Making the right
YouTube channel goals will mean the difference between failure and success
YouTube can be frustrating…like digging the Grand Canyon
with a teaspoon frustrating!
You spend hours learning how to develop a channel. You spend
hours planning your content and strategy, hours more shooting and editing videos,
and yet it can seem like your subscriber count barely ticks higher.
Setting goals is one of the core tenants in Steven Covey’s
almost sacred book on business, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and it’s
no less important when planning your future as a video star.
Setting the right goals can push you to achieve something
marvelous. The right goals will motivate you before and after you’ve achieved
The wrong goals will do exactly the opposite though. Setting
bad goals will demoralize you, make you feel like a loser and will weigh you
The problem is, starting out on YouTube, I guarantee the
very first goal you made…is the wrong goal.
I’m going to share my experience with this bad goal that destroys
most YouTube channels as well as seven YouTube goals you should be making
My YouTube Goals
First I want to share the most common mistake made when people
start a YouTube channel. I made it. Most would-be YouTube stars make it and it
keeps them from realizing the success that should be theirs.
Being a type-A personality, I’ve always felt a comfort in
making goals and planning. Having everything organized and having those goals
just feels like I’m driving to a destination rather than on some meandering Sunday
So when I decided to develop my YouTube channel as a
business asset in December 2017, I sat down to write out my goals for growth.
The first was to reach 1,000 subscribers by the end of 2018.
It would still be a couple months before YouTube changed it’s policy on monetization that required channels have over 1,000 subs to profit from ads. Even before this, I knew from research that channels beyond this point seemed to get more video views and have some kind of additional momentum.
Reaching 1,000 subscribers told YouTube, you’re here to win
and the platform seemed to reward that commitment.
I had friends that were on YouTube for years and hadn’t
reached the mark yet. I had researched articles that pegged the average time to
build 1,000 subs at somewhere around a couple years. Taking all this, I though
1,000 subs in a year would be a good stretch goal.
Then reality set in. I was creating videos, applying
everything I had learned about developing a channel but my subscriber count was
just not increasing as quickly as I thought it should.
That frustration quickly turned to excitement when an older
video started ranking for some strong keywords and really took off. My
subscriber count jumped and I passed 1,000 subs in early March.
I wasn’t about to sit on my success though so I made a new
goal of 10,000 subs by the end of the year. It was here that I could unlock the
Community Tab on the channel (this is now available to channels with over 1,000
The views kept coming in though, especially when another two
videos started performing, and I hit that 10K goal in July.
While I was ecstatic that my channel was growing so quickly,
there was also an uneasy worry creeping up in the back of my mind. I had beaten
my goals but it felt like it was completely out of my control!
I hadn’t really done much differently for the three runaway
videos than I had done for dozens of others. I had switched to two videos a
week and adopted a few ideas we’ll talk about through the book, but there was
seemingly nothing I was doing that was directly controlling the subscriber count.
This is the problem so many people have with creating
subscriber or view count goals on YouTube.
There is nothing you can do to make a video go viral. There is nothing
you can do to directly boost your subscriber count.
It’s great if everything comes together and your subscriber
count zooms past your goals regardless of your lack of control, but what
happens when it’s the opposite problem? What happens when you create quality
videos, have a solid marketing plan and do everything right…and your subscriber
count barely budges?
Not meeting your goals, especially after so much hard work,
can make you feel like a failure. It can leave you hopeless and feeling like
none of your hard work matters.
It’s a feeling faced by too many YouTubers, ones that would
eventually be huge success stories, but who give up because of missing their
I realized mid-year that subscriber goals were the wrong way to measure YouTube success. If I was going to work to a goal, it would have to be something I could control through working harder and smarter. Of course, I wanted to pick goals that would influence views and subscriber count, but I wasn’t going to hang my success on something over which I had no control.
Goals You Can Control
Of course, none of this means you shouldn’t make goals for
your YouTube channel. Goals motivate and drive us, they keep us from giving up
and give us a sense of progress.
The key is to create goals around actions you can control.
While you might not be able to control how many views a video gets or your
subscriber count, you can create goals around actions that will directly
influence the growth of your channel.
It’s these goals that are going to drive the success of your
I’ll share the seven goals I make for my YouTube business
but don’t think these are the only ones out there. Making your own goals, just
remember the rule to create goals around actions you can control and that will
drive more views and subscribers.
