Youtube is one of the biggest sites in the world and a popular resource for van life journeys and van conversion tips and hacks. It can also provide a lucrative source of income.
Similar to blogging and websites, there are various formats you can use, from a casual blog (aka ‘vlog’), to something more structured that offers tips and ‘how toos’ or even reviews. Whatever you choose, you’ll need to be dedicated and post regularly to build your audience.
Persons most suitable to make money on Youtube will generally be comfortable speaking in front of a camera, be decent with tech and have something of interest to share or be a great entertainment personality.
I’ve never made money directly via Youtube as a ‘Youtuber’ (I’m not particularly comfortable in front of a camera – still or video!) however creating Youtube videos and ranking them in Google was one of my main tactics for SEO. I also have a site that’s used mainly by Youtubers for promotion, so although I’m not a Youtuber or video editor, I know a fair amount.
I’ll assume you’ve done some basic research and have a fair idea about what Youtube is, how to register an account and create content.
What I’ll cover here is primarily tactics to grow your channel and views, which is really what you need to make money. And like virtually every other method; it’s not quite as fast or easy as some make it out to be.
Youtube native monetization
Briefly, you’ll need an Adsense account and be sure to abide by all Youtube’s terms and conditions in order to monetise with in-video advertising. You’ll also need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours within the past year.
Of course, there are other ways you can monetize your content through selling merch, partnerships and affiliations, however one of your main goals in the early days should be to build your audience.
10 tips to increase YouTube views and earnings
OK van-lovers, here we go…
Do YouTube keyword research
Most of the views a video has on YouTube are through the search results directly. To optimize your video for the YouTube search engine, you need to do proper keyword research. You need to find out what terms people are searching up on YouTube and optimize your video titles, descriptions and tags around those terms.
One way you can do this is by using YouTube itself. YouTube’s autocomplete and suggested video features are two quick ways to find out what people are searching for on YouTube. All you have to do is type a term you want your video to be about into the YouTube search bar and YouTube will suggest other keywords and terms related to the one you typed, check out a few top ranking videos and see what other videos are suggested and their tags. These keywords you can then include in your title, description, and tags to help your videos get more views.
KW Research top tip: input a keyword/phrase eg ‘vanlife’ and then do an A to Z. eg; ‘vanlife a’, ‘vanlife b’, vanlife c’… you’d be amazed at some of the autocomplete suggestions. Feeling lazy? Try Keyword Tool, it’s a freemium autocomplete keyword research tool for various platforms, including Youtube 😉
I’ll do a separate post on Youtube keyword research at some point as it’s a big topic, however if you are big into Youtube, it’s worth investing in a tool to help you more easily get some of that data. The Keyword Tool is a great resource that finds a lot of autocomplete terms for free, another is the freemium Youtube browser extension, Vidiq which provides various ranking-related metrics within your Chrome browser.
One other ‘quick win’ use for your keyword research is to use it to name your video file name. Very often, the simplest way is to use the title, however because the filename is not seen, you can afford to be a bit less human-friendly, and more keyword-rich. eg. 10-things-wish-knew-living-van-campervan.mp4. You can go one step further and add metadata to the file itself. More on that another time!
Optimize for ‘Suggested Video’ views
Suggested videos are related videos that YouTube promotes next to the current video you’re watching and they’ve grown in popularity and have exploded in terms of sending you traffic – now not far behind traffic from search! Optimizing is not dissimilar to keyword research.
How can you get more views using Suggested Video?
The simple answer is to create similar videos to your popular competitors using similar keywords. When your video is similar topic to a popular video and you use similar keywords in your video/description/tags, you have a good opportunity of showing up next to that popular video, bringing your video more clicks and views.
Sneaky tip: mention the channel of the relevant high-ranking video (or something fairly unique to them) within your description – compliment them. This ‘mention’ is another keyword that Youtube can use to connect you to that video and very often it is specific eg in the screenshot below ‘The Endless Adventure‘ is not something that many other adventure/travel/vanlife videos are likely to have in their description 😉 BTW – I have no connection with these guys, it was just one of the first videos to come up! Better still, go one step further and leave a high-value comment on their video (see tip #10 for why).
Overall, you’ll want to ensure your videos are contextually relevant, connected and engaging (ie. clickbait will only work so long – meet and exceed viewer expectations for maximum engagement).
Use playlists to your advantage as they help guide and structure your channel alongside connecting your videos (and those of others); keep connected keywords within each description eg your #brandhashtag is one simple way of doing it (have a copy-paste list that goes at end of every description), and; avoid clickbait titles with shallow content — ‘watch time’ is a big Youtube ranking factor so if your video is not engaging, people click and drop off and Youtube will soon drop your video.
