Why Minutes Watched is so Important aka How to Get Your Videos Recommended by YouTube

The golden metric for getting into the recommended videos section on YouTube is not subscribers. It’s not views. It’s not likes. It’s minutes watched.

Why? Let’s get into it.

Why should I care about minutes watched?

Well first because it means that people are enjoying your video content. But secondly, because that’s what YouTube cares about. And YouTube decides what to put into the recommended videos section. That’s right, it’s all about getting into the recommended videos.

YouTube decides what videos to put in the recommended bar by guessing what the viewer will watch the most minutes of next.

Over 400 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, so just uploading isn’t enough. How do you get into the recommended section instead of all those other videos? How do you get your videos on the YouTube homepage? The answer is to have very good minutes watched.

Still not convinced?

First ask yourself what does YouTube care about? They want people to use their site! What better way to measure how much the site gets used than minutes of video watched. It’s pretty simple. They want people to visit YouTube and to keep watching! How do they know if people are watching? They keep track of minutes viewed.

This video explains it in detail around the five minute mark

So moving forward to how they decide what to put into the recommended section… Well, it’s complex. But the short answer is they put things there based on what they think the viewer will want to watch! The key thing is to remember that YouTube wants people to watch more minutes of YouTube videos. That could mean a short video that lots of people watch, and then watch another video after. That could mean a longer video that people tend to watch a lot of.

Got it. Makes sense. What do I do now?

Glad you asked. Here are three counter-intuitive tricks we’ve found to try and boost your minutes watched number and get you into the right rail more often.

1. Consider trimming your video to make it the right length.

We’ve talked about this a little bit in our other posts with the 5 second rule for video, but keeping your viewer interested is the only way to get more minutes watched. How long should your video be? How long is the interesting part of your story? Or in Freddie Wong’s words, the material of your videos must match the run time.

How can you check this? Simply look at your audience retention figures in YouTube analytics. When you see a drop off in your content you know that those are the points where people have become “uninterested.”

The intro to this video might be too long. Lots of drop off early on.
This video looks pretty good, but around the 2 minute mark the numbers start to sag. It might be better to just trim the video around 2:30s and move users into the next video.

2. Close Caption your video.

When you add the right information to your video, YouTube can do a better job of matching it to viewers who might want to see it. YouTube is sort of like a matchmaker and it does a really good job of making perfect couples for both viewers and videos. And it’s a Google thing, so the more data the better job it can do!

Think about the amount of information YouTube has for your video.

YouTube’s special sauce is how it matches viewers with videos they love!

Very interestingly this is why closed captioning is actually a big help for being recommended. It gives a lot of data, that data is extremely relevant to what the video is about, and as another benefit makes it easier for YouTube to show the video to people who speak different languages.

3. Consider deleting videos (and social media posts)

You: “Whaaaat?”

Us: “Yeah, it’s actually a valuable way to grow once you have enough videos”

You might have heard of this as “heaters and deleters” — which emerged from the Vine community. The idea is that once you’ve got enough videos you want to maintain a high level of interest for people who visit you. You want to increase the odds that the next video that they see is something they’ll like. One way to do that is to add more videos that do well — but that’s actually very hard to do as we’ve discussed before. The other is to trim away videos that are some of your worst performers.

Take a look at your audience retention figures for each of your videos. If you’ve got at least 20 videos on your page, consider removing the two worst performers in terms of audience retention.

We say consider, because this isn’t an absolute rule. If your worst video has 95% completion rates we’d never tell you to remove it. Likewise, if your best video has 30% retention at 15s we’d be hesitant to tell you to remove one with 25%. The important thing is that you pay attention so that you can increase your minutes watched, so that you can get into the recommended section, so that you can delight your fans!

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Originally published at blog.epoxy.tv.