Growing a YouTube channel from scratch can be challenging and frustrating.
All that time, planning, recording, and editing content, and when you finally upload it to your channel – tumbleweeds. You may as well have filmed paint drying for all the good it’s done you!
Fear not. There are techniques and tips for growing your channel from zero. Methods you can use to pull in viewers, get more subscribers, and turn those tumbleweeds into roses.
This article gives you eight handy tips you can apply today to grow your YouTube channel, even if you’re starting out from zero.
Let’s get going.
Tip 1 – Make A Start!
To grow a successful YouTube channel from zero means you have to shoot, edit, and upload engaging, entertaining videos regularly.
Thinking about your channel is not the path to success, you need to sit in front of the camera, hit record, and start talking.
You won’t know if you are on the right track for your channel until you’ve uploaded several videos to YouTube, monitored feedback, and made optimised changes to your content.
And don’t worry if you are not that polished at the start. If you take a look at the earliest videos of now successful channels, you’ll see how rough and they were when they first began.
Uploading videos regularly is an absolutely critical step. The crucial factor of feedback comes in several forms; likes and dislikes, comments, and some vital analytics found in your YouTube account.
When you find out what works, you can use the information to make better videos.
But when you start out, resist the temptation to go on a filming frenzy pumping out one video after another. Think about the fable of the tortoise and the hare.
Long term consistency wins over unsustainable short term intensity every time. Slow and steady progress is much better.
Tip 2 – Focus Your Channel on a Single Niche
YouTube channels that jump from topic to topic often confuse people. Viewers are used to channels being about one subject only. So make sure that you make videos that focus around one niche and compliment other content in your channel.
For example, If you like both football and scary videos create a separate channel for each. But if your channel is about beauty, then it’s OK to have videos for nail polish, hair, or skin cleansing, as they all fit under the beauty umbrella.
One of the significant benefits of making your channel about a single niche is the possibility of building viewer feedback loops. That may sound complicated but actually refers to how YouTube works to keep viewers hooked on the site and watching more videos.
As a user watches content, YouTube shows a list of recommended videos (even autoplay them) to keep viewers hooked. YouTube wants to keep people on the site and is good at guessing what a viewer wants to watch next.
If your channel is all about a single niche, then you can take advantage of this.
When a viewer is watching one of my videos, YouTube determines that the user will probably want to see more videos about YouTube education. So other videos from my channel are displayed for them to watch next.
Tip 3 – Model What Is Already Working
Learn the rules of what makes a video successful and stick to them. Over time, through trial and error, Youtubers have learned how to best combine content, editing and presenting styles into winning videos. Model your self on a popular channel and don’t get experimental – understand the rules before you break them.
Emulating a successful channel does not mean copying one though. This famous quote illustrates the point nicely.
Find 10 popular channels currently uploading in your chosen niche. Next, look at the 10 most popular videos for each of those channels and start writing down a list of content ideas. Just because the concepts have already been covered doesn’t mean you can’t take the same idea then do a better job.
Think about how those channels present their content. Is most of the presenting face on, or maybe they have footage of their hands from overhead? Perhaps they have lots of computer screen recordings?
Take the best bits of the successful channels, mix them together, then put your own spin on it.
And you must try to make evergreen content. Evergreen content is videos that will be relevant for a long time in the future. Your aim should be to build up an extensive back catalogue of content that viewers find useful and compelling, even when they discover your channel a year from now.
If you made a gossip style video about the latest spat between your two favourite singers, you might get a short-term spike in traffic. Still, no-one will care in a year when everyone’s moved on.
Most YouTube videos fall into one of two categories – education and entertainment. If you can manage to do both, even better.
Tip 4 – Work Out How to Keep People Watching for Longer
YouTube makes money when viewers watch adverts. So YouTube strives to keep audiences watching content for as long a possible. It follows then that a significant factor for YouTube in deciding how to rank and recommend videos is by a metric called watch time.
Most people won’t watch a video on YouTube all the way through. There are too many distractions nowadays, and attention spans are at an all-time low. So YouTube wants viewers to watch videos that are proven to hold their attention.
As a result, they serve up search results and video recommendations from channels with proven good watch times.
There are steps you can take to keep your viewers tuned into your content, and you’ll probably recognise a lot of them from your YouTube browsing. Everyone uses them because they work and play a big part in keeping viewers engaged.
Keep Intros short and sweet. Try to keep your intro screen and any welcome message under 20 seconds.
Signpost content in longer videos. If your content is over 10 minutes, think about telling people what’s coming up in the next segment to keep them hooked in.
Tease the most compelling part of your video. Place the highlight of your video towards the end, but let the viewer know what’s coming and why they must watch the whole video first.
If you can get 50 percent of your viewers to watch over 50 percent of your videos on average, then you will be doing well, and your channel could be on its way to success.
Tip 5 – Create Clickable Titles and Thumbnails
Your channel can only start to grow if people watch your videos. Yet, people will only watch your video if you have a snappy title and a compelling thumbnail for it. Let’s take a more in-depth look at both.
