YouTube is one of the most popular websites in the world, and you’ve probably asked yourself at some point, “Should I start a YouTube channel?” If you dream of YouTube success, whether it’s in promoting your business, generating revenue, or branching out into a new hobby, then we’ve got all the advice and examples you need to get started.
This ultimate guide to starting a YouTube channel includes how to create a channel, which types of content are most popular, examples of successful YouTubers, and tips for making your channel a hit.
Why start a YouTube channel?
YouTube is a content behemoth that can’t be ignored. Of all major video platforms, YouTube has the most monthly active users, with over two billion worldwide. After Facebook, it’s the second most popular social media platform, and people watch over a billion hours of video there every day.
What does that mean? There are a lot of people spending time watching YouTube videos.
If you start your own channel, you could tap into some of that viewership. Keep in mind, however, that although there are millions of people watching YouTube videos every day, there are also 37 million YouTube channels, with 22,000 boasting over one million subscribers. So you have some competition.
Fortunately, YouTube is a general platform, with communities of viewers and creators in almost any niche imaginable. Business, gaming, entertainment, sports, media — you name it and you’ll find it on YouTube. But before you can get one million subscribers, you need to actually create a YouTube channel.
How to create a YouTube channel: Steps for beginners
If you have a Google account, then you already have a YouTube account, which lets you watch and like videos and subscribe to channels. To publish your own videos, you must create a channel associated with your account. You can create either a personal or a business channel.
Creating a personal YouTube channel
- Sign into YouTube.
- Click on your profile picture in the top right corner.
- Click “Create a channel.”
- Check that your details are correct and confirm to create your channel.
Creating a business YouTube channel
Business channels can have more than one manager or owner. You can also connect a channel to your Brand Account if you have one.
- Sign into YouTube.
- Go to your channel list.
- Create a channel by clicking “Create a new channel.”
- To create a channel for a Brand Account, select that Brand Account from the list.
- Fill out your channel details.
- Click “Create.”
Read YouTube’s guide to adding or managing more than one owner on a business YouTube channel.
Which kinds of content are most popular on YouTube?
Once you have a channel, you have to fill it with content. Try to develop ideas and a content plan before creating your channel, so you can start uploading new videos consistently.
Some types of content do better than others on YouTube. When you’re mapping out your content strategy, focus on one or two of these popular categories, while keeping your audience in mind.
Interviews are a broad category, as they could work for any industry. Find an expert on your topic or someone well-known in your sector and ask them questions — it’s that simple. You can do a remote interview, meet up with the interviewee in person, ask them to record their answers ahead of time, or host the interview live.
If you go live, you can let viewers ask their own questions in the chat.
Vlogs are like video diaries. They are an unscripted look at your daily life, a special topic, or an event you’re attending. The goal of a vlog is to give viewers a look at the authentic you. Rather than just walking around with a camera all day, you should try to pick a subject for your vlog. Running an errand, trying a new dish, or working on a new project are all good starting points for vlogs.
3. Product launch
If your brand is releasing a new product, service, or update, make a video about it. Let your customers and viewers know what they can look forward to with the new release. If you’re planning a live launch event, make a teaser video to promote it and invite people to attend.
Gaming is a big category on YouTube. You’ll find walkthroughs, tutorials, commentary, replays of live gaming sessions, and much more. If you want to start a YouTube channel about gaming, decide whether you will broadcast gameplay live or mainly post videos on demand (VOD), which is what most of the content on YouTube is. Keep in mind that the competition in this category is stiff, especially for popular games like League of Legends and Call of Duty. If you choose a lesser-known game or come up with an original take, you have a better chance of attracting viewers.
If you can make people laugh, you can get views. Comedy videos can include sketches, parodies, humorous commentaries (like standup, but to a camera), and more. Videos in the comedy genre on YouTube usually get widely shared on other platforms as well, so you could pick up more traction with your comedy videos.
Video is the perfect format for learning something new, so it’s no wonder educational content is so popular on YouTube. These types of videos may cover concepts, rather than featuring specific instructions on how to do something, which makes them different from tutorials or how-to videos. Educational videos could be lectures, short documentaries, or geared specifically toward children. Channels like TEDx Talks, BBC Earth, and Khan Academy are good examples of the different types of educational content available on YouTube.
7. Best-of lists and round-ups
Just like how listicles attract many readers, list videos also attract viewers. You can do “best of” lists for just about anything:
- The most iconic Ariana Grande outfits
- The greatest starting pitcher in each MLB team’s history
- 50 hilarious hairstyles of the 80s
— you get the idea. If you do a “best of” video for products, it’s considered a round-up. You don’t have to limit yourself to the best, either. “Worst of” videos also get a lot of traction on YouTube.
