YouTube is a highly successful video sharing platform created by three former PayPal employees: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. Seeing its massive potential, YouTube was acquired by Google on October 9, 2006, at US$1.65 billion. It turns out, Google made a very wise business decision. Today, YouTube has become the world’s second-largest search engine and the most popular video sharing platform in the world with an estimated 1.3 billion users on YouTube. 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every day, and 300 hours worth of videos are uploaded to YouTube every single minute! Knowing this, can you really afford not to optimise your video content for it? Unlike Google algorithms, YouTube rankings work in a slightly different way. Without further ado, let’s jump into the first ranking factor:
Video Engagement Metrics
In text-based search, content is king. When it comes to video, content is still king! Create a video content so good, that it simply goes through the roof. YouTube takes the cue from how your audience interacts with your video to gauge the quality of your video. Here are some of the most important video engagement metrics and what you can do to optimise them.
1. Click Through Rate (CTR)
The percentage of viewers that clicked on your video when it appears in the search results along with dozens of other videos. YouTube sees every click as an indicator of good and relevant video content. Over time, a video with higher CTR will perform better in the search results, while a video with a lower CTR will move down in the rankings. You can improve your CTR by creating an attractive thumbnail, a compelling video title and a striking video description.
2. View Count
The number of times your video was being watched, the higher the better. However, view count alone doesn’t accurately reflect the content quality of a video. A click-baiting video can easily rack up the view counts even if the viewer closes the video after 10 seconds. This is why over the years YouTube has improved its algorithm to also look into a video’s watch time and user retention time. Which brings us to point no. 3 and 4 below:
3. Watch Time
The time spent watching your video is a good measure of how well your content can sustain people’s interest. Based on how well you’re performing, you might want to change your content delivery strategy or adjust the video length. To make people spend more time watching your video, work on good content and provide value. Practice caution when creating lengthy videos, only do so if it makes sense for your content niche.
4. Video Retention Time
The average portion of your video that people watch. Basically, you don’t want people to drop off in the middle of your video. Under the perfect scenario, a viewer should watch your video all the way to its end and gives you a 100% video retention time. Realistically, a 70%-90% video retention time is what you’ll be trying to hit. To improve this metric, work on the quality of your content. People are impatient and do not like to have their time wasted, so deliver your value early and quickly. Provide sneak previews of what’s coming up next to make people stay on your video.
5. Number of Comments
When was the last time you left a comment on a YouTube video? If you’re like me, you can easily watch around 10-15 YouTube videos per day but hardly ever leave a comment on the videos. The number of comments has a strong correlation with YouTube search rankings because it shows that the video has successfully elicited a response from the audience, good or bad. Ask a question and urge your audience to leave a comment. Reply to the comments promptly.
6. Number of Social Shares
If your video gets a lot of shares and reshares on popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, YouTube will take notice. A video that is worth sharing on social media is almost certainly one with good content. Nobody shares and likes crappy videos. A YouTube that has gone viral will usually be featured prominently at the top of the YouTube Search results. Therefore, get the word out there by sharing your videos on every social profile, forums and blogs available.
7. Number of Likes vs Dislikes
“Likes” are obviously good but opinions are divided on the number of “dislikes”. Some say that the number of dislikes will make your rankings plunge. I beg to disagree because your video has to be interesting enough for people to even click on the dislike button. Don’t sweat on the number of dislikes, they all contribute towards your engagement scores. Think of it this way, if your video violates the YouTube guideline in any way, people can just use the report button to bring it to YouTube’s attention, am I right? Use CTA to encourage likes to your video!
8. Number of Subscribes-After-Watching
If a viewer subscribes to your channel following viewing one of your videos, it sends a strong signal to YouTube that your video is probably quite amazing. YouTube will improve the rankings of amazing videos to serve the best video content to viewers. Encourage your viewers to subscribe to your channel!
Your channel is the face that represents your identity. Do not be so tied up in making outstanding videos but neglect your channel’s overall performance. After all, potential subscribers like to browse your channel page to see your content direction before making up their mind. Channel can show up in search results, so your video is only as good as your channel. How to optimise your channel and see the big picture about your videos’ performance? Let’s find out.
1. Number of Views
How many people are drawn to view your channel homepage? Do you provide a good description, profile picture, cover picture, and links to all your social properties and website to pique interest and gain trust from your audience?
2. Number of Subscribers
In general, channels with a higher subscription base are going to rank higher than those with a lower subscription base.
3. Viewers-to-Subscribers Ratio
Create content that resonates with your audience and delivers value to them. You can find this data in the Creator Studio dashboard. Just compare the number of views against the number of subscribers. Videos that receive 20% of their subscriber view count within the first 48 hours will continue to perform well indefinitely. The average ratio of views-to-subscribers is 14%. If you have 100,000 subscribers, your videos should have around 14,000 views from the subscribers.
4. Engagement-to-Views Ratio
Go to “analytics overview” in Creator Studio. You should be able to sum up the number of engagements by adding up the total number of likes, dislikes, shares and comments. A higher engagement rate is usually better because if nobody cares about your videos, they won’t even bother. You can also drill down to individual videos to see which videos performed well. The industrial average for a good comment-to-views ratio is 0.5%, while a good like-to-views ratio is 4%. Simply put, for every 1000 views that you get on your video, it should receive at least 5 comments and 40 likes.
5. Organic View Count
To measure how well your videos are performing in YouTube’s ranking algorithm, you will want to see how many views are coming from organic source rather than paid advertisements. Go to “traffic source” under analytics, and exclude “YouTube advertising”. The rest of the view counts are all organic.
6. Views Via YouTube Search
Indicates how well people can find your videos through YouTube’s search. All YouTube Search are organic views, but not all organic views belong to the YouTube Search. Here, you can drill down and get a feel of videos with extraordinary high rankings. This probably means that YouTube may rank your channel highly for those search terms. Creating more videos around those terms and optimising their title/description/tag will help you take advantage of that.
7. Suggested Video Count
How often your videos show up as the suggested video. The more the better. You can improve your odds of showing up in the suggested video by optimising the video title, description, video tags and channel tags. Find out which videos performed well, and try to replicate the success.
8. Play Lists Count
How often your viewers arriving on your videos through the playlists. Discover which playlists are working well and which ones are not, and why. Based on your findings, you can optimise your playlists. A few things to play with: playlist title, playlist thumbnail, number of videos in the playlist, the video grouping of the playlists.
9. Watch Time
Self-explanatory, the total time spent by viewers on watching the videos on your channel. The more the better.
10. Audience Retention Performance
Go to Creator Studio “Audience Retention report” under Analytics Watch Time Reports. You can see the percentage watched for each video. From there, you can gauge which are the top and worst performing videos for your channel, and analyse why they did so. When you create new videos, you can then apply these insights to maximise audience retention.
Unlike Google, YouTube doesn’t have the luxury of backlink analysis for videos. Therefore, its primary ranking factor is based on user experience and user engagement with the videos. The logic is simple but also brutally effective: if a video is awesome, you are more likely to engage with the video by watching it till the end, share it with friends and leave a comment. The opposite is also true. We hope these simple tips can shed some light into the YouTube ranking factors and help your videos rank higher.
To understand more about Search Engine Optimisation on Google, go to our earlier article on the topic of SEO.