Building a YouTube Channel to 100K Subscribers & Beyond

Raphael Schneider is a fascinating guy.

He left the law profession to start GentlemensGazette.com, his own line of classic men’s goods.

He’s also a YouTube Wizard and has built a channel with more than 125,000 subscribers, no small feat in the age of influencers.

In today’s episode you’ll learn:

  • The most important element to optimize in your YouTube videos
  • What percent of subscribers actually end up watching your videos
  • The massive ways YouTube has changed in the last 2­-3 years

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(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com and Raphael Schneider of Gentlemensgazette.com)

Andrew: Welcome to the eCommerceFuel Podcast. The show dedicated to helping high six and seven figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey, guys, Andrew here and welcome to the eCommerceFuel Podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in to the show. And joining me today I’ve got Raphael Schneider from the Gentlemansgazette.com, and Raphael is a fairly, somewhat new member to the forum and had been one of the most standout new members in terms of just engaging and sharing his knowledge. Incredible guy. And particularly has a ton of experience on YouTube, building up a channel there.

He’s built up a channel to almost 130,000 subscribers, generates a tremendous amount of his businesses traffic and brand recognition, and kind of pop a funnel attention on YouTube. And his videos are just really well-done, long form in-depth, highly well-edited, a great job with that.

So I wanted to bring him on to talk about YouTube and how to build a channel there. We dive into a lot of stuff. We talk about how to use YouTube Analytics to really improve your videos and get better watch times. We talk about what are the most important thing to optimize on a YouTube video is, the big ways that YouTube has changed in the last two to three years, you know, why he likes the fact that it’s so difficult and so expensive to produce high-quality video content. He sees a very strong, a real advantage there, if you’re willing to invest.

Also, we talk about what kind of vanity metrics like he has a hundred thousand plus subscribers, is that actually valuable? Like, do those people that subscribe actually watch his videos? We talk about the percentage of people that watch that are subscribed versus just the positive effect you see from having your videos, you know, on YouTube.

So, lots of good stuff. Raphael’s obviously great guy who knows the space well and so hope you can join the discussion on YouTube with him.

Quickly, before we jump in though, I wanna thank our two sponsors who helped make the show possible. First, I wanna thank Klaviyo who makes e-mail automation easy and powerful. And a good chance you’ve heard of Klaviyo by now. Their killer feature is the ability to pull in a ton of data, allow you to create automated email flows through highly-targeted and go out pretty much indefinitely once you take the time to set them up and make you money.

But, today, I wanna touch on their Email Builder. Whenever I try to build emails that go out that are anything other than just plain text, they end up looking like they came out of 2002. They look horrific. And Klaviyo has a great Email Builder that solves that problem. It’s drag and drop, it’s got a lot of templates built in, it renders nicely for mobile, for desktop and it just it takes the pain out of building emails that don’t look horrific.

So if you’ve experienced that pain as I have, you’ll enjoy their email builder. If you’re not using them for email marketing, check them out at Klaviyo.com, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com where you can get started with a free trial.

And, secondly, I wanna thank the team over at Liquid Web who is now offering completely managed hosting for WooCommerce. So if you’re at WooCommerce, two reasons you might want to use them. One, it’s a highly elastic offering. It allows your store to scale up very easily with surges and traffic and keep you online.

Secondly, they have a very cool staging environment that doesn’t only let you test UX changes, but lets you stress test your store for a lot of different scenarios. They have over 25 different data sets of situations that can happen where you can see what happens to your store before it happens. A couple of fun facts about them, they’ve been doing it for 20 years. They own all their own data centers which is really cool. No AWS for these guys, they actually own the servers, the racks and can swap out any hardware that fails within 30 minutes.

And their team is just impressive. I met them at a conference this summer. Their team over there is headed by, on the WooCommerce side, Chris Lema, who if you’re in the WordPress or the WooCommerce space, you’ve heard of him. Their team is one of the reasons I agreed to have them as a sponsor of the show. So if you’re on Woo check them out, you can learn more about them at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb. All right, let’s go ahead and get in today’s discussion.

From Law School to eCommerce

Andrew: Raphael, so you were in law before you began your story, before you began Gentleman’s Gazette, is that right?

Raphael: Somewhat. I went to law school. I graduated from law schools in Germany and the U.S. but I realized it was super boring and I wouldn’t be happy doing that while I was in law school. So I never practiced and I never actually became an attorney because I was like, “This is just not for me.”

Andrew: And that was in 2008 or 2009? Because you started selling things in 2010, right, via a Gentleman’s?

Raphael: Actually, we started in 2010 with the writing and then by the time the work permit rolled around we had our first advertiser. And so I was like, “Oh, that’s awesome. How long does it take me to make a $100,000?” And so I looked into, you know, blogging was still somewhat new at the time, and I figured out, “If I work hard for five years and do things right I should be able to make a $100,000 a year.” And so I was like, “Okay, let’s try to do this.”

