YouTube – Watch time or View Count?

You’ve got your video(s) ready to go as part of your video marketing campaign – you get it on YouTube but how do you work out if it’s been a success? There was a time when the number of views on your YouTube video was the most important thing of all in getting your videos seen. Remember that era?!

Now, watch time and audience retention are the most important factor in determining the success of your video on YouTube. Views do count but YouTube wants to know that your video engages with people, creating a high audience retention rate, but also leading them to a longer watch time – not just your video but others on the site as well!

In doing so, the video is deemed popular and will rank better and show up higher in searches and on recommended / suggested videos.

Around 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute according to ReelSeo. How do you compete against such an enormous amount of freshly uploaded content?

By making your video engaging and to give the viewer no choice but to continue to watch for as long as possible – preferably to the end – and then to move on to other content. Ideally yours.

YouTube’s algorithm for suggesting videos will favour those with a higher retention rate and watch time than those with more view clicks. The thinking is that viewers are better off with enjoyable content coming their way and you as the uploader, benefit from a more engaged audience. I have no argument with that!

You can use the Analytics in YouTube to see how well your videos are doing – you’ll see how long people, on average, watch a video for and be able to see which videos keep the most viewers till the end. There’s also a graph which shows when people drop off from viewing and when they rewind and watch moments again. It can be fascinating seeing what moments of a video cause people to watch again.


An example of an analytics’ graph.

How do you get people to watch your video, how do you keep that viewer and how do you help increase their watch time?

Your thumbnail is like your shop window on YouTube – previously, they used to randomly select three thumbnails for you to choose from. A very hit and miss affair that would often result in unrepresentative and, really, unusable thumbs which didn’t benefit the video. A while ago, user uploaded thumbnails were introduced, so now you can add your own thumb and make the video as appealing as possible, for people to want to watch.


Picking a thumbnail – the top three on the right are YouTube chosen, the bottom and main image are our uploaded thumb.

When you get that viewer, you then need to keep them hooked. For my money, fast moving (but not too fast!), visually engaging content for music videos works well. Got multiple locations or outfits in the video? Tease the viewer – this way, they know more is coming and will keep watching. Hit them with a series of varied shots to stimulate them and keep them watching. If a shot needs to be long then keep the engagement going – a smooth tracking shot, an interesting piece of dance etc. A long shot with no movement or engaging performance will cause a switch off.

For corporate videos, the style is different of course but keeping people interested is still key. Got a talking head video? Even something as simple as cutting in on a close up can keep someone watching – no matter how interesting the message, if the visuals don’t match this, people will switch off. Attention spans are short. Give them something to feed the attention and keep it tuned into your message.

YouTube wants content which also contributes to the viewer spending more time on the site, watching more content. You can assist this by adding annotations and / or the new card feature in your video to further engage the viewer – give them something to click on or rewind to click on – and lead them to view more of your videos, or other peoples. With our monthly vlog, we use annotations to link people to the full versions of our videos, so if the short clip in the vlog interests them, they can see more without needing to search.

Snag the viewer with a strong thumbnail, hit them with engaging, varied content to keep them watching and help lead them to more content to keep them on site. YouTube will like you and your video then.

I could write on and on about how to retain a viewer and what to do to engage them but that’s why we should have a chat and talk video. Let’s see what we can do to help you and get your message or music seen!

Posted in YouTube Tips, Video Production Tips and tagged , , , .