Making a YouTube channel gives you a powerful platform to upload and share knowledge. You can also use YouTube to record your screen for free. In this article, I’ll show you:
- How to make a YouTube channel
- How to customize your YouTube channel
- How to optimize your channel for search
- How to record your screen for tutorials or classes for free with YouTube
Start your YouTube channel by signing into your Google account or creating an account here: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp
Once you’ve confirmed everything and logged in, you’ll see the account screen, as shown below. Click the grid of small squares in the top-right corner and this will open the app launcher. Then click YouTube from the selection of Google Apps.
Make sure you’re logged in to the correct Google account by checking the icon in the top-right corner. If you have multiple Google accounts, YouTube may default to a different account than the one you want for your new YouTube channel. Once you’ve confirmed you’re on the right account, click “Creator Studio” below the account name.
If you’ve never created a YouTube channel with this account, you should be taken to a mostly empty page that says “You must create a channel to upload videos.” Click “Create a channel.” Then you will be prompted to enter the name you would like to use for your channel. Think about this carefully, because there are limits on how many changes you can make to your channel name within a certain period of time. Once you’ve decided on a workable name, click “Create channel.”
This will open your YouTube channel video manager, which of course won’t have any videos in it yet. At the top of the left-side navigation you’ll see “Dashboard.” The dashboard shows you a snapshot of what is happening in your YouTube channel, including some analytics. I’ll go more in detail on more analytics tools later in this article. For now, click on “VIEW CHANNEL” below your name near the top of the page.
At the start, every YouTube channel looks boring, so it’s best to add a channel icon and a background image. If you don’t already have graphics for these, Canva is a great, free tool you can use to create custom graphics that are already the right size to work with your YouTube channel. You can see how to do that here.
When you click the small pencil on your channel icon you’ll receive a notice that it may take a few minutes or longer for your changes to take effect. Click “Edit” and you will be taken to your Google profile page where you can upload a channel icon, which is the same as your Google profile image. This is the place you can also use to change your channel name if necessary. Once you’ve added a photo to your Google profile image/YouTube channel icon, close the tab and you should see your YouTube channel again.
Click on the blue button in the top middle of the screen that reads “Add channel art.” Here you can upload a photo you have saved on your computer, use a photo that’s previously been uploaded to your Google account, or select from stock images in the gallery. If you’re uploading your own image, make sure it is at least 2048 by 1152 pixels. The optimal size image for YouTube channel art is 2560 by 1440 pixels.
Channel art shows differently across devices, and once you’ve chosen an image, you will see how it will be displayed on a desktop, TV, and mobile device. Click “Adjust the crop” in the bottom left corner to make changes to your image if needed to make it appear better across devices.
If you’re making a custom graphic, you should experiment with the custom crop tool first and understand that only the middle strip will be shown on computers and mobile devices, so that is where you want any text or highlights to be shown.
Now, click “Video Manager” just above and to the left of your channel art. It is very easy to upload videos from here. You simply click the up arrow in the top-right corner and then click the large arrow in the middle of the screen you are taken to. From a dropdown menu below the large arrow on the Upload Screen, you can choose whether you want your video to be public, private, or unlisted. You can change this setting later if you like. If you set the video as public, anyone can view it. If unlisted, someone needs your link to view the video, and private means only you can view your video. You can either drag and drop video files into the big arrow, or you can click the big arrow and upload files from your computer.
While your video is uploading and processing, you can add details about the video like the title, description, and tags. You want to make especially sure that your title matches what you expect people to be searching for. For example, if you’re making a tutorial on baking a cake, you should title it “Tutorial for Cake Baking” or “How To Bake a Cake.” Write a lot of information in the description and make sure to use the keywords that you want to be found with. Add links in your description for your social media, website, and anywhere else you want viewers to go. Tags are also important to being found. You can enter up to 500 characters in the tags box, so make them count. Enter tags separated by a comma, and get as detailed as possible with as many tag combinations as you can come up with. I use a tool called TubeBuddy to help find tags that are relevant and see how well I’m ranking for tags I’m using. From the Upload Screen, you can also set it as Public, Private, or Unlisted. I usually start with my videos as Private from the upload, and make them Public once I’ve checked everything and made sure it’s right. You can also add your newly uploaded video to a playlist or multiple playlists directly from the Upload Screen. You can then choose one of the default thumbnails, which is just a screenshot from your video, or you can add a custom thumbnail later, which I’ve explained here. Finally, you can choose to Tweet your video directly from the Upload Screen, and you can then add another video by clicking the “+ Add more videos” button on the bottom right.
From the Video Manager, you can always edit any video you have and return to the Upload Screen. Just make sure to save any changes you make by clicking the blue “Save changes” button at the top or bottom of the screen.
It’s a good idea to verify your channel. You can start this process by going to “Channel” in the left-side navigation and selecting “Status and features.” You can view the detailed instructions for verifying your YouTube channel here. If your channel is verified, you can add custom thumbnails to your videos, and you can set up monetization through Adsense, offer paid content, or live stream on YouTube.
