Last updated on May 16, 2018
A few years back, my friend Brian Dean from Backlinko created his YouTube channel.
He assumed he could just post in-depth videos and the results would magically happen...
But the results never came.
Despite hours of hard work, Brian’s video views and subscribers barely budged.
So Brian started to experiment:
After testing everything, Brian found the 🔑🔑🔑 which actually worked for growing his YouTube views and subscribers.
Today, Brian’s channel has 2,000,000+ total minutes watched and 120,000+ subscribers!
I’ve noticed similar success on my YouTube channel — which is why YouTube is one of my FAVORITE marketing channels in 2018.
In this post and video, I’m going to share the 5-step blueprint Brian used to grow his YouTube channel, get more views, and get more subscribers. I use these tips too.
Your channel page is the homepage of your YouTube channel. Like the homepage of your website, it’s the most important page to optimize.
When Brian first started his YouTube channel, he paid little attention to his channel page.
But when he studied successful channels with tons of subscribers and views, he noticed the best channel pages had three things in common...
Playlists are a great way to get people to watch tons of your videos in one session.
But many YouTube creators, even experienced ones, do playlists wrong.
When Brian studied the most successful YouTube channels he noticed they all featured what he calls “Power Playlists”.
Instead of a playlist being a random collection of videos, Power Playlists help viewers reach a specific outcome.
For example, on my channel, I’ve created playlists to help people with specific business challenges like:
When you create a Power Playlist, you’re giving viewers binge-worthy content around a topic they like — which means more video views for your channel.
The most successful companies in the world have killer branding that everyone remembers:
Branding is what helps people remember your company over competitors.
With 300 hours of video uploaded per minute on YouTube (source), there are thousands of YouTube channels you’re competing against.
Channel branding is one of the BEST ways to make your channel stand out.
To nail down a killer brand for your YouTube channel, all you need is ONE sentence.
On my channel, the first thing you see is my branding right in the channel art:
Business lessons from an 8-figure founder.
For Brian’s channel, you see:
Backlinko is where marketers turn to get higher rankings and more traffic.
These sentences are short and simple, but they give the viewer everything that need to know about our channels.
Let’s break down my sentence for a second…
“Business lessons...” tells the viewer exactly what they’ll see on my channel.
And “...from an 8-figure founder” shows that I have credibility. I’m a founder of a business, and we’ve grown it to 8-figures, so people know my tips are backed by experience.
When people first visit your channel, they’re trying to understand if they like your content before they subscribe.
Your “About” page gives people more information about you or your brand, so they know if there’s a match.
For example, you can see that my About page highlights my channel branding, my background, and what you can expect from my videos:
Let’s break it down…
When you optimize your channel page with a Power Playlists, better branding, and a strong About page, you’re laying the foundation for a successful channel.
If you want to succeed on YouTube, forget quantity — and instead focus on quality.
When you focus on quality, you get comments like Brian does below.
Notice how the person who left the comment already runs a successful YouTube channel with 100,000+ subscribers!
Brian sees comments like this because his videos are packed with actionable advice and tips. He spends HOURS creating a script, researching topic ideas, and editing his videos.
But often, people don’t think about quality when they first start out on YouTube. They think quantity is more important.
I’ve heard people talking about their new channels and say, “I need to publish at least three times per week.” I’ve said the same in the past, too.
In theory, that sounds great… but in reality it doesn’t necessarily help you grow. And it can be a lot of wasted time.
Brian publishes a new video once every 4-6 weeks, and gets 50,000+ views per video.
And quality is why he was able to grow his channel so quickly.
When we launch a video on our channel, we focus on making it the highest quality we can.
To make sure our quality is top-notch, we do four things…
By focusing on quality, you can save time posting less while still getting great results.
Most people research find keywords on YouTube the same way as they would on Google.
That’s a HUGE mistake. YouTube SEO is much different.
When Brian researched the most successful YouTube channels, he noticed 40-50% of their views came from suggested videos.
Suggested videos leverage the power of hugely popular videos to make your own video popular.
When a viewer watches a video on a topic, they might want to watch more videos about that topic.
And when your video is a suggested video next to a really popular video, it’s like free advertising!
It’s not rocket science to get your video as a suggested video on a massively popular video. Here’s the process:
For example, here’s one of Brian’s videos optimized around the competitive term “keyword research.” Notice how he’s a suggested video!
When you look at the keywords for the video above, you’ll see the following:
Keyword research,content marketing,SEO,marketing services,search engine optimization,affiliate marketing,keyword tool,search intent,seed keywords,keyword phrases,keyword list
And when you compare to Brian’s video, you’ll notice the following keywords:
keyword research,seo,how to do keyword research,google keyword planner
The keywords that are bolded are found in both videos.
