It’s 2020. You’ve got the right recording equipment, the best free video editing software, and complete confidence on camera. You’re making YouTube content you love and you’re proud of what you’re putting out — so why isn’t anyone watching?
For the beginner YouTuber, figuring out how to get subscribers on YouTube can feel like an uphill battle. YouTubers just starting out will often experience channel growth as a slow and steady stride, rather than a quick and simple sprint (though one HitFilm user produced a viral DeepFake Tom Holland video which gave him a huge jump in subscribers).
If your channel is feeling a little dead in the water or you’re not getting the engagement you want, there are several battle-tested growth strategies you can use to get more views, more subscribers, and grow your YouTube channel for free.
The best YouTube content creators are pros at capturing their audience’s attention. They inspire tons of engagement (comments, likes, watch time), optimize their content for YouTube’s search features, and create clean, sharp video edits. Here we show you ten YouTube growth tactics you can use to scale up the production quality of your videos and boost your channel’s reach.
Make your YouTube channel art look professional
Thinking of using MS Paint to throw together a banner for your YouTube channel? Belay that order! As much as we wish people didn’t judge a channel by its cover, the reality is — they do. According to YouTube’s Creator Academy, 90% of the best performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails. If you want your viewers to see you as a trusted authority on your subject matter, you have to look the part. Using free editing software for beginners like HitFilm Express, you can create high-quality channel assets that give your page the professional edge it needs. You don’t have to spend hours creating extremely detailed logos or the Mona Lisa of banners — your aim should be to create art that leaves a positive first impression.
Pro tip: Make sure your banner, logo, and thumbnail contain simple, clear images that quickly convey what you do. You should also have a unified brand language (font, colors, style) across all your media assets so that people can immediately recognize your brand.
Optimize your banners, logo and thumbnail images for all devices
Over 70% of YouTube’s watch time comes from mobile devices, according to YouTube’s latest stats. What does that mean for a beginner YouTuber like you? Your audience should be able to easily view and understand your channel art and video descriptions on all types of devices, but especially mobile. Get all the channel art specifications you need to know (to get the best results) on all devices here.
Pro tip: You can create high-quality banners, thumbnails, and logos in HitFilm Express — the best free editing software for YouTube beginners — using the 2D compositor. Tune in to the tutorials on FXhome’s YouTube channel where you will learn how to make everything from motion graphics to opening titles.
Know what your audience wants and deliver it
“Subverting expectations” has no place in the realm of the YouTuber. If a user clicks a video link they want what it says on the thumbnail. Taking the time to understand what matters to your audience will help you create the type of content they are likely to watch and engage with. Posting unexpected videos of you taking your cat for a walk might seem hilarious in the moment, but will ultimately confuse and alienate your viewers. Does that mean you should never be fresh and interesting? Of course, not! Learning how to grow your YouTube channel like a pro means finding the happy middle ground between uploading random cat videos and the same shocking Witcher reveal with tiny tweaks. So how do you know what to post?
Ask questions and make connections
Asking your audience the right questions (see our suggestions below) will help you understand what types of content perform well and what’s better left in the suggestion box. As a beginner YouTuber, you should make time to research your audience’s and what other online communities they are part of. The aim is to create content that’s both true to your brand and engaging to your audience.
Five tactics to get more subscribers and engagement:
- Ask your viewers to subscribe to your channel with end cards and calls to actions in the comments, description and the video itself
- Mention what you are working on now and what you plan on working on next
- Crowdsource ideas for your next video
- Create playlists by theme so viewers do not have to search for other videos they’re interested in
- Collaborate with other YouTube influencers to create content in your niche
Pro tip: Use your YouTube channel’s analytics to see what videos come up in suggested videos along with your channel. Do you see any content being produced on those channels that overlaps with yours? Collaboration with like-minded content creators can be a great way to get more views on YouTube.
Respond to comments like your views depend on it
Are your viewers commenting with questions, reactions, or random quotes from movies you’ve never seen? You can work with that to grow your YouTube channel! When you’re starting out (and even when you’re big time) every comment is an opportunity to form a lasting relationship with your viewers and convert them into cherished subscribers. Just keep your responses cool, kind, and on-brand. Note: try to reply to comments as soon as you can, so your viewers are more likely to continue the conversations. Make sure they feel valued.
Not getting enough engagement to use as feedback? Consider recruiting an honest, trusted group of peers to watch your videos and give you constructive feedback. Choose people who are close to your target audience so the feedback is useful. Asking Mom what she thinks about your Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 walkthrough may not give you the feedback you need (love you Mom, don’t be mad).
Questions you can ask your viewers:
- Do you want more Q&A style videos or quick how-to’s?
- What did I do well? What could I have done better?
- Did the video deliver on your expectations?
Pro tip: Wondering how to grow your YouTube channel within the video itself? Every video you create should end with a specific call to action (CTA). Here are some examples of good CTAs: “Subscribe to my channel”, “Comment below with your vote for…”, “Let me know what questions you have about…”. You can also use YouTube End Cards to tease what your upcoming content will be in the next video and encourage viewers to subscribe.
