We’re going to take a look at the world of online video. YouTube streams over 6 billion hours of video to users around the world every single day. At the time of writing this book the number YouTube channel is run by one guy, a guy called Felix from Sweden. His channel PewDiePie has over 30.5 million subscribers and generates an estimated $5 million a year from YouTube alone.
PewDiePie is not alone, YouTube introduced their partner program in 2011 and since then users have been able to verify their account, apply for partnership status and monetise their videos. This means they get a slice of all the revenue from the adverts show on and around their videos. There are many YouTube creators who are earning six figure salaries from YouTube alone.
I’ll go in to more detail but to simplify how YouTube can provide a passive, secondary income let’s look at an ideal scenario. Let’s say you upload your first ever YouTube video and it’s a hit, you get 10,000 views and it earns you about $80. Consistency is the key so you start uploading videos weekly. In week two your second video is just as successful and you earn another $80 but you’ll still be getting some revenue from your first video too.
So, you see YouTube is very much a game of numbers. The more content you have on your channel, the more revenue you’ll see each month. YouTube might generate you a passive income but it will require effort to push up your background earnings with each new video.
Realistically you are not going to get 10,000 views the first time you upload a video to YouTube, you might just about manage to get 15% of your Facebook friends to click through and watch it but don’t be disheartened, building a successful YouTube channel without a marketing budget is going to take some time.
The secret to regular views on YouTube is to grow your subscriber base. People are unlikely to subscribe to your channel unless you give them a reason to, the most common ways to do this are with a channel trailer or with an end card on each video.
Channel trailers are auto-play when someone who isn’t subscribed to you visits your YouTube channel page. Don’t just put your most recent or best video in this spot, the channel trailer is your opportunity to shout about what you do so you really should make a video specifically for this purpose.
Your channel trailer should get straight to the point, if a user is on your channel page they are probably looking for something and are ready to click away so your trailer needs to grab their attention instantly. Make sure you don’t have an title cards or pre-rolls, get straight to the point which is you talking about your content.
Once you’ve got the user’s attention you need to tell them who you are and what they can expect to see on your YouTube channel but most importantly you need to tell them what your upload schedule is. Tell them that by subscribing they’ll get to see a new vlog every Monday and a comedy sketch every Thursday or whatever it may be. You need to give them a reason to subscribe to your channel.
The second and most powerful way to pull in new subscribers is the end card. End cards have grown organically over he last few and they’re a great way to promote, not just subscription, but also other videos. Styles and types of end cards vary, some may consist of the YouTuber talking to camera, some are animated slides and others are still images. However they are presented, the basic principle of an end slide is to use YouTube annotations to drive engagement.
Annotations are clickable boxes which you can overlay on video, the boxes can link to previous videos on your channel and also to subscribe. I find that the most successful end cards have some kind of dialogue with the viewer. Rather than just having a still card talk to the viewer. Like the channel trailer, the end card is your chance to tell the viewer what your channel is all about and why they should subscribe.
Either using a voiceover or to camera thank your audience for watching, tell them that if they like this video then they should subscribe for more similar content that you upload every Wednesday, or whenever it may be. You can also recommend that they click to watch related or previous videos on your channel using the annotations.
It’s all very well to pull in new subscribers with end cards and channel trailers but how do you get people to watch your videos in the first place? As with any online content, the best way for it to be discovered is to make sure it is optimised for search engines.
People often forget the importance of Google search, adding strong and descriptive titles and descriptions to your videos which massively increase the chance of them being discovered. Take for example, “My Trip To Wales” versus “Drunk Man Falls Over In Cardiff - #Fail.”
Your titles should be honest, they should accurately describe your content. You may be able to trick people in to watching your videos with click-bate style titles but as soon as the user realises that the content of the video isn’t as described they’ll click away which will lower your average view time and make YouTube less likely to surface your video in results.
Identify your keywords, these are the terms that people are most likely to search for or the themes in your content which are most prominent or unique. Write your titles in a way that pushes these keywords to the front. For example, if your video is about making the best fruit based cocktails on a budget the best title would be something like “Fruit Based Cocktails On A Budget.”
Your prominent and most important keywords are right at the front of the title, “Fruit Based Cocktails” and the title is honest, accurate and descriptive. This same logic should be apply to the video description which should elaborate on the title. You should use the same keywords plus any other keywords which you can’t fit in the title. Try to put your most important keywords first in the text.
People often include website and social media links in video descriptions. Putting them at the top of the description means they are immediately visible underneath the video but this will detract from the strength of your description. I understand that in many cases it is beneficial to have the URLs higher on the page and visible without clicking ‘show more’ but you really have to weigh up what is more important to you, discovery of your video or clicks back to your website.
One option could be to put links after the first paragraph of the description immediately after publishing the video, once the video gains some natural traction and YouTube understands its relevance to the search term, then move your URLs to the top of the description.
Remember you can also you YouTube annotations to link to an pre-defined ‘associated website.’ You can set your associated domain through the advanced tabs of your channel settings.
