How to Jumpstart Your YouTube Growth Engine with Gwen Miller


Gwen Miller is a digital video strategist who works with brands, creators and media companies to use data to craft their content for one-of-a-kind audiences. Today on the show Gwen gives us five factors that affect our YouTube growth engine.

GUEST: Gwen Miller  Twitter | LinkedIn

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HOSTS: The Video Marketing Value Podcast is hosted by:
– Dane Golden of VidiUp.tv and VidTarget.io | LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube

SPONSORS: This episode is brought to you by our affiliate partners, including: TubeBuddyVidIQMorningFameRev.com, and other products and services we recommend.

PRODUCER: Jason Perrier of Phizzy Studios

TRANSCRIPT

Gwen Miller:
What is the most important part of your growth? And I find that people get very confused. Is it, am I building my subscriber base? Am I building my views? What do I look at to see if my channel is set up to grow? And I’ve kind of come in into this theory about six factors that you can look at to really pinpoint is your channel healthy? Is it set up to grow? And what are the levers you can pull to make it grow?

Dane Golden:
It’s time for the Video Marketing Value Podcast. This is the podcast where we help marketers and business owners just like you get more value out of your video marketing budget, your effort, your time, your money. My name is Dane Golden from VidiUp.tv where we help you up your game on YouTube for business and transform your viewers into loyal customers. And VidTarget.io where we help you get a higher return on your YouTube ad spend with targeted YouTube ads along with my co-host it’s Gwen Miller. Hello Gwen.

Gwen Miller:
Hey Dane.

Dane Golden:
So who’s our guest today?

Gwen Miller:
My favorite person in the world, my self.

Dane Golden:
And we’ll get to your topic in a second. Gwen, tell us a little bit about what you do.

Gwen Miller:
Yes. I am a digital video strategist who works with brands, creators, and media companies to use data to craft their content for one of a kind audiences.

Dane Golden:
Okay. And for you, the listener, you should know that as always, you can follow along on your podcast app with the transcript, the links, and send us a message on social media. We’d love to hear from you. And today, Gwen is going to give us her top five factors of your YouTube growth engine. Isn’t that right, Gwen?

Gwen Miller:
Yes, sir. And is that correct, Dane? You helped me carefully craft this title, so it’s perfectly correct.

Dane Golden:
So we’ve got it. So what’s the concept behind a YouTube growth engine? What is it all about?

Gwen Miller:
I think there’s a lot of debate right now in kind of the YouTube strategy sphere on what is the most important part of your growth? And I find that people get very confused. Is it, am I building my subscriber base? Am I building my views? What do I look at to see if my channel is set up to grow? And I’ve kind of come in into this theory about six factors that you can look at to really pinpoint, is your channel healthy? Is it set up to grow? And what are the levers you can pull to make it grow?

Dane Golden:
And I think that’s really key because there are so many different possible things. The good part about YouTube is it gives us tons of analytics. The bad part is, is that there’s too many analytics, you don’t know which ones to focus on. You can’t think about accelerating each particular one, but what you have done through your intense experience and is to come up with the six areas to focus on. So what is the first one?

Gwen Miller:
All right. The first one that I like to really dig into is, because this is a question I get all the time. It’s, is it really that important to build a subscriber base? At the end of the day, we’ve all seen creators with these huge subscriber bases, but they don’t push that many views. So if that’s the case, if you can build this huge subscriber base and then end up still with getting less views than someone with less subscribers, should I just be concentrating on getting views? And there is some truth to that. You need to be careful that you’re not just getting obsessed with subscribers as a vanity metric. You need to know that as your channel ages, there are going to be certain subscribers that become dormant. If they subscribed to you five years ago, they may not still be in the frame of mind to want to watch your content, or they may not be on YouTube as much anymore. So you are over time going to get a certain part of your subscriber base that becomes dormant. I however-

Dane Golden:
Can I just give a little color commentary here on that? What she means by dormant or what I would interpret in saying that is that, hey, you know what, someone may subscribe to your channel. Maybe they’re learning how to make a chair in woodworking, but you know what, after they’re done with that chair, they may no longer want to make other chairs or you may have taught them. So that even though they remain subscribed, they aren’t as interested in your future videos. Would you say that’s right?

