How to Grow Your YouTube Channel: 18 Things You Can Learn from The Pros
Bonus Material: Free YouTube Growth Checklist
Bonus Material: Free YouTube Growth Checklist
Dollar Shave Club, HelloFlo, Poo-Pourri – there’s no shortage of YouTube video success stories. But one run-away success won’t turn you into the next Casey Neistat.
So, what can you do?
I’m going to walk you through the 18 tips you can use right now to grow your YouTube channel. You know, so you can actually turn those views into cold, hard cash.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
If keywords matter for Google, they matter for YouTube too, so figure out which relevant keywords you can rank for.
You can use a tool like KeywordTool.io for YouTube keyword research as well as Google keyword research:
Be aware of both YouTube and Google keyword opportunities because if you can get your video to rank high on both search engines, you’ll cash in.
You can also switch between keyword suggestions (popular search terms) and questions (frequently searched questions). Both can be useful in this case.
You’ll be asked to pay $88 / month for search volume, cost per click (CPC) and AdWords competition data:
Instead, you can use a Google Chrome extension like Keywords Everywhere to get that volume and competition data for your new potential keywords:
The higher the PA and DA, the harder it will be to outrank the page. So, consider this step a proxy for “competition”.
Here’s the entire process, step-by-step:
Repeat this process for every video you create.
YouTube is a video platform, which means there’s not much opportunity for keyword-rich text.
That’s why TED transcribes their videos, helping them show up in search results for keywords like “what drives you”:
Here’s Tony Robbins talking about what drives us to do what we do every day:
If you haven’t started tapping into the power of Quora, you should.
Why? Because questions are often used as search queries. If you can directly answer a question, especially in a brief video, you can capitalize on some low-hanging search fruit.
People have started including video in their Quora responses:
Instead, you want to answer the questions you find on Quora on your YouTube channel, stealing that Q&A traffic away from the popular Quora thread with the help of YouTube’s ridiculously high domain authority.
Find high volume and low competition Quora questions (you can find them through basic Google keyword research, the process outlined in tip #1). Often, you’ll find the most value in long-tail, niche queries.
Providing immediate value isn’t a bad way to encourage subscribers. You might be able to take advantage of the reciprocity theory.
Mine comments on your blog and your previous videos for inspiration, as well.
Are you familiar with title phenomena?
59% of links shared on social media aren’t read at all. So content is shared based exclusively on the title.
On YouTube, the title of your video is just as important, but the thumbnail comes into play, too.
Here are some tips for optimizing your thumbnail, but be sure to test for yourself:
Notice how Alfie of PointlessBlog (above) piques interest and establishes consistency.
Blogging and growing your YouTube channel go hand-in-hand.
Inside Sumo’s Tony Robbins Growth Study, there’s a 10-minute video, which helped to increase the time on page:
Within 48 hours, it was the most shared Sumo article of the year. It’s already occupying the fourth spot on Google for “tony robbins marketing”:
That’s the power of video and content working together.
Here’s how Dan Martell, who started growing his YouTube channel about two years ago, integrates his blogging and video efforts:
Note how closely integrated the blog and video are throughout the article:
Dan is now generating 2/3rds of the traffic to his site via his YouTube channel.
You create an epic piece of content, you promote it on social media. Duh.
But here’s what most people forget, though: context.
It’s not enough to share the title of the video and the link across every social media channel. It’s not enough to ask those you mention in your video to do the same.
No, you need to understand the context.
People communicate differently on Twitter…
...than they do on Facebook…
It’s your job to understand each social media channel’s native language, context, etc. There are plenty of subtle differences that make each one unique. Your video content needs to reflect that.
Take a look at how Innocent Drinks customizes promotional copy and video length based on the context of the social media channel. On Twitter, you’ll find a 6 second video:
On Facebook, you’ll find a 39 second video:
Sumo tests video content promoted via the different social media channels as well:
The major point is to try different styles of formats for different social channels.
I’m sure you’ve read articles on the optimal time and day to publish a video. (Saturday is the “magic” day.)
You’ve probably also read that once a week, no twice a week, no every day is the best frequency.
