Feeling overwhelmed by all the vlogging advice on the web? Perhaps you read a blog post and watched some YouTube videos, but it’s still hard to know how to start a vlog?
This how to start a vlog guide answers all your vlogging questions and gives you a clear action plan so you can create videos like a real YouTube influencer.
Are you ready to start your YouTube vlog today?
Is YouTube the best vlogging platform?
Wondering which platform to use to start a vlog? YouTube is the obvious choice. It’s the favorite video platform of the web, owned by Google, and it gives you immediate access to a global audience:
- YouTube is the second most visited website on the web after Google.
- It is the second most used search engine after Google too.
- More than 1.9 billion logged-in users visit YouTube every month.
- These users watch over a billion hours of videos daily generating billions of video views.
- More than 70% of the total watchtime comes from mobile devices.
- Viewers spend over an hour a day watching YouTube on their mobile devices alone.
- 80% of views are from outside the United States.
Not even Facebook and Instagram can compete with these numbers.
How to start a YouTube channel
Here’s a step-by-step to create your YouTube channel and start vlogging:
- Log in to YouTube using your Google account.
- Go to your channel list and click on “Create a new channel”.
- Create a brand account which is basically a different YouTube name than your personal account that you log in with.
- Verify your account by typing in your phone number and confirming the code that’s sent to you.
That’s it. Your new YouTube channel is now live.
How to customize your new YouTube channel
- Click “Customize channel” to add your channel art, channel icon, channel description and featured channels.
- Make sure to go to channel features and enable monetization, live streaming, videos longer than 15 minutes, custom thumbnails, easy-to-remember custom URL and other features.
- Note that several of the features above have requirements before they can be enabled such as the number of subscribers. I suggest you enable whatever your channel is eligible for now and start working on building your audience before you can get access to the other features.
- You are now ready to upload new content.
Action Point: Start your YouTube channel and make it your own.
Should I get my own domain name and a personal site too?
I recommend you register a domain name for your online brand and create a website to present yourself on your own terms.
Owning your own domain name and running a personal site or blog allows you to have better control and makes you less reliant on one platform such as YouTube:
- You don’t own your audience on any of the online platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. You’re not in control and you may never know what the future will bring.
- YouTube or Instagram could ban you or could introduce an algorithm that shows your content to a fraction of your audience. It’s happened before to many creators.
- The platform might become less popular, your monetization options might be taken away from you, the platform might die such as Vine did and so much more.
Having a blog on a domain name that you own and control makes you less reliant and more resistant to these influences that you have no control over.
Registering your unique domain name
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. This helps support my blog and allows me to continue making guides like this. If you click my link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote products that I truly believe will be valuable to you.
There are hundreds of places that allow you to register a domain name and host a personal site. For the sake of clarity, I’ll focus on GreenGeeks that I use myself. Here’s why I recommend them:
- Based in Los Angeles, California with a 24/7/365 customer support via live chat, email and phone. They also have a 30-day money back guarantee just in case.
- You get a free domain name and a site that’s loading fast, is easy to maintain thanks to the automatic updates and is secure to use.
- Environmentally-friendly so they only use energy efficient technology. Your site ends up being eco-friendly and carbon-reducing thanks to the renewable energy investment they make.
Click to visit GreenGeeks and check the availability of the domain name that you have in mind.
I use Ecosite Pro as I run several blogs. Ecosite Lite is the best value for those with one blog only. You get a free domain name and hosting at $2.95/month. Click the “Get Started” button.
Register your free domain name. Type your chosen domain name and click on “Check Availability“.
Starting your own blog
There are hundreds of blogging platforms and site builders too. I recommend you use WordPress to start one. WordPress is like the YouTube of blogs and websites.
It’s free, open-source platform that can be easily integrated with your YouTube vlogs, and more than 34% of the websites are powered by it.
It’s easy to work with even for those without web development experience and you can choose from thousands of free design templates and extensions.
