When you first start your YouTube channel, it can be hard to gain subscribers.
It seems like you’re uploading video after video and no one is watching them.
Is it because of the YouTube algorithm?
Is it because you don’t have any subscribers yet?
Or is it because your videos just aren’t that great?
My honest opinion… it could be all 3 of those things.
When I started my channel, it took me a long time to grow.
I was gaining only a couple of subscribers a week.
And I felt like every time I opened the YouTube app on my phone I was disappointed by how slow I was growing.
But I finally figured some things out and now I’m gaining over 200 subscribers a month.
I’ve passed that 1,000 subscriber mark. And now I’m SOOO close to being monetized!
So today, I want to share my experience with YouTube, the mistakes I made that hurt my growth, and some tips to help you get your first 1,000 subscribers faster!
Let’s get into it.
Obviously, I have my own YouTube channel.
I uploaded my first video way back in October of 2017.
At the time, I just wanted to use YouTube to help enhance my blog posts.
So I was writing a post about Instagram stories and how I use them. But as I was writing, I felt like it would be so much easier to explain if I could share a video.
And just like that, my YouTube channel was born.
I started with 0 subscribers just like you.
Now I made a ton of mistakes when I was just getting started. And we’ll get to that in a little bit.
But my first year on YouTube was rough.
That quality of my videos wasn’t great. My video ideas weren’t great either.
And by the end of 2018, I had only gained 311 subscribers.
It took me over a year to only gain 300 subscribers.
Now, at the time that I’m writing this, I have 1,557 subscribers.
I’m generating around 230 new subscribers every month.
And I’m hoping that my YouTube channel will continue to grow faster and faster in 2019 now that I know what I’m doing.
So let’s get to those mistakes.
What really held me back from growing for A WHOLE YEAR!
Like I already said, I created my YouTube channel to enhance my blog posts.
My goal at the beginning wasn’t to grow my channel or become a YouTuber.
I just wanted to create videos that I could put in relevant blog posts.
But over time, I started to really enjoy creating videos.
And I got off track. I shared videos about everything and anything.
And that was my first mistake…
I didn’t niche down at all.
I started out talking about Instagram, productivity, working from home, etc.
But then, I got lost.
So I started sharing videos about my life, essential oils, gardening, and even… the first time I drove with GrubHub.
That was a huge HUGE mistake because it didn’t make people want to subscribe to my channel.
And it ended up hurting my relationship with the YouTube algorithm.
So let me explain.
Because my videos were all over the place, no one knew what I was going to upload.
So why the heck would they subscribe to my channel if they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into?!
Niching down is sooooo so important to your success.
And we’ll talk about that more in a bit.
But here’s the real kicker, something that ended up hurting my channel’s growth for a long time.
YouTube likes to promote people that are experts.
So if you talk about essential oils, they want to see that you have a lot of videos on essential oils.
And when one of those videos gets picked up by the algorithm, you want to “ride the wave” and continue to put out that content.
Because if they are pushing out one video, they will hopefully start pushing out your other related videos as well.
So… back in October of 2018, I uploaded a video of my first time driving with GrubHub.
At the time, it was a pretty innocent video.
I’ve shared my struggle with making money in 2018. And it had gotten to the point where I needed some extra cash to get by.
So I decided to drive with GrubHub for a couple of months.
Little did I know that YouTube would pick up that video and rank it high in search.
Now typically when this happens, you want to create similar videos.
But I didn’t! I didn’t want to be known in the GrubHub niche.
I was just sharing an experience with my audience.
So when I started to niche down and share more blogging and Pinterest videos, YouTube didn’t understand that I wanted to become an expert in something other than GrubHub.
And it took a while for my views to start going down on my GrubHub video and up in my other videos.
In the end, I’m thankful that video did so well because it helped me gain views and subscribers.
But when I really look at it, I think it hurt my growth in the niche that I wanted to be known for.
Your analytics can tell you a lot about who your subscribers are, what content they are looking for, when’s the best time to upload, what title format is working, and of course, how long people are watching your videos.
All of these things can really help the growth of your channel if you pay attention to them.
But I didn’t.
I really only looked at how many subscribers I was getting and how many views I had.
That was it.
Looking back, I know that was a big mistake.
Besides telling my Instagram following that I had launched a blog post, I didn’t do any promotion with my YouTube channel.
Now you may be thinking, what promotion do you have to do?!
Well, you can share your videos on Twitter and Facebook.
Which honestly, I don’t do anything with my Twitter or Facebook. So I obviously didn’t share my videos there.
But I stopped adding them to my blog. And at the time, I wasn’t sharing them on Pinterest either.
YouTube is a search engine.
