I would rather have 10 video views from actual engaged viewers who are connecting to the content than have a million useless views from non-engaged or paid viewers. I really mean that. I know a lot of people who would hear me say that, and claim to agree, but secretly still long for the millions of useless views. But I really mean it. Theoretically, a YouTube channel with 100 total views in a year's time could be a massive success--provided those 100 viewers are engaged and turn into customers.

Views Are A Distraction, Engagement Matters More

A lot of video marketers are in a position where they work for companies or bosses who don't "get it"... and so the viewcount ends up being the measure of how well or poorly that marketer is doing their job. And in those cases, my heart goes out to them. It's an unhealthy attitude to think online video marketing success is measured solely by views.

Instead, we should be measuring engagement: comments, likes, shares, forwards, brand recall, purchase intent, etc. You know... the things that actually measure how well your message is sitting with consumers.

But it's more than just a wrongheaded strategy. It may not be popular to talk about it, but the viewcounts are hardly gospel. There are plenty of ways for views to be artificially manufactured or manipulated.

Daniel Cohen's "YouTube Views & Marketing" Video

Let's take a recent example, shall we? Let's look at a video from a channel called SEO Conference--which is maybe an odd name since he doesn't even talk about conferences in the video.

Instead, the video is a pretty boring, poorly lit, bad audio vlog where Daniel Cohen--the channel's owner--brags about how good he is at SEO and how he can get you millions of views within hours and get your video placed on the "most viewed videos" list of YouTube. Take a look:

[Video removed from YouTube - surprise!]

Now, a few things you need to know. This video somehow has over a million views, despite being only a few days old. A million views for a video that has none of the normal qualities about it at all that typical viral videos have. And true to his word, Daniel's video (having grabbed over a million views in a short period of time) was on the most-viewed YouTube videos list when I discovered it yesterday morning. However, it's now gone from that list. Here's a screenshot from when it was still on the list (his thumbnail is on the bottom right):

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How Long Until YouTube Views Lose All Meaning? most viewed list 606x547

There are other are red flags on the views for this video. Like the poor overall quality of the video, and the fact that nothing funny, shocking, or embarrassing happens in it. At the time of this writing, there are only 80 comments--far below the number you would expect for a typical video over a million views. There aren't any referring sites of note in the "Significant discovery events" data. In fact, if you look at that data, you'll see something that, to me, seems really out of place:

How Long Until YouTube Views Lose All Meaning? seo video 1 606x258

Notice that item at letter F, on the 23rd, when his video grabbed 625,000 views after the event "first view from a mobile device?" So... one person viewed it on a mobile phone and then the views instantly rocketed up 625,000?! That doesn't sound like a referral. I'm not sure what it is.

Go Beyond The Viewcount

So let me just come out and say what you might think I'm beating around the bush on: This guy's views are most-likely artificially inflated. It could be a bot, a custom piece of software, or he could even have paid one of the shady services out there that promise you video views for money.

Manufactured views may be a great way to show your boss you can get views to a video, but they'll never turn into viewers you can capitalize on. You'll never see a dime of legitimate business from real customers views that aren't naturally earned.

I'm not here to single out this one YouTube channel--there are thousands doing this kind of thing, if not more. I'm pretty impressed, on some level, with how he's gotten these views. I'm merely using this one video as a case-study... an example I can use to show you how close we are to viewcounts being relatively useless as a metric (if we're not already there). Smart video marketers HAVE to go deeper than views, or else you'll never really truly know how many people you're actually reaching.

Think about baseball's steroids scandal, and how little the home run numbers mean any more... now that we know there's so much cheating that's been going on, we're not nearly as impressed with big home run totals. It's the same with online video. Soon enough, no one's going to be impressed with your huge viewcount if it's not actually producing engaged customers.

  • http://www.reelseo.com/ reelseo

     @julian_jippidy I couldn't agree more re twitter.  We just wrote up another post regarding spamming on YouTube - http://www.reelseo.com/black-hat-youtube-seo-spam/

  • JulianMartinez1

    Just checked into this article again, clicked on the video, and lo and behold, the video is no longer available because that user's account has been terminated. You can't game the system, it benefits no one and long term, you run the risk of losing all of the work you did put in. Now I just wish Twitter would start doing the same and deleting those profiles with 100k followers and yet they've only tweeted 10 times total! Thanks for sharing!

  • AdamBritten

     @julian_jippidy Definitely agree that Twitter needs to catch up on things like that, which for some reason they seem very reluctant to do. Good for YouTube!

  • http://www.reelseo.com/ reelseo

     @julian_jippidy I couldn't agree more re twitter.  We just wrote up another post regarding spamming on YouTube - http://www.reelseo.com/black-hat-youtube-seo-spam/

  • julian_jippidy

    Just checked into this article again, clicked on the video, and lo and behold, the video is no longer available because that user's account has been terminated. You can't game the system, it benefits no one and long term, you run the risk of losing all of the work you did put in. Now I just wish Twitter would start doing the same and deleting those profiles with 100k followers and yet they've only tweeted 10 times total! Thanks for sharing!

