Tips on how to grow your YouTube channel – all of these have come from my day at YouTube in London

Want to create a YouTube channel but have no idea where to start? Have you already started a YouTube channel but you’re frustrated at seeing your subscriber numbers stuck in triple digits, or less? Do you want actionable, easy and practical tips to take your channel forward right now?

Look no further, the answers are here. I recently spent the day at the incredible YouTube Space London hearing from top creators and key people behind the scenes at YouTube.

Now that I’ve heard them speak, picked their brains and been handed tons of useful information, I’m going to share it with you. Just call me your YouTube insider, or spy – that sounds way more exciting!

Me at the YouTube Space London

This day was organised by BritMums and YouTube and aimed at parenting vloggers but that doesn’t mean these tips are only for these types of channels. They can be applied by any vlogger to grow their YouTube channel.

So here we go, vital tips for making your YouTube channel a success. I’ve split the tips into categories so you can scroll through this post easily to find the key information you need.

How to be a great YouTuber – with Emma Stephany, YouTube strategist and vlogger at Mamalina

1. Have a conversation with your audience

You need to connect with the people watching you on the other side of the screen. Have a deep a meaningful conversation with your audience where you are inviting a real connection. Louise Pentland from Sprinkle of Glitter is a great example of this, she looks at the camera directly and speaks to the people watching, expressing her real self and sharing it with them.

2. Don’t be intimidated by the lens

3. Find your zone

Find your comfort zone and stay in it. If you can only face the camera in full make-up, then do that. If you prefer vlogging from your bed in your PJs then do that, just do what feels right to you.

4. Plan, plan and plan some more

Think about what you’re going to do the night before filming. What are you going to say, do you need to research any key facts?

5. Block film

Save time and effort by block filming several vlogs at once. Have a change of clothes or three handy so it looks like you’ve filmed on different days. This way you have a bank of footage ready to edit.

6. But don’t over plan

Overly scripted and unnatural stuff doesn’t work on YouTube. Don’t read from a script. Make notes about what you’re going to say but try to keep it natural as much as possible.

7. Find your niche

What’s your thing? Think about what you want to create, who are you speaking to? Do you want to create how tos or do you want to do funny videos. Find your thing and stick to it.

8. Thumbnails are important

A thumbnail from my YouTube channel – I designed this in Canva

This is what people see first when they’re scrolling through YouTube and wondering what to watch. The thumbnail needs to be engaging, using a picture with a face in is good, and if you have text make sure it’s big. Small text can’t be read easily on a smartphone and therefore it’s pointless. Look at the big vloggers, they all use big and clear fonts on the thumbnails.

9. Title and description are also very important

You need to get key words into your title and description. Plus your video needs to deliver on what your title promises. Your watch time will plummet if people click on a video promising tips for curing nappy rash and they find you talking about sleep deprivation.

10. Cross promotion

Don’t forget to plug your video across all of your social media channels. Once you’ve hit publish send a tweet, get it on Facebook and let people know in you Instagram stories.

11. Be realistic

Create a schedule and stick to it. But don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you can’t cope with three vlogs a week then don’t promise that to your audience.

What is sustainable and realistic for your output.

12. There are three types of content to think about

Hero. This is big events and makes up the smallest proportion of your videos on your channel. This would include things like the birth of your child.

Hub. Regular, scheduled content such as a look at your week. Find formats that make people come back.

Help. Always on content aimed at answering viewers’ questions.

13. Experiment

There are lots of ways of experimenting with your YouTube channel. Use poll cards as this can be great for engagement with your audience.

Also using Live is a time saver because you don’t have to edit it afterwards.

Try challenges such as Vlogmas or Vlogtober where you must produce a new video every day of the month. This can help to get you noticed.

14. Think big

Use ads to monetise your channel.

15. Drink coffee

Coffee and maybe cake too – whatever gives you energy!

I love this one. You need to be ON IT when you shoot a video. Not half asleep in your corn flakes. That’s not going to interest anyone. Be engaging, lively and ramp up your enthusiasm.

16. Just hit record

Practice makes perfect. Just hit record and go for it. You don’t have to publish everything that you record, it could just be for you to review where you can make improvements.

17. Be consistent and have patience

Your channel is highly unlikely to grow to a million subscribers overnight. Stick with it and be consistent with what you’re posting and when.

Analyse and improve your channel

18. Keywords

Think about what people who will watch and enjoy your videos will type into a search engine.

