How to Increase Traffic to Your YouTube Channel

Alex Kudimov
The views of contributors are their own, and not necessarily those of SEOBlog.com

So You Want to be a YouTube Star?

Many people have tried to manage their YouTube channel but have fallen short of reaching stardom. I’ve watched some channels flop because people simply didn’t know how to properly utilize YouTube. As a result, they don’t make the most of the popular video-sharing site. In an attempt to help, I’ve outlined a few strategies you, as a content creator, can follow to generate traffic to your YouTube channel. These rules and techniques are useful for those who have YouTube channels with a low number of subscribers. In this article, we’ll discuss how to analyze and rate a platform, not the content.

Retention Takes Priority

The primary task of YouTube is to retain its users and lengthen their time using the service: The longer users watch videos, the more ads they’ll see. This, ultimately, leads to bigger profits for YouTube. Therefore, it’s safe to say that YouTube values videos with high user retention rates. These rates are as important as the average number of minutes spent watching a video. Keeping this in mind, the first thing you should pay attention to when trying to determine if a channel can succeed is retention. If your channel already has some traffic, you can easily check these metrics using YouTube Analytics. If your retention rate is less than 35%, then YouTube may not be for you. However, if it’s greater than 35%, then you have better chances of being successful.

Seconds to Decide

The first few seconds of your video are vital if you want to grab your viewer’s attention. Using a bumper — or brief intro or outro — in each video is extremely important for retention. Most videos lose 20% or more of their viewers because this part is executed poorly. You can experiment with short sound clips and titles to introduce your video, as well as music at the end.

Analytics graph

Let’s take a look at these two metrics below. In the first case, there’s no need for alarm, even though the views appear to be decreasing throughout the duration of the video. However, in the second case there is a 50% drop in viewers within the initial 3 seconds. It’s critical for you to understand your audience well enough to prevent such loss. The statistics in the second case indicate to YouTube that your video is not worth watching because viewers closed it after only a few seconds. YouTube will not promote these types of videos.

Analytics Graph

Analytics Graph

How to Minimize Viewer Loss:

      1. Lessen your bumper to no longer than 3 seconds.
      2. Add a preview of the video’s content at the beginning to entice viewers to watch the clip.
      3. Invest in your channel by ordering a professional theme and format of your clip (Upwork has professional freelancers who can produce top-quality products for a few hundred dollars).

Know Your Users

Now that you have more visitors to your channel, you need to understand where they come from. As a general rule, visitors come from four traffic sources:

      1. Direct search
      2. Search requests
      3. Relevant videos
      4. Links

Keep in mind that traffic sources may differ based on a channel’s theme. Let’s go over each source in more detail:

Users analytics graph

Direct Searches

The more subscribers you have, the more traffic you will have based on video views in the new video feed and notifications section. An ideal scenario is when viewers begin watching videos directly on your channel. In order to do this, you must begin by improving other traffic sources first.

Search Requests

A great way to increase traffic to your channel is by studying search requests. Find out what your future viewers are searching for and start making these videos available. I recommend monitoring Google Trends because you can see what is trending in searches. You can also use SEO services, such as ahrefs.com, to find keywords searched for by potential viewers in your market or industry. Additionally, you can use one of many smaller-scale services, such as kparser, to find exactly what people search for on YouTube.

Google Trends: Google’s search engine is good for suggesting keywords as well. Experiment with the settings to change the search location or anything else that would help you brainstorm keywords that people may use to search for certain YouTube videos:

Google Search engine sample

Ahrefs: Go to the Keyword Explorer section in ahrefs to find keyword suggestions:

Ahrefs Sample result

Kparser: Don’t forget to choose the correct country in Settings and indicate YouTube as the preferred channel for search:

Kparser website appearance

Your ultimate goal is to obtain search requests that are not as competitive but able to deliver good traffic. Also, a beneficial strategy would be to create a video that is not yet trending. For example, if there is currently an iPhone 10, that means there’s eventually going to be an iPhone 11, so you can be prepared for future product releases and stay ahead of your YouTube competitors.

Let’s say that you are working on your channel about hiking. Here’s a list of ideas that I received from the above-mentioned services in just a few seconds:

  • hiking songs for scouts
  • best lightweight hiking shoes for men
  • hiking trails in northern California
  • hiking music background

These searches aren’t that competitive, but they could generate some good traffic.

Relevant Videos

One way YouTube promotes content is by linking videos that share a similar theme. In order to get on this recommended videos list, you can use the following technique:

  1. Find a clip with high views and make a video with a similar description, icon, name and length. The main difference is that you want your video to have higher-quality content.
  2. Write a few comments down in the comment section about the selected video and invite users to watch your high-quality video as well.

