How to get more subscribers on YouTube in 2021?

  • 02 Jul, 2020
How to get more subscribers on YouTube in 2021?

Hi everyone, Ed here from YT Tracker. Let’s talk about subscribers and how you can get more of them.

By far, this is the question I get the most, yet the wrong one to ask for YouTubers of any size. Getting more subscribers is not the point. Yes, you read this right. You can almost forget about subscribers. Let me tell you why.

If you think about subscribers as the numbers that defines your success on YouTube, you are following the wrong approach. But it’s not your fault. The entire tech industry is wired this way. Numbers first… how many subscribers? How many followers? How many views? How many clicks? Etc.

Numbers and data are super important but it’s critical to not be blinded by the wrong metrics. The key is to focus on the right ones.

This might be news to you but subscribers shouldn’t be the focus to grow on YouTube. In this article, we will go through the reasons why and what you should focus on instead in order to grow on YouTube, the right way.

YouTube drives more views to great video content

The - almighty - algorithm is what’s ruling YouTube’s kingdom. Many try to crack it and find hacks to rank better and get more views, some succeed, most don’t. I prefer to think about how the engineers at YouTube are probably thinking about it.

Their job is basically centered around designing an experience that surfaces the right video content for the right users at the right time. Trust me, from my own experience building simple apps, this thing is hard, very hard. They rely on tons of data points and signals to come up with video suggestions and recommendations.

Overall, a key thing to remember is that YouTube’s main objective isn’t that different than yours. They want more viewers, engaging more and watching longer. Why? Because that’s how they make their money as a platform. More time spent on YouTube = more attractiveness for advertisers = more advertising budget allocated to YouTube = more revenue for YouTube (i.e. Google, its parent company).

More viewers, engaging more, watching longer… isn’t that what’s you also want?

This should give you a massive hint on what you should really focus on and it’s definitely not just your subscriber count. The YouTube algorithm is a complex blackbox but the good news is that you don’t need to know the nitty gritty of it to make a difference for your channel. Keep it simple, think like a human would.

Think about what you can control and influence

There are things you have no control over, things you have partial control over and think you totally control.

Can you control what other videos your viewers watch? No. Can you control when they log on YouTube every day ? No. Can you… right, I’m sure you get it. Forget about what you can’t control.

Can you control how long your viewers keep watching your videos? Yes, stay entertaining, they’ll watch longer. Can you control how many of them will drop a like on your videos? Partially, ask them nicely at the right moment and a bigger percentage of them will leave you a thumbs up. Can you control how often you upload new videos? Yes, totally. Stick to a schedule, and your viewers will build a routine and expect your content at regular intervals.

The list goes on… but you get it by now. Focus on what you can control.

Thinking about what would be a red flag 🚩 for a YouTube engineer

If the algorithm has the power to drive more views to some good quality videos, it has also systems built it to flag bad behaviours and blacklist or ban channels that misbehave.

  • Imagine a channel with 1,000 subscribers but just a handful of videos that barely get any views. What does that tell you? It smells Sub4Sub right? Well, channels like that are worthless for YouTube since these subscribers aren’t interested in the channel’s content and don’t watch it at all. Red flag. 🚩🚩🚩

  • Think about videos that get tons of views, but where viewers stop watching after just a few seconds. What does that tell you? It smells click-bait thumbnail right? Same here, that’s a bad signal for YouTube because when viewers stop watching… it generally means the content is not good. Red flag. 🚩🚩🚩

You start to see the patterns to avoid?

Thinking about what would be a green flag ✅ for a YouTube engineer

Now let’s think about green flags. What could tell YouTube that the content is high quality?

  • Imagine a small channel, with just a few subscribers, that uploads regularly and constantly gets a very high audience retention (i.e. most viewers watch its videos until the end). The content must be pretty good right? That’s a green flag and videos like that are much more likely to get listed in suggested videos. ✅✅✅

  • Imagine a video that get a very high like to dislike ratio (most people leave a thumbs up on the video and very few dislike it), and most people watch until the end. Another green flag right? ✅✅✅

  • Imagine a viewer watches a video until the end and decides to subscribe to the channel around the end of the video. What does it say about this channel’s content? It screams “that was great, I want more” right? Another green flag. ✅✅✅

So, you see why focusing on subscribers only is the wrong approach?

You need to let people subscribe to your channel, when they have been happy with your content and not begging them to subscribe or even worst doing sub4sub just to bulk your numbers. Your focus should be to put out high quality video, that will entertain your audience and add value. Healthy channels grow this way, the right way.

If you leave enough people happy after they watched your content, it’s logical that a certain number of them will subscribe to your channel. There’s nothing wrong about reminding people to subscribe at the end of your videos because you know that when viewers will hear this, they will have watched most of the video. If they’re still there at the end, they must have enjoyed it. That’s your chance to turn them into subscribers. But don’t beg them after 15 seconds, it just feels needy.

You still don’t trust my way of thinking about all of this?

Go check the percentage of your views coming from your subscribers vs. non-subscribers. For most YouTubers, 90 to 95% of their views are coming from non-subscribers. That means most people watch videos from creators they haven’t (yet) subscribed to. Guess what… that’s YouTube’s algorithm at play right here, sending traffic to your videos.

Ok one final argument for the most stubborn creators out there. If I don’t convince you after this one, I don’t think I can help you succeed further. Imagine you beg/sub4sub your way to 1,000 subscribers to reach the monetization requirements. Great, well done. You have 1,000 ghosts following your channel. You showed YouTube that your first 1,000 subscribers don’t watch your content for more than a few seconds, so you ruined your potential for being listed in suggested videos… How will you get to 4,000 hours of watch time now? You can spend hours and hours spamming all corners of the internet to get views, but chances are you’ll lose patience or motivation before reaching monetization. I’ve seen this pattern over and over. And even if you do end up reaching monetization with spam, your audience won’t be targeted, they won’t be relevant for ads on your channel and you won’t end up making a lot of YouTube dollars.

To sum up, don’t focus on subscribers when you get started on YouTube. Focus on putting out great content, stick to a schedule and leverage any opportunity to understand what your viewers want to see and how you can improve your video quality. Talk to them, listen to them, engage with them, etc.

From my experience running YT Tracker and helping thousands of YouTubers grow over the last couple of years, the hardest part is to learn how to get more watch time. Subscribers will slowly build up over time as your content gets better and better.

In a future article, we’ll cover tips and tricks on how you can improve your watch time.

All the best to you all, fellow YouTubers.

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