8. Unboxing and product reviews
Product review videos are straightforward. You find a product or service you’ve tried and assess the quality. Offer pros, cons, and any information your audience might find useful. “Unboxing” products has become popular on YouTube as well, allowing creators to show viewers what comes in the box or packaging for a particular product. Unboxing videos have driven many brands to rethink their packaging in fun and creative ways. If you’re going to do product reviews, choose products and services related to your brand that your audience will be interested in.
9. Pets and animals
The internet wouldn’t be what it is today without videos of silly and adorable animals. Pets and animals get their own category because there’s so much YouTube content dedicated to them. You could start a channel focusing on your exotic pet, including care tips for other curious pet owners. Informative videos about non-domestic animals are also popular. Check out channels like The Dodo or Nat Geo Wild for inspiration. You can also get creative and combine animals with another passion of yours, like how the channel TierZoo crosses the animal kingdom with gaming.
10. Guides and tutorials
When you’re stuck on something, whether it’s installing new kitchen cabinets or using an unfamiliar formula in Excel, you can be sure you’ll find a tutorial for it on YouTube. Walkthroughs, guides, and how-tos exist for just about anything. You can create a channel dedicated solely to tutorials if you have the right subject matter. They’re also perfect for showing viewers how to use your products.
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Who are the most successful YouTubers?
Now that you have an idea of what kinds of content are successful on YouTube, you can look to specific YouTubers for more inspiration. These creators have either a large number of followers or have made a lot of money from their YouTube videos.
PewDiePie is one of the most famous YouTubers around. He started his channel in 2010, and it currently has 110 million subscribers. PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, is apparently worth $40 million. His channel is full of videos of himself playing video games and offering commentary, but he also vlogs and has a meme review series.
Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes
Cocomelon is an animated YouTube channel for kids, with short videos featuring songs and nursery rhymes. The channel also does themed compilations and occasional live streams. With 120 million subscribers to their English-language channel and several channels available in other languages, Cocomelon is one of the most popular YouTube creators out there.
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been around for 50 years, although not always under that name. It was a popular TV channel for many years, and in 2007, that popularity shifted to YouTube. WWE has 82.6 million subscribers and uploads short clips from wrestling matches, compilation “best of” videos, and behind-the-scenes looks at featured wrestlers.
Dude Perfect is a sports channel run by five men based in the US. They started by posting basketball trickshot videos but have now expanded to all sorts of sports, stunts, and gadgets. They also do comedic stereotype videos. Dude Perfect has 56.7 million subscribers and appeals to viewers who like sports, adventure, and comedy.
The Like Nastya channel is proof that children’s content on YouTube can attract a huge audience. Nastya, or Anastasia Radzinskaya, is a seven-year-old Russian-American YouTuber who runs a lifestyle, toy review, and music channel with her parents. The videos are usually educational in nature, helping kids and families learn about healthy habits, nature, and being a good person. 77.3 million subscribers from around the world tune into videos of Nastya and her parents.
The 5-Minute Crafts channel features lifehacks and craft projects you can do in, well, under five minutes. Their style of video — a series of highly visual, quick tips in 15 minutes or less — attracts a lot of viewers, even if their hacks and crafts aren’t always the most useful. With 74 million subscribers, their strategy clearly works. Viewers also share the 5-Minute Crafts how-to videos on other platforms often, helping them get even more views.
MrBeast, aka Jimmy Donaldson, has been making YouTube videos for a long time. He was one of the first to star in high-cost stunt videos, pioneering this genre on the platform. His channel has 71.7 million subscribers and still features daring stunts and challenges. He also does large-scale charity giveaways and has a gaming channel. MrBeast has helped Donaldson’s net worth reach $24 million.
Tips to make the most of your YouTube channel
If you’re just starting your YouTube channel, you won’t see the success of the above YouTubers right away. It takes a while to build up an audience, and you have to add videos consistently to gain traction. These general tips will help you make the most of your new YouTube channel.
1. Define your goals
Why are you starting a YouTube channel? What do you hope to accomplish with it? Consider the types of people who will watch your videos and how you want them to react. Will your videos make them laugh, think, learn, or something else? Take some time to think about your videos’ goals and write them down. It'll be much easier to plan your content when you know what you want to achieve.
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2. Find your niche
Don’t go into making a YouTube channel thinking you’ll reach a wide, general audience. YouTube has so many daily visitors that there’s no way you’ll appeal to everyone. Find a niche or specific topic and stick to it. Attract viewers who care about your niche and commit to making useful videos that hold your viewers’ interest. Once your channel gets more popular, you can start thinking about branching out. But at first, keep it in your niche.
