Gone are the days when video was ranked on YouTube based on the number of clicks it received.
What now drives rankings and discoverability for videos on YouTube is the amount of time viewers actually spend watching a video and spend on YouTube as a platform. This means that if viewers like the content they see and watch a particular video until the end (or at least a large portion of it) and then select other content, either in the current playlist or elsewhere on YouTube, that particular video will be seen favorably by the ranking algorithms of the platform. In other words, quality, engaging content that entices viewers to stick around will be valued higher by the video streaming platform.
Why did YouTube change its metrics for video?
It wants to become the site that people turn to daily for their viewing needs. And, according to YouTube Creator Blog, “If viewers are watching more YouTube, it signals to us that they’re happier with the content they’ve found. It means that creators are attracting more engaged audiences. It also opens up more opportunities to generate revenue for our partners.”
So it began making changes in 2012 to how viewers find videos to watch and how it suggests which related and recommended videos to watch. These changes now rank higher those videos that keep viewers engaged. Viewers engaged and interested in a video’s content spend more time watching the majority or all of it instead of merely clicking on it and briefly watching it before moving on to something else. In YouTube’s own words, people would be spending “more time watching, interacting, and sharing with the community.”
What does this mean for content creators and their clients?
It means you need to pay attention to two important metrics in your YouTube Analytics:
1. Amount of Time Watched
Create content that entices viewers to watch your whole video. An understanding of storytelling will be tremendously helpful in keeping the audience glued to the screen, rather than getting bored after just a few seconds. Create or link to playlists of related content that will be relevant to viewers of your video and inspires them to spend more time on YouTube. YouTube will more likely reward you with better search ranking if you can keep viewers watching on YouTube.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s better to create a short, say 30 second video, in the hope that a short video will hold viewers’ attentions better. Remember, YouTube will rank your video better depending on how it “contributes to a longer viewing session on YouTube.” After watching your video, do viewers then watch your other content on your YouTube channel? Do they then watch a YouTube suggested video after watching your video?
This also doesn’t mean that creating a longer video necessarily increase the amount of time viewers spend watching your video.
Do viewers like your video, comment on it, share it, write about it on various social media sites, visit your site because of it, embed it on their own site, purchase a product or service because of it, or subscribe to your YouTube channel to see more? This kind of activity is what YouTube really likes. Viewers are engaged and more likely to look at other YouTube content. Inspire and participate in discussions about the video and don’t fret your viewers finding “related” (code for “someone else’s”) content.