YouTube watch time is one of the most important metrics when it comes to monetization.
For starters, you need 4,000 watch hours before you can join YouTube’s Partner Program to start earning money from ads. (You also need 1,000 subscribers, but we cover how to get there in depth in this article.)
After that, watch time remains one of the most important engagement metrics you can showcase when it comes to looking for brand collaborations. This goes for monetizing Shorts, too!
Plus, the more time people actually spend watching your videos, the higher your ad earnings are going to be, and the more likely it is that YouTube’s algorithm will boost your content.
So, how can you increase your YouTube watch time? Here are six strategies to help you take off.
Give Your Videos A Killer Hook
First off, your video needs an amazing opening.
If the start of your video is lame, viewers will drop right back to their search results.
You only have a few seconds to convince your audience to hang around. So how do you do that?
One way to go is to include a teaser. Put one of the most exciting moments of your video right at the beginning to hook your audience.
Another strategy – especially for tutorial videos – is to give your audience a quick run-down of what to expect. That way, they’ll know if your content is right for them and that it’s worth sticking with.
Professor Heather Austin lets viewers know exactly what skills they’ll learn in her video – in the first 15 seconds.
Pro-tip: People have also been using Shorts – as well as other vertical video, like TikToks and Reels – as teasers for long-form content, especially for posting on other social media.
If done well, the Shorts algorithm will further promote these remixes, pulling in even more viewers.
Optimize Your Videos for SEO
Another important step to increase your YouTube watch time is to get serious on SEO. SEO – Search Engine Optimization – is a set of practices that can help you boost your content’s visibility by making sure that YouTube’s algorithm can index it properly.
This involves researching the keywords that your target audience uses to search for content, and then strategically including these keywords in your title, tags, video script, description, and chapters. (Check out our full guides on how to use YouTube SEO to boost your channel and find content ideas.)
Video SEO can help you increase your watch time in two ways. First, it helps you win over YouTube’s algorithm so that your content shows up in recommendations and search results. And second, it makes sure that you actually reach the right target audience – people who are interested in the kind of content you create.
Livestreams are a fantastic way to boost your YouTube watch time – though indirectly.
For one thing, livestreams are far longer than regular videos, keeping viewers watching for much more extensive periods at a time.
For another, you can interact directly with your audience. When it comes to watch time, keeping people engaged is everything.
Live streams let you do that by allowing people to leave real-time comments, respond to questions, and give you input.
Note, though, that streaming itself doesn’t count towards watch time. You have to publish the finished stream as a video. There are plenty of people who’ll want to catch up with you, though, and their views will count.
On a related note: If you can avoid it, you should not unpublish or delete your videos. Only public watch time is registered, so by setting videos to private or removing them entirely, you directly reduce the number.
Use YouTube Studio to Analyze Your Content’s Performance
You’re producing great content, but your watch time is still lagging? Time to hit YouTube Studio to figure out where the problem lies.
The analytics tab in YouTube Studio gives you in-depth insights into which parts of your videos are the most-watched. And which parts fail to capture your audience.
Once you identify the points in your videos where viewer numbers drop, you can go back and see what works and what doesn’t. Studio, of course, offers you a whole lot of other metrics to help you grow your channel.
This will help you improve your future content and the structure of your video scripts.
Increase Your Video Length
Another strategy to help you increase your YouTube watch time is to start making longer videos.
If your videos are only a few minutes long, you need a much larger audience to reach your watch time goals.
By making individual pieces of content longer, you can leverage loyal viewers to seriously drive up your watch hours.
If you do decide to go for long-form content to increase your YouTube watch hours, make sure to leverage chapters.
YouTube chapters help you structure your videos and give your audience a better sense of what to expect.
Especially for long videos, they are essential for boosting watch time because they let viewers know when you cover the things that interest them most – and skip right ahead.
Imagine you’re watching a Python coding tutorial, but you only need a specific piece of information to solve the problem you’re having. If the video is 20 minutes long and you don’t know if it even contains the solution you’re looking for, you probably won’t check it out. But if you see in the chapters that it’s covered in-depth from minute 15 onwards, you’ll stick around.
The Bottom Line
There are no quick and easy fixes to magically increase your watch time overnight. Contrary to what some companies will try to tell you, you also can’t sustainably buy engagement (really, don’t).
But by systematically implementing the strategies above, you can sustainably boost your YouTube watch hours.
Make sure to hook your audience from the beginning and keep them engaged. Harness live streams and chapters. Increase your video length and invest effort into analytics and SEO.
These steps can help you reach your watch time goals and supercharge your monetization strategy.
Make sure to hook your audience from the start with an amazing opening. Leverage live streams to engage with your audience in real time. Use YouTube SEO to win over the platform’s algorithm and boost your content’s visibility. Increase your video length and harness chapters. Analyze your videos’ performance to see which retention strategies work and which don’t.
In order to join YouTube’s partner program, you need 4,000 watch hours. The more watch hours you have, though, the more money you’ll be able to earn off ads. Plus, watch time is an important metric for YouTube’s algorithm.
Yes. If the same viewers come back to your video to watch it several times, it absolutely counts as watch time. However, it only counts as a view if they stick around for at least 30 seconds.