If you Google “YouTube optimization,” you’ll get over 21.5 million results. All of them claim to accelerate the growth of your YouTube channel.
You’ll see headlines like:
- How to Rank #1 on YouTube This Year!
- Hack Your YouTube Description Box for Higher Rankings
- 24 Awesome YouTube SEO Hacks To Beat Your Rivals
- Master YouTube SEO in 9 Simple Steps
- The No Nonsense Checklist for YouTube Optimization
And sure, they all sound good, especially if you have no idea where to start.
But guess what?
For the vast majority of people who want to start producing videos on YouTube, the advice you’ll find in those articles is basically worthless.
It’s buying a bunch of supplements after you make a New Years resolution to get back in the gym.
Sure, the supplements might optimize your results a bit.
But what if you used all your time to focus on perfecting your diet and crushing your workouts? You’d never even think about buying supplements—your results would be that good.
Things like nutritional supplements and YouTube SEO tactics are all 5% optimizations. They’ll help you on the margins, but only if you’re getting all the essential things right.
Wannabe YouTubers do a similar thing with video equipment. They’ll put off starting a channel because they don’t have the right lens for their DSLR camera. Or they’re waiting to edit their video until they can afford expensive editing software like Final Cut Pro.
But Guess what? Equipment doesn’t matter when you are starting out either (learn why here).
You could create a to-do list of 100 tasks to grow your audience on YouTube. But for the vast majority of those tasks, you’d be wasting your time.
Now you might have already read some of those articles. And you’re probably thinking, “Hey, what about tactic X, that seems to be effective!”
Let me show what I mean by 5% optimizations you shouldn’t waste your time on:
- Thinking of clever tags to add to your videos
- Doing a keyword deep dive to game YouTube’s algorithm
- Editing your video filename so it matches your SEO keywords
- Tinkering with your advanced channel settings
- Perfecting the copy in your video description.
- Optimizing your video for the perfect length.
- Spending hours making your channel page pretty.
Instead, you should focus all of your YouTube time on things that give you the best ROI. Do you want to spend it on 5% optimizations, or strategies that can grow your channel 50x with one video?
That’s what I thought.
Nevertheless, wasting time tinkering on the margins is the biggest mistake beginner YouTubers make.
Sure you might get bump with a 5% optimization, but what is 5% of 200 views? We both know 10 more views is nothing in the scheme of things.
Instead, you should spend your time on stuff that can produce viral growth. I’m talking going from 500 subscribers to 25,000 and 2,000 views to 100,000.
At Jumpcut, we’ve been able to create over half a dozen profitable YouTube channels that have gotten over 500 million total views, with videos like:
- Christmas Gifts for the Homeless (4.7 million)
- How to Sneak into Any Game (3.5 million)
- What’s in the Box? (4 million)
- Forgetting My Girlfriends Birthday (3.9 million)
- Tipping Fast Food Workers $100 (10 million)
We’ve now been featured on the world’s biggest publications, like the New York Times, ABC World News, The Huffington Post, and TechCrunch.
But when we first started making YouTube videos we had no special skills, talents, or film experience. We started from zero. We were nobodies, and we built all our channels from the ground up.
When we first started, we tried every YouTube optimization hack we could find, but we quickly realized they didn’t move the needle.
Through a TON of trial and error we eventually figured out what leads to viral channel growth, and we’ve been able to repeat this over and over again with both our channels and our students.
In this article, I’m going to reveal you the 3 biggest things you MUST focus your time on that will significantly boost your chances for viral channel growth.
Before I do, though…. I’ll reveal why focusing 5% optimizations only makes sense after your channel has explosive growth.
When you are getting 100,00 to 200,000 views on every video you create, optimizing them starts to be worth it, because you’ve proven your content is resonating with your audience (product-market fit) and you have enough scale that a 5% bump is significant.
But when you’re first starting out, 20 more views isn’t going to do anything for your channel.
Now you might be thinking, “If YouTube optimization is such a waste of time, why do so many people obsess about it?
Well, because it feels good.
You feel like you’re getting a quick win, when you should actually be focusing ALL your time on improving your content to get a BIG win and achieve viral growth.
Your time could be much better spent improving the hook of your next video, or even deconstructing why someone else’s just went viral.
The content itself should so good that it’s driving your growth—not YouTube optimization or promotion.
In fact, if you’re spending most of your time optimizing and promoting your content, that probably means your content sucks (hear us rant about this in an interview we did with Noah Kagan, founder of Sumo).
Don’t blame it on your SEO keywords not being optimized or your friends not sharing your stuff enough.
But if spending hours perfecting your thumbnail isn’t the answer, then what is?
The answer: spending all your time making your video 50x better than it is right now.