Gwen Miller:
Right, right. Or it maybe if your key audience tends to be 13 to 17 year olds, sometimes people will outgrow you, or they just be yeah, maybe they were really into a pottery phase and now they’ve had a kid and they don’t have time to do pottery anymore. There’s a lot of things that go on in people’s lives where they come in and out. And sometimes you’ll find that they may leave for a couple of years and then come back when, say, you’re maybe evolving your content a little bit more, so you should never give up on those subscribers. And there really is a contrary to some myths. There really isn’t that much damage to having subscribers who are not active as long as, and here’s the key thing, as long as they’re inactive, but not like looking at your thumbnails and making an impression and then passing it on by. If someone’s still active on the platform and seeing your thumbnails, you want to get them to click.

Gwen Miller:
But if someone’s just like they had a kid they’re not on YouTube as much anymore. That’s not going to hurt you in the long run. Yeah. I mean, here’s the thing, the reason that I still believe in having a subscriber base is A, it’s kind of a bellwether for other things on your channel. It is a sign of super fandom, because if someone is a super fan, very likely they are going to hit that subscribe button. It’s not a universal thing, but by and large, that is correlated. Super fans become subscribers, and you really need to be building that super fan base. If you don’t want to be stuck in the rat race of always getting maybe SEO is your main traffic source every single time. That is a hard slog because every video you’re starting from scratch to build an audience. If you can build a solid subscriber base, you have at least a solid base of views.
Now your unsubscribed views are always going to be your top source of views if your channel is healthy, but it gives the algorithm a base of early views in the lifecycle of your video to see the reaction, and it can accelerate the algorithm’s decision to then show it to other like-minded people to your subscriber base.

Dane Golden:
So it’s a momentum and it keeps driving signals to the algorithm.

Gwen Miller:
Correct. Correct. Exactly.

Dane Golden:
And what is your second major factor to consider?

Gwen Miller:
All right. So I think the first factor, and this kind of gets into a part of this whole engine of growth theory that I have that really digs into, why am I not growing? This is the number one question that creators come to me with. They’ll be like, “I just don’t get why I’m not growing.” And there is a couple things that it could be, and you really need to get at what is the base cause. So the first question I say, you need to ask is, is your content getting in front of enough new eyeballs? So you can make the world’s greatest content, but if it’s not getting in front of a new audience, maybe your subscribers are really happy with it, but it’s not getting in front of a new audience then it’s hard to grow.

Gwen Miller:
Now, this is actually one of the easier problems that in this scenario we will go through is actually one of the easier problems to solve, which I know sounds like trite, because we all know that the fighting the fight for attention on YouTube, there’s a difficult proposition, but there are things you can do. So, first of all, how do you know if you’re not getting enough unsubscribed views? Because I will say, it is a growth process.

Dane Golden:
Okay. Okay. I’m going to slow you down for just a second here. You said, how do you know if you’re not getting enough unsubscribed views? So please repeat what unsubscribed views are.

Gwen Miller:
Okay. So you got yourself some subscribers, and the wonderful thing about YouTube analytics is they will tell you what part of your views are coming from people who have hit that little subscription button on your channel and what amount of views are coming from people who are not subscribed to your channel. So these are what I like to affectionately call new eyeballs. These are people who are coming typically more fresh to your channel and you have a chance to convert them into a super fan.

Dane Golden:
So just to be clear, an unsubscribed view is not someone who has unsubscribed from your channel. It’s someone who is not subscribed, but they are viewing.

Gwen Miller:
Correct. Yes. You should probably say not subscribed, but for whatever reason YouTube and analytics refers them to them as unsubscribed. Correct. So yes. So you just, everyone, I think one of the biggest things that people very excitedly, we should all start our YouTube channels and are like, “I’m going to put up this video and this, we have visions.” We It’s not going to be overnight, but we’ll hope that there’s just going to be this influx of views. That’s not how it works. It’s you have to put the work into it.

Dane Golden:
Very rarely. Yeah. Very rarely.

Gwen Miller:
Right? Yeah. There is, there’s always the exception to the rule. And we all see that exception be like if they can do it, I can do it. That is setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment because that is literally a one in a million chance. And really the more sustainable channels are the ones you grow in this more slow, steady way. So yes. So if you’re smaller, how do you tell, am I getting in front of enough new eyeballs, so to speak? So the rule of thumb that I usually, and this is very much just a lick my finger, put it in the wind kind of guesstimates. But I always like to see, you should be getting at least double the unsubscribed views to how many subscribed views you are getting for you to grow. That is what it takes because we’ll talk about it a little bit later. You’re only converting a small percentage of that into long-term subscribers.
If you want to keep those numbers growing, you need a pretty big, what we call a top of a funnel of new eyeballs coming in so that you can move them down that funnel to that conversion point to being subscribers.

