In March 2018, we decided to revive Ahrefs’YouTube channel and grew it from around 14,000 subscribers to over 170,000. And the strategy we used is similar to what popular YouTube channels like MKBHD and Tasty did before having huge audiences. So whether you’re just starting or feeling stuck, then keep watching because I’m going to show you how to get more subscribers on YouTube with a simple 4-step framework. Stay tuned.
A lot of videos on getting YouTube subscribers will recommend things like adding subscribe buttons to the end screen, asking people to smash that subscribe button, or to email your existing audience to tell them about your YouTube channel. This is all well and good, but none of this will make the slightest difference if nobody is watching your videos in the first place. Views are a prerequisite to getting subscribers. So it would help if you focused on creating a “subscribe-worthy” YouTube channel that will lead to an engaged and loyal audience for the long haul. Now, getting subscribers that care about what you do takes time and adaptability. For example, Mr Beast, who now has over44 million subscribers, started his channel with videos of him playing Minecraft. And while those videos have racked up millions of views today, that’s likely due to his current success.
He published his first video on February 20, 2012. And more than two years later, he published a video announcing he had reached 1,000 subscribers. So it wasn’t exactly straight to the top for him. Now, the framework I’m about to share with you is all about consistently getting more subscribers who are excited to watch new videos you release. And as you continue to implement this framework, subscriber growth begins to snowball. So let’s get this tutorial started with a couple of fundamentals that will be critical to growth in subscribers, views, and for some of you, revenue.
The fundamental one understands why people subscribe. Plain and simple, people subscribe because they enjoyed what they watched or because they know your brand. And the more positive interactions they have with your content, the more likely they’ll subscribe. Let me back this up with some data. Looking in YouTube analytics, you’ll see we’ve had around 89,000 subscribers in 2020 so far. And over 87% of those people joined our youtube community from video pages and our channel page. So that means, a) you need to get consistent views to get consistent subscribers; and b) your content needs to impress them enough that they’ll want more content from you. And the second fundamental is to knowhow YouTube works at a basic level. So when you publish a new video onYouTube, the first people that’ll get notified are your subscribers. And that can be through emails and mobile alerts, subscription feeds, and impressions on YouTube’s homepage. But these people are already subscribed, so that won’t help you get more subscribers, right? Well, not exactly.
When your video performs well, YouTube will promote that new video to other people who watched similar videos as your viewers. And this can often lead to a huge spike in new subscribers. But these notifications and homepage impressions are usually short-lived and can fade within a week. As a result, the views and new subscribers fade with it too. For example, our video on SEO for beginners got around 100 new subscribers within a couple of days from publishing the video, which was pretty good for us back then. But you’ll notice that new subscribers dropped off almost immediately. And while this might seem discouraging, all hope is not lost. The way people interact and engage with your video sends signals to YouTube. And these signals include things like click-through rates, likes, dislikes, shares, comments, watch times, and audience retention. And when YouTube pairs those things with your video’s metadata,
it helps them to understand if and where it fits in YouTube search and suggested. And those two traffic sources tend to send consistent views, which again, leads to consistent subscribers. And that’s exactly what happened with our SEO for beginners video. We started to get a significant number of views from YouTube search and Suggested, which also led to that video generating over 1,000subscribers per month from this video alone. Translation: the trick to getting more subscribers consistently is to get consistent views from a relevant audience. Meaning, you need to publish content that a) interests your existing audience so that they’ll click to watch it; b) engages your audience so that YouTubewill promote that video to similar audiences, and c) do some basic optimizations so you can rank in YouTube search and Suggested.
Now, the way you can accomplish this is by following this 4-step framework. Let’s start with the first part, which is to laser in on your channel’s theme. A theme or niche is what connects you with your audience. It’s a common interest between you and your subscribers. And to continue nurturing that relationship, you need to publish relevant content within your theme to engage that audience and have youtube promote it to similar audiences. With that said, it is my strong opinion that you should start with a somewhat narrow theme. And as you grow, you can start expanding out to broader topics within the parent theme. For example, MKBHD has well over 12 million subscribers and has had consistent growth in subscribers and views over the past two and a half years. Outside of the fact that his content is top-notch, his channel is built around a single theme. “Quality Tech Videos,” which are mostly in the “review” format. Now, if we look at his oldest videos, you’ll see that he didn’t start as one of the top tech reviewers on YouTube. He started by posting short videos of his golf swing, which I don’t think took off until he had an audience.
