We know. The sound of anyone trying to grow subscribers on any platform can sound like the pursuit of a vanity metric.
However, on YouTube especially, more subscribers pave the way to increasing your organic reach. This matters because YouTube is the world’s second-largest website. Success here pays dividends for your brand’s search engine optimization (SEO).
Of course, the rewards can be specifically monetary as well. Hitting subscriber milestones on YouTube is required for accessing the platform’s monetization features. (To become a YouTube Partner who earns ad revenue, you need at least 1,000 subscribers, for example. And that’s just the start.)
Either way, with 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, the competition is real for subscribers and their attention. The following are 20 tips to help grow subscribers on your YouTube channel.
Never buy YouTube subscribers
Ultimately, increasing your YouTube subscribers through free or paid services (or both) can be a waste of time and/or money.
These services typically work by:
- Instructing you to subscribe to and/or like a certain number of specified YouTube channels or videos. Then, a certain number of channels will subscribe to yours, for example.
- When/if you tire of this farming, there are options to pay for those subscribers instead. Typically, you decide how much you want to spend, but how many YouTube subscribers you get in return depends on the service.
Why is this not encouraged?
Bot subscribers don’t engage, and when authenticity is so highly valued on all social media platforms, it’s not a good look either (for other subscribers and potential partner brands).
(And we call them “bot subscribers” because most of these accounts are typically fake.)
In addition, you risk getting banned from YouTube if you’re found to be in violation of YouTube’s fake engagement policy.
Of course, there are some instances of organic and effective engagement pods on different social platforms, but there is a level of commitment and work that comes with them.
Ask viewers to subscribe
This is probably not an earth-shattering tip when you’re likely seeing this call-to-action within videos you’re already watching.
But nonetheless, it’s a good reminder for your audience. You also can go beyond talking about the subscribe button and identify the bell beside it that turns on notifications for your new videos.
This isn’t about being salesy. It’s about valuing your content and giving your audience a friendly reminder to be sure to catch more of it as it’s released.
You always can include the reasons why your viewers should subscribe as well. Time the CTA to right after a key moment in your video (making the reasons that much more obvious).
Preview upcoming videos in your existing videos
This definitely depends on your brand having a thought-out video calendar and plan. As long as you do, it should be easy to preview your next video at the end of your latest video.
This gives your viewers an additional reason to subscribe so that they don’t miss out.
It’s about creating FOMO (fear of missing out).
Engage with your audience
While not traditionally thought of as a social media platform, YouTube definitely is. Therefore, engagement is a key component of the experience.
Reply to comments. Pose questions. Start conversations. Subscribe to those who are engaging with you.
But also engage on other channels. It’s not just about your content.
This invested time will not only help you plug into a potentially vibrant community of those with similar interests, you might also get content inspiration from the engagement as well.
Be thoughtful about your channel banner art
Your channel banner is an opportunity to impress potential YouTube subscribers or simply convey the point of your channel.
Either way, you should strive for:
- A clean design
- Representative of your brand
- Eye-catching visuals
- Optimization for all devices
Production quality matters
Think about videos you’ve watched. How long do you watch a video that’s poorly lit or has muffled audio?
Apply this to the production of your own videos. Natural lighting can go a long way without a need for super expensive equipment, and even the most basic mic setup can avoid some of the most common audio issues.
Poorly produced videos will not help you build up your YouTube subscribers.
Basic video editing also can go a long way toward watchability of your videos.
Check out our list of 18 video-editing apps you should know about.
Optimize your video thumbnails
For ultimate subscriber conversions, consistency can outweigh the obvious desire for “eye-catching” designs (where the brighter, bigger font and the crazier the image, the better).
Remember, you’re not just trying to generate video views. You’re trying to grow a devoted subscriber base who cares about the content that you’re creating.
Start by taking a look at your videos page with fresh eyes. What would a new visitor think?
A video thumbnail is a 1280-by-720-pixel image that acts as the cover photo for your video. They are about as powerful as the video title in regard to compelling a user to click and watch.
Strive for consistent branding across all your video thumbnails. That way, the consistency can convey professionalism, and professionalism is a good signal to boost subscribers.
Embed your YouTube videos elsewhere
Specifically, this can happen on your blog or website (wherever relevant).
There are several benefits to embedding your YouTube videos, including (but not limited to):
- Potentially boost your blog and/or website SEO
- Sharing your video where people will likely care about it most
- Providing additional content for your existing audience to engage with
Take advantage of YouTube’s clickable tools
You may or may not realize it, but YouTube also wants you to earn subscribers.