Dane Golden:
So what you’re saying is, is that you’re growing the subscriber base and getting in front of new eyeballs, you have to have enough people seeing what you’re doing to actually click and watch and grow.

Gwen Miller:
Exactly, exactly. Another way to look at it. And this one’s actually officially from YouTube that I’ve had YouTube tell me, is how they look at it is your subscribed watch time should be 30 to 40% of your overall watch time. So if you think of that, that means that 60 to 70% of your watch time should be coming from unsubscribers. I find watch time is a little bit harder for people to kind of get their head around. So that’s why I use the views metric, but that you’ll find kind of evens out a little bit. 30 to 40% of your overall watch time is about, comes out to about having your unsubscribed views being double your subscribed views, whichever way works best for you, both are very valid ways to look at it.

Dane Golden:
Okay. I’m just going to repeat it for clarification. You should have about twice as many viewers that are not subscribed as they’re subscribed or your… Okay. Let me see if I can get this straight. Your total amount of minutes should be from subscribers should not be larger than about 40% of your total amount of minutes from a given time period.

Gwen Miller:
Correct.

Dane Golden:
Okay. Go on. Go on. Thank you for waiting. Go on.

Gwen Miller:
So if you run through that question and the answer is yes, it’s low. There is a couple things you can do to gear your content to get them in front of more eyeballs. And the number one thing you do, and this is always my favorite go-to is go to your data and start looking and look at all the videos you’ve put up, which formats tend to get you more new eyeballs? When you go into your YouTube analytics, there is a tab called subscription source. When you open up the subscription source tab, it will tell you how many unsubscribed eyeballs, unsubscribed viewers, a specific video is pulling in.

Gwen Miller:
You should go through that and you should look for the videos and the formats that tend to bring you in these new eyeballs. And it’s not always going to be the same consistent videos as your subscribers are really into. And you just need to be making sure that you’re sprinkling those formats in. If you’re only doing videos that are your super fans loved, while you don’t want to alienate your super fans, you can’t expect to grow if you’re not putting up formats that you know bring in those new eyeballs.

Dane Golden:
So what we’re talking about here is traffic sources, correct? That are like browse features, suggested videos search. Is that what we’re talking about?

Gwen Miller:
Well, actually you don’t actually need… It’s a separate tab called subscription source in the new YouTube studio.

Dane Golden:
Oh, okay. Great.

Gwen Miller:
And it will just list it. There’s just two lines in that tab and it’s literally unsubscribed views and subscribed views. And that’s where you can tell which of your content is a real boon for your super fans and which ones are really good at pulling in these new friends. What I will say is you will likely find I’ve seen fairly consistently across channels, is that the formats that are more, let’s say your signature format or very niche to your channel, those are super fan contents. And the formats that are more universal shared across a lot of different channels are the ones that bring in more fresh eyes to your content mainly because they know what they’re getting.

Gwen Miller:
If they see a fridge tour on your channel, they know what a fridge tour is. They have to make one less decision. They just have to make the decision of whether they like what you look like in your thumbnail. And you look interesting, I’m going to click on it. I’m going to watch their fridge door. If you have a special format called Danes Variety Show, they don’t know what that is. They don’t know what they’re getting. They have to make two decisions. They have to say, does that topic sound interesting? And B does Dane look interesting? So if you can take one of those decisions away from them and just be like, “Hey, this is a cool format you like, I just happen to be doing it.” It’s a great way to get new eyeballs in. That should not be every video because you need things that make you distinct and stand out, but you need to pepper those in to be able to bring in a new audience consistently.

Dane Golden:
And I had, I mean YouTube is about niches too. So some people may know a lot about one niche and not about another. Because I never knew until you just said it, that a fridge tour was a thing.

Gwen Miller:
Oh yeah, exactly. And again, this doesn’t work like Dane, you should not be doing a fridge tour because that’s not your niche.

Dane Golden:
You have no idea what’s in my fridge. Maybe I should.

Gwen Miller:
I think I personally would love to know what’s in your fridge. So I am all on board for the Dane fridge tour. Go for it.

Dane Golden:
But you’re saying it’s not what my channels are about.

