The Beginner’s Guide to Improving YouTube Watch Time

YouTube is the biggest platform for video sharing and the second-largest social media channel in the world, with over 2.70 billion active users. No wonder, it provides an exceptional opportunity for your business to reach tons of potential customers. But keeping people hooked on your YouTube videos can be challenging. Over 150,000 hours of video content is uploaded on YouTube every minute. So, you need something out of the box to stand out in the crowd.

Wondering how to improve YouTube Watch Time and efficiently monetize your channel? We have outlined tried-and-tested hacks that will keep your audiences engaged with your content for longer.

What is Watch Time?

YouTube Watch Time is the total amount of time users spend watching your video content on YouTube. It provides content creators valuable insights into what their viewers actually watch – and not what they abandon or click on.

It is important to note that Watch Time is different from Audience Retention.

Audience Retention indicates the percentage of videos that users watch. On the other hand, Watch Time measures the cumulative duration that viewers spent watching your videos since you published them. Each YouTube video comes with a Watch Time count and it adds up to your channel’s overall count.

However, you must have a minimum of 4,000 viewing hours in the last 12 months to monetize your watch time. The primary qualifier to collect Watch Time is 4,000 public viewing hours. So, make sure your videos are not set to private.

Why is YouTube Watch Time Important?

YouTube has made it pretty clear several times – “The longer you can keep people watching on YouTube because of your content, the more your content may get surfaced.”

The video-sharing platform has confirmed that Watch Time is a vital metric influencing the search ranking of a video. The higher the watch hours on your video, the more likely it is to get discovered for relevant search terms.

A strong correlation has been found between YouTube Watch Time and search rankings according to a study by Justin Briggs.

YouTube Watch Time

The importance of improving YouTube Watch Time cannot be overemphasized, considering the role it plays in influencing rankings and discoverability in YouTube searches.

How to Check Watch Time For Your YouTube Videos?

Checking your YouTube Watch Time is a straightforward process:

  • Sign in to your YouTube creator profile. 
  • In the top right section of the page, select your account > Creator Studio. 
  • In the left-side menu, click the option “Analytics.” From the click-and-drop menu, select the option “Watch Time.” 
  • At the top of the dashboard, you will find information for YouTube video Impressions. From there, select Click through rate > Views > Average view duration > Watch Time. 

Your Watch Time (in minutes) will appear as below

Check Watch Time

Best Practices for Improving YouTube Watch Time

Do you want to increase video views on YouTube? Considering how to improve YouTube Watch Time? Keep reading to explore different ways to increase watch hours on YouTube videos.

1. Remember, You Only Have the First 15 Seconds to Impress

When watching a video, viewers ponder over three questions:

  • Is the video worth watching?
  • Does it deliver value to what I am searching for? 
  • Should I continue watching the video or not?  

And all you have is the first 15 seconds to influence their decision! If the introductory part of your video fails to capture attention, viewers will lose interest in it. This will result in a higher bounce rate, bringing down your Watch Time.

Make sure you keep the introduction crisp, interesting, and engaging. Check out some valuable tips to create a killer YouTube video introduction.

Tips to Nail Your YouTube Video Introduction

  • The first frame of your video should be compelling. Begin with something that will instantly grab the viewers’ attention – whether it’s an eye-catching visual, brand messaging, or your personality. 
  • The first 15 seconds should clearly outline what the video is all about. This way the viewers will not be confused about what they are watching and why. 
  • Use teasers throughout the video so your audience will be intrigued to see what is coming in the next section. 
  • Make sure that you talk directly to the viewer and not the general audience. 
  • A flashy introduction may look persuasive but do not make it the star of your video. Your audiences should first see you or your exceptional content.    

2. Gain Prowess in YouTube Storytelling

Storytelling is an art you should master as a YouTube content creator. It keeps your audiences engaged longer, improving YouTube Watch Time. Take your viewers on an enthralling journey and include emotional triggers that will keep them hooked along the way.

