I have been doing YouTube since October of 2016, full-time now since June of 2017. Each month, I am averaging around 10,000 to 20,000 new subscribers and 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 views on my channel.
Back when I was at square one, I wasn't getting any views. I would post a video, log in the next day and see that I had ten views or less. However, this is a result of 3+ years of effort.
This can be a very frustrating experience for a new content creator. You pour many hours of time and effort into your video only to find that it falls flat like a pancake. As a result, most YouTube creators give up early on.
This happens (in my opinion) because YouTube puts you in a “sandbox” for the first few months when you launch your channel. Again, this is just my opinion from what I have seen firsthand; nothing came directly from YouTube or Google.
When you first start posting videos, it is almost impossible to find them in search results. Even if you type in something close to the exact title, you may not even see it!
This is likely because YouTube isn't promoting or indexing your content. Before recommending your channel via search or the browse page, they need to know that you take YouTube seriously and regularly contribute.
Think about it this way… What if YouTube recommended a channel to you, and you liked it. So then, you subscribed, only to find that the creator dropped off the face of the earth and stopped posting videos the next day.
You would be annoyed. Now, imagine if that was happening over and over again?
I firmly believe that the YouTube algorithm rewards channels that consistently contribute content to the platform. In my personal experience, I found that it took about six months to get my channel off the ground, and this was with me posting videos multiple times each week!
So, how do you get views on your videos early on? We know now that YouTube will (likely) not recommend them to people or show them in search. You might get a dozen views here and there or a few subscribers, but nothing substantial.
The answer is that early on, you need to direct the traffic to your channel. Not only are you the content creator, but you are also the marketer who plays an equally important role early on.
Here are a few strategies working right now.
How To Get Traffic to Your Videos
1. Friends & Family
I know this may seem like common sense, but it isn't for a lot of people. Starting anything new is nerve-racking, and early on, you may even be embarrassed about your new venture on YouTube.
For that reason, it is common for people to shy away from telling their friends and family about it. Every view and subscriber counts early on, so you need to bug your friends and family and get them to support your channel!
I'm talking grab their phones at Thanksgiving dinner and subscribe to your channel. Okay, maybe that is taking it too far, but you get the point.
Most of us know 100 people between our friends and our family, and that should be your first 100 subscribers! As an added benefit, this will hold you more accountable as you won't want to fail in front of your friends and family. So, hit the text messages and spread the word.
2. Comment on Other YouTube Channels
Now don't get me wrong, this can get pretty spammy quick, NOT what I am recommending. Many people mistake this as blatantly self-promoting their channel on someone else's.
For example, if you did a video review of a makeup kit, you went on another inspection of that makeup kit and said: “Hey, come watch my review of this product!” No, don't do that.
What I am getting at here is adding value in the comment section of other videos in your niche. Your niche is the category or topic of your channel content for those who are not familiar.
If you add valuable comments on other videos, people will likely upvote them, which means they will be getting maximum exposure. And naturally, some people will end up clicking your channel out of curiosity.
It also helps if you have an enticing channel name, like “Mary Smith – Makeup Expert” instead of “Mary Smith.”
You know, something that tells them what your channel is about!
In my opinion, this is a massively underused asset for getting traffic to your YouTube videos.
Quora is a site where people can ask and answer questions about… well, just about anything. It has a searchable database of existing questions people are seeking answers for. This is an excellent source of the traffic to your channel (or blog!) because you can include links to your sources when answering questions!
Now, you can't just blatantly say, “check out my YouTube video for the answer,” or your answer will get deleted immediately by the spam filters.
Here's an example of how I have used this. One of the videos I did on my channel was reviewing a popular investing site called Fundrise.
After I did that video, I went on Quora and searched for questions related to Fundrise. I then answered a bunch of those questions and then, at the bottom, included a link to watch my review video on YouTube.
I haven't posted any answers on Quora in over a year, and I am still getting views on my responses! Over the last 30 days, 144, to be exact!
When I was actively answering questions, I got a few thousand views a month. By providing value, a portion of the answer, readers will check out your channel or video you link as a source.
4. Social Media
This one ties in with #1 on the list, leveraging your social media to build a following. But, we are going to take it a step further.
Sure, you can share your videos on your Facebook or Twitter, but how many followers or friends do you have on these platforms? Most of us have very few, meaning the reach is minimal here. When I was growing my channel and promoting it on my social media channels,
I was also adding people as friends and following people left and right. Did I know these people?
Well… no, but a certain percentage were curious about who I was so that they would shoot me a message. Then, I would mention my channel to them and ask them if they would support me. Not everyone does, but some will! And you can make some new friends in the process.
So, be as loud as possible on your social media accounts. When you upload a new video, please share it on your Facebook, Twitter, etc. Here's a trick for Instagram too. If you don't have the swipe-up feature in your story, you must include a link to your video in your channel bio.