GreenGeeks have more than 10 years of experience in WordPress hosting and they’ve everything you need for a great experience. These are the step by step instructions to install WordPress:
Step 1: Log in to your GreenGeeks account and click the “CPANEL” button. Search for “Soft” in the top box to locate the “Softaculous Apps Installer“. This is the easy way to install WordPress.
Step 2: Click on WordPress and on the next page click on the “Install Now” button.
Step 3: In “Site Settings” type your Site Name and Site Description. You don’t want your blog to be “my WordPress blog” or “just another WordPress site”.
Step 4: In “Admin Account” select a new personal username and a strong password. Don’t use the defaults. These will be your WordPress login details.
Step 5: Click on “Advanced Options” and choose to Auto Upgrade WordPress to “Any latest version available”. Auto upgrade plugins and themes too. Set “Automated backups” to “Once a week”.
Step 6: Click the “Install” button and wait until your blog has been set up. You can log in on yourblogname.com/wp-admin/ with your WordPress username and password. You’re ready to blog!
Action Point: Get a domain name and a website so you can have better control over your brand.
IGTV and other YouTube alternatives
YouTube may be the biggest vlogging platform but you should not put all your eggs in one basket.
You should explore other video platforms and see how you can take advantage of them. It’s a wise marketing decision to distribute your videos on more than one platform and get additional reach.
Here are some YouTube alternatives that vloggers can diversify into:
1. Instagram & IGTV
Instagram now has 1 billion monthly active users and with IGTV they allow you to upload videos of up to one hour.
You can even use your desktop to upload your IGTV videos. IGTV video title can be up to 75 characters and you can also add links into the video description.
Instagram is especially great for lifestyle content such as travel, food and fashion. See how to become a fashion blogger and grow a large following on Instagram.
The big difference from YouTube is that Instagram and IGTV are mobile-first which means that the videos are vertical.
How to convert a YouTube video into Instagram and IGTV format
You cannot just directly use your YouTube video on Instagram. You need to convert it first into the correct format.
Luckily for you, there are apps that can help you convert your existing video into a vertical video format.
Facebook is huge in video and live streaming too with more than eight billion video views and more than 100 million hours of video watched on the platform daily.
Amazon’s Twitch might be the best solution for you, especially if you’re live streaming gaming.
Mobile-only, vertical and very short-form. Full of memes, music and dancing. It’s pretty much taken the place of Vine.
5. Twitter & Periscope
Periscope is Twitter’s answer to live streaming but it’s smaller platform than all the ones above.
Action Point: Create a presence on the other large video platforms too. With only a little extra work, you open yourself to a wider audience.
Start vlogging with your phone before considering a camera
It’s easy to start and not necessary to invest in expensive vlogging camera equipment. Try with the quality camera in your Android or iPhone.
- Find a quiet space as you want the audio to be loud and clear, and take it from there.
- It can be scary to record yourself at first. Remember that no one was born with a fabulous on-screen presence. It takes time and practice to master it.
- Try and record some videos just for yourself to watch back and learn from. Script your video if that helps you be more confident.
An excellent place to start is screen capture videos. They are the simplest to make. You just record what you’re doing on your computer screen. No need for a video camera or lights.
You don’t even need to worry about how you look because people don’t see you. Screen capture videos are also surprisingly useful in terms of engagement.
Action Point: No need to research and spend money on fancy camera equipment. Start today on your mobile phone.
Best apps and tools for editing vlogs
There are so many video shooting and editing apps for a desktop and also for your Android or iPhone. Here are some recommended video editing tools. Explore these and find those that work best for you.
- Use easy-to-use desktop video editing tools like MovieMaker (Windows) and iMovie (Mac) when you need to edit the video.
- Use the free and open-source OBS Project if you want to do live streaming for Twitch or YouTube.
- Use Kap when you want to record your screen.
- Have a lot of footage from an event or a vacation but don’t have the skills to edit? Try a tool such as Shred Video as it allows you to create a video from your footage without any know-how.
- Filmic Pro – iPhone and Android – Advanced video camera app for mobiles with lots of features such as the ability to adjust frame rate, ISO and shutter speed.
- ProCam – iPhone – Another camera app with tons of different features and shooting modes.
