware of clickbait.

If a video doesn’t meet expectations fast enough, they bounce. It’s important to make sure the thumbnail grabs attention without misleading what the video is about.

5. Create relevant, bingeable playlists

The goal on YouTube is not just creating great content. It’s to create content that consistently brings people back to your channel.

The YouTube rabbit hole of suggested traffic

Getting an audience hooked early on is easier if you have multiple videos for them to watch after the first. Make sure your videos connect to each other. Either in an ordered series or in an unordered playlist where someone watching one video will immediately be interested in the next.

Group videos together by topic and add them to a playlist. Your playlists should represent the core content “pillars” your channel is about. This will also create growth for your brand on YouTube by making it clear what your channel is about.

Think of these pillar playlists like a quick way of summarizing what your channel is about and what content topics your community should expect to see from you.

6. Post at the best time for your audience

When is the best time to post on YouTube? When most of your audience is active. YouTube will tell you when most of your viewers are online once you’ve uploaded several videos and gotten enough views for YouTube to have data.

How many views do you need to see these analytics? They don’t say…

Go into YouTube studio -> analytics -> audience and scroll down to see if you have a calendar of the week with a heatmap of times throughout the day. The brighter purple indicates more users are online.

When is the best time to upload on YouTube for your audience

This is an example from one of my channels. Tubebuddy’s extension recommends posting on Sundays at 4pm but I typically try to post earlier at around 9am or 10am.

7. Use calls to action that are relevant to the video

Strategic calls to action in videos will drive your engagement to its full potential.

Not all calls to action are of equal value, so be intentional about your different calls to action for specific videos. Sometimes getting a subscriber isn’t the best thing you can ask for. If you’re using YouTube for sales, you want people to buy from you not subscribe to you.

If you’re trying to build a community, you want people to visit your website, follow another social account of yours, or sign up for your newsletter.

Your CTA should depend on the specific video and specific persona you’re targeting. If you use multiple types of CTA’s, you’ll want to spread them throughout the video so you only ever ask for one thing at a time.

Even if you’ve built a strong audience that views you as a celebrity, don’t overestimate how many hoops they’ll jump through to transact with you. Attention span is short. Removing friction is a key to converting more of your YouTube audience.

8. Have structure in videos and tell people

A video with a clear narrative and easy-to-follow explanation will always be better than a rambling video with side-stories and a confusing structure. You want to be intentional in how your video is structured. That’s why it’s best to have at least a bulleted outline of your video before filming.

Here is a very generic outline for a video that could be 8, 10, 15 or 20 minutes long depending on how you do it:

Hook & introduction

  • Hook people with the first sentence
  • Follow with context to explain the hook
  • Give an agenda of your talking points + what you will cover
  • Introduce yourself and the video (quickly)

Main point #1

  • Add in a call to action if you want
  • Explanation & context
  • Example (if necessary)

Main point #2

  • Explanation & context
  • Example (if necessary)

Main point #3

  • Explanation & context
  • Example (if necessary)
  • Another call to action if the video is longer than 5 minutes (longer videos will allow you to sprinkle more calls to action)

Recap

  • Explain the connection between all your points
  • Final call to action
  • End and tell people what to watch next
  • Don’t say “thanks for watching” unless you want people to tune out the second they assume the video is over
YouTube calls to action that build community and audience

*Careful not to overdo it with calls to action. Especially if you’re using YouTube to convert sales you don’t want to come across as pushy or salesy. People have laser sharp BS detectors, so it’s best to prioritize being authentic over getting sales.

9. Use music when relevant

This is more of a personal preference, but be careful if you include music. People won’t notice if you don’t have background music, but they’ll notice if you have the wrong music. They’ll also notice if it’s too loud.

I typically include background in places on longer videos where I don’t want the audience to get bored of me. I typically try up-beat, electronic, and lo-fi music for typical explanation videos.

If you want more drama, emotion, or suspense, then you might want to choose a song that reflects this. Just make sure your music isn’t copyrighted if you care about monetization on YouTube.

How do you get good copyright-free music?

You can choose from YouTube’s free music library, or purchase a yearly subscription to Artlist.io if you want hundreds of songs you can filter by genre, style, length, and mood. I signed up for Artlist a year into making videos after deciding I was getting serious enough to have a more professional source for commercial-use music.

