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 whatpopular YouTube channels like MKBHD and Tasty did before having huge audiences. So whether you’re just starting out or feelingstuck, then keep watching because I’m going to show you how to get more subscriberson YouTube with a simple 4-step framework.
This is all well and good, but none of thiswill make the slightest difference if nobody is watching your videos in the first place. Views are a prerequisite to getting subscribers. So you need to focus on creating a “subscribe-worthy”YouTube channel that will lead to an engaged and loyal audience for the long haul. Now, getting subscribers that actually careabout 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 ofviews 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 youis all about consistently getting more subscribers who are actually 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. Fundamental 1 is understanding 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 from our channel page. So that means, a) you need to get consistent views to get consistent subscribers; and b) your content needs to impress the menough that they’ll want more content from you. And the second fundamental is to know how YouTube works at a basic level. So when you publish a new video on YouTube, the first people that’ll get notified are your subscribers. And that can be through emails and mobilealerts, subscription feeds, and impressions on YouTube’s homepage.
But these people are already subscribed so thatwon’t help you get more subscribers, right? Well, not exactly. When your video performs well, YouTube willpromote that new video to other people who watched similar videos as your viewers. And this can often lead to a hugespike in new subscribers. But these notifications and homepage impressionsare usually short-lived and can fade within a week. As a result, the views and newsubscribers fade with it too. For example, our video on SEO for beginnersgot around 100 new subscribers within a couple of days from publishing the video, whichwas pretty good for us back then. But you’ll notice that new subscribersdropped off almost immediately. And while this might seem discouraging,all hope is not lost. The way people interact and engage withyour 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 yourvideo’s metadata, it helps them to understand if and where it fits in YouTube searchand suggested.
And those two traffic sources tend tosend consistent views, which again, leads to consistent subscribers. And that’s exactly what happenedwith our SEO for beginners video. We started to get a significant number of viewsfrom 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 subscribersconsistently is to get consistent views from a relevant audience. Meaning, you need to publish content that a) interests your existing audience sothat 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 youcan rank in YouTube search and Suggested. Now, the way you can accomplish thisis by following this 4-step framework. Let’s start with the first part, which isto laser in on your channel’s theme. A theme or niche is what connectsyou with your audience. It’s a common interest betweenyou and your subscribers. And to continue nurturing that relationship,you need to publish relevant content within your theme to engage that audience and haveYouTube promote it to similar audiences.
With that said, it is my strong opinion that youshould start with a somewhat narrow theme. And as you grow, you can start expanding outto broader topics within the parent theme. For example, MKBHD has well over 12 millionsubscribers and has had consistent growth in subscribers and views over the pasttwo 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 mostlyin the “review” format. Now, if we look at his oldest videos, you’llsee that he didn’t start off as one of the top tech reviewers on YouTube. He started by posting short videos of hisgolf swing, which I don’t think took off until he had an audience. In fact, this review on the HP Pavilion mediacenter remote seemed to get the most traction.
He continued with tutorials andreviews 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 viewson every video he publishes, this tells us that his audience is engaging with his videos,YouTube is promoting it to similar audiences, and he’s consistently getting views fromYouTube search and Suggested. Now, with Ahrefs’ YouTube channel, we startedby focusing on topics just related to SEO. So people that watched our videos and subscribedto our channel had some sort of interest in search engine optimization, making it easier for us to get our subscribersto watch videos on the topic, earn their engagement, and have YouTube promote thosevideos to new audiences.
While this all seems simple, I can’t stressenough how important it is to stay focused on your channel’s main theme, especiallyif you’re just starting out. It’ll allow you to create content that resonateswith your audience because it’s relevant to the reason why they subscribed in the first place. Speaking of content, that’s the secondpart of this framework. And I want to talk about this in two parts. The first is content quality. It goes without saying that your contentneeds to be good. But “good” has nothing to do with yourcamera gear or production value. A good video is simply content thatserves 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 getthe benefits of YouTube promoting your content to similar audiences. So 2 quick tips:
#1. It’s worth story boarding or scripting your content so you stay on topic and deliver value to your audience. And value leads to subscriptions.
#2. Your title and thumbnail should accurately match your content. Click bait leads to low engagement and that’s a surefire way to lose subscribers.
The second part is content format. While our channel has had consistent growth overtime, 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. In fact, I think my vlog was the only videoon our entire channel that resulted in net zero subscribers. Basically, we hit the publish button, and aftera few weeks of the video being live, it became apparent that our audience doesn’tcare about Sam Oh or his travels. And even years after the video was live,there was no good that came from it.