Here’s the truth that no one is willing to tell you because they want a clickbait article title: consistency is the biggest factor.
Monthly, weekly, every day…
No frequency is inherently better. Just like no time of the day or day of the week is inherently better.
All of the data you see reported online is based on averages. And you shouldn’t be in the business of making decisions based on averages.
Pick a frequency, a time of the day and a day of the week, and stick to it. FailArmy, for example, posts a weekly roundup video every Friday, using a consistent “Fails of the Week” theme:
When you create video content, promote it to your email list. Wondering how getting people who are already part of your community to watch your videos will contribute to your YouTube channel growth?
Sujan Patel, growth marketer and entrepreneur, explains:
“Video is my favorite medium because it shows emotion and it's hard to fake expertise (compared to written content). I find that you don't need many views to get an ROI as the engagement is much higher and videos are much more memorable than written content.
The best way to grow your YouTube channel is to leverage your email list. Ask them to subscribe and comment on your videos and, in your closing, it's best to include a link that auto subscribes them.
Add this to the end of your channel link: "?sub_confirmation=1". Example: https://www.youtube.com/user/crxnamja?sub_confirmation=1”
Here’s an example of the type of YouTube channel subscription call to action that Sujan mentions:
It’s more about steady, sustainable growth than one or two run-away successes that rack up the views. So, when you’re emailing your list, be sure to encourage them to subscribe vs. merely view.
After all, you know those subscribers are actively engaged with your business and likely to help you spread the word about your YouTube channel via social media.
There are YouTube channels out there that are complementary to yours. Identify a list of those channels and begin reaching out. Can you collaborate with those channel creators on future videos?
Typically, you’ll find email information on the “About” tab of their channel:
Here’s an email template you can tweak and build off of:
Here’s an example where 3 YouTube influencers collaborated on a movie together called Dirty 30. They turned their individual YouTube followings into 30,000 subscribers for the movie’s YouTube channel in less than a year:
This method is essentially the video form of guest blogging.
Once someone finds your channel, make sure it’s easy to navigate.
YouTube discoverability (i.e. how easy it is to find your channel / videos) doesn’t just apply to those coming from the main page, it applies to those coming from your channel as well.
That’s why playlists can be so useful. Here’s how Unbounce does it, for example:
Much more user-friendly than the “Videos” tab, right?
Always keep discoverability and usability in mind when organizing your video content.
You can sort and organize your videos in whatever way you’d like, in whatever way makes sense for your channel. Unbounce, for example, has a playlist for their Page Fights series, their conference talks, etc.
WatchCut, on the other hand, has a playlist for each major video series:
You can see “Truth or Drink”, “Kids Describe”, “Lineup”, etc. The “Couples” playlist might be an indication that they have noticed videos featuring couples perform exceptionally well.
Organizing your video content into playlists with epic titles gets people to watch multiple videos. This improves your watch time and session watch time, the two key YouTube SEO ranking factors, which help your videos appear in “Suggested Videos” more often.
When you’re scrolling through social media, you’ve likely seen something like this:
Ok, maybe it isn’t poetry, but you’ve likely seen a video with subtitles playing silently on your Facebook feed.
Internal tests at Facebook show that captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12%. For A&W Canada, the results were even larger. They used Facebook’s automatic captioning tool, which increased watch time by 25%.
That’s why subtitles are important. And, of course, a little web accessibility never hurt anyone (including search engine algorithms).
You’re probably familiar with the concept of link building.
After publishing content, you Google related keywords and reach out to bloggers who are linking to those competitive articles, claiming you’ve written something even better.
You can do something similar for YouTube content.
After you publish a video, do a quick Google search to find articles ranking for your target keywords. Show the authors your video and suggest that they embed the video into their article.
Let’s say you just published a video on how to make your own lip balm at home. A quick Google search reveals the following bloggers:
Viola! Wider reach for your lip balm DIY video and more potential YouTube channel subscribers.
This might be contradictory to what you’ve read about growing a YouTube channel in the past.
Why? Most people encourage you to hop on trends and “newsjack” to take advantage of bandwagons.
If you’re lucky, you might end up with one of those run-away successes we’ve been talking about. But you won’t end up with any meaningful channel growth.