10. Ask questions mid-video to engage in comments

Some people will naturally comment their thoughts on a video. But way more people will comment when they’re given a reason to do so. Ask questions about people’s opinions, thoughts on the video, things they agree/disagree with, etc.

Asking questions is a pretty soft call to action compared to something stronger like asking for viewers to go make a purchase on your website. But asking for a comment is a natural way to integrate a CTA that increases engagement on your content.

You can make it fun for each video too. Asking people to vote on something or having a poll or survey makes it fun for people to comment, plus they’ll want to see what other people are saying in the comments too.

11. Tell people to give feedback

The best way to engage with people and build a meaningful relationship is by showing them you care about their opinions. Ask people to give you feedback on your videos and information. Then implement this feedback where you think it could help.

If you’re replying to all the comments on your videos, you’ll start to get a sense of what lands well and what doesn’t.

People will be very direct if they don’t like something about your video. If they think you should have done something differently, they’ll let you know. This is especially true when you ask for critiques and show that you’re open to improvement.

Your audience will see you being humble and this will build more trust, especially if you show them you used their ideas for future videos.

Pro tip: If your comment section has repeated questions, or the same feedback on what they want to hear about, use these comments for topics of future videos.

12. Pin your comment and reply to everyone

Be the first to comment on all your videos and pin the comment at the top. Engaging with everyone who comments on your videos is a great way to build your audience into an engaged group of followers. Every comment boosts your engagement. If you get 10 comments and respond to each one, you just doubled your comments. If each person responds back, you tripled your engagement.

Ask a question, say something interesting, whatever gets people to respond to the comment. Pin it at the top of comments so it’s visible.

Pro tip: Make sure to use the @ + channel to make sure people get notified when you reply to them if they have notifications turned on. And make sure you have notifications on for when people reply to you in a comment.

13. Create longer videos with personal stories

A video is only too long if it doesn’t provide enough consistent value. If you can cut out fluff and your video still makes sense, do it. But if you can add extra information, explain nuances, and add your own personal stories to the topics you discuss, you’ll create longer videos that keep people engaged.

If you have a good story to tell with relevant lessons and tips for your audience, make a video about it! But keep in mind whether that video is aimed at search traffic or browse so that it’s still relevant to people who have never seen your content before.

Making a video that’s just one long rambling personal story that isn’t helpful to anyone else won’t do as well as if you include an analysis of what happened. Explain the main takeaways that are valuable to other people who are in a similar but not identical situation as you.

14. Be authentic & show personality

Providing value is the first goal of your video. Having a personality that drives engagement is the second. This is because value should always come first, and personality & branding come after.

Storytelling as a way of audience-building is key to a good YouTube engagement strategy. Having a story, personality, and relatability are three things that don’t inherently provide value, but they build brand. Having a strong relationship with viewers is what creates a community that wants to engage with you.

The Power of Storytelling

Building an audience is one thing, but building a loyal community of fans is harder. You want your viewers to feel like they know you. Then they eventually trust you and view you as an authority figure.

This is where the magic happens: when people start to trust you, you have a brand, not just a YouTube channel. There’s three main elements to gaining trust from your audience: get personal, don’t be perfect, and have an opinion. There’s a lot more to each of these, so if you’re curious, feel free to read the full explanation on building a loyal fanbase with YouTube.

15. Educate, entertain, and inspire

There are dozens of ways to create value on YouTube with different styles of videos. But they all boil down to either entertaining or educating your audience. Good YouTube videos do both. Great YouTube videos will entertain, educate, and inspire your audience.

How do you inspire people? Get them excited about your topic! Show your passion for the industry, talk about things you’re excited about, and tell people why they should be excited about it too.

Pro tip: If you’re showing people how to do something, get them excited to use these new skills! If you’re informing, be enthusiastic and get people eager to use the new knowledge you just gave them.

16. End the video telling people what to watch next

The best way to keep your audience coming back for more is to tell them what to watch next. If you have a video that naturally makes sense for people to watch next, tell people! Otherwise they might have no idea what other videos you have.

End your video with the next logical steps for your viewers and link the next video for them to easily go watch it.