With nearly 2 million views in my first six months on YouTube, a lot of people have asked me how to get popular, and how to get a directorship with Machinima. The answer all comes down to getting views and following the rules. To help you out on your quest to popularity, I’ve compiled a guide to ultimately getting tons of views on YouTube.
Update 25 June 2016: I no longer recommend partnering with Machinima, as I have not had a very good experience with them. I have some reservations with YouTube as a content platform as well. Please see my post about YouTube for details.
Rules to live by.
Three things that worked for me.
When I started out on YouTube, I was completely lost. As I uploaded my first videos I started paying attention to some of the top YouTubers, and I’ve begun to learn how they attract and keep an audience. I’ve condensed everything I’ve learned into three rules that I now follow religiously as a ‘Professional’ YouTuber.
Professionals Have Standards:
- Be Original
- Be Professional
- Be Your Own Audience
Being original is the toughest one, especially with gaming videos; most likely someone somewhere has done a better job a year ago. Being professional is about using good English and making your channel look appealing. Being your own audience is about figuring out what kind of people will want to view your videos. In the next few sections I’ll help you apply these concepts to your own channel to gain viewership.
Find an audience.
People won’t find your videos, even if the videos are good.
After you make some great videos, you need to find people who want to watch them. Learn who your audience is and learn where to find them.
Be your own audience. If you as a viewer wouldn’t think your videos are awesome, other people won’t think so either. Think hard about what kind of people would like your videos, and try to find them on the internet. For instance when I started doing my Minecraft videos, I looked to Reddit.com and MinecraftForum.net for people who wanted to see cool things in Minecraft. Most websites will only award views to videos that are both unique and amazing. The main thing here is to ask yourself “What kind of people would enjoy my videos?” Brainstorm, look at your videos from the outside, and start by trying to make a post that gets (even a little bit) popular on a website that’s appropriate to your content.
Once a video has about a thousand views, good tags start to truly bring traffic. Clever use of tags, title, and description will push your video higher in search rankings. Optimize your videos for search results by using proper capitalization and a long, descriptive title. Put the most eye-catching part first in the title, then trail off with the details. Always add as many relevant tags as you can - if you think people might search it, put it in as a tag. Then add your YouTube username and “yt:quality=high” as tags, the first for when people search your name, and the second for general optimization on some older sites. Don’t put tags in that are irrelevant; people will click away from your video when they find it, and it will sink like a rock in search.
Finally, copy your video title and list of tags to the bottom of your description. This will give your video double the power in search results. Update 5/29/2015: I received a community guidelines takedown yesterday for two of my videos from 2011, and I suspect it is due to putting keywords in my video description. I looked at the YouTube community guidelines and the new rules disallow this, so don’t do it anymore!
Be professional in appearance.
Make your channel look appealing.
A good channel needs a visually appealing theme to back it up. If you’re not sure what to do, always err on the side of simplicity.
Make your color scheme look professional. Make your theme and username elegant and easy to read. Try some subdued colors for your channel layout, something dull and easy on the eyes. If the Saturation and Brightness of the color are both 100%, you’re doing it wrong. Save the bright, garish colors for small highlights around your name logo and in your avatar icon.
Make your background subtle but meaningful. The background shouldn’t tile unless the tile is seamless, and if you decide not to tile I would recommend an image that’s about 2,000px by 2,000px, so that it will fill the screen on a large monitor. A great place to put your name and logo on the background is running up the left hand side of your video player. Be sure to jpeg-compress the background a bit so that YouTube won’t reject the filesize.
Maintain a consistent look and feel throughout the channel. Design a logo that fits the sort of identity you want to convey. My logo is mostly text, for instance.
The musical note represents the songs I compose for my channel. The Handwriting-Dakota font shows a depart from the futuristic themes characteristic of gaming channels. The simple, clean navy-on-white theme says that I’m not trying to be fancy, I’m just here with good content that’s easy to navigate. This is how I sell my channel.
