Truth be told, there is no set formula for a successful YouTube channel. But there are a few key ingredients that will make your chances of YouTube fame all the more likely.
YouTube megastars like Ryan Higa, Ray William Johnson, and Bethany Mota have amassed billions of views simply through vlogging. This has almost certainly raked in seven figures or more in revenue, while leading to untold opportunities outside of YouTube.
And then there are the channels that house much more substance, while still remaining impressively popular. Take Creative Live, the Ask Gary Vee Show, and Big Think.
These channels may all be entirely different, but share the common factor of regularly being watched by huge numbers of people. This is because they’ve stuck to at least some of the key ingredients below.
Making The Most of Metadata
Successful YouTube channels often need more than just engaging videos to become popular. The metadata — title, description, keywords, and tags — are incredibly important, too. It’s based in large part on this data (in combination with other things) that YouTube ranks your videos in their search results. In other words, good metadata ensures your videos are discoverable.
Take Gary Vaynerchuk, for instance. His descriptions include timestamps that not only help viewers navigate his videos, but are also full of relevant keywords. Links mentioned in the video are posted in the description. There’s also a short explanation about what different series’ of Gary’s videos are about, along with information on where you can find out more about him.
When it comes to crafting your own metadata, use resources such as YouTube’s autocomplete search bar, YouTube Trends, and Google Trends to find the best keywords and tags to use. Include your most important link above the fold, as well as two sentences to describe the content within the video.
Also make sure to describe what your channel is about, and let people know where else they can follow you. Lastly, include a call to action (usually asking people to subscribe to your channel).
If you’re so inclined, producing and publishing a transcript of your YouTube video is also a sensible move.
Carefully Craft Your Title
Your video titles should be short and snappy, offering a quick and intriguing insight into the content of your video. Don’t forget to include your main keyword(s), too!
The best way to do this is to look at your title as if you’d never come across your brand before. Would you click on it? If you’re not sure, change it. This often means moving any personal branding within the title to the end, so the main keywords appear first. It also means including episode numbers for serial content. And very importantly, be honest. Don’t promise content that you don’t deliver on.
Vary Your Content
Speaking of content, in very broad terms, there are two kinds of content you can produce and publish you on YouTube.
The first is “Pull Content”. This is generally evergreen content, with a wider, more viral appeal. This pulls new people to your channel and convinces them to subscribe.
The second is “Push Content”, which you push to your subscribers because it’s what you know they want to watch.
Your channel should be made up of a mixture of these two types of content. Take Jimmy Fallon as an example. Fallon has a huge following, but a relatively small number of his videos attract a disproportionate number of views. An obvious example is his video with Obama, which 12 million people have watched (this always seems to happen when Obama appears on YouTube). This content has a wider appeal than most of Fallon’s other content, but has likely been responsible for a large number of his almost 10 million subscribers.
You should be looking to mix your content up like this, too. Not all of your content should be too niche, because you need to reach new audience members who will look forward to your push content.
If you’re aiming to create a popular YouTube channel, you’re going to need consistent branding. This branding needs to be recognizable for people who learn to love your content.
Plus, if your video thumbnails are instantly recognizable, it means you don’t need to waste valuable real estate in your video title by including the name of your brand there as well.
The School of Life is a perfect case study here. They use the same, large font mixed with fun imagery and bold colors for each thumbnail. This means that when one of their 650,000 subscribers is on a School of Life binge, they can easily recognize more School of Life videos from the suggested videos sidebar. Naturally this leads to more views, and means they don’t need to write “School of Life” in every video title.
Keep Things Consistent
To take things further than simply consistent branding, your content should be consistent, too. People will only subscribe to your channel if they know what it is they’re looking forward to.
If your audience loves your rants, publish a rant on the same day every week. If it turns out a certain structure for your videos was well received, make that your normal structure. If you’re answering audience questions, make sure it’s a regular show.
Ryan Higa’s 16 million subscribers know that he’ll have one video uploaded for them each week. This keeps people looking forward to that next episode, knowing that they won’t have too long to wait. You could even use a tool like Wips to create a chrome extension to alert users when you publish your next video.
Create An Effective End Card
YouTube allows you to add an end card (sometimes called an end slate) to the end of each of your videos, so make the most of it. Many YouTubers don’t use this feature at all. Others simply use it to display their logo. This is a waste.
You should be setting up an interactive end card that not only prompts people to subscribe to your channel, but also cross promotes your other videos. When you do this, at the end of your videos people will be able to see a couple of your other titles. Even if they don’t want to watch them now, they may think “this channel has some cool stuff!”, and subscribe so they can watch later.
For step-by-step instructions, the following video is great for showing you how to set up your own end card:
Again, check out Jimmy Fallon’s end cards to see some fantastic examples.
Engage, Engage, Engage
When people are giving you their attention, especially when they go to the effort of commenting on your videos, the least you can do is engage with your fan base.
After all, when people feel they have access to the person behind the brand, their loyalty rockets. This isn’t implying that you have to reply to every comment, but at least wade in occasionally to let people know you actually pay attention to what they think. Though by all means, ignore the YouTube trolls.
To bring Gary Vaynerchuck back, this is someone who’s engaged with his audience hundreds of thousands of times. He responds to a huge portion of the tweets he receives, and reads virtually every comment on YouTube, while replying to many of those that arrive first. If he can do it, so can you.
Involve Your Audience
Allow your audience to become part of your channel. You can do this in various ways, from reading out comments, to asking them a #QOTD (question of the day).
Photographer Chase Jarvis occasionally publishes videos like these (above), where he asks people to submit their photos so he can offer a professional critique. This is a perfect way to enable your audience to have a real stake in your channel, allowing them to direct the content, if even in a small way.
If you want more ideas, read about various ways you can involve an audience during a presentation. Many of these apply to publishing YouTube videos, too.
Collaborate With Other YouTubers
If you have a fairly popular YouTube channel already, chances are that another YouTuber with a similar audience will be happy to collaborate with you.
By producing a video with other collaborators mean their audiences will get to know you, and vice versa.
If you want to keep things simple, you could just give a shout-out to a channel you recommend, and ask another channel to do the same for you. I recently watched a NerdWriter video in which I was told “If you love my videos, you’ll definitely like those from Wisecrack”. And so I became a subscriber to the latter.
This is a simple and effective way of gaining new subscribers and views on your videos.
Making Use Of These Ingredients
These ingredients to a successful YouTube channel are nothing unless you implement at least some of them. No one ever said becoming YouTube famous was easy, but by following some of the commonalities that many successful channels share, you’ll have a much greater chance of succeeding, too.
What other tactics and strategies have helped you to build your YouTube channel? Is there anything you tried that turned out to be a waste of time?