Advanced Tips for Promoting a YouTube Video Channel | Outbrain


9 Advanced Tactics for Promoting Your YouTube Channel and Increasing Subscribers

| Will Fleiss

How to gain more YouTube Subscribers to your video Channel?

Tips on how to promote your YouTube channel

As much as I love using beautiful video players like Wistia’s for business hosting, YouTube is a channel for growth you simply cannot ignore. So stop forgetting about the little fact that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and get serious about promoting your channel and your videos. It’s not rocket science but it’s not going to happen on its own. The fact that 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute means you have just a bit of competition.

Here are 9 tactics that will give you the best chance to rise above the noise:

1. Create Great Custom Thumbnails

You have a split second of a viewer’s attention as they are deciding which video to watch. Other than your video’s title, your thumbnail is critical for enticing that click. Don’t miss this opportunity to design an image that reinforces what your video is all about. VICE’s use of thumbnail optimization led to a promotion on YouTube’s homepage, and one of their most popular videos to date:

Thumbnail for YouTube Optimization

See what your video would look like when promoted on premium websites like CNN

Promote your video

Keep a few rules in mind for the size of your custom thumbnail because it will also be used as your preview when someone embeds your video on their site. Google recommends the following specs:

  • Have a resolution of 1280X720 (minimum width of 640 pixels).
  • Be uploaded in image formats such as .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG.
  • Remain under the 2MB limit.
  • Try to use a 16:9 aspect ratio.

You can upload a custom thumbnail as soon as you upload a video by simply choosing the Custom thumbnail option. To add one to an already-existing video, go to your Video Manager, click Edit for the video you want to work with and then click Custom thumbnail.

2. Reverse Engineer Google’s SERPs

There are several different YouTube optimization techniques to improve your youtube search rankings, but the SEO tactic that will have the most lasting effect is all about keyword research and using those keywords in specific places throughout your video page. One way to think about video keyword research is by reverse-engineering Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

The idea here is to focus on keyword searches in Google that will almost always serve you video results. For example, if someone searches for “cool dance moves” in Google, it makes sense that Google would serve a results page full of videos because nobody really wants to read an article about cool dance moves. Below is a screenshot of what you would see on a Google search when typing in that keyword search:

Google search result- cool dance moves

If you find a lot of video results instead of just text listings on page one, that’s a great keyword to work with. You may want to try related queries such as “awesome dance moves” or “cool dance skills” to see where you may be getting results that are more related to the video you are producing, and potentially less competitive to rank for.

3. Utilize the “Call to Action” Feature to Ask for YouTube Subscribers

Having a viewer watch your video and then leave means you may not have given them a chance to do anything else to engage with your channel.

This is where YouTube’s Calls to Action feature comes into play. According to YouTube, there are four main types of actions that you may want viewers to take—subscribe to the channel, watch more videos, like or share a video and leave a comment. YouTube gives several options for including CTAs within a video to get people to take one of these actions:

  1. Direct Host-Mentions. This is actually a style of video where you talk to the camera and tell people what to do. In this video example at the 4:30 minute mark, you can see that the author directly tells you to “let us know in the comments down below”.

CTA comment on Youtube Video

  1. Annotations. Annotations are little pieces of text that will appear over your video that a viewer can click on at any time. You get to decide the length you want this overlap to happen and when in your video you want it to appear. Learn more about setting up annotations here. The screenshot below shows what an annotation would look like if someone was watching a video and it popped up:

Quick Case Study – Increasing YouTube Subscribers

Supreme Strategies found that using annotations increased the number of clicks from 78 to 1,083, a 1,288% increase in just one month. They did mention that CTR went down on their second round of testing because they were using too many annotations, but overall they label annotations the “big money makers.”

(See more on how to increase your CTR in simple ways)

  1. End-cards. An end-card works similarly to an annotation except it comes at the end of a video and is very prominent. For example, in the screenshot below you can see that Upworthy has an end-card by including the large subscribe button at the end of their video. This button is clickable so it makes it easy to take that next step and you’ll notice most of Upworthy’s videos have this end-card:

Upworthy YouTube subscribe CTA

  1. Video Descriptions. As discussed above, video descriptions are important. Put a link to your website or your social accounts in your description and actually ask people to click! Below is an example of a very thorough description section from ThinkTank:

Example for a great YouTube Video description

4. Allow (and Encourage) Others to Embed Your Videos

When uploading videos to your channel, you will have the option to either allow or not allow embedding. The embed feature allows others to take your video and then publish it on their website, blog, channel, etc., which will help you gain even more exposure. Just make sure you specify that you must get credit each time your video is re-published. You can turn on the embed feature by visiting the Video Manager, clicking Edit under the video you want to edit, then going to Advanced Settings and making sure the embed option is checked. Below is a screenshot of what you’ll see:

Embed Your Videos

All someone needs to do in order to embed your video is copy and paste the link that will show up when she clicks share, so the more shares you get the better.

5. Cross-Promote Your YouTube Channel Like Crazy

This may not seems like an advanced tactic, but you’d be surprised how many people forget the power of their other owned properties for advertising their YouTube channel. Be consistent about how you incorporate videos into your email newsletter, blog, email signature, and other social media accounts. You have to always make sure that the link is relevant to your readers, but if you can help direct them in this way you’ll have a great chance at people visiting your channel for one video and clicking around to all of your related videos. It’s as simple as that.

