In this week's Creator's Tip, we discuss the top three influencers for video SEO on YouTube. We confirm the three biggest factors that effect how your videos perform in the search ranking results, and what that means for the content that you are creating. We all want our videos to perform well in the rankings, but what actually makes a difference when it comes to strategy and optimization past the basic optimization tactics like a great, keyword rich title, and a good description? Let's start with the first factor, Watch Time.

#1 Watch Time

Watch Time is easily the biggest influencer for better rankings on YouTube right now. But what it is? Simply put, it is the total amount of time viewers have spent watching a video, and it's a vitally important important metric to consider for promoting videos on YouTube. The more watch time a video accumulates, the more likely it is to rank well in search results. Not to be confused with Audience Retention (see below), Watch Time can be improved by creating content that keeps the viewer engaged to the very end of your video, and also by guiding viewers to other videos on your channel. Adding a video to a playlist is a great way of doing that, as explained in this previous Creator's Tip:

#2 Audience Retention

Audience Retention and Watch Time are two different things. Audience Retention pertains to the average point where viewers abandon a video. This does not influence how your videos rank in search results as heavily as total accumulated Watch Time does, but it does give you hugely valuable data that can lead to action that increases Watch Time.

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If Video A is 20 minutes long, and people watch for 5 minutes, that gives you 25% audience retention. If Video B is 2 minutes long, people watch for 1 minute, that gives you 50% audience retention. All other things considered equal, video A will outrank video B because it’s getting 5x more watch time per viewer even though video B’s audience retention is twice as high.

You can improve Audience Retention by adding strategically placed annotations to keep the viewer interested, and of course, by creating engaging content.

#3 Viewing Session

The third factor is the Viewing Session. This is the the total amount of time a viewer spends watching videos before they leave the site. This particular algorithm suggests that videos that lead to a longer overall viewing session fare better over those that receive more clicks. So, even though Video A may only have 25% audience retention, which is very poor, it may cause people to extend their viewing session by watching another video or two, which YouTube will then favor over Video B because most people watch that video and end up leaving YouTube. Remember, YouTube wants to keep people on its site, and if your video contributes to that, then that could work well in your favor.

Please let us know in the comments below how you have optimized your videos for these influencing factors.

  • Mike Lee

    Excellent points on influencers. For what it's worth, in tv news reporting I've found that natural progressive drama helps to keep viewers tuned in. It's like a three act play. And the most important element is continual suspense. There must be a sense of intrigue or mystery about what is happening not only at a given five seconds, but suspense about how what your watching right now will affect what you will see in the next five seconds. Remember, you might be able to shock or amuse people into watching for a while but there must be suspense about how the video will end. That's why so many people will watch video to the end if it's car trying to cross a swollen river, or indeed a cat trying to flush a toilet. What a lot of storytellers don't realize is that you can take this same concept and apply it to serious or big issue stories, Nothing has to be dull! Continual suspense is one of the keys. Thanks, I love ReelSEO. Mike lee.