We’ve compiled this guide to point out all the easy wins that will amplify your brand’s message on YouTube, but we’re also going to detail some of the more advanced techniques the pros use to get more YouTube views.
To see how we’re getting views on our YouTube channel (which we started from scratch, because yolo), check out our cool video:
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What counts as a view on YouTube?
Each time a viewer intentionally initiates the playing of a video on their device and watches for at least 30 seconds, that counts as a view. Pretty simple!
If you play your own video, that will be counted as a view.
If a viewer watches your video more than once, each screening will be counted as a new view. (That being said, refreshing over and over again to try to game the system will be detected by Youtube.)
Any views that take place with embedded Youtube videos or Youtube videos shared on Facebook will also be counted.
2. Zero in on your specific niche (and your ideal audience)
If you’re aiming to optimize your YouTube marketing strategy, you want to get precise and ruthlessly selective about your goals—and the content that will get you there.
Because you aren’t making videos for everyone. You’re here for someone special: your audience.
Yoga with Adriene has thrived because she makes ultra-specific videos with titles like “Yoga for Joy” and “Yoga for Courage,” and even releases versions of her videos in Spanish. She’s just one of the thousands of Youtube yoga instructors, walking people through poses, but her ultra-inclusive concepts and attitude have struck a chord — she’s got almost 10 million subscribers.
Pro tip: Have you worked up your audience personas yet? They’re kind of like Dungeons & Dragons characters, except make it business.
3. Do your research, and improve your video’s search ranking
Yes, YouTube is a social platform, but it’s also a search engine. And one of the top strategies for getting more views is YouTube SEO, i.e. optimizing your videos for search.
In other words, when your ideal viewer types in your chosen keywords, you want your video ranking near the top of YouTube’s results list. That means you need to know what your audience is looking for—tutorials, inspiration, or entertainment.
Ranking in search results is the best way to get brand new eyes—not just subscribers and people who are already interested in your channel (although we’ll talk more about them later) — on your videos.
But, this is easier said than done. So, what can you do to improve your videos’ search ranking on YouTube?
Research. You’re going to want to use a tool like Google Keyword Planner (note that you’ll need to set up a Google Ads account) to do two things:
Find inspiration for your next video based on what people are already looking for (i.e., take a look at search patterns and see what keywords have a lot of search queries, but few videos, a.k.a. low competition)
Take those relevant keywords and use them in your metadata (i.e., your video title, tags, video description text, subtitles)
Pro tip: If you haven’t already, now is the time to familiarize yourself with how the YouTube algorithm works. This AI determines not just search results, but recommendations for that important “what’s up next” suggested videos sidebar, too.
Just remember that it all comes back to your ideal viewer: the algorithm doesn’t care if your video is “good,” it cares if a specific user wants to watch it. That being said, users typically want to watch “good” videos.
4. Use metadata to get recommended after a popular video
If your goal is to get more YouTube views, take a cue from the most popular videos in your niche.
Start by taking a look at your top competitor’s most popular video. (Go to their video library and sort by “most popular.”)
YouTube’s main goal is to keep viewers on the platform for as long as possible (so that they’ll see as many ads as possible.) Thus the algorithm’s job is to feed viewers one (hopefully appealing) video after another.
But how does YouTube figure out what people might like? The algorithm takes the following into consideration:
Videos that are often watched together
Videos the user has watched in the past
Topically related videos (which requires some keyword finessing!)
Need a little inspo? You can actually peek behind the scenes of a competitor’s video to see what keywords they use by right-clicking on the webpage and selecting View Page Source. Then CTRL-F “keywords” until you find the list.
But before you go ahead and just copy-and-paste a more popular video’s metadata over to your similar video, think about your audience: they won’t want to watch the same video again. Maybe the first video raised a new question that needs answering, or there’s an interesting tangent to be explored. How can your video add value to what they just saw so that they’ll want to click on it?
Take the ball and run with it.
5. Increase your views with custom thumbnails
When your potential viewers are in discovery mode—skimming through search results and recommendations—thumbnails are a major part of what they decide what to watch.
