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Watch time optimisation tips

Watch time is the amount of time that a viewer has spent watching a video. It can give you a sense of what content viewers actually watch (as opposed to videos that they click on and then abandon).

YouTube uses watch time as a metric in our algorithm for suggesting videos. The algorithm prioritises videos that lead to longer overall watch time or viewing sessions, rather than videos that get more clicks. If viewers watch your videos beyond the first click, those videos are likely to be suggested more often.

The idea behind the algorithm is that viewers can see more enjoyable content suggested to them, and creators can cultivate more engaged audiences. You can use the tips below to optimise your videos for higher watch time.

Use reports to see what's working

You can use YouTube Analytics to see what videos are successful at keeping viewers watching:

  • Watch time report: Find out which of your videos has the greatest watch times and view-through rates.
  • Audience retention report: See which of your videos have low watch times and view-through rates. Recurring dips or decreases in audience retention graphs may mean there is a common reason why viewers abandon the videos.
  • Audience engagement reports: See which of your videos drive community actions like comments, favourites and likes.

Attract viewers with title and thumbnail

Your video thumbnail and title are the first thing that a viewer sees when your video is suggested to them. Use these tips to make engaging content:

  • Create descriptive thumbnails that show a quick snapshot of your video. 
  • Use compelling titles for your videos that accurately represent the content (don’t use misleading thumbnails or titles).
  • Translate your titles, descriptions and captions by having your community add subtitles.

Keep viewers watching with video techniques

  • Be an effective editor: Create a compelling opening to your videos and then use programming, branding and packaging techniques to maintain and build interest throughout the video.
  • Build your subscriber base: Subscribers are your most loyal fans and will be notified of new videos and playlists to watch.
  • Engage your audience: Involve your audience in your videos and encourage comments and interact with your viewers as part of the content.

Organise and programme your content

  • Build long watch-time sessions for your content by organising and featuring content on your channel, including using series playlists.
  • Create a regular release schedule for your videos when uploading to encourage viewers to watch sets of videos over single videos. You can even schedule video publish time.
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