Watch time, AKA audience retention, is one of THE most significant ranking factors for YouTube’s algorithm today.
Here are 8 ways to optimize your videos and increase your YouTube videos’ watch time, FAST!
#1- Create something helpful
So the first and really the foundation rule is that whatever you create, it must be something people would be willing to watch.
This comes down to two factors:
First, your video must solve a problem or answers a question. People online are in a hurry and in need of quick answering.
Tick the “useful” box, and your video is halfway there already.
Second, your video must be of high quality. This boils down to you being an expert and providing your unique experience on the topic.
Third, and this is a bonus one, your video must be well put together. However, this is optional because when you’re starting out, your videos will almost certainly be crap (in production value), but that’s totally ok.
People are willing to close their eyes to glaring quality imperfections if the video is helpful, informative, and solves their problems.
Plus, your videos won’t always be crap. Remember, the more you make them, the better you’ll become at making them.
#2- Target Long-Tail Keywords
I’ll give you two reasons why you should target long-tail keywords when producing videos.
First, they’re way less competitive than the body and head keywords.
Brand new YouTube channels need to prove themselves on this small fish before going after the bigger catch. In other words, rank for long-tail first, build up some watch time, and then make YouTube algorithm trust you with their higher volume keywords.
Second, long-tail keyword brings in more limited traffic, but the traffic they bring is super relevant and interested in what you have to say.
This means people are more likely to watch large chunks of your videos.
This quickly accumulates watch time for your channel.
How to find long-tail keywords to target?
VidIQ is a powerful tool that can help you find profitable video keywords.
Here’s a resource that can help you:
#3- Create Video Playlists
Video playlists are a great feature that lets you tie your video together in a logical sequence.
- First video
- flows into second
- which flows into third…
Granted, this doesn’t always work because sometimes video topics are way different, and the playlist feels disjointed, but when it does work, you can get someone to binge-watch 10 of your videos in a row, not even blink.
A good example is Jordan Peterson with his “Personality and Its Transformations lecture.” All extremely high-quality videos and for those interested in deep psychology:
Combine YouTube video cards with playlists to skyrocket your watch time.
At the end of a video, add a YouTube card promoting another video.
Except that the card won’t be promoting a single video but one that is part of the sequence, i.e., playlist. That way, you introduce your playlist to new viewers, and over time, you accumulate some easy extra watch time.
#4- Get the First 15s Right
The first 15 seconds of your video form the make-or-break point for it.
In this short 15-time frame, two things can happen
- folks will either leave;
- or they will keep at it, keep watching and thus boost your dwell time.
You want to latter, and here’s how to achieve it:
Tell them what is coming in the video.
Folks want to know fast whether this video is going to be worth their time or not.
So if you tell them right away: “in this video, you will learn about XYZ,” and XYZ is exactly what they wanted in the first place, they will stick around and watch it.
Note: this is another reason why you need to be targeting long-tail keywords. These people are specific with what they want, so when you tell them you have it- they will watch your video.
#5- Create Interesting Thumbnails
And I encourage you to do it.
But before you jump on a thumbnail-making spree, spend a minute and learn how to make them super attractive.
Good thumbnails have these things in common:
- they reflect the video’s topic
- They’re explicit- meaning they tell people exactly what to expect if they click
- they are branded (done in the brand’s visual style)
Or, and this is a trick pro YouTuber’s use, thumbnails vastly different than their standard brand colors and thus stand out much more.
I think both methods work, but it’s up to you to test it to see what works best for you.
What about thumbnails?
Un-attractive and lame thumbnails are basically the opposite of what you just read. And keep in mind that bad thumbnails don’t mean they click repellent.
No, they too can attract clicks but more possibly to your detriment.
As a YouTube visitor, there’s nothing worse than clicking on a thumbnail that promises A and delivers Z. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and the person will not watch, will not subscribe, and will not comment, share, or like.
But they will remember you were disrespectful of their time and them as people.
