Many of us have woken up to an email this morning announcing YouTube’s new conditions for monetizing your channel. Coming into force on February 20th you can only monetize your channel if you have got 1,000 subscribers and also have 4,000 watched hours in the past year.
We know that many smaller vloggers are feeling a bit sad and deflated by the news. For many of us, 4,000 hours of watch time (equivalent to around 20,000 minutes view time per month) is a pretty high target. On my own channel, I have several videos with over 15,000 views, yet the channel doesn’t meet the watch time target.
However, let’s not despair!
Rather than feeling disheartened, try some of our tips and techniques to increase your YouTube watch time. And of course, the more time people spend watching your videos, the more your subscriber numbers will grow!
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Find Out Your Watched Hours
The first step in improving watch time is finding out what it is. To do this, log into YouTube and open your Creator Studio. Once here, click on ‘analytics’ in the left hand menu, and change the view to “the last 365 days” at the bottom of the chart that appears. This will tell you how many minutes people spent watching your videos overall during that time period. Your target of 4,000 hours is equivalent to 240,000 minutes. If you’ve got that – congratulations! If not, you’re going to want to start to look at ways to increase your watch time. Here are some of our tips.
Post at the Right Time
One of the best ways to increase watch time is to give your video the very best chance of showing up in search results. After all, more views = more watch time!
You can see more detail in our post about When to Post on YouTube, but briefly speaking, we’d recommend posting around mid-afternoon during the week, which gives your video time to be indexed before peak viewing hours (8pm). Consider posting a little earlier on the weekends, and you might also consider days when Internet traffic generally is higher – which means posting later in the week and avoiding Mondays!
Did you know that people don’t need to be watching YOUR video to increase your watch time?
In fact, if a viewer starts watching your video and continues watching a playlist, it doesn’t matter if the subsequent videos belong to other people – you still get credit for that watch time. To get the benefit of this feature, ensure all your videos are in playlists and if you’re the sort of person who likes hanging out on YouTube, consider spending a little time creating Playlists featuring other people’s videos alongside your own.
Use Cards and End Slates
Once you’ve uploaded a video to YouTube there are a few tricks you can use to encourage people to continue watching rather than clicking off your video too quickly.
One of the most obvious is to use the YouTube Cards feature. This allows you to add an on-screen link at any point in your video to link to another video, channel or playlist.
Top tip for using cards on existing videos: look at your analytics and see the “view time” for your video. You’ll identify the point at which most viewers abandon that video. Put a card a couple of seconds before this offering the viewer a chance to watch a different, related video or playlist. The aim is to help keep those viewers on YOUR channel or playlist rather than ending their watch time.
When using End Slates, you can use exactly the same technique of directing viewers to another of your videos, or a longer playlist. Be sure to also add a link to subscribe to the end of each video.
Have a Teaser
Often, when people watch a YouTube video, they get bored quickly. You’ll know this is happening to you if your view time on a video shows a large drop after just a few seconds of your video. It’s hurtful to see, but it happens.
The good news is you can reduce this by having the BEST, most EXCITING part of your video right at the start as a sort of teaser. Keep watching to see THIS is the unspoken message.
This is why you’ll often see recipe videos opening with a shot of the almost finished dish, or funny videos opening with a great FAIL moment – before the channel titles or logo kicks in.
If that’s not appropriate even a quick, “Hey, this video will be about…” at the start of your video will be great for watch time. Lots of YouTubers also use the technique of saying, “Watch to the end to see…” and then add bloopers, or a giveaway at the end of the video, to help encourage people not to click off too soon.
Tell People What to Expect
One of the most common reasons for low watch time on YouTube videos is people clicking away because the video content isn’t what’s expected. You might think a click-bait title and thumbnail is amazing for view numbers (and it can be) but it’s TERRIBLE news for watch time. There’s little point in having a video have 10,000 views if 9,900 of those people only watched for five seconds.
Our very best advice in this regard is to make sure your title, thumbnail and description accurately reflect what’s in the video. Your overall views may go down, but your overall watch time (which is a far more important metric) will go up.
Use Your Analytics
We can’t stress enough that YouTube Analytics are your absolute best friend when it comes to watch time.
When you are growing a channel, watch time is far better indicator of success than video views or subscriber numbers, both of which are easily manipulated, and can be misleading.
Try to get into the habit of watching which videos get the best watch time. Try and spot things that you do in videos that cause people to click away – you might realize that your opening titles are too long, or your viewers prefer videos with practical step by step instructions rather than lifestyle shots. It’s all about testing and experimenting – and hopefully having fun!