How to Get More YouTube Subscribers

Sean Dilger
By Sean Dilger

If you don’t have a YouTube channel, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. With over 1 billion active users—almost a third of all people on the internet—it’s the world’s second largest search engine. In fact, according to Global Web Index, one in four people had watched a branded video last month. And it’s not just for the younger crowd—data shows the platform’s audience is gradually trending older.

Related: YouTube Basics

YouTube is an additional place, outside of your website, to display your content and the more content you put out there, the more you’ll continue to bring people back—and keep them longer.

So how do you do video well? Forget the hacks. The key to winning at YouTube is to master their algorithm and the key to their algorithm, quite simply, is having lots of subscribers. Unlike unsubscribed viewers, subscribers spend more watch time on your videos and watch time is paramount to the equation, allowing your videos to show up in search results and recommendations.

Additionally, subscribers receive notifications when you post new material, driving up your initial views. Initial views, in turn, push non-subscribers to your channel.

Finally, there’s a more organic bonus: subscribers build your community. The comments, hashtags, sharing, and discussion that happens in and around your channel builds a sense of comradery among your followers, and that’s a wonderful breeding ground for loyal followers.

Ways of Getting YouTube Subscribers

So, now that you know the key to YouTube, more subscribers, let’s get down to the logistics of just how you do that.  There are six simple steps:

Ask Visitors to Subscribe to Your Channel

This may seem obvious, but it’s shocking how many people skip this most basic step. If you don’t ask, you can’t receive. Sort of like sales, the key is making the ask. Without it, you’ll watch viewers metaphorically walk away without committing to your channel.

At the end of each video, ask viewers to both like your video and subscribe and tell them why.  If your video was task-oriented, like explaining to users how to fix a bicycle tire, you could say something like, “Was this useful? Like my video and subscribe to keep up with the latest videos and learn more tricks—including what to do if this happens while you’re out riding!”

When you ask your viewers to subscribe, remember that the path of least resistance is almost always the most successful. Consider adding watermarks to all videos on your channel. Embedding your logo allows viewers to directly subscribe to your channel if they hover over the watermark when using YouTube on a computer. It won’t show to users who are already subscribed to your channel.

Additionally, consider a call-to-action (CTA) overlay. CTA overlays will appear when a video starts and, when clicked on by a viewer, will redirect them to an external website or, in this case, a subscribe link. CTAs can be closed by the viewer at any time. They’re fairly simple to create in YouTube or, if your account is connected to AdWords, you can craft it there too.

Regularly Add Videos

Consistency is key. When pinning down a publishing schedule, remember the 1×4 content schedule. Essentially, you want to post four videos each month, or about one per week. Frequency means retention.

Try posting videos on a consistent day and time to give them something to look forward to and a reason to return.

That said, always respect your viewers’ time. By doing so, you commit to producing only highly engaging, useful material. That means no fluff or filler. No long introductions. The first 8 seconds of your videos are the most critical. The click away rate during this period is astounding. If you’re giving a how-to, get right to it. If you’re dancing, begin the routine immediately.

Related: How to Rank YouTube Videos

Add Videos to Online Communities

Where is my target audience? This is what you have to ask yourself.

Consider the platforms, and sub-platforms, your audience spends time on. Facebook pages and communities, Reddit feeds, and Twitter forums are your new best friend. Search related topics and comment in pertinent forums with a link to your video. You must ferociously advertise yourself.

For example, if you create vegan cooking videos, find a vegan Facebook group and comment on a popular recipe post with, “This looks delicious! I have a host of similar recipes on my YouTube channel here. My newest video recipe—Tahini Lemon Quinoa– takes less than 20 minutes start to finish!”

Even further, if you’re a good fit, and do give this some thought first, explore Pinterest. This platform works well for themes that naturally have great aesthetics like beauty, clothing, product reviews, interior design or travel.

Finally, think outside the box. Is there a relevant, popular book on Amazon that your audience is likely reading? Leave a review and mention your channel. Amazon won’t allow you to leave a link, but you can always name your channel and video specifically.

Say something like, “This book’s deep dive into the history of the meat industry is fascinating. It was the inspiration to begin my vegan-themed cooking channel “No Meat Here.” My newest cooking demo, “Tahini Lemon Quinoa” even features some commentary on this author’s concept.”

Create Playlists

Playlists are powerful tools. Organizing your content into specific segments allows your audience to easily find what they need—and tantalizes them with content they’re likely also interested in.

Consider having a few playlists, specific to the type of viewer: new viewer videos, task-oriented videos, and topic-focused videos. Tempting your audience with a targeted buffet of additional content is hard for them to resist.

Also, consider breaking up your channel by keyword. While your channel may have a few keywords to guide new users to your content, segmenting playlists by keyword is yet another way to hone in on precisely what your viewer is looking for.

Create Video Thumbnails

Video thumbnails let viewers catch a quick, 3-second snapshot of your longer video as they’re browsing YouTube. As soon as you upload a video, YouTube begins to promote it to relevant audiences.

YouTube previews these thumbnails on YouTube homepages, search results, watch page, subscriptions tab, and trending tab. They are not currently available for mobile versions yet.

Like a GIF for your longer video, video thumbnails increase your click-through rate. Through YouTube’s Analytics page, you can check the percentage of your impressions (thumbnail views) that turned into full video views.

Powerful thumbnails and catchy titles will increase your click-through rate (CTR). According to YouTube, half of all channels and videos on YouTube have an impressions CTR that can range between 2% and 10%.

Use your data to help make smart choices about optimizing your titles and thumbnails. How does your metric change from video to video? What patterns do you see?

As you interpret this number, consider it in the larger context of your other metrics, like average view length, to determine how long viewers are watching your content after they’ve clicked into your channel. For example, a higher click-through rate with low average view duration indicates that your thumbnails are simply flashy or that your content doesn’t deliver what viewers expect.

Use Call-to-Action Annotations

Unlike a Call-to-Action (CTA) overlay, which appears at the bottom of your screen and can be closed by viewers, CTA annotations are pop-up messages that appear within the video frame and tell your viewers what to do because, let’s face it, sometimes we all need some direction.

Viewers can immediately interact with them and, if you’re giving careful thought to what each video’s audience may want to see next, they allow you to pull viewers deeper into your channel—to a playlist, perhaps—or even to ask directly for their subscription.

The catch? They frequently cause viewers to leave their current video. For that reason, place them at a noncrucial point in the video. However, the end may not be the best option either. Viewers have a short attention span; one-third of viewers leave within the first 30 seconds.

Related: Six Ways to Increase YouTube Traffic

Wrapping Up

Remember that our audience these days is busy, distracted, and inundated with video material, so don’t be afraid to ask for their subscription in overlays or annotations. Go to them—market yourself where they already are—Facebook groups or Reddit forums– and create thumbnails to draw them in once they’re on YouTube itself. Contact us today to learn more about YouTube marketing.

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Sean Dilger is an SEO Project Manager at Power Digital with a passion for all things digital. He was born in Ireland and moved to San Diego in 2015. Sean has many years experience in the digital space and has worked in email marketing, PPC, social media and of course SEO. Sean graduated college in Ireland with a Master's Degree in Marketing and Management Strategy.