Also check out related words when searching on YouTube to find inspiration for new content.

19. How to decide what to vlog about

Use a combination of data from YouTube analytics (more information of how to use this below) and your own gut feeling. See what your audience is enjoying on your channel and give them more of that, plus think about what you think would work for your channel.

20. The algorithm

There was a lot of discussion about the algorithm and how it works. The most important thing to the YouTube algorithm is watch time – how long viewers watch your videos. If they click off after one second then you need to rethink your channel and its content.

If your audience likes what they see and watch your content, they will drive the algorithm in your favour.

21. How long should videos be?

There is no concrete answer to this question as every channel will be different.

The best way to decide how long your videos should be is to look at your YouTube analytics and in particular the analysis of watch time. Look at the data in the following way:

The beginning. If there is a very steep drop off right at the start of your videos then you need to look at your thumbnails, as the content did not deliver on what your audience expected to see.

Rewind. Look for spikes in the audience watch time data. If there are any points where your audience fast forwarded or went back to replay bits of the video (spikes on the graph), this is something your audience wants to see more of. Also look for slopes where people have skipped over portions of your video – which bits did they skip, is this an area you could cut back on in future videos?

The end. If your video ends with watch time dying down massively then the video is too long. If your video ends with only 20 per cent of the audience watching, it is too long.

You need to experiment and keep using analytics to see what your audience is watching and enjoying the most.

You may get more watch time from a 10-minute video but only if the content is good. With a good quality five minute video you could get 100 per cent watch time and lots of engagement, so it depends what works for you. Try to be consistent with your video lengths.

YouTube Analytics – with Charlotte Stahl, partner manager at YouTube

22. YouTube analytics can put you on the right path

Understanding and using the analytics area can give you “aha” moments that help you understand your audience and what they want to see from you.

23. Grow your channel

You can use the insights on analytics to grow your channel. Get information about how your audience is engaging and watching your channel then use it to take action and grow.

24. How is your channel doing?

The best place to find the answer to this question is in the YouTube Analytics overview report.

This shows all of your key data such as watch time, top videos and engagement.

You can also change the time frame and compare this to previous months or days so you can drill down to how your channel is progressing in a specific time frame.

25. Check out your top performing videos

The watch time report shows you the top performing videos and this is more important than number of views. The YouTube algorithm is based on watch time, not hits.

Look at which videos drive the most watch time and use that to inspire you as to what direction to take your channel in. Give your audience more of what they enjoyed watching on your channel.

26. Create groups of content

Divide your videos into groups (for example baby sleep, travel, shopping hauls, meal planning). Then compare these. Which type of video gets the most watch time.

Then take a decision in what to create more of.

27. When to upload your videos

Compare your watch time against your upload schedule. See where the spikes are and what time is most successful. The first 24 hours are important for a video’s success on YouTube.

Think about your audience and what their day might be like. When are they most likely to have time to sit down and watch YouTube. Would it be in the evening after the kids have gone to bed or at lunchtime during their break from work?

28. Create evergreen content

Make content that will continue to drive people back to it again and again. For example how tos that answer a question people will frequently search for.

29. Who am I reaching?

Look at the demographics report tab. See where your audience is and insights such as whether they are male or female.

Compare what you thought your audience was, with who it actually is. Do you need to make any changes to your channel as a result? Is there a gap, a group of people, that you’re not reaching? Think about how you could reach those people.

30. How are viewers finding me?

Check out the traffic sources report tab. Look at whether you are over reliant on a particular source. You may need to take action on this, as if your key source is a blog not controlled by you then you need to find other sources, in case that referral link is removed suddenly.

Work on strengthening your weaker sources of viewers.

31. Views from subscribers vs non-subscribers

You can see in the traffic sources report whether your viewers are subscribers to your channel or not. It’s healthy to have a good mix of subscribers and non subscribers here, as it means you’re keeping your existing audience engaged but you’re reaching new people.

Extra tips for getting your content discovered

32. Keep your content open

Make it easy for new visitors to your channel and new subscribers to know what you’re all about.

They shouldn’t have to watch 50 other videos to pick up the thread of what you’re talking about.

33. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world

Do your key word research on the site and find potential gaps for content that might work for your channel. Think about the type of content you want to make, type in keywords and see what comes up.

34. Should my titles be in caps or lower case?

This has no impact on the algorithm. It’s purely a matter of choice but be consistent with what you choose to do.

