How to Spot Fake YouTube Subscribers

How often have you looked at a successful YouTube channel and marveled at the massive number of subscribers it enjoys? And in the case of most of the large, well-known channels, this is well deserved. Most of these channels have spent years building their following and producing many high-quality videos.  But in a few cases, the plaudits aren’t well deserved. Some YouTube channels have made their fame around fake YouTube subscribers.

If you are hoping to work with a channel for marketing purposes, you want genuine viewers. This is just as true for channels you contract directly for influencer marketing as it is for channels on which your paid ads appear. In the latter case, you pay Google in the expectation that they put your ads on videos watched by a real audience, not on videos that only exist to game the system.

And this is just as important for the owners of YouTube channels as it is for brands looking to market on YouTube. You don’t want to tarnish your reputation because you have allowed too many fake people to subscribe to your account. Sure, some fake followers will slip through the net – you aren’t going to investigate everybody who follows your channel. But you don’t want an excessive amount. And you don’t want your actions to encourage an explosion of fake subscribers. It is far better to build your channel naturally, following the best practices we will cover later in this post.

How to Spot Fake YouTube Subscribers:

Most Channels Suffer from Fake YouTube Subscribers

As with most social media and video sharing networks, YouTube suffers from its share of fake accounts and fake subscribers. Wherever there is a way of making money, you are sure to find somebody trying to game the system. 

People are far more likely to view videos from popular accounts recommended when they open YouTube than videos shared by newcomers and people with few subscribers. YouTube has a precise algorithm that promotes some videos and ignores others. 

There is also the psychological factor of having a large number of subscribers. It makes your account appear incredibly popular with others, and this has the effect of encouraging many to subscribe.

Many brands who look for influencers with whom to collaborate, scrutinize subscriber numbers and are more willing to talk to channels with large numbers of subscribers. They are also willing to pay more to these channels than to those with fewer subscribers.

This means that too many channel owners become tempted to fudge their figures and artificially boost their numbers. 

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Subscribers

Some people think buying subscribers is an easy hack to YouTube success. Why do all the work when you can increase your subscriber numbers for a few dollars?

But successful YouTube accounts don’t waste their time on fake subscribers, and nor should you. 

There are usually two ways that people game the system:

Strategies to Boost YouTube Subscribers

  1. You “earn” subscribers by subscribing to a list of channels provided by a “free subscriber” service. You subscribe to so many channels per day, and in return, other members of the service will subscribe to your channel. 
  2. You don’t bother with this attempt to subscribe to other channels. Instead, you simply pay the service to click on sites for you, making you a fake subscriber to many other channels, in return for an agreed number of people clicking on your subscribe button.

While this isn't quite as bad as the artificial bots that follow people on other platforms such as Instagram, it is not much better. Your “fake followers” may be real people, but they are as likely to watch your videos as a computer running a bot system. This means that these fake followers will never notice any influencer marketing you may participate in and will never click on any ads on your videos.

How to Gain Quality Subscribers

Effective Ways to Build a Quality Subscriber Base

Let’s get one thing clear, however. Subscriber counts do matter, particularly in the early days of your channel, while you grow. YouTube only makes certain features available to accounts that exceed a certain number of followers. However, these need to be genuine followers. And it isn’t that hard to attract real followers if you follow the practices we suggest here. 

1. Ask Your Viewers to Subscribe

Ask Your Viewers to Subscribe YouTube

This may appear obvious, but it is surprising how many channels don’t ask their viewers to subscribe to their channel. As any marketer can tell you, an essential element of any marketing campaign is to include a Call to Action (CTA) – and an obvious Call to Action for your channel is to ask viewers to subscribe.

It doesn’t take much to add a sentence to each video, where you remind your viewers to subscribe, and you can also ask them to turn on notifications for your new videos.

Don’t overdo this, it may put people off, but once per video after you have provided value with your content, will not upset most people, and may encourage some to sign up to view more of your videos.

2. Ensure Your Channel has a Theme

Ensure Your Channel has a Theme Youtube

Any influencer will presumably already know the importance of having a theme for their YouTube channel. A common feature of all the top YouTube channels is that they focus on some specific topic; they are not a mishmash of unrelated videos.

This is very important to marketers too. They want to work with those channels that appeal to their target market. This is important if there is no overall theme to the channel.

If you’re just starting a channel, intending to become a successful, influential channel, you need to decide on your theme and focus all your videos on that topic. You can become the "go-to" channel for that topic.

3. Only Post High-Quality Videos

Only Post High-Quality Videos YouTube

Again, this may seem obvious, but it is essential. To succeed on YouTube, you need to produce high-quality videos. 

That doesn’t mean that you need to have a Communications degree and the film-making skills of a Hollywood director. It does mean, however, that you make videos that are clear, preferably high definition, with audible and easy-to-hear sound and not so jittery that your viewers get motion sickness. You need to ensure your videos are easy to watch, and people aren’t distracted from the content by your poor production values. Above all else, however, the video needs to provide value to your viewers.

