While Google and other search engines use spiders to scan text and other readable information for search rankings, the valuable content on YouTube consists of almost entirely non-scannable videos. So how do they “judge” quality to return the best search results? Although there are many different metrics involved in the “judging” process, watch time may be the most important.
According to YouTube, watch time is “the amount of time in aggregate that your viewers are watching your videos.” Basically, videos excelling in this metric result in longer overall viewing sessions. Watch time does not measure the amount of time viewers spend watching your video or even the percentage of your video they watched. Instead, it focuses on whether or not your videos are increasing total watch time across YouTube.
Before October of 2012, video views represented the primary factor for ranking on YouTube. When the company implemented its new algorithm in that month, the new #1 ranking factor became watch time. Basically, an increase in your watch time metric will result in better promotion of your channel through search and “recommended” videos. In turn, that means more viewers and more awareness of your brand.
There are a number of tips you can use to make the most of your watch time. These include:
Although this doesn’t seem like much of a professional insight or secret, quality content pays! When you publish entertaining videos on a consistent basis, you attract a following of subscribers. Since subscribers are known to share and engage with more video than non-subscribers, a strategy focused on this group is always a good idea.
Unlike our first tip, many people don’t realize how playlist creation makes a big difference regarding watch time. Playlists improve the viewer’s experience by guiding them in a meaningful way. If your videos are organized into sensible sequences such as shows, series and relevant topics, your viewers can more easily watch the next video. This increases your watch time.
Annotations are some of the best tools for improving viewer engagement throughout a video. Although people use them in many different ways, the best use for increasing watch time involves using annotations as links to other YouTube content. It is also important to note that, although Associated Website Annotations now allow you to link to non-YouTube content, watch time measures how long your viewers continue watching content on YouTube. Driving users to another website is not a great way to improve your watch time metric.
Titles and thumbnails are two of the most important, controllable factors for increasing your YouTube ranking. They serve as a major driver of views, but also provide the viewer’s initial insight into your content. Poor, misleading or wrong titles and thumbnails greatly deteriorate watch time as they cause many viewers to quickly leave your page when they don’t see what they want to see. Always invest some time in ensuring that your titles and thumbnails are accurate!
While YouTube’s secret algorithm for rankings is too complex for most of us to ever fully understand, it makes sense to use the information we do understand. We know that watch time is YouTube’s #1 ranking factor and we understand some ways to increase it. Let’s make the most of it!