It’s never too early to start thinking about strategies for growing your YouTube channel. It used to be that a single viral hit could set a content creator on the right path for as long as they kept creating. But the saturated world of social media is far more complex these days. If you want to get more views on YouTube—and turn those viewers into subscribers who will continue watching all the new content you put out—you have to set yourself up for success by understanding the strategies that work, why they work, and how can use them to set yourself apart from other creators.
How do YouTube views work?
To increase your views on YouTube, it helps to understand exactly how YouTube calculates views. Fortunately, it’s simple: anytime somebody watches at least 30 seconds of a YouTube video, that adds another hit to the view counter.
It doesn’t matter what device the video is viewed on, whether the person is watching directly on the site or via an embedded video somewhere else, or if it’s just one person watching on repeat (to a certain extent). As long as 30 seconds are watched somewhere, somehow, that’s a new view. And yes, watching your own video counts, too.
Why does increasing your views matter?
On a basic level, increasing your YouTube views draws more attention to your content, provides more opportunities to gain subscribers, and increases monetization. Of course, you want to increase your views!
But we can go a little deeper than that.
As your views increase, the likelihood of YouTube’s complex algorithms recommending your videos to users increases. We don’t have all the info about how the algorithm works, but we do know that views, duration of views, and likes all go into recommending videos to users who have shown interest in similar content in the past, as well as sending them over to the trending tab.
It’s also important to remember YouTube is still a heavy-hitter in the social media game. Coming in second place only to Facebook, it boasts 2.5 billion active users every month. Compare that to TikTok, at 1.05 billion active users or Twitter, with just 556 million active users, and it becomes clear why keeping an active YouTube presence can benefit content creators.
How do I grow my YouTube channel?
If you want to grow your YouTube channel, you’re ultimately looking at two things: increasing your views and increasing your subscriber count. Having a one-off viral video isn’t guaranteed to send your subscription numbers skyrocketing overnight, but steady growth does tend to mean that both view count and subscriber count go hand-in-hand. New subscribers are an opportunity to get more eyes on your videos, and more eyes on your videos are an opportunity for new subscribers.
Let’s start by looking at some things that affect the bigger picture.
1. Understand your niche.
Ideally, you’ve already figured out your specific niche before committing to building your channel, but if not, now is the time to hunker down and make sure you’re focused on content that serves a specific subject. You need to understand everything about that niche, including why others are drawn to it. Once you start looking for ways to expand the type of content you create, or increase the performance of your channel if something isn’t working, that deep knowledge will be valuable.
2. Pay attention to what your audience wants.
This ties in with understanding your niche. If you don’t already have a decent-sized audience, keep tabs on what other creators in the same or a similar niche are putting out, how those videos are doing, what might be shifting, and if there’s a demand that isn’t being filled.
Once you start attracting viewers to your channel, you can learn even more by regularly checking your own analytics to determine how your audience is reacting to the content you post.
3. Create quality content that reflects your brand.
Every video you post is an opportunity to attract loyal viewers, but it’s also an opportunity to turn people off to your content. It’s okay to experiment with new types of content, but you want to make sure everything ultimately reflects the brand you want to establish and offers a level of quality on par with what you offer in your other videos. That way, new viewers can quickly learn to recognize your videos as something they want to click on when they pop up in trending, search, or, ultimately, among their subscriptions.
How can I increase my YouTube channel subscribers?
Subscribers are your dedicated audience. Ideally, they’re the ones watching every video that you post. At the very least, they’re signing up to keep your content on their radar. Every new subscriber is someone you might be able to convert into a loyal fan, but you have to convince them to hit that “subscribe” button first. So, how do you do that?
1. Make sure your channel aesthetics are up to par.
When people go to your channel, they should be able to quickly identify what you have to offer and that you’re a creator who takes their work seriously. That means making sure everything is filled out on your page—your profile, a banner, your channel description, relevant links and contact info, and your name, at minimum. You also have an opportunity here to customize your channel layout with different sections highlighting your top videos in various categories and recommendations for your viewers.
