YouTube Best Practices

YouTube Best Practices

YouTube is a social media platform for long-form video content with a wide audience that encompasses everyone in the UC Davis community. UC Davis uses YouTube to post content organized in playlists that include video series, podcast episodes, student life videos and content for admitted students.

Find your rhythm.

To grow on YouTube, you must consistently deliver quality content to your audience. Think about how you can serialize your content and who your cast of characters is. You don’t have to have super-produced content to make it good – it just has to bring real value to your audience. 

SEO optimization.

Incorporate internet traffic-heavy words (like UC Davis) into the titles and descriptions of your videos so that users are more easily able to find your content when conducting searches. Put any call to action or URLs at the top of your video description. Add around three topic tags to each video to increase SEO results. Learn more through our SEO Best Practices Guide.

Choose the right thumbnails.

Besides the title, the image you choose as the thumbnail for your video is the first thing that can catch an audience member’s attention. Make sure yours are appealing, relevant and eye-catching. Add large font to video thumbnail images with topics that may be unclear to viewers from just a quick glance at a video’s thumbnail. For videos in a series, be sure that the thumbnails have a matching theme so they are easily recognizable as a collection of related videos.

Curate content into playlists.

Organize your videos by topic (or another relevant identifier) to help with reach, SEO and embeddable playlists for use outside of YouTube. Video series should get their own playlists. 

Dive into the community.

Once you have over 1,000 subscribers, you can use community posts to create stories with polls, text, images, gifs, and videos.

YouTube Shorts Best Practices

YouTube Shorts are branded as "The Shorter Side of YouTube." They are vertical videos that are 60-seconds in length. Shorts should be of high quality and relevant to your YouTube audience. Consider posting your Reels and TikToks to YouTube Shorts when relevant and appropriate.

To make the most of this feature and increase the chances of your Shorts getting viewed and shared, consider following these best practices:

  • Hook your viewers in the first seconds: The first few seconds of your video are crucial, so always try to capture the viewers’ attention with a catchy intro or hook.
  • Use catchy and creative titles: An interesting title is essential to grab the viewer's attention and make them want to click on your video. Make sure your title is descriptive and relevant to your video's content.
  • Use hashtags: Hashtags make it easier for people to find your video and increase its visibility. Use relevant hashtags that are specific to your video's content. 
  • Incorporate built-in available music and sound effects library: Music and sound effects can help to enhance the viewing experience and make your Shorts more engaging, and use popular audio tracks and sound effects to increase your Shorts’ potential visibility and reach.
  • Consider using text, graphic, or animated GIF overlays: Overlays can be a great way to add context and information to your video. Use them to highlight key points or to include a call to action or to define non-lay terms or potential acronyms unfamiliar to the viewer.
  • Drive viewers to additional content when appropriate. Include a call-to-action at the end of your video to encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel, watch more of your videos, or visit your website - and also include this information and the CTA destination or URL within the description for the Shorts.

YouTube Shorts: Video File Specifications

  • Aspect ratio: 9:16 (vertical format)
  • Resolution: 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels (standard length by width ratio for vertical content)
  • Shorts is a format designed for easy to consume on mobile vertical videos, so YouTube recommends a maximum of 2160p: 2160×3840, and a minimum of 720p: 720×1280 for video files uploaded as a Shorts


YouTube Accessibility Best Practices

When posting on YouTube, key accessibility areas to consider are: graphics, video captions, video descriptions and post copy. 

Graphics: General guidelines

Captioning: General guidelines

  • YouTube allows for all three types of video captioning.
  • Opt for closed captions or edit the auto-generated captions for accuracy, so the user can decide whether they want captions on or off
  • However, burned in (open) captions are a good practice as well.
  • How to upload .SRT captions to YouTube: YouTube captions help

Video description: General guidelines

  • Include your description in the post copy and separate it from the rest of the post copy with a line break.
  • If there is important text on screen, try to include a voiceover of all written information.
    • If you cannot have a voiceover, include a timestamp in your post copy with any text written on screen.
    • With this, a screen reader will read the post copy and those who cannot see the text on screen will know what was written at that specific time.
  • Remember to include a flashing imagery warning at the top of your post copy if necessary.

Post copy: General guidelines 

More resources: YouTube Help