Gwen Miller:
No, but you should look at what is your community, what are some of these standard formats in that community? So if you’re like a tech reviewer, there’s a ton of formats that tech reviewers do consistently that you can also do. A fridge tour happens to be something that’s popular in the lifestyle space. If you’re in the lifestyle space, I highly recommend you open up that fridge. It sounds simple, it sounds stupid, but people eat it up.

Dane Golden:
That’s like three puns in one there. So what is your third key factor?

Gwen Miller:
Okay, so if you think at the first level is, the first thing you should be questioning is like, “Hey, am I even getting in front of new eyeballs? Maybe that’s my problem. I’m just not getting the audience there in the first place.” If the answer is actually, “Yes, I am getting the new eyeballs there.” Then you need to ask yourself, are you converting those unsubscribed views into subscribers? So this is really important because there’s a lot of channels that I have delved into where actually, they’re doing a pretty good job at surfacing an SEO or showing up in suggested videos. They’re doing collabs. They’re getting the views, but they’re not converting into subscribers.

Dane Golden:
But why? But why?

Gwen Miller:
Exactly. So this is why you need to figure out your conversion rates. And I defined conversion rates a little bit differently than other people might define their conversion rate. I defined my conversion rate as essentially subscribers gained, divided by unsubscribed views. So it’s not total views. It’s like, what is the pool of views coming in that are not already subscribed to me? What percentage of that am I actually converting to being a subscriber after that happens?

Dane Golden:
This is the topic that I cornered you on at VidCon when you mentioned it. Deep, deep after the presentation, I said, “Hold on, what is it that you are talking about here?” And we did a whole other podcast on the old analytics. But if you could just repeat what you said again, slower, because even though you’ve talked about it before, I just want to make sure I get it. And then if I get it, they get it.

Gwen Miller:
Great. Okay. So perfect. So this is subscribers gained and I want to emphasize this is subscribers gained, not your net subscribers. This is just what has been added. And I always look at this at a monthly level. So let’s say we’re looking at December. So how many subscribers did you gain during December 2020? Then you’re going to take that number which you will find again, you need to be at the channel level of your analytics, not the video level. You’re going to go to the subscription source tab and you’re going to pull the subscribers gained number from there. Then you’re going to go to the subscription status tab and pull the total number of unsubscribed views for that month.

Dane Golden:
Okay. Some questions here. Okay. So first of all, you can’t do this on a per video basis or you can?

Gwen Miller:
It’s not very reliable on a per video basis. And mainly the reason for this is people don’t tend to subscribe-

Dane Golden:
Because of one video.

Gwen Miller:
Correct. If you look at your subscription like sources, single videos are not your highest, most of it’s happening at the channel level. And this is because they may come and see this video. They may love it. They’re probably going to click through onto your channel and poke around and look at some of your other thumbnails. Maybe even watch another video or two before they decide to hit that subscribe button. So if you’re just looking at the video level, it can be directional about which videos are better or worse at pushing subscribers, but it’s not going to give you a highly accurate number to do a calculation like this.

Dane Golden:
Okay. And then my follow-up question is, I just want to be clear when you say what’s the difference between subscribers gained, subscribers lost and net subscribers? You can look at each of those directly. Please explain the difference between those three. I know it’s basic for you, but for the viewers, maybe not. The listeners, maybe not.

Gwen Miller:
Yeah. %1000. So typically when you look at a SocialBlade that is telling you the number of how many subscribers were added this month. They’re actually looking at a net number. It’s really looking at how many subscribers were added that month minus how many left. Ans that’s going to give you-

Dane Golden:
Because there’s a lot leaving. There’s a lot leaving on any channel.

Gwen Miller:
Even if you have a great audience base, there’s always going to be people leaving, which is always why I’m like, do not obsess over how many people are going out the door now, we’ll get into, in our next point, you should be a little concerned if it’s an extreme amount, but you’re going to see some level of attrition at all times. And so most of what we think about when we’re looking at how many subscribers did I get this month, it’s really that net number, which is useful when looking at overall growth, but not so useful when you’re trying to pinpoint where your problems might be. It could be, well, where is my actual problem? Is it in how many subscribers am I adding or how many subscribers I’m losing? So you have to look at those numbers as two different things. Because you could be doing a great job that month at gaining subscribers. You’re just doing a bad job at not losing them. And those are two different things that you need to fix. Right?

