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Whether you're interested in starting a YouTube channel or you've been posting videos for awhile without the response you expected, you're probably asking yourself, "How do I grow my YouTube channel?"
There's a lot of conflicting information out there—and not all of it is good. If you're looking for a guide that'll tell you how to get to 1,000 subscribers overnight, this isn't the article for you. But if you want to put in the time and effort that it takes to grow a YouTube channel and brand with staying power, read on!
We see a lot of people asking how to grow their YouTube channel, but growth can mean a few different things. There are dozens of YouTube metrics to consider in terms of your growth, and you might focus on one or just a few at a time. Before we talk about tactics to grow your YouTube channel, let’s define those metrics.
The primary YouTube analytics dashboard features data on views, watch time, subscribers, and estimated revenue
When you open your YouTube analytics dashboard, you see three or four main metrics. These are where most channel owners tend to focus early on:
When you navigate away from your overview to the other tabs, you start to see more specific types of metrics. The first tab after overview is your reach tab, which shows you:
This tab will also give you detailed information about traffic sources so you can see where your views are coming from. That way you can see what’s already working for your channel. For example, if a lot of your video traffic is external from Instagram, you can double down on your Instagram promotion to get more views.
Now that you know about your reach, it’s important to understand how people engage with your videos.
Finally, the Audience tab gives you a look into who’s watching your videos.
This tab also gives you information about:
The first big milestone of your YouTube channel is getting 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. 1,000 subscribers isn’t arbitrary, it’s the number of subscribers you need to have before you can apply to monetize your YouTube channel. But how do you get there?
The best way to get to 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours starts with creating quality content at regular intervals and effective promotion strategies. It can seem intimidating to get to 1,000 subscribers from zero, but there are a few tactics that work especially well for newer channels.
Your channel page is what potential subscribers see when they click on your channel profile. The elements of a channel page are:
Even if your channel has content gaps, you can attract subscribers with playlists.
Playlists are collections of similar videos (e.g., a compilation of demos and reviews of a specific piece of camera equipment) or focused on a process or journey (e.g., a series of videos showing how to build your own computer).
Pick a playlist topic that’s related to your channel and add some of your favorite videos to the playlist, along with at least one of your own. That way, if someone starts watching your playlist, they’ll see your content and might subscribe.
You also can (and should) create playlists that only feature your content. This will make it easier for viewers to browse similar content as you upload more videos. For example, if you stream a few different games to your channel, you should create a playlist for each game.
One of the first things you should do when trying to get to your first 1,000 subscribers is ask friends to share your channel. It doesn’t matter if your friends are influencers (though that helps). Even if your friends are just enthusiastic about your channel niche, having them get the word out about your channel could result in a boost.
Once you’ve built your channel page, made a few playlists, gotten some friends to share and have started publishing original content, it’s time to get into promotional tactics. We’ve broken promotion strategies into a three groups:
Before you can boost viewer engagement and get subscribers, you need to figure out how to get people to watch your videos in the first place. Here are some strategies and tactics to boost video views.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the strategy of understanding what people are searching for and trying to get your content to be one of the first results for a search query (i.e., ranking for specific keywords).
YouTube is often seen as a social network, but the truth is it’s the second biggest search engine and second most visited site in the world after its parent company, Google.
But what does that mean for your channel? It means that even small channels have the chance to show up for relevant search terms if they know how to optimize their SEO. SEO can get complex, but the basics are easy to understand. To learn more about optimizing your YouTube channel’s SEO, read The YouTuber’s Guide to SEO.
Cross promotion on other networks and forums
Every YouTube channel has a niche. Your channel might fill one niche or several. Every niche, no matter how small, has an online community dedicated to it.
Let’s look at guitars as an example. There’s an enormous online community that focuses on guitars in general. From there, you have smaller communities, such as those dedicated to guitars with what players call an offset shape. There are also communities that focus solely on a singular genre of music that features guitars, like worship music.
For each niche you find yourself in, seek out those online communities and become an active member. Start by building relationships and a reputation as a friendly expert or fan, and slowly promote your videos from there.
However, being overly promotional before establishing a reputation is a recipe for disaster. At the very least, it’s ineffective. At worst, it’s abrasive. It takes longer to get a positive reputation in any community, but it pays off in the long run.
Commenting on other videos
There’s a right way and a wrong way to promote your channel by commenting on other videos. The wrong way would be to spam other channels to promote your own. This will only result in you getting blocked by bigger channels that could otherwise be valuable relationships.
Instead of spamming, offer support and affirmation in other comments.
First, look through comments on other videos in your niche. If you see other comments that have unanswered questions, answer them! Don’t worry about asking them to subscribe to your channel, if you provided a helpful or funny response, they might click on your profile and subscribe anyway.
