youtube channel

[342] How to build your audience on YouTube with Jessica Dante

YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. So if you want to get in front of a large audience, having a Youtube channel can be a smart move.

But if you’re not familiar with the platform, the practicalities of setting up a channel, deciding what kind of content you should be creating and getting people to actually watch it can feel daunting.

In this podcast episode, I talk to Love and London founder and successful YouTuber Jessica Dante. She shares her tips on getting started with a YouTube channel, finding your niche (and why you need one), growing your YouTube audience and how to overcome your fear of publishing less than perfect video.

{Click on the player above to listen to the podcast episode and/or read on for a detailed overview. Scroll down to the bottom to read the show notes including all the links mentioned in this episode}.

What kind of content should you publish on YouTube

When Jess started her YouTube channel in 2015 she knew she wanted it to be based around travel but was reluctant to niche down too soon. Initially, she focused on general travel tips and guides to interesting European cities, but quickly learned her focus was too broad. As Jess says: “If you try and talk to everyone you’re talking to no one.”

After a few months of consistently uploading videos each week, Jess noticed that the videos which focused specifically on London were outperforming others and that YouTube had started to recommend them to viewers.  She decided to niche her content down, focusing solely on London - and that’s when her channel really started to take off.

If you’re new to YouTube, it’s unlikely you’ll hit the spot with your content straight away, says Jess. Most new YouTubers have to experiment with different topics until they find their style and niche.

Even if you’re just working out your niche, the one thing you can get right straight away, is the type of content you create - content that solves viewers’ problems. For Jess, this was about helping people find interesting things to do in London (and find their way around). For you, it must also be about solving your ideal clients’ problems.

Once your channel is more established, you can start to create content that is specifically about your products/services, but initially your focus should be on helping your audience, says Jess. This will help you develop authority and credibility - vital for building your Youtube audience.

How long should your YouTube videos be?

Although there are no hard and fast rules, if you’re new to Youtube, Jess recommends keeping your videos at around three to five minutes, although longer videos work well for certain types of video such as tutorials.

How often?

When you’re starting out on YouTube, Jess recommends posting a new video each week. This will help you develop a consistent publishing schedule and boost the YouTube algorithm in your favour.

How to set up your channel correctly

Jess believes the most important thing when you’re getting started on YouTube is to focus on your video titles and thumbnail images – the small preview image of your video - as this is how people decide whether or not to watch your video.

Although YouTube automatically generates a thumbnail image for you, Jess suggests creating and uploading a custom thumbnail using a design tool like Canva.

“Use a picture you’ve taken especially for the thumbnail, for example if the video is you talking to the camera then get a picture of yourself doing that and then on Canva add two to three words to the side that will complement what the title is, not a duplicate of the title,” she says.

The video description is also important.  Jess recommends including the keyword for the video in the first 25 characters and give plenty of detail (one or two paragraphs is ideal) which should sell the video and tell people why they should watch it to the end. This should be followed with some general information about you and your business and add some links to your website or to resources you mention in the video.

How important is video quality on YouTube?

When you’re just starting out, don’t worry too much about equipment or quality (although good audio is important), says Jess. She points out that one of her most popular videos - made in the early days of her Youtube channel - is poor quality. Focus instead on adding value for viewers.

Janet agrees. She often searches for piano tutorials on YouTube and finds the quality of the video isn’t important to her: “It’s more about what’s accessible and which has the most value. It shouldn’t be style over substance”

For video editing, Jess recommends  iMovie for Mac users or Windows Movie Maker for Microsoft. For the first two years Jess did all her own editing and suggests keeping it simple, “People are interested in the information not the fancy transitions,” she says.

How to keep people watching your videos to the end (and why it’s important)

If you want people to keep watching, it’s important to keep the introduction in your videos short. Jess recommends aiming for five seconds, but definitely less than 15. She usually prepares three sentences for her introduction: one to introduce the topic of the video, one to introduce her and one to tell viewers about the lead magnet she’ll be giving away at the end.

Offering something of value at the end of each video can be a good way to encourage people to watch to the end of your video.  For example, Jess offers a lead magnet – a resource or information product you create with the purpose of encouraging your ideal customers/clients to sign up to your email list - at the end of many of her videos. She tells people about the lead magnet at the beginning of her video to encourage viewers to watch to the end.

Jess has also started adding outtakes/bloopers in at the end too to give viewers an extra reason to watch to the very end.

Which numbers to track on YouTube

When you’re new to YouTube, it’s easy to get obsessed with viewer numbers. While this important (the more people view your videos, the more people YouTube will show your videos to). But other key metrics are equally - if not more - important.

YouTube’s ‘watch time’ is a measure of how many minutes people spend watching your channel and give a good indication of how engaged viewers are when watching your videos. YouTube also tracks your retention rate – the percentage of your video that viewers watched.

Jess explains: “The higher retention the better, but when you’re starting aim for at least 50% and then work up to at least 60% and 70%. Nobody ever gets 100%, it’s just not possible.”