Here is an overview of three areas you should master for effective YouTube storytelling:

  • The video title and thumbnail 
  • The introduction 
  • Emotional connectivity 

Choose a YouTube Video Title That Reflects Your Content

Your video title and thumbnails should provide your audiences with a quick and concise snapshot of what the video is all about. Thoughtfully designed titles and thumbnails serve as powerful tools to attract more viewers to your channel. People know what to expect from the video and they will feel more encouraged to watch it through. Using compelling titles and thumbnails is also a great way to make your video content appealing to advertisers.

Optimizing Your Video Title

Here are some fantastic tips for writing the perfect title for your YouTube videos:

  • Keep the title natural, short, and precise. 
  • The title should not be more than 70 characters (including space). 
  • Try to include a number in the title to make it more impactful. Numbers tend to intrigue audiences as they often stop wandering eyes. Users tend to ignore a mass of words. But it will catch their attention when you embed a number into it, according to a study from 2007. It helps boost the Click-through rate (CTR). Example: 7 Ways to Improve YouTube Watch Time. 
  • Use words your viewers can relate to. For example, if you and your audience love dogs, you might use words like “Doggo,” “Hooman,” etc. in the title. This will help build an instant connection with your viewers.  
  • The title must have relevant keywords. This will help rank your video content for related search terms. 
  • Include emotive words such as Profitable, Easy, Luxurious, etc. to spark audiences’ emotions.     

Optimizing Your Video Thumbnails

Thumbnail images of your YouTube videos are just as important as the title. It helps your video stand out in the crowd and also in search results.

Here are some tips for you:

  • The thumbnail image should be 1280 x 720 pixels and have a minimum width of 640 pixels. 
  • The file must be under 2 MB and in .GIF, .JPG, .PNG, and .BMP image formats.
  • Try to keep an aspect ratio of 16:9.
  • You can add auto-generated thumbnails from YouTube or create a custom thumbnail from any image on your device. 

The Introduction Should Talk About the Video in a Compelling Way

The best YouTube video introductions are the ones that get right to the point in the first fifteen seconds. Compelling introductory phrases such as “Here’s why I never do this” or “Why they don’t want you to know this secret” are some curiosity drivers.

Include Emotional Triggers

Make the video content more relatable to your audiences by integrating a sense of emotion. Triggers like nostalgia, fear, scarcity, novelty, etc. may make the video seem relevant and urgent to the viewer.

3. Keep the Video Length in Mind

Short videos are often crisp and to the point. Longer videos may cause your audiences to wander. So, you might be intrigued to keep the video length short thinking it will help in improving YouTube Watch Time. While this is true, it may not always work that way.

According to a recent study on YouTube ranking factors, longer videos (>15 minutes) outperformed shorter videos in YouTube search results.

Keep the Video Length in Mind

Do not keep your call to action for the end, particularly for longer videos. Breaking down the video into smaller and easy-to-digest bits can also help improve the watch hours.

4. Use Pattern Interrupters to Boost Engagement

Good storytelling may intrigue your viewers, but thoughtfully editing the story can be a significant watch-time booster. Pattern interrupters can help you transform a good YouTube video into an awesome one simply by adding variety. These are auditory or visual elements that interrupt the viewer’s thought pattern and instill a fresh one.

Some commonly used pattern interrupters are images or graphics and shifting camera angles. You can also consider changes in music, sound effects, jump cuts, scene changes, or B-roll.

5. Keep an Eye on Your Audience Retention Metric

Audience Retention is defined as the average percentage of a video that viewers watch. If you are wondering how to improve YouTube Watch Time, then keep a close watch on your Audience Retention report. It will be the areas of Peak (where viewers stick with your video) and Valley (where viewers drop off). Based on this, you can make necessary adjustments to boost engagement throughout the video.

According to experts, increasing a video’s Audience Retention rate can help you reach more people who are genuinely interested in the content. This will help boost your YouTube Watch Time.

6. Create Evergreen YouTube Video Content

Curating evergreen content is one of the most effective ways of improving YouTube Watch Time. This type of video content never becomes outdated and remains popular year-round. These topics are mostly search-based and ensure good watch time due to their popularity among YouTube users.

Some examples of evergreen topics are how to cook delicious chicken wings, tips to change careers, how to make friends in your late 30s, etc. The topic idea should be based on what your audiences care about more than anything else.