- Videoleap – iPhone – Allows you to get creative with your videos. Even has the green screen mode which allows you to completely edit the background.
- Mixkit has a large selection of HD videos that you can use for free.
Action Point: Explore the video editing app options to see which one fits you best. These can help you create better and more beautiful videos.
Where to find royalty free music and sound effects
Need music for your videos? Creative Commons is your friend for music as it’s for the imagery. Some artists choose to release their work and allow others to use it for free:
- YouTube has an audio library of free music and sound effects that you are free to use in your own videos.
- Use SoundCloud Search and CC Search to find audio that’s available under creative commons license and is free to use.
- Try also Jukedeck, a tool that uses artificial intelligence to create free and unique music you can use royalty free.
- Explore also Audionautix for royalty free music.
Why is it important to use royalty free and/or original material?
YouTube has the ContentID system in place and they could give you a copyright strike and de-monetize you so you lose the ability to make money.
Only way to be safe is to use your own material or the material you have a permission to use. Here’s how the system works:
Action Point: Consider adding background music or sound effects to make your vlogs more engaging.
How to optimize videos to get discovered on YouTube search and “Up next”
There is no magic trick to guarantee that your videos will get views. 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Most of these videos go entirely unnoticed.
There are some things that you can do to give yourself a better chance of getting views though.
Unlike Facebook and Instagram, YouTube is a search engine.
Most YouTube users discover videos by using search, by recommendations, “Up next” and related videos. Many people find YouTube videos in Google search results too.
You should optimize your channel and videos to have a better chance of getting in front of these people.
There are several factors that affect Google and YouTube search algorithm, related videos and recommendations. These are the factors you should be aware of:
YouTube channel optimization
First, there are some things you can do in terms of channel optimization. Follow this advice:
- The number of videos. Size of your channel is essential. Increase your video output and start building your video archives. Figure out the right publishing schedule and follow a content calendar to get your video count up.
- The frequency of new uploads. The algorithm loves regular uploads. A consistent audience is built by publishing content consistently. Release your new videos often and on a recurring schedule. Tell your viewers about your plan to create buzz and make them look forward to watching your new video.
- Video quality. High definition videos are more prominent than low quality videos in search results. Shoot and upload your videos in HD format.
- The number of subscribers is vital as having a large subscriber base signals your influence. It also means that your videos will have an audience from the moment you upload them.
How to optimize your YouTube video metadata
Metadata is the information that surrounds your video and that helps YouTube figure out what your video is about. More on optimizing your metadata below.
Optimizing your video metadata (title, description, tags, thumbnail and cards) is important to get more exposure in search results and related videos.
These are the things you should be looking at:
1. Video file name
Use the most relevant keywords as the raw movie file name when uploading your video instead of the generic file name you get from your camera.
2. Video title
The title is the most visible element of your video and as such the principal reason for attracting views and getting ranked in search. Here is the advice on how to optimize your titles:
- Make the title compelling and clickable – think of it as you do of your post headlines.
- Use popular names, events and any other keywords people will search for associated with the video.
- Put the critical keywords towards the start of the title.
- Make it natural. Don’t over-optimize it with too many keywords and don’t just make a list of words.
- Don’t make the title longer than 65 characters (including spaces).
- There are suggestions that YouTube can read the text in videos. Put the same or similar words as your title in the intro text at the start of your video.
- Put the most compelling information first and remember to include relevant popular keywords.
- Describe as much of the video as possible in the first paragraph.
- Longer descriptions do not hurt and could help rank better so do add any helpful information and external links where relevant.
- Don’t abuse keywords in the description, write naturally.
- Include links. For best chances of click-through the link should be on top of the description as otherwise, it is not visible above the fold.
- Tag the video with appropriate, relevant and accurate tags as these can be key to get your video listed in “Up next” section.
- Use a mix of popular and specific keywords.
- Rank the tags in order of relevance to the video.
- Use some 20 tags per video.
- Remember to put keywords phrases in quotation marks i.e. “New York”.
