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9 Ways to Increase Watch Time on Your YouTube Channel

The more people watch your videos, the more YouTube is likely to surface them in their search or recommendation features.

YouTube explains further: “Now when we suggest videos, we focus on those that increase the amount of time that the viewer will spend watching videos on YouTube, not only on the next view but also successive views thereafter.”

#YouTube suggests #videos that are likely to increase the time the viewer spends watching on the platform, says @anjan69230440 via @CMIContent. Share on X

That’s a lot of pressure – you not only have to attract viewers to watch your videos, but you’re supposed to attract the kind of viewers who will keep watching after they’re done with your channel.

Here are some ideas to increase watch time on your channel and, ultimately, to appear more frequently in search and recommendation results.

1.Start with an awesome intro

The first step is to hook your audience. Grab their attention in a flash- that’s what Google itself preaches too. The first 15 sec are your saving grace to make it happen.

Google’s YouTube Playbook for Brands and Agencies offers this advice:

  • Make the first frame compelling – visually, through personality, or with messaging.
  • Speak directly to the viewer, not the audience as a whole.
  • Ask a question or do something to spark their curiosity.
  • Preview what they can expect in a short clip.
Make the first frame of your video compelling with visuals, personality, or messaging, @Google advises via @anjan69230440 @CMIContent. Share on X

By using the meatier parts of your video initially, your audience is more likely to be glued to your content and continue to watch.

Here is an example from the YouTube channel Haylsa & Kyle about traveling to Tasmania:

Deliver on the promise

For visitors who stumble upon your video seeing only the title and thumbnail, make sure to provide at least some of what they expect in the beginning.

This video from Crouton Crackerjacks is a prime example of how to hook your audience in the first 15 seconds to keep watching a step-by-step tutorial.

TIP: Don’t start a video with a fancy logo in hopes of making it seem cool. Get straight to the point.

2. Break the video into chapters

Like chapters in books, YouTube’s chapters make things easier for viewers to better understand what will come next.

#YouTube chapters make it easier for viewers to follow the #video and know what comes next, says @anjan69230440 via @CMIContent. Share on X

Think about how to break up your videos into segments. Each chapter should have a compelling intro moment followed by an intriguing narrative. Outlines can be useful in this process.

In this example, The Ecom King published a Shopify drop-shipping course video that runs over 5.5 hours. Chapter titles are essential so viewers can pick up where they drop off or view the sections they’re most interested in.

Ecom King publishes the chapter description next to the watch time. A master timeline also is published in the video’s description:

TIP: Adding chapters based on timestamps requires you to take an extra step. Here are instructions from Google on how to do it.

3. Include pattern interrupt

Whether your viewers stick around or leave in droves boils down to one thing – engagement. Interrupting patterns makes that more likely.

When similar images and narratives repeat, people get bored, and the bounce rate climbs. But pattern interruptions can seize viewers’ attention for the long game.

HuffPost contributor Helen Roe explains, “A pattern interrupt is a technique to change a particular thought, behavior, or situation. Behavioral psychology and neuro-linguistic programming use this technique to interrupt and change thought patterns and behaviors.”

A pattern interrupt is a technique to change a particular thought, behavior, or situation, says @helen_roe. They can seize a viewers’ attention for the long game via @anjan69230440 via @CMIContent. Share on X

A pattern interrupt can be a frequent camera angle change, B-roll, or on-screen graphics. This example from Neil Patel illustrates how he incorporates graphics so it’s not just him speaking to the camera:

4. Do keyword research

You can’t escape the value of keywords just because it’s video. As you develop content ideas, make sure to do simple keyword research specifically for YouTube, the second largest search engine in the world.

Head over to a tool like Keyword Tool (change the default option to YouTube search) and type a topic related to your niche to understand its search interest (i.e., keyword volume).

You also can stay on YouTube and use its autocomplete suggestions for inspiration:

Or you can do a competitive analysis. Research your top five to seven competitors and see what they are doing on YouTube, from their tags and keywords to the content they deliver. Read the comments under their videos.

Don’t copy what they’re doing; use the information to get to know your target audience on a deeper level. You also use this research to find content gaps just waiting to be filled with your videos.

Read the comments on competitor #videos to get to know your target audience and to find #content gaps, says @anjan69230440 via @CMIContent. Share on X

5. Tell stories

Storytelling works for viewers who want to be entertained and those who want to learn. Explore how to convey your story in a unique and interesting way that your viewers will appreciate (i.e., keep watching).

Popular YouTuber Nas Daily both educates and entertains in almost every video he posts, like this one for green tourism:

TIP: No matter how long the video, think of it as a story both in the narrative and on-camera presentation.

6. Collaborate

Partner with like-minded people who share a similar vision and purpose as your brand to tell their stories. By working together, you can draw in viewers who normally watch your partners’ video channels, expand your audience, and increase your view time.

YouTuber Dhar Mann worked with Nas to tell his story, The Shocking Story of Nas Daily Quitting His 6-Figure Job!, on Dhar’s channel. To date, the video has earned over 12 million views:

TIP: Treat these partnerships as collaborations, not influencer marketing. The latter is all about getting new eyeballs on a product or service. Guest collaborations are more likely to create a feeling of shared values or feel authentic.

7. Create longer videos

A shorter video needs a bigger viewership to get the same total watch time as a longer video with fewer viewers. If you publish longer videos, you can make them more targeted to your niche audience and still get a watch time that YouTube’s algorithm likes.

When I searched about “social media strategy,” longer videos always seem to outperform the shorter ones:

TIP: Think about how to extend some of your existing but underperforming short videos. Once you publish the longer video, make those short videos private or delete them altogether.

8. Develop a series

A series of videos also is likely to add up to more watch time. By connecting related videos, you’re more likely to get your viewers to keep watching.

Cook John Kirkwood offers multiple playlists or series on his channel, including one on pies and pastries:

An image showing multiple playlists on John Kirkwood’s channel, Pies and Pasties.

TIP: Pick the video with the most views as the basis for your series or playlists. Then, come up with a bunch of ideas to add to the series.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: 5 Underused Video Ideas to Generate Leads

9.Use YouTube analytics

Examining your YouTube analytics lets you get an awesome insight into both the micro and macro views of your videos and your channel. You can see viewership in days, times, etc. You also can see data on the videos themselves. Of particular interest should be the drop-off times. Then, you can go back and see the content around those timestamps to assess what might not be working. You can take that information to revise those videos and to improve future videos.

A screenshot of YouTube analytics showing drop-off times.

Increase your viewers’ watch time

Enhancing your watch time is a surefire way to be more attractive to YouTube’s algorithm. As a result, your videos are more likely to surface in recommendations and search results.

It may take some time to implement everything, but you should start to see a healthy spike when you work on them one by one.

All tools mentioned in the article come from the author. If you have a recommended tool, please add it in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute