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How to Grow Your YouTube Channel in 2023

To be successful on YouTube in 2023, you have to dive deep into the channel and subscriber analytics YouTube provides. Embrace the challenge of the research as it will ultimately help you understand what’s working for others, and where there is opportunity for you. 

This post is intended to give you a solid roadmap for performing that research and coming out the other side with a winning YouTube Strategy (and likely a data wizard as well.) Many of these tips are transferable to other marketing initiatives that freelancers will use in 2023. Feel free to adapt this roadmap to your other marketing activities and let us know in the comments if there’s something you wish to know more about!

As the old saying goes, you can’t be all things to all people. As a freelancer and creative service provider you have a specific set of skills and unique perspectives. Knowing where those skills and perspectives intersect with potential topics is the first step towards finding an audience who will benefit from your knowledge.  

It’s a data game, and it’s a long game. While there are very real benefits to succeeding on the platform, it should also be an enjoyable part of growing your business. Enjoying the creation process will make the long game so much more rewarding! We say it’s a data game, but sustainable metrics come from having the passion and motivation to move forward with the content production. 

Find Your White Space

If you’re new to the idea of finding your white space, in a nutshell it’s the process of understanding what your fellow YouTube competitors are doing so that you can do something they’re not! 

How to Do a White Space Analysis for Your YouTube Channel

Start by identifying other YouTube channels similar to your own using free online tools like Channel Crawler to identify the channels based off of topics and subtopics, subscribers, and other helpful filters. 

Typically a white space analysis would be based around quality and price. In the context of YouTube, white space may be based around:

  • Video length (long versus short) and format (how-to informational content versus conversational entertainment content)  
  • Video length (long versus short) and level of production (heavily editing to include transitions, chapters, etc. versus little to no editing with more raw footage.)
  • Format (how-to informational content versus conversational entertainment content) and number of views
  • Format and number of comments
  • Level of production and number of likes

The combinations are nearly endless and can tell you a lot about where others are spending their time. Once you have a list of 20 or so channels addressing similar content themes as you, begin plotting their most popular videos on a matrix like the one below according to the axis labels of your choice. 

Consider repeating the analysis with different axis labels and seeing if the white space exists in similar regions when overlapped.

How Taking a Data Informed Approach Helps You Grow Your YouTube Channel

Are you after longer watch times? More subscribers? More shares?

Just as we need to choose a niche, we have to select and focus on specific KPIs when trying to grow a YouTube channel. Utilize your channel analytics to benchmark your current performance and spend some time considering what metric will mean the most to you as you move forward with producing content based on the white space analysis you conducted.

While this exercise will help you develop a sense of where your YouTube strategy should be focused, you can pair the newly acquired insight with some general YouTube data trends that will still be relevant in 2023.  

Here are three major stats that will impact how you choose to grow your channel:

1 – How-to content is owning the majority of viewership

Hubspot has recently reported that more than 50% of YouTube viewers became subscribers of a channel because the channel published how-to or educational content related to their career, industry, or hobby. 

How-to or educational content is typically much shorter than entertainment content (although not always). Because it is so intent-based and to the point, these shorter videos garner much healthier watch times than their longer entertainment video counterparts. If you’re making how-to videos on doing authentic accents like dialect coach Sammy Grant, this is good news! While her video straddles the line between entertainment and education, it’s owning its niche and not competing with the hours of Minecraft footage that owns a major portion of the long form entertainment content currently trending.

It’s not always easy to stick to short videos or long videos, entertainment or educational, etc. The content world is rarely that dichotomous. So keep in mind that your YouTube growth strategy should remain flexible and fluid, too. Rigid rules don’t apply to YouTube content creators, perhaps aside from one: 

Make sure each video provides both entertaining and educational/informational elements. 

You’ll know when your videos have hit the sweet spot of both elements when you see your watch times improving. 

YouTube has done an incredible job of recognizing the endless scenarios content creators of all kinds encounter during their production process. One such brainchild that came from YouTube’s discovery team is the Chapters Feature. For the times when a short how-to video just won’t due, YouTube began encouraging creators to break videos up into chapters that essentially replaced the time-stamping practices of the past. Chapters now give creators a chance to keep one long video that suits the needs of viewers who want to watch from start to finish, but then allow creators to cut it into ‘Chapters’ of multiple short videos all with their own titles and descriptions (perfect for the algorithm).

This feature is great news for your audiences, too! They can now find the section of the video that pertains to the knowledge they’re seeking thanks to the title and description optimization done when you use the Chapters feature. 

2 – Custom thumbnail images are proving to be critical in viewers decisions’ to click and watch your videos.

90% of the most viewed videos on YouTube have custom thumbnail images. With that said, there is an element of creativity needed to make this tactic work for you. Gone are the days of the click-bait style shocked faces. 

The thumbnail ‘pro-tip’ currently circulating in creactor conversations is that it’s wise to use colors other than black, red, and white (the YouTube platform colors.) Doing so will create enough contrast to draw interest and ultimately clicks to your video.

Changing out custom thumbnails is a tactic you can employ without disrupting your YouTube strategy, so go ahead and experiment with thumbnail images no matter the direction this roadmap takes you.

