If you want to get more views on YouTube, you need to respond to viewer comments, create video playlists, design attention-grabbing thumbnails, and more.
Hello, it’s 2020, and you’re here because you want to get more views on YouTube.
YouTube is the world’s second-largest website. 2 billion people use it on a monthly basis. 73% of adults in the U.S. are watching videos there. (We could go on, but you can read all the latest YouTube stats on your own time.)
We’ve compiled this guide to point out all the easy wins that will amplify your brand’s message on YouTube, but we’re also going to detail some of the more advanced techniques the pros use.
First, we walk, then we run. Take a look at your fundamentals and make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes. Read our list of beginner tips for YouTube, then come back to dig into our advanced tactics.
Your basic YouTube housekeeping includes considerations like:
- A consistent visual identity (your channel icon, YouTube channel art, etc.)
- A completed and informative About section (unless you are a breakout YouTube star like Joana Ceddia)
- Up-to-date contact information (so all your potential customers and future brand partners can get in touch)
Trust us, we’re all about the actionable tricks, but successful YouTubers don’t skip this step, no matter how academic it sounds.
If you’re aiming to optimize your YouTube marketing strategy, you want to get precise and ruthlessly selective about your goals — and the content that will get you there.
Because you aren’t making videos for everyone. You’re here for someone special: your audience.
Pro Tip: Have you worked up your audience personas yet? It’s kind of like a Dungeons & Dragons character, except make it bizness.
Yes, YouTube is a social platform, but it’s also a search engine. And all else being equal, one of the top strategies for getting more YouTube views is optimizing your videos for search.
In other words, when your ideal viewer types in your chosen keywords, you want your video ranking near the top of YouTube’s results list. That means you need to know what your audience is looking for — tutorials, inspiration, or entertainment.
Ranking in search results is the best way to get brand new eyes — not just subscribers and people who are already interested in your channel (although we’ll talk more about them later) — on your videos.
But, this is easier said than done. So, what can you do to improve your video’s search ranking on YouTube?
Research. You’re going to want to use a tool like Google Keyword Planner (note that you’ll need to set up a Google Ads account) to do two things:
- Find inspiration for your next video based on what people are already looking for (i.e., take a look at search patterns and see what keywords have a lot of search queries, but few videos, a.k.a. low competition)
- Take those relevant keywords and use them in your metadata (i.e., your video title, tags, description text, subtitles)
Pro Tip: If you haven’t already, now is the time to familiarize yourself with the YouTube algorithm. This AI determines not just search results, but recommendations for that important “what’s up next” sidebar, too. (See #4, below.) Just remember that it all comes back to your ideal viewer: the algorithm doesn’t care if your video is “good,” it cares if a specific user wants to watch it. That being said, users typically want to watch “good” videos.
4. Use metadata to get recommended after a popular video
If your goal is to get more YouTube views, take a cue from the most popular videos in your niche.
Start by taking a look at your top competitor’s most popular video. (Go to their video library and sort by “most popular.”)
YouTube’s main goal is to keep viewers on the platform for as long as possible (so that they’ll see as many ads as possible.) Thus the algorithm’s job is to feed viewers one incredible video after another.
Of course, ‘incredible’ is in the eye of the beholder. A better word might be ‘relevant’ or ‘interesting.’
For example, this popular science video on ultra-black material has just over 2.4M views. The YouTube algorithm’s “up next” video is from the same channel, but it’s about, um… ’80s home decor, I think? Below is an ad. And below that is where the algorithm gets interesting.
How does the YouTube figure that a person interested in, say, the purest expressions of the color of despair, might be interested in “horrifyingly mysterious” lakes? Or vertiginous oceanic depths?
Well. YouTube has stated that the algorithm recommends:
- Videos from the same channel
- Videos that a lot of people like, based on engagement, watch time, and views
- Videos that a specific person might like, based on their viewing history
- Videos with related or similar metadata (i.e., titles, tags, and descriptions)
The only point you can control here is that fourth one.
But before you go ahead and just copy-and-paste a more popular video’s metadata over to your copycat video (as some YouTube gurus recommend, though we won’t name names), please take a moment and think about your audience.
