Building a YouTube Channel Part 2: Research, Planning and Picking the Right Niche

I watched a lot of YouTube these past few weeks.

The more videos I watched, the more I felt my age, which is a hard thing to wrap my head around given my love for all of the latest gadgets, apps, startups and technology.

But while I still find it difficult to connect with the type of videos that dominate the Tube, I’m happy to report increasing levels of enthusiasm for this ‘build a YouTube channel’ project (you can read the overview here), helped in large part by my daughters’ jump-out-of-their-skin excitement over the prospect of filming their very own show.

I’m motivated by a desire for my children to be creators of the things that they love, and not just consumers of it, so to see their gigantic smiles and round the clock eagerness makes me all the more determined to nail these videos.

But before any filming and posting and sharing happens, there’s quite a bit of back-end work that needs to happen, and today I’ll be walking you through the plan of attack.

1. Select a category

I had cooked up this brilliant idea to do a healthy cooking/living show for kids. We’d make all sorts of healthy recipes (no sugar!) and home made activities (all natural products!) together.

But that’s not a show that kids would be clamoring to watch. I had to remind myself that this project isn’t about me and the things that like.

So I scrapped cooking and settled on toys.


Toys and toy reviews are hugely popular on YouTube among children for the simple reason that kids trust other kids’ opinions. And they love watching them open and play with toys.

Not surprisingly, the toy category is broad and competitive, so the best way to increase my odds of standing out in the crowd is to niche down.

Hence my new category: dolls.


The doll (and figurine) category checks the necessary boxes:

  • Genuine interest from my girls
  • Enough search engine traffic (i.e. people searching Google and YouTube for “doll” and doll-related reviews and products) to draw in viewers

It’s still a risky choice because there are hundreds of popular doll videos on YouTube, which is why I strongly considered getting even more specific and focusing on Americal Girl dolls – this way I could take advantage of a popular, yet less competitive niche.

I could be making the wrong decision here, but in the end, I went with my gut and am keeping things open-ended. That and I wasn’t about to drop $300 at the American Girl store.

2. Name the channel

Once I choose a name, I’m stuck with it, so I needed get it right the first time around and pick a name that’s easy to remember, unique and concise.

Here’s what my brainstorm looked like:

brainstorm names

After what seemed like hours of word-smithing and cross-referencing of options on name availability sites, I settled on…

Our Magical Playhouse

..and then quickly claimed the URL, and name on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Periscope.

Unfortunately the decision greatly disappointed my older daughter, who had been lobbying hard for “Carolina and Isabel’s Be Forever Sisters American Girl and Inside Out Channel Show”.

Hopefully she’ll come around soon.

3. Pick the first videos

I spent a considerable amount of time researching keywords, scanning Amazon’s best seller and most wished for lists.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.02.39 AM

I looked at YouTube’s top channels, Google Trends, and Google’s keyword planner tool.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 9.56.05 AM

(In case you were wondering, a reborn doll is a doll that has been transformed to resemble a newborn baby as realistically as possible. I had no idea.) 

After reviewing the data, I chose the following for our first videos:

  • Inside Out figurine dolls (Amazon top seller + popular movie + girls love it + affordable)
  • American Girl doll accessories (Google top search term + girls LOVE it + affordable options on Amazon)

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.29.11 AM

Honorable mentions go to Monster High dolls, Barbie, and Disney MagiClip princess dolls, all ripe for future videos, should this experiment go well.

I spent about $80 buying the toys (and a few cute t-shirts) on Amazon, and quickly moved onto setting up the channel.

4. Configure the backend

This is where things get a little nerdy (and tedious for me), but these decisions make a big difference when it comes to promoting and marketing the channel.

Now, I’m learning about and working through things like:

  • Channel cover and thumbnail image: something fun and colorful, similar to what a Facebook page might look like
  • Channel and video descriptions: what keywords to select and include, how often to use them, length of description, and where to place keywords
  • Video file name: how many words long and what keywords to use in each file name
  • Tags: select effective tags for each video
  • Annotations: clickable tools to embed into videos that encourage viewers to take a specific action, like subscribing to the channel or watching another, related video
  • Featured video: a way to promote a specific video (many use it as a trailer or welcome video of sorts); it’s what people would see first when coming to the channel

Fortunately, I have a background in SEO, so the learning curve isn’t quite as steep for me.

5. Practice, practice and practice 

Filming starts in a few days and I cannot begin to describe how excited my kids are about this project. It’s all they talk about.

They practice introducing themselves. They describe their toys and point out details like the color of their dolls’ hair, the way their arms move, and the different ways people can play with them.

They brainstorm new video ideas and creative projects to do with their dolls – like getting cardboard boxes, fabric and newspaper to make a doll bedroom set in lieu of spending money at the store. How awesome is that?

I’m confident that once I turn the camera on, they’ll be naturals. After all, they’ve played this game at home and they’ve watched others do it online dozens and dozens of times. And as we all know, observing others in action is one of the best ways to learn a new skill.

Now I have to figure out how to pull everything together with crafty content, filming, editing and effects, and make this channel memorable and worth watching.

All of that and more, next week.

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