YouTube moves to favor video engagement over views
You may have to work a little harder to get your real estate videos to come up in search results.
On March 15, YouTube altered its recommendation system to make engagement, or time spent watching a video a stronger indicator than the initial click in determining which videos actually surface to a user. The change is to the ‘related video’ algorithm – the one that drives all the suggested videos (most often in the right margin) while you’re watching a video on YouTube.
Before the change, YouTube would track the length of views up to 30 seconds, primarily to make sure each click led to an actual view. Now it's tracking across longer timeframes to see if viewers watched two or three minutes of content.
Always one to favor the user, Google-owned YouTube believes that videos that are watched longer indicate stronger interest in the subject, hence a better video, and one more worthy of higher search engine results. Clicks are often a good indicator of popularity, but enticing thumbnails and alluring titles can mislead users into a lot of clicks for a marginal video.
And of course there’s a business reason at play too. Longer viewing means a better ad format, and engaged viewers are thought to be in a more receptive mind-set for brand advertising, a cluster of ad dollars largely untapped by YouTube. YouTube has invested $100 million to create content channels in anticipation of this change.
While the change in the algorithm is now pointing only at the internal YouTube recommendation system, it is a very powerful search medium – the second most powerful on the web, save for Google itself. On our YoChicago real estate video channel, just shy of 50% of our 60,000 video views in the past 30 days came from views resulting from links within YouTube.
YouTube has just begun to surface these ‘Time Watched’ metrics in their analytics, albeit as a data dump, but we can now see total views on any given day or week, total watch time and average watch time per view. We can now see that on a single day (June 6, 2012), the latest day of accessible metrics, over 700 YoChicago videos were viewed for an average of just over 2 minutes – a great showing in this age of fleeting interest.
Interesting to note is that YouTube does not indicate percentage of video watched, but appears to look at a video’s value in minutes viewed. That is not to say that a percentage calculation is not a part of the algorithm and it is pretty easy to figure out given their new metrics.
At this point, there is little reason to believe that Google search results won’t eventually pick up the change in focus and begin surfacing videos with high engagement over click rate. Videos with engaging content are going to be the winners in the search engine results pages.