3 – YouTube has reported that Suggested Videos get more plays than people’s Subscription Feeds 

This one is difficult to navigate. We always vie for more subscribers and it is still a legitimate measure of success, but the data shows a visitor is more likely to watch videos suggested by YouTube’s algorithm and curated on their homepage than videos within their Subscription Feed. YouTube explains that this is simply a matter of providing the best user experience. 

There are many scenarios that have impacted their decision to reveal such conflicting insight. One major scenario that was recognized as contributing to the success of Suggested Videos over Subscription Page Videos was that people don’t always tend to watch the new content released by a channel if the subject matter of that video doesn’t align with the users expectations based on their first interaction with the channel. 

For instance, if the video responsible for bringing in a subscriber was focused on productivity tips for transcribing faster, but the next video released by the channel is about the unboxing of new computer hardware, the subscriber is likely not going to watch it.  Rather, they may be more inclined to watch a Suggested Video about the worst transcription fails or unique use cases of transcribed text that YouTube serves them based on their previous user behaviour. 

This is all to say that focusing on the topic selection and quality of your video is more likely to result in channel growth than trying to gain subscribers. Knowing what content viewers find interesting is a whack-a-mole game that takes patience and curiosity (and of course creativity.) Beyond YouTube channel analytics, there are free or reasonably priced tools like vidIQ that make the growing pains of sussing out good topics more manageable.  

Once you’ve done your research, perform it again every few months to keep a pulse on the effectiveness of your strategy. If you can, try continuing with the strategy for a while before shifting gears to something new – that’s where the ‘long game’ approach comes into play. YouTube coach, Roberto Blake has a 100 video rule. Create 100 videos before deciding if it’s working or not. 

Leverage Other Platforms to Grow Your YouTube Channel

In the age of digital marketing, freelancers of all kinds have access to the same toolkits as the global mega brands do. Knowing how to use each platform is key and having the long game in mind is all the motivation one needs to continually test and tweak until the right mix proves fruitful for growing your YouTube channel.

Using a marketing mix is commonplace for any entrepreneur looking to grow their business. Digital marketing is offering more marketing strategies than ever before, so while the following list isn’t exhaustive, it’ll give you food for thought about how to use TikTok, Email, and Podcasting to help grow your YouTube channel, and ultimately, your client list.

Use TikTok to Amplify Your YouTube Content

TikTok has officially overtaken YouTube for average time spent per user on Android mobile devices. No further evidence is needed to make it any clearer: short videos are preferable. What can be covered in under 60 seconds, though? Surly your how-to explainer video on creating the best invoicing system as a freelancer can be longer than 60 seconds! 

The trick is knowing how to utilize the platform to hook a viewer and convince them to click the YouTube link in the captions below. Discover the techniques used by other TikTokers by spending time on the platform yourself, and adapt the styles to suit your content and audience. The nature of TikTok will allow you to pivot quickly from one video strategy to the next. 

Remain value driven while producing the biggest win highlight reel you can from the YouTube videos you’re creating to grow your channel on that platform. And, just keep trying. 

Use Email to Get More Views on Your YouTube Videos

This could be as simple as your personal emails between existing clients and yourself. 

For example, a voice actor may find themselves booking live-directed studio sessions more often than in the past. There are some key elements of preparation to be completed before going into a live session in order to make the most of it. Perhaps the voice actor makes a YouTube video running through all the ways clients can prepare ahead of time to make the most of their live directed session with a voice actor and sends that along in advance of the scheduled session. 

Another tried and true tactic for utilizing email is in the real estate of the email signature.  Still a valuable marketing tactic, this is one way to ensure every person you email has a chance to encounter your YouTube page. It takes minimal effort to set up, so even if it doesn’t work wonders for bringing in new clients for your freelance gig, there will have been no real loss of time or resources either – it’s worth the shot! 

Grow Your YouTube Channel Using Your Podcast

Podcasts offer the benefit of giving people an alternative way to access your content without having to commit any time to visual media. With that said, there is a growing market for video recordings of podcasts

Therefore, we propose utilizing this growing comfort of cross-medium content consumption to your benefit by linking to your YouTube channel within the show notes for each of your podcast episodes wherever you syndicate to. While it’s not entirely the intended use of the text fields, people are becoming increasingly willing to visit YouTube videos found in the podcast notes. To keep user experience top of mind here, be upfront about where the link will lead them – it won’t be to a full recording of the video podcast, but rather a link to a how-to video discussed within the podcast! 

Don’t have a podcast? Consider how one might enhance the work you attract as a freelancer in the creative services space. We have a full guide on how to start a podcast to get you started. 

As mentioned above, many of these tactics are transferable. Everything here could be used to help grow your podcast, too! 

Make the Most of your Niche

To recap:

  • If you’ve had to have a conversation about something more than three times with clients, it’s worth making a video about.
  • If you’ve asked yourself the very same question multiple times, it’s worth making a video about.
  • If you know it’ll make someone’s life easier, better, or more enjoyable, it’s worth making a video about. 
  • Growing the viewership of your videos lies in understanding what you’re good at, and balancing that with staying curious about YouTube’s constantly changing Algorithm and optimization practices.

Have you had success with YouTube using another strategy? Tell us about it in the comments! 

Not having success and need help finding more freelance work? Sign up for a free account here. 

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