Want to make a vlog? This how to start a vlog guide answers all your vlogging questions. It gives you a clear action plan on how to create a YouTube channel, publish videos like a pro and make money.
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’s the second most used search engine after Google too.
- More than 2 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 watch time 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.
- YouTube made more than $15 billion in advertising revenue in 2019 and the majority of that went to creators.
Not even Facebook and Instagram can compete with these numbers.
How to start a vlog and create 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 a different YouTube name than your Google 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. Now you can customize your channel too.
How to customize your new YouTube channel
- Click “Customize channel” to change the look of your channel by adding channel trailer, art, icon, description, links and featured channels.
- In “Channel settings” you can turn on the option that gives you access to pre-approve any viewer comment before it’s visible publicly and to translate your channel info to easier reach foreign audiences.
- You can also explore “Advanced settings” where you can integrate your channel with Google Analytics and Adwords, you can hide your subscriber count and even disable the most intrusive ads that are based on profiling of your viewers.
- In “Advanced settings” you’ll also get the option to customize your YouTube channel URL to youtube.com/yourname. The eligibility criteria for this is to have 100 or more subscribers, have a channel that’s older than 30 days and that you have uploaded channel icon and art.
- Explore the YouTube Studio which is your YouTube dashboard. You can upload your video or go live with a live stream. See also all the viewer comments, all the stats for your videos and monetization too.
You are now ready to upload new content and start vlogging. But you should consider getting your website too.
Should I get my 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 terms.
Owning your 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 site 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.
How to start your website
There are hundreds of blogging platforms and site builders too. I recommend you use WordPress to start one. WordPress is like the YouTube of websites. More than 35% 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.
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.
Create a presence on the other large video platforms too. With only a little extra work, you open yourself to a wider audience.
Equipment you need to start making vlogs
I can create a long list of best and recommended cameras, microphones and lights to use for your video recording and production. But I think that’s a distraction and something that’s not necessary at this stage.
It’s easy to start vlogging and not necessary to invest in expensive vlogging camera equipment. Try and record with the camera and microphone that’s built into your Android or iPhone. Pretty much any phone released over the last few years has great technology that is perfect to get your feet wet.
- 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.
- Don’t worry. Everyone hates to watch themselves on camera and to listen to their own voice at first. It’s something you will get used to.
- 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.
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.
- You can use easy-to-use desktop video editing tools like MovieMaker (Windows) and iMovie (Mac) when you need to edit the video.
- There’s also 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. It 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.
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. This allows copyright owners to monitor YouTube for videos uploaded that use copyrighted material.
Using copyrighted music or footage could give you a copyright strike and de-monetize you so you lose the ability to make money. The only way to be safe is to use your original material or the material you have permission to use.
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. The 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.
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 site. 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 other’s 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 channel and your videos as people share the content with 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 to “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.
How to create great videos about in-demand topics
Embeds and links count for videos too just as they do for 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
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:
- Video games such as Fortnite and gaming in general.
- Content about children and children’s toys.
- Sports, travel, fitness, food, lifestyle, health, beauty 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.
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 of 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!)
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 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 to become a YouTube partner. This is the full eligibility criteria.
- 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. This is the monetization criteria.
- 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.
- Who is your audience and where are they based.
- The topic of your video.
- The length of your video and how many ads you have placed in it.
- How engaged is your audience.
Here’s a ballpark figure: you can expect to earn around $5 per 1,000 views.
The highest-paid YouTubers
These are some of the highest-paid YouTube stars in 2019:
- Ryan Kaji – $26 million – Toy reviews
- Dude Perfect – $20 million – Stunts and tricks
- Anastasia Radzinskaya – $18 million – For kids
- Rhett And Link – $17.5 million – Daily show
- Jeffree Star – $17 million – Makeup
- Preston Arsement – $14 million – Gamer
- Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) – $13 million – Gamer
- Mark Fischbach (Markiplier) – $13 million – Gamer
- Daniel Middleton (DanTDM) – $12 million – Gamer
- Evan Fong (VanossGaming) – $11.5 million – Gamer
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.
In conclusion, now you know everything you need on how 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!