And my wife, you know, was making sure we had bread on the table, so she had a regular day job and I could commit time to that. And then in 2011, we converted everything to an LLC. By then, you know, I had realized, “Well, with advertisers, it’s actually not always that easy.” Because our first advertiser he just stopped paying. I think he had a hard time. And he wanted a long-term contract and we made that but then he just, you know, didn’t pay. And it was like, “That sucks, you know, and, yes, I could go sue him but it’s probably not worth my time”. So we just tried other things.

And so then a lot of people asked me and said, “Hey, where did you get those glove?” And I would have to say, “Oh a flea market in Vienna.” So not really helpful. And so I thought, “Well, why don’t we create all those things that people asked me for and that I can’t find?” And so we said, “Yeah, let’s do this.” And it was always clear from the get-go that we wanted to do something that was quality because that’s what I was interested in.

And at the same time I realized, you know, from a business point of view trying to compete with Amazon and Walmart on a commodity level is not going to benefit us because we won’t be able to make that. On the other hand, if we have a specialized niche business that would be much better from a business point of view.

Getting To His Revenue Goal

Andrew: How long did it take, you mentioned kinda the goal to make 100K per year, you started in 2010, how long did it take to hit that goal?

Raphael: I think we did that in 2013, probably. But, at a time, we also reinvested a lot into the business. So we hit that threshold a lot faster than I thought we would, but we also decided, you know, in 2011 that we wanted to create this brand. And so while looking for a name, my wife said, “Well, how about an English country house?” And so it was like, “That’s a good idea.” And then we came up with Fort Belvedere because I said, “British country house is not related to clothing.

How can we combine the two?” And Fort Belvedere was the home of Edward VIII who later became the Duke of Windsor, who was always very well known for his style and for his clothes. And so that was the connection for us. And we were like, “Great, domain available. We can do that. There’s some history behind that. We can do that.”

And then I started to kind of design products, develop things and we didn’t sell actual products until October, 2013. So it took us a good two years from kind of brand inception to selling things.

Building Proprietary Products

Andrew: And tell me a little bit about your product line. So you have your own brand that you guys designed. Do you guys design all the things you have from or how much of it is proprietary? Do you design like those gloves you mentioned, where you contract with someone and you kind of spec out what you want, they’re really something that follows your vision and design versus things that you bring in that are really high-quality products but maybe you private label them from other manufacturers?

Raphael: Yeah. So, for us everything we do is like our design. So you cannot find these products anywhere else. And it’s more difficult than to just slap your name onto something and then sell it as your own. But at the same time, it’s also much more difficult for others to copy us. So you mentioned the gloves, for example, right? So I go out to different tanners and source the glove leather. You know, we make specifically the colors that we want.

Then we create together with the glove makers the patterns for our gloves. So you won’t find that pattern anywhere else. Then those gloves are sewn to our specifications. We say, “We want this kind of aligning. We want you to use this kind of a thread.” And then they create those gloves for us, and it’s a unique product. And it’s the same with ties or anything else that we offer.

He’s The Designer, Too!

Andrew: And you do most of that? Obviously, you have a real interest in fashion. Do you have someone on your team that is the primary person who designs all of those and kind of takes ownership? Or are you the person, along with all the other roles that you have to wear, are you the one who is the primary designer driving that process?

Raphael: I wish there was someone but I’m the creative director in that sense. I’m the designer. And I think what helped us in that way was that I always had that vision of, “Work once, make money forever.” And that was reflected in our content and in the sense that I wanted to write one article that could be read over and over again. You know, evergreen content.

And with our products and what I believe in, like classic men’s goods, it’s a timeless style that doesn’t change, you know, in 20 years. So it works well for us in a business sense too because I don’t need to change my product clients every six months and need to redo the marketing. So our, you know, personal beliefs of quality and longevity and timelessness perfectly align with our business goals.

And because of that, I have time I think, you know, because of that I have the time to dedicate to the designing still because unlike other stores maybe they have to kind of, you know, rewrite their product descriptions every six months. And then we don’t have to do that.

Andrew: Yeah. It’s a great long-term approach, especially in an Amazon era. One thing I noticed when I was doing some research on you is, you’ve got a team that sounds like eight people right now, is that right?

Income Vs. Hourly Employees

Raphael: Well, yes. So basically, you know, it’s my wife and I are the only employees. And then we have a two-full time customer service VAs, one graphic designer with VA, one full-time VA who’s an assistant, one part-time VA who is an assistant. We have several contract writers, videographers and editors and then a full-time in the center.

Andrew: And you had mentioned in a previous interview that you really like to manage instead of by hours, instead you manage based on outcomes. I’d love to hear you talk about that a little bit. I mean, the philosophy makes a lot of sense but, how do you structure that? So if you maybe, for example, if you wouldn’t mind talking about some of the outcomes specifically you look forward for the people when you’re managing them.

