I have uploaded videos onto my channel since May 2020, but it only hit the algorithm in June 2021. I’m writing this post in response to the people who ask me how I achieve consistently high view counts on my transcription videos, to show you what you can apply to your own channel. Some of these insights will be specific to music, but many will be applicable across other Youtube genres.

This guide covers how to exploit the recommendations and suggestions algorithm. Ignore videos from people telling you that keywords can get you millions of views. Their role is negligible unless you’re making how-tos and looking for traffic from Youtube search. If you’re trying to make how-tos or tutorials, this guide probably won’t help you.

Chronology

I’ll start just by outlining the chronology of my channel. I uploaded 8 videos between May 2020 and August 2020. None of these found wide success on Youtube. A few had a couple of thousand views, and one had 10,000 views. One of my videos initially had a low view count, but, unprompted, gained 200k+ views in a matter of days after almost 6 months since it was uploaded.

I changed nothing about the video, yet it suddenly took off in a matter of days

At the time the video took off, I was not uploading to my channel at all.

At the end of May 2021, I uploaded my first instantly successful video, originally titled: ‘jacob collier’s funkiest few seconds‘. It achieved 200k+ views in only a week. After realising that Jacob Collier’s videos were popular, I continued to upload many highlights of his performances, which found wide success. The videos he features in are some of the most successful on my channel. I went from a couple of hundred views per day to an average of 200k per day in a matter of weeks.

100 views per day to 30k views per day to 200k views per day

I knew that Jacob Collier videos would not be a solution for the channel’s long term growth simply because there is only a finite supply. As a result, over a period of months, I reduced the amount of Jacob Collier videos I released and replaced them with other jazz videos, helping to make sure that the channel would not die after a couple of months and instead fuelling long(er) term growth.

Title Is King

What made some videos go viral, and other videos not? Understanding this is the key to consistently creating content capable of going viral.

I’ll compare two of my videos to illustrate the importance of an intelligently selected title.

First, ‘when your phone rings in a jacob collier concert’. This is one of my most viewed videos to date. Second, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me Scat Solo – John Pizzarelli’, which has under 100k views.

Almost 4 million views
Under 100k views (2.5% of the other video!)

Titles create story.

One of the most important Youtube metrics to maximise is watch time and watch percentage. Watch time is the length that people watch your videos. For example, a watch time of 1m30s is better than a watch time of 45s. Watch percentage is the watch time as a percentage of the total video. A watch time of 1m30s of a 10m long video is much worse than a watch time of 45s in a 1m video – in the first example, the viewer watches 15% of the video, but in the second one, they watch 75%. Youtube wants to maximise both of these metrics.

So, how do you keep someone engaged so that they watch the video until the end? You create a reason for them to watch. ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me Scat Solo – John Pizzarelli’ is very objective, and describes exactly what a viewer can expect. They click on the video, and if they like the music they stay and if they don’t they leave.

Creative titles can make a viewer engage. You are creating a story for the viewer. ‘when your phone rings in a jacob collier concert’ makes the viewer question – well, what exactly happens? Will the performer get angry? Will someone throw a phone at the wall? Will he playback the ringtone flawlessly? They’ll watch until it does happen, waiting for the moment they came for rather than leaving the video early.

This is illustrated in the watch time metrics for both videos. The Jacob Collier video has an average watch time of 35 seconds. The video is only 33 seconds long, giving a watch percentage of 107.5%, meaning people rewatch the video. In contrast, the longer John Pizzarelli video has a watch time of 49s but a watch percentage of only 80.7%, as people get bored.

By maximising watch time and watch percentage with creative titles, the Youtube algorithm will be more willing to recommend the video to many people.

Titles make people click.

The other key Youtube metric is click-through rate (CTR). It is the number of views divided by the number of times your video’s title and thumbnail is shown. For example, a CTR of 10% means that if Youtube shows your title and thumbnail to 100 people, about 10 people will click. A higher CTR makes the algorithm more likely to recommend your video.

The importance of CTR cannot be understated. Take a look at this views graph for one of my videos:

Views graph for ‘You can’t play WRONG notes this fast!’

The video achieved less than 5k views in almost a year after being uploaded. Then, I decided to change the title. This video was originally titled ‘Liberace – 16th Note Boogie Woogie’. I changed the title to ‘You can’t play WRONG notes this fast!‘. After changing the title, you can see what happened to the video views.

Click-through rate over time

Just by changing the title, the CTR doubled from 5% to 10% (jump seen near the start of the graph). The average watch time or watch percentage did not change, but doubling this CTR resulted in the video being propelled to over 3 million views. Why? Think about audience.

Who will click on a video titled ‘Liberace – 16th Note Boogie Woogie’?

  • people who really like Liberace
  • people who really like Boogie Woogie

Now, who will click on a video titled ‘You can’t play WRONG notes this fast!‘?

  • pianists
  • any musicians
  • anyone who is curious how fast he plays

Which of these audiences consists of more people? Of course, it is the second title. Don’t narrow your audience more than you have to, as you’ll be sacrificing recommendation potential. Sure, 50% of Liberace fans might click on the first title, but that means nothing if there’s only 10,000 of them. Only 10% of people might click on the second title option, but there are millions of them.

You will have to experiment with different titles. I often try 3+ titles on the same video to optimise CTR. Even small word choice decisions can result in a big change. Here you can see the result of changing the title from ‘when you hit puberty but it doesn’t stop’ to ‘when you hit puberty but it never ends’. CTR increased from 12.5% to about 17.5%.

Result of changing the title from ‘when you hit puberty but it doesn’t stop’ to ‘when you hit puberty but it never ends’

Pick Up People From All Corners Of Youtube

To sustain long term growth, you need a lot of people interested in your channel. My channel behaves like a bus – I upload a video from one genre, and lots of people who like that genre will get picked up and subscribe to my channel and watch my future videos (even if they aren’t so passionate about the genre of future videos).

For example, I can upload a drum video to get the drummers on board with my channel. A week later, I might upload a classical music inspired video to pick up people from the classical community and large channels like TwoSet Violin. By grabbing/poaching people from different Youtube communities, you can expand your reach into those larger communities, meaning that you’re no longer limited to your own niche.

The same works with languages – experiment with translating titles and subtitles. After adding Spanish translations to my video titles, views from Spanish speaking countries grew rapidly (people are more likely to click on a video when it’s in their own language -> higher CTR -> more views). Note that if your video has talking, you will need to translate the subtitles too, else people will click, realise they can’t understand any of the video, and then leave, drastically hurting your watch time metric.

Views from some Spanish speaking countries

More To Explore

How To Transcribe Music

I cannot tell you exactly how to identify the notes in a chord or notate a certain rhythm. That is only possible with practice and ear training through transcribing. It does not matter if your first transcriptions are awful – so were mine – but they will get better every time.

How To Grow On Youtube

I have uploaded videos onto my channel since May 2020, but it only hit the algorithm in June 2021. I’m writing this post in response