I’ve been giving a lot of thought about how I want to proceed with YouTube content creation as of late. With more than a few trips on the docket over the next six months, I want to take advantage of these experiences, and translate them into a vlog type format. I’ve been really looking into how I can become a successful travel vlogger on YouTube and not just another poster who never really takes off of the ground. So, before launching I’ve decided to put together this post about what the focus should be on in order to grow a channel from scratch, even as a beginner. As things move forward, I will go into further detail in future posts, but this will suffice for now.
YouTube uses a proprietary algorithm in order to rank videos in search and suggest videos to its users. While they don’t publicly disclose the exact weight of each factor in determining video rankings and suggestions, it’s pretty easy to determine some of the major factors that you should be focusing on improving.
YouTube is a business and needs to make money. While obviously they also have to take into account user engagement and enjoyment, ad revenue is an important factor in what videos will get shown as well.
In order to increase revenue, users need to stay on the site for as long as possible. User engagement with the site needs to be high. YouTube needs to strike a balance, but what are some of the key metrics that we can focus on in order to grow a channel?
One very important metric for YouTube success, comes under the banner of watch time. Why? YouTube wants people to stay on the site, in order to show them more ads, and thus generating more revenue.
What this means for our YouTube content creation success, is that we want to have a high average view time duration on our videos, and a high average percentage viewed. So, we want them to watch for a long time and to watch the video until completion.
Does this mean that one should create long form videos? Not necessarily. While it would be ideal to have someone watch 99% of an hour long video, a short three minute clip will also be suggested to people, if it keeps users engaged. The obvious example of this is music on YouTube. Short songs still get suggested to viewers.
Now there’s the question of what the proper length for a video should be?
I’d say, as long as it needs to be. Don’t just try to pad the video to make it longer, in order to hopefully get more minutes viewed, because it can backfire and make people watch a smaller percentage of the total video. Cut the fat.
You want to make it as information or entertaining as possible, so that your audience gets drawn in, and just naturally wants to watch the whole thing.
Is a 45 minute travel vlog going to be interesting? Perhaps, if it’s well thought out. More often, it’s likely that there’s plenty that can be left out in editing. It could be a good idea to create a decent mix of long form and short videos, as necessary, in order to really try to engage your viewers.
However, this first metric of view time needs to be taken into consideration along with the second one…
Keep them Watching
It’s great to get a high watch time and percentage on one of your videos. But will the audience click on your next one and see that one through? How about a third? Fourth? Etc?
Remember, YouTube wants to keep people on the website for as long as possible, since it makes them more money. If your channel can supply that for them, the algorithm, will be much more likely to promote your videos.
Have you ever done a deep dive on a particular YouTube channel? I mean, spent hours watching their videos? How often did that channel or related topics get suggested to you afterward? Tons, probably.
So, if people who are suggested a video of yours watch the whole thing and then click on the next suggested video of yours, then YouTube will start suggesting that video to more and more people. They want these secondary suggestions to produce the same result and hopefully expand from their. The epitome of going ‘viral’.
Click Through Rate
This metric isn’t in the analytics reports for YouTube; but it is still an important one. Click through rate is essentially what percentage of the people who are suggested your video, actually click to watch that video.
The higher the percentage of clicks, the more times a video will be shown.
This is why Clickbait videos became so popular. People using misleading titles or thumbnail pictures that either have nothing to do with the video content or are quite a bit more exciting than what it actually contains.
I don’t think Clickbait is nearly as effective as it was in years past. A lot of people got tired of feeling suckered into watching something that was misleading or utter crap. However, the art of titling a video and choosing/creating a good thumbnail is still important.
Of course, CTR is only one element of the algorithm that suggests videos for people to watch, so even having the perfect title and thumbnail isn’t necessarily going to make a video go gangbusters with the views.
It is however, still an important part to have done correctly, as it can still effect how much a video gets shown and what audience it gets shown to.
This is why you’ll see with successful travel vlogs, they are titled as episodes or events that take place in the video. The people who seem to post on a semi-regular basis and don’t have a huge following, use the titles like, ‘(Destination name) Travel Vlog 2018’.
Who is likely to click on something with such a title? Well, maybe people who are taking a vacation to that place. But you’re also competing with other channels who used the same title for those viewers. Is a broader audience going to go out of their way to watch such a video? Not likely. So unless that video has extremely good metrics, it’s appeal is going to be quite limited, and die out rather quickly.
Testing Out the Metrics
A little more than a month ago, I bought a pair of Epic React Flyknit shoes from Nike. Seeing as I got them as an early release of a special colorway, I thought that I’d do a few videos on them for YouTube, just as a test run.
I first did an unboxing video and showed what they looked like while wearing on my feet. Then, I did an early review after wearing them and running a few times in these sneakers.