Yep. Just like Google and Pinterest.
YouTube has its own algorithm that determines if you appear in search or not.
So you need to learn YouTube SEO to help get your videos found.
And that’s something I never did.
Stay around till the end of this post to learn some simple YouTube SEO tips.
Now let’s get to the tips.
The things you can do to grow your YouTube channel.
Let’s get this one out of the way.
Because I feel like no matter what YouTube resource you land on, they are going to tell you to upload consistently.
So let me explain why.
The more you upload to YouTube, the more YouTube likes you.
Obviously, YouTube wants to keep people on their site. The more people that watch ads, the more money that YouTube makes.
And if you are helping them to make money, they are going to like you more.
So uploading videos consistently does help your relationship with the YouTube algorithm.
But more than that, when you upload consistently, you are creating more and more content.
The more content you have, the better your chances are at being found.
AND when you have an upload schedule that you stick to, your subscribers know what to expect from you.
Whether that’s one video a week on Tuesday. 2 videos a week on Wednesday and Sunday. Or a new video every 3 days.
When you stay consistent, you become reliable to your audience.
And they are more likely to subscribe if they know what they are getting themselves into.
Which brings us to tip number 2.
This may seem hard if you want to become a lifestyle YouTuber, but trust me… it’s easier than you would think.
I’ve niched down with my YouTube content twice.
The first time was when I stopped sharing completely irrelevant topics like GrubHub.
At the time, I was sharing videos about SEO, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging, motivation, productivity, and all things business ownership.
But then, I decided to niche down even more. And pick the 3 topics that I really wanted to become known for.
So I started to only share videos about blogging, Pinterest, and ‘how I did something’.
The topics of those videos are a bit more random.
But they still relate to my overlying message of growing your audience and brand online.
Now, I already talked about the benefits of niching down. So I’m not going to repeat myself.
But trust me when I say that niching down has dramatically helped to grow my YouTube channel and the reach of my videos.
So I encourage you to pick only 3 topics that you are going to share. And stick to it.
Ah. This is a big one.
Have you ever heard of audience retention before?
Basically, it’s how long people stay on your YouTube video.
Are they watching it for only 30 seconds or 10 minutes?
If people are leaving your 15-minute video only 3 minutes in, YouTube is going to look at it like your video isn’t that great.
But if people stay for 14 out of those 15 minutes, YouTube is going to think that you must have some really great content in there.
So how do you get people to stay on your video for longer?
You have to make it more interesting of course!
This comes down to the way you are shooting it and the way you edit it.
RELATED: How I Film & Edit My Videos
Are you jumping to different scenes, including effects, and doing something unique and different?
Or are you sitting in a chair talking to the camera the whole time?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make your videos more interesting.
If you need a little inspiration, take a look at some successful YouTubers that you like and see what they are doing.
Obviously, they are doing something right. And it might be helpful to draw inspiration from them.
With YouTube, you get a small window of opportunity to get someone to click on your video.
And it typically comes down to the title of your video and your thumbnail.
Your thumbnail is the only graphic that can entice people to watch your video.
So it needs to be darn good!
If you aren’t currently uploading a custom thumbnail… what the heck are you doing?!
They aren’t that hard to design and so simple to upload.
What I would recommend doing is take a look at popular videos in your niche. What do other thumbnails look like?
Most of the time, you will see a high-quality image and text over top.
For every one of my YouTube videos, I take a photo for the thumbnail. I don’t just get a screen capture of me talking!
I do an actual photoshoot for the thumbnail.
Then I use Canva (a free website) to design my thumbnail.
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.
Actually the simpler the better.
And when you add text, make sure that is can be read when the thumbnail is super small.
A lot of people watch videos on their phone.
So before you commit to a thumbnail, view the graphic at about 25% and see if you can still read it.
If you can’t, change it!
I feel like clickbait is a dirty word.
And I’m not going to lie, it got a bad rap for a good reason a couple of years ago.
People would say “Someone was walking down the street and you won’t believe what happens next”.
And all that happened was that they saw a bird.
Like, come on!
That’s not cool!
But there is a way to use clickbait tastefully so you get more clicks.
And the most important thing to remember is to live up to what you are promising your audience.
So if you say that you are going to teach them 5 simple magic tricks that will blow their minds, they better be pretty darn cool!
Or if you say these ab exercises will give you abs in 2 weeks, it better actually work.
And you better show results of how it worked for someone else.
So I use clickbait in terms of my title and sometimes my thumbnail. But it’s always something included in the video!
Just recently I shared a video talking about how bloggers make money and how I make money. And the thumbnail looked like this:
I was hoping that with including the text “only $200 in 3 years” that it would get people to click on it.