While a lot of advice out there is a graphic designer’s nightmare — screaming fonts, cluttered information — let’s get objective: what are the properties of an effective thumbnail?
The thumbnail is clear and accurate about the video it’s describing (if your thumbnail misleads people into clicking, YouTube will know because your watch time will go down when the viewer gets annoyed and stops watching. The algorithm won’t like that.)
The thumbnail stands out.
The thumbnail works in tandem with the video’s title.
‘Standing out’ can be as simple as picking a bright color. Or making sure your giant hi-res face is making a weird expression in good lighting. Or, if your niche is full of shrill, high-key visuals, and the best way your channel can stand out is by being the calm, minimalist voice of reason.
6. Multiply your views by creating playlists
Organizing and creating video playlists on YouTube is the best way to minimize the chances that a viewer will move on to another channel once they’ve consumed your content.
Why? Because playlists go by the same rules as Netflix: as soon as one video ends, the next begins.
Since you’ve already done the hard work of helping your viewer find your video, click on it and watch the entire thing, it makes sense to guide them towards the video content they’re going to want next.
J.J. McCullough’s YouTube content covers a range of cultural commentary, so he’s divvied everything up nicely into thematic playlists. His fans who love his content on world leaders (and who wouldn’t?!) will be served up hit after hit.
7. Direct traffic to your videos using cards and end screens
Besides playlists, cards and end screens are two of the only tools that YouTubers can use to bypass the algorithm and directly influence our audience’s next choice.
Cards are clickable, interactive areas that appear any time during the video. They come in a variety of formats that can be used for things like fundraising or selling merch, but in this case, we’re interested in increasing views, so choose a card that links to another one of your videos — or even better, playlists.
(Note: cards aren’t available to use on videos identified as for kids.)
Cards are pop-ups, so it’s very important that they add value. You don’t want viewers feeling spammed. The videos or playlists you link to need to be relevant to the moment and provide additional information or entertainment.
For a super-meta example, check out how this All About Cards video has a card itself about learning about different kinds of cards.
Pro tip: If you have a noticeable retention problem with significant audience drop-off at a specific point in one of your videos, try inserting a link card at that moment.
Meanwhile, end screens are visual calls-to-action that you can add to the end of your video (in the last 5 to 20 seconds) to encourage viewers towards a next step. They’re valuable because you know if a person has reached the bitter end of your video, they are probably pretty interested in your great content.
Using end screens to encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel or visit your website are both good choices. But if you want more views, using your end screen to promote your other videos or playlists is the best choice.
(Note that to use end screens, you’ll need to include a few extra seconds at the end of your video when you’re editing it.)
Youtuber SssniperWolf features end cards that direct to four more of her videos. It’s like a choose your own adventure for… whatever her shtick is.
8. Go beyond the how-to video (i.e., make videos no one else is making)
Chances are, when you’re researching your target keywords (like we did back at point #3), you’re going to see a lot of search terms that involve the phrase “how to.” (The title of this article included, ahem.) This is because there’s a lot of search volume for how-to content.
But while you must work to attract new eyes, you also want to make time to preach to the converted. On YouTube, your brand’s value-added features come in the form of content that is meaningful to people who are already your fans.
Youtube chef Tabitha Brown, for instance, doesn’t just share her vegan nachos recipe… she sits down with her husband to talk about their relationship, giving fans an intimate look into her personal life. (And if they happen to get inspired to whip up their own batch of guac in the process? That’s a bonus.)
9. Build relationships with your viewers
“Audience engagement” is just another term for building relationships. The end goal here, of course, is actually just the realistic, organic and sustainable path to getting more YouTube views.
That is, engaging with other YouTubers (creators or commenters both) will increase the chance that they’ll care about your brand, that they’ll subscribe to your channel (see #12), and watch more of your videos overall.
Ideas for breaking the fourth wall, and creating a two-way conversation might include:
Include other people’s content in your videos (with their permission)
Pro tip: This tutorial on how to engage your community on YouTube using Hootsuite’s comment and sharing features will save you time as you build your audience.
