What is Watch Time?
Watch time is the main metric that YouTube’s algorithm uses when deciding on how high it should rank your videos.
This is both the length of time people spend watching your video and the length of time people spend on YouTube after watching it.
Why Watch Time?
About 2 years ago YouTube used the number of views a video had as the main determiner of where it should rank in the search results.
This was quite easily scammed. Not only could you buy views, but a very easy way of getting people to click on your video is to have an enticing thumbnail (normally of a scantily dressed attractive woman) and an exaggerated title which may or may not have anything to do with the video people will see when they click to view it.
If YouTube carried on like that then the whole place would be filled with spam videos and no one would want to spend any time on the site.
So to fix the issue they incorporated watch time into their algorithm because this is much harder to fake.
How Do I find My Video’s Watch Time?
If you check out your audience retention reports in your YouTube Analytics you can find out when the majority of people are leaving your videos. A quick refresher on where to find these is in this article.
Looking at these reports you can see the parts of your video where large amounts of people are leaving, this can tell you things that people don’t like and therefore help you stop them from leaving in the future.
Similarly, looking for patterns in when people are leaving will tell you something. e.g. if people aren’t even getting past your intro then maybe it is too long or too boring or cheap looking.
How To Improve Watch Time
Making sure that your thumbnail and your video’s metadata(Title, description, etc.) accurately describe what the video contains is a good way of increasing viewtime. If people are disappointed that you aren’t delivering what was promised then that is only going to hurt your video.
Try creating playlists and organising your content in a way that once someone has finished seeing one video they will be shown other videos of yours which are related that they might want to watch.
Another way of achieving the same thing is to use the custom outros or annotations directing people to similar videos.
This way when people reach the end of your video they aren’t shown a load of related videos that other people have made, but rather can be directed, by you, to stay on your channel.
How to Use Watch Time to Improve Rankings
Well the key is not to care too much about writing a headline that will draw the most people in, nor to care about having the perfect length video that will make people watch the longest. But rather to create videos that will keep people watching through to the end, and then once there to give them a reason to keep watching more videos.