See what your video would look like when promoted on premium websites like CNN

Increase your YouTube Subscribers

Quick case study

Life Net Inc. found in their study that the highest YouTube views occurred during the active advertising of the video, but not surprisingly, this ongoing optimization was required to keep the momentum going. Simply optimizing a page and then moving on to the next video isn’t enough. You have to continue to promote, perform keyword research and make changes, and moderate and respond to comments in order to keep your numbers up. Below is a screenshot from the case study that shows how your numbers can change the minute you stop optimizing:

highest YouTube views occurred during the active advertising of the video

6. Try the InVideo Programming Feature

This feature from YouTube isn’t often used, but it’s a great way to embed different engagement moments within your videos and help viewers navigate to other parts of your YouTube channel.  It will allow you to do two things:

  1. Embed a featured video. This is a great option if you want to promote a particular YouTube videos. It helps a small thumbnail of the video pop-up so that viewers can click on the video quickly and easily (or if nothing else, make a mental note).
  2. Embed a watermark. This works by uploading your logo or another image across all the YouTube videos in your channel. The cool part about this is that it allows viewers to directly subscribe to your channel if they hover over the watermark. Finding InVideo programming is a little bit tricky at first. It used to be called InVideo programming on YouTube, but now you find this feature by clicking on My Channel and navigating to either Branding (the watermark), or Featured Content (the featured video). You can click this link if you’re already signed into YouTube. Below is a screenshot of what the Featured Content page looks like:

InVideo Programming Feature

As you can see, you have full control over how long and when your video (or watermark if you clicked Branding) will be displayed. You can create a custom message to go with your video. Simply update and you’re set to go.

7. Choose a Video to be Part of the Channel Ad

Going along with InVideo programming, you can see in the screenshot above that there is an option for a Channel Ad. This ad is essentially just a video that you can upload to let YouTube know that they can use your video to promote YouTube. It’s free of charge, but you don’t have much control. Regardless, it’s a great way to earn extra exposure for doing nothing but a quick upload.

8. Create a Weekly Video Series

This is the perfect reason to subscribe to a YouTube channel. If you know what to expect, such as a video on a certain topic or with a certain person every Friday, you will be more likely to subscribe. Of course this also helps you feature your other videos to YouTube subscribers, so it’s a great option all around. Probably one of the best examples of this is Moz’s Whiteboard Friday videos. They keep internet marketers coming back for more, and on their page you can see that they are all located in one place on their channel page because they are so regular:

Moz’s Whiteboard Friday videos

As you can see, Moz has a very organized channel thanks to the different categories they’ve created.

9. The Adwords – Google Plus 1-2 Punch

This last tip is about leveraging Google Adwords and Google Plus to ensure your Youtube channel is getting exposure from people who are already searching for your brand name. As you can see here with our Outbrain search ad, Google has connected our Google Plus page directly to the ad.

leveraging Google Adwords and Google Plus

When searchers click they are taken to our Google plus page where we have the opportunity to have our YouTube channel show up in the page’s navigation.

Outbrain Google plus page

Even if you’re not spending money on Google Adwords, Google Plus offers a good way to get additional exposure for your YouTube videos.

Quick Recap

I know that was quite a bit of info, so here’s a quick recap for you to take away and start cracking!

  1. Optimize your thumbnail images for more video views
  2. Look  for keywords that show video results the SERPs
  3. Leverage all the CTA options
  4. Make sure you’re allowing people to embed your videos
  5. Cross promote your YouTube channel like a pro
  6. InVideo Programming is your friend
  7. Don’t forget to select your Channel Ad to increase YouTube subscribers
  8. Consistency pays off big time
  9. Leverage the Adwords / Google Plus connection

Hopefully, these tips will give your video promotion a kickstart or the boost you need to keep your subscriber numbers climbing.

I have another option for you to consider, and while admittedly a biased recommendation coming from me, I would be remiss not to mention it, as thousands of marketers, bloggers, large brands, and YouTube stars use it every day to promote their YouTube videos.  I’m referring to Outbrain Amplify, the content amplification side of our content discovery platform. With Amplify, you can have your videos recommended on premium publisher websites like CNN, ESPN, Slate, VentureBeat and thousands more. Check out this case study to see how VISA has used video content on Youtube and Outbrain Amplify to influence decision makers across the globe.

What content marketing tactics are you using to promote your YouTube channel and increase YouTube subscribers?

I’d love to know what’s working and what’s not!

Buy More YouTube Subscribers

Will Fleiss

Will Fleiss

Will leads content marketing at Outbrain. He's been doing online marketing for 10+ years, spending time on the agency-side at... Read more

Add A Comment

* Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

  • Blair Tylar| November 11, 2015 at 7:19PM

    Thanks for all these tips! Learned lots of new tricks I haven’t heard of before. I am just starting out so this is much help, thanks! 🙂

  • Brent Dunn| February 16, 2016 at 10:22PM

    Great post Will,

    The video description is something most people skip over…

    Another thing to think of – is your target demographic. Start with a very specific demographic audience then go broader as your channel grows. I wrote a lot about this in my most recent post:

  • Raymond Burton| May 13, 2016 at 6:06AM

    That’s a great article. I worked through the list and did all the suggested actions. I recorded my stats for subscribers and views on everything that I wanted to measure and am now starting to promote as per the google ad tip suggestion. Thanks so much, I’ll let you know how much the channel grows using your advice:

  • daphne| June 22, 2016 at 10:10AM

    This is a tool to grow your youtube channel by seeing your analytics all gathered in one place:


Want to promote your content?