When I was a kid I used to love to visit my Italian relatives in Brooklyn. The food! The laughter! The talking with our hands, loudly! My cousins all lived in closely spaced, multi-story homes, but spent almost all of their time in the basement (which was really more like the ground floor). We went in via the back door, which in most houses put you right into the basement kitchen. This was the place where everyday life happened. Going through the front door into the upper floors was reserved for special guests and the more formal family events. You knew the occasion was really special if the plastic covers were removed from the furniture.

Upstairs, things were orderly and staid. In the basement? Not so much.

What do memories of that garlic nirvana have to do with YouTube channels?

We tend to think of YouTube channels as the front door everyone uses but for many brands well over 90% of their YouTube views originate at the video-level, which is more like coming in the side door to the basement kitchen. Whether users are directed via search, suggested videos or social links they are likely to be sent directly to a single video. These videos appear on what YouTube calls the “watch page,” an interface that through the genius of YouTube has numerous options to move the viewer directly on to other videos. This is just like visiting a great Italian-American basement, without the hand-waving. People laugh, argue and cry as they move about engaging and sharing stories. It’s chaos. It’s social. It’s messy. Stories start… some finish… people come and go as they wish.

Your channel, the front door, that’s special. Just like those doors in Brooklyn. Not everyone uses them but those who do have reason to expect to enter into an organized, less hectic space. The channel page attracts the people looking for a more formal engagement, a “sit down” as my relatives might have said.

These are users who want to find out what you and your content are all about. They want to see what you offer. If they like what they see, they become your regulars (hopefully subscribers) who go to your channel because they know you will have something they are interested in. They don’t want to rely upon fate to stumble upon your next video, they want to knock on the front door and spend some time with you.

Without doing anything but using the tools that come with a YouTube account, you can set your channel to appear differently to unsubscribed users than to your subscribers. This allows you to introduce yourself formally to strangers while offering a more familiar greeting to returning guests. Going deeper, channel tools allow you to organize and categorize your videos by multiple criteria, making it easy for your visitors to understand everything you have to offer.

At the end of the day, YouTube is still all about viewing videos. That’s where brands sell products and creators earn their ad revenue. A successful channel page supports your business goals by directing users to the content they want. The channel can be formal. It can be rigid. That’s OK. People using the front door expect that. Once you convert them to subscribers, you’ll have other options to show them in the side door. Your job is to make sure they find your content no matter which door they choose.

And, hey, there’s nothing wrong with sneaking around to the side door.