How to optimize your podcast for YouTube

Getting your podcast onto YouTube is critical — it's the top platform for podcast listening. In this article, we’re going to go over tips for how to optimize your YouTube channels and every video you post
March 16, 2023
Courtney Kocak
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Unless you’ve been living in a cave with no wifi, you’ve heard that YouTube is now the top platform for podcast listening. In Voices’ 2022 Podcast Advertising Report, listeners put YouTube ahead of Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and all the other audio platforms. Two other 2022 podcast reports — from Culumus and Luminate, respectively — showed the same thing. 

By now, plenty of podcasters have made the leap to video, and many can confirm what the data says. “The video show has definitely opened me up to a wider audience,” says Jay Clouse, the host of Creative Elements. Last October, in an interview for my newsletter, Podcast Bestie, Jay said he’d even seen his audio audience grow since launching the video version of his show. 

So let’s agree that getting your podcast onto YouTube is a good idea. And that it will mean some extra work. You’ll have to incorporate video into your workflow somehow. But remember: you’re not trying to win an Oscar here, just make sure you can be found on the world’s second-largest search engine.

Video podcast: A workflow that won’t kill you 

Still, if you’re going to do the extra work, you want to give your show the very best chance of reaching those YouTube masses. That means setting up your channel properly and doing a few things to optimize your video approach. 

In this article, we’re going to go over tips for how to do just that. We'll start with the basics.

Know your YouTube categories 

All YouTube isn’t alike. Gamers, beauty vloggers, and comedians take different approaches based on their content and their audiences. For podcasters, here are the three categories you’ll want to put your energy into: 

  • Full-length episodes
  • Shorter 5-10 minutes clips
  • YouTube shorts (<1 min)

Ideally, you'll be posting a mix of all three types of videos, as well-produced and packaged as possible. According to YouTube’s analysis, “podcasts on YouTube with video — particularly those featuring hosts on camera — are performing better than podcasts with just static visuals.”

It’s a pretty significant difference. Eighty percent of the top-watched videos feature hosts on video, and those videos get an average of two times the views compared to those that use a static visualization.

But you can establish a presence and get some of the benefits just by repurposing your full-length audio episodes for YouTube with a static background image, as simple as using your podcast’s cover art. It’s certainly better than nothing. The bottom line: reach for the best production quality you can, and try to up your game as you go. 

Whatever format you can manage, it will pay to play into YouTube’s formats. Right now, the folks at YouTube are pushing Shorts hard (trying to compete with TikTok and Instagram Reels). Just go with it. 

“Post shorts before and after posting your episodes,” suggests Cami Rodriguez of The Double Teamed Podcast. “Shorts drive more traffic to our channel.” This pulsing method of short and long seems to be highly effective and backed by YouTube’s in-house advice. 

YouTube has a very cool new feature that allows you to edit Shorts from your full episodes within the app. This makes it super easy to clip your videos into Shorts while attributing and linking to your original video, which not only saves you time and makes the most of your existing content, but also provides Shorts viewers with a one-click journey to your full episode. 

Channel branding

Once you’re up and running with video, it’s essential to package your YouTube channel with eye-catching graphics and copy that hooks new viewers. So you're going to want to put some thought into your channel branding. 

You have four main branding opportunities on your YouTube homepage:

  1. Channel banner
  2. Channel avatar
  3. Channel trailer
  4. Playlist shelves

This guide to branding your channel from the YouTube Creators channel offers some great tips to get your homepage up and running and take advantage of these branding opportunities. Note that, if your podcast is already established, YouTube suggests adapting your current branding and imagery — like your logo and cover art — to make it easy for your existing audience to recognize this as your official channel.

Playlists

Playlists are one of the best tools for podcasters to take advantage of on YouTube. The platform recommends creating a public playlist for each individual show that contains all of that show’s full episodes. Here’s how to optimize that particular playlist:

  • Don’t mix clips, different shows, or uploads from other channels within a show’s playlist. Don’t break up seasons into separate playlists.
  • Order your videos as you want audiences to consume them if they were starting from the top — oldest first if your show is narrative-driven, newest first if your show is topical. 
  • Use the exact name of your podcast show as your full-episode playlist title. Don’t add extra words, including the word “podcast” (unless that’s part of your show’s name). 
  • Maximize your search engine optimization by adding a comprehensive show description to your playlist. 

Thumbnails and titles provide another opportunity to reach new fans by teasing the content in a compelling way. The copy and images you use should be accurate, concise, searchable, engaging, and easy to understand. 

Thumbnails

Create a custom thumbnail for your video to help it stand out. Use a high-quality image and add text to highlight the topic of your video — and hook potential viewers. For personality-based podcasts, it’s a good idea to include your face in the thumbnail. YouTube’s research shows that a human face is one of the more powerful audience lures.

