YouTube video structure could be one of the biggest secrets to getting your channel started and getting the attention you need to grow
Make enough YouTube videos and most people will settle into
a structure. People are hard-wired for repetition. Even if you don’t consciously
try to structure out your videos with some of the ideas we talk about here, you’ll
subconsciously include them in a routine.
That’s how most YouTube creators stumble into a video
structure. They never even think about creating a formal plan for structure. It’s
all that subconscious routine.
And we all know that ‘subconsciously’ isn’t the way to grow
your YouTube channel.
You don’t just stumble into YouTube growth and you don’t go
viral by just lucking into the best practices. You have to consciously work at
making your videos better.
Making that conscious effort to structure your videos is part
of that work.
What is video
structure and why is it so important?
Video structure is really two ideas that you incorporate
into all of your videos.
First, it’s the flow and layout you use in each video. This
means the main structural elements like a hook, a channel callout, the video’s
topic content and some kind of a closing call-to-action.
Adopting some kind of a formal structure like this helps
create videos in the least amount of time possible. By starting with that basic
outline, you already know what you want to include in each piece and sometimes
can even drop in a templated piece of content.
For example, I say the same three sentences after my channel
trailer in every video.
“Joseph Hogue with the Let’s Talk Money channel here on YouTube. I want to send a special shout-out to everyone in the subscriber community, thank you for taking a part of your day to be here. If you’re not part of that community yet, just click that little red subscribe button. It’s free and you’ll never miss an episode.”
We’ll talk about some of the branding pieces later in the
article but it also makes for an easy way to start my videos, after the hook,
before I start in on the content.
Making a conscious format on structure gives your videos
organization and flow. One piece naturally leads into the next and it just
makes for a better story.
The second idea here, and this is the more important, is
that structuring your videos helps make sure you get in as many opportunities
to increase engagement and keep people watching. This isn’t done just through
the formal structure but in the individual pieces you make sure to include in each
Do I really need to convince you on the importance of all
Wouldn’t it be nice to cut half an hour or more from the
time it takes to create a video? Wouldn’t it be nice to just know, “Okay, this
is what I need in this section,” instead of struggling with writer’s block?
And we know the importance of keeping people watching a
video and engaging. Besides number of views, the average view duration of a
video is the most important factor in your YouTube success. Those two measures
fit together for your total watch-time on a video and determine how
aggressively YouTube ranks and promotes it.
How well your viewers engage with your video is another powerful
signal to the YouTube gods. Getting those likes, comments and shares not only
shows YouTube that people like your video but builds a relationship with those
viewers that will lead to them subscribing.
Four Main Parts to a YouTube
Let’s look at that first idea in a YouTube video structure,
the formal layout, first and then build in some individual points to drive
engagement and community.
If you haven’t already gotten the message, I’m going for the
broken record award and just want to say this a few more million times…this is
the structure I use and the one I’ve seen used by many other channels, but it’s
by no means the only way to do it.
Start with this basic structure and add in your own ideas. Experimenting and growing with novel ideas is the way you grow a channel on YouTube.
My videos always include four key elements; the hook, a channel
welcome, the content and an end screen call-to-action.
YouTube Video Hook
This is something I
picked up from Sunny Lenarduzzi and is a great way to build excitement for your
The hook is a 15- to 45-second intro to your video that tells people what you’re going to talk about and why it’s important. Many of the larger, professional YouTube channels use a hook but Sunny is particularly good at describing how to set it up.
Every hook includes a hook (yeah, sorry for the double-use),
an outcome and a testimonial.
The hook-piece is one sentence that grabs your audience. It’s
the very first sentence and designed to shock, amaze, perplex or just excite your
viewer. This could be something like a statistic, a question or just an
“The average American eats eight spiders a year while
The outcome statement is a sentence or two and promises exactly
what the viewer will get in the video. This is important because you’re setting
people up to watch the entire video. The hook got them excited. Now they know
exactly what they’re going to get out of it and will stick around until they
“By the end of this video, I’m going to reveal three ways to
stop those eight-legged freaks from crawling into your mouth while you sleep. I’ll
also show you why that might not be a good thing.”
The testimonial helps to build credibility for the outcome.
It’s the reason people need to watch YOUR video instead of just clicking out to
one of the suggested videos on the same topic. It can be proof from someone
else or your own experience.
“In fact, I used this process and haven’t seen a spider in the
house for three years.”
(OK, so the example here is a little far-fetched but you get
There are a lot of people that just start their videos off
going right into the content and some will tell you that YouTube viewers just
want the goods without all the intro and calls-to-action. That might be true
for some viewers but it’s no way to grow a channel.
To really grow your channel, add subscribers and get people
engaged, you need to get them excited and interested in your video. That means
doing more than just delivering some quick content.
Why Use a Channel
Welcome in Your Videos
The channel welcome is an easy way to build that sense of
community and includes some deep branding ideas that helped me grow from zero
to 35,000 subscribers in my first year on YouTube.
- I get to repeat my channel name. People are just
starting to see YouTube as a regular source of entertainment and individual
channels rather than simply a place to watch funny cat videos. You want to put
your channel name in their heads just as the major networks like Fox, ABC and
TNT do on television.
- I get to show my appreciation for subs and their
time. How much free-time do you have in a day? It’s a big deal for someone to
take 10- or 15-minutes to watch your video. Appreciate that and make sure your
viewers know you do.