10. Partner up
Crossovers, guest appearances, mash-ups, covers: people love that jolt of unfamiliar familiarity. Find the He-Man to your brand’s She-Ra; and the Billy Ray Cyrus to your Lil Nas X.
Maybe you’re a brand with a budget, and hiring a creator with their own following is an obvious choice. But if you’re a creator or aspiring influencer yourself, getting more views is your first step on the way to making money on YouTube, not spending it. In which case your best bet is to partner with like-minded creators.
Ideally, your potential partners are fairly aligned in values, popularity, and charm. And you actually like them. And you have fun together, and it shows, and it makes people happy to see you happy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Easy, right?
This video is like a super crossover: two drag queens plus e.l.f. cosmetics plus Chipotle all get in on the mix. The cross-promotion opportunities are quadrupled, by our count.
Pro tip: If you do a crossover that involves a bunch of different videos—like one from your partner’s perspective to live on their channel, and one by you to live on yours, and maybe some supporting outtakes, any necessary background, etc.—make a playlist to compile them so that interested viewers can stan it all.
11. Promote your YouTube videos across all your social media channels
But, if you want more YouTube views, DON’T do the following:
Go to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok and post text or an image with a link to your YouTube video. Linking to YouTube makes objective sense, but the problem is that social platforms want to keep people on their platform (just like YouTube does). So their algorithms will not promote a text-only post with an off-platform link. In other words, your impressions and CTR are going to be low, and so will your YouTube views.
Upload your entire video onto those platforms. This is what Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter want you to do (IGTV is a direct competitor for YouTube, don’t @ me). Posting your full video will probably get you great engagement and reach on those platforms. But organic Facebook video views aren’t monetizable, are they? And they aren’t going to get you YouTube views.
Promote your video by doing this instead:
Post a short teaser video to your social accounts as native video, and add a link to the full video back on YouTube.
Pro tip: Short of hiring an assistant to handle your social media, a scheduling tool like Hootsuite is the best way to craft and schedule those posts for your followers.
12. Ask your viewers to subscribe to your channel
Your subscriber count corresponds to your organic reach on YouTube. The more subscribers your channel has, the more views your videos will get right off the bat when you hit publish.
Especially if those subscribers have their notifications turned on.
Growing your subscriber count is its own challenge with its own tactics, but one that is intertwined with increasing your views. For that reason, we have a full guide on how to get more YouTube subscribers.
It’s common practice to ask viewers to “like and subscribe” as a sign-off in a video, but many YouTubers — like beauty pro Patricia Bright — even include this call to action as a visual at the end, too.
13. Enable embedding
Give your fans a chance to help spread the good word about your work by enabling embedding. The more fresh eyeballs see your video, the more views you rack up (and maybe even snag a new subscriber or two in the process).
To enable embedding, go to Youtube Studio and click Content. Select your video and tap Edit. Select Embedding, and toggle on or off.
14. Amp up the watch time
While Youtube counts anything over 30 seconds as a view, there are benefits to getting viewers to stick around longer.
If you can get people to watch your video for longer, Youtube will learn that you’ve got some content with quality. And videos with higher Watch Time are favored by the Youtube algorithm, giving you a leg up in the recommendation engine.
15. Transcribe your videos
Adding captions to your videos helps hearing-impaired viewers follow along, and makes your content more appealing to the 69 percent of people who watch mobile video with the sound off.
Having a transcript also makes translation an option, opening your video up to international audiences. Global views! Can you imagine!?
Youtube’s help page can walk you step-by-step through just how to prep your transcript file — you just need a .txt document.
16. Post your video at the right time
Dropping your video at the exact moment your biggest audience of subscribers is online means that they’ll all receive that sweet, sweet “new post” alert right when it goes live.
But what if that’s in the middle of the night? Or while you’re on vacation? That’s where the power of a scheduling tool like Hootsuite comes in. Tee your video up to go out at the exact predetermined time of your choice to fit with your content calendar, and then go on and live your life.
Grow your YouTube audience faster with Hootsuite. Schedule videos and moderate comments in the same place you manage all your other social networks. Try it free today.