The Anatomy of Video Channels that Make Millions

What does it take to become a successful video-blogger (vlogger) like PewDiePie, who rakes in a jaw-dropping $7 million each year from his YouTube channel? A sense of humor or an extremely high tolerance for Kinder egg-opening can go a long way, but if this doesn’t come naturally, you’re going to have to read on.

People Magazine recently sponsored and covered VidCon 2015. Coverage online and in their August 2015 edition of People showcased many of America’s vlogging superstars. If you can win over the YouTube or Vine masses with home-video content, you can easily walk your way onto the pages of People magazine with the rest of the famous people.

VidCon Screenshot

YouTube has one billion active users, while other video sharing platforms like Vine has at least 40 million registered users. These platforms have given the average-joe accessibility to a global audience and the potential to make money off of entertaining or educating them. Similarly, content marketers have access to video content platforms to promote messages. The opportunity is alive and kicking to produce dynamic visual content as both the average-joe-wanting-to-vlog and as an internet marketer, you just need to know how.

What is the winning formula? What does it take? As a former biologist, I present to you the anatomy of video channels that make money.

The Head: Vision, Brain, Voice, and Direction


Start  your vision by selecting where you want to vlog. There are video content platforms that are very popular like  Vimeo or Daily Motion, but these platforms don’t represent as much of an opportunity to make money. You could also upload and share videos on Facebook, but the problem with this social media platform is that it isn’t dedicated to video content. Most of the world’s video content starts and is housed on video-sharing platforms like YouTube, where content creators can own and operate a channel.

To house video content on a website’s private server or to only upload on Facebook here and there, I would argue, fragments your content and limits its ability to go viral, which in turn limits your ability to make money from vlogging. So pick a platform, like YouTube or Vine and create a personal or business YouTube account or a Vine account by going to their website and signing up using your email account or social media accounts.  Connect these channels to your website if you have one for increased visibility and virality.

Vlogging superstar quiz


With a vision in mind, it’s time to apply some brains to getting set-up on Vine and/or YouTube.

Vine is the internet’s newest platform for video content. Vine was founded in June 2012, acquired later that year by Twitter for a reported $30 million, and officially launched as a free iOs app on January 24, 2013. Vine has since released an Android version but remains exclusive to the mobile environment because the platform is built off of 6-second videos only; hence, Twitter is a natural fit.

Vine setup and usage is pretty straightforward. Here is a step by step of how to set up and use Vine on your phone. Having these video platform apps on your phone is key for capturing content on the go. Marnie the Dog, a Vine superstar, never leaves home without his camera.

Marnie the Dog Vine Screenshot

“Viners” make money by creating 6-second video content on their channel, growing fans and locking down brand endorsements and/or public appearances. There aren’t any ad networks to tap into for revenue. From this respect, YouTube is more lucrative, but involves a bit of know-how in the set-up.

YouTube user HeyItsLumpy has many video tutorials about how to set-up a YouTube channel like this one here. He provides advice, tips and tricks for how to set up a channel. Here is a summary of the best points:

  • Choose an account name that is catchy and memorable
  • Add social links to your channel banner as well as other relevant links such as a PayPal account link, a SoundCloud account link or even custom link like the one in the screenshot below called “Awesome Person”.

Screenshot of HeyItsLumpy YouTube Channel

  • Add a description so people know what your YouTube channel is about.
  • Create playlists for your videos as another way to connect with your audience.
  • Create a trailer for your channel.
  • In the channel settings, in the advanced section you can enter keywords that you want associated with your channel to assist the YouTube search engine with connecting searches relevant to your content and channel. With YouTube, though, you have to upload at least one video before you channel will be searchable, so go get the camera rolling!
  • Make sure you allow your channel to appear in other people’s recommendations, which will help your channel grow.
  • Display the number of subscribers your channel has.
  • Go to Account Settings to verify your channel.

With your channel verified, you should continue your setup and tap into YouTube’s ad network. Go back to the Account Settings page and enableMonetization. Here, you can tell YouTube that yes, you would like to make some money from ads displayed on your YouTube channel. Keep in mind YouTube will only display ads on your channel and pay you for it if you meet their criteria.

While some video content may be suitable for YouTube’s guidelines, it may not necessarily be suitable for YouTube’s monetization guidelines.

For example, in order to enable monetization you have to create content that is appropriate for all ages and considered “advertiser-friendly.” You have to be able to provide documentation that you own the rights to your own commercial content and follow YouTube’s Terms of Service as well as the Community Guidelines if you want to make money from YouTube’s ad network. As long as you’re not making porn, exercising hate or violence or trying pull off a scam, you should be fine.

Other YouTube money makers can be found in the Account Settings tab as well, such as External Annotations that link to partner sites (hello affiliate marketers!) or to enable the Paid Subscriptions feature. Don’t get ahead of yourself though, never start your channel with the Paid Subscriptions feature turned on. First, you have to find your voice.


Now that you’re set-up, ready to become vlogger of the year and have already bought your dress for VidCon 2016, ask yourself what is so special about your personality? What do you add to the global discussion surrounding what you’re vlogging about?

Be likeable, be funny, be authoritative, be tasteful, be you. No, that was not a Calvin Klein ad, that was my honest true advice for personalities that soar on camera — personalities we want to be around. Work your personality, your wit, and discuss topics that no one else has yet. Have a voice that people remember. The greatest challenge about saying something is knowing what to say.

Uncovering opportunities for clever video content may not always come naturally, sometimes you may have to work for it. Search engine research and optimization is a good place to look for clues and direction.


