5 Mistakes That Are Limiting Your YouTube Subscription Numbers

That’s me, Sean Cannell!

I grew the Think Media YouTube channel to 1.9 million subscribers.

When I think about the journey to a 7-figure following, I look at the secrets to YouTube growth that would have made me grow faster. Tips like how many videos to post before calling it quits, avoiding ‘selfish’ content at all costs, and strategically creating search-based content.

If I could do it all over again, I would incorporate these tips into my YouTube strategy from Day 1. And if I was starting over today, I wouldn’t be fearful that I couldn’t grow back my audience. Here’s why…

Right now is the best time to create content on YouTube. Since the lockdown in 2020, we’ve seen YouTube viewership is still skyrocketing. Consumption is up over 80%, according to Cisco (EIGHTY PERCENT!).

In 2019 there were about 15 billion minutes of YouTube videos watched. As you’re reading this article, that number is closer to 32 billion in some industries.

The time to be a creator is here.

But uploading your first YouTube video is, understandably, scary. The thought of seeing a meager 10 views and having your peers know you’re just starting out isn’t exactly thrilling. It’s the reason so many people decide to put off their YouTube dreams, despite watching their favorite creators every day and wishing they were in their shoes.

Your favorite creators started with one YouTube video and, most likely, 10 total views. But, they kept pushing through—knowing that if they found their rhythm, they could turn this into a career. And finding that rhythm comes down to avoiding these 5 mistakes that I learned the hard way on the road to 1.6 million followers.

It’s time to punch fear and perfectionism in the face, and press record (while growing your audience gracefully as you avoid these mistakes).

Mistake #1: Judging Your Performance BEFORE You Post Enough Videos

You need to post your first 35 videos. I know exactly what you’re thinking. It’s the same thing *I* would be thinking if somebody told me to post 35 videos when I was struggling with getting my first video into the world.

“35 Freaking videos. That’s kind of crazy.”

There’s a reason for this number. Before that 35th video, you’re going to be judging your results way too early. You’ll see your following growing by 10-20 followers a week and feel like you’re not making progress. And you’ll be tempted to quit.

This is one of the biggest mistakes new creators make. They post a few videos, don’t get the results you’re looking for, and decide YouTube isn’t for you.

That’s why you’ll hold yourself accountable for 35 videos. Those videos will trigger the algorithm to get things going or help you see where you can pivot to find success. With over 2,000 videos, I’ve had a couple of failed YouTube channels that led me straight to the successful ones. 

You win, you learn, and you have to fail forward—and actually want to play.

Mistake #2: Making ‘Selfish’ Content

How to get more youtube subscribers

YouTube follows the same rules of marketing. You have to answer the “Who?” and “What?” questions before you commit to posting. Without those answers, your channel won’t serve your audience. It’ll only serve you, and the topic that interests you that day.

Answer these 2 questions to avoid making selfish content:

  1. Who are your videos serving?
  2. What problem do you solve for them?

Creators that answer this question make service content. The ones who don’t, make selfish content and eventually quit YouTube.

When my co-author of YouTube Secrets Benji Travis and I, met with Gary Vaynerchuk, multiple New York Times bestselling author and one of the leading social media experts in the world, we asked him: “What advice would you give to new YouTube creators?”

Here’s what he said:

I think it’s about, are you putting out entertainment? Are you putting out education? Because 90% of people are putting out selfish content.

Ninety percent of people are putting out press releases. They want you to think something about them. They’re making it selfish for themselves. They wanted to go to Maui and surf, so that’s the content you’re getting.

But did that bring you any value? They want you to think they’re cool. 90% of the content right now are people acting like PR agents for themselves? I’m asking people to look like educators or entertainers.

Do you think about the audience first? Or don’t you?

The reason people aren’t getting to 1,000 subscribers is that they’re not thinking about their audience first. They’re thinking about what content *they want* to create and the benefits that could come from choosing that creator path. For example, if you’re thinking, “I want to be a travel vlogger,” have you considered how your content serves the audience you want to grow? Or are you more focused on a free fancy hotel stay with a giraffe eating breakfast with you?

That’s what Gary’s saying (and I’m echoing). And here’s another Gary tip—pick either entertainment or education content to create. Both types of content are exploding right now.

As I said, there’s never been a better time to create content.

Mistake #3: Choosing to Get Your YouTube Wisdom the Slow Way

Post your first video, today.

Stop reading this blog and go shoot a video on your phone and go post your first video (for real!). Once you’re posting, it’s time to ‘skill up’ in 2 ways:

#1: Identify the skills you need to learn (like video editing, designing thumbnails, and camera presence).

#2: Identify 5-10 successful channels in your niche and study what they’re doing and how you can add your own spin to it. (Don’t be scared of competition, this means you have a market!).

There are 2 ways to get wisdom. The slowest way is through your own mistakes. The fastest way to get wisdom is through others’ mistakes. That’s the beauty of buying a book, watching other creators’ YouTube channels (like mine), and learning from experts who can tell you exactly what to do.

