YouTube is currently the second-largest search engine in the world, boasting more than one billion unique visitors per month and more than 100 hours of video uploaded to the site every hour. And while the sheer volume of content and visitors may make you feel like the market is saturated, limiting the reach of your own channel or content, think again. According to YouTube’s statistics, millions of people subscribe to YouTube channels every day, with daily subscription rates quadrupling year-over-year.
That means if you have high-quality content – and you’re willing to put in time and effort to grow your YouTube following – you can achieve success. There are more than one million YouTube channel partners who currently earn money from their YouTube videos, with thousands of channels generating more than six figures per year.
Easy Steps to Grow on YouTube
As with all social media outlets, the first thing to remember about growing your YouTube audience is that you must see your channel as part of the larger YouTube community. Just as no man is an island, no YouTube channel is capable of success without the buy-in and support of watchers, subscribers, and other content creators. You need to offer great content to viewers to encourage people to subscribe; you need to appreciate your followers and respect their expectations of your channel in order to keep them happy; and you need to work with other creators to enhance the overall community. If you fully grasp and embrace these concepts, everything else about your channel’s growth will come relatively easily.
1. Take Advantage of the YouTube Creator Academy
YouTube has done a great job of developing the YouTube Creator Academy to help facilitate the success of YouTube content creators. The Academy consists of four courses, each of which include a series of videos, checklists, activities, and quizzes to help ensure you’ve retained the content they’ve provided.
- Core Building Blocks: A course with five total lessons on the fundamentals of a successful YouTube channel
- Grow Your Audience: A 10-lesson series that helps you define your audience and keep them coming back for more of your content
- The Art of Getting Viewers: A five-lesson boot camp with tips on how to take your viewership further
- Earn Money With YouTube: A three-lesson series that introduces you to revenue-generation and goal setting on YouTube
At a minimum, watch the provided videos and use them to help you develop plans and goals for your channel. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to check out the YouTube Partners forum, where content creators can connect and provide one another with tips on subjects such as monetization and channel promotion ideas.
The vast majority of YouTube creators fail to take advantage of the free resources YouTube provides. Set yourself up for success by tapping into these tutorials. YouTube only continues to succeed if creators continue to post content, so it’s in their best interest to provide you with high-quality insights to start off right.
2. Use Quality Titles, Tags, and Descriptions
When creating your videos, titles, tags, and descriptions are incredibly important. There are several reasons for this:
- Written content is crawled by search engines to determine how to rank your videos in search results – quality titles, tags, and descriptions are likely to result in greater search traffic.
- Titles and descriptions are one of the first things potential viewers see before clicking to watch a video. A poor title or description that fails to communicate your video’s purpose is likely to result in fewer click-throughs and views.
- And similarly, proper titles and descriptions can help you communicate your brand’s message to your followers, or indicate where a video falls within a series. For example, if you do a video on couponing every Monday, you might title it, “Extreme Couponing Tips With Connie, Episode 10” – very quickly you’ve communicated who you are, what the video is about, and where it falls within a series.
To write high-quality titles, tags, and descriptions, you must do a little research first. You can use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to help you find frequently searched terms. For instance, if you’re filming a video on chicken tacos, you need to figure out how to make your chicken tacos video stand out from other chicken tacos videos. You could use the Keyword Planner to come up with words or phrases to describe your video that receive significant monthly search traffic, but with less competition.
I entered “chicken tacos” into the Keyword Planner and found it receives 22,200 searches each month, which is quite significant. But when I went to YouTube and entered the phrase into the YouTube search bar, I realized there were 76,000 other results that included the phrase “chicken tacos.” That’s a lot of competition.
The good news is, the Keyword Planner also let me know the phrase, “shredded chicken tacos” receives roughly 8,100 monthly searches. A quick YouTube search let me know that there were only 20,600 other videos on the network that used the phrase. While that’s still stiff competition, it’s a lot better than 76,000.
Plus, when I searched the phrase “shredded chicken tacos” with the quotations, I found that fewer than 700 videos were optimized specifically for that combination and order of words. By creating a high-quality video with a title, description, and tags that are optimized for this phrase, I’ll be more likely to gain traffic to my video than had I stuck only with the phrase “chicken tacos.”
Aside from optimizing your titles for search, you also want to make sure your titles are specific and accurate. For instance, if your taco recipe doesn’t include shredded chicken, don’t use the phrase “shredded chicken tacos” as your title just to generate traffic. That’s a surefire way to annoy potential subscribers and encourage them to leave your video quickly.
3. Choose a Strong Thumbnail
Your titles, tags, and descriptions are part of the message you’re communicating to potential viewers about your videos’ content, but the thumbnail is a big part of this initial communication. The thumbnail is the image that shows up on the YouTube video player before a potential viewer presses the “play” button. If this image is blurry, cluttered, dark, or fails to help communicate the content of the video, it’s unlikely to be watched – especially considering how many alternatives are out there.