Another important factor to increasing discoverability is your video’s thumbnail. When you upload a video you are giving three thumbnails to chose between. Pick the thumbnail which is clearest, most descriptive and that matches your title and description. If it’s been enabled on your account, you will have the option of uploading custom thumbnails. This gives you the chance to make a really eye catching thumbnail and upload it to promote your video.
You can load a custom thumbnail up with eye catching imagery and bold, chunky text which will be easy to read in search results and in the related videos columns on other videos. The same rules apply with custom thumbnails, don’t use it to trick people or it will backfire, be honest and descriptive and use it to compliment your video title. Make sure any text is big and easy to read even when the thumbnail iix displayed at its smallest size and pay extra attention to the contrast of the text, does it stand out from the background?
A big part of YouTube is playlists and often playlists will show up towards the top of search results so creating playlists can be massively beneficial. You should 100% group together similar videos in playlists, title the playlist well and add a description, ensure the playlist is public. You also have the option of telling YouTube that all the video in a certain playlist are related by checking the ‘set as official series for this playlist,’ this will mean it’s more likely that your playlist will show in search results for relevant searches and YouTube will be more likely to push users between videos in the playlist.
It’s also a good idea to create playlist of other peoples’ videos and drop your own in to the mix, if you have a video of “Ten Ways To Get More Twitter Followers” then perhaps and it to a playlist about social media along side other peoples' videos on best practices for Facebook and Pinterest. This playlist then becomes valuable content in itself and means people may watch your video as part of the playlist even if they didn’t initially search for Twitter related content.
As well as search, social shares is another massively important discovery path for your videos, so producing content which people want to share should be your primary goal. Keeping videos short, self contained, snappy and relatable should help with sharing. A viewer is much more likely to share a video on Twitter and Facebook if they can easily sum up the content in a short post, sticking to one topic per video will help them do this.
When a video is short users are more likely to watch it in their Facebook or Twitter timelines rather than clicking out to YouTube or saving it to watch later. Watching a video while contained within the original post means that once the video is finished the user has the very natural ability to favourite, re-tweet, like, comment or share the content.
You can increase the likelihood of social referrals yourself by asking viewers to comment, like and share your video, this can be done at the end of a vlog, in the video’s end card or description.
Make sure your channel looks the part. Download YouTube’s channel art template and design something that makes your channel look professional. Take a look at what other YouTubers are doing for inspiration. Enable the ‘Browse’ view on your channel, this will remove your ugly activity feed and let you curate the content on your page. You can feature playlists and channels. Again, take a look what the big YouTubers are doing and make your channel page look just as awesome.
What content works best? I can’t tell you what content to make, music video work pretty well on YouTube but chances are you’re not Lady Gaga. You need to find a content strand which works for you, it may be vlogs about your life, topical vlogs about current affairs, fashion, game or movie reviews, comedy sketches or anything else which you are interested in or passionate about. Some of the most successful YouTube channels are those which cover a very specific topic and serve a niche.
As important as the genre of content is the quality. Even 14-year-old in their bedrooms manage to produce videos to professional standard so there is no excuse for poorly lit videos with bad audio. Shoot and edit in HD, ideally 1080p but at least 720p. Most YouTube video playback isn’t in HD but with screen resolutions constantly getting higher and broadband speeds getting faster, producing high def videos will future proof your content.
In a well lit environment the webcam of a high-end laptop is great for vlogging, a better option would be to use a digital SLR camera which will shoot a professional standard of video at an entry-level price point. Check that your digital SLR accepts an external microphone, you can get a cheap lapel mic from eBay for not much more than $20.
As importnat as quality is consistency, you need to train your audience to expect new content from you. Stick to a schedule and upload at least one video a week. By publishing regular videos your subscribers will get in to the habit of watching your videos. I recently came back to YouTube after a four year gap, while my subscriber number remained pretty much unchanged, their engagement levels had dropped massively. It took several months of me uploading one video per week until I noticed familiar faces start to once again comment and share on a weekly basis.
Building a YouTube channel isn’t a quick process, it takes time and effort to build an audience but if you upload at least a video a week then there’s is no reason why you shouldn’t see a steady rise in monthly views in your YouTube analytics, which you should be checking regularly. Your analytics will tell you at a glance what content has worked and what hasn’t. According to my analytics, the titles of my top six videos right now all start with “How To…” This tells me that the popular trend of tutorial and instructional videos is one that my content can compete with.
You can’t expect every video you produce to go viral but one popular and simple measure of the success of a video is to determine whether the video received more views than you have subscribers within the first week after publishing it. If a video is seen by as many people as subscribe to you then this is a 100% success. If more than your sub number view the video then it has organically extended beyond your immediate audience and reached new eyes making it more of a success.
This is a great way to judge the success of your content, especially as a small, newly launched channel. As your subscriber numbers grow, so does your engagement and you should constantly look for ways to involve them in your channel. You can do this by asking for feedback, either in your blog or perhaps even in the end card, ask your audience what they would like to see next. Perhaps you run a “let’s play” channel and review games, ask your subscribers what game they would like to see you play next. You can reinforce this by adding a comment when you publish your video, just a simple comment like “Hope you enjoy the video, what game would you like to see me review next?” This comment will appear at the top of the video comments pile. Not only will it increase engagement as subscribers will know you are interested but it will also help them to invest in your channel as there’s a chance that the next video you upload could be their video request.