Creating YouTube videos that are inherently shareable, so that your target audience watches you and then immediately Facebook messages their friends telling them to check it out. If you can do this, EVERYTHING else in terms of YouTube optimization can be wrong, and your channel will still blow up.
Here are the three biggest things you can do to increase the odds of your YouTube channel going viral. These three things are what we repeatedly tell our students when we critique their videos:
- Create a strong hook
- Elicit a powerful emotion
- Attract new audiences
Ready to take your YouTube content to the next level? Let’s get started.
1. What’s Your Hook?
What video would you rather watch?
“We’re going to play a zombie prank on our sister after she gets out of surgery.”
“Today, our little sister Millicent is getting her wisdom teeth removed. After surgery she’ll be high on medication. We’re going to convince her that a zombie apocalypse has hit our city.”
Easily the second one.
On YouTube, you only have to a few seconds to grab someone’s attention.
If they’re not hooked immediately—they’re gone.
Remember, YouTube is social media content. It’s not a movie. No one is will a sit through a slow build-up. They want to know why they should keep watching IMMEDIATELY.
When you brainstorming a new video, you need to be certain that the first 15 seconds would hook someone who has never heard of you before.
Think about it.
Even if they started your video, there is an entire sidebar full of other videos with millions of views already. And each one begging, “Click me!”
What does a quality hook do?
It makes the viewer think they HAVE to keep watching, or else they are missing out on something BIG. Here’s a video with a good hook. You just have to watch the first 15 seconds:
By setting up the premise of your video and teasing what is to come, you’re creating intrigue. Your viewers wonder if you’re going to reach your goal, which in this case is convincing your woozy sister that there’s a zombie apocalypse approaching.
That’s why you will see many YouTubers that have millions of subscribers have enticing “intros” before they get to the meat of their video.
So when you create your next YouTube video, ask yourself, “If I saw the first 15 seconds, would I want to keep watching my video?”
As another example, take a look at the first 20 seconds of this Casey Neistat video he did for Nike.
The hook is: Nike gave me a bunch of money to make a video. But instead of making what they wanted, he spent the entire budget traveling with his friend until the money ran out.
You don’t need fancy production or video editing, but you do have to emotionally punch your viewer in the face to persuade them to keep watching.
You can accomplish this easily by doing things like:
- Putting the best clip first.
- Opening your video with an intriguing question or prompt.
- “Cutting out the fat” of your intro so you quickly get to the point.
Remember, you’re not creating a movie, you’re creating a YouTube video. You need to GRAB people’s attention right away…and keep their eyes glued to your video.
After the first 15 seconds, the last thing your viewers should be asking is “what am I watching?” If they don’t know, you’ve failed.
Now that you have your hook down, it’s time to inject some emotion into the rest of your video.
2. Where’s the Emotion?
“We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.”
That was the conclusion made by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, who also found in his study that many decisions humans think are made on the basis of logic are really based on emotions.
If you make your audience feel something intensely, you’ve done your job. If they’re thinking, “Meh” at the end of your video, you’ve failed.
The very best YouTube videos all elicit emotions in their viewers.
Surprise. Happiness. Sadness. Anger. Nostalgia. Hope. Laughter. Awe. Joy.
Injecting these kinds of emotional reactions into your content makes your audience want to share it with their friends so they can experience the same reaction.
Even fancy professors say this is true.
Jonah Berger, a professor and author of THE book on virality, Contagious, wrote: “If you make people feel something, they will remember better. You can’t help sharing something highly emotional — it’s what humans do.”
So after you’ve hooked your audience, your next job is to answer this question: “What do I want my audience to feel?”
Once you have an idea of what you want them to feel, it’s time execute. How do you do it?
Well after creating multiple YouTube channels with millions of subscribers that have gotten over 400 million total views, we realized we were using the same three strategies to get an emotional reaction out of our audience.
These three strategies are:
- Challenge your audience’s assumptions
- Have a unique perspective
- Tell a compelling story.
If you can use one of these strategies effectively in every video you create, you’ll dramatically increase your odds of viral growth. Let me show you how to use each one.
Challenge People’s Assumptions
What if I told you that eating Tide Pods was actually good for you? The chemicals in the pods are actually a blend of innocuous benzene compounds that are not fatal to your stomach, contrary to the hyperbolic news reports.
In fact, in 1950, Proctor and Gamble (who produce Tide Pods) actually changed their formula so that ingesting these compounds in small doses was perfectly safe.
Alright, I’m kidding. (All those facts above, by the way, are 100% made up.) But did I catch your attention? Did you start to think twice about how dangerous the Tide Pod challenge is?
Challenging assumptions is powerful because it shocks people into questioning their own beliefs about something.
When you challenge a person’s assumptions, they’ll want to share it with their friends because they just discovered a new way of thinking (plus they get to look smart).
For example, we did a video where we took a confident guy and gave him an aesthetic handicap. Then we had him ask random women out on dates.