Dane Golden:
Okay. So again, we’re dividing the subscribers gained. Those are the new added subscribers by the unsubscribed views. So new added subscribers divided by viewers who were not subscribed to begin with. And that’s your conversion rate.

Gwen Miller:
Correct. So this number tells you how good a job you’re doing when people find you and they look at your face, they listen to your voice, they hear what you have to say. Do they want to stick around and hear more from you in the future? That’s what we’re getting at here.

Dane Golden:
That seems logical. It’s sort of like how many customers who have never been in your restaurant want to come back?

Gwen Miller:
Exactly. Exactly. And yeah, you can run at least for a little while a business where you’re always new customers into your restaurant, but we all know that restaurant isn’t going to stay open for a very long time. So let’s try to get some repeat business.

Dane Golden:
You need both, you need repeats and new people in coming into the restaurant.

Gwen Miller:
Correct.

Dane Golden:
Okay.

Gwen Miller:
Correct. Yes. What is low? I think it’s going to be, you should definitely be comparing yourself to yourself. If you have a channel, which is a very much a SEO driven like any of the how-to type of stuff, the more practical, how-to stuff, let’s say. This number might be a little bit lower because people are just they’re searching how to use a hammer. I don’t know, people need to be taught how to use hammers. But you are probably going to have a lot less of a level of people who want to sign up to come back than some other channels which are more personality based. But as a general rule for most of the channels I’ve ever dealt with, 1% is a solid conversion rate. If you’re getting 1% of those unsubscribed views every month to say, “Hey, yes, I want to come back.” You’re looking pretty healthy.

Dane Golden:
Okay. 1%.

Gwen Miller:
1%. I know it sounds low, but it’s actually a very healthy rate if you’re getting 1% and if you’d be like, “I want 50%.” I’ve never seen that happen. I think the highest percentages I see and usually happens when you’re really small, you’re maybe looking at 8%. So do not send yourself into unrealistic expectations here.

Dane Golden:
Okay. Month over month. And then what if it’s too low? What do you do?

Gwen Miller:
So this always gets very tricky when having conversations with creators, because it’s a lot easier to fix the, you’re not just getting enough top of the funnel we need to market you essentially. When it’s actually probably like you’re getting it up top of the funnel, they just don’t want to stick around. This typically gets to something more kind of fundamental about you and your content. And so I always ask people, are you infusing enough of you into your videos? Could this video come from literally anyone and still be just the same? What are you adding to this video what means that they’ll want to click and say, “Oh, I will watch other things from this creator.” Rather than being like, “Great, you showed me how to use a hammer. I was very satisfied with this video, but it doesn’t mean that I want to hear you tell me how to use a saw.”

Gwen Miller:
So you need to make sure that you are creating content that is standing out in some way from the competition so they want to come back for you. A lot of that is often in your energy level. Are you likable? Which I know is hard to work on per se, but there are definitely things you can do. I always say like, hey, the camera takes away 20% of your energy, go 20% higher than you think you need to be. Will feel a little insane sitting in your apartments being like this boisterous personality. But that’s what it takes on this platform to really translate through the screen. And you’ll come across feeling fairly normal to people on YouTube.

Gwen Miller:
And I would say finally, it’s like, are you telling stories? I don’t care if you’re doing how-to. I work with a lot of how-to channels. And it’s like, okay, why is this coming from you? What story do you have to tell about you learning to do this, or when you taught someone else or how this has changed your life? People want to see you as a human, not just as that talking head that is essentially a robot who is passing information along to them.

Dane Golden:
Boy, I have to be personable and when I let my personality out, it has to be a likable one. This is a very high bar here.

Gwen Miller:
I know. And it’s hard. And having those conversations with creators to be like, “Are you sure you’re likable?” Is a little bit uncomfortable, but I think we all have to take a very serious look on you might be likable as a person, but is that translating on camera?

Dane Golden:
I want to take a side trip down here, because I know you work a lot with women. And there’s sort of a cultural thing like is a woman likable? And it’s a different thing sort of YouTube versus like the working world where women are perceived that they have to be likable to succeed in a business where it’s not that same rule is not applied to men. Is it a different thing when you’re on video? Because you’re really more there is an entertainment element to it and people want to watch people they like?

Gwen Miller:
Look, louder the better.

Dane Golden:
What’d you say?

Gwen Miller:
Louder, the better.

Dane Golden:
The louder the better, okay.