Search engine data can be extremely useful to figure out what is the best angle to take on the topic(s) you’ve decided to vlog about. For example if you were setting out to become a makeup vlogger, uncovering decent search volumes for phrases like “how do I apply false eyelashes?” would signal that you could create a video for this on your channel.

Since YouTube is currently the second largest search engine in the world, vlogging there with a bit of SEO know-how can go a long way. Search engine data is a goldmine for content creators and marketers of all kinds, not just search engine marketers. Get familiar with the Google Keyword Planning Tool in Google AdWords to research search volumes around certain terms and phrases.

There are other ways to optimize your YouTube channel for search engine success. Setting up video transcripts to support search engines is one of the easiest ways to help viewers find your content. ReelnReel video marketing says that setting up video transcripts can boost views and subscriptions in addition to making your content universally accessible for people with impaired hearing for example. In the context of money-making and SEO however, ReelnReel affirms that these video transcripts will increase the chances of your content being discoverable by search engines and improving rankings within them.

YouTube has its own academy to help you improve your discoverability as a vlogger. In addition to the advice above, YouTube says to make the most of your metadata for each video and for your channel. They state clearly “This includes the title, description, tags, category, thumbnail, subtitles and closed captions. The reason we have metadata is so that you can add additional contextual information to your videos to help them be discovered by the correct audience.” I encourage vloggers to read through the academy for more tips and tricks about refining video titles and helping users find and connect with your content.

You can also hire a qualified SEO expert if you’re not sure what search terms present an opportunity for your channel/video content strategy or how to optimize your channel for them.

Casestudy text box of boy with Rubik's cube

Using a call-response framework for content ideas creates pathways between the searcher and your videos as well as momentum and direction forwards for more content. Vloggers can create a direct response to what the internet is searching for to attract new traffic and then with some momentum, they can create content in response to what subscribers comment on or ask for.

Amanda Hendrick has an up and coming YouTube channel and often creates videos in response to the requests she gets from subscribers or comments left on her videos, like how she does her makeup, and her audience loves it.

Brands can use this method as well by using their customer service channels and common customer queries to create video content. Kristen Matthews writes on the Outreach Marketer that a brand’s YouTube channel should be producing content that speaks to what their buyer persona actually cares about. Becoming a resource for your subscribers means a happy viewer and likely repeat visits and even sales, allowing you to grow your channel and increasing your potential to make money.

The Torso: Heart and Soul

We tend to interact and work with the people, the places, and the content we like. I would argue that this is also true for the content we consume. Visual content is a richer form of multimedia than text. The visual aspect is part of the fun and allure that video content has, which is why we connect with it so easily and why we like consuming this type of content so much. But not everyone meets our personal criteria as video content consumers; we don’t like everyone, it has to be good.

There is this saying among content marketers known as “share, care, swear,” referring to the reaction that defines good content. Meaning a good piece of content, whether blog, social or video, should make you want to share it, care for it’s message, or make you swear because it’s so controversial or swear by it because it’s just that good. If you’ve achieved share, care, swear-worthy video content, than you’ve made somebody like you.

This is the heart and soul of growing your video channel. YouTubers and Viners who are likeable will naturally increase their subscribers, and for this they are the ones bound to have the easiest time making money vlogging. But not everyone can capture the heart of an audience so effortlessly.

To get the attention of consumers and subsequently attract advertisers and marketers you may need to put some heart and soul into it. Smart Insights advises vloggers to make an emotional connection with viewers before thinking of money and to actually plan out videos like a story with a beginning, middle, and end that leaves you wanting more. Get the creative juices going in an effort to attract visits and grow your channel.

No matter what direction you take or what you do to create amazing content and make an emotional connection with viewers remember, “haters gonna hate”. Don’t let this discourage you. Even with internet trolls at large, exponential growth can still occur quickly when you do make a connection with someone and they share your content on their social networks.

Each time someone shares your video content, you gain exposure with their network. Subscribers, followers, connections, circles, views, and shares are going to fuel your path of growth.

The Limbs: Get Ready for the Run Around

Now, through hard work and great content, you’ve now risen to some internet form of superstardom or success, the views are flying, your subscribers increase every day, and people are commenting left and right on your content.

Has anyone approached you yet to vlog for their product or promote their brand? Brand marketers sift through YouTube channels looking for vloggers to promote their content. Why? Alex Rosenblit from White Ink Productions says, “Today, video is the fastest, most striking, and effective way to get people excited about your product and inspire them to use it.” There is a world of brands out there looking to pay people just like you to test their product or sponsor a video post.


If you haven’t yet been approached, you could always pitch a brand that you’d love to rep on your channel or offer to sample a product of theirs. There are networks and platforms designed specifically for influencers made up of bloggers, vloggers, and social media successes alike to connect with marketing forces looking to pay for collaborations.

Platforms like GroupHigh and sites like the Kelloggers Network and Tap Influence were in part created to help content creators and social media superstars get paid for what they do (in addition to helping the marketing community discover and connect with influencers). These types of sites create communities of internet superstars who are ready and willing to work with brands for money or free swag.

A word of advice — don’t ask for money or sponsorships unless you have a solid following and a media kit to show for it. Now that you’re all set up to make money, it’s only a matter of time anyways, let them come to you.

Time to Get the Camera Rolling!

Many people who started out just like you are now considered YouTube royalty and are making millions of dollars. But if you’re aspiring to join them, it’s going to take hard work and dedication to make it. Get on the vlogging money train by getting solid footing in your platform, proper configuration, and optimizing for search engines.

Do a bit of content marketing by getting to know your audience and your niche and develop content that makes an emotional connection with viewers. Get sponsored and get your name out there in the places setup to help vloggers just like yourself.

By Chandal Nolasco da Silva SEO Tips


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