5 Common YouTube Mistakes To Avoid

These tips are written with Let’s Play channels in mind, but apply to most other formats as well. This article is part of my YouTube Guides & Articles series

Too much text in your thumbnails

I see this problem with a lot of gaming channels, especially when they are starting out: Including too much textual information in your thumbnail. The thumbnail’s job is to intrigue the user and catch his eye. If the user wants to know more of the contents of your video, he can find the title and (depending on the platform) description right next to your video.

I often see thumbnails that try to contain too much information with the text: Title of the game, the name of the episode, episode number and even the name of the channel. Not only is this too much information, but it also requires you to cram a lot of text into a little space, resulting in too small fonts. If you design a thumbnail, always zoom out until it is approximately the size, the user will encounter it on YouTube. Often, you can avoid mistakes in the design process, by asking yourself if you would be able to quickly gather the necessary information if you would look at it for a few seconds in that small size.

All information can be found next to the thumb, some of the text can't even be read.

All information can be found next to the thumb, some of the text can’t even be read. Episode number can make sense for easier navigation, but this thumbnail is squeezing a whole lot of information into the thumbnail.

Sometimes it can make sense to highlight a word or two and put them in the thumbnail as well. If you are playing a crazy mod, that can make cows fly (and you don’t happen to have an interesting and unique enough thumbnail), putting “FLYING COWS” in huge letters over the thumbnail CAN make sense.

Thumbnail

I think you get the idea.

Keep in mind, that this is not a golden rule that has to be followed no matter what, but if you have the option to choose between a lot of text in your thumbnail or focus on a visually appealing motif instead, I would always pick the interesting picture.

Not using or not maintaining your playlists

Playlists are a very convenient way for your user to follow along a series and help you keep the retention up. Instead of having to look in the suggested videos for the next video in the series or even having to search it with the YouTube search or on your channel your viewer can have the video suggested automatically. When you have a busy upload schedule or have a similarly bad memory as I do, you might forget to keep your playlists up-to-date. Spend a minute or two each day to check if all your videos are listed correctly, and it will pay off. If you don’t leverage playlists yet, take some time to set them up! Also make sure to set them as an official series, if feasible.

Using Twitter Account to just auto-post your videos

Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media platform can help you grow your channel and engage with your community. When your channel is just starting out, you won’t see a whole lot of activity on those outlets, given your small reach. You can grow your YouTube channel through engaging other users on Twitter, for example, even getting to know other creators for possible collaborations. But often I only see Twitter feeds that primarily consist of the automatically created video posts from YouTube. Your social media outlet is a way for your fans to engage in conversation with you and get more invested in your channel, but also to learn more about you. Using social media just as a shitty billboard for your newest uploads does the same thing as YouTube’s subscription feed and doesn’t give your viewers any incentive to follow or even connect with you.

Promoting your videos on Twitter is highly encouraged, but make sure you put some time into the social aspect of social media.

Never looking into the camera

This tip is obviously geared towards YouTubers, using webcam footage for their gameplay, but it also applies to VLOGs and anything else with your face in it.

I often caught myself over the years, not looking into the camera. Not only does this seem distant, but it is also a missed opportunity to make your viewer feel you address them directly. Of course, you have to look at the screen to play a game, but take a moment at the beginning of your video to look straight into the camera and greet them. How would you feel if you met someone and they didn’t even look at you when they greeted you, not taking their eyes off the screen they?

It is also a good idea to look into the camera during your gameplay if you want to convey a particular reaction or make a joke. I used to put a post-it note on my monitor to remind me of that, in case I forgot.

Not editing pauses out of videos

I know, you are tempted just to upload the video as-is, but chances are, unless your commentary is just pure auditory gold, you’ll want to cut out awkward pauses. YouTube is first and foremost a platform for entertainment, especially Let’s Plays aim to be entertaining. If a viewer is not entertained and gets bored by what he is watching, he can switch to another video of the same game with one click. Everyone has a moment, where they are looking for the right solution or have to think about the next step. You can fill these moments with commentary if you are good at it, but every once in a while, you will be quiet, and nothing exciting will happen on the screen. If it doesn’t disorient the user and the gameplay not enjoyable by itself, cut it out. Your retention time and your users will thank you.

