As far as ranking factors on YouTube go, Session Time is up there with the big boys.
Why? Well YouTube don’t have to do much to get people on to their platform, people are linking to it and sharing videos left right and centre, but to make real money they need users to stay around and watch more videos.
This means that if your videos lead to longer sessions for YouTube users, even if they aren’t watching your videos anymore, your video will be rewarded as the “gateway” video to a long session.
This isn’t in your direct control like some other optimization tactics I’ve discussed on FAQ Tube but there are definitely things that you can do to optimize for longer session times.
Better search rankings and more of your videos being surfaced in the Suggested Videos sidebar. Now who doesn’t want more of that?
Follow these steps to help you achieve this:
5 steps to generate longer YouTube session times 1) Optimized SEO
If viewers are going to go on and watch a shed-load of other videos after the gateway video they may as well be yours right?
Easier said than done I know.
But if your channel and videos are optimized for SEO as much as possible you’ll see the amount of Suggested Videos belonging to you go up.
This also has the advantage in that the more Suggested Videos that belong to you the less chance there is of users being recommend a lower quality video that may cause them to end a session.
In terms of having a direct influence over session times I think that Playlists may be the most effective method. So much so that I wrote a dedicated article about them – check it out here.
3) End Card calls to action
Keep end boards (or end cards) short and sweet and most importantly, relevant to the video that’s just been viewed.
Give them few choices to prevent indecision and inaction (see point 5 here) and do it in the following ways – 1 being optimal and going in order from there:
1 – A human, in-vision, giving a verbal call to action and physically pointing where to click
2 – A human in-vision giving a verbal call to action
3 – Voiceover telling people where to click
4 – Burned in graphical call to action
5 – Note annotation call to action
4) Link out (with caution)
YouTube is part of Google and Google loves links.
External links to relevant sites tell Google that you’re trying to give the user all they need to solve their problem. It’s because of this that I advise placing external links in your descriptions.
However, any link that takes a viewer off-platform is a huge risk to that current session so use with caution. Link only to your own properties if it helps your wider business and external parties if it’s likely to be detrimental to your viewers if excluded.
Of course you can be as liberal as you like with internal YouTube links and in fact it will help your ranking to promote other people’s content.
5) Promote discussion
The amount of comments and engagement your video gets will have an effect (even if only small) on the ranking and surfacing of your videos.
Add to this that time spent on the watch page of your videos while in discussion increases viewers’ session time and it makes sense to switch out some of those subscribe calls to action for some request to comment.
The tracking of session time is nigh on impossible and so is often overlooked but the 5 steps outlined above are all easy to implement and are the kind of best practices that you should already be carrying out.
Ultimately if you scratch YouTube’s back by increasing session time they’ll scratch yours by making it easier for people to find your videos.
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