Beyond creating great content and building up your subscribers,
there are certain best practices and strategies that can help to further
drive greater Watch Time.
1. CREATE ENGAGING, ENTERTAINING CONTENT & BUILD YOUR SUBSCRIBER BASE
The cliche is true consistently create and publish quality video, and
you will attract a loyal following, in the form of subscribers. It’s a
well known fact that subscribers watch, engage with, and share more
video than non-subscribers, and so a strategy to build subscribers is
one way to influence watch time.
Active, engaged, and enthusiastic subscribers will lead to a higher
rate of accumulated Watch Time from the moment you publish new
content. Subscribers have already bought into you, your brand, and
your channel, and you’ll get a more committed response from these
fans, and have a higher audience retention rate than from viewers
who have found you via the search results. Don’t forget that you can
solicit subscribers across the web by promoting your own YouTube
channel subscribe button
2. HOOK THE VIEWER WITHIN THE FIRST 15 SECONDS
When the viewer starts watching your video, they’re wondering,
“Is this video worth my time? Should I keep watching this or
not?” Answer that question for them right from the very beginning,
certainly within the first 310 seconds, and give them a reason to stay
as long as possible – a 40% Audience Retention score is better than
a 5% one
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TITLE AND THUMBNAIL
There is no doubt that a really great thumbnail and video
headline can drive an enormous number of views. These elements
are critical for SEO, they’re within your control, and are usually the
first thing that provides users with an indication of your video content.
With Watch Time it’s critical that you use the most accurate, descriptive
titles and thumbnails. Poor quality thumbnails, or the wrong
ones, and generic or misleading titles may attract clicks, but if the
viewer decides within the first few seconds that they don’t like what
they are seeing, they will bail. This sends a low Watch Time signal to
YouTube and videos which perform better will outrank yours.
4. CREATE INTERACTIVE END CARDS
End Cards (or End Slates, Outros, End Screens) are a very effective
way to add awareness to other content. And, unless the video
is being played on a mobile device, viewers will be able to easily click
within your video to take action.
There are two important strategies for developing an end card that
can help to drive increased Watch Time. The most direct strategy
is to extend viewer time spent in that particular session through
promoting other video content that they can then click on to watch.
Since you want to extend the viewing session, you might as well do
it by keeping them on your videos instead of letting them stray to
YouTube suggested videos.
Additionally, though it will not directly lead to an increase in watch
time for the session, adding channel subscription calls-to-action at the
end of your videos can help drive an increase in subscribers.
5. USE ANNOTATIONS TO KEEP THE VIEWER ENGAGED THROUGHOUT
Annotations are a great way to keep the viewer engaged throughout
the video. There are a number of ways of using them, but for Watch
Time, the most relevant use for annotations is to link viewers to other
content on YouTube which may be of interest to the viewer.
Although you can link off YouTube with Associated Website Annotations,
keep in mind that once the viewer clicks and leaves YouTube,
the session has ended. So, external linking can be a juggling act. It is
best practice to avoid driving viewers away from YouTube.
6. CREATE PLAYLISTS & DRIVE A LINEAR VIEWING EXPERIENCE
Creating playlists can help to guide potential viewers towards
a more linear viewing experience whereby they may watch more of
your content (in comparison to someone else’s). This is another way
you can help to influence a user’s total Watch Time session.
By organizing your videos into a meaningful sequence (relevant topics,
events, series, shows, etc.), you make it easier for users to watch
the next video in the session. This not only helps with Watch Time,
but it gives you an added opportunity to surface suggested video
results on the watch page.
You can further optimize these playlists using the Start and End
Times feature in YouTube to specify “in” and “out” points for each
video which creates a more seamless experience. For example, you
may want to trim intros and outros from your playlists.
Also, be sure to feature your playlists wherever you feature your
video content on your YouTube channel page, embedded players,
etc. When you link to other videos via annotations (which is strongly
encouraged), link to the playlist page with the video instead of the
single video watch page URL. And when you link to a video using
an end card – typically you may have a “video preview” at the end
of the video that a viewer will click to watch one specific video – use
the same video preview to link to content inside of a playlist, using a