Gwen Miller:
And look there’s, you can take it too far, but it definitely is an area where big personalities are rewarded. Is there still some double standard with women online? %1000. Probably even more so than there is in the regular world, but it’s certainly not the same rules that may come to bite you in the real world. Where it does get a little bit interesting is if your target audience is men, that’s going to be a different, they’re going to perceive things as likable differently than females are. So if you’re doing a beauty channel where your audience is mostly females, likability is interpreted a lot differently than if say you’re being a tech reviewer where 60% plus of your audience is men. And unfortunately this is still something you need to keep in mind when you’re looking at your demographics of who am I going after? What am I portraying here? Am I coming across as likable to my majority female audience, is going to be different than coming across likable too like if your audience is 25 year old guys.

Dane Golden:
Okay. I’m really liking this topic here because with each of these factors, you’re really finding a way to drill in, in a practical way, drill down what exactly is the growth problem with a channel and then address it. So what other factors, as far as low conversion rate, can I do to improve that?

Gwen Miller:
I mean, here’s the one that’s so simple and we all know that we need to do it and we often forget to. Remind people to subscribe. You think people know to do that, but just that function of reminding them. And also sometimes it’s letting them know what it means to you. Making it a personal thing for you. And what’s very successful is like subscription like, “Hey, I’m almost to 100,000 subscribers.” And then there’s a real excitement to hit that button to help you get to your goal. And I also say, think about, this isn’t a unique case, but I’ve worked with channels before whose audience is like 45. They don’t actually know how to subscribe. And not that they don’t know how to subscribe. It is not ingrained in them culturally to subscribe. They’re not from a generation-

Dane Golden:
They’re not as savvy.

Gwen Miller:
Yeah. They’re not from a generation that just knows to subscribe to a YouTube channel. They’re almost exclusively watching YouTube because somebody emails them a link. So once they do that, they need to be educated on how to subscribe and then how to come back and find you again in the future. So you have a unique audience, figure out what the best way and experiment with some strategies to get them to subscribe, but there’s never any harm in asking. I would also say, again, remember what I said, people don’t usually subscribe off of one video, so you need to get them to watch multiple videos. There’s many ways you can do this. You can put cards in your videos to push people to other videos. In your end cards always use your end cards and then in the description, make sure you’re pushing them to more of your content because that will make it much, much more likely that they will subscribe.

Dane Golden:
Okay. What is your fourth key factor?

Gwen Miller:
All right. So now you kind of dug into your growth problem when it comes to subscriber growth. You’ve figured it out, “Okay. Is my problem that I’m just not getting enough exposure, let’s find those formats. Let’s optimize for sure. Let’s do collabs.” And then we looked at, hey, what if your problem is actually converting them? We talked about, maybe you need to revamp your content and how you’re presenting yourself. Now you could have a perfectly fine subscriber base. But there is cases where you have the subscribers, but they’re just not watching your content. And this often happens, especially a lot to how-to channels, especially channels that people like to subscribe to because it makes them feel good to subscribe to.

Gwen Miller:
It’s something, a skill, a skill that say they want to learn. I worked with a sign language channel for a while. That is something that people love to subscribe to. They’re like, “I’m going to learn sign language.” And then when it comes down to it, no, they look at that video and they’d be like, “Yeah, I’ll do that later.” You have to kind of know that there really is no set percentage of your subscriber base that is necessarily needs to be watching your content. So if you are that sign language channel or how-to channel, that percentage might be lower than it is for like a beauty channel or a drama channel. And that’s fine, you should be competing against yourself.

Gwen Miller:
What you want to be seeing is that month over month, your subscriber views grow. And at the very least they do not drop off month after month. That’s where your warning signs are coming in. If you’re not seeing some steady growth and it is going to be slower than your unsubscribed, you go typically, and it is going to be more incremental because it’s something that is not as given to the vagaries of virality and you just need to be seeing that number go up and up. And if you start to see that drop that’s when you should start to worry.

Dane Golden:
Oh, okay. So this may be basic, but let’s talk about what is a active percentage of a subscriber base versus what is it mean to be an active subscriber exactly or more or less, and how would you determine that mathematically?

