It's time for our 2018 Edition of "How do I get new subscribers?", the forever question for the new content creator. The 2018 edition tries to account for new algorithm theories so you prioritize your work accordingly.
Where do new subscribers typically click the "subscribe" button? It's most often the channel main page. That means you're going to want to first prioritize your 'look' a bit.
The First Stage - The Channel Setup
Before you begin creating a large volume of videos, prepare your channel for potential viewership. Setup these priorities as your first todo's as you start thinking about what your channel is all about. That way, if your first few videos get lucky and get a few views, you're already prepared to convert those initial viewers into subscribers!
[ ] Stage 1 - About Page (Difficulty: Easy)
The 'about' section, right off your main channel page, is going to be your first textual "elevator pitch" to getting someone to subscribe over the long term.
Goal: Explain something about yourself, the reason you're taking the time to create a youtube channel, what you want to get out of it and what you want the viewers to get out of it. Not just "we do cool stuff, subscribe" or "we release videos every week, subscribe" -- but what do you do and why.
[ ] Stage 1 - Channel Graphics (Difficulty: Medium)
The channel banner is important, it should convey what you do and often list your schedule (do you do weekly live streams? do you release every thursday at 7PM? Put it in there). This is your eye catching 'marketing' method of gaining interest. This is for those that are too lazy to read your about page or are more visual people.
Goal: Make it clean, make it look as professional as possible. But, this is more challenging than text-driven content on the 'about' page as dimensions change over the years and getting it to look right on desktop and mobile can be a super challenge.
Tip: Make sure you look at your banner on tablet, phone and desktop along with the Youtube app. If you can make it look perfect on one but crappy on the other, go for something 'in the middle', perfection won't work across multiple platforms so make it look 'good' on all of them rather than fantastic on one of them.
[ ] Stage 1 - Channel Branding (Difficulty: Medium)
Don’t skimp on your logo. Even if you just use letters (like, CMC for Common Man Cocktails or SF or SORTED or something). Take the time to build a branding that people can remember and integrate that into your thumbnails.
Not a graphic artist? Go out to dafont.com and find a font you like and use that for your ‘text logo’ so that you stand out. You don’t have to be a graphic artist master to at least use a text logo that isn’t 'courier'. Or, head to a place like Fiverr and have a cartoon anime photo profile done of yourself for $5 to $10. Suck it up, spend the cash to look more professional like a real gaming channel or other style of channel. Spending $10 on your channel is the least you can do to provide evidence you care about what you're doing.
The Second Stage - Video Optimization
Once you've got your branding ready, you can start really thinking deep into how to best optimize your content to gain viewership and convert those viewers into subscribers. As you build each video break down the following priorities.
[ ] Stage 2 - Thumbnails (Difficulty: Medium)
You might have the best content in the world, but if nobody is interested in clicking on it you failed as a creator. Don't let that be you. 1. Don't just use a frame from your video and believe that the 10 second thought was worth your time--you are doing it wrong. 2. Don't add a pile of text to your thumbnails and clutter it up; pictures are worth a thousand words you don't need to add words to do it. Some youtube creators have said they create their thumbnail or at least the "shot" they want for the thumbnail before the video is even filmed. This technique gives you a good 'direction' to take the video while also leaving you with a thumbnail that best represents the content.
Your thumbnail should be highly visible and clear. I suggest fully utilizing high saturation and sharpness when editing/filtering your shot in Photoshop or your favorite graphic editor. If you're video thumbnail is to contain a human / head make sure the eyes are staring into the camera right in the face of your potential viewer. This gives a moment of intimacy and humanizes the video before they have even clicked! Avoid cluttered text on thumbnail, you have a title for text.
[ ] Stage 2 - Titles (Difficulty: Medium)
Titles are extremely important to your content. This is where you do not take advice from huge youtube creators because they can title something “watch this” and it will get watched. Here is an article I wrote breaking down how to trend search on titles and produce better title content.