I wanted to test out how a video would perform when I knew the topic would get a high number of views and posted before many others could even get around to it. Testing this on what is essentially a new channel with no subscribers, so, I couldn’t rely on having the right metrics propel me higher in the suggestions.
The first unboxing video did ok. I got some percentage of my views for simply being the first real video showing what that particular colorway looked like. However, once the more established channels posted, they quickly pushed mine out of the way.
The second review video, didn’t do as well. It was interesting that my review video was posted within a day of an established sneaker review channel and literally got a fraction of the views. All told this one has around 500 views up to now, while the more established channel has over 200,000.
Why did this happen? It boils down to the metrics. The established channel has plenty of subscribers who are going to watch a high percentage of the video and have watched many others in the past. Thus, YouTube will give this new video preference.
Secondly, the production quality probably contributed to how long each of our review videos were viewed. I shot it all on my iPhone, around my apartment. I have no studio setup or proper lighting. It was raining that day, so going out to capture some more cinematic shots wasn’t going to happen.
The other channel, had really nice editing, and solid shots of the sneaker. Now, mine weren’t so terrible, as I shot them on my iPhone in HD…BUT, I could’ve done much better. Again, didn’t really care, since this was just a test.
Thirdly, when I posted the original video I didn’t create a proper thumbnail, I just let YouTube use whatever default image it decided to. This made it pretty uninteresting to click on, which probably led to lower CTR.
If I had gotten everything absolutely perfect, would I have outranked that other channel? I doubt it, since it’s so well established in that niche. However, I could’ve gotten a lot more than the 1000 or so views that I ended up getting between the two videos.
In the end, it doesn’t matter, since I’m not going to be a shoe review channel. It is just interesting, how you can be first to the punch on a topic, and still not come out ahead. Though, you will get more views than you normally would.
On Travel Vlogging
Travel vlogging is a pretty specific niche. To me, it would become pretty limited to have a channel dedicated to only travel and making vlogs on the topic. The most successful people in this space, in terms of subscribers, seem to focus on creating content for one specific country or region. They kind of become the ‘go to’ resource on YouTube.
The most successful vloggers, don’t focus on creating travel vlogs, it is just that their lives include traveling and make vlogs while on the road. A lot of the other videos will just be of random things going on in their lives.
So, one has to decide what route they are going to take. If you’re going to focus only on being a travel vlog, understand that it’s going to be limited in terms of an audience, and you’ll have to perpetually be visiting new places just to create content. That’s not a bad thing, but the funding will need to be there.
For me, I want to do travel specific vlogs, but don’t want to get into daily vlogging. It’d get too tedious for me and quite frankly, I don’t think my everyday working life to be all that interesting to watch. This means, that I’ll have to fill in the gaps of my travel time with other videos, that I will base around my other interests.
It could be really easy to paint yourself into a corner and then be stuck with an audience expectation that you only produce certain types of videos. Instead, create a broader library of content that you find interesting, can make money off of, and when you focus on your travel vlogs make them damn good.
A lot of people seem to take quality vlogs to mean those that are shot with high end cameras. Now, while amazing cinematic shots can certainly dazzle an audience, and be quite an effective tool for capturing attention; they aren’t the end all be all.
Don’t fret if you don’t have the super expensive camera with a million lenses or a drone that can fly high and take super 4K shots of the landscape. Quality of content can come in the form of how a film is edited and what is actually occurring in the video.
There have been countless Hollywood films saved or totally ruined in the editing room. Sometimes a mediocre release gets a director’s cut and that version of the film is fantastic. The tone changes, the pace feels more natural, and story gets told better.
What’s the story you’re trying to tell? Even if you’re camera quality is average, if the story is interesting, people will be drawn to watch it. I’ve seen plenty of vlogs in which a person just goes shopping, but some of those can tell a story, and make you want to watch. Others, simply don’t get it, and the vlog is as boring as the topic sounds.
The thing about story telling is that is generally takes some pre-planning. Meaning, before you go on your trip, you should have some idea about what shots you want to capture and possibly even what kind of story you want to tell. That doesn’t mean stage of fictionalize your journey, but give some thought to how you want to ultimately put things together, so that it is actually watchable.
Also, it should be considered whether or not you should break a trip into an episodic format or one longer travel vlog, to capture an entire journey. If you have more quality content to create multiple standalone vlogs, then that would probably be the better option. If you didn’t capture much, maybe make it into a mega mix of your trip.
This has been just a general overview of getting started with a YouTube channel for travel vloggers and what specific metrics you should focus on to get more views. I want to keep writing about this in the future as I start to really create my own content and figure out what works well and what doesn’t.
Right now, I just need to get the month of March over with, so I can actually travel for more than just a few days at a time. I have a line of ideas about what I want to do and I have my equipment all set up and ready to go. I’ll be updating the site, as I move forward and can get further into detail about the YouTube side of things.