Use proper English.
If you’ve aced all your English classes, apply what you know to YouTube. If you have room to improve in your writing, this section will give you some quick English tips geared specifically towards writing for YouTube.
Make your channel text easy to read. Start the first letter of every sentence with a capital. Spell out every word completely and make sure you always capitalize the word ‘I’. Break up run-on sentences into two or three separate sentences. Treat every description as if you are going to get a grade on it from your English teacher. People don’t want to watch videos from someone who can’t spell, so run everything through spellcheck and proofread it twice after you’ve written it. Emoticons are great for comments and private messages, but make sure they stay out of your channel and video descriptions (there is a little fudge room here but keep their use to a very minimum).
Make people think you’re an older gamer. I’m not kidding here, young gamers (younger than about 15 or so) don’t get nearly the same respect that late teens and twenties get. As a group, young gamers have a reputation in the community of making less interesting videos. I’m not suggesting you lie to people about your age, but at the same time you can opt to keep your age private. If you use good grammar, spell everything correctly, and make interesting videos, people will think that you’re older. Always write everything to look as professional as you can.
Make good videos.
Keep people entertained.
Good videos are creative, well planned out, and well-edited. Don’t just record your voice over some gameplay.
Cut all the slow parts out of all your videos. Unless you’re extremely good at commentary, there will be slow parts in your video. Cut them out. Your audience won’t like, favorite and spread your video unless they are entertained from the very beginning to the very end. If the edited video is only a minute long, so be it. Chances are your computer came with Windows Movie Maker, but if you don’t have a video editor, you need to get one. This step is not optional.
Make your intro short and elegant. If people have to sit through a ten-second intro before they watch each of your videos, they will get bored and leave. An ideal intro is 2-5 seconds long. For instance, my intro is 2 seconds, and Machinima’s intro is 3 seconds. It’s more important than you think to keep your intro short, 5 seconds at the very most. Think of your intro as an advertisement for your channel that your audience has to sit through. If they get bored of it within the first three seconds, they’ll click away without seeing any of your video.
Keep titles and transitions short and unobtrusive. Don’t use the default white-on-blue Comic Sans of Movie Maker. Find a bold, readable font like Arial Black, and make it white text outlined in black, or something else contrasty. Transitions should only be used when they’re meaningful; for the most part, stick to straight cuts. When you do use transitions, use a subtle cross-dissolve, or once in a while a fade thorough black or white if the scene supports it.
Avoid the things that disqualify you.
This section is mostly common sense, but there are still some things people think they can squeak by on. If you want partnership, there is no substitute for following the rules.
Account strikes will prevent you from getting partnership. If you have a copyright strike your application will not be granted. They disappear from your account after six months, but no one’s to say that YouTube doesn’t still factor it in to the partnership decision. Instead of using your favorite songs as background to your videos, use freely available music from sites like Machinimasound.com (or create your own if you’re so inclined.) If you’re looking to get on Machinima, game music is sometimes okay to use too. Don’t ever use anything that would appear on iTunes, this is the most sure-fire way (besides uploading feature films) to get account strikes.
Don’t bother applying until you have a large audience. This goes doubly for gaming channels. If you’re feeling lucky, try applying at half a million views and a couple thousand subscribers. People have gotten in with far less than that, but it’s a good starting point. Just keep building your audience, and if YouTube keeps denying your application like they did mine, eventually Machinima may contact you.
You DO have to be 18 or have parental permission. I’m not just saying this because it’s illegal to lie about your age. They WILL verify your age when you are approved for revenue sharing, and trust me it will be royally disappointing if you get that far and can’t show them you are legal.
The big take-home message from this guide is be entertaining, be original, and be unique. Then search out people who want to watch your videos - the better your videos are, the easier it will be to find a large audience. When you have an amazing channel, Machinima will come to you!
Until next time,