Raphael: Yes. I think, you know, we’re of a younger generation. So, for me, it doesn’t matter when people work or where they work, as long as they get things done. And I just realized, you know, if you have other interests in your life than work and if we can combine it it’s great for you and it’s great for me. So if you spend, you know, 20 hours researching an article but someone else can do it in five, well, that’s too bad for you. But I just look at the final article and I say, “I can pay you this much for a final article.” And that’s what it is basically.

Now, the limitations of this model comes into play when you have like a video and you’ve won, for example, a super high-quality edit. Right? I do not wanna limit the editor and say, “Hey, I only pay you a fixed amount but I want you to work a lot longer on this video than on others.” Then you have to kinda switch and give people like an hourly rate or something and say, “Hey, I pay you more simply so you can make that work.”

How To Build Subscribers on YouTube

Andrew: Well, I’m really excited to dig in with you about on the specialty side that is YouTube. So you got about 130,000 subscribers on YouTube right now in your channel, which is impressive. And how long did it take to get there? Did you start right away in 2010 when you started doing content on YouTube? Or was that something that…I’m trying to guess as a how long it took you to build up to 130K subscribers in terms of years and also in terms of maybe your publishing schedule, in terms of how often you’re putting out content.

Raphael: So, you know, back when we started I bought a camera and it then they had like a 720p, you know, HD feature. And we took a few videos, like short ones and put them up there. But I felt that, at the time, I wanted to have a higher-quality production level and so that kept me from going. And so we basically stopped and didn’t restart YouTube until like October 2014.

So, looking back, I wish I would have just started in 2010. Because even if you start, you know, at a lower level, by doing it you learn so much more and so much faster. And if we would have just started earlier we probably would have 2 million or 3 million subscribers today.

A Lion’s Share of Sales from YouTube

Andrew: And what percentage of your traffic and sales do you think you know, and maybe it’s just a gut reaction because I know it’s hard to track directly, but, how much of your business do you attribute to the presence you’ve built on YouTube?

Raphael: As you said, you know, it always depends on what your attribution model is. Is it like the first click, is it the last click, do you consider the clicks in between? And we try to have a model where we look at various touch points because we know we have a longer sales cycle. I think to date our social media has produced $180,000 in revenue. And the lion share from that is from YouTube.

Andrew: Interesting. Do you get most of your traffic from YouTube or does it come from other places more predominantly?

Raphael: No, it’s like many platforms, you know, people like to stay in a platform. People on Facebook like to stay on Facebook, people on YouTube like to stay on YouTube. However, as you know, people rarely, well, you know, watch a video, click on something and then buy directly. But then just being aware of you and what you do and getting to know you and liking you, leads down the line to a sale, maybe in six months or a year. And that’s I think, where all these sales come from.

It’s not a direct sale. It’s more first touch point, second touch point, maybe they sign up for emails, maybe they subscribe to our channel and then ends up in a sale from there.

Andrew: So that 180 that you mention from social or from YouTube is really the stuff you can attribute directly to YouTube. But you think there’s a lot, just kind of a much broader halo effect that you can’t necessarily see in Google Analytics but you’re pretty sure is there.

Tracking First to Last Click

Raphael: Yeah. Well, we reuse not just Google Analytics because that was one of the pet peeves with Google Analytics was that the attribution I thought was always very difficult. And I’m not a big fan of attributing 100% to my first click or 100% to my last click, but I realized that without my Facebook posts, and the tweet, without my e-mails, that sale wouldn’t have happened.

At the same time, I wanna know what’s the starting point for most people, you know, because maybe, let’s say, I would just look at direct sales I would think YouTube is not worth it when in fact a lot of people who start out there eventually become customers.

Yeah, we use lots of parameters and stuff and we track things very closely to just understand what the touch points are and what our kind of customer journey is from first inception with a brand to actual sale.

Raphael’s Attribution Funnel

Andrew: Yes, I mean, maybe we could actually dive into that just a little bit. That’s fascinating. So, how do you have that set up if you could maybe talk a little bit more about that? Do you have a final set up that just in Google Analytics that tracks, that gives you, that shows you the attribution kinda funnel all the way through and then you just you really give a lot of weight to YouTube bringing people into the top of the funnel and then some of those other methods like email, other methods to close the sale? How do you think about them? Maybe you can talk about that a bit more deeply.

Raphael: We use a tracking software called Wicked Reports, and it works a lot on parameters, UTM parameters which you can also see in Google Analytics as campaigns, for example. And then you can just set it up and finetune it and change the attribution after the fact because it records all the data, basically.