So much so that there are some tools available within the platform that can help, including end screens and branding watermarks.
End screens are still images at the end of your video where you can remind viewers to subscribe (or a different CTA). Branding watermarks are an extra subscribe button that can hover over your video even in full-screen mode.
Organize content with playlists
There are a number of different ways you can use playlists on your YouTube channel to organize your content.
There could be a playlist to highlight your best content. Perhaps you’re creating content that spans a few different topics or formats. You can organize however it makes sense to you.
That organization makes it easier for viewers to see more of what they like and potentially subscribe.
Consider holding a contest
A contest can help increase your subscriber count if done right.
Of course, before you jump in:
- Set concrete goals
- Choose a prize that is enticing to your audience
- Consider possible partners
- Decide whether the contest should be held on YouTube only (or hosted elsewhere, such as your website and/or other platforms)
- Determine the contest rules (and don’t make them too difficult)
- Plan out the announcement and ongoing campaign
- Research any relevant laws
During the contest, you should monitor your YouTube channel analytics to see how the contest is impacting your subscription total.
Celebrate milestones along the way
Subscribers like to feel special. And there’s no better way than to acknowledge and thank them as you hit subscriber count milestones.
Whether that’s each thousand and then every 10 thousand, mark the milestones that matter to you.
This is an important tip for any platform, whether it’s a social media account or even your blog.
Consistency reflects professionalism. It also acts as a promise to your subscribers.
In general, it’s recommended to start with one video per week and increase to three or four videos per week as your channel grows.
But whatever video frequency you want to set, just make sure it works for you (your time and your resources). Quality is far more important than quantity.
Consistency isn’t just about frequency. It’s also about the type of content you’re creating. To help keep you focused, decide on the standing theme and mission of your YouTube channel.
Promote your YouTube channel elsewhere
Cross-promotion is a great way to increase your YouTube subscribers, especially if you have big followings on your other social media platforms and/or high traffic on your website.
Including your YouTube channel link on things like your Instagram bio or embedded on your website are just a couple examples.
You also can more actively promote the channel with various posts or even an explainer blog about the type of video content one can expect on your channel.
Use keywords to define your niche
Keyword research is imperative to generating more video views, which can then help increase your YouTube subscribers.
The use of the right keywords (especially in your video titles and descriptions) is imperative to both reach those who are interested in your content and truly define your niche.
There will always be the temptation to broaden your content to appeal to more people, but a whole lot of everything will struggle to connect with anyone.
Don’t be afraid to define and embrace your niche. Targeted content will engage with those viewers who will most likely subscribe.
Add tags to your videos
When posting your videos, you’ll notice the opportunity under “basic info” to add relevant tags to your videos.
Picking tags that reflect the nature of your video can help it appear in YouTube searches.
Find opportunities for exclusive video content
Ask yourself: What can I create or show that no one else can?
While most of your content should be SEO-focused, don’t miss the opportunity to think through what only you can share.
This could be behind-the-scenes content or tips no one else is talking about. To start your brainstorming, consider your customers’ pain points and your own expertise.
Mix in topical with evergreen content
Topical content can be highly relevant and engaging at the time but isn’t as relevant later on.
Think holiday-related videos. Whether it’s Halloween or Christmas or so on, that video can be popular at that time, but fall flat three months later.
While you want a majority of your content to be evergreen (that’s engaging and relevant anytime), peppering in topical videos when appropriate can be a delight for your viewers (and a reason for them to subscribe so that they don’t miss out).
Again, consistency can help build your YouTube subscribers, but seize the moments where you can show relevancy and more. Give viewers a reason to want to not only subscribe but also be informed of new posts.
Look for partnerships
This can range from other YouTube channels to possible influencers.
Do your research on potential partners that would be relevant to your audience. There could be guest appearances, cross-promotions, whatever speaks to both your and your potential partner’s goals.
The benefit lies in reaching new audiences who then might want to subscribe to your YouTube channel.
YouTube ads an option
The desire to grow your YouTube subscribers organically is obvious. However, if you need to increase your growth rate significantly, consider using YouTube ads.
In addition, if your goal on YouTube is monetization, a little investment isn’t a bad idea.
Just be sure to use targeting keywords that reflect your content because the advertising will push your video(s) to the top of the search results when people enter your selected keyword.
The power of YouTube is undeniable and a great step for any brand to consider, as long as you go into the platform with a plan.
Identifying your niche, setting goals and committing to consistency (in content, production value and frequency) are the foundation of a successful channel and increasing your YouTube subscribers.
If you’re still not sure if YouTube is the right video platform for your small business, check out our guide.