YouTube's Changes Search Algorithm to Rank Videos Based on Time-Watched

We all knew that YouTube was trying to get people to stay around on the site longer, and they were putting less emphasis on views with all the housecleaning a few months ago.  Several creators cried foul on the new YouTube, which saw their subscriber base and valuable views go down, but we saw that a lot of what YouTube was doing was about engagement, not views.  In other words, make your viewers stay around with great content.  Well, the YouTube Creator Blog announced on the weekend that YouTube's search engine is going to be optimized for a video's time watched.

Time-Watched is New Ranking Factor: What Does This Mean?

It means if you keep viewers around on YouTube longer, you're videos will start ranking better.  And the view count is discounted at this point.  It doesn't mean trying to come out with a ten-minutes-or-longer video just for the sake of coming out with something longer, you actually have to keep those audiences for a long time throughout the video.

Which is something you can actually track.  Just before the announcement about the algorithm change, the YouTube Creator Blog also announced some changes to YouTube Analytics so that you can track Estimated Time Watched:

YouTubes Changes Search Algorithm to Rank Videos Based on Time Watched estimatedminutes

So it's pretty clear now, if it hasn't already hit you on the head, that retaining viewers has become very important when it comes to your videos.  You won't be getting by with a five minute video where people leave after a minute and a half.  It means you have to hook your viewers early and get them to stay around for the duration, and you should always be getting your viewers to ask, "What happens next?" or "tease" great content throughout.

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By the way, while we're here, YouTube Analytics is also offering "Annotation Tracking," which will report the performance of your annotations, the "click and close" rate.  This becomes a nice feature because as we reported earlier, you'll be able to send people to your website through annotations in the future.  And it will also tell you how many times people are clicking on them to get to other videos.

So, some new stuff to chew on for future video making.

  • Ryan Mendenhall

    Curious, very curious. At what point is a view counted as a view? If it's pretty late in the video then I would assume that it's still an important metric. If it's at the beginning then I agree that this new time watched is more important to look at. I'd love to see a breakdown of optimization tips to increase this. I'm sure you already have one, I'll poke my nose around. PS LOVE your stuff. Thanks so much for your work.

  • KZO Innovations

    Interesting news, thanks for sharing. Companies using online video to increase brand awareness should focus on a few things -- namely, creating videos that are compelling enough to keep the viewer’s attention throughout. Aim to make your videos no longer than three minutes. Many businesses think they don’t have interesting content to share, but any company can create a video featuring industry news, how-tos, tips, advice, product demonstrations, or interviews with company leaders and existing customers. It can often help to create a short script to run through first to ensure your video is conversational, engaging, and personable.

  • F. Michael Furbert

    This was very informative and helpful!

  • Reno Lovison

    I understand youtube's objective but the application is flawed. I suspect this will not last long. No pun intended.

    • Ryan Mendenhall

      Why don't you think this will last long Reno?

  • Pam Brossman

    'How to' videos are popular for getting duration views as if you are showing someone exactly how to do something they will watch it till the end to find out what they need to do. If you want to capitalise on this new form of tracking by YouTube create more 'how to' videos.

    • Ronnie Bincer

      Good Tip! How To's are very common on YouTube (at least I do a lot of 'em).

  • ♫ Relax on the Beach

    I've been seeing this for months. There are now 8-12 hour sleep videos with rain or music... it's been a huge war. The problem is that when you sleep you do not watch the ads. Youtube needs to put a cap on videos again of 1 hour and then feature playlists for longer stuff. Oh, need I say again this favors Hollywood and Youtube's studios that can create longer content. Say goodbye to short form or start making 1 hour cat videos. ;-)

    • Ronnie Bincer

      I think that YT also sees short vids as valuable... as long as you watch the whole thing. It is not just putting up longer videos, that won't work... it is Engaged viewers (i.e. did they watch the whole thing) that matter when it comes to Time Watched numbers from what I can tell.

      • ♫ Relax on the Beach

        Sorry I think that is the Pied Piper for old youtubers and bloggers as youtube becomes a long form, passive cable channel trying to replace cable and satellite companies like they did to broadcast thus the destruction of creative channels, hiding comments, and giving us few words and grey walls and 1 click back to yt. You have to google the ceo and find him on business and advertising Interviews to see him lay it out.

        I've been to yt, they clearly stated it besides creating long from original content like MTV did (replacing most of their free music videos with reality series.) yes, quality is good, long form quality like Hollywood will win thus the birth of youtube network / studios that pick and choose who plays... like Hollywood. Youtube was a free for all and liberated everyone with a simple algorithm based upon max views that worked great for a few years... now the deck is stacked with 200 million having gone to 100 yt channels and studios... that now have to earn their keep... good luck, most will not survive. Stay away from studios is my advice as they go bankrupt and are filled with fraud and lawsuits right next to the music industry. hey if you still believe, I got some facebook stock to sell you at opening prices.

      • ♫ Relax on the Beach

        Youtube shorts are as valuable to youtube as they are to Hollywood... when was the last shorts did you see? How many TV shows even show the best shorts? Shorts are a calling card at best and they do not bring big advertisers that are use to Hollywood standards... That is why youtube invested wrongly in 100 channels to compete with us and most will fail and the others will take 10 years to pay it back if that.. thus why they did not re-invest more lost money here... but half - 100 million gamble in Europe. YT is driving ad dollars to long form and minutes rather than letting the viewer choose and real quality rise. It's rigged and hopefully will fail but bloggers are toast for advertisers and won't get featured much.

  • Ronnie Bincer

    Great coverage of the changes so far.

    I wonder if making more shorter engaging video is better than making longer engaging video. The time watched metric seems a bit unclear to me... is it total for the entire channel (i.e. 100 videos = 2.5 days watched in a week), or time watched per video that matters?

    I'm guessing that it is down to the per video as the single video is what is being 'found' via search... but I bet your Channel gets elevated if the majority of the videos in it all have high individual value re. time watched.

    • Ryan Mendenhall

      I agree with your deduction Ronnie, I think it's about the individual video mainly, but of course with a residual effect to the channel. YT has said that the more consistent your content is the more views over time you'll get.