Gwen Miller:
Right. Well look, again, I will emphasize that there’s not a set percentage that is the right percentage. And I’ll also kind of harken back to what we talked about earlier, which is at the end of the day, if you have some subscribers that have just kind of dropped off YouTube, but still have their account, and they’re not coming to the platform, they’re not seeing your thumbnails. And so they’re not clicking on it. It’s not really hurting you. YouTube isn’t sitting there being like, “2% of your subscriber base watched this video.” What they are looking at is, “Your people come onto the platform. I have served them, your thumbnail. They’ve watched your videos in the past. They’ve subscribed to you. They’re likely to want to watch the video and then they don’t click on it. That’s when it’s a problem for you.”

Gwen Miller:
And at that point how you kind of you figure this out mathematically is it’s I know it’s the dreaded, terrible word, spreadsheet. You should be tracking every single month and every, especially at the video level, what is your typical subscriber views? At what typical rates do your subscribers come in? So let’s just take a number. Let’s say that typically for video, you get 500 subscriber views, then you will have a video that gets 1000 subscriber views. You’re like you know this video is over-performing for your subscriber base. You do more videos like that, it’s going to keep this subscriber base very happy. But let’s say you have a subscriber video that gets 50 subscriber views. And this is where it can get very dangerous is if, say that same video that got 50 subscriber views got 4,000 unsubscribed views.

Gwen Miller:
If you could just look at your overall views number, you’re going to look at that and be like, “Wow, this video is great. It’s going to do great on my channel. Let’s do more of that.” But here’s the problem. It’s obviously alienating your current subscriber base. And if you do that, they will start not being happy. They will start leaving. They will stop clicking on your thumbnails, but maybe still seeing the impressions, YouTube is going to get this bad taste in its mouth. And over time, it’s going to be bad for your channel. So make sure that you are tracking what a typical subscriber view number is for you. So you can get that canary in the coal mine so it will let you know, don’t do more of that, you could endanger your channel.

Dane Golden:
I want to add to that. And that is, you’ve created this new type of video on your channel, that this whole group of people who aren’t your subscribers suddenly like, and it might even drive a real bump in subscribers. But if you’re not going to be keeping doing that video again, first of all, you’ve created a problem for the old subscribers because they’ve not watched this new video. But the new subscribers, once you go back to your old format, they’re not going to be happy. And that’s actually created a problem for the other subscribers, right?

Gwen Miller:
Neither are happy. So they both end up leaving and I’ve seen this happen over and over again. The best thing to do in that situation is start a new channel. You obviously have two separate audiences. And I always say one channel, one audience, if you’ve two audiences, make it a new channel.

Dane Golden:
Yeah. So it’s, I mean, creating such a problem for yourself, you have to have two channels is actually it’s bad. So it’s important to stay on topic. But you can vary it a bit. I mean, that’s the whole point. You just want to know how much to vary it.

Gwen Miller:
Right. And I always say, if your subscribers are coming in at average rates, or even just slightly below average rates, it’s not a problem. There’s going to be some fluctuations you need to experiment. And I will steal something from Little Monster, Matt likes to say that, look, if your audience is coming in at 33% below your average subscriber numbers, then maybe you should be looking at not doing that video, that format again. But if it’s something where it’s like below average or a little bit below average, you maybe you just need to introduce the format a little bit more and it’ll grow on them. And they’ll end up coming in at above average rates.

Dane Golden:
Okay. So what is your fifth top factor to growing your YouTube growth engine?

Gwen Miller:
All right. So this is what I alluded to before, which is like, look, you can build this audience, but can you retain them? What is your loss rate? How many of these people are now going out the door? And again, I also calculate loss rate a little bit differently. A lot of people would take your total subscriber number and just take the percentage of how many of those am I actually losing right now? I don’t really find that to be overall very helpful when you’re talking in the YouTube world. I always like to say, look, if you’re only optimizing for loss rate, you would never put up a video. Because the truth is people don’t unsubscribe when they don’t remember you exist. So if you’re not putting a video, it’s out of sight out of mind. So you will keep your golden subscriber number forever.

Gwen Miller:
Well, not forever. It’ll start to go off eventually, but it’s very hard to lose a significant amount of subscribers unless you’re reminding them you exist. So as soon as you put up a video, you will start losing subscribers. That’s why I’m always doing my loss rates based on how many subscriber views you have that month. Because it really gives you a better idea of look, here’s how many subscribers were exposed, watched my content this much. How many of those people were like, “Argh.” And hit the unsubscribe button? So this is how you do that. You’re going to go back to that subscription source tab that I mentioned. And remember how, before you pulled subscribers gained. Now you’re going to pull subscribers lost. Switch over to the tab right next to it, which is the subscription status tab. And you’re going to pull the subscribed views. And you’re going to do just the opposite of our last metric. You’re going to divide subscribers lost by subscribed views to get your loss rate

Dane Golden:
Subscribers lost by subscribed views to get your loss rate.