Goal 1: Accurately describe your topic but do it in a search friendly manner. “Chocolate Ice Cream” is nice, but “How To Make Chocolate Ice Cream with Low Sugar” would be better.
Goal 2: Take it serious, this is hard stuff but titles will no doubt bring you the fastest response on execution. If you title it right today, tomorrow you’ll see how it works or how it didn’t.
[ ] Stage 2 - 15 second Hook (Difficulty: Easy)
The first 15 seconds defines how your video is going to perform. If you waste it on bouncing logos, stupid music or pretty graphics you’re going to lose potential viewers. Spend that 15 seconds telling people what value they’re going to get from your video, how something funny is going to happen, how entertaining the subject matter is or whatever it takes to keep them sticking around.
Goal 1: Watch a few popular TV shows and see how they handle the first minute of the broadcast before it cuts to a commercial. A drama may show a murder and not show you the murderer, a comedy may hit you with 2 great one liners, a reality show may showcase the best interaction with the people in that episode.
Goal 2: If you need an intro graphic for your show, do it at second 16 - 18 (anything longer is obnoxious).
[ ] Stage 2 - Youtube Cards (Difficulty: Easy)
When you produce new content, use Youtube cards to make sure you suggest specific videos when the time is right. That means, if you have a video about repairing a 1970s Dodge Charger and you mention it in your repair of a Toyata Supra, you should flip a card above your head during that part and, if you can remember, point to it "speaking of car repairs, watch us fix a 1970s Dodge Charger, right here!"
Goal 1: Make sure you display videos that are relevant to the topic if possible. For bonus points, point to that video within a playlist, so that when the viewer is done the next video that plays is in the playlist (more watch time for you).
Goal 2: Go back to older videos and add Youtube Cards if you create content that could have been mentioned in the past if you had the video for it.
[ ] Stage 2 - Description (Difficulty: Medium)
This task should be easy right? Not if you’re doing it correctly. You want rich content here that has lots of great keywords that are part of your tags and title along side other keywords that the video covers. Youtube can’t (currently) ‘hear’ you talking very well, so you need to describe what your video is about accurately.
Goal 1: Go for the most long winded description that you can come up with that isn’t tag stuffing or doing something wrong. If you’re talking about a Mustang and you could have said “the car” or “it”, replace it with “the mustang” or “mustang” so you get more rich use of those keywords (which should be in your tags too).
[ ] Stage 2 - Tags (Difficulty: Medium)
Tags are a huge pain in the butt. It’s easy to do them wrong or lack enthusiasm to do them right. If I create a video about how to make a margarita with margarita mix my tags will be “how to make a margarita with margarita mix”, “margarita”, “margarita recipe”, “how to make a margarita at home”, “how to make the margarita”, etc. The tags enforce the title and enforce the description.
Goal 1: Try very hard to use all the space (500 characters) for your tags by creating tag phrases that would be what users type. Not sure what they type? If I went and typed “how to make a marga” into google or youtube, the auto-complete gives me a darn good starting point!
The Third Stage - Channel & Video Optimization
Hey, you got a few videos under your belt and feeling confident. Start considering what you're going to do to take it to the next level. While some of these really should fall as a priority 2, a new creator has a lot of things to juggle in their head to do in each video. So, we move these to stage 3 now that you've gotten used to stage 2 requirements.
[ ] Stage 3 - Call To Action (Difficulty: Easy)
You want people to subscribe? Tell them. Want them to like? Tell them. Don’t expect them to do it on their own. If they really love your content they may be enthralled with the topic and not paying attention. But, in most cases, people are like sheep, you have to guide their every move. Want them to join your Patreon to make you money? TELL THEM.
Goal 1: Don’t expect it if you didn’t ask.
[ ] Stage 3 - Watch Time (Difficulty: Hard)
If you want your content to rise to the top of search for youtube then you have to have more watch time than your competing videos. The views are important, but not as important as watch time. A video that’s 10 minutes long and has an 80% audience retention and 1,000 views is going to do far better than a similar 2-minute video with 80% audience retention and 1,000 views because the other has more accumulated watch time.