- Enter your video title in this tag generator tool to get a list of relevant tags to insert into your video.
- Install Chrome extensions VidIQ and TubeBuddy to get great YouTube tag suggestions. They add information bars to any YouTube video so you can see tags that the most viewed videos for your topic use. Using some of the same tags can help you get listed in the “Up next” section.
Action Point: Video metadata is the key to getting your vlogs discovered by more people. Make sure to optimize the metadata.
Audience retention, watch time and steps to increase viewer action
First of all, get viewers to watch your content for longer. Every channel and every video you upload is ranked by the watch time. This is measured by cumulative minutes watched.
The more time people spend watching videos from your YouTube channel the higher you will rank in the search results and in recommendations. So watch time is priority number one.
Then get them to take action after watching your content to signal the value that your content is creating. Majority of viewers usually don’t take any action after watching your video.
Viewer actions are things such as subscribing, liking, favoring, commenting and sharing on social media.
To spread organically you need to get more viewers to take action. To subscribe to your channel, like the video, comment on the video or share the link to their social media following.
Here’s how you can increase viewer action:
- Ask people to subscribe. Simply ask them in your videos.
- Add a watermark in “Branding” settings of your YouTube channel. It adds a beautiful looking overlay on all your videos where people can subscribe.
- Add a channel trailer that shows very prominently to your non-subscribers and encourages them to subscribe.
- Give them an incentive to subscribe. Something like “subscribe to get a tip from me next week” or to “not miss a cool interview I am doing in the future”.
- Link from your blog. Embed your videos within your content. Have a call-to-action to subscribe to your YouTube channel on your blog.
- Encourage comments. Ask your viewers a question and tell them to leave their answers in the comments. Use the comments area proactively to create a community. Respond, integrate comments into your videos, do Q&A sessions.
- Cross promote on other YouTube channels and relevant websites. Reach out and get in touch with some of your favorite bloggers and vloggers. Try and collaborate with them by cross marketing each others content. You could add them to your “Featured channels” list and they will become one of the “suggested channels” to your subscribers.
- Use playlists. Organize your videos into sets of themed videos by using the playlist feature. This doesn’t necessarily have to be your own videos only. Creating collections of videos around your topic can boost views and engagement of your own channel and your own videos as people share the content to their private networks.
Thumbnails are very important to get your videos to be clicked on. Alongside the title, it is the thumbnail that will influence whether potential viewer clicks on your video or ignores it.
Upload a custom image to get the most attractive thumbnail:
- Use a large image (minimum thumbnail size width is 640 pixels). Optimal thumbnail size is 1280×720 pixels.
- Make the thumbnail clear and in focus.
- Use a compelling image that captures the attention of your viewer.
- Close-ups of faces tend to work well.
- The thumbnail should accurately represent the video.
- Try and put the headline of your video on the thumbnail.
Cards are the overlays that you can add on top of your videos. Add relevant and helpful cards to all your videos.
Use cards as call-to-action for people to subscribe to your channel, to engage with the video by liking it or commenting on it, and to guide people to explore your other videos.
You can even link cards to external URLs. Use that strategically for important call-to-actions to drive people to your blog.
Use popular formats of video content
There are three types that work best on YouTube:
- Entertaining. Fun, easy-going, not-too-serious stuff.
- Informational. News, content curation and other information. Product review videos are viral. Videos where people are filmed taking products out of the box. Similar with “haul” videos where people show what products they have bought in shops.
- Educational. How-to guides, interviews, tutorials, reviews, and demos. According to Google 91% of mobile phone users turn to their devices to figure out how to complete a task they are undertaking and more than 100 million hours of how-to videos have been watched in the USA. Home improvements, cooking and beauty are some of the most popular topics.
Viewers can actually see and hear you. Use this to your advantage and build connection and trust.
Look directly into the camera and speak directly to the viewer. Be friendly. Be approachable.
Welcome the viewer and talk like you would talk to a friend. Say ‘you’ a lot and ask questions.
Make the start as compelling as possible to increase the audience retention
The first 15 seconds of your video are crucial. The attention spans online are very short, people easily click on the back button.