I hope these five quick tips will help you step up your YouTube game. I will be participating in NaNoWriMo in November, so I won’t have too much time that month, but I would love to hear your questions, suggestions, and tips about YouTube in the comments below!

YouTube and the unhealthy obsession with numbers

This article is part of my ongoing YouTube Articles and Guides series.

In this post, I want to talk about an aspect of YouTube that affects you from Day 1 for the total duration of your presence on this platform: Numbers. It is focused around YouTube, but might be relevant to anyone who is focusing too much on numbers with any other project.

Subscribers, Total Views, Likes and Comment Counts. Supposedly, they are the numbers that define success and failure. Especially subscriber counts seem to be the golden metric that everyone looks at first. We work towards subscriber milestones and even create subscriber specials when we reach them.

This focus on that number leads to an unhealthy obsession. Having obsessed over these figures and having suffered under the self-imposed stress that this habit brings with it, I feel it is important to talk about this topic.

So what is the problem with these numbers?

The golden metric? Subscribers

The subscriber count can give you an idea of your current channel growth, but it is misleading to equate your subscriber number with success.

Viewers subscribe to channels for particular kinds of content, which includes the personality of the channel owner. Having a lot of subscribers does not mean, that the channel generates enough views to be sustainable or that the subscribers are even still active. A good example are many Minecraft channels, which exploded in size based on a single game. Eventually, the game lost the appeal to the creators, and they switched to other games. As soon as that switch occurred, the views dropped. To sustain themselves, they have to produce Minecraft content. Switching to other games is nearly like starting over again. Channels with over a million subscribers can get abysmal views, even though most people would consider a channel with that amount of subscribers a success.

What you need to keep in mind is, that this number is just an indicator. We often obsess so much over it, that we feel like we are doing something wrong if that figure drops below previous levels (and it always will eventually).

We tend to check these numbers every day, often several times. Maybe we have a life subscriber count open in a window at all times. But why are we doing this? We are trying to get our quick fix.

Just like checking the likes on our Facebook posts, we seek validation. Getting a subscriber gives us that little boost and makes us feel good about yourself. If we get more, we get excited. If we break previous records, we get ecstatic. What we don’t realize is, is that we don’t have any direct control over these numbers.

Checking in on our subscriber count doesn’t generate new subscribers. It doesn’t produce content; it doesn’t help you rank. But we still constantly check these numbers. Not only are we trying to get our fix, but we are also creating an unhealthy habit, that is difficult to break. I had times where I woke up in the morning and the first thing I did, was to check my stats on my phone before I even had my first coffee.

If my channel grew increasingly, I was happy. If it did not grow as strongly (but still really well), I felt bummed out and started to stress about, what I could differently. I thought, that making more videos meant I could keep this growth going, being disappointed when I couldn’t. I started to feel horrible, that I apparently didn’t do enough or my content was not good enough to make my channel grow exponentially. Staying at a linear curve wasn’t good enough anymore. I always needed to beat my previous score.

A big part of YouTube is luck, just like so many other endeavors. Just because you work harder, doesn’t mean you will automatically see success. Relying on luck also means, that if you are not successful, it doesn’t mean, you haven’t done enough. Everyone has their theory of why they are successful, pointing to various things that worked out well for them and their techniques. If you look long enough, you will almost always find someone, that achieved similar success by doing things completely differently. There is no one correct way to be successful. (There are things to help you increase your odds of success, but that’s all.)

Especially when channels are smaller, they tend to focus a lot on subscribers. Of course, it is a great moment to reach your first 100 subscribers, especially if they start seeing a community emerge. But that’s all it should be – a great milestone to pat yourself on the back.

Views, View, Views

Views allow you to compare the performance of videos directly and seeing loyalty rates in series. But even these numbers are misleading, given that a video can rank for numbers of reasons, not only the first in the series. Seeing one video do worse than another has probably less to do with you creating better or worse content and more in the interest of people.

Sometimes a video gets a lot of views because it gets suggested with certain search terms that don’t even relate to the content in your videos. It is important to look at your traffic sources and watch time when you look at views. Views by themselves are merely an indicator, not the only number when you want to figure out how successful a video is.