And, yeah, we have a very thought out email funnel system currently use Infusionsoft to do that. I mean, there are many ways you can build it out. I think the hard part is just building it out and mapping it and providing value to your customer and nurturing them to that sale. And then, of course, once the first sale, how do we get the second sale, the third sale, the fourth sale and so forth?

The Gentleman’s Sales Cycle

Andrew: So you’ve get, for example, on a YouTube video with some of those kind of in-video little clicks that can take people to your site or any links you put in the comments, you’ll put UTM characters or parameters which are those kind of attributes in the URL, so those get tagged over. And then you’ll do, of course, you’re pretty religious, it sounds like by doing that for any kind of email or social you do and so then you can see that whole path in Google Analytics? What is your average?

Roughly, how long does it take for somebody, you know, once they come to you from, let’s say YouTube, to end up buying? Like what’s the sales cycle look like for you guys?

Raphael: On average, I’d say eight months.

Nurturing Customers for the Long Sale

Andrew: Wow. Eight months? That’s crazy. That surprises me. Okay. Interesting. So, for you, I’m guessing a huge part is the nurturing, so I’m guessing when you have people land from YouTube onto your site you’re not trying to push them on the sale, you’re probably trying to do something like to get them to opt into your email list most importantly.

Raphael: Exactly. And we’ve never been hard on sales, you know, we’re never like hard salespeople. Yeah, it’s just interesting to see that. Of course, you sometimes have people who come, you know, and just buy right away. But it’s the idea that, you know, we create a brand that’s recognizable and people come back to us over and over again. And, over time, you know, we also add more products to our lineup.

So a customer can spend more with us. And, of course, you know, ideally, I want a customer lifetime value of $5,000 rather than $300. So we’re working towards that end and keeping customers on and not just go for them one-time sale. It’s part of that long-term growth strategy.

Building Trust with Customers

Andrew: Yeah. You’re playing long ball on the product selection proprietary, playing long ball on the customer. You know, it’s harder to get them but if you do them you can build trust and they’re gonna buy more from you over time given your niche. I was looking some of your gloves, they’re beautiful clothes. And like any high-quality thing they’re not cheap but, you know, $300 for a pair of gloves something where you get to build a lot of trust with somebody before they buy those, I’m guessing.

So, how do you think about that? Like I’m gonna kind of make an assumption that your email list is, once you have someone, it’s probably the way that you can best nurture them. How do you use that email list to really build trust and credibility? Do you have any intentional ways that you do it? Or do you just kind of think more of the thought process that, “If we really have great quality content, ala our YouTube channel, really high-quality blog posts, people will over time justsee that quality consistently and they’ll come to trust us”?

Or do you have any little secret kind of under the surface, things that you do in addition to that via your email list?

Raphael: I think, you know, we’re looking at other, especially eCommerce places. They oftentimes make videos about their products, right? So it’s primarily a sales tool. We have a different approach in the sense that we started helping men first, and to this day we make a lot of videos about things that we do not sell. So we truly show people, you know, “We’re here to help you not to just sell you something.

I don’t just want you to buy something. I want you to buy something that you’re truly happy with because if that’s the case, you know, you talk to your friends about it, you come back and I want you to buy something that you’re proud to wear.”

And I think that separates us from the majority of people out there who just try to get for…or just go for a quicker sale.

A Case for Longer Videos

Andrew: Let’s talk about some of your videos. So, you know, a lot of those people on YouTube say shorter is better, people have no attention spans, etc., etc. But I would say if I had to, say, the classic Gentleman’s Gazette video, you know, you’re in the 8- to 15-minute range, it’s, of course, very well-edited and well-produced.

Can you give me a sense of with something like more substantial video content like that, what’s the cost to film and edit something like that in terms of time and in terms of money you have to pay, either your time or time that you have to pay for contractors?

Raphael: There are lots of things in here. Before I answer that question, let’s talk about the length. I agree with you, attention spans are short especially in the prime YouTube demographic which are more, you know, millennials, not 65-year olds. At the same time, it always helps to look at YouTube as an entity that it wants to make money, right? Google Alphabet, YouTube, all the same thing.

So they had a big shift in the sense that they said, “We don’t just want the views, we want watch time.” Because the more people watch on YouTube, the more attached I get to YouTube, the more at stake click, the more valuable they become to YouTube.

Now, if I, as a content creator, can create content that keeps people on YouTube longer and it’s not a relative measure, it’s an absolute measure. So let’s say I have a video out there that is a burning fire for three hours and people watched for 90 minutes, they click three times as many ads. That’s more valuable to YouTube even though they may just have watched 20% of the video compared to, let’s say, a five-minute video where people watched 90% of it because it’s a how-to tutorial.

So keeping that in mind is something where I’m like, “Yes, I wanna create video, I wanna have people with a long watch time.” At the same time, I like good quality in-depth content and that automatically requires me to make a video that’s longer than three minutes. So it kind of go in the same direction from all sides. I wanna create a video that’s evergreen and provides really solid value, and that requires me to have, you know, eight to 15 minutes versus two to three.