This review on the HP Pavilion media centre remote seemed to get the most traction. He continued with tutorials and reviews on software for years. And now today, he’s able to review top tech, cars, and land interviews with people like Mark Zuckerberg. And the fact that he gets millions of views on every video he publishes, this tells us that his audience is engaging with his videos, YouTube is promoting it to similar audiences. He’s consistently getting views fromYouTube search and Suggested. Now, with Ahrefs’ YouTube channel, we were started by focusing on topics just related to SEO. So people that watched our videos and subscribed to our channel had some interest in search engine optimization, making it easier for us to get our subscribers to watch videos on the topic, earn their engagement, and have YouTube promote those videos to new audiences. While this all seems simple, I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay focused on your channel’s main theme, especially if you’re starting. It’ll allow you to create content that resonates with your audience because it’s relevant to the reason why they subscribed in the first place.
Speaking of content, that’s the second part of this framework. And I want to talk about this in two parts. The first is content quality. Your content needs to be good. But “good” has nothing to do with your camera gear or production value. A good video is simply content that serves the viewer’s wants or needs. For example, if the title of your video is”Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y,” but the first 3 minutes are dedicated to BMWs, then your viewers are going to drop off and obviously won’t subscribe. And more importantly, you won’t get the benefits of YouTube promoting your content to similar audiences. So two quick tips: #1. It’s worth storyboarding or scripting your content, so you stay on topic and deliver value to your audience. And value leads to subscriptions. And #2. Your title and thumbnail should accurately match your content. Clickbait leads to low engagement and that a surefire way to lose subscribers. The second part is the content format. While our channel has had consistent growth over time, we still made mistakes along the way. In 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Singapore, where Ahrefs is headquartered.
And seeing as we had around 30,000subscribers at the time, I thought our audience would enjoy that. But I was completely wrong. I think my vlog was the only video on our entire channel that resulted in net-zero subscribers. We hit the publish button, and after a few weeks of the video being live, it became apparent that our audience doesn’t care about Sam Oh or his travels. And even years after the video was live. No good came from it. So we unlisted it. Our subscribers care about SEO and digital marketing tutorials that are going to help them get results for their websites, youtube channels, and businesses, so that’s all we publish now. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t try new formats, but after you’ve found one that works for you, stick with it. Alright, the third part of the framework is discovery. Going back to our schema, your subscribers get notified of your new videos. As they watch and engage, YouTube may promote it to other similar audiences. After that,
YouTube may rank your video or suggest them on other video watch pages, assuming you’ve set yourself up properly. And that’s what this discovery stage is all about. Now, there are two things to note here. #1. If you don’t have subscribers or a big audience, then YouTube probably isn’t going to show your video to that many people. And #2. If no one’s looking for videos about your topic, then you’re not going to get views from search or Suggested. Now, with #1, you have to accept that it’ll be a slow and steady grind before you see traction the second you hit publish. But with #2, anyone and everyone have the opportunity to rank in YouTube search and Suggested. You need to know what your target audience wants to see. And there are three ways you can find topics worth pursuing. The first way is to use YouTube autosuggest. Autosuggest populates search queries from researchers on YouTube right within the search bar. Just start typing in a query, and you’ll see some suggestions based on your input.