Beyond accessibility, another reason to add a transcript or use Youtube’s automatic closed captioning is that more contextual content in text format make it easier to be found both within Youtube and from other search engines such as Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go and Yahoo.
Use eye-catching thumbnails & (specific) titles
It’s no secret that your video thumbnail is very important. According to YouTube, using a Custom Thumbnail gives you a greater chance of standing out, and 9 out of 10 of the most viewed videos use custom thumbnails. Since thumbnails are usually the first thing viewers see when they find your video, it is important that they leave an impression, an impression that will make the viewer click and watch your video.
Rather than using a randomly generated thumbnail, take the time out to design an eye-catching thumbnail or pay a graphics designer to get one made for you. It gives your video a fighting chance. Whilst possibly deemed a bit cheesy, thumbnails with human faces and bold, high-contrast typography tend to do well.
Similarly, try writing your keyword-rich title in an eye-catching format. Consider experimenting with a few CAPS, using different [characters] or a number. Listicle style blog posts and videos do well such as the “10 things we WISH we knew BEFORE living in a van” in the screenshot above from the French-Canadian couple, Vanlife Sagas.
In terms of title and video subjects, in many ways the more specific the better. This is (probably) not going to get you the mammoth views of the guru channels, but slow and steady you will win. In SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) this is known as either going for the ‘long tail’ or ‘low hanging fruit’ within your niche. Almost a niche within a niche!
For example, a DIY van conversion related to a specific van make/model is much more likely to be found for that van than a general van conversion video. Obviously, there will be less search volume too. Similarly something related to a specific location will be found for searches containing. There’s pros and cons for each route, but specificity is something you should definitely consider and at least put into the mix, especially when starting out.
Publish high-retention (engaging) videos regularly
With in-depth keyword research, your video will be easily searchable and with an eye-catching thumbnail and title, it will be more clickable, but none of this will matter if viewers don’t watch your videos long enough or immediately click away after a few seconds.
According to YouTube, ‘Audience Retention’ is a high-ranking factor and it’s one of the things that decides whether your video dies off or keeps getting views (including being ‘suggested’). And if you don’t have enough fresh content, there won’t be anything else to watch. The longer your video keeps people engaged, the more it’ll prompt YouTube to promote it as they are interested in keeping people on their platform as much as possible.
Quality editing and adding other engaging parts into your video (such as cards/annotations & graphics), switching camera angles (or changing setting completely), chopping and cutting scenes and adding teasers regarding what’s coming up or what the viewer is about to learn are all tactics that can help keep people watching longer or engage and thus give your video a greater chance of blowing up.
In terms of that initial hook, one of the easiest tactics is to jump straight in – either to action or an interesting teaser scene for 5-20 seconds BEFORE doing any sort of intro/brand scene. This is something I don’t see done a lot in van life videos (most lead with a ‘hi’ intro or a brand/logo slide). Without commenting on the videos themselves, here are a few examples;
- Raya and Louis with Kara and Nate van swap – R&L jump straight to action and within 15 seconds I’m stressed for them and curious as to what the hell went on! Meanwhile K&N peak curiosity with a drone and teaser of what you’re about to see followed by a bit of drama, all before introducing themselves
- Acrovan Adventures – perhaps a little long, but gives a 20 second teaser of everything you’re about to see in this luxury van tour before Chris and Jessie introduce themselves.
- Living The Van Life – OK, so Chad’s a pro. Best take some tips! This sets the winter storm blizzard scene before jumping into the intro and letting us know what to expect in this video.
So there it is, 4 examples of jumping straight in and putting the intro / ‘hello’ after a short teaser. Why not give it a go?
Sell your services or products (merch / merchandise)
One way you can make good use of the increase in views and clicks you’ll get when you apply the steps above, to increase your earnings, is by selling your products or services to your YouTube audience.
Once you have gained the trust of your audience, you can promote your products or services ranging from merchandise to educational courses and tutorials. This will boost your earnings significantly, and give you a chance to connect with your audience more outside of Youtube. Don’t forget to promote them in your description too — make it easy for viewers to find your stuff!
Use affiliate marketing
Don’t have a product or service to sell? Why not promote other people’s products and services and earn commissions from there.
Affiliate marketing offers you an alternative way of earning without having to go through the stress of coming up with your own stuff. If your YouTube audience is built around a specific niche, that works even better! All you have to do is find a product specific to that niche, and start promoting.
