In the SaaS industry, the most successful companies prioritize the retention of their existing customers over the acquisition of new customers. Why? Because SaaS companies charge a monthly subscription, so in order to turn a profit, they need their customers paying them for many months in a row. If they can't retain their customers for X amount of months, they'll ultimately lose money by acquiring them.
In content marketing, the same principle applies. Retaining your audience's attention positively impacts your brand a lot more than merely acquiring attention.
When an audience engages with your content for long periods of time on a consistent basis, they can easily turn into a loyal tribe that's passionate about your work and recommends your brand to all their friends. In other words, staying laser-focused on retaining attention is actually the best strategy for acquiring new attention because your current customers are providing so much word-of-mouth marketing -- it's like a flywheel.
On YouTube, you retain attention by attracting subscribers to your channel. Subscribers are your most loyal fans and made a public commitment to your brand, content, and values. They're also most likely to be fervent brand evangelists.
In regard to benefiting your YouTube channel, subscribers are crucial because YouTube will send them notifications about your new videos and feature your videos on their homepage. This means they'll see your videos more frequently, which will help you generate more engagement.
Subscribers also watch twice as much video as non-subscribers, so the more subscribers you have, the more watch time your videos will accumulate, and the more likely YouTube will rank them higher on search and feature them in the related section.
Additionally, YouTube keeps track of the number of viewers who subscribe to your channel right after watching one of your videos. So if one of your videos generates a lot of new subscribers, they'll reward it with higher rankings and more features in the related section.
To help you grow your YouTube subscription, we've fleshed out these strategies that will help you retain attention on the video platform -- and not just acquire it.
1. Craft amazing content.
Today, we work in an industry where a lot of people prioritize gaming the system over crafting the best content possible. Fortunately, in regard to their algorithm, YouTube has caught on to this hollow tactic. Their algorithm rewards engagement instead of using only vanity metrics like views and clicks, so creators are incentivized to produce videos that their audience actually enjoys watching.
To craft the most engaging videos for your YouTube channel, consider measuring your videos' performance against engagement metrics, like watch time, average watch percentage, average view duration, audience retention, and average session duration. Then, analyze this data to figure out which topics and videos generate the most engagement. Once you pinpoint these videos, you can solely focus on creating the content that viewers are most likely to engage with, helping you rake in more subscribers.
2. Use playlists to increase engagement.
Placing your videos in playlists is an extremely effective way to organize your videos in a digestible fashion. They help your viewers easily consume videos about their favorite topics and prompts them to keep watching your content.
One way to get your viewers to watch the majority of your playlists is by starting your playlists with the videos that have the highest audience retention rate and ending them with the videos that have the lowest audience retention rate.
Even better, you could create a binge-able series or show and place entire seasons of it in a playlist. And just like your favorite Netflix show, your playlists can entice your viewers to watch entire seasons of your series, subscribe to your channel, and get excited for your show's next season.
3. Add a subscription CTA to the end of your videos.
It seems obvious, but adding a subscription CTA to the end of your videos is one of the best ways to generate more YouTube subscribers. After your viewers watch your entire video, they'll determine if they want to keep watching more of your videos, so to maximize your subscriber growth using CTAs, consider keeping them at the end.
Additionally, if you want more subscribers, just ask. At the end of your video when you include a CTA, ask your viewers to subscribe. This reminds them that you have more exciting content they'll want to watch.
4. Optimize your videos.
To attract subscribers to your YouTube channel, you first need to be able to get found on YouTube. To start ranking, consider optimizing your videos and channel for popular search queries by placing relevant keywords in your videos' titles, tags, descriptions, SRT files (which are transcriptions), video files, and thumbnail files.
You should also check out the most popular queries guiding viewers to your videos, which you can find on YouTube's Search Report. If these queries are slightly different than your video's topic, consider updating your video to fill these content gaps and adding these keywords to your metadata. If there's a stark difference between your topics and the queries guiding viewers to your videos, consider making brand new videos about these popular queries.
5. Create beautiful thumbnails.
Another factor that can affect your search ranking on YouTube, and in turn, your subscriber growth are your videos' thumbnails. Since a video's click-through rate is one of the most important ranking factors in YouTube's search algorithm, especially during its first hour on the platform, an eye-catching thumbnail can make a huge difference in ranking number one for a query and not ranking at all.
If your video has an ordinary or sub-par thumbnail, though, it won't persuade anyone to click through, prompting YouTube to deem the video irrelevant and decide not to rank it in their search results or distribute it through the "Recommended Videos" feed.
To create a striking thumbnail, consider including a talking head. People are naturally drawn to human faces because it's an ingrained survival mechanism to help us quickly gauge someone's emotions and determine if they're a friend or foe. Also, consider contrasting the colors of your thumbnail's foreground and background to really make it pop.
6. Interact with your audience.
One of the main best practices to retain and acquire new YouTube subscribers is to interact with your audience. You should reply to every comment if you can, even if it's just liking it. When a viewer watches your videos and scrolls to see your content, they'll be excited to see that you engage with your audience and have created a community. In fact, it might make them want to join your community and get them to subscribe.