Engagement, as well as viewing time, is YouTube key metric in measuring the success of a video and the perceived success of a video is what YouTube bases its search ranking on. Comments are a pretty self explanatory metric in terms of engagement, as is a ‘like’ or thumbs up on a video but what you may not know if that a thumbs down is just as beneficial to your video. As Oscar Wilde famously said, “there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Whether it is positive or negative, conversation about your video is good and YouTube certainly doesn’t penalise you for if your video receives more thumbs down than thumbs up.
It can be a little disheartening when starting out on YouTube, you’ll see all these channels with thousands of subscribers who get to the magical 301+ view cap within minutes of uploading a video, this leads to a question I get asked a lot… “Should I buy YouTube views/subscribers?”
Let’s start with subscribers. Buying a thousand subscribers or so will instantly make your channel appear more appealing. If 1,000+ people are already interested in your channel then perhaps it’s worth a sub. Buying subscribers is pretty cheap but they’re usually not real, human subscribers. You won’t get any engagement or even video views from them, all they’ll do is boost your numbers and make you look more appealing. Although YouTube thrown up on this kind of activity, artificially boosted subscriber numbers aren’t going to damage your channel in any way, artificial views on the other hand will.
It’s pretty easy to buy video views in blocks of 1,000 from various website but like subscribers, these aren’t real engaged views. The videos are forced upon people through a network of content distribution websites. While the video might play the user almost certainly isn’t interested in the content and will quickly click away, they certainly won’t like, comment or subscribe.
This lack of dwell time and engagement will affect how your video ranks in YouTube’s search pages and recommended videos as YouTube will deem the video to be uninteresting if a high percentage of viewers fail to make it past the first few seconds.
However, there is a way to buy video views which are not only 100% rick free but Google actually encourages you to do it. It costs a little more, the view count is lower but the return is much better. The way to buy views is through Google’s own AdWords platform.
I recently ‘promote’ one of my own videos through this platform by clicking on the button in my YouTube video manager. The ad cost me $15 and generated just shy of 1,000 views. I was able to target my campaign to a relevant audience of females under the age of 25. The reason this system is so much better is that Google targets your video and displays it as a pre-roll advert on related videos or as a display ad across the AdWords network. If the content is good enough it will catch people’s attention and rather than skipping the video they will watch it.
You can enter a link to for your advert, when the user clicks the video or advert they will be taken to this link. In my case the purpose of the link was to get people to subscribe. Did you know there is a direct link to a subscription confirmation? Just use the following adding in your own channel name https://www.youtube.com/user/channelname?sub_confirmation=1
My campaign generate 832 video views but interestingly gained me eight new subscribers, not a huge amount but proof that people were interested in the content and converting 1% of viewers to subscribers is actually a better result than with organic video views.
Another way to quickly gain a following is to network and networking on YouTube means being an active part of the community. It’s so important that you subscriber to other related channels, comment and like videos and reach out to other content creators. Sooner or later the opportunity to collaborate will present itself, whether initiated by you or someone else. Collaboration is the absolute best way to increase visibility of your channel. You’d be surprised who’d be willing to collab with you if you have a good idea, regardless of the size of the channel you are approaching.
The most effective way to collaborate is to create two videos, one for your channel and one for your collaborator’s channel. Releasing the two videos at the same time will expose you to all of the other channel’s subscriber while introducing the other channel to your subscribers. By releasing the two video simultaneously and cross promoting them in this way, you also create an event around the videos which should help further engage both sets of subscribers.
Of course the reason we are doing all of this is to make money. YouTube makes it very easy for your to monetise your content, you need to have a verified account and an AdSense account. Pre-roll ads and banners will display on and around your video and you get a share of this revenue.
On average YouTube’s CPM is $7.60. CPM is the cost per thousand, with the ‘m’ in the acronym representing the Roman numeral for 1,000. This means on average, Google will pay you $7.60 for every thousand monetised views of your video. If your video is viewed on a player or platform that doesn’t display a certain ad format then this particular view may go un-monetised. From my experience CPM on YouTube can vary a lot depending on the quality of your traffic, in recent months I’ve seen monthly average CPMs as high as $15.
The YouTube partner program isn’t the only way to monetise your video content. Websites like Patreon and Subbable are crowd funding sites where fans can pledge an amount starting at $1 per month or per video to help with the running cost of your channel. Before these crowd funding sites aimed specifically at YouTube existed, many YouTube and video projects were successfully funded through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
This form of funding is becoming so popular that YouTube earlier this year announced that it is launching a similar tool itself. YouTube’s tip jar, which will be rolled out soon, will allow fans to tip their favourite YouTube creators directly from the video without the need to click out to an external website. The roll out of tip jar probably won’t happen over night and will initially only be available to higher tier creators but it’s an additional revenue stream which you should be aware of in the future.