And in the video, I explain that stat!
See what I’m getting at here?
Clickbait can be your friend as long as you live up to what you are promising your audience.
I didn’t really believe that this was a real thing at first.
But have you noticed how some YouTubers upload at very specific times? Like 1 pm or 6 pm.
They do that for a reason!
The first 24 hours of your YouTube video are important.
The more views and engagement you get within the first 24 hours is going to determine whether the YouTube algorithm favors your video or not.
So when you upload at a time where your audience is active, you increase your chance of having people watch your video as soon as you upload it!
Which is going to help boost the success of your video.
Now if you have no idea when a popular time is, you can take a look at your YouTube creator studio.
They show you how many views you have gotten every hour for the past 48 hours!
But if you don’t have a lot of data to go off of yet, I notice that 10 am EST, 1 pm EST and 5 pm EST are great times to upload!
Ever notice how YouTubers will end their videos by asking you to like the video, subscribe to their channel, and hit the notification bell?
Some people will even have a question of the day that they will ask you to respond to in the comments section below.
And there’s a darn good reason for this!
The more engagement you have on the video… the better!
The more views, likes, and comments you get, the more YouTube will pay attention to your video.
And if they see that people are clearly enjoying the video, they are more likely to push it out to people.
Plus, if you’re trying to gain more subscribers, it helps to tell people to subscribe.
I mean, that’s just obvious.
I’ve already shared a lot of tips on how to make YouTube happy so they push your video up in search and out to people in the suggested section.
But I want to mention this again because it’s that important.
You need to work with the YouTube algorithm.
And there are a few things you can to do help your videos perform well.
Remember that audience retention rate?
Well, every time you launch a video you want to watch it the whole way through.
This will give you another view, but it will also show YouTube that people are watching your video from beginning to end.
Want to improve your engagement within the first 24 hours?
Well, you can like your own videos!
I like all of my own videos to increase engagement.
Also, within the first 24 hours, you need to respond to all comments on your new video. Because every comment you add is a new comment in YouTube’s eyes!
Talk about increasing engagement.
And when you notice that a video is getting more views than normal, ride the YouTube algorithm wave and create more videos on that topic.
But beyond that, you need to learn YouTube SEO.
So let’s jump to that real quick.
This blog post is already 2,800 words long. So I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet.
It doesn’t matter what platform you are on, SEO comes down to your keywords.
And there are a few places that you want to include your keywords within your YouTube videos.
But first, we need to talk about keyword research.
I’m so glad that I was introduced to TubeBuddy because it has seriously helped me to improve my YouTube SEO.
With TubeBuddy, you can see the competition of keywords, how much they are searched, and if you should really target them.
So just like Pinterest, with YouTube, you start your keyword research in the search bar.
Search for something you want to create a video on and look at the popular searches that appear.
Then when you select a keyword to search, TubeBuddy will appear on the right-hand side with some stats about that keyword.
It’s pretty simple.
You don’t want to target keywords that are red because it will be too difficult for your video to appear in search.
But the yellow and green rankings are the keywords for you.
And while you’re at it, take a look at the videos that appear and what keywords they include in their titles.
Obviously, if they are appearing in search, they are doing something right.
Once you know what keywords you want to target, you need to make sure you are including them in the appropriate places.
Your title, your video description, your tags, and within your video content.
The first 2 are obvious.
You need to include the keywords that you want your video to rank for in your title and description.
But if you haven’t used tags before, this might not be as clear.
You have 500 characters to include tags on each video.
This is basically your spot to tell YouTube what your video is about. And what keywords you think it should appear for.
So make sure you are always including your tags!
And again, you can use TubeBuddy to help you figure out what tags to target.
Then the last place you want to include your keywords is within your video.
YouTube can hear what you say in your video.
So you want to make sure that you are actually speaking your keywords in your video content.
Well, YouTube will take your title and compare it to what you are saying to make sure you aren’t lying and talking about something completely unrelated.
So this is important!
Now I blew through that pretty quick.
So if you want to learn more about YouTube SEO, watch this video.
If you have any other questions about YouTube, let me know in the comments section below.
Or if you have a video idea that you would like me to create, you can send me a DM on Instagram.
And don’t forget to subscribe to my channel!
I’ll see you back here for more helpful tips soon.
Cathrin (Cath) creates content that encourages bloggers & online entrepreneurs to be themselves, chase their passion, and create their success online. 1 year after started her blog (TheContentBug.com), Cath left her full-time position working in the digital marketing industry to pursue her dreams of being her own boss. In weekly blog posts, sporadic YouTube videos, and constant talking on Instagram stories, Cath hopes to spread her story and be an inspiration to others who desperately want to change their lives.