How to Get Subscribers and Grow on YouTube

David Utke •  Updated: January 11, 2022 •  YouTube

If you want to grow on YouTube, it takes time, effort and doing more of what works while quitting the things that don’t work. YouTube is the 2nd biggest search engine in the world and has the potential to build you an audience, but you have to earn it.

As we covered in our how to start a vlog tutorial, you’ll need to start a YouTube channel and begin uploading vlogs. We want to expand on that aspect in this free guide by sharing with you some hard won tips on how to grow a vlog the right way.

How to Grow a YouTube Channel

People want to subscribe to great channels that produce interesting, helpful content. Produce good videos that people like and you’ll grow on YouTube. No, you really you don’t need to do any tricks like sub for sub (which will hurt your channel by the way) or buy subscribers from some shady website.

Instead, let’s focus on the fundamentals you’re probably overlooking or are not aware of as an aspiring YouTuber:

Create a Pro Channel

Just like starting a blog, your vlog needs to look professional. That does not mean it needs to look boring or corporate, it just means you pay attention to all the details with the way your vlog channel looks so it inspires confidence and interest.

Channel banner

First, pay attention to your channel cover art. It does not need to be overly complicated, but you do want something that looks great and gives new visitors an idea of what your vlog is about. To create your channel banner, use a service like Canva and edit a large image to be your cover art for your channel:

Clark is a good example of simple and elegant. This is a large picture taken with a mirrorless camera and a 50mm lens for that blurry background.

There is not “right” way to approach channel art. It really depends on your audience. For some topics, if you have an associated website, show it off. Other topics that have a younger audience, it might actually be more appropriate to have a colorful and crazy cover art. Again, it depends. Look at your niche and model what works.

Regardless of what you do, the fundamentals still apply. According to the YouTube branding guide, your image need to be 2048 x 1152 px with an aspect ratio of 16:9. The file also needs to be smaller than 6 MB. Lastly, you’ll also want to use the .png format as it’s the highest quality image you can upload.

When you do upload an image, everything is store in your photos for your Google account, not on YouTube if that makes sense.

Channel profile picture

Your profile picture again depends on your topic, but for most vloggers a high quality .png picture of you looking into the camera works best. You’ll want to select a profile picture that matches your channel banner and also an image that best represents the kind of content you’re making.

Are you an aspiring travel vlogger? Maybe a picture of you with sunglass on or in front of some spectacular landmark makes sense. Vlogging about life in Japan? A picture of you eating sushi would work.

Again, there is no right, one size fits all approach. It depends on your topic.

YouTube Thumbnails

YouTube thumbnails in addition to your vlog titles are the two most important factors in having a high click through rate. Again, you’re building a style and a brand so your thumbnails need to reflect this.

That means you have your own unique style. Let’s take a look at two popular travel vloggers. First up is Harald Baldr:

Harald uses clips from his videos as well as thumbnails shot from the Sony X3000. Then he applies saturation and contrast to make the pop a bit more in terms of color. Are they overly complicated with big text and emojis? Nope, they are simple and consistent. They work because they show him in the thumbnail, have good contrast and an off set angle.

Next up, is successful pro travel vlogger, Drew Binsky:

Drew’s thumbnails are a combination of showing a person or himself if he’s the subject of the video, adding text and small graphics with consistent colors. His thumbnails are not difficult to make, but they are his own style and work for this reason.

When looking at both these vloggers, they have different styles but both work. The rule here is that your thumbnails don’t need to be complicated, but they do need to stand out amongst everyone else, have a person in the thumbnail and remain consistent.

Consistent in a way where people see your thumbnails they know it’s video from you. Don’t copy, but emulate others and find a style that works for you.

Bad thumbnails

Last, let’s mention what a bad thumbnail is. In short, bad thumbnails use too much text that’s difficult to read and are overly complicated with emojis, multiple pictures or no picture of a person.

These thumbnails are at least better than relying on YouTube to choose your thumbnail, but the issue is that they are not optimized for mobile. When people see your thumbnail, it’s on their phone or laptop.

While your thumbnail may look great when designing it, make sure to see how it looks on mobile. Also, keep your text on image big. Use a heavy font like League Spartan and keep it under 5 words. Don’t have multiple competing pictures where it becomes a confusing mess.

Make 50 bad videos

Your first 50 videos are going to be really bad. You’ll think you’re videos are good, but you’re wrong. You must pay your dues. That means spending your time and money on getting a camera for YouTube, creating content, editing and uploading to YouTube for nothing other than to gain experience creating content.

Your first 6 months to a year on YouTube as a vlogger, you’ll most likely be ignored. You’ll wonder why you’re only getting 20 views and then your views die off. It’s because your video are not good. You don’t have good audio, your vlogs are too narcissistic, the topic is boring, you’re not taking people on any sort of a journey, the pacing is off and so forth.

Remember, you’re not entitled to others peoples attention. As you create vlogs, just do your best to incrementally improve. Improve your introduction and hook at the beginning of the video, create a more thoughtful and interesting body for the story and have a strong conclusion. Keep people engaged and don’t give up, but don’t keep doing the same thing that’s not getting results.

This is a balance with a vlog, but you do need to pay attention to keywords related to your niche. Keywords are just phrases people use to search for videos. For example, “Osmo Pocket vs GoPro” is a keyword.

While YouTube drives traffic and attention to your vlogs in different ways like suggesting your vlogs and recommending them to a new audience when they are watching other videos, going after search is still important as YouTube is a search engine.