Try and hook the viewer in the first few seconds and spark their curiosity to increase the chance of them watching the full video and engaging with you.
Tell your viewer what you are going to tell them and give them a reason to stick around with you.
Action Point: Optimize your videos to get viewers more engaged and in turn drive more views.
How to create great videos about in-demand topics
Embeds and links count for videos too just as they do for the search engine optimization. Embeds and links to your videos from relevant and reputable sites make you more authoritative.
In order to get more embeds and links, you need to create better videos. Here’s some advice on creating better videos that get more views:
1. Do keyword research to get to know your audience
Know your audience and what they want. What does my target audience want to watch? Do some keyword research using tools such as Keyword Tool for YouTube. Do this too:
2. Explore other popular videos
Where is my target audience consuming content already? Research into your competitors and the existing YouTube channels that already produce the kind of content you are looking to do.
Work out why a vlog is so popular and try to use such techniques in your own videos.
These answers will lead you towards creating content that is interesting and valuable to people you want to reach.
Entertaining, engaging and shareable content that people want is key to getting views.
3. Use current and trending topics
Keep an eye on the trending topics on social networks and big news in your field in general.
These are the topics that will have the attention of your target audience. You’ll be able to use their popularity to get some attention to yourself by tapping into them and creating content around them.
Some of the most popular topics on YouTube
Here are some ideas to get you started with:
- Content about video games such as Fortnite.
- Content about children and children’s toys.
- Content about sports, food, health and makeup.
- Meme content such as pranks, challenges and funny moments.
- ASMR content (YouTube it).
- DIY tips, tricks, hacks and how-to guides.
Read more: What to create content about.
Action Point: Learn to create videos about topics in demand by doing keyword research and by following trends.
How to make better video interviews
Interviewing people is one of the fastest ways to create video content for your blog. It also happens to be one of the easiest because, let’s face it, the subject does all the talking.
If you can find an expert in your niche who’ll talk to you, you can shoot enough material in 10 minutes to produce several high-quality videos for your blog.
It’s not hard to find willing interviewees. Trade shows, meetups, and conventions are all great places to find experts ready to share their thoughts.
You could even arrange Skype video interviews with subjects, and use screen capturing software to record the footage. Generally speaking, people love to be interviewed.
But to get video interviewing right, there are a few things you need to know. Here are 5 tips to make video interviews for your blog run smoother:
1. Keep the questions secret
People that you’re interviewing will often ask you for a list questions in advance. It’s an understandable ask, but resist if you can.
Supplying questions in advance is a bad idea. Sure, tell them what the interview is about.
But when you give out a list of questions, your subjects will often prepare themselves and memorize their responses. You’ll lose spontaneity and freshness, and the interview will look rehearsed.
2. Warm-up and then go
Once the camera’s rolling, kick-off with some easy questions. “Did you see the new iPhone yet? Where did you get that purple sweater? Are you growing a mustache for Movember?”
After some light-hearted back and forth, quietly swap in the real questions. Often, they’ll have forgotten about the camera and they’ll talk naturally for the rest of the interview.
3. Don’t demand perfection
Get over the idea that people need to be ‘camera perfect’. For most of us, being in front of a camera feels strange.
While some people are fantastic storytellers, most folk need help to communicate what’s interesting about their topic.
Prepare your questions well, to help bring the best out of your subjects. But remember, ums and ahs are perfectly okay – if anything, they make your content seem more authentic.
4. Know what you want
When you’re interviewing somebody for your blog, always enter the interview knowing what story you want them to tell.
Have a Skype or Zoom chat or email exchange with them, before they’re in front of a camera.
Do your due diligence: ask what they’re working on, and what interesting opinions they have and agree in advance what you’ll ask them. During the interview is NOT when you should be deciding what questions to ask.
5. Don’t stop recording
Finally, once the questions are over, say “Great, that’s the end of the interview” but don’t turn the camera off just yet! Why? Because 9 times out of 10 the conversation will continue.
