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How to Pick a Channel Topic on YouTube

Picking a topic on YouTube is important but more important is how your channel will be different

The average person sees more than 5,000 commercials a day from traditional TV spots to banner ads and links. There are millions of blogs online and 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube EVERY SINGLE MINUTE!

How does anyone ever stand out in this crowd?

The answer is to not be all things to all people. Instead of trying to reach the 30 million daily visitors on YouTube, you’re going to be a must-watch channel for a small fraction of that audience.

And you do that by picking a topic, or in marketing terms, ‘a niche’.

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picking a youtube niche

What is a YouTube Niche?

A niche is just a technical term for a very specific group, the primary group attracted to what you talk about.

Now your videos might attract a wide range of casual viewers. Lots of people are interested in making money or investing. You’re certainly not going to exclude them.

By defining your niche, you’re narrowing what you plan on talking about on the channel. You’re going to say, “I’m not going to be all things to all people but I am an expert in this!” Defining your niche will help you with video ideas, ranking higher and building a more loyal community.

We’ll talk about narrowing your niche but generally you start with a broad topic, study the channels in the topic and then narrow your focus to a sub-topic or group within that so you can compete more easily.

An example of a niche might be within personal finance, you decide to talk about making money online. I would suggest this is still a little too broad so maybe you narrow it further to just blogging or a particular income source. You might even narrow your focus to a demographic group like stay-at-home moms or college students.

How YouTube is Different from Google and other Social Media

For the bloggers and social media influencers, building a channel on YouTube will be a little different. You’ve still got the idea of an algorithm, say on Google or Facebook, that is determining how (and whether) to promote your content but YouTube does it in a way that makes your niche even more important.

YouTube serves your new videos to a section of your subscribers first, usually to the subscribers that have also watched videos similar to your new content. This is mostly done in the subscriber’s home page and subscription feed.

Your success with that initial group, the number that clicks on the video, determines how far and wide YouTube will promote it further. If many of your subscribers click on the video, YouTube will send it out to more subscribers and to some non-subscribers that have watched similar content. If that group of non-subscribers also clicks to watch the video, the platform will expand the reach even further.

The platform keeps doing this, continuously using data from who is clicking and how much of the video they watch, to determine how much further to expand your video’s reach.

So what does this mean to your niche and why is it important?

Think about it from the perspective of someone with no definable niche, a person that posts videos with no clear content strategy. People that subscribe to their channel may do so because they like the creator’s personality but they aren’t likely to be interested in a lot of the content.

That means there might not be many of your subscribers from that initial test group that will be interested in the new video. They won’t click through and it will be a negative signal to YouTube…even the subscribers aren’t interested so why push it out to more people?

That’s going to make it difficult to grow a channel in the first place if your videos aren’t being promoted much by YouTube.

Now think of it in terms of someone that posts videos only on a very specific niche. It’s much more likely that all their subscribers are going to be interested in this new video because it is similar to the videos that attracted them to the channel. More of those subscribers are going to click on the new video, sending YouTube a positive signal to send the video out further.

There’s another aspect to this that’s also important for established channels, switching topics. If you’ve built a following or even just recently released a series of videos on a specific topic, switching to another topic can be painful in terms of views.

There are two problems here. If you’ve built a following in one particular niche, then that’s what your subscribers are interested in seeing. They might not necessarily be interested in something else, even if it’s related to your niche. Again, that lack of interest from subscribers will limit your video’s reach.

The other problem, and this is one I see all the time, is that a big part of that initial group of subscribers YouTube tests on your new video are the ones that have recently joined your community. YouTube wants to see if they are going to be regular consumers of your content or if they were only interested in that one video.

Let’s look at an example and the problem will become clear. I talk about investing and making money on the channel, both topics have to do with money but the audience wouldn’t necessarily be the same.

If I do a series of six investing videos over two weeks, many of my new subscribers are going to be those interested in investing. If I then switch over to doing a week or two of videos about making money, those new subscribers are likely in that initial test group to see the video in their feed…and may not be interested in watching.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be successful with videos in different (but related) topics. It’s part of understanding the YouTube algorithm, how it determines which videos to promote and how to work within that system.