– This is probably the most important goal you can make for your channel.
Understand that YouTube wants to be a TV alternative for viewers. To do that,
it needs creators that produce quality content consistently and on the same
There’s two points here you need to remember, that consistency
Frequency is the number of times per week you publish. Once
a week used to be enough to grow a channel but twice a week is quickly becoming
the benchmark. Understand that YouTube gives new videos preferential ranking
for the first few days so uploading multiple times a week will make sure you
always have a video getting that artificial boost.
I know it’s tough juggling a full-time job and trying to grow your YouTube channel. If you’re serious about making this a business, make a goal of uploading two videos a week. Eventually, you’ll want to increase that to three days a week and someday to five days for maximum exposure.
Consistency is also extremely important on YouTube. What do
you think would happen if your favorite TV show aired…just whenever the
producers felt like it? Some weeks it might air on Saturday, others it might be
I don’t think even Seinfeld could have kept an audience with
that kind of chaotic schedule.
Not only does YouTube want you to publish at the same day
and time every week, your community wants it as well. How do you do this
without missing or being late on videos?
Make a goal of being
scheduled at least a week ahead on your videos. You might have to hustle at
first to get out ahead but once you’re going, is it really any different than
doing each video at the last minute?
One way to fill in the gaps and get out ahead is to do
interview videos, 15-minute video collabs with another creator or someone in
your topic. These take less than half the time to produce compared to regular
videos because there’s less editing.
Make a social media plan – You don’t need to share on every social platform but smaller channels aren’t getting much help from YouTube so you do need a plan to get traffic from somewhere. Create a social marketing plan you use for every video and maybe an extended plan you use on videos you want to promote a little more.
- Share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and
Pinterest at a minimum. These are the platforms that result in the most social
traffic for my videos but yours might be different. Create images that work best
for each individual platform, i.e. landscape for FB, Twitter and LinkedIn but
portrait format for Pinterest.
- Make a goal of trying out a new social platform
every three- or six-months and integrating it into your social marketing plan.
- Personally ask contacts to watch and engage for
your really important videos. Simply sharing on social might get you a few
views but direct messages will always work better.
- Keep track of the posts and videos that get the
most engagement on social and reschedule the posts every few months to
re-invigorate your older videos.
Your goal here should
be to stick with a basic social marketing plan for your videos and to regularly
test new ideas. Evolution is the name of the game in business. If you’re not
adapting to changes and progressing, you could be falling behind without even
Testing new ideas for
videos – Take that idea of constant improvement into other areas of your
channel as well. Make a goal of testing new ideas at least every few months,
giving each a month or two to see what works.
- Test new thumbnail formats like colors, fonts,
backgrounds and whether you have or face in the image or not. You can try
thumbnail ideas on new videos or replacing ones on old videos that aren’t
getting much traffic.
- Test out new topics in your niche or even topics
outside your niche. We’ll talk more about this in the chapter on content
strategy but make a point to regularly browse related channels to see what is
working for them.
- Test out doing livestreams once a week. These
take much less time to produce and can build some great engagement with your
Your goal here should
be put these kinds of tests on your schedule and stick with it. It’s easy to
fall into a routine but you’ll never know what you’re missing unless you
constantly work on new ideas.
Working with other creators is one of the most often cited ways to reach new
viewers and boost your channel.
I’ve done dozens of interviews for my channel but have done
fewer collaborations with other YouTube creators. This one is definitely on my
list for top goals this year and beyond.
Creativity is how you’ll get the most out of your collabs.
That means doing different types of partnerships to give viewers something
special and make a bigger impression on new audiences.
- Split-screen interviews are easy and there’s no
travel involved. These are probably the easiest to produce as well.
- In-person interviews seem to get more views but you’ll
have to coordinate travel. These work best when you’re both attending a
- Simply mentioning another creator’s video or
channel and then linking to it in the video description.
- Sharing each other’s video in your Community Tab
- Hosting a video from the other creator. Create
an introduction of 15- to 30-seconds to introduce the creator and what they’ll
be talking about and maybe a 15-second end screen for the end of the video.