- I get to build a sense of exclusivity in
community. I’m specifically thanking my community and telling people how the can
be part of that community by subscribing.
- I lower the mental-cost of subscribing. Being
YouTubers, it can be easy to forget that some people don’t know that you can
subscribe to channels or that it costs nothing. Most people are still casual
users of the platform. You want to plant every seed possible to get them to make
a commitment to your channel.
You don’t need to stretch your channel welcome out beyond two
or three sentences. Get those elements in quickly and get on with the content.
Want to know how I research videos to know what can go viral? Learn how I use TubeBuddy to get 10,000+ views every single day!
Just as your overall video has a formal structure to organize
it and give it a flow, the content section of your video should have its own
- Lead in with a problem or something to build
excitement about the content
- Relate the problem to your solution
- Describe your solution
- Prove how the solution works or will hep transform
the viewer through a personal story or anecdote
- Summarize what you talked about and why it’s
You don’t necessarily have to script out your entire video.
I do and will talk about why in a coming chapter, but just outlining your ideas
in this structure will help keep you from rambling and will give your content a
flow that makes sense.
Wrapping up Your
Video with a Call-to-Action
A call-to-action (CTA) is what you want viewers to do
whether it be watching another video, subscribing or clicking through to your
blog or affiliate.
You can have multiple CTAs throughout your video. Some might
call on the viewer to watch for a link in the video description to another
video or to a special offer. Some might be to subscribe like in your channel welcome
You should limit your CTAs though and repeat your most
important towards the end of the video. Pushing too many calls-to-action and
your viewer can get overloaded, meaning none of the CTAs really stand out as
important and none get clicked.
Putting your most important CTAs towards the end works on a
couple of levels. If someone has watched your entire video, they probably liked
it or at least were entertained. This increases the likelihood they’ll listen
to you when you ask them to do something else. Putting a CTA towards the end
also means it’s one of the last the viewer will hear and will be top-of-mind.
Potential CTAs to include throughout and towards the end of
your videos include:
- Subscribing to the channel (don’t forget to tell
them why they need to subscribe)
- Clicking through to a specific video that goes
into detail on a related topic
- Calling out a link to a free lead magnet that
will put them on your email list
- Calling out a link to an affiliate offer
- Share their thoughts through a comment
- Support the channel with a ‘Like’ or sharing the
- Join you on other social media platforms
How to Structure Your
YouTube Videos for Engagement and Community
Even after 200+ videos on YouTube, I still use a checklist
for each video. This checklist includes ideas that will help keep people watching,
engage them to a CTA or develop that relationship and build community. I don’t use
every one of these ideas in every video but try to include as many in each
video as possible.
- Ask viewers to comment on a specific question. Most people don’t think about commenting and won’t know what to say unless you ask a specific question that relates to the topic.
- Include and tease ‘bonus’ content that comes at the end of the video. This can be an extra idea or quick-win trick or anything that adds to the topic. This helps keep people watching even if the main content loses their interest.
- Refer to other videos. Keeping people on your channel or even just on YouTube after your video is a huge signal to YouTube and one of the biggest factors in boosting views. If you have a video that goes further into a topic, refer to it and include a card or link in the video description.
- Use graphic interrupts! This can be anything from text on the screen to showing an image or screenshare clip. It’s anything that breaks up the monotony of watching your pretty face for 15 minutes and it’s critical to boosting your average view duration. These can include informational graphics and charts, funny images or just b-roll. I usually try having some kind of graphic or text interrupt every minute but sometimes even every 30 seconds.
- Humor…even if it’s bad jokes! It can be tough for educational channels, especially in themes like personal finance, to get humor across. Remember though, education isn’t enough when people have hundreds of thousands of other channels competing for their time. Fit elements into each video that entertain, amuse or surprise viewers.
- Use a personal story or testimonial. People learn from education but they’re engaged by stories. Even a list-video about making a casserole can draw people in with that tragic casserole experience you had or the story you heard.
- Brand Building – we talked about the different ways to build your brand on YouTube in a previous chapter but it’s important to make a note to include these ideas in each video. Your brand is one of the only things that separates you from all the other channels on YouTube and the only reason why someone would subscribe. You won’t include every element of brand-building in every video but you always need to be thinking about how to include a few.
- ‘Talk up’ what you’re currently covering or about to cover every minute or so. Attention spans are notoriously low on YouTube. Keep people interested by every-so-often talking about how important an idea is or teasing what you’re going to reveal next within the video.
- No summary language towards the end of the video. While it’s good to summarize or repeat some ideas towards the end of a video, don’t let viewers know that’s what you’re doing. Using phrases like, “In summary,” or “To wrap it up,” just tells people that the video is over and they should start looking for other videos in the suggested column. Be providing valuable information or entertainment all the way to your final call-to-action and end screen
It might be a lot to consider for every video you produce but trying to hit as many of these points as possible will really boost your channel watch-time, engagement and lead to more subscribers. You probably won’t fit every one in every video, unless you’re a superstar, but make a conscious effort to check through the list each time.
I realize this seems like a very formulaic way of setting up your videos and it can be tempting to just go in and talk conversationally through instead. If you can just talk through a video, hitting every element above every time, you’re an exceptional person. For the rest of us, at least outlining your video with this formal structure will help make sure all your videos are as entertaining and engaging as possible. That’s going to translate to longer watch-time, more subscribers and a channel that grows fast!