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YouTube Retention Rate Thrives on Simple Tips

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YouTube retention rates

A higher YouTube retention rate relies on just a few basic tips for engaging viewers. Higher retention is a quality signal that leads to more views and better rankings.

What is YouTube retention? It is the percentage of time that viewers watch a video before they leave it.

How to Find the Retention Rate

In the YouTube Studio, click on Analytics in the left column. Scroll down and click on See More in the middle. Scroll below the chart to see Average Percentage Viewed for each video.

The audience report will show the average view duration in minutes and seconds. It also will show the percentage of time that viewers spend with the videos in a channel.

The report breaks down the view time and percentage viewed for each individual video. It averages them for a channel total. That percentage offers some important insights on how to manage a channel.

POLL: What is your YouTube retention rate?

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Why is Retention Rate Important?

Tip: Retention rates above 70 percent mean the video can be longer. Longer videos increase advertising potential, monetization and total viewer time.

The retention rate is one piece of information that tells YouTube something about the quality of the video. It also tells YouTube publishers some important insights as well.

If a video has a low retention rate, it’s pretty compelling evidence that the video has quality problems or is simply too long. The retention rate isn’t the only piece of information that suggests something about video quality. Other hints include:

  1. The number of likes
  2. Number of shares
  3. Number of comments
  4. Growth in channel subscribers

But the viewership percentage carries weight for obvious reasons. It tells YouTube algorithms a key clue about how viewers react to the video. This clue is one of many that go into how a video is ranked in YouTube search results.

Tip: Compare the videos with the best and worst retention rates for clues about why they vary so much.

The retention rate also is useful to the publishers of high-quality videos with good retetion rates. An extremely high rate on a quality video may indicate that the video has potential to go longer. Long videos with high retention rates increase total watch time, which YouTube values for placing ads. As a result, revenue for the publisher goes up as well.

An extremely low rate on a quality video may indicate that the video is too long for the subject and the audience. In that case, the publisher is putting too much time and effort into the video and needs to cut back on future related videos.

What is a Good Retention Rate?

Tip: Increase the retention rate to more than 50 percent.

Searches on “average youtube retention rate” produce numbers all over the place with no consensus.

In many cases, YouTube publishers say their average rate is below 50 percent, meaning that viewers quit watching their videos less than halfway through them. The best numbers average between 60 and 70 percent. A small travel channel produced by this company is 64 percent.

For the sake of having any benchmark, it’s safe to say that a publisher should strive for an audience retention rate above 50 percent.

Using 50 percent as the minimum is important for one other reason. If people aren’t watching more than half of the video, it once again is proof that the publisher has invested too much time in it. Why put extra work into a video to make it longer if enough people don’t watch it? It’s better to put that time into new videos. The low rate also may mean that the quality isn’t good enough to keep viewers in it.

How to Achieve a High Retention Rate

Tip: Match the summary and description with the content of the video.

YouTube description

© 2019 by Scott S. Bateman

Misleading YouTube summaries, which YouTube takes from the first paragraph of the description, show up as abstracts in search results.

A misleading description or summary will attract viewers who are more likely to leave the video quickly in disappointment, which lowers the retention rate.

Although it is tempting to write whatever it takes to attract a viewer, the long-term result is lower retention and the risk of lower search rankings.

Tip: Use multiple video angles, images and sounds to make the video more appealing. 

Look at the top-ranked videos in the same category or search terms. What do their publishers do to make them more appealing?

Otherwise, ome extra tips will lead to a higher YouTube retention rate:

  1. Keep the first few videos short until the right length becomes obvious.
  2. Focus on quality over quantity.
  3. Keep the subject narrowly focused.
  4. Use accurate titles and descriptions.

Tip: Ignore the “experts” who say you should produce the longest videos possible.

Subject matter is a major factor in video length. Consider the following example.

Five videos on a similar topic are about five minutes long. Each one has an average retention of 30 percent. If the next video is three minutes long and has a retention of 60 percent, it indicates that shorter is better for that topic or type of video. It’s also a better use of the publisher’s time.

A great three-minute video will get more comments and shares than a bad 10-minute video. Quality matters more than quantity.

If the average length of videos in a channel is 10 minutes, and the average retention is 30 percent, try producing more 5 minute videos instead for a 60 percent retention. Even better, it doubles the number of new videos.

Tip: Keep subject matter tightly focused.

Other than entertainment and a few other subjects, YouTube visitors look for help about highly specific topics. A video about the 1967 Corvette sports car is more specific and will get higher retention than a video about Corvettes in general.

Accurate titles and descriptions manage the expectations of the viewers. For example, a video about the “Best Time to Visit Aruba” has a great retention rate and many likes until it veers off onto general Aruba travel tips. Then the retention takes a dive. Watch for sudden dives in other videos for clues about what in the video is sending people away.

Once the retention rate goes up, so will the video ranks on YouTube and Google. Good retention delivers more audience and is a more productive use of a publisher’s time.

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