- Challenge videos are a fun way to engage with
other channels and don’t involve any coordination. These can go viral if your
challenge goes out to other channels and becomes popular; i.e. the ALS Ice
Bucket Challenge or the Hot Pepper Challenge.
- Pro/Con collabs – this is a project I did with
some bloggers years ago and it worked really well. You take a controversial
topic, something like buying vs. renting, and each take a side of the argument.
You each make a video arguing your perspective and mention the other’s video as
another viewpoint. This takes some coordination because you need to know what
the other creator is going to say for the mention but it’s a great way to
create some buzz.
With any collab, make sure everyone agrees on how you’re
going to share the videos and where links will be included. For any kind of
video exchange, make sure everyone keeps to the level of quality that viewers
are used to on the channel.
Make a goal of doing
at least one collaboration per month or so many in a quarter. Of course, like
any of these goals, reaching it means putting in action the things that will
make it possible. For collaborations, that means regularly engaging with other
channels through comments and reaching out through email. It’s through these
relationships that you’ll open up collaboration opportunities.
Sponsorships – Let’s
be honest, most of us are here to make money with our channels so why wouldn’t
some of your goals be to make more money?
Getting companies to sponsor a video or provide you with a
free product is one of the best ways small channels can monetize YouTube. Just
as you can’t control your view count or subscribers, you really can’t control
the amount of money you make but you can control the actions like reaching out
to sponsors that will lead to more money.
There are a few different ways to make money with YouTube sponsorships. Pitch a few of these to companies to see which works best for you.
- Free products or services are usually the
easiest to get for smaller channels since it’s lower cost and commitment for
- Integrated mentions are 45- to 60-second spots
within the video where you talk about how the product or service fits a need.
The more closely related to the video topic, the better a mention will convert.
This is a common model used by podcasts.
- Reviews of a product or service are relatively
easy to rank but generally get fewer views than a broader topic. They convert
better though because someone looking for a review is going to be directly and
immediately interested in making a purchase.
- Video series integrating the sponsor into each
have worked best for me. I start with a broader topic that will bring in a
large audience, integrating sponsor mentions throughout. Follow that with two
more videos on progressively narrower topics. For example, for an insurance
sponsorship, your first video might talk about how much insurance viewers need before
a second video about picking an insurance policy and then a third video
directly reviewing the sponsor company.
Your goal here is
going to be researching and outreach with a number of sponsors each month. Pay
attention to other channels to see where they’re getting sponsorships, either
looking for product reviews or mentions. You can also look to blogs and
podcasts in your niche to see which companies might be open to sponsorships.
Affiliate videos – The top two sources of YouTube income for most creators are sponsorships and affiliate commissions.
Finding good affiliates to promote is similar to
sponsorships, look to what other creators and bloggers are promoting. An easy
way to do this is to go to blogs in your topic and look for their Resources page.
It’s here that they will list out and link to their best affiliates.
It’s important to outreach companies for a sponsorship
partnership beyond their normal affiliate terms. A lot of companies will try to
get you to simply use their affiliate program without providing any kind of a
base, sponsorship for your effort.
When this happens, remind them that a lot more goes into
video production including extra time and costs. You can usually get a small
base fee to cover these ‘additional expenses’ as well as using your affiliate
link within the video.
Of course, some affiliates either aren’t going to have a
budget for sponsorships or just won’t be willing to pay a base sponsorship fee.
It’s up to you whether you want to integrate their affiliate link into your
videos. It still might be worth it if you think conversions will make enough
money or if you can’t find a sponsor for a related video.
Make a goal of doing a
number of affiliate-related videos each month or quarter. These can be a direct
review of the affiliate or just making sure you do a video in which you can
naturally mention an affiliate and link to it in the description.
– So I’ve also called these ‘hack’ videos but they don’t necessarily need to be
video ideas you get from other creators. The idea is that you want to regularly
be posting videos that go beyond your normal content, videos in extremely
popular topics or that go into much more detail than usual.
Your goal here might be
to do at least one super-content video a month. These will take more time to
produce but you’re more likely to be rewarded with more views and subs.
What are your YouTube channel goals? What are
the types of goals you’ve used to motivate you to reach that next level? What
have been the goals that have best influenced your success? Finding these
actions over which you have some control and creating goals around them is your
best shot at driving higher views and growing your channel.