And guess what? He was successful.
What assumption did this challenge?
That looks are the most important thing in a potential mate.
These kinds of videos are popular because when people hear they might be wrong about something, their ears perk up.
And if you make them think differently, they are more likely to share what they saw.
Offer A Unique Perspective
This shot was worth over 66 million views.
Because it offers a perspective that only two people in the world dared to capture.
Luckily for the rest of us, you don’t have to climb all 2,073 feet of Shanghai Tower to give your audience a unique perspective.
Look, most of our day-to-day lives are boring.
We wake up in the same place every morning, go to the same job, and talk to the same people.
If you can offer an escape from this reality, a different way to look at the world, you can elicit a potent reaction in your audience.
So a good question to ask yourself when creating content is:
“How many times has this exact idea been done before?”
The fewer times you can find copycat videos of what you want to do, the better.
If you’re creating content that blends in with everything else in your niche, you’re not giving anyone a reason to click.
For example, there are hundreds of YouTube videos with millions of views where people pretend to be homeless. If you were to create a video like that today, how would you make it stick out?
How about flipping the concept of being a beggar on its head? In this video, the “homeless” guy actually tries to give other people money and the reactions are shocking. Instead of being grateful or returning the kindness, most people are offended.
Tell A Compelling Story
What do you remember more, the movie Titanic or the documentary you saw about it on the History Channel?
I’m betting on Jack and Rose.
Because Titanic is basically Romeo and Juliet on an ocean liner. A classic love story that elicits all sorts of emotions when you watch it. And the documentary? Don’t lie, you fell asleep 15 minutes in.
You might think this is obvious. But you’d be surprised how many newb YouTube creators fail the “Have I told a good story?” test.
Of course, a good story always has a beginning, middle, and end. And there are almost endless ways to tell them.
But on YouTube, you have to tell stories that shake people up and make them think, “I have to share this with [insert friend here]!”
If you’re not confident in your storytelling abilities, start by deconstructing your favorite YouTube videos, TV shows, or movies.
Write out the beginning, middle, and end. Identify the climax of the story. What are your favorite parts and why? What story techniques do they use that you can you steal for your videos?
For example, take a look at one of the early Drunk History videos, well before it became a TV show on Comedy Central.
But it had never been told quite like this before. By retelling a story in a unique way, and even getting it wrong on purpose, this video went viral with over 7 million views and was eventually picked up as a TV show.
If you’re able to pull amazing storytelling elements from your favorite videos and bake them into your content, you’ll dramatically increase the odds it resonating with new audiences.
3. Will It Attract New Audiences?
What does making cakes and Wonder Woman have in common?
Well, one of our students who runs The Icing Artist recently created a crazy good Wonder Woman cake. Check it out:
When you’re starting a YouTube channel, you can’t create videos as if you already have a huge audience that knows everything about you…
…and yet, time and time again, beginners do things like give their videos a super obscure title or make “draw my life videos” that give no context an unfamiliar audience.
What they’re doing is copying what channels with millions of subscribers, assuming what they do will work for a channel that just opened for business.
So what is a subscriber-less YouTuber to do?
Borrow other people’s audiences.
If you can bring in people who have related interests to your niche or bake in elements of trending popular culture, you can reach huge audiences and introduce them to your channel.
When we first started our first successful YouTube channel we did something similar. We’d dress up as characters that were trending, like Harry Potter, Super Mario, and Pokemon, so fans of those characters would be interested in our stuff.
If you’re looking for ways to 50x your growth, think about ways you can attract other audiences by incorporating them into your content.
When you’re creating consistently shareable, viral content, 5% optimizations will be far down your list of things to do. All you’ll want to do is create better content and get another amazing response from your audience.
But doesn’t mean you have to churn out a new video every day. For a long time, we only created two videos a month. But we were spending ALL of our free time trying to make those two videos we did EPIC.
If you’re done with 5% optimizations that don’t get you anywhere, we have something for you.
We’ve created a FREE video crash course that will show you step-by-step how to grow an audience of raving fans on YouTube, even if you’re a complete beginner.
We’ll also help you find your “big idea” for your channel even if you’re clueless on where to start. You’ll also learn how to know which content ideas are winners, and which ones are losers, with our Remix Strategy.
This crash course includes over an hour of our best-kept content secrets for growing your audience at warp speed, all in HD video.
We’ve even included material from our premium course, which you’ll also get access to. You’ll also get access to our newsletter, where you’ll receive exclusive content you can’t get anywhere else.
We’ve used the strategies and tactics in this training to drive 100s of millions of views to our YouTube channels and made millions of dollars as a result. And we want to share with you exactly how we did.
What are you waiting for?
Sign up now to learn everything we know about building an audience on YouTube and making a living following your passion.