Consistent uploads are better than one-hit wonders
So your hot take on The Mandalorian won you 1000 YouTube views overnight and now you’re thinking — why not take two weeks to chill and celebrate? No, young padawan! One must upload while engagement is high. Having a regularly scheduled upload every week encourages your audience to anticipate (and watch) your videos. If they know it‘s coming, they are more likely to watch. How often you want to post is up to you — whether it’s 3x a day or 3x a month — just make sure you create a realistic posting schedule you can stick to. Remember you’ll need time between uploads to film, edit your videos and respond to your community.
Questions to consider as you decide when to upload your videos:
- When is my audience most likely to be online?
- What time zones are they located in?
- What times of day do my videos get the most engagement?
- When will I actually do it?
Pro tip on upload timing: The “best time to post” can sometimes be a matter of taking advantage of the right moment. Did Nintendo just release a new Smash Brothers game? Did Baby Yoda start a Twitch channel? Aliens in Area 51? If you can reasonably link your content to a major news event — do it! This can be a great way to engage your audience’s interests and bump up your content.
Don’t settle for your first edit
Professional YouTubers make production and post-production look easy. The truth is it can take several reshoots, edits, and heavy sighs before you’re ready to upload. Free video editing software like HitFilm Express can help you scale up the quality of your YouTube videos without spending a dime (or a full day doing edits). You can quickly add professional titles to your how-to videos, create eye-catching thumbnails, and fine-tune your audio so your Animal Crossing jokes get the laughs they deserve. Don’t let a great idea be torpedoed by painfully long pauses, poorly keyed green screen or absent audio. The average YouTube viewer has billions of videos begging for their attention. If they’re not entertained — they’re out.
Here are some common video editing techniques you’ll want to learn:
- How to color grade your footage
- How to edit your audio
- How to add text to your videos
- How to add animation to your videos
Want to improve your video editing and VFX skills on your gaming channel?
Watch the HitFilm Express Game On Masterclass to learn everything you need to know about editing your videos for YouTube. You’ll learn how to do J cuts, L cuts, streamline audio and composite images directly in the software.
Optimize your videos for YouTube’s algorithm
Whether or not your videos get the views you want is highly dependent on how well they perform with YouTube’s latest algorithm — a recommendation engine that matches viewers to the content they are searching for. Though the specifics of this algorithm are an elusive mystery to those outside of Google, we know there are two big factors that determine how many views you get on YouTube:
- How well your descriptions and metadata match potential search terms.
- How much engagement your video has (likes, comments, watch time).
Use your channel’s analytics and Search Report to find the right keywords
Your channel’s Search Report helps you identify the search terms that potential viewers are using to reach your channel. Use these terms to understand what type of content people are searching for, as well as which search terms you should use to optimize your videos. Using SEO-friendly keywords — terms that your viewers are most likely to use to find your video — descriptions and links help YouTube’s algorithm recognize and categorize your content appropriately so that your videos get noticed. Be sure to take note of any keywords that are missing from your metadata and descriptions.
Pro tip: There are also other apps you can use to optimize your keywords like Tube Buddy (free version), Keyword Tool and…. These will help find the sweet spot between popular keywords and “less competitive” keywords you should use to make it easier for your content to rank highly.
Use your newly found keywords in titles, descriptions, and metadata
Optimizing your YouTube video for SEO is a practice in identifying the most direct, searchable words you can to describe your videos. If you do it right, YouTube users will be able to find, watch, and subscribe to your channel.
Use this SEO checklist to help improve your channel’s organic reach
- Use keywords in your video’s title, description, and metadata. Don’t try to force words in where they don’t make sense. They should appear natural.
- Tag your video with your target keywords (two or three) and words that describe your video’s topic using words (that aren’t in your main keyword).
- Add two tags that cover the genre or larger space you are in — like “gaming” or “video gamers”.
- Categorize your video.
- Use an SRT file to add subtitles & closed captions. YouTube can use these as additional keywords to categorize and catalog your video. Bonus!
- Add Cards and End Screens to increase your YouTube channel’s viewership.
Promote your YouTube channel across platforms and networks
Harness the power of Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat, TikTok, and smoke signals! If you have a network on any other social media platform or website— use it. Cross-platform promotion not only increases visibility of your content but it also can also help create opportunities for you and other content creators to collaborate.
Embedding videos directly on your website or within other social media platforms can also increase your content’s ranking on YouTube — so don’t hold back. Of course, you don’t want to turn into an inflatable flailing tube man shouting, “PLEASE SUBSCRIBE NOW PLEASE!”, but some weekly cross-platform promotion is worth the investment.
Prioritize authenticity — nobody can “do you” like you
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.“– Bruce Lee
The joy of creation is the act of bringing something that never existed into being. If you engage your audience truthfully about things that matter to you, you’re already way ahead of the curve. You don’t need to be the next PewDiePie or Jacksepticeye. The things that make you unique are exactly the things that are going to help you develop a genuine, lasting relationship with your audience.
Embrace the risk of artistic creation and don’t worry about making mistakes — if you only do what you know, you’ll never be better than what you are now. You got this!
You know we were once small YouTubers too. Want to see how we created a successful YouTube channel with 200K + subscribers? Subscribe to the HitFilm YouTube channel where you will learn all the video editing and VFX skills you need to take your channel to the next level.