3. Define your audience
Spend some time thinking about who your audience will be. Are you making videos for kids? If so, which age group? Try to imagine the exact person who will watch your videos — how old they are, what they do for a living, where they live, how they spend their free time, and what kinds of questions they’d ask if you could have a conversation with them. You have to know your audience if you want to make content that benefits them.
YouTube is a video hosting platform, but it’s also a search engine. Videos posted with attention paid to SEO are more likely to show up in search results, so make sure your videos are optimized. Include a keyword in your video title and make the first two sentences of your video description enticing, as that’s the only part of the description YouTube will show in search results.
5. Be consistent
Channels that post consistently, on a regular schedule, do better on YouTube than those that don’t. Determine the best time each week and time of day to release your videos to maximize their exposure. You don’t have to post a new video every day, but you should aim for at least once or twice a week. And don’t forget to promote new videos across your social media channels when a new one goes up!
6. Invest in the right equipment
If you don’t already have decent equipment, now’s the time to invest. Good audio is more important than good video, as poor audio quality tends to be more distracting to viewers. An inexpensive, external webcam will suffice when you’re starting out, but be sure to get a decent external mic. Lighting also goes a long way in improving video quality. Read our guides on webcams, mics, and lighting to get your setup just right.
7. Give your videos structure
Format your videos with an introduction, middle, and conclusion. Most videos on YouTube are structured this way, so viewers are familiar with it. If your videos dive right into your topic without introducing it first, viewers might find it jarring or confusing. Your intro is also where you capture your viewers’ attention and encourage them to keep watching. In your video’s ending, wrap up everything you covered and add your CTAs.
8. Master basic YouTube functionality
If you’re new to creating videos on YouTube, familiarize yourself with its basic functionalities. Learn how to use the video editor, customize your channel, add info cards to your videos, index a video with chapters, get a custom URL for your channel, create thumbnails, and avoid copyright claims.
9. Use analytics
Get comfortable with YouTube analytics so you can track how well your videos perform. Specifically, look at your click-through rate, which is the percentage of people who click on your video after seeing your thumbnail. Also, keep an eye on watch time, which is the average amount of time viewers spend watching your video. YouTube’s algorithm favors videos that get higher watch times, but you shouldn’t necessarily make your videos longer. Focus instead on making videos enticing enough to keep people watching.
10. Verify your channel
Verifying your YouTube channel helps distinguish it from other channels with similar names. It marks your channel as the “official” one for you, your brand, or your company. When your channel is verified, you also get access to an important YouTube feature: creating custom thumbnails. Unverified channels can’t upload their own images to use as thumbnails, which makes it harder to boost your click-through rate.
11. Design good thumbnails
Once you have access to custom thumbnails, make sure you design good ones! The thumbnail is the first impression viewers have of your video, so it should stand out. Thumbnails with large text, simple images, or bright background colors tend to draw the most attention in search results. Avoid using the suggested thumbnails from YouTube after uploading your video because these images will never be as attention-getting as ones you can design yourself.
12. Make short videos
There’s a lot of commentary about how long a YouTube video should be, and the length will depend on your content and goals. Generally, though, try to keep your videos at around ten minutes. Less than two minutes usually isn’t enough, and more than fifteen minutes starts to be too long. The important thing is to ensure that your video is full of useful content from start to finish. Don’t pad it out just so you can hit a certain length; always keep your viewers’ preferences in mind. If you go live on YouTube, however, you should aim to broadcast for at least thirty minutes and no more than two hours.
13. Engage with your audience
YouTube isn’t just a video hosting platform; it’s also a social network. Viewers can like and comment on videos, as well as subscribe to your channel. Add CTAs in your video and description to get people to comment, then reply to those comments as promptly as you can. Viewers appreciate you much more when you answer their questions or take the time to engage with them. They’re more likely to return to your channel to watch more of your content as well.
14. Ask for likes and subscriptions
At some point in your video, remind your viewers that they can like it and subscribe to your channel. You can also ask questions throughout your video to prompt people to leave comments on the video. One common approach is to add links to some of your other videos at the end of a video.
15. Go live on YouTube
Broadcasting live on YouTube helps you connect with your audience in a way that regular videos cannot. You can chat with your viewers in real time, answering their questions or asking for their comments on your live session. If you don’t want to limit your live streams to YouTube, you can expand your reach by multistreaming — streaming to multiple platforms simultaneously.
all at once
All it takes to live stream on YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Twitter, and other social channels at the same time is creating a Restream account. Connect your favorite platforms to Restream in under two minutes, and you’re ready to go live!
Let’s wrap up
Creating a YouTube channel is easy; you can do it in a few steps. Building a successful YouTube channel, on the other hand, takes some work. Take inspiration from your favorite channels and YouTubers, but remember, they put in a lot of work to get where they are. With patience, a little effort, and all the tips we’ve shared with you above, you can get there too.