  • JulianMartinez1

    Just checked into this article again, clicked on the video, and lo and behold, the video is no longer available because that user's account has been terminated. You can't game the system, it benefits no one and long term, you run the risk of losing all of the work you did put in. Now I just wish Twitter would start doing the same and deleting those profiles with 100k followers and yet they've only tweeted 10 times total! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514966237 Alexander Valbere

    When you edit your video go to "syndicatipon" on the bottom of the page and make sure it cant be viewed on mobiles or tvs, less views but overall more real views...that's what I do with many of my videos if I see they have high views and many seem to come from mobile devices.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1255742158 Jen Knoedl

    Preach it! Thanks for this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1177363116 Mark Robertson

    HAHA... look at his other videos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrDi3kOnu7w&feature=channel_video_title 1 is specifically about bots for twitter. YouTube - time to ban this crap.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=554807064 Stacy Bellew


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1177363116 Mark Robertson

    great thumbnail image Jeremy Scott.

  • Ravinol Samuel Chambers

    That's a really good point, it is something we tell everyone who comes on our courses. It is a kind of vanity to seek huge numbers for the sake of it and often something 'viral' marketeers will be happy to try and sell you. It really depends on what your product or service is and how local you are, a few relevant and engaged viewers are much more valuable then many 'thrill seekers' surfing the net for car crash TV. Good to see others saying it too.

    Rav Chambers - http://learntocreatevideo.co.uk.

  • Grant Crowell

    Good article, Jeremy! I commend you on pulling out this example of what people mistake for "successful" video, including the wrong idea of what they like to refer to as "social video," which negates it to a PR-buzzword than something of genuine value.

    (Now you have to let me rib you a bit on this subject because I do remember a while back, you were debate with me on what makes a video to have marketing value, and I was saying you had to go by more than view to measure success. You replied back with the example of how if a video was watched on a billboard at a sports stadium, and the same amount of people watched that video online, the online video was a smarter marketing strategy. Yet that was when you were equating views with value, too!)

    We already know that views can be manipulated for an artificial sense of marketing success. But guess what -- so can shares, likes, tweets, and anything else that is ultimately an intangible value in itself. What makes all of those valuable (including views), is the ability to measure it's affect on performance with clearly-defined business goals.


    Any online video strategy, "social" or however we define it, should be value-driven more than anything else.

    1) Have a reasonable chance of being attractive to customers.
    2) Have an opportunity to build new customer relationships and improve existing ones.
    3) Must still retain or grow profitability for the company.

    So if we really do want to stress the importance of value-driven video marketing, how about we take a break from the "viral video" stuff unless any of that can show actual business value? We may not have as many entertaining and funny videos in our posts, but at least we will hold ourselves to a higher standard than what is being perpetuated with so-called social video today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1240904983 Jeremy Vest

    Great article, I totally agree. All forms of online marketing must return real results or it's worthless. The problem is if you have many social indicators and views, you have a much better chance to show up as the top search result in YouTube. Like all other forms of SEO, we are forced to play the game to maximize total profit. I aim for 1,000 views and 100 social indicators within a week of putting up a video. I show up #1 on YouTube search most of the time this happens. I don't do any gray hat or black hat stuff but I do use promoted videos, display network and other forms of online marketing like remarketing to give the videos a great push. I know people using software like tubetool box that get great results but I'm not going to go down that road.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100361750022323 Video Leads Online

    Very nice 'heady' article. However... (here we go, eh?) view count does effect Search Engine rankings both on YouTube and Google. So View count matters in that respect. Next point: People will choose to watch a video that has more views, because "xxxxxxx" other people thought it was worth watching.

    If you have cultivated a following of your videos, then great, the view count may not matter to them, but if you are reaching out to a "new" crowd/target, then view counts matter a lot!

    Nice to think that it doesn't really matter, but it is a measurable metric... some of the squishy 'brand impact' or 'purchase intent' ideas are much more difficult to 'measure' so we tend to fall back on that which is right in our face when we 'measure' stuff... ergo view count matters.

    Just my 'practical' perspective... no offense intended.

  • Cara Platinumberg

    Regarding the "mobile" views:

    I have experienced an issue like this with analytics, on multiple videos that were featured in YouTube's HP Spotlight. On each video, the vast majority of views were reported as "mobile" and less than 10% as many views were correctly reported as having come from YouTube Features>Homepage.

    I'm not saying that seoconference didn't do something shifty to end up on the homepage, just wondering if this might be why the stats don't make sense.

