Of all the ways to game YouTube, manipulating the view count for a video is probably the #1 most-often implemented tactic. Despite the attempts by the site to crack down on this practice (because it still works, at least temporarily), it still occurs because it's very, very easy to do if you have the budget and the inclination. But why does that matter to the majority of creators who have never gone down this route? Well, it's important for two reasons actually. First, in order to understand how well a video is actually performing, YouTube now gives more weight to other factors like engagement and in particular, Watch-Time. Of course, millions of videos attract huge amounts of views, but if those views are disproportionately high compared to other metrics then YouTube may end up taking some form of action.
Secondly, as a brand or marketer, a high view count with little engagement activity should start ringing some alarm bells for you. If a user has taken the time to click play, but has abandoned the video halfway through or hasn't been motivated enough to like it, comment on it, share it, or followed a link back to your site because of it, then how well is it really doing for you? Your content has to offer the viewer something of value and that value is measured in how much they interact with it.
Now, let's take a deeper look into the two video metrics that you should be measuring if you are serious about your video marketing strategy.
1. Watch Time
Watch Time became a significant ranking factor for YouTube in August 2012 and the update was a deliberate move to turn the site into more of a daily viewing experience by encouraging subscriptions, and favoring content that is more engaging. By focusing on watch-time, which is in itself, a much better measure of engagement (view-based algorithms favored "good-looking" content, even when the viewer didn't stick around), YouTube took a big step towards addressing the issue of false views. Anyone can buy views - hundreds of thousands of them if they want - but unless those viewers stick around and watch the whole video and more of your content after, then YouTube will treat them as less than equal. If you can keep your viewers on YouTube for as long as possible then the site will start ranking your content better.
Increasing Watch Time doesn't mean increasing the length of the video, it doesn't work that way. You can publish a 30 second video and if a good proportion of the audience stay with you all the way through then that sends a signal to YouTube that the video was relevant and engaging. Uploading a 6 minute video where most of the viewers bail after 20 seconds is going to have the opposite effect.
You can check your Watch Time stats in YouTube Analytics - here we have compared them against 'views' and we can see that most viewers of this ReelWeb tutorial on why you should create a storyboard video stayed to watch the majority of it. Yay us!
We talk more about Watch Time strategy in this Creator's Tip video:
Takeaway: For YouTube videos, Watch time should be the metric that you measure your performance against. If you can keep a significant amount of the audience watching all the way through then you’re more likely to be rewarded with better search rankings.
Tips and Tutorials for Increasing Watch-Time Metric
- Increase YouTube Watch Time by Linking to Playlists
- Increase Watch Time in YouTube with Skip Annotations & Chapter Markers
Engagement is a popular buzz word, but it is an important measurement to confirm whether your video resonates with your target audience. In other words, are they liking it, sharing it, tweeting about it, commenting on it, writing about it, visiting your site because of it, embedding it on their own site, buying a product or service because of it, or subscribing to your channel because they loved it and want to see more of your content?
If your product video has 1000 views but no other sign of engagement activity then it most likely is not working for you and you may need to try another approach. Not every video can or will go anywhere near viral - but let's take a look at the type of engagement that Old Spice's 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like' campaign attracted:
- The Old Spice Twitter following increased by 2700%.
- Their Facebook fan base increased by 60% and interactions increased by 800%
- Traffic to the oldspice.com website increased by 300%
Yes, the video has attracted 47,028,872 YouTube views but if you compare views against the 41,609 comments it has also received then you can see the kind of engagement this video continues to generate. It was a talking point at the time of uploading and it continues to be one now. And talk is very important of course but the bottom line is that this video was pretty much responsible for increasing unit sales of Old Spice Red Zone body wash by 125% (or did it), which was an all time record for the brand.
Takeaway: Create a distribution, publication and marketing strategy around your video to attract as much engagement as possible. The more people that you reach, the more chance you have of being shared, liked and written about.