I used to have a channel with over 40,000 subscribers before it was taken down back when YouTube used to be real strict about copyright. It was great. I was having a lot of fun, making awesome content, and the interaction with users was rewarding (with the exception of the ever present tr0lls of course).
The most frequent question I would get from users was "how did I do it?" How did I get 40,000 subs (which was A LOT at that time. The most subscribed at that time was Smosh and they were just under a million. Compare that to RayWilliam today who has FIVE MILLION.
The answer to that question at the time was simple. Just make videos, and make them on a consistent basis (i.e. every Wednesday, once every other week, etc.). Now that there is more competition it is much more difficult to do, and changes made by YouTube in how their search works as well as the subscriber manipulation (er... i mean subscriber "adjustment" policy) have complicated things much more.
Today, it is extremely unlikely to be able to attract views purely from organic search (someone finding your video by typing keywords into the search engine and seeing your video in the results). This is because of those changes to the search algorithm I mentioned. Basically, no matter how hot a topic you choose for your video and how well you tag it, it won't be seen by many users because it won't appear in searches for a little bit and by the time it does, other larger users will have vlogged about the same thing and will gobble up all the views for that topic. The new search algorithm highly favors power users (i.e. the ones with many subscribers.) Thus the ones with a lot of subs can easily get more views whereas the little guy can't even get his foot in the door.
So does that mean it's hopeless?
No. Not by a long shot. But the methods to claw your way to the top are different now then in the early years of YouTube. I will be covering these in my next post.
Feel free to contact me on Twitter at any time:-)