    Looks like he's now disabled public stats on his videos - all that shows now is a Bronze "trending" badge.

  • Spiritualbroadcasting Nwrkvideo Telev

    Great post Daniel. Most helpful...

  • Daphne Kwon

    Thanks for this example of useless view counts. But, what I find is that without any pre-set success metrics, clients have nothing but to point to views as success. We're pushing at my co. to have links out to activities like "buy now" or "find out more" from the YT plays. The 3% of viewers that click through on those external links show a TON more quality interaction with the destination site than other visitor sources. Setting that expectation upfront is where we can redefine success of a Youtube strategy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1425262473 Pam Brossman

    So glad someone else is calling on this subject as it is hurting the industry. So many people teaching paid views, likes, subscribers when it does not get anyone any monetary benefit except for those who are teaching the strategy as a course.

    Here is a perfect example that I teach my students. You do not have to buy views to get on page one if you know what you are doing.


    Keyword: Online Video Marketing. I am video number#6 of 59,000 videos and I only have 770 views but they are real people who are really interested in learning Video SEO, who are coming to my website, opting in and becoming a real client. Don't be fooled by some of the other numbers on the page as being real views.

    So my point is, you can still get on page one, get real benefit from your video marketing by using valuable content, video seo strategies that are 'white hat' not paid and get real benefits to your business.

    Thank you for bringing this up. Video Marketing is getting such a bad name from all the people trying to play the system when really if they just use keywords they can get better results and successfully use videos to market their business, their brand and their products and services with amazing results.

    Have a fantastic day.

  • Anonymous

    thanks jeremy, totally agree with what you are saying. do you have any tips for increasing engagement? I have a newish channel. last week views doubled from 1500 to 3000 but despite using annotatations to ask for likes, comments etc level of engagement is low. looking at the search terms my visitors should be finding my video content relevant. so why aren't they getting involved? when I say ask for likes, I mean literally ask in some videos and in others use tactics like "if you've ever given in to a craving, like this video to let me know". the only additional tactic I can think of is asking questions in the video itself?

    • Jeremy Scott

      Definitely. The YouTube Creator Playbook is a fantastic resource for little things you can do to boost engagement. And we have a weekly video series from @[170100766:2048:Tim Schmoyer] (usually on Wednesdays) that covers great applicable steps as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507361791 Sheila Clover English

    Great article! My question is, does the number views affect overall SEO on Google?

    • Jeremy Scott

      In a lot of ways it can, but I don't think it does directly. Generally, the higher viewed videos pick up more comments, subscriptions, etc... and I tend to think that stuff matters more than straight views (at least on Google).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=201695633182016 Dan Safkow’s Video Marketing Minute

    Using bots to get more YouTube views, subscribes, etc., is tempting because the cost of these "black hat" services can be very low or even free, but we have to assume that YouTube is devoting lots of resources to counter these practices, and analytics and algorithms can be built to easily identify red flag anomalous activities, like Jeremy has done here (well done!). Longterm, it's just not worth risking losing a channel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000043504420 Mitchell Dillman

    Fact: When you focus on topic and quality content (not views, subs, comments), and you consistently give your audience what they are looking for, not only will your views increase, your subscriber base will dramatically increase as will your bank account...Where there are eyes there is money...give those eyes what they are looking for and you will get what you are looking for!

  • Jimmy Selix

    I base my analytics more on amount of comments per page along side of views. comments = engagement to the T imo.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1573763970 John E. Bredehoft

      Although even comments can be a questionable metric at times, when you get spammy comments. But how can you design a measurement system that automatically distinguishes between spammy contents and so-called "worthwhile" comments? But comments are certainly a better indicator than views or likes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526270077 Megan O’Neill

    Awesome post, Jeremy. I totally agree with you on your point that "It’s an unhealthy attitude to think online video marketing success is measured solely by views." I myself am guilty of using view count as a measure for which videos are "the best" and you've inspired me to start weighing other factors more heavily. Thanks for writing this! Awesome.

    • Jeremy Scott

      Wow. Thanks for the kind words. Glad you found it useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1573763970 John E. Bredehoft

    I found this when Loren Feldman shared your post (and the video in question) on his Google+ page. I was not aware of the "Significant discovery events" information that is available - thanks for the tip.

    • Jeremy Scott

      No sweat. I find myself checking that spot all the time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=177455087743 mantic59

    What about the number of subscribers? Wouldn't that count as "engagement" as well? Or is that also a metric that can be manipulated easily?

    • Antonio Centeno

      Go check out the guy's profile - very interesting way he is manipulating the system. And the video is really bad:)

    • Jimmy Selix

      Antonio Centeno yea, he's totally farming youtube views using prob some sort of exploit in the mobile code. or so it seems from that analytics.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=528524259 Christopher Sharpe

      You can easily buy subscribers, too.