Of course, unlike a podcast, YouTube has lots of stats which you can exactly see when a drop-off occurs. So maybe you speak too slowly or maybe you say something, maybe it’s a blurb that’s too long. You can immediately see where people drop off. And using that data you can improve the audience retention on your videos over time.

A Constant Look at Analytics

Andrew: When you go in with videos, how often, or if at all, do you go in, take a video, look at the analytics, see a big drop-off time in the two-minute mark and reshoot that to try and make it more engaging or less slow at that point?

Raphael: We constantly look at analytics and try to use the data to just, you know, increase our average watch time. It’s like every video we know, and if we have an outlier I know, we dig deeper and see what the problem might have been.

Metrics to Look At

Andrew: Interesting. And what are the biggest cues out there when you see the metrics you look at? Do you just look at drop-off where people leaves a video? And is that the biggest thing you look at? And if that’s the case, how do you determine what the problem is? Is it just kind of making an educated guess based on, “Okay, well, this is where they’re dropping off,” so, having some friends watch it or trying to be critical of your own performance or the content there and try to be able to shorten it up?

Raphael: Usually it’s quite obvious because you know you can see exactly what you say in a drop-off. So you just see that portion and then you see when it normalizes again. So you see a section and you can tell, “Oh, this is what’s happening here,” right? Or, I mean, you can also see if you publish a video and it’s very popular from the get-go, you know, you can see that’s something that resonates with people more.

And, of course, we also have our articles and stuff. So you know kind of if something is popular you can tell right away, and you can try to understand why is it popular, come up with a hypothesis of why that’s the case basically.

Cost and Time of Videos

Andrew: What about time and cost to edit? So, let’s say, an average 12-minute video that you put out there, what does that costs in terms of time and the money?

Raphael: I guess it’s little harder for us and it depends on how you break it down, right? There are fixed costs like a studio space like the one we have would probably cost $2,500 a month. The gear we have, you know, 25, 30 grand upfront. And then the variable cost is, I would say, the filming and editing of the video is like, for us, to $250. Then, you know, you need the scripting which is either me, or if we have an existing article someone else can do that, thumbnail creation by the graphic designer.

Then you have the posting itself. And, you know, the transcribing of the video, adding cards, adding all the links, doing all the parameters, all that stuff. So, I’d say overall, we’re at $350 a video.

Andrew: For a variable cost?

Raphael: Variable costs, that’s not the fixed costs for brand and gear.

Andrew: So 30,000 for the studios. So that surprises me that would be that much. Can you maybe talk about the different parts of your studio and the different investment levels for those?

Investing in Professionals

Raphael: Well, you know, just like with many things you can just, especially today, you know, you get an iPhone and have 4K quality. Well, I, in the very beginning, you know, decided that photographers were quite expensive, photography and, you know, it’s not like you always get your entire lineup at the same time so you need to book them and everything. And I always liked photography so I decided, “Okay, we do it ourselves.”

Because of that we could invest in better quality gear and then once have a system, you know, you have your entire lens range of DSLR equipment, that’s quite expensive.

Then you have bodies, you know, that they come out every few years. So it’s like we have two cameras, it’s like 5K for the bodies. You have to buy that every like, let’s say, three years. Then lighting, you know, you can spend $20,000 on a lighting setup or $200. It’s all light at the end of the day, but the Color Rendering Index, or how accurate are my colors in the video ranges greatly, also the way things look. And for us, you know, having products that look exactly the way they should if we print them, can help minimize returns for example.

And, again, I am a quality person so I like having good stuff because I think over time it pays a dividend. And, could you use a less expensive year? Yes, I like to choose better stuff where I know it works. And it’s also something we’ve built up over the years, you know, like the lens lineup it’s not something you need to replace very often because they last from long time.

YouTube’s Changing Landscape

Andrew: How has YouTube changed in the last two to three years? I mean, one thing I’ve noticed is I feel like it, maybe you could probably for the internet as a whole. But advertising is just seems like the advertising has got ramped up significantly. Even last night, looking at two or three videos. I remember a couple of years ago you might see a casual video on YouTube, but I feel like now at any time you load any video you’ve got anywhere from a five- to 20-second ad that you get to sit through.

Maybe that’s one facet. But just maybe even more broadly in terms of just YouTube in general from a content creator standpoint, what’s changed over the last couple of years?

Raphael: Well, quite a few things. What you mentioned with ads, I think, you know, for a long time ads were kind of underappreciated in YouTube because people look at AdWords but not at YouTube. Even though there’s lots of inventory. And, for a long time, it was quite cheap, you know, and you could run those ads for either 30 seconds or…yeah, it was either 30 seconds at the end of the video, and if people wouldn’t get there and wouldn’t click, you wouldn’t pay for it.