This is a real professional’s tip, it’s so powerful! With all the “pressure” of the interview gone, your subject will usually breathe a sigh of relief and talk more freely.
You’ll often get some of the best material of all when your interviewee thinks the camera’s switched off! (Obviously, make sure they’re okay with the footage you tricked them into giving you!)
Action Point: Set up a video interview with someone you find interesting. Videos are the best and easiest way to start creating engaging content.
How to make money with a YouTube vlog
Making money on YouTube is not easy, just like it’s not easy to make money online in general. You need to create great videos consistently and build a vast following of loyal fans.
Even though there are many who make millions, studies show that 97% of all YouTubers don’t make enough money to clear the US poverty line.
Despite that fact, thousands of YouTube influencers around the world earn at last $100,000 per year from advertising revenue on their channels.
The number of YouTubers earning 5 figures a year is up by 35% and those earning 6 figures are up by 40%.
And it’s not all about the advertising either. YouTube allows creators to charge a monthly fee for access to original content through “Channel Memberships“.
YouTube also makes it easy to sell your merchandise. You can also make money using Super Chats.
YouTube can also help you get connected with the different brands and be sponsored using their FameBit platform.
How many subscribers do you need to get paid on YouTube
The easiest way to start making money online with your videos is through the display advertising YouTube automatically places on your videos.
- Your channel needs to reach 1,000 subscribers in total and 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months in order to apply.
- You can apply for YouTube to enable monetization on your channel here.
- You need to sign up for a Google Adsense account in order to get paid.
- When you have reached that threshold, your channel will be automatically reviewed to join the YouTube Partner program.
- In general, the longer your videos are, the more ads you can display and the more money you can earn. In videos that run longer than 10 minutes, you can even insert ads in the middle and not only at the start.
How much money do you get per view on YouTube?
Google deals with all the advertisers for you. In return for all the work they do, they keep approximately 45% of all the advertising revenue your channel gets.
How much money do you get per view? It really depends.
- It depends on how is your audience and where they are based.
- It depends on the topic of your video.
- It depends on the length of your video and how many ads you have placed in it.
- It depends on how engaged your audience is.
Here’s a ballpark figure: you can expect to earn around $5 per 1,000 views. Here’s a bit more on how much money you can earn on YouTube:
The highest-paid YouTubers
These are some of the highest-paid YouTube stars:
- Daniel Middleton (DanTDM) – $16.5 million – Gamer
- Evan Fong (VanossGaming) – $15.5 million – Gamer
- Dude Perfect – $14 million – Stunts and tricks
- Mark Fischbach (Markiplier) – $12.5 million – Gamer
- Logan Paul – $12.5 million – Personal vlog
- Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) – $12 million – Gamer
- Jake Paul – $11.5 million – Personal vlog
- Smosh – $11 million – Comedy
- Ryan ToysReview – $11 million – Toy reviews
- Lilly Singh – $10.5 million – Comedy
The alternative to advertising is to get funded directly by your true fans. This way you will be less dependent and reliant on YouTube and gives you an alternative revenue stream.
Alternative monetization methods for YouTubers
YouTube has been cracking down and removing advertising from certain types of videos which has put some creators out of work.
It’s always best to have several sources of revenue and crowdfunding is a perfect alternative.
Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where hundreds of video creators make thousands of dollars per month directly through donations from their biggest fans.
Here are some of the biggest vlog money makers on Patreon:
- Kurzgesagt creates animated science videos and is making $30,000 per month from more than 7,500 fans.
- The Rubin Report is a talk show about big ideas and free speech making $29,000 per month from just under 4,500 fans.
- Rob Dyke creates scary videos making almost $18,000 per month from 4,000 fans.
Check out all the other options you have for making money from your vlog.
Action Point: Apply for YouTube video monetization when you reach 1,000 subscribers 4,000 watch hours.
In conclusion, now you know everything you need to start a vlog. There’s a lot of vlogging tips and information in here so do take it one step at a time. Create your channel and your overall web presence and shoot that first YouTube video. Happy vlogging!
What To Do Next: Learn how to promote your blog and videos to drive traffic and viewers.