This is also where viewers will see an overview of your thumbnails and titles. You want to make sure those are somewhat cohesive and reflective of your brand as a whole, and we’ll talk about the specifics more later when we discuss increasing view count.
2. Create a channel trailer.
YouTube allows creators to pin a channel trailer to the top of their page, which can be used to give potential subscribers a quick rundown of what to expect if they subscribe to you. This could be a highlight reel of some of your best videos, an explanation of what you do, an introduction of who you are, or all of the above. The video should be relatively short and be your best attempt at wooing new viewers.
3. Ask viewers to subscribe and turn on notifications.
How many times have you heard YouTube creators end a video with some variation of “Don’t forget to like and subscribe?” It may seem frivolous, but we all move across the internet so rapidly that it’s easy to click on something enjoyable without thinking about doing either of those things. Reminding viewers that you would appreciate it if they subscribe might even make them realize they weren’t subscribed to your channel when they thought they were.
You can also encourage them to turn on notifications so they’ll never miss a new video. Not everyone realizes that YouTube defaults to “personalized” notifications when you subscribe to a new channel, which means YouTube will use some algorithm to decide what new videos a subscriber should be notified about. But you can also switch that to “all,” and be notified about everything a creator posts.
4. Promote your channel and new videos across your social media.
Don’t forget to let your followers on other social media platforms know when a new video is out. Not only does this alert existing subscribers who may have missed the notification, but it also reminds people who may only be following you elsewhere that you have a YouTube channel they could subscribe to as well, and gives people a Twitter or Facebook post to easily share with their followers if they dig your new video.
Utilizing other platforms is also an opportunity to try out new strategies—highlighting various things about your video or testing out different copy—and capitalize on trending topics if something you made a video about a year ago is suddenly being discussed on one platform or another.
5. Stick to a consistent posting schedule.
If you advertise that you upload new videos every Tuesday and Friday (and generally stick to that schedule), you’re reminding viewers that you have constant content coming out that they presumably want to see. And the best way to make sure they don’t miss any of it is to subscribe.
6. Engage with your audience.
You want your subscribers to be excited about the individual content you put out, but you also want them to be excited to support you as a creator. Engaging with your audience by responding to or liking comments, doing Q&As or livestreams, or whatever other methods you come up with that make them feel like they have a personal connection with you will keep them invested in your work.
7. Collaborate with other creators.
Finding new subscribers is often about expanding your existing reach. Having a video go viral can be hit and miss because it isn’t necessarily expanding to an audience that would normally be interested in your content. However, collaborating with other creators in a niche that overlaps with or is tangential to yours can be great exposure for both parties.
When looking for potential collaborators, it helps to target accounts that are at a similar level. You may even want to approach them with a specific plan in mind for how you could collaborate and why you think your audience could become their audience. Many collaborations involve each creator guest starring in a video on the other person’s channel, as to get that audience crossover—but make sure you have a plan to hook those new viewers and keep them around once they’re there.
How do I get more views on YouTube?
Some of your subscribers may come to your channel because they know you on another platform. But generally, a subscriber base is built out of viewers who saw something they liked and decided to take a chance that they might enjoy more of your content in the future.
You may only convert a small number of casual viewers into subscribers, but the reason you want subscribers is to have more hits on your videos, anyway. Everything is working towards this, and there’s plenty that you can do to increase those views all around.
1. Nail your titles and thumbnails.
You can create an amazing video, but if you can’t entice anyone to click on it, what’s the point? The first thing every potential viewer sees is your video’s title and thumbnail; crafting an attention-getting combo that accurately represents the content is imperative. Fortunately, we have a “How To Make YouTube Thumbnails” guide for getting this right, but a few key points to remember are that you want everything to be clear, evoke emotion, be smart about your keyword choices, and keep your branding consistent.
2. Optimize your tags and descriptions.
Ensuring your video gets recommended to the right audience means you need to be on point with how you describe it, especially when it comes to tags and any keywords you use in your title and description.