Goal 1: Create content long enough to clearly make your point. Don’t waste people’s time at the beginning with random ramblings or off-topic discussions. Keep them wanting to watch, change camera angles, add b-roll or do whatever you can to keep their attention.
Note: This is by far the most important step in the entire process of video creation. Why is it in stage 3? Because watch time is difficult to build and requires you understand the full process of video creation to fully take advantage of it. However, this is the one stage that will be a constant struggle and your primary goal of every video you create in 2018 and beyond.
[ ] Stage 3 - Channel Trailer (Difficulty: Medium)
Just as your 'about' page and your channel banner is for the readers/visual folks, the trailer is your one big chance to tell people (in the medium you're working in) why they should subscribe. However, a brand new channel may wait a bit on this even though the main page drives the most subscribers. This is a late stage edition because you really need to know what your channel is about and showcase some of the clips of your channel in the trailer so people get a high level summary of what you're all about. Watch a few top movie trailers and notice how it hits all the hot topics: action, emotion, theme of the movie. Your trailer should do the same thing in a short period of time.
Goal: A tailer should be under 2 minutes and explain: what you do, when you upload, example your content and call to action to subscribe to the channel for more. This is your visual Resume to get your subscribers to "hire" you to stuff their channel feed.
Note: The trailer can change over time. I like to re-do my channel trailer at least once a year or anytime I make a drastic change in my channel schedule/content so that the trailer reflects what we are doing now, not what we did 3 years ago.
[ ] Stage 3 - End Card (Difficulty: Medium)
The end card should show at least one video (and must), I usually use two: “youtube suggested” and a playlist relevant to the topic (or one I want to push harder). I've seen a few techniques for end card. 1. At the end of your video you can promote a call to action to subscribe (click here to subscribe -- pointing to your channel end card element) and promote a video/playlist (click here to watch this next awesome video -- point to the video element). 2. Pre-stage a small 19-20 second clip that says "thanks for watching this video, you can click here to subscribe or checkout one of these two playlists to continue watching" and point to where the elements are on the screen. Or, come up with your own ideas, but make sure it's consistent and in every video.
Goal 1: Go back to old videos and change End Card playlists if you believe they’ll fit better now that you have more content.
Goal 2: Use high performing video content to push new content. If you have one video that just does great and one that could be better, use the end card of the great video to direct people to it.
[ ] Stage 3 - Playlist Generation (Difficulty: Easy)
One you have 3 videos on your channel, you should start building playlists. Playlists count as a new video element on your channel. If you want youtube to always feel like you're uploading something fresh and new, create a new playlist on days you're not uploading content. To youtube, it's as if you just uploaded new content! Make sure you fill in the description and give the playlist a good "high search" relevancy. If your doing video game "let's play" content, categorize your game videos into a playlist. Next time make a playlist for "action games", or some other sub-genre. You don't have to make playlists that all your subscribers are going to consume--make something you know the "algorithm" can consume. And do it at least once a week for those that upload weekly content (that makes two new 'uploads' per week if you add playlists)
Goal 1: Create a meaningful playlist that backs up important keywords you are trying to make your channel about. E.g. if you did 10 videos on Horror Movie Reviews, then the playlist should be called something like "Popular Horror Movie Reviews" or "Best Horror Movie Reviews".
Goal 2: The playlists that matter should be on your channel mainpage. Which matter? Those that are seasonal / topical to current events, those that perform best, etc.
Goal 3: Playlists should have a description with important keywords, not left blank!!
[ ] Stage 3 - Collaborations (Difficulty: Hard)
This can be quite difficult to organize, but many smaller channels find great success in collaborations. Don’t expect your 100 subscribers to collaborate with a channel that has 120k subscribers, but a channel with 50 to 300 shouldn’t be too hard. From my own experiences, I’ve had more subscriber growth with collaborations on channels smallerthan mine than bigger. Big channels may have high volume views but they don’t always make loyalists.