So it’s kind of like free branding. Of course, people kind of, you know, try to do that and get in front of faces in a way.

The other big change was YouTube going from views as a main metric to the watch time. They also kind of depreciated the importance of comments or likes. There was a time, you know, when you just got 5,000 comments right away out of the gates, YouTube would promote your video big time because they assumed that that level of engagement was indicative of the quality of the content. That has changed.

Now it’s more about the size of your channel. So if you already have a big channel with 200, 300 videos and you can produce watch time, that’s when YouTube really promotes you and you can get that kind of hypergrowth.

They also added things like, you know, 8K support or YouTube Live. A more significant change, I think, was subscribers. People oftentimes look at subscribers and think like, “Wow, 130,000 subscribers.” I mean, you said it over 1 million subscribers. I’m more like, “You know, how much do my subscribers actually watch?” And it’s a metric you can see. For us run now, it’s 30% of our watch time comes from subscribers, which is good.

At the same time, if you look at the views, you know, if you get 10% of your subscribers to watch a new video within the first 24 hours, that’s very good. There are a lot of places out there with millions of subscribers that don’t get much more views than we do with, you know, a fraction of subscribers because they’re less engaged.

That’s probably partly because back in the day, if you subscribed you would get a notification from YouTube about a new video. Now, when you subscribe you may occasionally get a notification. So in order to be notified by a push notification you have to click that little bell next to the subscribe icon. If you wanna get an e-mail about a new video, you have to go into the notification settings and set it up. So hardly anyone does that. So it has become much more difficult to reach subscribers. I think that was one of the big changes that I have seen.

How to Make a Great Video

Andrew: What are some of your principles for making a really good video? I mean, you talked a little bit or touched on kind of your propensity for in-depth quality content. Maybe if there’s anything you wanna add to that or any other, when you sit down to put a video together to get sent out and just get the Gentleman’s Gazette branding on it, what are the core non-negotiable elements it has to has?

Raphael: Well, I think we have two different approaches, you know, one is, more like an SEO approach, or you look for keywords that people are searching for. The other one is just knowing our core target customer and thinking about what they would find valuable, right? It all starts there. So have your title, have your scripts, like we always script or videos because without that there’s too much fluff, there’s too many ands, too much time that gives people a chance to click away. So that always has to happen.

I also like to kind of introduce people and tell them what’s in it for them when they watch the video then add a certain branding element and then go through. And then you just experiment with things and then listen to feedback. For example, lately we started adding at the end of every video a complete outfit rundown of what I was wearing and why. And people really like it. So, you know, for us it’s a great way to showcase our products without being too salesy and, at the same time, accommodating the demands of our viewers.

Using a Keyword Approach

Andrew: You mentioned kind of the keyword approach, let’s talk about that a little bit. How much are you focused on every video that comes out optimizing around a keyword or a phrase that you know is getting searched on? How much does SEO tied to your strategy? And then maybe we can talk about how specifically you optimize videos for a SEO.

Raphael: SEO for us, as a company, has always been hugely important partially because when we started the company we did so with $300. That was it. And so I couldn’t buy traffic. I had to kind of organically get it. And then I learned a lot about it, so in the early days it was kind of consulting in SEO on the side. And then we did the same thing for all of our articles because they were evergreen content. So we always wanted to optimize for as much as we could, try to build links. And with YouTube it’s now different.

Think of it as a post on your blog, you know, you can add links to it, or send links to it, which gives it higher ranking in Google but also more importance in YouTube. You can add tags, you can add 5,000 characters as a description which, you know, can be keyword-rich. You can use cards, you can transcribe it. You can do all those things to optimize your video. That’s basically like any other product page or post.

Andrew: So when you say of optimizing cards, for example, are cards the…and I’m not someone who understands, you even used hint to do much apart from just casually launching on it. I’ve never really post it as a meaningful channel, but cards, is that when you’re watching something you’ve got? You know, you mentioned your gloves for example, you’ve got a little card that pops up that’s a clickable link that takes people to your glove page on your store, is that what the card is?

Raphael: Exactly. It’s like a little exclamation mark at the top right corner. And if you click on it, you know, you have some pop ups and then there are more links to your site, you can only have to kind of connect it in YouTube with your own site and you can only link to that. You can’t link for example to Amazon, that doesn’t work.

And, back in the day, there were things like annotations which were similar but they got rid of those because it didn’t work in mobile. And, overall, I think the clickthrough is limited. But at the same time, you know, if YouTube wants it and it’s part of an SEO ranking factor, I might as well put our best foot forward and optimize as much as we can.

Keywords Vs. Compelling

Andrew: You mentioned the title, of course, the name of the video. How important is it? I think that’s kind of a copywriting of someone who has blogged a lot and wrestled with this, how important for you is it to get that keyword phrased exactly in the title, versus writing a compelling title? Because sometimes you can get both, you can have the phrase perfectly in there as it’s searched for and come up with a title that’s very clickable and very interesting.