If you click the gear just below the channel art at the right of your Channel Overview, you can change your Channel Settings. You may want to change the privacy settings of your channel here, otherwise people will be able to see all the videos you have liked on YouTube, as well as your subscriptions and saved playlists. From the Channel Settings screen, you can also allow customization of your channel, which will let you do things like add a trailer and suggest content to your visitors.
With “Customize the layout of your channel” enabled, you will see a navigation menu at the top of your channel, much like you would see on a typical website.
Now, you can access an “About” page for your channel using the navigation menu. Here, you can edit your channel description and add links that will show up overlaid on your channel art. These links can be to your website, landing page, social media, or any other link you want to send people to. You can choose from the dropdown how many of the links you would like to be overlaid on your channel art. If you choose “5,” then the first five links you add will be overlaid on your channel art, as shown below, with the first one being the largest and most prominent.
I use playlists with my channel, and I arrange them with a horizontal layout. From the Home section of your channel, click “Add section.” Then you can choose what you want this section to show, such as a playlist or your most popular videos. You can choose whether you want that selection of videos displayed in a horizontal row or vertical row. As you create more videos that match whatever selection you’ve added to a section–such as a specific playlist–they will automatically populate that section.
You can even select what you want new visitors to see on your page versus returning subscribers. You may want to have a channel trailer or short explainer video shown whenever a new visitor sees your page. From your page overview, at the top you can choose to view your channel as yourself, a subscriber, or as a new visitor. This can help you get a feel for how your channel will look depending upon who is visiting it.
“It’s important to play with the look of your channel and give it a feel using custom channel art, custom thumbnails, having your picture on the profile–all these things can give it an interesting look to set it apart from other people.”
Your dashboard shows you a snapshot of important information, and you can customize it by dragging sections to where you want them. You can also change the settings for each section, or widget, by clicking the gear icon, and you can add new widgets by clicking the “Add widget” button in the top right corner.
In the Video Manager, we can add and edit videos and create playlists. You can also edit playlists and add a description to each playlist. The descriptions on your playlists are another searchable thing that can help Google find your videos, so it is very important to fill those out using keywords that you think people will search whenever they are looking for your videos. You can also add videos directly into a playlist from the Playlist section of the Video Manager.
Livestreaming is very important for YouTube channel growth, and you can create events in the Livestream section on the left-side navigation of your YouTube channel admin page. I have a full video tutorial on how to do that here. We’ll use this to make the screen recording in the last section of this article.
The Community section shows your messages and comments from viewers. You can directly engage with your audience in this section.
Under the Channel section, you should consider your Upload Defaults. I set my videos to automatically be private when I upload them, so that I can check everything out before the public sees it. I also set my default category to Education, since all my videos involve education in some way. We’ve already discussed why you should verify your channel under the Status and Features area of the Channel section, and I’ll cover the Featured Content, Branding, and additional Advanced options in another article. You won’t need to worry about these when you’re starting your channel, but they can be useful for encouraging action from your audience later on.
YouTube has a powerful and useful Analytics section that gives you insight into what’s working in your videos and channel as a whole.
The Create section has an Audio Library of music that you can use in your videos, just make sure you follow the instructions on certain songs that require attribution. There is also a Video Editor in the Create section that is built right into YouTube. It is not the best, but it can be used to line up video clips with audio backgrounds, apply effects, and create good looking videos. You can see my tutorial on using the YouTube video editor here.
TubeBuddy is a powerful add on that I use to optimize my channel. It will show what tags I’m ranking for and suggest tags for me. I go back and change my titles, descriptions, and tags from time to time to help them rank better and get more search hits.
Once your channel is verified, you can set up monetization and choose the type of ads you want to be shown on each video. If your video is over 10 minutes long, you can choose more types of ads and place ads to show multiple times in each video.
How to use YouTube as a free screen recorder
Screen recording is a powerful teaching tool for showing people how to do something on a computer. Most people don’t realize that you can record your screen quickly, easily, and for free with YouTube. First, click on your account icon in the top-right corner and select “Creator Studio.”
Select “Live Streaming” from the left-side navigation and click on “Events.” Then click “New live event” in the top-right corner.
For screen recording purposes, it’s best to set your live event to private. Otherwise, people can and probably will see it live. Select “Private” from the dropdown on the right side when you set up your event. Also, make sure that “Type” is set to “Quick (using Google Hangouts on Air)” because Google Hangouts has the screen sharing function we’ll be using. Then click “Go Live Now” at the bottom right to get started.
When Google Hangouts opens, choose the “Screenshare” icon on the left side. A window will open that lets you choose what you want to screenshare from the open programs on your computer.
Once you’ve chosen the program you want to share, go back to Google Hangouts and select “Start broadcast.” This starts the recording of the program you selected to screenshare in the last step. Now, record your screen and voiceover, and when you’re done click “Stop broadcast” on Google Hangouts.
After stopping your broadcast, you can close Google Hangouts and refresh your Video Manager in YouTube. Your video will be automatically uploading, and once it has finished processing, you can download it from YouTube or share it.
Now you’re ready to share videos and record your screen using YouTube!
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