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HitFilm Express

Over 6 million creators worldwide rely on HitFilm to produce their best content. Take your YouTube channel to the next level with professional editing features, 420+ effects and presets, and built-in voiceover recording.

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How to Grow Your YouTube Channel for Free

Want to know how to grow on YouTube, coming from a channel with over 200K subscribers? Here are our top tips for succeeding on YouTube in 2020.

If you’re just starting out on YouTube, you’ve probably seen a lot of promises on how to grow your YouTube channel overnight. While you’re unlikely to wake up one day with half a million subscribers, it is possible to see some positive growth in a short amount of time. You just have to know what you’re doing and dedicate yourself to the craft.

This article will tell you everything you need to know to learn how to grow your YouTube channel from zero, including keeping your audience engaged, putting out quality content, and even some free tools that every YouTuber needs to be using. Let’s get started.

TL;DR? How to get more subscribers on YouTube, the quick version:

  1. Make professional-looking YouTube channel art

    90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails

  2. Optimize your banners, logo and thumbnail images for all devices

    People use all kinds of devices to watch YouTube, so make sure you’re ready!

  3. Understand your audience

    Create content that matters to your audience, and stick to your theme

  4. Connect with your viewers

    Ask questions, use end cards and calls-to-action, and collaborate with other channels

  5. Engage in the comments

    Keep your responses cool, kind, and on-brand

  6. Upload new content regularly

    Work out a sensible upload schedule and stick to it

  7. Produce quality content!

    Make sure your editing and audio are on-point with free software like HitFilm Express

  8. Optimize your videos for YouTube’s algorithm

    Use the tools YouTube provide to help you put the right keywords in titles, descriptions and metadata

  9. Promote your channel on other platforms

    Got a Facebook, Instagram, Twitch or TikTok? Get your audience to subscribe

  10. Be yourself

    The things that make you are also those which can help you develop a real, genuine audience. Be creative!

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).

YouTube channel subscriber notifications on android smartphone

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 hacks you can use to boost your channel’s reach.

Make professional-looking YouTube channel art

YouTube gaming channel banner design

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 to be seen as a trusted authority on your subject, you have to look the part. Free video editing software like HitFilm Express can be used to create high-quality channel assets that give your page the professional edge it needs. You don’t have to spend hours creating complicated logos or the Mona Lisa of banners. Just make sure it’s attention-grabbing and leaves a positive first impression.

Pro tip: Make sure your banner, logo, and thumbnail clearly convey who you are and what your videos are about. A unified brand language (font, colors, style) across all your media assets also helps people 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, but what does that mean for growing your YouTube channel?

Your channel art and video descriptions should be clear and concise on all types of devices, but especially mobile. Check out YouTube’s official documentation on which image specs get the best results.

Pro tip: You can create high-quality banners, thumbnails, and logos in HitFilm Express — the best free editing software for YouTube. Tune in to tutorials on FXhome’s YouTube channel and learn to make everything from motion graphics to opening titles.

Understanding your audience is the key to growing your YouTube channel

“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 content that they’re likely to engage with. Posting unexpected videos of you taking your cat for a walk might seem hilarious in the moment, but it will ultimately confuse and alienate your viewers (most of them anyway).

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 consistency and diversity. This brings us on to our next tip…

Ask questions and make connections

Man and woman interacting on mobile phones

Asking your audience the right questions will help you understand what types of content perform well and will help your channel grow. As a beginner YouTuber, you should make time to research your audience and what other online communities they’re a part of. The key 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 to get people excited
  • Crowdsource ideas for your next video
  • Create playlists by theme so viewers don’t have to search for other videos they’re interested in
  • Collaborate with other YouTube influencers to create content in your niche and share audiences

Pro tip: Use your YouTube channel’s analytics to see what videos come up in your channel’s suggested videos’. Do you see any content being produced on those channels that overlaps with yours? People love to see their favorite people collaborate. Working with like-minded content creators can be a great way to keep people engaged and increase your subscriber base.

Respond to comments to grow your channel

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. Try to reply to comments as soon as you can, so that your viewers are more likely to continue the conversations. Most importantly, you must be genuine and make sure that your subscribers feel valued.

Not getting enough engagement to use as feedback? Consider recruiting an honest but trusted group of peers to watch your videos and give 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 to help your channel grow:

  • 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…”, or the all-time-favorite – “Smash that like button”. You can also use YouTube End Cards to tease your next video and encourage viewers to subscribe.

Consistent uploads are better than one-hit wonders

consistency trend chart

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 and edit your videos and respond to the 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 have time to do it?

Pro-tip on timing your YouTube uploads: The best time to post your YouTube videos is sometimes just 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! These are all great opportunities to engage with your audience.

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).

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:

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

70% of the 1 billion hours of video that people watch on YouTube every day is decided by the YouTube algorithm.”

– Hootsuite Hubspot Blog
How to use YouTube Analytics to grow your YouTube channel

Whether or not your videos get the views you want is highly dependent on how well they perform with YouTube’s algorithm. The algorithm uses numerous factors to match viewers to the content they are searching for. Though the specifics of this algorithm are an elusive to those outside of Google, we know that 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, and which search terms you should use to optimize your videos. Want to know how to grow your YouTube channel fast? Find the best (relevant) keywords, and make sure they’re showing up in your titles, descriptions, and thumbnails, as well as your video transcript.

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. 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 and grow your YouTube channel.

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.
  • 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 the visibility of your content but it also can also help create opportunities for you and other content creators to collaborate.

Using social media to grow your channel - Networks, social media, community

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 arm-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
Beginner YouTuber - how to grow your YouTube channel

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!

We were once small YouTubers too. Want to see how we created a successful YouTube channel with 260K + subscribers? Subscribe to our channel where you will learn all the video editing and VFX skills you need to take your channel to the next level.

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Oli Thompson

Oli Thompson

Passionate about inspiring and motivating others, philosophy, science, nature, music, adventures, creativity, and storytelling. If I'm not playing video games, you can find me daydreaming about the universe! While working at FXhome in the marketing team, I've had the privilege of acting as everything from newsletter copywriter to Capt. America!
Oli Thompson

Oli Thompson

Passionate about inspiring and motivating others, philosophy, science, nature, music, adventures, creativity, and storytelling. If I'm not playing video games, you can find me daydreaming about the universe! While working at FXhome in the marketing team, I've had the privilege of acting as everything from newsletter copywriter to Capt. America!