Your tags should cover the words, phrases, and synonyms that people might use if they were looking for a video like yours, without being so inclusive that you use keywords that are technically correct but don’t describe your video. In other words, tagging a review of lighting equipment with both the generic terms and the specific brand and model you’re reviewing makes sense, but tagging it “cat video” because your cat briefly wandered through the background does not. Would people searching for each of your individual tags feel your video matches what they’re looking for? If so, you’re golden.
For descriptions, make those first few lines stick out—that’s what potential viewers will see following your title and thumbnail. Capture their interest, make it clear what your video is about, and keep using keywords.
3. Hook viewers—and keep their attention.
It only takes 30 seconds for a view to count, but you want your viewers to stick around as long as possible. This will tell the algorithm you’ve created quality content it should recommend to others, but if your viewers can stick it out until the end of the video, you have the chance to direct them to additional content or further engagement.
4. Include a call to action.
The “Don’t forget to like and subscribe” we mentioned earlier is a “call to action,” or a request for your viewers to do something specific. This can be something you literally ask the audience to do audibly, or it can come in the form of an annotation that pops up during your video. For example, you could ask them to weigh in on a topic you were discussing in the comments, go check out your new website, share your video with their friends, or simply include a link with a request to watch the next video.
5. Make your videos accessible.
You want your videos to be accessible to the widest audience possible. One easy way to do this is to include closed captions. YouTube can do this automatically, but the quality isn’t always up to par. Creating a transcript file from which YouTube pulls captions can provide higher accuracy, and you may also attract viewers who offer to translate your videos into other languages for additional subtitle tracks.
You may also want to consider other features that help viewers navigate or take in your videos, such as including timestamps marking different sections of longer videos (eg product reviews or instructionals) in the description box.
6. Allow embedding.
Making sure your videos have embedding enabled can increase your reach if someone decides to share your work on a website or in an article. You may even want to embed select videos on your website to showcase what you’ve created. You can adjust your embed setting on the details page of your video, or you can do a bulk update from the Channel content page in YouTube Studio.
7. Create a series.
A viewer who appreciates one video you make may not immediately be sold on every video you make, but it’s a lot easier to sell them on a similar video. Creating series that are linked together in an obvious way—with thumbnails and titles that make their connection clear—is an easy way to hook viewers into watching a bunch of your videos in a row.
You also have some leeway here. A series could mean walking people through self-publishing sci-fi novels on Amazon one topic at a time, or it could mean you pranked your cousin over the holidays a year ago and gradually decided to make additional videos pranking your cousin during other holidays. Make sure the content would appeal to the same audience, keep the branding uniform, and don’t forget to include links to other videos in the series at the end of each one.
8. Link to other videos.
Even if your videos aren’t part of a series, you can (and should) still find ways to link your content. You may have reason to mention an old video during a new one—throw an annotation up and let people know where they can watch it. You can also simply include similar videos people may be interested in, or videos you’re particularly excited about, on an end card. Don’t overdo it, but including a couple of links can nudge viewers in the right direction.
9. Create playlists.
Playlists are great to compile in one place for anyone looking, but they can also be used to group similar videos that don’t exactly qualify as a single series. For instance, if your channel centers around cooking, you might want a playlist that collects all your breakfast recipes or recipes from a specific cuisine. You may want another one that offers easy access to all the videos you’ve posted exploring local festivals or farmers’ markets. Don’t assume viewers will look anything up themselves—spoonfeed them everything you want them to see.
The number of hits your videos are getting tells a partial story. When you want to dig into why something is or isn’t working, especially compared to other videos on your channel, look at the analytics. You’ll be able to see at what point viewers clicked out, if there were any parts of a video that were frequently rewatched, what your click-through rate is (how many people are watching your video when it pops up somewhere on YouTube for them), engagement metrics, whether the links at the end of your videos are being clicked, and more.
Understanding what’s working for viewers and what isn’t can help you plan or market your content better next time, and bring those view counts—and subscriber numbers—even higher.