Remember, YouTube is a vast search engine filled with millions of videos. Just because you put together an awesome chicken taco recipe doesn’t mean anyone will click on it, especially if the thumbnail you’ve chosen is dark and unappetizing.
YouTube automatically generates three possible thumbnail images from each video you upload, and you can select which one you want to display by going to your Video Manager dashboard and editing the video in question. Unfortunately, these auto-generated thumbnails are usually blurry and awkward.
Rather than relying on YouTube, you can upload your own thumbnail to the site. Make this image compelling and clear. For instance, if your video is on how to balance a checkbook, you could take a picture of a checkbook ledger, then add a text overlay that says clearly, “3 Steps to a Balanced Checkbook.” The result is a nice-looking thumbnail that further communicates the message of your video in an accurate and compelling way.
4. Create Collaborations
Working with other YouTube content creators is a great way to further your reach and gain a good reputation. When you work with other creators, you’re leveraging each of your networks, increasing the likelihood that all of you will see hikes in subscriptions and views.
There are a number of ways to develop collaborations. If you know other YouTube creators in your niche, a collaboration could be as simple as cross-promotional shout-outs for viewers to also check out one another’s latest videos. Or you could start a series of in-person interviews where you interview other creators on your show, in exchange for their promotion of the interviews.
Finally, you can come up with a creative series, where each of you develop a part of the whole. For instance, if your channel is all about football, and you want to do something fun for the Super Bowl, you might want to create a collaboration with a food vlogger and a party planner to put together a three-part series on prepping for a Super Bowl party. You could do a video that breaks down the details of the game – who’s playing, significant players, ways to plan friendly competitions among viewers, and so on. The food vlogger could put together a video on creative ideas for Super Bowl snacks, and the party planner could put together a video on how to plan and decorate for the perfect Super Bowl party. Within each video, you all agree to cross-promote the other videos, encouraging viewers to check out the whole series.
As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Why not work with other YouTubers to grow and succeed together?
5. Interact With the Community
Video is one of the best ways to connect with people online. The power of the human voice is significant, and when paired with the visual message you send on screen, viewers are more likely to gain a strong opinion of you, one way or the other. You can harness this power and use it to your advantage by continually working to connect with your viewers and subscribers.
There are many ways to do this, but consider the following:
- Acknowledge Them in Your Videos. Even if you’re in your basement recording your videos alone, you must understand that there are actual people who will watch your published content. Thank them for taking the time to watch your videos. Ask them for feedback, questions, or comments, and let them know you’d like them to subscribe. This type of personal interaction can help you form a connection with them so they’ll feel invested in your success.
- Respond to Comments and Questions. If someone takes the time to reach out to you, take the time to respond. By answering questions, or commiserating over common ground, you can make your viewers feel like they really know you, and that you really care. This is especially important online where so much interaction feels anonymous.
- Solicit and Use Feedback. As you gain an audience, don’t hesitate to ask viewers questions about the types of content they’d like to see more of, and for constructive feedback on what you’re currently doing. Your channel is nothing if it doesn’t have an audience, and you’ll be more likely to grow if you continue to adapt and serve the audience you have. For instance, if you start a channel on adventure sports, but the feedback you receive is that most of your viewers are rock climbers and not snowboarders, it would be more beneficial to focus more content on rock climbing to satisfy your audience’s cravings.
- Give Shout-Outs. If you have a few fans who are constantly sharing your videos and engaging you online, go ahead and thank them personally in one of your videos. They’ll appreciate the acknowledgement and be more likely to continue supporting your channel.
- Host Question & Answer Sessions. If you’re constantly fielding the same questions, chances are your audience would love a short video or series of videos dedicated to answering those questions. This tactic not only provides your audience with the answers they’re searching for, but it also provides you with an easy content-generation mechanism. In other words, questions deserve answers, and if you’re always getting the same questions, your audience is providing you a clear clue into the kind of content they want you to create.
YouTube is an incredible way to share your knowledge and to connect with friends and followers. If you already have a blog, online business, or a strong social following on other social networks, YouTube provides you with an outlet to really project your personality and vocalize your passions.
Years ago, before I started working from home, I had a saying about job interviews: “As long as I can score the interview, I can score the job.” It was true – I was offered every single job I ever got a face-to-face interview for. I’m good in person – I’m confident and engaging, easy to talk to, and competent. When I started writing online, I lost the face-to-face connection, and despite being a reasonably good writer, I’m sure I left followers behind simply because my personality didn’t translate as well on paper.
I’ve recently started focusing more attention on YouTube, and I’m gaining back that sense of confidence in my ability to connect with people. I may not “land” every potential subscriber that watches one of my videos, but I’ll land the ones who appreciate my personality and my goals. And ultimately, those are the subscribers and followers I really want, because those are the ones who are more likely to become avid fans – they’ll feel a connection with what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and they’ll keep coming back for more. That’s the power of YouTube.
Do you have a YouTube channel? What additional tips can you offer?