Then, jump on a quick story and tell your friends to click that link to watch your latest video!
5. Embed Videos in a Blog
Here's another excellent strategy for getting views, and one that we still use today! I am a co-owner of a Personal Finance/Investing blog called Investing Simple, where we write about similar topics that I do videos on.
For example, I have a Fundrise Review on my blog and a review of this platform on my channel too! I get traffic to this video by embedding that video in my articles about Fundrise. Remember, people don't just watch your videos on YouTube!
Suppose you have a blog, great! You can start implementing this now.
If you don't, here's another strategy to consider.
You could reach out to other bloggers who have written about a topic you cover in your video. Email them and ask them nicely if they would embed your video in their article.
Not everyone will say yes, but some will! And again, it is SO important not to spam people.
It is advantageous for bloggers to embed videos, increasing the session time. If a reader ends up watching a 10-minute video on your website, that is 10 minutes of session time for your blog! This is how long a reader stays on your site.
How To Optimize Your Videos for YouTube
So far, we have talked about many different ways to generate traffic to your YouTube videos. Now, I want to cover some best practices on optimizing your content on YouTube.
After a while, YouTube will begin recommending your channel to people and ranking your videos in search. Your videos must be ready for when this happens, so here are some best practices!
1. Compelling Title
If you asked a room full of YouTubers the most critical aspect of a video, I am willing to bet half would say the title, and the other half would say the thumbnail. These two are the most potent duo you have when getting clicks on your video.
Once your videos start showing up in search results, thousands of people will see the video as they choose a video (this is called impressions). The number of people that click on the video is known as the click-through rate or CTR.
Let's say, for example, you are looking for a video on the topic of “how to change your oil.” There are THOUSANDS of videos on this topic.
So, how would you choose one over the other?
The answer is…. based on the title or thumbnail.
There is no right way to title a video, as it is different for every niche. If you did educational videos and used buzz words like SCARY, EXPOSED, SHOCKING, etc., that would hurt your credibility.
- Many of my most successful videos are me documenting something, and they tend to start with “I.” For example, “I Spent 2 Hours Doing Surveys Online” or “I Stayed At The Cheapest Airbnb in NYC.” Here are a few title strategies that have worked well on my channel:
- Listicles do very well on YouTube, essentially a list of facts, tips, or examples. For example, “5 Money Mistakes To Avoid In Your 20s” or “5 Steps When You Get Paid.”
- The word “you” seems to work well, making it more personal for the viewer. For example, “Why You Will Never Get Rich” or “3 Things You Should Never Do With Your Money.”
2. Custom Thumbnail
It would help if you used a custom thumbnail. No excuses!
YouTube will auto-generate thumbnails for you from different places in your video, but you also have the option of creating your custom thumbnail to use instead.
There are many free photo editing software that can allow you to do this with ease—one of the biggest mistakes I see new.
YouTubers making is merely repeating the title in the thumbnail. If they did a video on “how to tie your shoes,” they would include text in the thumbnail that said, “how to tie your shoes.”
This is the wrong strategy, in my opinion, because you are wasting an excellent opportunity to hook the potential viewer. The title and thumbnail should work independently but also compliment each other.
Here's how it generally works… someone will scroll by your video, and the thumbnail will grab their attention. Then, they will look at the title to see if they are interested.
3. Demand for Content
The final strategy I have for you is to ensure a healthy demand for your content. Before Starbucks opens a store in a new location, they research the local market to see if there is a demand for a coffee shop. They don't just blindly open up a new location.
Many people mistake recklessly creating content on YouTube without considering whether anyone wants that content. I made this mistake early on, as I was creating videos off the top of my head. Now, almost all of my videos are researched beforehand. I usually accomplish this in one of two ways.
The first way is by simply looking at competitors in my niche. If I see that they did a video on “how to balance a checkbook,” and it got 100,000+ views, I may consider doing a similar video on that topic. Their video got so many views, which shows me that there is a demand for this content.
The second way is by using Google Trends. This is a free tool that analyzes the popularity of search terms. And guess what, since Google owns YouTube, you can specifically check the popularity of searches on YouTube! For example, let's consider the topic of “tax return.”
As you might have expected, search volume for this topic spikes in February, which is when most people start thinking about filing their taxes. I think this might be a good time to do a video on “how to do your taxes?”
The Bottom Line
Getting your YouTube channel off the ground is a grind.
It will be a ton of effort at first, with very little return. This is a good thing because those genuinely dedicated to being successful YouTubers will have less competition.
I have yet to see real overnight success on YouTube. It takes someone months of hard work to start growing and establishing an audience in most cases.
Following these strategies could undoubtedly give you an advantage, especially if you implement the last three and optimize your content. The most important thing is that you enjoy the process of creating content.