You want your main image to be bright, high contrast, and clear at all sizes. Of course, you can hire a graphic designer or put your Photoshop skills to use. But for those of us who are less visually inclined or on a budget, Canva has some great options for free. If you want something more pro or personalized on a budget, you can have a designer make you a Canva template (or a few) that you can recycle over and over again. 

You want to keep your branding consistent across your podcast and YouTube channel, especially thumbnails. This includes incorporating your podcast logo and any other visual elements associated with your brand. Branding should generally be concentrated in the corner(s) of the video. Keep your fonts and color scheme coordinated to ensure that viewers can easily identify your videos. 

Titles

Make sure each video’s title is clear, catchy, and click-worthy, but avoid clickbait-y titles that border on false advertising. You want the title to actually reflect what’s in the video. However, make sure to optimize the title for SEO by using relevant, rich keywords. You can determine which keywords are rich by creating your own list of keywords — what would you search for to find the episode? — and then using Google’s Keyword Planner tool

Another quick way to optimize your title for SEO is by searching your keywords on YouTube, looking at the videos that are ranking for it — i.e., your competition — and determining what is working for them.

As a good rule of thumb, keep your titles under 70 characters and put the most important words/ideas towards the front whenever possible.

Each of your video titles should end with "– Name of Your Podcast, Episode #.” Using one of my podcasts, for example, a sample title could be: "How to Write Your First Novel – The Bleeders, Ep. 26.” While it’s important to include your show information, make sure you do this at the END of the title; i.e., don’t put the episode number at the beginning.  

Descriptions

Your video description is an SEO powerhouse, so don’t scrimp on rich keywords, especially in the first sentence. Use your description to give a summary of your podcast and include relevant links. Here are some YouTube description templates from HubSpot to help get you started.

Hashtags

You can use relevant hashtags in your video title, description, playlist, and/or comments. After you add one hashtag, YouTube’s system will suggest additional popular hashtags based on your input. Hashtags in the title and description will link to a results page featuring other videos sharing the same hashtag. You can add as many hashtags you want, but only the 1-3 hashtags that are considered most engaging will appear by your video title. Your other hashtags will still appear in the video description, and they’ll help your videos appear in search results. 

Captions

Use captions or subtitles to make your content more accessible — and to expand your audience to those who prefer to watch without sound. Think of the person riding the bus or sitting in a coffee shop. 

And think about ways to make them fun, beyond just capturing the dialogue. Emojis and descriptions of non-speaking sounds are good for elevating the reading experience. “Captions and strategically timed emojis make the content more accessible and entertaining,” says Cameron Poter, CEO of Pleasure Podcasts and co-host of the Sex Talk With My Mom podcast.

Collaborations

As is commonly true in the traditional podcasting RSS sphere, the best way to grow your show is to collaborate with other podcasters who are active on YouTube. You can also treat those collaborations as promo swaps — share shorter clips from an interview with another podcaster who is also on YouTube and play them on each of your channels to encourage cross-pollination. Similarly, you could record one interview/conversation together and run one half on your channel and then the other half on the other podcaster's channel.

Promote on social media

Don’t forget to promote your podcast’s YouTube video on other social media channels, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. You can repurpose your Shorts or post promotional clips or trailers, but posting videos where you speak directly to your audience and tell them about a new video you posted is one of the best ways to motivate them to check out new content.

Be consistent

Of course, the algorithm will reward you for consistency, so create a release schedule and stick to it. If growing on YouTube is a priority for you and your show, try to drop a new video at least twice a week, ideally three times a week. That three-times-a-week posting schedule could consist of one short clip, one full-length episode, and a YouTube short. Choose a cadence that’s sustainable. 

🔥 Hot tip for monetization 💸

If you're able to monetize your YouTube channel, make sure to upload your videos a few hours ahead of publishing. If you do that, YouTube's algorithms can analyze the content and let you know if there are any issues that will prevent you from getting it monetized.

Comments

Interacting with your audience by responding to comments and questions will help you build a community of avid fans around your podcast and keep your viewers (and listeners) engaged. You can also choose to hold comments for review by adjusting your comment settings.

Comments are one big advantage YouTube gives vs. the podcast platforms. On YouTube, “you actually know WHO is watching/listening,” says Jay Clouse of Creative Elements. “It’s such a mystery in audio.”

Engaging content rules

Above all else — regardless of how you decide to produce and package your podcast into a video format — you want your content to be engaging. 

Cameron and his mom KarenLee Poter have been amping up the Sex Talk With My Mom podcast’s YouTube strategy, and they’ve discovered an interesting takeaway. Cameron says, “We’ve found that 15-second clips that discuss a debatable, relatable viewpoint perform the best on YouTube. This is usually because people start going off in the comments about their own opinion, which inspires others to comment, thereby creating a snowball effect for engagement.”