Your titles need to present a promise to the viewer, usually in one of the three following categories:
Intrigue – Don’t give the game away with your title, use phrases like ‘why was this’ and ‘might surprise you’ to build a compelling reason to click on your video.
FOMO – Fear of missing out. This usually works best with new information. This type of title plays on the human desire not to be out of the loop. Or even better, know something that no-one else knows.
Best Top Worst! – Another peculiar human trait is our need to rank things. Everyone does it. From Tennis players to chocolate cookies, we all have an opinion or would like to find out what is best, top, or worst.
Don’t use a title like ‘My favourite digital cameras’ – ‘The top 10 DSLRs ranked definitively and which one you should buy?’ will outperform it every time.
Thumbnails need to be amazing too. It’s the shop window for your video. You’ll usually want to include a picture of yourself on the thumbnail, especially if you are going to be presenting on camera.
Add in text too – some people are more visual and won’t read your title. A short four or five-word headline that summarises the video helps people narrow down what to watch next. Avoid using fonts with fancy styles and keep your text clean and clear, so it’s easy to read.
Make sure you keep all the elements of your thumbnail big. Don’t forget that people also watch YouTube on mobile, so your thumbnail will still need to work on smaller smartphone screens.
If you need help in leveling up your thumbnails I have check you my YouTube Thumbnail Pack – 75+ easy edit YouTube Thumbnail designs to help you make eye catching, professional looking thumbnails – improve click through rates and get more views.
Tip 6 – Optimise Your Content Based on Analytics
70% of all the videos watched on YouTube are those recommended by the YouTube algorithm. YouTube understands what engages viewers and knows what videos to recommend next to keep them on the platform.
One of the significant factors for getting your videos recommended is how long the average viewer watches your content. Known as Watch Time, it’s an important metric that you should understand and keep a close eye on.
To improve average watch time, use audience retention analysis. This metric shows second-by-second when your audience stops watching your video. In the screen-grab below you can see the audience starts at 100% then quickly drops off to just around 55%.
This means that the video in question may have had a lengthy introduction that viewers found annoying, or the content didn’t live up to the promise of the title. So some users navigated away to find another video.
There are lots of ways you can use analytics to improve and grow your channel. Read this post to find out more about using analytics for channel growth.
Tip 7 – Build Traffic Funnels
When you start getting traffic to your channel, there are several ways to hold on to that traffic and funnel it to your other videos. It’s better than letting to go to other channels, right?
Create a series.
If you have a content idea that is relatively broad, think about creating a series of videos for the topic, like in the example below for a Microsoft Teams software tutorial.
As long as you don’t give away the lion’s share of the information in the first video, viewers are more likely to watch the next in the series. Set up teasers about what’s in the following video in the series to help funnel the traffic over.
Make sure that the content in a series of videos works on a standalone basis as well. Briefly recap the lessons from previous videos before you begin the content of the next in the series, so viewers know the context.
If you don’t have content that works as a series but has a similar theme, consider building a channel playlist. 5-Minute Crafts’s channel has thematic playlists containing hundreds of videos with hours of watch time in each.
When a view hits play all, Youtube shows one video after another on the playlist – ensuring good watch time (and ad revenue).
Cards are the term given to grey boxes you can set to display in the corner of your video.
You can use cards to link to other channels, websites, or polls. But, perhaps the best use for them is to link to your other video content.
If you found a place in one of your videos that your audience retention analytics showed some viewers dropping out. Set up a card just before this point to funnel the traffic to other complementary content on your channel.
Find out more about adding cards in YouTube Studio.
Use End screens
When a viewer gets to the end of your video, use an end screen to promote another video. It’s best if you only suggest one video. Having a single call-to-action is better than adding multiple links to lots of your videos and hoping the viewer clicks one.
This tip works even better if you plan ahead. Trail the video you will link to in the end screen of the video you’ll place it on.
Find out how to add and end screen.
Tip 8 – Don’t Give Up!
It takes time and dedication to build up a successful YouTube channel. And when you get started, it can seem like you are trying really hard for little reward. YouTube is peppered with channels where the creator burned out and stopped after only uploading six or seven videos.
There is a concept for entrepreneurs that is illustrated by the ‘S’ curve. When a new venture begins, frustration builds as little happens. And it’s not uncommon to think that you’ve wasted your time and everything is destined to fail.
But there comes the point, known as the inflection point, where things start clicking into place. Suddenly the venture rockets away, and it becomes successful.
Most people quit before the inflection point, which is why it pays to stick with your plan and keep on working hard. Commit yourself to upload at least a video per week for six months.
Monitor feedback from the comments and analytics and use it to improve and make better videos. Don’t give up!
Growing a successful YouTube channel isn’t easy – but it’s not impossible either. Those that are successful know that achieving success takes time. It requires careful planning, listening to feedback, and interpreting channel analytics.
There are tried and tested techniques you can use to attract and keep viewers watching your videos.
Experiment using the tips above in your videos, and see what difference it can make to your channel. There are tens of thousands of people making a living from YouTube. Will you become one of them?