One of the easiest ways to get started is with Amazon Associates as there are so many products available, and likely many items for your van conversion can be found on Amazon along with associated items such as your camera and tech equipment, rucksack and kitchenware.
Get sponsorships & partnerships
Although you generally need a large audience before you can secure sponsorships, similar to Instagram, it is possible to get one even as a small channel, especially if your niche is specific and your audience engaged. Reaching out to brands and businesses and pitching to them can land you a deal that will boost your YouTube earnings, or failing that perhaps snag you a bamboo coffee cup.
Encourage likes, subscribes & comments (but don’t over-do it!)
You’ve seen it before and you’re probably already doing it. Likes, subscribes and comments also contribute to the Youtube engagement and ranking algorithm so ask viewers to like your video and subscribe to your channel.
Just take it easy and stick to your personality; too frequent (eg multiple times per video) can get annoying and if its not in line with your personality, requests like this can seem a bit fake. To be fair, most people #vanlife Youtubers are pretty good at this – it’s the crypto ones that are a nightmare!
Use cards (annotations) and end screens for calls to action and to encourage engagement such as comments. End screens can be very effective at the end as the viewer has a simple CTA (call to action) and doesn’t have to think.
Also don’t bore watchers at the end of your video – close out quickly and leave them wanting to watch the next one &/or comment. Do this by asking a question or questions throughout the video, rather than just saying ‘leave a comment’.
Share on social channels directly from Youtube
Another thing that can help is social signals, and those coming from within the Youtube platform are likely to have more ooomph (or at the very least be picked up by Youtube faster!).
Below each video there are several platforms that Youtube makes it easy to share on — go and register an account on every platform (or at least, most of them!). Then, every time you post a video, share (using the share links on Youtube) to those platforms immediately your video goes live.
It’s not a bad idea to share videos from other Youtubers this way too as the social channels themselves will build contextual relevancy and Google loves that shit. And who owns Youtube? Google. In general SEO (Search Engine Optimization) this is known as LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) and basically it means keywords that are semantically related to your primary keyword/phrase. Search engines — and Youtube is just one big search engine — are waaay smarter these days, so think about those LSIs in titles, descriptions, tags and sharing the love (ie sharing other Youtubers stuff!).
The first 48hours are important – engage!
Most platforms are similar in that part of their algorithm (the formula they use to decide what to show, hide or float to the top of suggestions and search results) usually favours fresh content and will give it a boost. For Youtube, this is though to be the first 48 hours after a video goes live, and in addition, this is when Youtube will promote the video to your subscribers and is also probably when you’ll share on your own social channels.
Try to be online as much as possible during this time – don’t post your video and head off into the middle of nowhere with zero internet coverage. This first 48 hours is prime opportunity to engage and grab the attention of the Youtube ranking algorithmn – get the comments going and engage with your audience. Reply, reply, reply! Why not kick things off by adding the first comment (question) yourself?
Comment on other Youtube videos
Apart from just being friendly and a good sport, this can do wonders for your own rankings within Youtube search AND on external search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. This is due to linking and contextual relevancy!
Whilst Youtube as a platform will have it’s own internal system and all that contextual relevancy we’ve been talking about helps them link videos and channels, what really helps other external search engines are actual links.
Why are links important? They are essentially the roads and highways that search engine ‘spiders’ use to discover, index and rank content. When a link comes back to your content, it is known as a ‘backlink’, and it’s kinda how the internet works in terms of being connected and indexed.
Check out the comments on this video from Wandering Home…
When you comment, your channel name and icon appear in the comments feed and these link back to your channel aka a backlink. Yes, you can get human visitors from commenting, especially if your comments are really good and add value, however no matter what, you are sending a signal to Youtube and other search engine spiders that the video you’re commenting on is somehow connected to your own channel.
Not only that, but when you comment on other videos/channels, the owners are more likely to comment on yours and thus further increase engagement. Van life #winwin for everyone!
That’s a wrap!
With the tips and techniques listed above, growing your YouTube channel and increasing your earnings will become easier. With the right amount of effort and dedication, you should find success while benefiting from the joys of running a YouTube channel and the semi-passive income it provides.
Similar to blogging, you’re best to at least publish some content that is ‘evergreen’; ie. it will remain relevant in months and years to come.
Bonus Youtube tip: If you have a website, link it in your description, ideally near the top where it will be seen without having to expand the view. This is not going to help grow your Youtube views, however it will help your blog. Keeping the backlink ‘above the fold’ means search engine spiders/robots will find it more easily. And search engines love links 😉