RealtimeRealtime is an even worse offender than your subscriber numbers or view count. You can directly compare your performance of the last 48 hours. You start to obsess over individual views, which are out of your control. You might see a spike in a video, maybe because it is getting shared, perhaps because YouTube is suggesting it somewhere. An hour later the views drop and you feel horrible about that. You panic and try to change keywords, or you rework descriptions, even though the views could fall for a variety of reasons. Maybe the audience, interested in the sort of content, is sleeping now. In my opinion, it is best to avoid real-time views for performance and only give it a look every once in a while to get an idea, when to best release your videos. (Release them when you have the most views during the day.)

Imagine you had a job in which you could see your actual performance in real time. You might have had times during the day, you were particularly productive and will feel great about yourself. Now imagine you are tired and exhausted from working so hard and you see your performance drop. It won’t make you perform better; it will just make you feel horrible, even though you did all you could. Frantically trying to work harder will most likely just suck your spirit out of you.

Total Views

Total views don’t tell you anything about a channel or your performance. It’s a cool number to look at every blue moon, and it can give you an indication what someone might have earned over the course of his YouTube career in ad revenue, but other than that, it’s probably the most useless number of the bunch.

Comments

YouTube CommentsThe number of comments shows you the engagement of your users, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t receive many. I have videos that barely get comments, most comments on these are people proclaiming they are the first or second viewer and other uninteresting copy-pasta. Comments should be a nice extra, but you shouldn’t use the amount to evaluate your success on this platform. You can use a call-to-action to increase engagement and get a few more comments. It is more important to look at comments in terms of quality. Do you prefer to have ten people leaving a ‘FIRST’ comment or 1 person leaving a well thought-out comment about your video?

Likes VS Dislikes

Likes vs. Dislikes are tricky. Getting a lot of likes are nice, and they give you an idea of the engagement of your viewers, but they don’t reflect the success of a video or channel. I’ve seen plenty of videos with millions of views that have 50% or more dislikes. Viewers will dislike your content if they just are not interested. You will notice this with switching game genres on channels. If you tend to play strategy games and then play a first person shooter, you will almost automatically gain a bunch of dislikes. Don’t take them to heart; they are just a way for people to let you know if they like the video or not. A video that has a bunch of dislikes at first could turn out to be one of your most successful videos on your channel, once the right people find it.

Dislikes can be an indicator of something being wrong with the video itself, not necessarily the content. If your microphone cuts out or your game stutters a lot of viewers will dislike the video too. A huge spike in dislikes in a video can alarm you that something went wrong during recording or editing. Even if people don’t like the particular kind of content your create, don’t take them personally. We are all entitled to our opinions, that doesn’t make them wrong or right.

How To Deal With The Numbers

  • Please write this down somewhere: They are just numbers! They don’t relate to who you are as a person or how good your content is. Just how successful you are in that particular moment. You might do fantastically tomorrow and be back to previous levels in a week. It is not only incredibly difficult to influence because it is based mostly on luck, it is also a purely extrinsic motivator. You have to remind yourself why you are doing it and why you started it in the first place. (Ideally, because you enjoy the process of doing it.)
  • Chasing numbers can also lead you to create content you don’t enjoy making. Before you realize it, you are creating videos just because they get views, not because you enjoy creating them. The happiness you get from a high view count only lasts for so long, and the positive effect will disappear. If you enjoy making your content, you will stick with your channel, even if the views drop.
  • Set yourself limits to how often you check numbers. There are many fantastic plug-ins for browsers that allow you to block websites or restrict the amount of time you spend on them. If you notice yourself checking in more than once a day, I can highly recommend implementing one of these measures.
  • Don’t compare yourself against other channels. You are not the same person; you don’t create the same content, and there are way too many unknowns, to be able to compare your performance against someone else effectively. We look at other channels performance and feel either good about ourselves or worse about ourselves. We create a competition out of thin air and cake an extra layer of stress onto this already stressful hobby of ours. If you take away one single thing from this whole blog post: Block socialblade and any other website that allows you to look at other channel’s statistics and obsess over your own.

I hope this post can help a few of you out there, worrying about your subscriber count. If you have some thoughts you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments. I would love to know what your thoughts are.

How-to: Write better descriptions for your YouTube videos

This article is part of my ongoing YouTube Articles and Guides series.

Getting discovered and watched is one of the most difficult things about doing YouTube, and it is often what fellow content creators struggle with the most. Having good content alone is not going to be enough, you will have to keep in mind how people are going to find your videos in a sea of ever-growing content.

