How to be successful on YouTube: 5 Keys to Success

I get this question a lot, most professional YouTubers as well… almost as much as the classic, but how do you get paid on YouTube question… Whether you’re just starting out or transitioning your channel, the question ‘How to be successful on YouTube?’ is a simple one with a not so simple answer.

Let’s break it down into 5 simple keys to success.

These keys to success may be simple to digest & understand, but it takes a lot of commitment, work & effort that needs to go into realizing these keys & becoming a successful YouTuber… That’s the not so simple part.

Success is hard.

Now that I’ve gotten the friendly warning out of the way & you’re willing to put in the work, there’s one more thing we need to do.

how to be successful on YouTube

Ok, there are actually two more things to do, first, save this to Pinterest. 😉

Ask yourself why

Before we get to how we need to ask ourselves, why do we want to be successful on YouTube?

What is it that we’re looking to achieve?

Why do we need to ask these things? Well, success means different things for many different people.

If your goal is to create awesome content that gets seen by a lot of people, let’s call this person A, your measurements of success will be completely different to someone whose main objective is to generate enough income from their YouTube channel to live off of, let’s call this person B.

Person A would be delighted to get a million views off of their video, as this would be regarded as a success. Person B, however, could be just as happy to receive 10,000 views on their video (which has a good method of monetization implemented) as this would be a success for them.

You see, you can only measure & realize your success once you know what your goals are. Without goals & objectives, it’s difficult to come up with a plan & with no plan you’re not going to know in what direction to go & how to actually get there.

Once you’ve got a plan, goals & objectives, you’ll know if you’re ready to commit.

If you’re ready to take the vital step & actually putting your money where your mouth is… figuratively speaking, you can start a YouTube channel for next to nothing… once you’ve realized what it entails to actually achieve your success, you will, of course, be more motivated & driven to put the plan into action.

Asking why is very important.

So, why do you want to be successful on YouTube?

Regardless of whichever niche you’re in, how you create your videos, or your intended viewer, the following 5 key aspects will be the ultimate decision that determines whether or not you will be a success on YouTube.

Related: 35 Best tips to grow your YouTube Channel

1. Quality

This means the overall quality of your video.

It’s not just about whether you shoot your videos in 4k, edit the perfect transitions, or create amazing backdrops. Spoiler alert: You don’t need 4k, amazing editing skills, or a Hollywood set to be successful anyway.

When I refer to quality, I mean the quality of your video should be consistent with your content. This means the value your video is providing is of good quality, it’s easily digestible, there’s no unnecessary fluff & viewers aren’t going to feel as if they’ve wasted their time.

Your video quality is definitely an aspect, but it’s definitely not one of the most important aspects, Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is a huge testament to this. You may recognize him as the most subscribed-to YouTuber, but his videos are often uploaded in 720p.

Most YouTubers who can afford to create 4k videos actually still only upload in 1080p because of the convenience that comes along with it, & honestly, the majority of viewers won’t recognize the difference anyway.

For a budget-friendly video solution, have a look at this budget guide to starting a YouTube channel.

Video quality doesn’t nearly matter as much as audio. If a video has horrible audio it becomes unwatchable & no matter how great your content is, people will bounce from your video too soon or not even listen past the opening a few seconds.

Make sure your audio is clear & if you do include music, whether it’s for ambiance or filler during B-Roll, make sure it doesn’t overpower your main audio. Have you ever seen the term ‘RIP Headphone Users’ in the comments of a video? Don’t be the person that makes that video.

Audio is an important aspect of video quality for YouTube

2. Message

This is probably the most important part of your video. Your message is what you want to communicate to your audience.

This could be entertainment value, tutorials, guides, behind-the-scenes, infotainment, etc. The message you’re sending out is the basic topic of each video, there can be extra messages in there as subtext, but generally, only your regular viewers will recognize that & a new audience may need some context.

This means you should keep your video’s message in alignment so viewers know what they can expect. For example, if you’re reviewing a specific camera, don’t tangent off too long on specific lenses, editing software, etc. You can make other videos for that with specific messages.

Make sure your message is consistent throughout, you can’t say A is better than B for most of the video & then end with how B is clearly better than A. Without context, your viewers will just become confused & leave.

Speaking of confusion, make sure your message is appropriate for your audience. If you’re a make-up channel & suddenly start uploading Fortnite gameplay, your subscribers are going to be confused.

It’s much more likely that the subscribers that started following you for your make-up videos will watch new (& old) make-up videos when you upload them, it’s a lot less likely that they will watch your Fortnite gameplay though. You may think, well that’s OK, Fortnite is quite a popular topic on YouTube, surely, you’ll get more views… Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s not quite how the algorithm works… Your subscribers are accustomed to your niche, & if you post something that is off-topic, they’ll be far less likely to watch it & YouTube will notice that people aren’t clicking on it, meaning that they won’t push it to those Fortnite fans you’re looking for.

Make sure your message stays within your niche & it’s consistent throughout your content.

You’re not sure about your niche? This article may help.

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3. Personality

Before you start fretting about being an introvert or not being charismatic enough, don’t worry. Let me get this out of the way immediately. You do not have to have a loud & boisterous personality on YouTube to be successful.