While there’s no guarantee your video is going to get on YouTube’s recommended videos list, if you continue with this strategy, you can expect 10% of your videos to make the list.

Sample youtube video

Links Matter

Although this type of traffic is much easier to understand, it can be time-consuming to execute. You must consistently post links to your channel and hope they won’t get deleted. For instance, if your channel is about web development, then you need to find multiple frequently visited blogs and leave a link to one of your videos in the comments section.

With this simple extension you can easily find your visitor data, which will help you decide whether or not you should continue investing your time or need to improve anything:

Similar web sample result

Another method is to partner with these websites and periodically write articles for them because everyone is interested in free, high-quality content. Don’t forget about your competitors’ channels. Visit them often to see what they are doing. One of the best tactics you can employ to see growth is to study your competitors closely.

Videos are Financial Investments

One extremely effective strategy to increase traffic is to spend a few dollars promoting each video within 24 hours of its release. You can budget spending $5-$20 on this. Many channels use this method because it’s very effective, if used correctly. It’s important for YouTube to see signs that a video is interesting, so you need to give your videos a boost from the start.

Youtube sample video

I recommend promoting at least 20%-30% of videos that, in your opinion, would receive good traffic within the first few days of posting them. The first few hours are the most important indicators to YouTube. If you do everything correctly and have great content, then your odds of making the recommended videos list on the main page increases. Furthermore, if you remain popular, your metrics will significantly improve.

Get More Clicks

You’ve done everything stated above and your video has made it on the recommended videos list. However, no one is clicking on your videos, so they are almost immediately removed from the list. What now? To start, you need to spend some time analyzing your content and modifying it to make it more compelling and informative. You can do this by playing around with icons, colors, fonts and other features that viewers first see when your video pops up in a search.

Let’s look at this channel, Gearist, as an example. It has fairly uninteresting icons that is pretty standard online. Let’s attempt to remake its icons.

Compare the two pictures and determine which one would grab your attention quicker:

Youtube channel

Post Frequently

The amount of posts you make is very important if you decide to seriously focus on YouTube long-term. Do not underestimate this metric because it can make or break your channel’s success. You must decide how frequently you will be posting videos to your channel and stick with that schedule. If you choose to post two videos a week, try to be as consistent as possible in doing that so you can retain your audience. Users will lose interest in your channel if there are large periods of time between posts or you begin to post sporadically.

Like, Repost and Comment

Arguably, the most important metric of all is social media. Comments show YouTube how like-able your videos are to the public. If users don’t appreciate your videos, YouTube won’t appreciate them either. An easy way to increase comments is to try to respond to everyone who leaves a comment. Of course, don’t forget to ask viewers to leave reviews and comments of your videos. You can also create contests, sales and creative engagement opportunities to help your videos receive more likes, re-posts and comments.

Forget Facebook

Don’t promote your videos on Facebook because this strategy no longer works. Facebook now promotes its own videos and neglects those from its competitor, YouTube. Users experimented on their Facebook pages by posting a video from YouTube and one from Facebook. What happened? The YouTube video received 20% fewer views than the Facebook video.

Limit the Ads

If you post an ad every few minutes of your video, you will most likely keep retention at high levels. Although, this may be beneficial later, I wouldn’t recommend doing it until you have a significant amount of loyal subscribers who won’t mind the ads. If a viewer doesn’t like a video, an ad in the middle of it is going to motivate them to close it immediately.

Technical Factors

Fill out as much information as you can for each video: choose a category, add tags, language, etc. Give each video a title that coincides with the content. Write a unique description that consists of keywords that you want to see when searching for that video, but never copy anything from the Internet. Create a content list of each video and pin it in the description, as we’ve shown below. All these factors will help you stand out from your competitors. YouTube loves when content creators do these things. Consequently, they’ll readily promote such videos.

Youtube technical factors

Playlists Are Fun

You can increase the amount of time viewers spend on your channel by creating playlists. Combine similarly themed videos into playlists so videos can play one after the other. Creatively name these playlists using your targeted keywords. Then, add unique descriptions to these playlists that can be found during video searches.

Grow Your Expertise

YouTube is part of Google, therefore it follows the same principles as the popular search engine. To learn more about how Google searches work, I recommend you begin with the basics by reading: What is SEO. This article can help you understand the fundamentals of how YouTube operates. You can also ask more questions or leave comments below (I promise to respond to all of them).

Written by Alex Kudimov

Alex Kudimov
Alex Kudimov is a senior-level executive with 10-plus years of success in business development, strategic leadership and operational and financial management. He currently serves as the CEO of the award-winning web design and development company Direct Line Development, based in Philadelphia, Penn., with offices in Denver, Colo., and Austin, Texas.

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