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With the continued rise of the vlogging culture, it’s entirely understandable for any tech-savvy adult to be enticed by the idea of starting a YouTube channel. After all, it’s a fun and interactive hobby with the potential to turn you into a popular online personality —with the added benefit of helping you meet new people, get free stuff from companies, and of course, earn a pretty impressive income.
But if you want to become a YouTube success story, gain a steady increase in followers, or at least publish decent content that gets a good number of views and likes, you’ll need to do more than just become a contributing member on YouTube.
The most-viewed YouTube channels target their content and postings with a few critical criteria in mind. Paying close attention to your process, audience, analytics, and SEO are crucial to ranking among the fastest-growing YouTube channels.
Here are a couple of helpful tips to ensure that you make the most of your venture into the world of vlogging and content creation.
1. Create a Brand Name
Branding is essential, especially at the beginning, when nobody knows you.
Find a name that represents both you and the content in your channel. Here are a few things to do before committing to a channel name:
- Your channel name is your brand. It needs to be catchy and easy to remember.
- Search on YouTube to make sure nobody else is using the same name.
- Make sure your name is not associated with a negative pun.
- Simplicity is the key. Avoid complicated words or long names.
- Your viewers should immediately know what your channel is about based on the channel name.
You may argue that many prominent YouTubers have their full name as the channel name. That is because their names have become their brands over the past decades. It was easier to remember a creator’s full name back then when there were not many competing names out there. Nowadays, with so much content out there, you want to have a memorable brand name to stand out, especially when nobody knows what your channel is about.
Besides a good channel name, it would be best to have a professional-looking channel banner (YouTube Channel Art) and a good channel profile photo or logo.
I used Canva, a free website, to create my channel art. I appreciate their free service version.
My friend also hired an artist on Fiverr to create a channel profile logo. There you go; we have a channel page.
2. Find a Niche.
You can find so many pieces of advice about finding a YouTube niche — the highest paying niche, the most competitive niche, the most trendy niche, etc.
There are also heated debates about whether you should commit to a niche. Some say committing to one niche leads to creator burnout; others say variety channels don’t perform well due to the YouTube algorithm.
How to find your niche? Should you commit to a niche?
Finding a Niche
This may sound cliche, but the most important thing is to pursue a niche of your passion — something you can never get tired of talking about.
This is very important because it can prevent creator burnout. In addition, if you are an expert in this niche and speak with passion, your viewers are more likely to watch your videos and subscribe to your channel. For example, I am more likely to watch skincare videos from a dermatologist, study videos from a doctor, and cooking videos from a chef.
Do you need to be an expert in your niche from the start? Not. Many chefs produce phenomenal cooking videos but never go to a culinary school. You can be self-taught and become an expert in the field of your passion. Your passion will keep you going and continue to learn.
Another essential factor to consider is the YouTube monetization policies. Advertisers are not in favor of certain types of content. Videos from different niches have different CPMs (Cost per 1,000 impressions) for Google Ads. Prank videos and gaming channels may have a lot of views but still may not generate a lot of revenue. On average, videos on personal finance have way higher CPMs than gaming videos.
Remember the #1 rule, find a niche of your passion. This does not mean you need to chase niches to generate higher revenue. Meanwhile, avoid niches deemed inappropriate for interest-based advertising, such as content featuring children or created for children.
Yes, You Should Focus on One Niche, But Don’t Limit Yourself.
Committing to one niche may not sound exciting. Like many of you, I have many things that I am passionate about, and I want to create content for my passions.
But are these content in line with your niche?
When I first started my YouTube channel, I watched hundreds of videos from “YouTube gurus” about starting a successful channel. Almost all of these gurus urged small YouTubers to stay in one niche.
Of course, as stubborn as I am, I did not do as told. I stayed in my “lifestyle” niche but created fitness workout and makeup videos. It worked at the beginning when I had a tiny audience. After trying different topics and videos, I found my food videos performed better than others. Soon I noticed that the views on different videos varied drastically. Furthermore, some subscribers were turned off by the content they did not subscribe to and unsubscribe to my channel. So I started to produce more food content but kept my makeup and fitness videos.
Another reason for staying in a niche is that the YouTube algorithm gets confused when uploading a video from a different niche. For example, if my channel is about food and my viewers mainly watch food videos, the algorithm does not know who to recommend this video to when I upload a workout video. The algorithm cannot push workout videos to my subscribers who don’t have any other fitness videos in their watch history.
So there are two lessons learned from my experience —
- In the beginning, try different things on your channel as long as there is some connection among these videos. You may think you are good at makeup videos, but your audience may prefer watching you cook. This is a stage when you can learn about yourself, what you are good at, and what others like to watch you perform.
- Eventually, you will have to commit to a niche. This niche can be broad, including anything about food, beauty, or productivity. This will help your channel grow tremendously and build loyalty in your audience.