Courtney Kocak
Founder and host of Podcast Bestie. Los Angeles-based writer, podcaster, and comedian.
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How to optimize your podcast for YouTube

Making a video podcast is hard enough — you also want to make sure your audience can find it

Unless you’ve been living in a cave with no wifi, you’ve heard that YouTube is now the top platform for podcast listening. In Voices’ 2022 Podcast Advertising Report, listeners put YouTube ahead of Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and all the other audio platforms. Two other 2022 podcast reports — from Culumus and Luminate, respectively — showed the same thing. 

By now, plenty of podcasters have made the leap to video, and many can confirm what the data says. “The video show has definitely opened me up to a wider audience,” says Jay Clouse, the host of Creative Elements. Last October, in an interview for my newsletter, Podcast Bestie, Jay said he’d even seen his audio audience grow since launching the video version of his show. 

So let’s agree that getting your podcast onto YouTube is a good idea. And that it will mean some extra work. You’ll have to incorporate video into your workflow somehow. But remember: you’re not trying to win an Oscar here, just make sure you can be found on the world’s second-largest search engine.

Video podcast: A workflow that won’t kill you 

Still, if you’re going to do the extra work, you want to give your show the very best chance of reaching those YouTube masses. That means setting up your channel properly and doing a few things to optimize your video approach. 

In this article, we’re going to go over tips for how to do just that. We'll start with the basics.

Transcribe. Edit. As easy as tapping your backspace key.
Create your podcast from start to finish with Descript.

Know your YouTube categories 

All YouTube isn’t alike. Gamers, beauty vloggers, and comedians take different approaches based on their content and their audiences. For podcasters, here are the three categories you’ll want to put your energy into: 

  • Full-length episodes
  • Shorter 5-10 minutes clips
  • YouTube shorts (<1 min)

Ideally, you'll be posting a mix of all three types of videos, as well-produced and packaged as possible. According to YouTube’s analysis, “podcasts on YouTube with video — particularly those featuring hosts on camera — are performing better than podcasts with just static visuals.”

It’s a pretty significant difference. Eighty percent of the top-watched videos feature hosts on video, and those videos get an average of two times the views compared to those that use a static visualization.

But you can establish a presence and get some of the benefits just by repurposing your full-length audio episodes for YouTube with a static background image, as simple as using your podcast’s cover art. It’s certainly better than nothing. The bottom line: reach for the best production quality you can, and try to up your game as you go. 

Whatever format you can manage, it will pay to play into YouTube’s formats. Right now, the folks at YouTube are pushing Shorts hard (trying to compete with TikTok and Instagram Reels). Just go with it. 

“Post shorts before and after posting your episodes,” suggests Cami Rodriguez of The Double Teamed Podcast. “Shorts drive more traffic to our channel.” This pulsing method of short and long seems to be highly effective and backed by YouTube’s in-house advice. 

YouTube has a very cool new feature that allows you to edit Shorts from your full episodes within the app. This makes it super easy to clip your videos into Shorts while attributing and linking to your original video, which not only saves you time and makes the most of your existing content, but also provides Shorts viewers with a one-click journey to your full episode. 

Channel branding

Once you’re up and running with video, it’s essential to package your YouTube channel with eye-catching graphics and copy that hooks new viewers. So you're going to want to put some thought into your channel branding. 

You have four main branding opportunities on your YouTube homepage:

  1. Channel banner
  2. Channel avatar
  3. Channel trailer
  4. Playlist shelves

This guide to branding your channel from the YouTube Creators channel offers some great tips to get your homepage up and running and take advantage of these branding opportunities. Note that, if your podcast is already established, YouTube suggests adapting your current branding and imagery — like your logo and cover art — to make it easy for your existing audience to recognize this as your official channel.

Playlists

Playlists are one of the best tools for podcasters to take advantage of on YouTube. The platform recommends creating a public playlist for each individual show that contains all of that show’s full episodes. Here’s how to optimize that particular playlist:

  • Don’t mix clips, different shows, or uploads from other channels within a show’s playlist. Don’t break up seasons into separate playlists.
  • Order your videos as you want audiences to consume them if they were starting from the top — oldest first if your show is narrative-driven, newest first if your show is topical. 
  • Use the exact name of your podcast show as your full-episode playlist title. Don’t add extra words, including the word “podcast” (unless that’s part of your show’s name). 
  • Maximize your search engine optimization by adding a comprehensive show description to your playlist. 

Thumbnails and titles provide another opportunity to reach new fans by teasing the content in a compelling way. The copy and images you use should be accurate, concise, searchable, engaging, and easy to understand. 

Thumbnails

Create a custom thumbnail for your video to help it stand out. Use a high-quality image and add text to highlight the topic of your video — and hook potential viewers. For personality-based podcasts, it’s a good idea to include your face in the thumbnail. YouTube’s research shows that a human face is one of the more powerful audience lures.