My experience, probably speaks to my lack of copywriting skills, that is a very difficult thing to do more often than that. You kind of have to pick either one way or the other, picking towards optimizing for SEO, or optimizing for kind of copywriting interesting aspect. Where do you fall on that spectrum and how important you think that is for SEO from YouTube videos?

Raphael: Frankly, I think YouTube is a little different than Google in the sense that the majority of your watch time will not come from search results but from promotions. So the title is somewhat important. And if you look at Google and how they started, right? They always had a deep…they looked at medical journals and said, “You know, in an academic world if you get cited more often in other people’s magazines and journals, then you become more valuable.” And, ultimately, they always wanted to create really great content for people.

So if you wanna create something that is timeless, you should always create good headlines, good titles for people because, eventually, that’s what Google wants. So, you know, I don’t wanna go back and optimize for SEO just so then two years later I have to change all of my titles because now something is wrong. I’m not gonna spam my stuff full of tags because it works now but it may not work one year down the road.

So people is always our focus. That, being said, because so many views come from the promotion of YouTube, the thumbnail is more important than the title.

Other Video Players

Andrew: Raphael, I know in your site, The Gentleman’s Gazette, you actually use the YouTube embed which I’m sure has the advantage of, A, being easier just you already have it on YouTube and, B, you’ve got, know, it helps with your view counts, I’m guessing, so it potentially helps there.

Have you ever been tempted to use something like let’s say Wistia or an independent hostage player for the reasons that you control it completely, you can, you know, YouTube has analytics as well but maybe more of a robust analytics, maybe some of the integrations like a turnstile where you can more easily build your email list that way. How do you think about using YouTube embedded on your own site versus some of the other third players?

Raphael: I think Wistia is a probably expensive, but if you use them, or a comparable service, I think it only makes sense if you, let’s say, have a landing page, or you use it as part of a funnel, you know, to upsell people and to capture that lead, or where you kind of connect it to a sequence where, you know, if they watch half the video then I send them this email, if they don’t, then I send them that one. I think for those kind of applications Wistia is great.

For our purposes we want to grow our YouTube channel and so we embed the YouTube video. Ironically, you know, people who like posts like to read, people like podcasts like to listen, and people who are on YouTube like to watch videos. So it’s actually surprising to see how few people watch a video from an embed.

Most of the time, the majority of the views come from YouTube, and because of that I don’t see additional value of having that Wistia thing in there because I want as much power and as many views as I can get in YouTube to grow the channel faster, because if I do so YouTube will promote me earlier and I can experience that hyper growth. You know, you can go from, let’s say, 300,000 views a month to 1 million views a month, to 15 or 20 million views a month within a range of just a year.

And that’s something I wanna work towards. I wanna become a really strong player whereas YouTube then takes our videos, and no matter what I publish, they will promote and spread the word about our brand.

YouTube in the Age of Ads

Andrew: How does advertising play into all of that? Obviously with the ads on YouTube, do you get a meaningful…or I believe YouTube shares a small portion of that with people on their channels. Does that make up of any kind of meaningful amount for you? Is that something you focus on? Or is there any way you could strategize to try to increase the percentage of the revenue advertisings that you get? How do you think about advertising with your channel?

Raphael: You know, early on we did some testing and it seemed like when we turned the ads on we would get more subscribers. I’m sure there are people who would challenge that notion. Sometimes if we do pure product videos that we embed on our product pages we kind of disable ads because we don’t want to detract from that. Right now, we make about, you know, $2000 per month from YouTube.

But, you know, we make a lot more selling our own products. So selling our own products is always the focus. That, being said, you know, if we attract 15, 20 million views a month we can make 25, 30, 40 grand a month. That’s money free and clear in your account. That’s not bad, you know. I’m not saying, “Oh, I don’t want that.” But if you can do that just think about how much you can generate in sales.

The Lightning Round!

Andrew: I love diving into the YouTube. One thing I wanna do kind of in wrapping up here is a quick lightning round with you that I do with most of my guests. So if you’re up for it, I’ll dive in, and feel free to just give me fast kinda one- or two-word in answers. If you had to identify the number one thing you’re trying to optimize your life for right now, what would it be?

Raphael: It is about replacing myself in the sense, you know, “How will the business survive if I’m not there, you know, if I have an accident or something?” So that’s the big thing I’m working on right now.

Andrew: Who is someone you strongly disagree with?

Raphael: I would say, especially right now, Donald Trump. You know, immigrants are awesome, obviously. I believe in climate change. I don’t think 50% of the tax cuts should go to the super rich and so forth.

Andrew: How much money is enough? What would be your number for money in the bank?

