This how to vlog guide provides beginners with all the information and vlogging tips they need to boost their video blogging efforts and create videos like true YouTube stars. Follow this guide to learn how to start a vlog today.
So what’s a vlog?
Vlog stands for video blog and vlogging for video blogging. This basically means that as a vlogger (video blogger) you record videos of your life, thoughts, experiences and opinions, and share them with the world.
A video is such a personal and immersive medium that without creating video content you are losing out on a great opportunity to get loyal fans online.
Bloggers that use video well have a better chance of building a large audience and differentiating themselves from competitors.
Here’s how to make your own YouTube channel and start vlogging.
How to start a YouTube channel
If you are wondering which platform to use to start a vlog, YouTube is the obvious choice.
It’s the favorite video site of the web and the second most visited website and second most used search engine after Google. YouTube gives you immediate access to a global audience.
More than 1.9 billion logged-in users visit YouTube every month. Viewers spend over an hour a day watching YouTube on their mobile devices alone. 80% of views are from outside the United States.
YouTube is very popular across the age groups including with young kids with some of the largest channels focusing on children content such as toy reviews and some of the biggest vloggers such as Jake Paul having huge numbers of pre-teen fans.
They are also constantly innovating with support for 3D videos, 360-degree videos and more.
Here’s a step-by-step to start a YouTube channel
- Log in to YouTube using your Google account
- Go to your channel list
- 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 they send to you
- That’s it. Your new YouTube channel is now live
Things to customize for 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
YouTube alternatives for vloggers
YouTube may be the biggest vlogging platform but you should not put all your eggs in one basket.
You’re not in control with any of these platforms and you may never know what the future will bring. You might get your account banned, the platform might become less popular, the platform might die such as Vine and much more.
This is why you should explore other video platforms too 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:
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 desktop to upload your IGTV videos by following this link. IGTV video title can be up to 75 characters and you can even add links into the video description.
The big difference from YouTube is that Instagram and IGTV are mobile-first which means that the videos are vertical. So you cannot just use your YouTube video on Instagram. You need to convert them first into the correct format.
There are apps that can help you convert your existing video into a vertical video format. Vertical format is the 9:16 aspect ratio. Try InShot on your iPhone or Android or use the desktop app called Wave to convert your videos into vertical 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.
Twitter & Periscope
Periscope is Twitter’s answer to live streaming but it’s smaller platform than all the ones above.
Should I start a blog or vlog?
How does one make the decision between video blogging (vlogging) and more traditional blogging? Vlog or blog?
I say, why decide at all?
Combining text posts, images and videos gives you more flexibility in the way you present your content, it creates a better user experience and gives you a bigger reach.
Most importantly running your own blog allows you better control of your audience.
A blog gives you much better control
You don’t own your audience on any of the platforms above (YouTube or Facebook could ban you or could introduce an algorithm that shows your content to a fraction of your audience) but you can do so using a blog.
In order to do this, you need to have a blog as a hub where you publish all of your content and build a subscriber list that you control.
Use WordPress to start one.
It’s a free, open-source platform that can be easily integrated with YouTube videos, and more than 25% of the internet is powered by it.
WordPress needs a domain name and a web space to work.
A domain name is the address people will type in their browsers to get access to your blog, and the server space is where you will store your content so it is accessible to everyone online.
There are many very capable and very affordable providers for hosting your blog.
I recommend Bluehost. They offer a free domain name, 24/7 live support and WordPress recommends them.
More than 2 million WordPress blogs are hosted there. And you can get hosted at $2.95 per month.
It will take you 5 minutes to get your blog online with the 1-click installation feature.
Ethics: I’m not paid by any company for any opinion posted here. I’m not compensated based on page views, don’t run advertising and don’t allow anyone to track your internet presence. I participate in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for bloggers to earn commissions by recommending helpful and useful products. Simply put, if you click on my affiliate link above and buy something, I earn a commission, yet you don’t pay any extra. Thank you for your support!
Choose a camera and other tools for creating video content
It is easy to start and not necessary to invest in expensive vlogging camera equipment. Try with basic equipment such as your computer camera or your mobile phone camera.
These days the technology is so advanced that you most probably have a quality vlogging camera in your computer or your phone.
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 great 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.
A good 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 effective in terms of engagement.
Video editing apps and tools
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 or Recordit when you want to record your screen
- Need music for your video? YouTube has an audio library of free music and sound effects that you are free to use in your own videos. Try Jukedeck, a tool that uses artificial intelligence to create free and unique music you can use royalty free
- 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
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 completely 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 discover 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 important. 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 schedule to build 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 important 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.
The 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.
For your content to spread organically you need to get more viewers to take action. Get them 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. Or add cards to do it such as end-cards asking to subscribe.
- Add a watermark in “Branding” settings of your YouTube channel. It adds a nice 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 to comments. Integrate comments into your future videos. Do a Q&A session.
- 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 own networks.
Optimizing your 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:
Video file name
Use the most important keywords as the raw movie file name when uploading your video instead of the generic file name you get from your camera.
The title is the most visible element of your video and as such the key 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 like you do of your post headlines
- Use popular names, events and any other keywords people will search for associated with the video
- Put the key 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 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 in the description. For best chances of click-throughs 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. “Marko Saric”
There are tools that can help you tag your videos better. Install Chrome extensions VidIQ and TubeBuddy to get great YouTube tag suggestions. They add information bars to any YouTube video that you visit.
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.
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 thumbnail to get the best possible image:
- 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 after you have uploaded them.
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.
How to create great videos that get views and longer watch-time
Embeds and links count for videos too just like 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 is some advice on creating better videos that get more views:
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.
Search for your niche topic in YouTube and use the search suggestions like this:
Use Google Trends too to search for YouTube trends:
Learn more about the keyword research process in my guide: WordPress SEO: Search Engine Optimization For Bloggers.
Explore other popular videos
Where is my target audience consuming content already?
Research into your competitors i.e. the existing sites or 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.
Interesting, engaging and shareable content that people want is key to getting views.
Use popular formats of video content
There are the 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 very popular. 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. Say ‘you’ a lot. Ask questions. Talk like you would talk to a friend.
Make the start as compelling as possible
The first 15 seconds of your video are key.
The attention spans online are very short, people easily click on 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.
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 and you will be able to use their popularity to get some attention to yourself by tapping into them and creating content around them.
5 tips 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, meet ups, and conventions are all great places to find experts willing 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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 YouTube vlog
A word of warning first. 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 huge 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 stars 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 the number those earning 6 figures is up by 40% compared to the year 2017.
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.
How to apply for YouTube channel monetization
The easiest way to start making money with your videos is through the display advertising YouTube automatically places on your videos.
- 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
- The monetization requirement is that your channel needs to reach 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months and 1,000 subscribers
- When you have reached that threshold, your channel will be automatically reviewed to join the YouTube Partner program
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 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.
I hope this how to vlog guide has given you the vlogging tips and information you need to start creating your own YouTube videos.