3. Being Discoverable on Search is the KEY
Like any other business, the most challenging part about YouTube is the start — when you have no subscribers, no video, nothing.
With so much content on YouTube, how do you become noticeable?
It becomes easier if you have built an audience and followed other platforms. But I also noticed that many of these followers don’t transfer quickly across platforms. People may follow your Instagram for the “instant” inspiration pictures and TikTok for short funny content. But YouTube is a more extended and more edited form of content. Some twitch streamers and “Instagramers” with more than 10k followers only have hundreds of subscribers on YouTube.
How do you find your audience? How do your viewers find you?
Being searchable is vital. Trendy Topics also help.
My first video with lots of views was about “how to improve academic writing.” Many people searched the word “improve writing,” “academic writing,” “academic writing books” and found my channel through these keywords.
Another video of mine reviewed some resistant workout bands I purchased at the beginning of 2020. The video did not have a lot of views for months until the pandemic hit America. Everyone started to search “at-home workout bands.” The keyword suddenly became trendy, and my video got thousands of views.
How do you know what topics people are searching for? Here is a brilliant free tool — Google Trends.
On Google Trends, you can type in any keywords of your interest and see how many times people have “googled” it within a period. You can also compare different keywords to see which ones are the most searchable. In the screenshot below, you can find a spike in searching for “how-to” in April 2021.
Because Google owns YouTube, you can easily find the YouTube search trend by altering the setting from “Web Search” to “YouTube Search.”
Before even creating your video, consider if people are searching for your keywords/Topic.
In addition, when a topic is trendy, your videos may appear in the recommended video sidebars and even people’s YouTube home page. But remember, don’t chase the trends blindly when the topic is not relevant to your channel.
4. Filming, Audio, Editing, and Thumbnail
Ok, now you have created a brand, have a niche in mind, and completed your keyword research for your first video. The next step is to do the work — film, edit, and upload.
Here is a list of tools that I use.
Surprisingly, you don’t need fancy cameras for creating good films. The newest iPhone or Android phones have good enough back cameras. Many prominent YouTubers still use their iPhone to film vlogs in public.
Interestingly, the general public uses their phone cameras but gets nervous around real cameras. So, if you worry about drawing other people’s attention when filming in public, use your phone because most people rarely make a big deal of it.
The lighting and sound are more important than good lenses and cameras. Phone images look better than camera clips when the light is bright. Natural lights are better than most studio lights. When natural light is not available to you, small ring lights within budget can make a difference.
Whether you use your phone or a camera to film, consider using a microphone. Most people listen to the videos instead of watching them. If the background noise is too loud, consider doing a voiceover.
I love to use a mirrorless camera to film most of my videos at home (Canon M50). They are smaller than DSLRs but have most of the functions. I use a RODE microphone for my camera and a Blue Yeti USB microphone for voiceover. But your phone and a USB mic are a great starting point.
Audio and Music
When you start a YouTube channel, one of the first questions you might ask is, “Which video equipment do I need? We strongly believe your first real investment should be in your audio.
Here’s why. Bad audio is more distracting than bad video, and everybody hates onboard microphones. So if you can, get yourself a dedicated microphone for your camera. If you’re recording from a computer, you can’t go wrong with a Blue Yeti.
People watch YouTube videos with their ears. Having good sound quality and music is essential.
The safest music to use is from YouTube Studio’s audio library. Some of their songs are good! You do not have to subscribe to any additional music services when you first start. I would instead go safe with music to prevent copyright strikes or claims. You may find uncopyrighted free music on Sound Cloud, but songs can become copyrighted later. Recently I received two.
Instead of paying for editing tools, I used iMovie for a long time. Finally, I bought the Final Cut Pro (FCP). It was a life-changing update because many FCP functions make the editing fast and convenient.
When you first start, I recommend using the accessible version of iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. As you improve your editing skills, you soon will learn about the functions you need in professional editing software, then you can decide on what software you want to purchase.
5. Learn to Use YouTube Analytics
Some people love analytics. Others hate them. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, know that YouTube analytics are beneficial.
Specific metrics are crucial to keep an eye on the click-through rate.
Check the click-through rate for your channel as a whole and on individual videos as you test. This represents how enticing your titles are and how clickable your thumbnails are. The rate varies with every creator, so establish your benchmark to meet and exceed. You can do that by checking your current click-through rate, whether that’s two, four, six, or eight percent. Try to improve that by two to three percent this year. It will bring in so many views.
The other metric is Watch Time. Generally speaking, the more Watch Time you get, the more YouTube will promote your content. But if you make shorter videos, that doesn’t necessarily mean you must make longer videos. Your audience might not embrace the switch.
Maximizing the value of your Watch Time—looking at your video’s audience retention. How does it stack up to similar videos regarding whether people are still watching or not? Try and improve this metric. Having said that, if your average view duration is 60%, 70%, or 80%, you’re doing well.