Don’t stop at responding to other commenters. Leave your own comment on videos in your niche. For example, you and another YouTube channel posted a video about playing the same level in a game. If that other YouTuber had a similar experience, point it out. Drop a timestamp and mention how you struggled with the same things, or compliment them on a great move they made.
Thumbnails and titles
Okay, you’ve published some videos and they’re starting to show up in search results and via YouTube’s browse features. Great work! But how do you move from growing impressions to growing clicks?
Custom thumbnails and titles that hook potential viewers are key to getting that click-through rate (CTR) up. Search other videos similar to yours and see what the thumbnails and titles of the most popular videos look like. Then, use a graphic design program or a free site like Canva to make your own spin on those thumbnails.
For titles, try something that’s a combination of matter-of-fact descriptive (i.e., pick a main keyword like “best webcams”) and fun or engaging. Examples for “best webcams” might include:
Create regular content (and be strategic about it)
Consistency in timing is key for growing any YouTube channel. You don’t have to post videos every single day, but whether you post a few times a week or once a month, you should try to be consistent.
Just like a TV show airs at the same time on the same network every week, YouTube viewers want to be able to look forward to your content on a regular basis. Finding the right schedule might take some experimentation. Here are a few timing elements to consider:
Adding a website to the mix (and an email list)
If you have a YouTube channel, then why do you need a website? Is a website and email list really worth the investment?
Yes, they absolutely are.
With your own website and email list, you can expand your growth beyond YouTube. People who might not think to search for content like yours on YouTube could find your videos on your website instead. And those who don’t subscribe or ring the bell icon might sign up for your email list and get your content that way.
Here are a few of the benefits to adding a website and email list:
Once you’ve started building impressions and views, it’s time to focus on keeping people watching. As any marketer will tell you, it’s easier to keep existing customers than attract new ones, and the same is true for YouTube subscribers.
The first thing you need to ensure is that your videos feature quality production. It’s easier than ever to shoot high-quality video with a very small set of tools. Even if you don’t have access to DSLR cameras, you can create professional-looking videos with:
We’re sure you’ve heard about the importance of storytelling before, but what does it mean for your YouTube channel?
At its heart storytelling is using a narrative to communicate the message. For YouTube content creators, the story might be:
You don’t need a script to tell a story, but you might want to give some thought to what you want to say in a video before you film it. You may even want to practice what you’re going to say in a video so you can more clearly convey your message.
Breaking long videos into sections
If you think YouTube videos have been getting longer, you’re right. Creators are making longer videos because the YouTube algorithm favors them and because they can get more ad revenue. But viewers don’t always want to watch all 45 minutes of your content.
If you have a video that’s more than five minutes, find points in the video that would make sense to break out into sections and add timestamps to your video description. That way, your viewers can easily find the parts of your video that they most want to watch, and you can still get the benefits YouTube seems to give to longer videos.
Promoting other videos on your channel
Adding cards to your videos can encourage viewers to watch more of your content
If people watch one of your videos for more than a few minutes, chances are they’ll be interested in watching more. While filming a video, make occasional references to similar content and link to it either in your video description or via the “cards” feature on your video edit screen.
We recommend doing both at the same time. When you mention the video and add a card to the part of the video where you mention similar content, viewers will get a prompt in the upper-right corner of the screen that will take them to that video.
Ask people to comment with questions and suggestions
Get your fans involved with your channel by speaking directly to them during your videos. Asking viewers questions, even a simple, “What did you think of this video?” can drive comments. You can even ask viewers to leave suggestions for future videos, which will help them feel like a part of the channel.
Do a live premiere for all your videos
Instead of scheduling your videos to go live at a certain time and hoping for the best, set premieres for all of your content. When you premiere a video, subscribers get a special notification to tune in.
Viewers will watch the video premiere in real-time. You can also enable a live chat and discuss the video alongside them. For those watching, it feels like a shared experience, and you might find that videos that you set as a live premiere have a longer watch-time early on.
Getting eyes on your content is great, but subscribers are key to building a personal brand and a successful YouTube channel.
If someone watches your video all the way to the end, they’re invested in your content. End screens are a feature you can seamlessly add to the last 20 seconds of your videos that have clickable elements of your choice. You can suggest other videos, but we recommend adding a call-to-action button that asks viewers to subscribe to your channel.
Remember how we suggested you ask viewers questions and ask them to make suggestions for future content within your video? Ask them to subscribe as well! A gentle suggestion at the beginning and end of a video is a reminder for viewers to subscribe or turn on notifications.
Set up your subscribe watermark
In YouTube’s settings, you can add a watermark to every video on your channel automatically. You just need to set it up one time. It will appear in the lower right corner of every video once enabled. When viewers hover over the watermark and click on it, they’ll become subscribed to your channel.
Building a successful YouTube channel takes time—there’s no way around it. But if you put in the work to create high quality, engaging content, you might find yourself with a sizable audience that tunes in day after day to see what you create.