Raphael: You know, money for me was never a primary driver. I always wanted to create something. And, yes, I do want to make money but I wouldn’t wanna sell T-shirts or bamboo sunglasses that are made in China because I don’t care for that. So a number, I think for me, would be let’s say $50 million clear.

So, you know, if you sell a business, it would have to be valued probably $30 million because then at $50 million that’s 4% in bonds, you’ll make like $600,000 a year. I think that would be a good starting point. But even if someone would offer that money to me today, I probably wouldn’t take it because I want to build it into something bigger.

Andrew: What’s the worst investment you’ve made in the last 10 years?

Raphael: Probably law school.

Andrew: And what about the best investment, apart from your business, that you’ve made in the last 10 years?

Raphael: Well, I’d say, you know, the relationship with my wife. Now, that may not be so helpful for, you know, some of the listeners. But I think, in general, educating myself and relationships. I’m not a big real estate guy or a stock guy. Yes, I have my 401K, but investing in myself and the education I get, I think bears the best route.

Andrew: What was the first CD you ever owned?

Raphael: It was actually a gift from someone. It was something with Phil Collins or Genesis. I can’t recall.

Andrew: Well, I have a couple questions for you given your kinda specialty in the fashion space. For a man who’s not necessarily in the classic fashion, I’ll just put myself in this category, or really men’s fashion in general, what’s the biggest faux pas that they regularly make?

Raphael: There are actually lots of them. There’s not just one. I know one sounds so easy, but we actually have a free eBook with the 15 most common men’s style mistakes. So you can just sign up for it on our website.

Andrew: Great. And then finally, what’s the number one thing that a guy who’s not into fashion could add or upgrade in their wardrobe that would make the biggest difference in terms of classing them up? So you can only give them one thing, so maybe it’s a nice pair of shoes, nice belts, increasing the quality of their shirts, overcoat. What would that be?

Raphael: It’s funny that you ask that because, I mean, a lot of channels have this kind of one thing question, and I strongly disagree with the concept because I believe that you can’t just do one thing that changed it all for you in a meaningful way. Also, it’s not about providing a cooking recipe because the same thing doesn’t apply to the same person. It depends on where you live. If you live in Montana, my advice would be different to you than if you would live in New York.

So if I had to tell you one thing, it would be that you should do something that makes you a little uncomfortable in the sense that you wear something dressy and it seems like a little over the top for you, but over time you become comfortable in that your normal situation and then you’re ready to take the next step.

Andrew: Raphael, any last thoughts or a parting words for people thinking about getting into YouTube or building, spending a lot of time building a channel there?

Raphael: Yeah. YouTube may sound like it’s hard and you spend a lot of money on gear, we spend about 20 hours per video. At the same time, what I love about it is, that it keeps out all the amateurs. If you just think about how many people in your niche have a Facebook page or an Instagram account, maybe 100,000 or 10,000, how many people in your niche run a podcast? Maybe 100.

How many people in your niche have a good consistent YouTube channel? It’s maybe five. So if you’re one of those five and you can grow, and keep in mind that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, you can just be early on in something that’s growing and be very beneficial for your business in the long run.

Andrew: Raphael, this has been a lot of fun diving in and getting to hear your experience. Thank you for being, like we talked, you joined, you know, somewhat recently in the forums and it’s been wonderful having you in, seeing how engaged and how much value you’ve added there. So thanks for thanks for being a killer part of our community. And also thanks for coming on to talk shop, share your story and talk YouTube. I really appreciate it.

Raphael: Thanks for having me and putting together at the eCommerceFuel forum. It’s great to have outlets like that with like-minded people.

Andrew: That’s gonna do it for this week’s episode. If you enjoyed what you heard and are interested, you can plug into a dynamic community the experience store owners, check us out at ecommercefuel.com. eCommerceFuel is the private vetted community for e-commerce entrepreneurs. And what makes us different is that we really heavily vet everyone that is a member to make sure that they’re a great fit, that they can add value to a broader community.

Everyone that joins has to be doing at least a $250 million in sales by their store. And our average member, there’s over seven figures in sales annually.

So if you’d like to learn more, if that sounds interesting, you can learn more and apply for a membership at ecommercefuel.com. And also, I have to thank our two sponsors to make the show possible. Liquid Web, if you are on WooCommerce or you’re thinking about getting onto WooCommerce, Liquid Web is who you should have to host your store, particularly with their managed WooCommerce hosting.

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Thanks you so much for listening and looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.

Want to connect with and learn from other proven ecommerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel private community. It’s our tight-knit vetted group for store owners with at least a $250 million in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com. Thanks so much for listening. And I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m not sure why he thinks that the cost of “gear” is so high that it “keeps out the amateurs”. All you really need is a decent camera; it’s not like you actually need a studio and professional lighting and expensive recording equipment. If the message you have to convey is compelling or interesting, people aren’t going to care if you have a million dollar production value in your videos.