Watch time is one of the most important ranking factors to YouTube’s ranking algorithm. It is the ultimate indicator of content relevancy, and in recent years YouTube has given this particular ranking factor a primary role. Watch time directly impacts the growth and visibility of your YouTube channel. Read this right now to learn how to improve YouTube watch time on all your videos!
Improve your YouTube watch time: Audience retention
Audience retention and watch time are the most important success metrics on YouTube. When both your audience retention rate and your watch time are positive, then you know that your audience is enjoying your content. Additionally, the audience retention rate impacts the YouTube watch time, and here is why:
- What it is: The audience retention rate is a YouTube metric that measures the average amount of time a user spent watching your video.
- Check for a pattern: By looking at your YouTube analytics dashboard you can analyze your audience retention rate and see if there is a pattern to when the viewers stop watching your videos. If your viewers keep leaving at a particular point of your videos, you need to change something about how you convey your content.
It’s quite simple to understand what audience retention rate is. For example, if your video is 6 minutes long, and the viewer watched 3 minutes of it, it means that the audience retention for that watch session was 50%.
— Ryan Joseph #WeAreCreators (@Saucy_Sarcasm) October 22, 2017
Channels with positive audience retention rate usually have a fairly positive watch time. By the end of this article, you will know how all of this connects to watch time and why it’s important.
Improve your YouTube watch time: Channel optimization
If you manage a YouTube channel, then you already know that an optimized channel is a successful channel. There are vast benefits that come from YouTube optimization, and the improvement of YouTube watch time is one of them. The following methods will allow you to optimize your channel:
- Consistent video structure: If your viewers don’t like the structure of your videos they won’t stick around to watch the entire video, and this will directly impact your watch time. Maybe your intro is too long, or your CTA is too subtle and boring. Your audience retention data from above will show you trends in where viewers stop watching, and should be focused on. YouTube veteran Philly D can teach you a few things about a professionally crafted video structure with his consistent intro, mid-video call outs, and outro:
- SEO optimization: Enticing thumbnails, a proper video description, video tags, keyword optimization, and many more tactics come into play when you are optimizing your YouTube channel. SEO is all about appealing to the YouTube algorithm in a way that doesn’t cheat viewers. Don’t choose popular keywords just because they’re popular, choose them because your content actually relates to them.
- Promote on social media: When people who follow you on your social profiles check out your content, they’re more likely to watch it and enjoy it, rather than leaving right after the video starts. They become more engaged in you, and your content by extension By promoting your content on social media, you increase your chances of attracting people who will actually enjoy your content. You can increase chances that strangers on social media will be attracted to your content by buying YouTube views. With a higher number of views, your videos simply gain more respect and clicks.
The people who follow you on your social profiles are already interested in your content. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are ideal for promoting YouTube content. A well-crafted promotional strategy will certainly help you improve your YouTube watch time.
How to improve your YouTube watch time: Build your subscriber base
Your subscribers are usually the first ones to take action on your videos. They are the ones that liked your content enough to subscribe, and probably the ones that will stick around and binge-watch your videos on occasion.
The more subscribers you have, the more engagement you will accumulate in the decisive, early stage after the video is uploaded. Active subscribers always lead to a high watch time on YouTube. They are the first ones to be notified when you upload fresh content and tend to be more committed to watching your videos than someone who finds you on search.
The easiest ways to get them is with a strong call to action at the end of every single video to subscribe. Here’s an excellent example from Epic Meal Time:
Here’s an article which could help you get those first 1000 subscribers!
How to improve your YouTube watch time: Playlists
The easiest way to improve your watch time is to keep viewers watching your videos for longer. The best way to do this is by providing relevant playlists. Playlists allow users to watch more of your content in one sitting, thus leading to a better YouTube watch time:
- Organize playlists: This is an excellent way for viewers to keep watching more of your videos. Relevant playlists have a direct impact on your watch time as viewers binge on your content. When you organize videos in interesting sequences, it will tempt viewers to watch more of your content, ultimately boosting your watch time.
- Relevancy: Separate your videos according to dates, video types, events, holidays, seasons, etc. Give your viewers a chance to binge-watch your videos by creating playlists with a natural flow. Make sure not to put random videos on your playlists. Instead, choose content that naturally fits together and keeps the viewers engaged and entertained.
For example, the playlist above is from the well-known YouTube gamer Markiplier. Fortnite is a very popular game, and Markiplier made a really good choice when he created this “Fortnite” playlist. Given that Markiplier is mostly followed by those who enjoy gaming content, I bet that many will enjoy watching a sequence of videos from that game. This will ultimately boost his watch time.
How to improve your YouTube watch time: Use cards
End cards are very effective at directing viewers to more of your content. Here is how cards keep viewers engaged:
- Use cards: The best chance to keep viewers engaged is to use cards at the end of your video that will lead to another video. By clicking on the end card, viewers will instantly be directed to the promoted video. Promote related videos or playlists via end cards and you will improve your watch time.
- Right before they leave: The end card is most effective when placed right as the outro of the video takes place, in the last 30-seconds, right before the viewers drop off.
Keep in mind that mid-video cards can harm watch time. By taking people away from your videos in mid-stream, you ultimately decrease your watch time, resulting in a poor ranking and visibility. In fact, the only real reason to send people away mid-video is for sales. That is why, as the name of end cards implies, they should be used at the end of the video.
Understand the concept of YouTube watch time
In the past, it was the views that drove a video’s discovery and ranking. The view statistic alone cannot tell if anyone actually bothered to watch the video, they only tell when someone pressed “play” on the video. YouTube then realized that all views are not equal, and therefore replaced the views report on YouTube Analytics with watch time. Watch time is now considered the most important ranking factor on YouTube, and here is why:
- What is watch time: Watch time represents the aggregate minutes a user spent watching your videos, and the minutes the user spent watching other YouTube videos in that watch session. A watch session starts from the moment users start watching one of your videos, to the moment they get back to a new YouTube search, or leave YouTube.
- Why it is important: If a user keeps watching YouTube videos after watching one of your videos, it signals to YouTube that the user liked the content and thus stuck around to watch more YouTube videos. YouTube rewards those videos that keep viewers engaged by increasing their visibility.
Watch time tells you real numbers about the engagement on your videos. You can access valuable information about where in the world your viewers are watching your videos and how long they’re watching each video. This is very important for you as a creator because you want to look at successful videos and replicate their success.
How to improve your YouTube watch time: Create a strategy
There isn’t a single strategy that can work for each and every user out there, but you can make genuine progress if you analyze your channel and craft a strategy that fits your style as a creator. Take into consideration the following when you create your watch time strategy:
- Set KPIs
- Make optimization efforts
- Subscribers have the advantage
- Analyze your audience retention rate
- Use a consistent video structure
- Promote your videos on social media
- Create relevant playlists
- Strategically place end cards
If you’re serious about improving your watch time, then you have to put in the work. At the start of the year, the importance of the watch time was emphasized by YouTube once again as watch time was listed as one of the requirements for monetization.
You will need to gain 1,000 subscribers in total and 4,000 watch hours in the past 12 months, these are the two requirements for the YouTube Partner Program.
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) January 18, 2018
You should always remember that quality content will lead to positive watch time. The methods I covered in this article are highly effective, and if you follow them you will have a better chance of improving your YouTube watch time. Don’t stop here, learn about more YouTube analytics to improve your channel even more!