Interacting with your audience will also generate word of mouth and engagement. The more that your audience engages with you, the higher you'll rank, and the more people will find your content.
7. Promote your videos in your other content.
Whether you have a blog or other social media platforms, it's important to promote your YouTube videos in your other content. When you post a video, you should also promote it on social media to get your audience to watch it.
Additionally, if you have a blog, you can embed your YouTube videos as complementary content. This will help you increase your views, and tap into the audience you've already created. If someone follows you on Instagram, or reads your blog, they're probably interested in what you have to say. Don't be afraid to cross-promote on other channels to get more subscribers.
8. Release videos consistently.
One important factor in getting YouTube subscribers that isn't discussed as much in the influencer industry is trust. When you're creating content, your audience needs to trust you. They have to trust that you're going to release quality content, consistently. Otherwise, why would they subscribe?
To build this trust, it's important that your audience can rely on you. You should release your videos on a consistent basis. This doesn't mean you need to value quantity over quality. Whatever your publishing schedule is doesn't matter as much as being consistent with it. Whether you post once a week or twice a month.
9. Be creative.
As we mentioned above, when you're creating YouTube videos, it's important to optimize your content and keep in mind what your audience is searching for. However, that doesn't mean all your videos need to be tied to a keyword.
Sometimes it's okay to stray and just produce creative content that's not necessarily supported by keywords. This content can be trendy, or rely on thought leaders. Regardless, don't be afraid to use content that strays from the organic search strategy. This will help create buzz and hopefully convert viewers into subscribers.
10. Partner with other channels.
When the influencer industry began, brands recognized that they could leverage other people's audience to market or promote their products. The same principles apply in YouTube. If you partner with other YouTube creators, you can use each other's audience to promote your channel.
If you do this, make sure you choose channels that align with your audience's interests, wants, and needs. It might not make sense, for instance, for a B2B company to parter with a B2C company. Your audiences should be similar enough that someone who subscribes to their channel might also be interested in your channel.
11. Make an engaging channel trailer.
After watching an engaging or interesting YouTube video, a viewer might click on your profile to see what your channel is about. In this short time period, you need to close the sale. One of the first things viewers see when they click on a channel is the trailer video. That's why it's important to create an engaging, fun channel trailer.
With this trailer, you can get a viewer to go from a casual viewer to a subscriber. In your trailer video, make sure you give your elevator pitch. Why should someone subscribe to your channel? What kind of content will they see?
12. Run YouTube advertising campaigns.
An oldie but a goodie. To promote your YouTube channel, run paid advertising campaigns. You can run banner or display ads promoting your channel across platforms. This will help you get the word out about your channel, get more views, rank higher, and hopefully get a few subscribers as well.
13. Produce subscriber only content.
You know how marketers create lead magnets to entice readers or viewers to download a piece of content? To get more YouTube subscribers, apply the same principle here. You can create specific lead magnetics to get people to subscribe.
For instance, perhaps every subscriber gets a free ebook. Or maybe it's a template. Whatever it is, think of what will be helpful to your audience and might get them to subscribe to get it.
14. Pick a niche.
As with all content you produce, your YouTube videos should be highly targeted toward your audience. Pick a niche and a theme, and stick with it. While you might have a broad theme, you can create smaller subtopics and create several videos for those topics. Think of it like the pillar/cluster model for blog writing. While your blog will focus on one niche, like marketing, there are several pillar topics that you cover and cluster topics as well.
Using this model will help you create valuable content consistently. It'll be easier to come up with targeted, personalized video ideas for your audience if you know what they want to see.
15. Know your audience.
Again, this is a classic marketing tip. On any channel you're creating content on, you need to know your audience. For YouTube, think about whether your audience wants to watch long or short videos. This might vary by industry, so do some research to see what type of YouTube videos and what format your audience is looking for.
How to See Your Subscribers on YouTube
To see your YouTube subscribers, all you need to do is log on to your account, click your profile photo in the top right, and click "Your Channel." From there, you should be able to see how many subscribers you have underneath your channel name.
It's important to continue tracking this number as you're trying to grow your YouTube channel. Now, let's get into the discussion about buying YouTube subscribers and why you should never do it.
Buying YouTube Subscribers
First and foremost, let's start with the fact that you should never buy YouTube subscribers. To start, it's against the Terms of Service with YouTube, so your account will likely be suspended or terminated if you're caught.
Second, buying YouTube subscribers will ultimately end up hurting your channel regardless of if you're caught or not. Bought subscribers aren't going to engage with your content, and after maybe one video, they won't watch it either. Having a million subscribers doesn't matter if only 50 people are actually watching the videos and engaging with your content. Those types of numbers are major red flags both for YouTube, but also for your average viewer.
Similar to the best SaaS companies, the top YouTube channels focus on building a subscriber base that can't get enough of their videos and watches them on a consistent basis. Retaining attention has always been imperative to successful content marketing. Now, it's time we actually prioritize it over acquiring as many darting eyeballs as possible.