Because the “keyword research” term has 180,000 search results, and the term “SEO” has 5,020,000 search results, Brian’s video can be shown next to millions of other videos as suggested — like we saw above.
We can talk about keywords and optimization and playlists all day long…
But if you’re making rookie production mistakes, your videos are going to suffer.
Even the BEST YouTube channels might make the big 3 rookie mistakes, which could cost them thousands of views and subscribers.
As you optimize your channel page, focus on quality, and leverage suggested videos… make sure your foundation is strong by avoiding the simple mistakes.
In my YouTube videos, I notice the first 20 seconds are the BIGGEST drop-off points.
Take a look at retention for one of my earlier videos. 21 seconds in, I’ve already lost 31% of my audience!
This old video started out slow: Boring intro, no value, long-winded explanations… ugh. Bad Noah. 👎
When you’re creating your intro, make it…
When Brian first started his channel, he worried way too much about how his videos looked and didn't focus at all on the quality of his audio.
Brian’s early videos looked great, shot in beautiful locations in 1080p high-definition with a professional videographer.
But they sounded terrible. And they failed to take off.
After his videos failed, he realized that audio quality is just as important as video quality.
Make sure you’re using a microphone that’s better than just your MacBook or Beats headset.
If you’re looking for new audio gear, my friend Tim Ferriss recommends some gear on his site. He uses this gear mainly for podcasts, but the gear is great for videos too.
Back in the early days of his channel, Brian would aim to make videos that were 5-7 minutes long.
Because that’s what the “experts” said he should do.
But when he looked at huge, popular channels he noticed that the videos tended to be at least 10 minutes long.
So Brian and his team set out to understand what factors contributed to videos ranking higher in YouTube search.
To do this they analyzed more than 1.3 million YouTube videos.
And they found that...
Longer videos consistently outranked shorter videos. From Brian’s research…
“Longer videos significantly outperform shorter videos. The average length of a first page YouTube video is 14 minutes, 50 seconds.”
With these learnings in his pocket, Brian decided to create longer videos that covered a whole topic (instead of a series of shorter videos on the same subject).
As a result his video views shot through the roof!
I saw this with my channel too.
Last year, I published a few short 2-minute clips from my podcast on YouTube.
Here’s a clip for a podcast about social skills. Notice how the video only resulted in 6,700 watch minutes and 5 subscribers. 😢
Compare the above 2-minute video to the 11-minute video below about the same topic — social skills — that resulted in 33,370 watch minutes and 74 subscribers.
And the long video was released 3 months later!
Before you start optimizing every little thing with your channel, avoid the 3 rookie mistakes:
A recent study from SparkToro found that YouTube gets more searches than Bing, Facebook and Pinterest… combined.
So how do you get your videos to appear in YouTube search results?
Here’s one of Brian’s SEO secret weapons…
I embed a lot of my videos, and video embedding is one of the main reasons I have almost 100,000 views on my 2017 marketing video.
I’m not alone: Another study, this one by by Justin Briggs, found that top-ranked videos have 78% more embeds that your average YouTube video.
The simplest and most effective way to get more embeds is to embed your videos on your own blog or website — like I did at the top of this post.
Another strategy is to reach out to influencers using a tool like BuzzSumo.
If your content adds value and relates to them, there’s a chance they’ll embed and share. Here’s a script you can use:
Love your blog. Read your article about SEO recently, your tip about doing keyword research helped me grow my channel to 100,000 subscribers!
Inspired by you, I created a video.
Here’s the link: LINK
You’re mentioned at 3:54. Hope you enjoy!
Along with titles, your YouTube thumbnails are the first thing people see when they come into contact with your videos.
It’s displayed everywhere:
To make your thumbnail stand out, use the “GOBY” strategy.
You’ll notice both Brian and I use a similar green color on our thumbnails.
Here’s my channel…
And here’s Brian’s…
Is it because we love money? Well, maybe. 🤑
But there’s a bigger reason...
When you look at YouTube, the site predominantly uses three colors: Red, white, and black. If your thumbnail uses those colors, it’ll blend in with the rest of YouTube.
That’s why Brian recommends using GOBY thumbnails:
These colors aren’t very common on YouTube, so when you use these colors within your thumbnails, your content will stand out.
This will lead to more clicks, views and subscribers.
To recap what we’ve learned today:
I hope these strategies help you to get more views on YouTube and grow your channel. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Want more tips from Brian? Check out our podcast episode where he shares his best SEO advice. It’s one of my most popular episodes ever.