They aren’t going to want to watch the same video again. Maybe the first video raised a new question that needs answering, or there’s an interesting tangent to be explored. How can your video add value to what they just saw so that they’ll want to click on it?
Take the ball and run with it.
Pro Tip: Unlike other video metadata like titles and descriptions, YouTube video keywords aren’t listed visibly. In order to see them, right-click on the webpage and select “View Page Source.” Then CTRL-F “keywords” until you find the list:
And Another Pro Tip: When you’re choosing keywords, think like a librarian. Describe your video’s topic and describe its overall category, and think of other words a person might use to search for that topic.
For example, the tongue-twister video from #2 might have the following keywords:
- Topic: Finnish tongue twisters
- Category: ASMR, foreign languages
- Synonyms: unintelligible ASMR, difficult languages, soothing ASMR, Finnish ASMR, Suomi ASMR
Check out more tips on effective YouTube descriptions and keywords here.
When your potential viewers are in discovery mode — skimming through search results and recommendations — thumbnails are a major part of how they decide what to watch.
Unfortunately, a lot of advice out there is a graphic designer’s nightmare: screaming fonts, cluttered information. Even the self-appointed experts are a little, um, loud:
But we aren’t here to police people’s abuse of neon green. So, objectively speaking, what are the properties of an effective thumbnail?
- The thumbnail is clear and accurate about the video it’s describing (if your thumbnail misleads people into clicking, YouTube will know because your watch time will go down when the viewer gets annoyed and stops watching. The algorithm won’t like that.)
- The thumbnail stands out.
- The thumbnail works in tandem with the video’s title.
‘Standing out’ can be as simple as picking a bright color. Or making sure your giant hi-res face is making a weird expression in good lighting. But it’s just as likely that your niche is full of shrill, high-key visuals, and the best way your channel can stand out is by being the calm, minimalist voice of reason.
Alternately, you can always nix the production values and go for fully authentic no-filter vibes. It doesn’t hurt Joana Ceddia’s view counts.
Organizing and creating video playlists on YouTube is the best way to minimize the chances that a viewer will move on to another channel once they’ve consumed your content.
Why? Because playlists do Netflix rules: as soon as one video ends, the next begins.
Since you’ve already done the hard work of helping your viewer find your video, click on it, and watch the entire thing, it makes sense to guide them towards the content they’re going to want next. (And, suddenly, before they know it, they’ve binged the entire first season of Just for Baths.)
Besides playlists, cards and end screens are two of the only tools that YouTubers can use to bypass the algorithm and directly influence our audience’s next choice.
Cards are clickable, interactive areas that appear during the video. They can be polls, but in this case, we’re interested in increasing views, so choose a card that links to another one of your videos (or even better, playlists).
Cards are pop-ups, so it’s very important that they add value. You don’t want viewers feeling spammed. The videos or playlists you link to need to be relevant to the moment and provide additional information or entertainment.
Pro Tip: If you have a noticeable retention problem with significant audience drop-off at a specific point in one of your videos, try inserting a link card at that moment. Rather than letting your viewers head off to check Twitter, you stand a decent chance of enticing them to watch another one of your videos.
Check out how the YouTube pros (as in, YouTube’s actual employees) do it in this video below. While explaining how the YouTube algorithm works, a card pops up that links to a playlist with more related tips.
Meanwhile, end screens are visual calls-to-action that you can add to the end of your video to encourage viewers towards the next step. They’re valuable because you know if a person has reached the bitter end of your video, they are probably pretty interested in your content.
Using end screens to encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel or visit your website are both good choices. But if you want more views, use your end screen to promote your other videos. (Note that to use end screens, you’ll need to include a few extra seconds at the end of your video when you’re editing it.)
For instance, Saturday Night Live goes whole-hog and offers four possibilities on their end screens: they encourage people to subscribe; to go to their website; and instead of relying on the algorithm, they hand-pick their own suggested videos.
Pro Tip: Suggest a playlist on your end screen, rather than a single video, and see how long you can keep viewers on your channel.
Chances are when you’re researching your keywords (like we did back at point #3), you’re going to see a lot of search terms that involve the phrase “how to.” (This article included, ahem.) This is because there’s a lot of search volume for how-to videos.