How to Pick Your Niche

So if your topic on YouTube is so important, how do you pick a topic?

Passion, Expertise and Money!

There’s a lot of advice on picking a topic whether you’re starting a YouTube channel, a blog or even a business. It can all be boiled down to those three words.

What do you enjoy talking about, what’s your passion? You’re going to be doing a lot of research, writing and talking about this topic. It might be a while before you make any real money for that paycheck motivation. You better enjoy talking about it. Besides that, people will sense your passion for the material and that enthusiasm will be contagious.

That means listing out your hobbies, interests and that bucket list of things you always wanted to do.

What do you have deep experience doing? This is something you can build but it always helps if you’re not starting from scratch. Often this is what you do for a living or at least an idea within that industry.

This should be secondary to your interests though. I’ve seen people start their blog as a journey in a completely new topic, taking readers on the journey as they learn. It’s a great way to build a community and can work just as well as starting from expertise.

Finally is the money! What’s the most profitable niche? This is third to the other two considerations and really only as a deciding point among different ideas. For example, if you have a passion and experience in both Self-Publishing and Underwater Horseback Riding…I’d say go with Self-Publishing as a topic.

An easy way to find how ‘monetizable’ a topic can be is to look in your Google Adsense account. You can search for keywords related to the topic and Google will tell you the average cost per click for ads. Topics and keywords with a higher cost will mean YouTube channels related to those topics serving ads will make more money.

Narrowing your Topic into a YouTube Niche

Once you’ve got an idea of a broader topic, something in which you’re interested and have some experience, it’s time to start narrowing it into a niche.

Developing a niche is all about speaking specifically to a smaller group of people. You can narrow your topic and/or narrow your audience.

For example, instead of talking broadly about investing, you might narrow your content to dividend investing or real estate investing. Both of these ideas still interest tens of millions of people but are not as broad as the general topic. Many investors might ONLY be interested in dividends or real estate so you’ll be able to reach that group much more effectively.

You can also narrow your niche by personal traits; targeting a generational group, gender or even people in a specific region. These have less to do with the topic and more to do with the group that relates best to your personality.

This isn’t about being exclusionary or limiting yourself to a very narrow group of people. Your videos may still appeal to a broad range of viewers. Being specific in your niche is about speaking to the heart of that narrow group.

Because of how the YouTube algorithm works, a community of 1,000 subscribers that is very engaged and clicks on every video will beat a much larger channel of casual-subscribers for ranking.

By narrowing your niche, you’re building that every-video loyalty with enough subscribers that gives each new video a jumpstart so YouTube will promote it out to an ever-larger audience.

Finding Your Different-ness

There’s one more important idea that’s not necessarily related to selecting your niche but will help you be successful.

This is the idea of being different and it goes a long way to building a brand on YouTube.

There were more than 26 million channels on YouTube as of 2018. In all that competition, you can have some of the most informative content in your niche…and still have trouble building your community.

Best-selling author Sally Hogshead is credited with a quote that is pure genius saying, “Different is better than better.”

How is your channel different from the thousands, even millions in your niche? How is anyone going to remember your channel after watching ten or twenty videos in a day?

For example, I could just put on a t-shirt for my YouTube videos. It seems to be the de facto uniform for most channels and the ultimate in comfort. Instead, not only am I sending a message by wearing a shirt and bowtie, it’s also quite different from what people are used to seeing.

Your ‘different-ness’ can come in many forms from what you wear, your speaking style, graphics, sound effects and even the background in your videos.

Writing this section, I couldn’t help but think about some of the great stand-up comedians of the 80s…and yes I know I’m old. They might not have been any funnier than others but everyone remembers Steven Wright for his unique ‘depressed, lethargic’ persona and Sam Kinison for his screaming act. These guys were nothing if not different and people will always remember their act.

We’ll talk more about the idea of being different in building your brand but think about how you can be different in content, visual cues and your message.

Picking your YouTube topic and niche is where it all starts and is more important that most creators know. This will set the stage for where your videos compete for rank and how you build a community of subscribers. Spend some time to really think about where you want to make your mark and how you can be different.

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