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December 1, 2021

Does Asking For Likes & Subscribes Actually Work on YouTube?

I’ve watched many YouTube videos, and most will dedicate serious time begging for likes and subscribe to their channel.

Which brings up the question of “Wait, Does that actually work?”

Contrarian Opinion: Asking for Likes and Subscribes on YouTube Doesn’t Actually Work

I have a hot take that spending 10+ seconds begging for likes does more harm than good. There are three primary reasons I believe this (let’s see if I can change your mind).

1) Viewer Retention is the #1 Growth Factor on YouTube

Viewer retention is the key metric to getting more views on YouTube (well, that and click-through rate). If a large percentage of your audience is still watching at the end, your video (and channel) can blow up overnight.

Half of your audience will get bored and bounce if you don’t immediately entertain them at the start of every video. I have a dozen retention graphs that look like this (and you probably do as well).

youtube audience retention graph

This mass-exodus signals to YouTube that your video sucks, and they shouldn’t show it to anyone else. This chart is the #1 reason you will succeed or fail on YouTube.

If you start each video with a 30-second ad read or beg for subscribers, ALL of your retention graphs will look like this!

2) Call To Actions Provide Marginal Conversion Rate Gains

I spent years selling physical products online. A good call to action works. It’s why the Internet was filled with annoying popup ads right up until the Google Interstitial Penalty started penalizing websites for it.

That said, when we say call to actions“work,” we’re usually talking about very small conversion rate gains. Like going from 3% of users clicking a button to 4%. Gains that small are definitely worth it when you’re on a product page. But, is it worth it on a YouTube channel when asking for likes simultaneously kills your retention graph?

To me, that’s a very easy NO WAY. Growth is almost 100% determined by viewer retention. It’s the killer metric on YouTube! Retention’s not worth destroying over a small increase in subscriptions.

3) Good (Relatable) Content is the Main Driver of Subscriptions

The most entertaining videos on my channel are the ones that drive subscriptions.

And it’s not particularly close. A good CTA doesn’t increase subscriptions by more than a compelling video would. And ditching a 10-second CTA makes it easier to create a compelling video.

And I can prove this with actual numbers from my channel. Let’s go over that.

A Case Study: What Happened When I Asked for Likes and Subscribes on My Channel

I went through my old videos and figured out how many subscribers I got from each of them (and determined whether or not I had a call to action on the video). And as you’ll see, the subscriber rate of my videos has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not there was a call to action on the video itself.

VideoCTA?Subscribers FromViewsSubscriber Rate
Record Yourself With iPhone’s Back Camera!No315,3000.5%
Use GMail With a Custom Domain Name for FREENo5115,0000.3%
How To Embed a Private Video on Your Website w YouTubeYES135,5000.2%
Get Free Celebrity Photos for Your Blog + Best Stock Photo SitesYES161,3001.2%
How To Set Up a Green Screen In a Small Space (For YouTubers)NO71,3000.5%
Why Writing on Medium is a Disaster for New Bloggers | Should You Blog On Medium?NO31003%
How To Make a 360° YouTube Video (For Beginners)NO01600%
How To Code 10x Faster Than Your PeersNO61404.2%

A very entertaining video with no call to action had a 4.2% subscriber rate. In comparison, a how-to video with a call to action had a 0.2% subscriber rate. The call to action doesn’t drive conversions nearly as much as the content does!

Conclusion

10-30 seconds is a lot of dead air on a video, during which time you could quickly lose half of your audience.

Be careful that in your rush to get subscribers, you’re not accidentally driving people away from your channel en-masse.

Shaun Poore worked as a professional software developer for 15 years before transitioning into content creation and digital product businesses. Shaun's currently focused on providing as many people as possible with actionable advice and tools they can use to succeed online, without the fluff or BS that too often plagues this industry.