So we unlisted it. Our subscribers care about SEO and digitalmarketing tutorials that are going to help them get results for their websites, YouTubechannels, and businesses, so that’s basically all we publish now. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t try newformats, 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 subscribersget notified of your new videos. As they watch and engage, YouTube maypromote it to other similar audiences. After that, YouTube may rank your video orsuggest 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 bigaudience, then YouTube probably isn’t going to show your video to that many people.
#2. If no one’s looking for videos aboutyour topic, then you’re not going to get views from search or Suggested. Now, w #1, you just have to accept thatit’ll be a slow and steady grind before you see traction the second you hit publish. But #2, anyone and everyone has the opportunity to rank in YouTube search and Suggested. You just need to know what your target audience wants to see. And there are 3 ways you can find topics worth pursuing. The first way is to use YouTube auto suggest. Auto suggest populates search queries from real searches 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 to actually search for the query,and then take a look at the top-ranking videos to assess both traffic potentialand ranking difficulty. And there are 3 things you should look for.
#1. Check and see if the top-ranking videosare all getting a good number of views. If the answer is yes, then there’s likelysearch demand around the topic.
#2. See if the top 3 videos are intentionallytargeting the topic you’ve searched for. And just by looking at the titles, you can seethat 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 subscribersthe top ranking channels have as well as the average number of views totheir last 5 or 10 videos. This should give you a very general ideawhether their audience is interacting with the creator’s content. And the second part to authority isthe channel’s coverage of the topic. From what I’ve seen, channels that arevery 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 topicusing the search box inside their channel and seeing how those videos performed. And based on all of these factors, I’lldecide whether the topic is worth pursuing. Now, the process that I just wentthrough is pretty subjective. But you can gauge search demand moreaccurately using a keyword research tool. And there are two keyword researchtools that I’ve used extensively. First is VidIQ. VidIQ has a keyword research tool built intotheir toolset, which shows you related keywords to your topic, search volumes,and various scores. And you’ll see that they provide wellover 100 keyword suggestions. And second is Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Here, you can see search volume trends, inthis case, for the United States, the number of clicks that happen when people searchfor your keyword, and global volumes broken down by country. And below that are snippets of keywordideas 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 justtalked about, you can use these handy filters to narrow in on specific keywordsyou want to see.
For example, if I want to create beginner-level tutorials, I’ll click on the include 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 chancesof ranking for that query. YouTube SEO has been one of our primarysources to consistently get views and subscribers to our channel. And we have a full tutorial on how to rankyour videos on YouTube so I’ll link that up in the description. As for suggested views, you’ll need to havean inventory of videos before you start to get significant traction. And from what I’ve seen, channels that arefocused around a tight topic that drives all the right engagement metrics willnaturally lead to suggested views. Why? Because if your videos are centeredaround a theme, most of them should be relevant to one another.
Now, there are obviously more technical thingsto consider when it comes to earning suggested views, so if you want to see a tutorialon that, let me know in the comments. Alright, the final part of this frameworkis the CTA, or “call to action.” As I showed you from our stats, the majorityof subscribers are earned from our content. There are a few additional tips you canuse 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 includethe “ask” and the “why.” For example, “make sure to subscribe for moreactionable SEO and marketing tutorials.” Or if I’ve released a new series that’ll bedripped out each week, then I’ll say, “make sure to subscribe so you don’t missthe next video in the series.” Simple. The second way is to use playlists. Now, while playlists won’t directly earn asubscription, 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 yourYouTube channel from external sources. Seeing as our channel homepage is the secondbiggest driver of subscribers, we include links to our YouTube channel from other marketingmediums 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 interviewedon a podcast and the host asks “where can people learn more about you,” we often tellthem to search for Ahrefs on YouTube and they’ll find us there. And naturally, podcast hosts will often link toour channel from the episode we did together. And the fourth way is to use interactive features. These are clickable links that appear in yourvideos like endscreen subscription buttons and watermarks. For our channel, interactive features haveonly been responsible for around 1.4% of our subscribers in 2020. So I wouldn’t expect much from thissubscription source, but it’s still something. Now, while I could go on for hours with othertips and tactics to grow your YouTube channel, I recommend watching our YouTube SEO andvideo marketing playlist, which I’ll leave a link to in the description. Now, if you enjoyed this tutorial, make sure tolike, share and subscribe for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. And if you have any questions, leaveone in the comments below. I’ll see you in the next tutorial.