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:
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):
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:
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.