The Family Fizz channel uses a mixture of upper and lower case that makes their videos very easy to spot during a search for content. Their titles stand out.

35. Don’t do click bait

Headlines that are all about attracting a click but then don’t deliver on content are a big no no. Your watch time will plummet and your channel won’t thrive.

36. Be smart with your title

The first three words are key in your title so think hard about what goes first. The same goes for your description.

If your content is easy to find then more people will be driven to it by the algorithm.

37. You can go back and edit descriptions

Editing the descriptions on old videos can help make your video more discoverable so do it if you think it will help.

38. Create playlists

Pick a topic and then make a playlist with videos, including your own, that work together. The algorithm also works by connecting channels and videos that link together in some way. This is why collaborating can be so valuable.

39. Branding

Have an intro and an outro on your videos. Don’t make them too long but make sure they’re consistent with your branding.

You could also start your video with a preview of what’s to come in the rest of the video, which could keep people watching until the end.

40. Use the community tab

You can pop links to videos old and new in the community tab by joining in conversations with fellow users. This can help get your content discovered by more people.

41. Use cards

Cards add interactivity to your video. You can plug another video that relates to what your audience is watching or suggest something else they might like to watch. You can add up to five cards on a video.

Technical tips

42. Editing software

The key software that seems to be the most popular is Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier Pro and iMovie. Windows Movie Maker is another one that can be used.

43. Microphones to improve sound

The microphones on cameras won’t produce as good quality as if you buy a separate mic to use. The recommendations made to us included the Rode Directional Video Mic, Zoom H4N and Zoom H1.

44. Let there be light

The ideal number of lights to use when shooting a video is three. Three-point lighting features a key light providing the main light on your face, a fill light to reduce shadow and hair light.

45. The rule of thirds

This is a classic rule in photography and can help you shoot beautiful videos too. This works on the principle that your picture is divided into three vertically and three horizontally.

Your focus item doesn’t necessarily need to be in the middle, it can be off centre with other details such as background in the other sections.

46. Organise your folders

Have folders organised on your computer so that you know where all of your footage, audio and edited videos are. Have a system in place that means you don’t lose videos and can find footage to be edited quickly.

47. Use jump cuts to improve the pace

A jump cut is where you delete certain passages from your footage so that you jump forward a second or more.

Use these to get rid of pauses, ums and ahs and just keep the momentum going in your video. This can help to keep people watching if there’s not loads of pauses.

48. B-roll

Intercut this with your main narrative to provide more visual information, for example if you’re talking about how something works or a particular place your b-roll might show a demonstration of footage of that place.

49. Playing with camera settings

You can create stunning effects by understanding the shutter speed, aperture and ISO on your camera.

Use these to do things such as focusing in on particular objects or taking pictures of fast-moving people or things.

50. Upload stresses

One of my biggest complaints about YouTube is that it takes so very long to edit and then upload a video to my channel.

It was suggested to me that by using the H264 format (which you can save your video as in more advanced editing software like Final Cut) I can cut my upload time but keep the video quality high. After editing your video you just go to the format tab and choose this option.

I currently use iMovie for editing. I was told I could try putting my video footage to be edited on a external hard drive, instead of my Mac, and this would free up my computer to handle the hard work of processing the edit.

Channel housekeeping

After these sessions we were given the chance to have a 1:1 look at our channels and get advice on what we could improve and change to make our channels look better and grow. These were the key points I took away:

51. Check your artwork

Make sure your artwork for your channel is the right size. This may mean you have to tinker with logos to make sure they don’t get cut off. YouTube has a very odd sized channel header in my opinion. Also make sure your profile picture is bright and clear.

52. Organise your videos

Put your videos into categories so that someone landing on your channel can check out the type of content you do. It just looks much better organised and more interesting when you sort your videos like this.

53. Make a trailer

This only needs to be short but it should give visitors to your channel an idea of what you do and what they can expect from your videos.

54. Use upload defaults

This can save you loads of time and ensure you have the right information in your video descriptions. Go to upload defaults in your channel’s settings area. You can then edit the description to add all of your social media channel links and blog link plus any other information and tags you want going across all of your videos. This saves you cutting and pasting the same information again and again.

55. Put social media links in your header

This will promote your other social media channels. Check out this video explaining how to do it.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and found them useful! For more blogging and vlogging tips, check out these useful posts:

Britmums Live 2017

Mumsnet Influencers event 

50 tips for growing your YouTube channel