This will depend on your niche, of course. The technical quality of your production will be less critical for a prank video channel than for a graphics design channel. Some channels aim to educate their subscribers, while others aim to entertain them. You want your videos to work towards whatever goal you have set for your channel.

If you make high-quality videos, people are far more likely to subscribe to your channel – they know that they are likely to gain value from your new videos.

4. Post Regularly to a Set Schedule

You might notice that the most successful channels post often and at set times. People come to expect new videos from them and look forward to them. 

It can be challenging to make many videos, particularly if you don’t have a large team to help you and an endless bucket of resources. However, you are far more likely to gain new subscribers if you are frequently releasing new content.

Several of the social media marketing platforms we have reviewed provide a way to schedule your new videos, ensuring that you don't have to be online when you want your videos to go live.

Take a close look at those channels you consider your main competitors. Make sure that you post at least as often as they do. However, consistency is more important than quantity. You may want to start with a smaller number of video uploads per month and ensure that you can consistently meet that schedule before you ramp up production to your preferred timetable.

5. Make Some Videos That Will Last the Test of Time

Make Some Videos That Will Last the Test of Time YouTube

While we suggest you release new videos regularly, you also want people to return to watch some of your old videos. If you can build a bank of evergreen videos, people will Subscribe to your channel as a form of bookmark, so they can return to watch some more of your back catalog.

While many of your videos will be designed to reflect a set time, it is a good idea to make some that cover topics that are not so time-dependent. Ideally, you want some videos that can provide as much value to visitors in five years as they do today.

Obviously, this depends on your niche. You won’t have many of these if you are in a niche like news and current affairs, or a rapidly changing field like technology. However, a lot of "How To" videos tend to be evergreen. And a prank video made today will probably be just as funny to the next-generation audience watching your videos in five to ten years, as long as humor styles don't change too much.

6. Tease Your Future Videos

As mentioned above, you should include a request in each video, asking people to subscribe to your channel. That’s all very well, but you need to give them a reason to want to come back. 

If you plan your video schedule, you can end each video with a teaser for the next video you intend to upload. That way, you can give your viewers anticipation for your next installment. 

In some cases, where you film videos in advance and may have more than one under production, you might be able to include a short clip from the next video.

7. Engage with Your Viewers

Although it might not seem as obvious as an app like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, YouTube is an example of social media. Therefore, you need to be social. You must interact with your audience. That is one of the key differences between YouTube and traditional television. Indeed, it’s a distinguishing difference between YouTube and streaming media like Netflix or Disney +.

Read any comments people leave on your channel and respond with a thoughtful reply. Your audience will probably give you many content ideas in their feedback.

Of course, engagement on YouTube is far more than just commenting. It also includes Thumbs Up (and Thumbs Down), sharing, and favoriting. People can also pay a fee to Join the channels they like best. The more you engage with other people and channels on YouTube, the more they are likely to engage with you in return.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are fake YouTube subscribers and why are they problematic?

Fake YouTube subscribers are accounts that subscribe to a channel without any genuine interest in its content. These subscribers are often generated through paid services or "sub for sub" schemes. They are problematic because they inflate subscriber counts without contributing to actual engagement or watch time, misleading both viewers and potential marketing partners about the channel's true popularity and reach.

How can you identify fake subscribers on a YouTube channel?

Fake subscribers can often be identified through several indicators:

  • Engagement Discrepancy: A large subscriber count but very low engagement (likes, comments, views) on videos.
  • New and Inactive Accounts: Many subscribers from accounts that are new or show little to no activity.
  • Irrelevant Comments: Comments that are generic, irrelevant to the video content, or repetitive, often indicating automated bot activity.

What are the consequences of having fake subscribers on your YouTube channel?

Having fake subscribers can lead to several negative consequences:

  • Reduced Credibility: Your channel may lose credibility with viewers and potential collaborators.
  • Algorithm Penalties: YouTube's algorithm may penalize your channel, reducing the visibility of your videos.
  • Skewed Analytics: Fake subscribers distort your channel analytics, making it difficult to understand your true audience and plan effective content strategies.

What steps can be taken to grow a genuine subscriber base on YouTube?

To grow a genuine subscriber base:

  • Produce High-Quality Content: Create videos that are engaging, informative, and of high production quality.
  • Consistent Posting Schedule: Post videos regularly to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.
  • Engage with Your Audience: Respond to comments, ask for feedback, and build a community around your channel.
  • Promote Your Channel: Use social media and collaborations with other creators to increase your reach.

Why is it important to avoid buying YouTube subscribers?

Buying YouTube subscribers is detrimental because it results in a hollow audience that does not engage with your content. This practice can lead to reduced trust and credibility, potential violations of YouTube's terms of service, and skewed performance metrics, ultimately harming your channel's growth and success.

About the Author
With over 15 years in content marketing, Werner founded Influencer Marketing Hub in 2016. He successfully grew the platform to attract 5 million monthly visitors, making it a key site for brand marketers globally. His efforts led to the company's acquisition in 2020. Additionally, Werner's expertise has been recognized by major marketing and tech publications, including Forbes, TechCrunch, BBC and Wired.