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I strongly encourage you to read the full correlation analysis of the YouTube ranking factors here, however, if you just want the recap, this is the post for you. The primary findings of the native ranking factors, is that Watch Time and Viewer Retention is not as highly ranked on the list, as you would probably believe, considering that it’s an official ranking factor.
Instead, we found that user engagement, that is Likes/Dislikes/Comments and more, correlated much more highly with better rankings. And an even bigger surprise, was that if we group various metrics together, “classic” metrics such as total views, length, and more, was the grouping that correlated the highest.
The biggest correlation across the board, was user engagement with the video. Whether this is a mere correlation, or part of the ranking algorithm, is too early to tell – but anyone would be nuts not to try and up engagement as much as possible.
This is rather easily done by asking a thoughtful question at the end of the video, that the users can respond to in the comments. Another easy way, is to briefly explain that them liking (or disliking, as we saw) has a major positive effect on the channel, and really helps out the creator.
But as we’ll see next, keeping engagement rates from dropping, as views go up, prove difficult for many.
It’s relatively common knowledge, that as views go up (a lot up), comparatively engagement rarely follows suit. However, it’s quite surprising to see just how much engagement drops, when looking at the average top 5 videos of competitive results.
Likes/Dislikes per view drops down to a meagre 6 per 1.000 views. Comments drop down even further, to just 0,56 per 1000 views, or 56 comments per 10.000 views, which is astonishingly low.
If that’s the case, then engaging your viewers becomes a much more precious task than previously believed, and it would appear that while many channels might be able to engage their large subscriber lists, they tend to be bad at engaging viewers who merely organically find their videos.
The average video length is just over 21 minutes – for some channel types, such as gaming, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise. But for many marketers, this might shock them. Many still believe, that people on the internet have increasingly short attention spans, and within some areas or fields, I’m sure that’s still true.
Clearly, however, YouTube is not one of these areas. Sure, it might still have been like this in the past – after all, there was a time where most channels couldn’t even upload videos longer than ten minutes at all! But these days, people want a deep-dive, they want information that isn’t just shallow, but actually goes into the nitty gritty and explains everything. They want something they can sit down, relax, and just watch and enjoy, without having to change video 4 minutes later.
In this regard, people on YouTube are acting a lot like TV viewers – after all, a TV series isn’t a 5-minute short, it’s 30 minutes. And even then, most popular shows these days, have gone on to be 1-hour long episodes. It’s possible, that we’re starting to see a small backlash towards the increasingly clickbait-heavy content on the internet, that rarely dives deeper into the subject matter.
The average Viewer Retention for a Top 5 video, is 82,6%. Some might have expected it higher (and yes, there were videos that outright had over 100% viewer retention (most likely by the same viewer watching parts of the clip over and over)), but it’s certainly bad news for others.
From channels that I have worked with, I can say that the average Viewer Retention for many brand channels, is closer to around 60%, than it is to 80%.
So if you dive into your YouTube Analytics, and look at the viewer retention for the videos you have released, and see them under 80%, then you now have a prime area to start focusing on. Combining this with increasingly longer videos, is probably where the true potential lies for many channels.
If you’re a new channel on YouTube, and you’re struggling, it’s no surprise. Larger channels dominate the top results of competitive searches massively – the average amount of subscribers for a channel, that has a video in top 5, is a massive 2.943.392.
If that wasn’t enough, the average videos those channels have available, is 1.864!
This isn’t all that surprising really. Channels that have a very large amount of subscribers, automatically gain the Total Watch Time to rank on nearly any term that aim for, simply by “brute force”. Further, if channels regularly create content (many large channels release videos several times a day), chances are much bigger that at least a few of them, will end up (by the power of Watch Time) as the top results for highly competitive searches.
This could also explain why videos for these results, were all relatively new. While a few videos popped up, that were several years old, the vast majority were less than 1 month old. If these videos are released by channels that release new content all the time, with a high level of Watch Time, it’s not all that surprising that different channels would continually compete over the top results, creating the correlation that newer videos tend to do better.
Next on the schedule, is analysing data for relevancy factors – that is, factors such as keyword density in the description, exact match vs. broad match keywords in the title of the video, keywords in subtitles and Words per Minute, and more. I hope to have this data out, in about a month, but it could be a bit more. Drop by now and then, or sign up to the newsletter, to get a heads up when I release the data! See you around, and best of luck with your channel!