3 Indications Your YouTube Video Is Too Long

By Jeff Pelletier January 28, 2014 Hosting, Metrics, Strategy
Jeff Pelletier

Jeff Pelletier

Jeff is the co-founder and CEO of Basetwo Media, a video production agency in Vancouver that helps businesses get results with video.

how long should a youtube video be

Using YouTube for marketing your business, but not getting the results you were hoping for? Your video might be too long.

YouTube can be a great way to promote a business. It has a massive built-in audience and is the 2nd largest search engine in the world after Google. The problem, and one of the reasons we tend to recommend that businesses host videos on their own website instead of on YouTube, is the huge number of videos competing for viewers' attention (but that's a different discussion altogether).

A video marketing campaign's success is often measured by conversions, but even the best call-to-action can only be effective if a viewer actually makes it through your video to see it! So what's a web video marketer to do?

Take a look at your video's analytics for the 3 indications your YouTube video is too long below. By following a few simple tips, you can beat the clock and have more success in the future.

1) Viewers Are Leaving Early

Ever notice that prime-time television shows always start with a great opening scene before showing the opening credits, and not the other way around? That's because viewers tend to decide pretty quickly whether or not to continue watching - and this is even more true on the web.

Take a look at your video's audience engagement report. If there is a sharp decline right at the start of your video, it may be an indication that your video is taking too long to deliver the goods.

Your Video Starts to Slowly

According to YouTube, the first 15 seconds of a video are the most important for viewer retention. This doesn't mean starting your video with car chases and explosions. Instead, you could set the stage for why they should keep watching by asking a question that will be answered by the end of the video, and then jump right into doing just that. Whatever you do, you probably shouldn't start your video with a lengthy animation of your company's logo.

The good news is that, for longer videos, once viewers do decide to watch they tend to stick around until the end of the video. That is, until they detect that the video might be wrapping up (see indication #3 below).

Keep in mind that it's normal to lose a certain number of viewers early-on for whom the video simply isn't relevant - they may have just stumbled upon it by accident while looking for Bieber videos.

2) Viewers Are Leaving Part-Way

Does the graph below look familiar? If so, your video may be dragging on a little longer than it should.

Viewers Leave Part-Way

There's certainly no such thing an an 'ideal' length for a video and sometimes it takes a certain amount of time to get a message across. But you need to consider how viewers are finding your video and how much time they might have been prepared to commit.

Often, retention is about simply matching a viewer's expectations. For example, someone looking for a solution to a problem which they feel should only take a minute to explain probably isn't going to sit through an 18 minute demonstration. This typically is a result of simply trying to express too many ideas within a single video.

You should instead create a series of videos, each on a single topic or key message. These videos can then be much better optimized for search with highly targeted keywords and thumbnail images.

3) Viewers Are Leaving Right Before It's Over

There's a pretty obvious reason that you don't see many credits at the end of videos on the web: Not unlike in a movie theatre, nobody sticks around to see them.

Viewers Leave Before It's Over

If you've indicated too soon to viewers that the video is coming to a close, you may see a sharp drop-off in viewer retention before your carefully crafted call-to-action can appear. These signs can be subtle, like when a song ends or a company logo appears.

Consider instead a harder stop to your video, or perhaps having a call-to-action appear on screen before the video comes to a full close. There's nothing wrong with incorporating a strong call-to-action right into your script either - like having a spokesperson ask the viewer directly to subscribe for more videos like the one they've just watched, or to visit your website for more information.

A Good Example

YouTube Video Length

Check out this excellent example that ties is all together from a website and YouTube channel called ReelSEO. Notice the following:

  • The video starts by telling you very briefly what you're about to learn if you keep watching. Only then does it go on to introduce the host and the series as a whole, playing the standard series logo sequence for branding and consistency.
  • The video is about one thing: 'How To Force YouTube Captions to be Turned On'. Highly optimized for search and very likely to leave a viewer feeling that their expectations were met.
  • Before wrapping-up, the presenter actually poses one more question that can only be answered by going to the company's website. Finally, additional CTA's are mentioned directly such as a call for comments and subscriptions, along with links to related videos.

So whether a product demonstration, a comedic web series, or a viral-style promotional piece, consider the above before saying "action" on your next video for YouTube.

Need help planning your YouTube marketing strategy? Contact us for a free consultation with one of our account managers.

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