Gwen Miller:
Yes.

Dane Golden:
So let me go back to the restaurant analogy. So I’m trying to calculate whether my regular customers who come in every month are stopping, coming in, right? Because our service has gotten bad. Our quality has gone bad. We’re just boring. There’s new restaurants opening up. Whatever the problem is. If we have someone that comes in every first Tuesday of the month for dinner, and then they stop, that’s a lost subscriber. Am I correct?

Gwen Miller:
Yes. %1000.

Dane Golden:
Is that too weird?

Gwen Miller:
No, I think that makes perfect sense. Now I’m hungry.

Dane Golden:
Yes. All right. We’re all going to eat after this. We’re all going to the same place you, me and every listener. So is that roughly the same way of calculating a loss rate?

Gwen Miller:
Yes, exactly.

Dane Golden:
Well, this is a really amazing. Gwen, you’ve really in these steps, you’ve really encapsulated first, how to diagnose the problem and then how to address the problem if you want to have a YouTube growth engine. Let me ask you, do you have any other tips?

Gwen Miller:
Well, yeah, let’s just finish up a bit on the loss rate here. What is a bad loss rate? And I think this does very much also depend on your genre. So always compare to yourself. But rule of thumb I see when working with channels is if you’re an entertainment channel, half a percentage point of loss is was probably about right. Your more how-to maybe that’s up more near 1%. But if your loss rate is getting above 1%, then you may need to look at the videos in your content that… A lot of the times when you have a high loss rate, it’s because there is a disconnect from what people signed up for to what they’re getting now. So it could be that it could be one of two things.

Gwen Miller:
It could be that you have changed your content entirely. Since that happened in some way, your content has evolved. Maybe it’s just not as good. Maybe you’re just phoning it in. Or maybe it’s just something you’ve changed your formats altogether. The other problem with you start to see people sign up and unsubscribe really quickly. Probably what that means is you have a mixed channel. You have a channel that has multiple audiences sitting on it, and that’s where it gets very hard to grow. If you have two audiences on a channel half of them will have subscribed through certain videos and they’ll come back looking for more of that content, see the other half and be like, “Oh, I’m unsubscribing for this.” And vice versa. The other half sees the other half’s contents like I’m unsubscribing. So if you’re seeing a pretty high conversion rate based off of a couple of videos, but then you’re seeing that these people like you have really high on, I guess lost rate the next month, you should be seriously looking at splitting the videos in that channel into two channels.

Dane Golden:
So for instance, if they thought that they subscribed to a French food channel and then suddenly you’re doing burritos or wiener schnitzel, then they’re just like “Hey, this is not what I asked for. I just wanted French food. Give me a different channel for those other foods.”

Gwen Miller:
Right. Exactly. I always suggest going in and seeing which videos drove the most subscriptions. This is the one time where I say go to actually see, go to that section of your channel level data, which will actually pull up which videos push the most subscribers. And you got to look at that and be like, what are my top videos? It’s likely going to, from the point that video is uploaded very much change the makeup of your channel and which videos are going to perform better and perform worse. So if you’re going in there, you have two competing major videos or people to your point are coming in for a comfort food video, and people are coming in for a health food video. Those are two very different things. And they’re probably going to be in competition with each other over time. And you’ll see that pretty clearly in your data.

Dane Golden:
Gwen Miller, I am so happy that you are my co-host on this podcast. You’re just so smart. I’ve always thought so.

Gwen Miller:
Aw, I love that I have such a great teacher in how to do this podcasting thing because I am definitely a newbie.

Dane Golden:
Well, Gwen, tell the audience where they can find you on social media.

Gwen Miller:
Yes. So please come hang out with me on Twitter because I have not been all that active on the platform up to now and I’m trying to change that. So my Twitter handle is @Gwenim. So that is Gwen, and then the letters I and M. Come hang, come chat. I love to speak out about this stuff.

Dane Golden:
And we want to thank you the listener for joining us today. And I want to invite you to review us on Apple podcast or share us with a friend on social media or in email. Until next week here’s to helping you help your customers through video.