With a vlog, you need to make interesting content. You also want people to be able to find your content through search and you want to improve the chances of your vlog getting recommended. You can do all this through using keywords.

If you watch a vlog on “Bangkok apartment tour” what types of suggested videos would you expect next or in the sidebar when on Other vlogs from the same creator, but additional vlogs about a similar topic.

So think about what people want to watch and what you want to make. Don’t be selfish and create a “day in the life” video when no one knows who you are (or even cares for that matter). Create content that goes after a keyword phrase.

Clickbait titles

Clickbait works if you deliver on the title and have an established audience to feed the YouTube algorithm. If you have 350 subscribers, creating a video with title “Wow! You won’t believe what happened” just won’t work because your channel is too small.

Clickbait works, but you need to have an audience. So wait until you get to 30k subscribers and are getting thousands of views per vlog you make.

SEO your Videos

YouTube SEO is simple but not easy. It’s a mix of creating content people are looking for, that also has a good title, thumbnail, click through rate and watch time. For beginner vloggers, here is what you need to know for optimizing your vlogs so they have a good CTR and watch time the algorithm will love.

Keywords in the title

If your vlog is about Bangkok apartments, which is a keyword people use to look up videos, you’ll want to have that keyword in the title. Titles are important as they do help vlogs rank (but your CTR and watch time are way more important).

So model after other content creators. If we look at the apartment example, most videos have some sort of price in the title. Like “Amazing! 250$ for this Bangkok Apartment?” They also tend to use “condo for rent” or “apartment for rent” or “cost of living + name of city” format.

All of these are keywords which help with making your vlog relevant to these search terms, but you also need good copy to get people to click (and hopefully watch).

Write out descriptions

YouTube has clearly stated that thoughtful video descriptions help:

“Write full descriptions: up to one to two paragraphs.

Some creators only put their social media links in the description, potentially missing out on a lot of extra views.”

– YouTube Creator Academy

A video description should describe what the video is about, take the time to write 500 words or more describing your video. Make sure to use your keywords and related keywords when appropriate.

This is all about optimization. There are a lot of creators who don’t write descriptions at all, you don’t have to do this but if you want to help your vlogs get found it’s a small thing you can begin doing.

Video Tags

When you upload a video to YouTube you can add tags. Tags are not that important but they are still something you want to do:

Tags as it states “play a minimal role in helping viewers find your video.” They do help though, so add tags related to what the video is about. Don’t over do it with excessive, irrelevant tags.

Don’t end viewer watch time

You’ll see a lot of content creators promoting their own products, driving traffic to an email list or a product on Amazon. This is fine, but don’t do it in every vlog as this hurts your videos rankings and views because you’re ending viewers watch time.

So have a right mix where some videos you send people off YouTube and other videos you try to keep your audience on YouTube.

Promote your playlists

With YouTube you can create keyword rich playlists for your videos. Create relevant playlists and link them in your video description. You could phrase it like “binge watch my travel vlogs” and then link to your playlist in your video description or the top pinned comment.

Playlists are great because it keeps people on YouTube watching your content.

Focus on the first 30 seconds

The first 30 seconds is your hook. Tell people what the vlog is going to be about, get them interested to watch the whole video. Meet the expectations of your vlog title and thumbnail quickly and get to the point.

Review and adapt

Don’t get stuck in your ways. A lot of YouTubers tend to find a few things that work and just want to continue doing the same thing. Except, then their channel flatlines in terms of growth.

Instead of thinking of a new approach, they double down on what worked in the past to no avail. Instead, review your channel performance, videos, see how you compare to other channel and think of ways to stand out.

Turn viewers into subscribers

Want people to subscribe? It’s easy, first focus on creating content people love. You will organically build an audience just through creating good vlogs that are engaging.

Next, use the YouTube end screen feature. This is where you can have a watermark button that people can click on to subscribe. Also, use a bell emoji along with the word subscribe and create a subscribe link:

Last, just remind people to subscribe at the start and end of the vlog if they enjoyed the video.

Promote your Videos

YouTube is a slow grind, unless you have an audience on a different platform or are willing to run paid ads for your vlogs (known as discovery ads). For your average vlogger, you’ll want to use social media to get attention to your vlogs.

This helps because you’re able to feed the proverbial algorithm. New views, increased watch time, higher clickthrough rate all cause YouTube to push your vlogs more. How exactly do you do this? There are a few ways:

In addition to YouTube, we suggest picking one or two alternative sources of views for your videos. It depends on your topic and where you audience is online. Some may find Pinterest or Facebook to be effective, others may find building a high traffic blog to work best.

Create YouTube shorts

YouTube shorts are fun, 1 minute long videos recorded with your phone. When you upload a short they will be found in the “shorts shelf” on mobile. Shorts are are able to drive a lot of views and subscribers to your channel.

They don’t help with watch time if your goal is to be monetized as views on your shorts are not counted. But if you’re looking to get views and subscribers fast, then shorts are a useful tool for doing that.

Simple record a 1 minute or less video with your phone and upload it via your phone to YouTube. Give it a title, description and use the hashtag “shorts” in the description. Then simply wait for the YouTube shorts algorithm to pick it up.

How to Grow on YouTube Conclusion

So that’s it for this guide on how to get subscribers and grow on YouTube. It’s simple but not easy. It takes a year of work laying the foundation. But if you’re willing to do the work, you can start to build an audience on YouTube with your vlog.

David Utke

David Utke is a professional blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated user experience consultant. He and his team create helpful tutorials, software reviews, videos and more based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 27k+ YouTube subscribers!

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