How to keep viewers on your YouTube channel (and why you need to)

YouTube is not just tracking how long people watch your videos for, it’s also looking at how long people spend on your channel. And the more time people spend on your channel, the more people will be shown your content.

That’s why it can be a good idea to use YouTube cards – interactive ‘panels’ that slide in and out when a video is playing – are a great way to encourage viewers to watch more videos on your channel, and therefore increase your watch time. Creating playlists of videos on similar topics and using cards to direct people to related content can be a great way to do this. In fact, planning your content in clusters i.e. creating five or six videos on a similar topic is a strategic way to build playlists as you go.

When using cards, Jess recommends you mention when they appear and point to the corner of the frame where the card shows. She also uses cards to send people to landing pages (dedicated web pages with a single call to action) for her lead magnets, as she believes they help create a better experience for viewers too.

How to use keywords to help your videos get found in search

If you want your videos to get found on YouTube, you need to use the words/phrases your ideal viewers are searching for.

Ideally you want to use terms that people are searching for, but not one that is so popular that your post will get lost in the noise of the competition.

Narrowing things down can help with this. For example, the phrase ‘how to write a press release’ is a very popular search term. Using a less popular, but more specific phrase like ‘How to write a press release for your small business’ or ‘How to write a press release for a charity’ (generally referred to as ‘longtail’ keywords)  is likely to be more effective when it comes to Google rankings.

If you’re not sure how to make your topic more specific, using YouTube's autocomplete function can help, says Jess.  For example, if she is thinking about creating a video on how to use an Oyster card in London, using the autocomplete function  might show that some people are searching for, ‘How to use an Oyster Card in London with kids’. This is a much more niche term, which means it’s likely to perform better in search.

How important are comments on your YouTube videos?

Comments are a signal to YouTube that people are enjoying your videos and that people are engaging with you and your content.

“When you’re just starting out, check your comments on videos every single day. Get into a conversation with these people as they are your early adopters. Treat them like VIPs and ask what other content they want to see from you,” says Jess.

How long does it take to grow an audience for your YouTube channel?

Building an audience on YouTube is a long term game and Jess advises new users not to expect anything major in the first year. After your first six months, you can do a thorough evaluation and make tweaks where necessary.

Janet uses Beth Campagna from Mama Life London who started her channel in 2018 as an example. Some videos only have 200 views but Janet has bought Beth’s products because she liked what she was doing on YouTube. “It’s a mistake to think you can’t make sales or get clients if you’re not getting massive views. You can make an impact with a smaller audience,” she says.

How building an email list helps to grow your YouTube audience

Jess thinks it’s important to consider how you’re going to send people to your YouTube content.

It’s also important to promote your YouTube content on social media but bear in mind that it’s not always as effective to ask people to move from one channel to another. For example, people are often reluctant to move from Instagram to YouTube but, if you can get people off their current platform to YouTube, YouTube will promote your content and recommend it to viewers watching content on similar topics.

Jess also uses email to promote her YouTube videos and stresses the importance of doing this within the first 24 hours of publishing a new video.  Not only will your videos get more views as your email subscribers start watching, but YouTube will register that people are watching your videos and start recommending them to more people,” she says.

The YouTube algorithm looks at how well videos perform in the first 24 hours. It takes into account the first seven days too, but the first 24 hours are crucial.

Jess’s biggest piece of advice for building an audience on YouTube is to focus on building an email list. When she started her YouTube channel she wasn’t building a list and on her first 25 videos there was no offer of a lead magnet.

The first video she promoted a lead magnet in performed really well and she found she’d got 35 subscribers overnight. She suggests having at least one lead magnet from the very start to help you build your email list.

Janet is also a strong advocate of building an email list. Although it takes time, she tells her clients to celebrate every single person who joins the list. It takes time and a lot of experimentation to learn the best strategies for getting people onto your email list - and keeping them there - which is why it’s important to remember that it’s a long term game.

Jess agrees it takes time, and believes there’s too much focus on big numbers: “You might only need 100 people on your email list or one person to see your video to generate money.”

Podcast show notes:

  • Jess’ business story (10:02)
  • How testing different content can help you work out what your niche is (and why you should stick to it) (13:30)
  • How to get started with growing your YouTube audience (19:55)
  • How to use keywords to make your videos rank higher (22:05)
  • The different types of content you can create on Youtube (27:02)
  • How to get your first videos on Youtube seen and searched for (31:05)
  • How to write an effective description (34:40)
  • What is ‘watch time’ and how you can improve this data (35:40)
  • Why your videos don’t have to be professionally recorded to succeed (43:10)
  • How to use ‘cards’ on Youtube and how it will help your videos rank higher (45:40)
  • How Jess has grown her Youtube channel (50:38)
  • How long it takes to grow your Youtube channel (53:30)
  • Why you need to trial and test different lead magnets (55:30)
  • How regularly you should be posting content on your Youtube channel (1:04:50)
  • How to edit your videos if you’re a beginner (1:05:06)


Jess’ Website: Love and London

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Episode 241: How to build your email list via a Youtube channel

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