Instead, focus on creating video content that will be just as relevant in a year as it is today. For example, this timelessly funny video from Squatty Potty:
Again, it’s all about playing the long game with YouTube. If your video won’t survive a short-lived trend, like fidget spinners, you’re putting time and effort into a piece of content that’s already inching towards an expiry date.
Think of your YouTube channel subscribers the way you think of your email list subscribers. They’ve shown interest, they’re actively engaged, they’re being nurtured. This isn’t the platform for hard sells.
Here are a couple examples of YouTubers falling short of success because they were too focused on “selling four more bottles of Pinot Grigio”:
In this case, we have two marketing agencies creating video content about why hiring a marketing agency is a good idea. Not only are the videos clearly bias, they’re boring as well.
Instead of that hard sell, focus on:
To do that, you’re going to need to show your humanity and get personal. One of my favorite examples of this comes from Dan, who published a video on how he turned something previously perceived as a weakness (ADHD) into a superpower:
By sharing his story, Dan was able to make a personal connection with his audience early on.
As far as I can tell, this was one of his first YouTube videos and remains one of his most popular.
Get personal early and get personal often.
This one’s straightforward, so I’ll keep it short. Be sure you’re using playlists, video descriptions and calls to action within the video to encourage viewers to watch another video.
People spend an average of 40 minutes on YouTube per viewing session, so keep them on your channel for as long as possible.
This likely looks familiar:
A simple call to action to watch more episodes of Fear Pong and also to subscribe to the channel.
You’ll be surprised by the power of suggestion.
The more you engage with other channels and involve yourself in the YouTube community, the better. It’s essentially free publicity, right?
Use the list of relevant channels you built earlier as a starting point.
Watch their videos, comment on their videos, like their videos, follow other video creators on Twitter, etc. Build your presence because every new viewer counts, especially early on.
Here’s an example from a trend-chasing “Smash or Pass” video:
Those top comments are from other YouTubers, who are now benefiting from any traffic the video receives, despite having no hand in creating it.
YouTube has launched local versions in more than 88 countries and you can navigate YouTube in a total of 76 different languages (covering 95% of the Internet population).
Remember the Tony Robbins TED video from earlier? You can read Tony’s talk in over 20 languages:
Take a look at your YouTube channel demographic data to see if you should translate your videos. If the answer is yes, then use the data to determine which languages you should consider first.
You might also consider looking at your Google Analytics demographic data, especially if you have blog readers.
This won’t make sense for everyone, but if you notice the demand, capitalize on it.
So far, all of these tips have been organic (i.e. free). But if you have a budget, invest in YouTube or Facebook ads.
YouTube ads allow you to turn your videos into ads that play: before other videos on YouTube, beside other playing videos, or in search results.
If your ad is skipped before 30 seconds (or the end), you don’t pay a cent. So, if you have a humble $10 / day budget, you could generate ~200 views for a video.
Facebook ads allow you to extend the reach of your videos, too. Just post the video up and then promote it to an audience.
YouTube ads are often perceived as interruptive and bothersome. On Facebook, if your video is highly targeted and genuinely valuable, you have a better chance of “blending in”.
Here is Sumo’s Tony Robbins Facebook video ad:
You can use the demographic data in your YouTube channel analytics dashboard to help you make smart ad targeting decisions.
For example, if you know your YouTube channel does well with men 45-54, you might experiment with promoting your videos to that demographic on Facebook to reach more relevant viewers. If you’ve experimented with Facebook ads in the past, you have demographic data waiting for you there as well:
Facebook has advanced targeting options, though. So don’t get stuck thinking about your audience in terms of gender and age exclusively.
Use what you learn on YouTube to create better Facebook ads and to target them more effectively. Similarly, use what you learn through Facebook ads to create better YouTube video content.
If you want to grow your YouTube channel, focus on steady, sustainable growth that drives your business goals. Ignore the views, the likes.
Why? Because we all know “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, but no one bought a Baha Men album.
To avoid being a one-hit wonder, start with the low-hanging fruit:
Then, start thinking about paid ads to amplify all of your hard work.