Now, just because the suggestion is there, it doesn’t mean there are a lot of people searching for that specific topic. So you’d have actually to search for the query, and then take a look at the top-ranking videos to assess both traffic potential and ranking difficulty. And there are three things you should look for. #1. Check and see if the top-ranking videos are all getting a good number of views. If the answer is yes, then there’s likely search-demand around the topic. #2. See if the top 3 videos are intentionally targeting the topic you’ve searched for. And just by looking at the titles, you can see that all of the videos are makeup tutorials specifically made for beginners. So yes they are. The third thing to look at is the overall”authority” of the channel. And so-called authority is two-fold. First, I’ll look at the number of subscribers the top-ranking channels have as well as the average number of views to their last 5 or 10 videos. This should give you a very general idea of whether their audience is interacting with the creator’s content. And the second part to authority is the channel’s coverage of the topic.
From what I’ve seen, channels that are very focused on a specific theme tend to rank more easily for similar topics. And if they’re ranking more easily, it’ll be harder for you to outrank them. So a quick tip is to search for your topic using the search box inside their channel and to see how those videos performed. And based on all of these factors, I’ll decide whether the topic is worth pursuing. Now, the process that I just went through is pretty subjective. But you can gauge search-demand more accurately using a keyword research tool. And there are two keyword research tools that I’ve used extensively. First is VidIQ. VidIQ has a keyword research tool built into their toolset, which shows you related keywords to your topic, search volumes, and various scores. And you’ll see that they provide well over 100 keyword suggestions. And second is Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Here, you can see search volume trends, in this case, for the United States, the number of clicks that happen when people search for your keyword, and global volumes broken down by country. And below that are snippets of keyword ideas from our various reports. So, if we go to the phrase match report, you’ll see over 211,000 keyword suggestions! On top of the same metrics that we just talked about, you can use these handy filters to narrow in on specific keywords you want to see. For example, if I want to create beginner-level tutorials,
I’ll click on the included box and type in “beginners.” And if I see any topics that I’d like to cover, then I’ll go back to YouTube and do a quick manual analysis to gauge our chances of ranking for that query. YouTube SEO has been one of our primary sources to get views and subscribers to our channel consistently. And we have a full tutorial on how to rank your videos on YouTube, so I’ll link that up in the description. As for suggested views, you’ll need to have an inventory of videos before you start to get significant traction. And from what I’ve seen, channels that are focused around a tight topic that drives all the right engagement metrics will naturally lead to suggested views. Why? Because if your videos are centred around a theme, most of them should be relevant to one another. Now, there are more technical things to consider when it comes to earning suggested views, so if you want to see a tutorial on that, let me know in the comments. Alright, the final part of this framework is the CTA, or “call to action.”
As I showed you from our stats, the majority of subscribers are earned from our content. There are a few additional tips you can use to get more subscribers, regardless of your current subscriber count. First is the easiest. And that’s to ask for it. And the general format I use is to include the “ask” and the “why.” For example, “make sure to subscribe for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials.” Or if I’ve released a new series that’ll be dripped out each week, then I’ll say, “make sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss the next video in the series.” Simple. The second way is to use playlists. Now, while playlists won’t directly earn a subscription, they increase the likelihood of a viewer watching more than one video. And the more exposure they have to your content, the more likely they’ll hit that subscribe button. Playlists are a win in every way. They improve user experience, user engagement, and lead to more subscribers. The third way is to send traffic to your youtube channel from external sources. Seeing as our channel homepage is the second biggest driver of subscribers, we include links to our YouTube channel from other marketing mediums like our website, blog, and social media accounts. But we don’t just limit it to our website. For example, when one of us is interviewed on a podcast, and the host asks “where can people learn more about you,” we often tell them to search for Ahrefs on YouTube, and they’ll find us there. And naturally, podcast hosts will often link to our channel from the episode we did together. And the fourth way is to use interactive features.
These are clickable links that appear in your videos like end screen subscription buttons and watermarks. For our channel, interactive features have only been responsible for around 1.4% of our subscribers in 2020. So I wouldn’t expect much from this subscription source, but it’s still something. Now, while I could go on for hours with other tips and tactics to grow your YouTube channel, I recommend watching our YouTube SEO and video marketing playlist, which I’ll leave a link to in the description. Now, if you enjoyed this tutorial, make sure to like, share and subscribe for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. And if you have any questions, leave one in the comments below. I’ll see you in the next tutorial.