There are a number of important ranking factors that YouTube considers when surfacing your videos. Watch time is the mother of all of them.
Short or ?empty? views are no longer the currency of a good video on YouTube despite the fact that views are the most commonly used statistic to judge a video’s success. This is no doubt due to the public facing nature of the view count.
Audience retention is now king and making sure that your video gets watched and watched all the way through is the number one ranking factor affecting your video and the success of the other videos on your channel.
Need more proof? Check out this interview with member of the YouTube engineering team:
With watch time being so important it needs to be at front of mind when creating content and optimizing. Here?s my guide to getting the best possible watch time results.
7 tips to increase YouTube watch time:
- Make epic content
I?m not a believer in the fact that content is King but for watch time it reigns supreme. You can optimize until your heart is content but if someone arrives at your video only to find that it sucks they aren?t going to stick around.
Make epic content that delivers value to the viewer and there’s no way they’ll click off. They are also more likely to watch again and better yet to share (another big ranking factor).
Hat tip to Corbett Bar over at the Sparkline for this very inspirational article.
- Have an optimized start
A video that starts with lots of waffle is not going to get watched, attention spans just don?t allow it. Whether that be branding, long winded introductions or content that’s irrelevant to the main subject it needs to be cut.
Here?s my guide on how to optimize the start of your YouTube videos.
- Stay focused
A lot of people ask me what the perfect length of a YouTube video is. My answer:
A YouTube video should be as long as it is interesting
It could be 1 minute, it could be 30, as long as it remains on-topic and gives the audience what they came for.
Stay focused and cut out anything that isn?t necessary for your video to work. Start to go off on a tangent and you?ve lost a big chunk of your audience.
- Don’t telegraph your ending
If the tone of your voice and content start to change as you wrap up your videos and it?s clear the meat and potatoes of the video is over people will click on to the next video.
Anything that isn?t essential viewing on YouTube doesn?t get viewed.
Keep the tone and pace level all the way up until the end so that viewers won?t click off in fear of missing out.
Check out this great example of an optimized ending:
- Use past performance as a guide (analytics)
The way that viewers have reacted to our content in the past is a good indication of how they will react in the future, especially if you have a consistent content strategy.
YouTube analytics is a powerful tool and can be super helpful in the fight to increase audience retention.
Look individually at your last 6 -10 videos and see where the audience drop off (the channel average is a good indication of success but if you are adapting as you go along the most recent videos are more relevant for this exercise.)
Go to the videos in question and hit:
Analtics > Audience retention
Here’s an example from one of my videos
?The dip (where the red line is) is where I?m seeing the biggest drop off in audience retention for my video. The time corresponds with where I start to?sign off so I will considder point 4 more closely in future.
Check yours and see where the drop offs occur and what they correspond to. Most likely it will be:
- Where you start to wrap up (see point 3)
- Where you ask people to click to another video
- After you’ve answered the question the video sets out to answer or delivers on it?s hook.
- Where you start to go off-topic or lose focus.
Another cool thing to check while you’re in analytics is how your retention rates compare to the YouTube average. Just hit the?Relative?Retention?box to compare the two.
- Tease something that?s coming up
Some people swear by this and some people (myself included) think this can contradict point 2. Simply start the video by teasing something that’s coming up at the end of the video as an incentive to stick around.
I think for this to work you need to have a highly engaged audience that want to hear all you have to say in the lead-up to the pay-off and not just quickly dropping by for a quick answer to a question.
As with all things I?d suggest you experiment and see how if effects your audience retention rates. The stats don?t lie.
- Don’t?use misleading metadata
It can be very tempting to try a few tricks and hacks to show up in more search results and suggested videos but attempts to manipulate the algorithm with unrelated metadata is usually a one way ticket to failure.
Not only are you in breach of YouTube’s Community Guidelines can you hurt your SEO.
How? ?Well when viewers find your video?and don’t get what they want because it was misrepresented by your metadata they’re likely to click away and fast. This will hurt your audience retention rates and further to that, damage your future rankings.
Place quality views over the quantity of views and the traffic will follow as well as the algorithmic boost that’s the goal of any YouTube channel manager.
Create content with your audience (and audience retention rates) in mind and you’re much more likely to make content that people just can?t click away from. You?ll then start to see the benefit to your individual videos and ultimately your YouTube channel as a whole.
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