You want your main image to be bright, high contrast, and clear at all sizes. Of course, you can hire a graphic designer or put your Photoshop skills to use. But for those of us who are less visually inclined or on a budget, Canva has some great options for free. If you want something more pro or personalized on a budget, you can have a designer make you a Canva template (or a few) that you can recycle over and over again. 

You want to keep your branding consistent across your podcast and YouTube channel, especially thumbnails. This includes incorporating your podcast logo and any other visual elements associated with your brand. Branding should generally be concentrated in the corner(s) of the video. Keep your fonts and color scheme coordinated to ensure that viewers can easily identify your videos. 

Titles

Make sure each video’s title is clear, catchy, and click-worthy, but avoid clickbait-y titles that border on false advertising. You want the title to actually reflect what’s in the video. However, make sure to optimize the title for SEO by using relevant, rich keywords. You can determine which keywords are rich by creating your own list of keywords — what would you search for to find the episode? — and then using Google’s Keyword Planner tool

Another quick way to optimize your title for SEO is by searching your keywords on YouTube, looking at the videos that are ranking for it — i.e., your competition — and determining what is working for them.

As a good rule of thumb, keep your titles under 70 characters and put the most important words/ideas towards the front whenever possible.

Each of your video titles should end with "– Name of Your Podcast, Episode #.” Using one of my podcasts, for example, a sample title could be: "How to Write Your First Novel – The Bleeders, Ep. 26.” While it’s important to include your show information, make sure you do this at the END of the title; i.e., don’t put the episode number at the beginning.  

Descriptions

Your video description is an SEO powerhouse, so don’t scrimp on rich keywords, especially in the first sentence. Use your description to give a summary of your podcast and include relevant links. Here are some YouTube description templates from HubSpot to help get you started.

Hashtags

You can use relevant hashtags in your video title, description, playlist, and/or comments. After you add one hashtag, YouTube’s system will suggest additional popular hashtags based on your input. Hashtags in the title and description will link to a results page featuring other videos sharing the same hashtag. You can add as many hashtags you want, but only the 1-3 hashtags that are considered most engaging will appear by your video title. Your other hashtags will still appear in the video description, and they’ll help your videos appear in search results. 

Captions

Use captions or subtitles to make your content more accessible — and to expand your audience to those who prefer to watch without sound. Think of the person riding the bus or sitting in a coffee shop. 

And think about ways to make them fun, beyond just capturing the dialogue. Emojis and descriptions of non-speaking sounds are good for elevating the reading experience. “Captions and strategically timed emojis make the content more accessible and entertaining,” says Cameron Poter, CEO of Pleasure Podcasts and co-host of the Sex Talk With My Mom podcast.

Collaborations

As is commonly true in the traditional podcasting RSS sphere, the best way to grow your show is to collaborate with other podcasters who are active on YouTube. You can also treat those collaborations as promo swaps — share shorter clips from an interview with another podcaster who is also on YouTube and play them on each of your channels to encourage cross-pollination. Similarly, you could record one interview/conversation together and run one half on your channel and then the other half on the other podcaster's channel.

Promote on social media

Don’t forget to promote your podcast’s YouTube video on other social media channels, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. You can repurpose your Shorts or post promotional clips or trailers, but posting videos where you speak directly to your audience and tell them about a new video you posted is one of the best ways to motivate them to check out new content.

Be consistent

Of course, the algorithm will reward you for consistency, so create a release schedule and stick to it. If growing on YouTube is a priority for you and your show, try to drop a new video at least twice a week, ideally three times a week. That three-times-a-week posting schedule could consist of one short clip, one full-length episode, and a YouTube short. Choose a cadence that’s sustainable. 

🔥 Hot tip for monetization 💸

If you're able to monetize your YouTube channel, make sure to upload your videos a few hours ahead of publishing. If you do that, YouTube's algorithms can analyze the content and let you know if there are any issues that will prevent you from getting it monetized.

Comments

Interacting with your audience by responding to comments and questions will help you build a community of avid fans around your podcast and keep your viewers (and listeners) engaged. You can also choose to hold comments for review by adjusting your comment settings.

Comments are one big advantage YouTube gives vs. the podcast platforms. On YouTube, “you actually know WHO is watching/listening,” says Jay Clouse of Creative Elements. “It’s such a mystery in audio.”

Engaging content rules

Above all else — regardless of how you decide to produce and package your podcast into a video format — you want your content to be engaging. 

Cameron and his mom KarenLee Poter have been amping up the Sex Talk With My Mom podcast’s YouTube strategy, and they’ve discovered an interesting takeaway. Cameron says, “We’ve found that 15-second clips that discuss a debatable, relatable viewpoint perform the best on YouTube. This is usually because people start going off in the comments about their own opinion, which inspires others to comment, thereby creating a snowball effect for engagement.”

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