You don’t have to be a YouTube expert to get started with your first video. But, you do need to have the basics down. Your videos should always be improving, especially as you learn more about:

  • How to create eye-catching thumbnails
  • How to name your videos catchy titles
  • How channels in your niche are getting views
  • How channels in your niche are editing their content

Your plan isn’t to copy what they’re doing. It’s to study what they’re doing and figure out how you can add your own spin to it. The spin that attracts the right audience for *you*.

Shorten your learning curve by getting your wisdom the fast way—learning through others’ mistakes.

Mistake #4: Not Creating Search-Based Content

Not Focusing on Search Based Content will hurt your youtube subscriber numbers.

Search-based content answers specific questions. It’s the content that meets a YouTube search of “how to train my dog to sit” or “how to take care of a fiddle leaf fig tree.” This is the content I focus my YouTube channels around, even though there’s some debate on it.

Creators wonder how much YouTube tags really impact their views and reach. A lot of people are asking if YouTube is even still a search engine. The answer is a loud, yes. YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world (Google is the first).

Sixty-five percent of people who use YouTube are using it to solve a problem. If people are going to YouTube to solve a problem, the best way to get discovered is to answer their question.

To be clear, this isn’t the only content you’ll ever make. You’re not stuck in “answering question” purgatory. But, you should start with search-based content to help your channel get views and subscribers. If people aren’t searching for your content, it’ll be really hard for it to get seen. The YouTube algorithm isn’t like TikTok—you’ll need to strategize getting views and a following on the platform.

That’s why answering the two questions above is so important. Every video idea should start with answering:

  1. Who are your videos serving?
  2. What problem do you solve for them?

Once you have subscribers, you can start to expand your content because they know you. They’re not just there to get a question answered. Subscribers are there to hang out with you.

  • Are you crafting content that you’ve researched and that people are interested in?
  • Are you crafting content that people are interested in watching?

Mistake #5: Avoiding Committment to the Long-Term Vision

If you want to ensure your YouTube channel never gets off the ground, maxing out at 50 views per video and 100 subscribers, here’s what you have to do. Dabble. 

The main reason people don’t reach 1,000 subscribers is that they’ve never actually made a real commitment to getting there. They dabble with YouTube. But like any marketing strategy, when you dabble—you get subpar results. And those subpar results trick you into thinking people don’t like your content or you’re not cut out for YouTube.

That’s not the case, at all.

Commitment is the foundation of all accomplishments. Commitment is the little choice we make every day that leads to the final results we’re looking for. And you’ll need to commit to growing on YouTube.

I can’t promise you an easy ride. Chances are, your YouTube growth will be hard and come with its fair of challenges. But, I can promise you that it’s worth it.

Commitment is showing up and making the hard decisions consistently. You don’t get bulging biceps by doing push-ups once. You don’t watch the fitness DVD one time and all of a sudden turn into chiseled Brad Pitt from Fight Club.

You do it through daily repetitious discipline. You keep showing up. You keep sweating. You keep doing the work. Wishing is not committing. It’s about making this a priority. 

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Failure is a stepping stone to success.

Become a YouTube Superstar (For Your Niche)

You don’t need a famous YouTuber friend to get your channel off the ground. You also don’t need years of marketing experience to get your first 1,000 followers. All you need is the motivation to hit publish on your first video—and these 5 mistakes written on a post-it note near your desk.

Refer back to these mistakes as your channel starts to grow, you record more videos, and especially when you’re thinking of quitting.

  • Which mistake have you accidentally started making?
  • Do you need to post more videos before you quit (ahem, 35!)?
  • Have you been taking YouTube seriously, or just dabbling?

YouTube wants you to create content. They make money when you post videos people want to watch. That’s part of what makes this such a great time to be a creator. YouTube is on your side, but you have to play by the demands of their users. For YouTube, that’s creating entertaining or educational content that answers questions your audience is curious about while nurturing a relationship with their (soon-to-be) favorite creator.

The real failure for YouTube creators is quitting, and I know you’re better than that.

Shift into the mindset that you can dominate YouTube for your niche—because you can.

Need More Guidance? Attend Sean’s Workshop!

Sean Cannell will be hosting a live workshop for DigitalMarketer Lab members in January 2022. If you’d like to attend the live session, you’ll need to be a member. As a member, you’ll also be eligible to win a free YouTube Creator Kit if you gain 1,000 subscribers during the workshop.

Sean Cannell Youtube Workshop

Sean Cannell

Sean Cannell is one of the most watched video content experts in the world and one of his channels was listed by Forbes as one of the “Top 20 Channels That Will Change Your Business.”
He is an international speaker, best-selling author of the book YouTube Secrets and his YouTube channel, Think Media, reaches over 21.5 million people a month. Sean has been hailed as one of the most successful online video experts – first building a multiple six-figure business through affiliate marketing and then going on to build a seven-figure media company focusing on online education that he still runs today.
Sean and his team are on a mission to help 10,000 people quit their day jobs to do what they love. He is passionate about giving tactical, practical advice to use video to spread your message. 
Sean is from Arlington, Washington and currently lives in Las Vegas, NV with his wife Sonja, son Sean Bradley, and their dog Sophie.

Sean Cannell

Sean Cannell

Hey! My name is Sean and I'm the CEO of Think Media and co-founder of Video Influencers. My passion is helping leaders build their influence and profits with YouTube and online video.

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