But while it’s important that you work to attract new eyes, you also want to make time to preach to the converted. On YouTube, your brand’s value-added features come in the form of content that is meaningful to people who are already your fans.
As proof that how-to videos aren’t the cure-all, take a look at Converse’s YouTube channel. None of the videos in their how-to series — delightful and useful as they are — hit a five-digit view count.
Meanwhile, 1M people listened to Idris Elba say pretty much anything for 60 seconds (while wearing Converse, of course).
What’s the lesson here? Be Idris Elba. And if you’re not Idris Elba, then don’t be afraid to branch out from the “5 engaging types of video that people love to watch” that everyone else is making.
According to YouTube, engagement is on the rise. Between 2017 and 2018, 70% more YouTube users said they follow a YouTube creator and interact with their channel every day.
Audience engagement is just another term for building relationships. The end goal here, of course, is actually just the realistic, organic, and sustainable path to getting more YouTube views.
That is, engaging with other YouTubers (creators or commenters both) will increase the chance that they’ll care about your brand, that they’ll subscribe to your channel (see #12), and watch more of your videos overall.
Ideas for breaking the fourth wall, and creating a two-way conversation might include:
For example, YouTuber Dave Cad, in his quest to learn Finnish, had native speakers Snapchat him videos of how to correctly say Finnish tongue twisters.
Pro Tip: This tutorial on how to engage your community on YouTube using Hootsuite’s comment and sharing features will save you time as you build your audience.
Crossovers, guest appearances, mash-ups, covers: people love that jolt of unfamiliar familiarity. Find the He-Man to your brand’s She-Ra; and the Billy Ray Cyrus to your Lil Nas X.
Maybe you’re a brand with a budget, and hiring a creator with their own following is an old hat. Yet the results continue to delight. Like when Brita (the water filter company) hired influencer King Bach and gave him the creative freedom to do whatever he wanted. (And apparently, the budget to hire Stephen Curry.) The result? Mediocre music, great entertainment, and 3.6M views and counting.
But if you’re a creator or aspiring influencer yourself, getting more views is your first step on the way to making money on YouTube, not spending it. In which case your best bet is to partner with like-minded creators.
Like when high school YouTuber Joana Ceddia box-bleached her hair banana-yellow and YouTube hair guru Brad Mondo invited her to NYC so he could fix it. (Reader, I wept.)
Ideally, your potential partners are fairly aligned in values, popularity, and charm. And you actually like them. And you have fun together, and it shows, and it makes people happy to see you happy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Easy, right?
Pro Tip: If you do a crossover that involves a bunch of different videos — like one from your partner’s perspective to live on their channel, and one by you to live on yours, and maybe some supporting outtakes, any necessary background, etc. — make a playlist to compile them so that interested viewers can stan it all.
You’re going to want to leverage all of your social media might promote your YouTube channel.
If you want more YouTube views, please do not do the following:
- A: Go to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and post text or an image with a link to your YouTube video
- B: Upload your entire video onto those platforms
Option A: Linking to YouTube makes objective sense, but the problem is that social platforms want to keep people on their platform (just like YouTube does). So their algorithms will not promote a text-only post with an off-platform link. In other words, your impressions and CTR are going to below, and so will your YouTube views.
Option B: This is what Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter want you to do (IGTV is a direct competitor for YouTube, don’t @ me). Posting your full video will probably get you great engagement and reach on those platforms. But organic Facebook video views aren’t monetizable, are they? And they aren’t going to get you YouTube views.
So, if you want more YouTube views, promote your video by doing this:
- Post a short teaser video to your social accounts as a native video, and add a link to the full video back on YouTube.
Note that you are not going to want to post the same thing across your social channels.
Pro Tip: Short of hiring an assistant to handle your social media, a scheduling tool like *cough* Hootsuite is the best way to craft and schedule those posts for your followers.
Your subscriber count describes your organic reach on YouTube. The more subscribers your channel has, the more views your videos will get right off the bat when you hit publish.
Especially if those subscribers have their notifications turned on.
Growing your subscriber count is its own challenge with its own tactics, but one that is intertwined with increasing your views. For that reason, we have a full guide on how to get more YouTube subscribers.