e own around 10 YouTube channels. We bought some of them from online vendors, and we started others from scratch. Now that we’ve been running all the channels with weekly content for more than a year, we have enough data to tell you about what we learned, and what you should consider before you fork over hundreds of dollars for a YouTube channel. But first, let’s start at the beginning.
There’s a huge market for selling abandoned YouTube channels with thousands to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Vendors will sell channels with 5,000 subscribers for hundreds of dollars on sites like PlayerUp.
YouTube officially frowns on the channel selling market. But YouTube’s policies around monetisation are the reason many people starting out prefer to buy a channel. A channel can’t be monetized until it has 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of video watched. And it can take years for a channel starting from scratch to reach those numbers (especially since average watch time on YouTube for many channels hovers around 1-2 minutes!). So if you’re hoping to make money off your channel, this could be worth considering. But it’s also not as simple as it sounds. And if you still want to buy a channel after reading this article, scroll all the way to the bottom to see our checklist of what to watch out for when you’re buying a channel.
Why people buy old YouTube channels
Monetisation isn’t the only reason why people buy old channels. Many hope an older channel will help their videos rank better on YouTube. That means that when someone searches for a specific video in the YouTube search bar, they hope their video will pop up near the top of the list. The higher a video ranks, the better it is for views. But based on our experience with our channels, having an older channel doesn’t make a difference in ranking. Things like Search Engine Optimisation and timing are much bigger factors in YouTube ranking. We have an entire course on Udemy about how to run a YouTube channel on Udemy. Check it out here.).
So here’s a look at three of our channels and what you can learn about buying channels from our experience:
Qisa Taste vs Qisa Village
We have two channels about village life — Qisa Taste and Qisa Village. Both channels have videos by the same creators, though the content on each is different. Qisa Taste is only about food, whereas Qisa Village is about all sorts of activities, like making brooms, games, and farming. We bought Qisa Taste, and started Qisa Village from scratch. And Qisa Village is doing a lot better than Qisa Taste, even though Qisa Taste was created in 2009.
Every 48 hours, Qisa Village gets around 2,000+ views, while Qisa Taste is only getting around 300 views. And Qisa Village has 1,507 subscribers (and counting), while Qisa Taste is trailing behind with 793 subscribers.
We didn’t buy Qisa Taste for monetisation reasons. In fact, we bought it with 0 subscribers. We bought it because we wanted to see if an older channel would rank better in YouTube search. And this experiment shows that just because a channel is old doesn’t mean it will do well. Instead, you should be trying to focus on topics that people are likely to look for when they go on YouTube.
It took a full year, but we've finally been able to switch on monetisation on Qisa Village. But so far, we're not earning much on it. We've earned less than $3, and YouTube won't be sending us those $3. We'll only get paid when we hit $100, and that could take another year. Considering each episode cost us around $60 to make, it will be a while (if ever) before we earn back the money that we put into making the channel in the first place.
If you feel buying a channel is right for you after considering all these options, here’s a checklist to help you make sure you don’t make a mistake with your buy. You can ask your vendor to send you screenshots of all these:
- Monetisation status: is the channel eligible for monetisation? And if so, has it been activated? It’s ok if the channel hasn’t been activated yet, the important thing is that it be eligible
- Copyright strikes: If the channel has copyright strikes, that will affect your ability to monetise. Make sure it doesn’t have any strikes (copyright claims can be removed and don’t harm your ability to monetise the whole channel — just the video that has the claim).
- Check if the subscribers are active. You can do this by checking if videos have comments and likes, and you can also check the community tab. Some channels have bot subscribers, and this can be a problem if YouTube wipes out bots like Instagram or Twitter have done. When you’re checking the activity on the channel, it’s important to remember that engagement levels are usually much lower than the number of views and subscribers. So if you have a channel with a few thousand subscribers, and only a few hundred views on each video, that’s fine. If the channel has hundreds of thousands of subscribers, but less than 100 views per video, that might indicate that the subscribers are primarily bots.
- It’s worth checking if the channel you’re buying is still growing. You can check this by getting the vendor to send you a screenshot of the analytics page of YouTube Studio.
Good luck on your YouTube channel adventure! We’d love to hear more about it. And if you want to hear more about our latest tips and tricks, sign up for our newsletter!