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Monday, December 12, 2016

My History as a Baby Youtuber: From 0 to 325,000 views

My very first YouTube video was posted in November 2006, and is a twelve second clip of two guys in my dorm playing the Original Nintendo Wii Tennis game on release day.
Unfortunately this was so long ago that YouTube Analytics breaks down: I can't trend for monthly views earlier than 2Q2017. Nearly 90% of the views were received in the first 6 months this video was posted, all before the YouTube Partnership monetization program was implemented.

For a while, this video appeared on the front page of search results for "Nintendo Wii". I thought it was a neat novelty at the time, but, if I knew what I know now, I would have cherished these early views because of how easy it would be to snowball those views into a successful channel.

7 years later I recorded myself fixing a common problem with the door locks in my car, and uploaded to Youtube under my new YouTube account. Apparently this car issue is a really common problem, because I've now gotten over 80,000 views on that video. My monthly view-count increased fairly rapidly at first, and was still going up until the past few months
Views by traffic source on my DIY car fix video
As you can see, the success of this video was entirely organic: Nearly all the views, especially early, were from YouTube search and Suggested videos: I was simply meeting a need by producing a video that had good search volume, and few competitors. Later, sometime in 2015, I did end up replying to some popular automotive forum posts about this issue with a link to my video, which is probably the partial cause of the increase in traffic from external sources. Then again, a lot of that is just google searches.

So at this time, I was pretty much Two for Two with hitting home runs on videos! I set up monetization to get a little beer money from my DIY car repair video each month.

My next video, a clip of my pet corgi chasing her tail, got 5,000 views from a reddit post, but no sustained views after the first month.

About 6 months later, December 2014, I was fed up with the amount of people posting to /r/personalfinance that didn't understand how credit card billing cycles work. So I made a video to explain it. I didn't post any links to reddit (It's against the rules of /r/personalfinance), but BAM, another hit, currently sitting at 33,000 views. Here's the trend of monthly views by traffic source for that one:

Remember, that's not total views. That's monthly views: steadily going up. At this time, I thought "Hey, this is actually pretty cool, I might make this a thing." So I re-branded my channel to "ChaosTheoryBlog" (which is still a bit lame) instead of simply my email handle.

Then comes a string of videos that didn't do so well. 142 views from my bike commute. 226 views on another video of my corgi. 91 views on another video about personal finance. I was disappointed in this one after my first personal finance video did so well, but I realize it's not a very searched topic, and it's got a lot of competing videos out there. Next up, Nov 2015, 1.5 years after I first started this channel, I made a video about how to set up my Sit-Stand desk, a popular model from Ikea. Believe it or not, it's currently at 10,000 views!

I've since made 15 more videos on that channel, about half of which are personal finance tips and tricks or other DIY content, but across all 15 I've only gotten another 10,000 view (however, some are recent and still rising fast in the monthly view count. Two of them are getting over 1,000 a month, both because they are frequently searched topics).

The success of my first channel was encouraging, (currently at 150,000 views) so I decided I wanted to put out some gaming content. Since my face and voice be more featured in these videos, I figured I'd make another channel, BigBossBilly, as my gaming/"personality" channel. It launched this summer, July 2016.

Here's the current view counts on my gaming channel videos (ordered from time of publication, #1 being my first video):
  1. 30
  2. 211
  3. 49
  4. 1,058 (this was a video with information about a Civilization 6, a video game to-be-released in a few weeks. I gleaned the content from watching a pre-release video and provided commentary on it. Nearly all views are from a post in the related subreddit).
  5. 29
  6. 256
  7. 227
  8. 446
  9. 201
  10. 356
  11. 754 (my channel trailer)
  12. 68
  13. 665
  14. 31
  15. 55

    Most of these were gaming videos, or "Vlog" style videos, a very saturated field. And worst of all, most of these views came after this:
  16. 34,656. WOOO Another homer! This was another video on Civilization 6. I spent about 4 hours doing detailed assessment about how some game mechanics would work, and compiled that all into a nice 10 minute package. But here's the crazy thing: I got 800 views up front when I posted it to reddit before the game was out. Then absolutely no views for the next 2 weeks, until the game was released and I saw an immense traffic spike! Having a youtube video already published when people first buy the game and start playing it was incredible helpful. I beat out all the other guides on the mechanic, so I spiked in traffic results!
  17. 1,502 (another corgi video which I posted to reddit)
  18. 78
  19. 190
  20. 20,617 (another Civ 6 video, nearly all organic views, only 350 views from reddit)
  21. 391
  22. 6,501 (another Civ 6 video)
  23. 665 (another Civ 6 video)
  24. 2,431 (another Civ 6 video)
  25. 3,397 (another Civ 6 video)
  26. 114
  27. 1,416 (another Civ 6 video)
  28. 1,526 (another Civ 6 video)
  29. 91
In just 5 months it's now standing at 75,000 views. I've noticed that people are more likely to subscribe to me on my gaming channel, BigBossBilly, when I rarely got any subs on ChaosTheoryBlog. People don't subscribe to a DIY channel, that's content that they search for, find, and leave. But gamers enjoy new content from personalities that entertain them and teach them. Let's look at my overall YouTube History to compare the total cumulative views and total subscribers from my two channels:
As you can see, I have over 800 subs (blue dotted line) on my second gaming channel, and only 150 on my first channel (red dotted line) despite it having much more total views.

A few lessons:

  • Don't think about the health of your channel in terms of total views or total subs. Rather, look at the rate at which it is gaining views or subs (per day, week, or month). The graph above makes my first channel look "better" because it has more total views. But if you look at the number of daily viewers, you see something different. Check out the stacked bar chart of my combined daily views:
Combined daily views on both channels.



  • Video games: Be timely. By the very fact that YouTube culture attracts gamers, and vice versa, there are going to be a ton of generic let's play video game videos. You better have a fucking amazing personality or be really early to a video game and have highly searched keywords. 
  • Put out content that people are searching for.
  • Spamming your links to Reddit gets you a large number of views in about a 24 hour time period, but does not build any sustained viewership nor subs. Spam won't help a shitty video be successful. And by shitty, I mean shitty content with low demand, I'm not talking about production quality. My production quality has generally been pretty bad. 
Note that the last two graphs don't include my channel with the Wii video from 2006. That would make for quite the spike! I think I was getting over 10,000 views some days.

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