To be discovered and watched on YouTube, the average content creator has 4 tools at his or her disposal:

The title, description, tags and thumbnail.

This post will focus on descriptions, seeing that they often are the most ignored part of the equation. I see a lot of fellow YouTubers not take their descriptions seriously enough and missing out on potential traffic and views.

Unless you are already established and have a strong fan-following, these tools will also be the only ways to let people find you and (hopefully) become subscribers in the process. So let’s find out how to use descriptions to your advantage!

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How-to: Request a Game Review Copy as a Gaming Channel / Outlet

This article is part of my ongoing YouTube Articles and Guides series.

If you are running a gaming focused YouTube channel and want to cover newer games, you will have to shell out quite a few dollars. Especially in the beginning, when you won’t see anything remotely close to a mentionable income, buying a game to cover on your channel, might just not be feasible.

Yes, there are plenty of free games released every day, and they can generate a lot of views as well. Finding free games can be tricky and often they are hit and miss, sometimes they create a lot of interest due to them being available for free (see Happy Wheels), but in many cases, a lot of anticipated titles are released on Steam (or other platforms) and you’ll have to buy them. Since new releases don’t have a lot of reviews and can sometimes be misleading, buying them as they release is not only expensive over time, but also risky. The game might be too buggy to cover or just not interesting enough for you.

You can find a link to the developers homepage on the Steam store page.

You can find a link to the developers homepage on the Steam store page.

This is where receiving review copies comes in. Requesting review copies or keys is common practice and the best way to discover and cover a broad range of games; especially smaller indie developers are very thankful if you play or review their title since it provides them with exposure, which is getting harder and harder to get. So how do you get in touch with these developers? You write them a mail, usually to their designated press mail address. They are available on their websites, which is often linked on the Steam store page. If the developer doesn’t have a website or a way to contact them, you should see if they have a publisher and contact them. Getting in touch with a publisher and building a relationship with them will open up more opportunities in the future.

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Limit Upload Speed in Google Chrome for individual websites (without plugins)

If you are regularly uploading huge files with Chrome (like YouTube videos), you will be able to relate: Once the upload is active, the rest of your browsing experience becomes sluggish and barely usable. Because the YouTube uploader like many other online services, don’t integrate a way to throttle your upload. With this little guide, you can limit Upload Speed in Chrome for individual websites without having to use plugins or third party software.

If you are using Chrome, there is a hidden, but powerful tool for developers, which allows them to throttle speeds, to test websites under different conditions. With these tools, you can limit the upload to any speed for a single open tab. Reducing the upload speed by just a bit, you won’t have to wait for the upload to be done, to be able to surf the web without wanting to bang your head on the keyboard, due to slow speeds.

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Let’s talk about security … A short guide to being more safe on the web

Talking about digital/online security is an afterthought for most people, to some, it even seems annoying. “Why would anyone hack me?”, “I don’t have anything important on my computer.”, “I have a super safe password; nobody will ever guess that.”, “I don’t open suspicious attachments, and I am careful, what could happen?” and many other thoughts, make us put security on the backburner until it is too late. Once data is stolen, and accounts are compromised, the average user starts to take security a bit more serious, but you shouldn’t let it come to this.

Being compromised or getting hacked can have serious long-term consequences, that can affect your life in all regards – especially if your livelihood depends on it. If you are planning to generate any income on the internet or rely heavily on the web, you should not shrug your shoulders and take these tips seriously. Breached security can end your career, and all it takes is a crack in your security. Continue reading

‘Ghost Sonar’ for Android & iOS

Since I have a bit of history with app development and am usually bad at only doing one thing, I have been developing my third app in my spare time, when I am not recording videos: Ghost Sonar for Android and iOS

Ghost Sonar

Ghost Sonar is a Ghost Hunting Tool for professionals and beginners alike and will help you detect anomalies in your environment!

Ghost Sonar uses a variety of sensors in your phone or tablet to interpret your environment. Anomalies are detected and interpreted through the available sensors in your phone, EVP signals are being interpreted through amplifying the underlying signals that are being picked up by your devices microphone.

I kind of have a knack for novelty entertainment apps, I don’t know what makes me come back to them. One of these days, I should really make a silly little game or at least participate in Ludum Dare again! Until then: Let’s hunt some ghosts!