In honesty, a lot of likeminded people will feel more relatable to you & you can build trust & a more invested audience in you. Your viewers will appreciate you being more authentic, instead of forcing a persona out of yourself that just isn’t you.

Whether you’re boisterous, shy, charismatic, introverted, whatever, this key lies in your ability to portray your personality to your viewers. This may come naturally to some, but for the majority of us, practice, practice, practice & you’ll soon become relatively comfortable. Be it on camera, doing voice-overs, or simply in the content you create.

Viewers will find your content, but your personality & content is ultimately what will turn them from casual viewers to interested subscribers.

If you think that your niche is too crowded, think about this, YouTube is used by over 2 billion people worldwide & climbing. Hundreds of millions of new users are watching videos on YouTube every year, there are billions of people already on the platform looking for new perspectives & personalities that they can relate to. You can be that personality, even if it’s a shy one.

Smiling man showing personality for youtube

4. Persistency

I wanted to write consistency here, but persistence is probably the more accurate term when it comes to ultimate success on YouTube.

Consistency is still important though.

It helps you grow, it helps you create & it will make you a better YouTuber. Creating consistently enhances your skills, which allows you to create higher quality content. Posting regularly builds anticipation with your subscribers, meaning they will actively look for your newest videos (I cannot stress how useful this is for your YouTube SEO).

By posting consistently & regularly, you’re also making it easier for yourself to continue creating. When you stop posting, it’s very easy to say that you’ll make a video tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes & it gets pushed to Tuesday, which gets pushed to Friday… Next thing you know a few weeks have passed & you don’t know how to get back in the creator’s loop.

P.s. If you do find yourself outside of the creator’s loop, just jump back in, there isn’t going to be a sign or magic light telling you that now the time is right, stop making excuses & start making videos.

Now I mentioned persistence as being one of the keys to success on YouTube instead of consistency for one reason. It’s hard to create videos when it seems like no-one is watching them & you’re not making the traction you had hoped for.

This is where persistence comes in.

It’s hard, but you need to have that goal & plan in place that we talked about at the beginning, along with the persistence & willpower to push through the difficult patches in order to be a success.

Feel free to use this as a key to success in other tasks too, persistence is important in almost everything we do & everything we are looking to achieve in life.

Related: How to be consistent on YouTube.

5. Analytics

Whilst it may seem rather daunting at first, your analytics can provide a wealth of information that can be useful in judging how successful a video may be & what content your audience interacts with more.

Be warned though, once you sit down & get to know all of the useful & interesting features that the analytics in your YouTube studio or TubeBuddy present, you may become addicted. 😉

Whilst I’m at it, let me throw YouTube SEO under the umbrella of analytics as well.

This may not be quite as key to large YouTubers with millions of subscribers, SEO on YouTube can influence the video reach of smaller channels greatly & should be paid attention to. Even if you’ve got a few million subs already.

There are many large channels however that actively do use some SEO techniques, like creating very clickable thumbnails, keyword researching their headlines or just creating content that is relevant at the moment. These channels generally use one or the other & their already established audience to reach more people, but by implementing all or more YouTube SEO techniques, you’ll be able to get your share of the views as well.

Here is a whole article I’ve put together on YouTube SEO, it’s worth the read.

Analytics for YouTube

Anyway, you may now be thinking, how can analytics be so influential to my success on YouTube?

Well, remember when I mentioned goals being measurable? Your YouTube Analytics allows you to gauge how well you’re doing in REAL-TIME.

That means you don’t need to wait & see what’s caused XYZ, you’ve got the information right at your fingertips & you can react immediately, or start planning from the get-go.

You know who your audience is & if you know your audience, it’s much easier to create videos that they will enjoy. For example, if there’s a crowd of people that came to an event expecting a rock concert, would they prefer a Piano concerto or some AC/DC?

Here’s maybe a better example, if you have a channel that reviews the latest tech, & your audience is mostly males in their mid-30’s, how many will be interested in a women’s handbag with a portable charger? That’s right, not as many as you would normally have as it wouldn’t be consistent with your content or audience… P.s. that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create a tech gift guide for women, we’re frankly useless at buying gifts so odds are that it will go viral. 😉

You see, analytics is a very important part of achieving & maintaining your success with YouTube.

One of my favorite tools for all sorts of analytics & SEO information is TubeBuddy. A free browser extension that’s an essential tool that every YouTuber should be using.

Download the free browser extension & find out more about TubeBuddy here.


These are the 5 keys to becoming a successful YouTuber. In some cases, a successful YouTuber may only fill 4 of the 5 criteria, but these are quite rare & they tend to not have the best longevity.

Aim for all 5 & you’ll achieve your YouTube ambitions. You may have also noticed how they do tend to overlap. Your content, consistency, authenticity, determination & planning, these are the things that will take your channel to the very top & they tend not to exist without the presence of the other.

Set goals, create plans, work hard, keep on working hard, achieve your dreams. It’s doable.

5 keys to success on YouTube

If you enjoyed this article, please save it to Pinterest.

There’s no better time to start growing your channel than right now. So, what are you waiting for?

If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 😊

David Woutersen