That can ultimately hurt your brand in the long-run.
Here’s what YouTube has to say about thumbnails:
Choose an image that accurately reflects the content of your video so viewers know what to expect when they click. It’s important not to mislead viewers because they’ll be more likely to be disappointed and stop watching.
And here are some basic specification for creating a thumbnail:
- The image file must be under the 2MB limit.
- Your image should be 1280 x 720 pixels, with a minimum width of 640 pixels.
- Image must be in .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG image formats.
- Try to use a 16:9 aspect ratio as it’s used most often in YouTube players and previews.
#6- Use Bucket Brigades to Hold People’s Attention for Longer
Bucket Brigades are words and phrases that keep people consuming your content.
They are an old-school copywriting tactic that was initially designed to keep people reading those long-lengthy sales letters.
But bucket brigades are not just for sales letters.
You can use them to boost the watch time of your YouTube videos swiftly.
Every once in a while, use a bucket brigade to invoke curiously in your listeners to make them feel as if they’d miss out on something important if they quit then and there.
For example, you can say:
“You thought that adding keyword-rich internal links could help my rankings for that post?
And you were right! My ranking exploded for that page.
But wanna know the best part”?
And then you make a dramatic pause of 3s or so, and your tribe is yelling at their screens, begging you to keep going and just tell them the best part of the story.
That’s the power of bucket brigades. Use them deliberately and intelligently.
Use them whenever you feel people might drop off.
#7 Build Your Subscribers Base
Building a subscribers base is not an easy fix, not something you can just get up and say:
I think today I’m gonna build myself a YouTube subscriber base!
That’s what I’ll do, and I want to have one million subscribers. One million because I’m not a greedy person and I’m not a megalomaniac“.
Of course, you’re not.
But a million subscribers overnight is not realistic.
Building a YouTube channel brand and a solid subscriber base takes time, work, and more time and more work.
However, it’s highly worth it.
Because once you have that flywheel going, it will work on your behalf, and it’ll work harder, faster, and better with time.
Old subscribers share, like, comment, and increase your channel’s total video watch time.
This pings YouTube’s algorithm to give your videos more free promotion, bringing in more free traffic that turns into free subs and more watch time and all other goodies.
And the process repeats ad infinitum, and in your favor.
#8- Use Pattern Interrupts Liberally
you’re walking down the street, deep in thought.
you’ve been struck with a revelation of sorts; you can’t quite put your finger on it or put it in words, but you feel you’re onto something, something great, something magnificent.
You feel the truth, the essence the secret of life is bare and exposed to you, and if only you were to reach up, you’d:
- understand it all
- get it all
- grasp it all
- and attain the ultimate peace and contentedness.
You’re inches away, and then…
“Hello, Nikola! How are you doing today?
Lovely day ain’t it”?
Pattern interrupts an innocent greeting from a bystander left me despondent with no secret to be found and angry. Oh, so angry.
But pattern interrupts won’t make your visitor angry because most of them will not dance with philosophy, nor are they going to be bouncing off the wall with excess energy.
No, they’re more likely to be tired, depressed, and bored.
And watching your videos will feel like a chore to them.
So if you can give them a jolt or two by inserting a pattern interrupt or two, they’ll thank you for it and will show their gratitude by subscribing to your channel.
What is pattern interrupts exactly?
They are the little things that interrupt the video without ruining its flow.
Anything can be a pattern interrupt, but some good examples are:
- insert a short tune
- Images and charts that appear while you’re talking
- YouTube cards
- changing video perspectives
Note: pattern interrupts are especially effective if you’re going to be standing in front of the camera and just talking.
Pay attention to your video’s watch time.
See what’ working and do more of it. See what’s not, be smart and dump it.
It pays to be vigilant and ruthless, and improving video retention and watch time today will yield magnificent results for you tomorrow.
Before you go, I invite you to check out other YouTube resources from Aayush’s blog. The more you know, the better off you’ll be, and these resources are your proven way to get ahead and fast too.