7. Build Playlists to Improve Watch Time

What makes audiences binge videos for hours on streaming platforms like Amazon Prime or Netflix? It is because they use playlists to seamlessly organize their shows and make them easy to find. The audiences do not need to select episodes manually when watching their favorite shows. The platform will automatically play the episodes one after the other, ensuring a user-friendly experience.

You can apply this strategy to improve your YouTube Watch Time. Simply find out which topics your viewers love and then create YouTube playlists with 10 or more videos. As the videos continue to play automatically one after the other, it can help boost your watch hours. You can build different video playlists for all your videos. Make sure to organize the playlists meaningfully in sequences based on events, holidays, relevant themes, recurring series, etc.

YouTube video playlists enable your viewers to watch more of the videos in a single viewing session. This helps build engagement and increase your watch hours.

8. Use Long-Tail Keywords to Create YouTube Video Content

Another good way to drive traffic to your YouTube videos and boost the Watch Time is by targeting long-tail keywords in the content. Long-tail keywords often include the exact phrases that people use to search for a topic on YouTube. If you use these keywords in your video, it is likely to rank high in YouTube search results for related search queries. It also helps trigger your audiences’ emotions.

One of the easiest ways to identify long-tail keywords is from YouTube suggestions. Type in any related topic in the YouTube search bar and you will get some commonly-used, relevant long-tail keywords.

For instance, if you type “recover data” in the YouTube search bar, you will see a lot of search suggestions. You can use these as long-tail keywords for your video content.

Use Long-Tail Keywords to Create YouTube Video Content

You can also use a good keyword research tool to find high-conversion, relevant long-tail keywords.

9. Use End Screens and Cards to Boost the Watch Time

There are various tactics for improving YouTube Watch Time once you have uploaded the videos.

  • End Screen: It is an excellent feature that YouTube offers to direct audiences towards the most relevant videos. These work as interactive and persuasive outros that you can include in the last 5-20 seconds of the video. You can use a wide variety of screens and include clickable elements, such as a subscribe button or website links. You can also include a YouTube channel that you want to promote. You can also avoid giving an outro and move directly to the end screen after your last point. 
  • Cards: You can also use cards to boost your video’s watch time. There are various types of cards you can use to get more watch hours. For instance, a Video or Playlist card is a good way to promote a playlist or video. On the other hand, you can use a Channel card to promote another channel on your YouTube video. Poll cards can influence your audiences to participate in a poll or you can use a Link card to link to another authorized website.  

Using these in-video hacks can help improve your YouTube Watch Time.

10. Get More Subscribers On Board

If you are genuinely pondering over how to improve YouTube Watch Time, then you must get a lot of views on your videos. And the only organic way you can drive increased views is by building a solid base of subscribers for your channel. This way, you can be assured of having thousands of viewers ready to watch your videos whenever you publish them. And because they have subscribed to enjoy your content, they are likely to watch through the entire video.

Here are some tips to grow your subscriber base as well as your YouTube Watch Time:

  • Make your videos SEO-friendly to improve rankings in Google or YouTube searches. This will help increase the visibility of your videos and grow subscribers organically.  
  • Generating social proof is another way of getting more subscribers to your YouTube channel. The more popular your channel is, the higher will be your social proof. When a new YouTube user visits your channel and finds that it has a good number of subscribers, they are more likely to watch your videos and subscribe to the channel. 

As a beginner, you may not have a strong subscriber base that can work as your social proof. Do not fret! There are various ways you can promote our YouTube channel. Social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter provide excellent marketing opportunities. You can also use ads to direct potential subscribers to your channel.

Ready to Give Your YouTube Watch Time a Boost?

Improving YouTube Watch Time is a surefire way of increasing the discoverability of your videos on YouTube’s algorithm. Hence, the videos are likely to have higher rankings in search results and recommendations. It might take some time to implement the tips and tricks we discussed above. But you will start seeing proven results in no time, giving your watch time a significant boost.

Most importantly, these tactics work for both beginners and professional YouTube content creators! So, it’s time to get to work, implement the hacks, and see your video watch time soaring over time.

The Beginner’s Guide to Improving YouTube Watch Time