I’m a great believer in the “rule of three.” It’s a writing principle that proposes that things which come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than two, four, or some other number of things. Now, if you doubt the primal power of this principle, then watch The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. So, I was struck recently when three – no more, no less – numbers that have shaped my understanding of YouTube video marketing suddenly “exploded” – blowing my assumptions about this video platform to tiny bits.

3 Big YouTube Numbers to Know

I count one as the press release from comScore, which was distributed on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, which announced that it had started reporting of new mobile video metrics for YouTube and its Partner Channels. My first response was, “It’s about time.” I’d stopped reporting on comScore’s monthly rankings of online video properties back in October 2013 when it became clear that they only reflected desktop data, while 40 percent of YouTube views back then were coming from mobile devices. But, the second sentence in the release hit me like a holy hand grenade. It said, “With 70 percent of YouTube viewing happening on mobile devices, this expansion of comScore measurement solutions now better captures that mobile consumption, enabling content owners that participate in the YouTube Partner Program to improve monetization for their cross-platform audiences across distribution channels.” Yes, that’s 70 percent! Hey, even YouTube’s statistics page says, “More than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices.” But, “more than half” sounds much more modest than 70 percent.

I count two as the post in Official YouTube Blog on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, which revealed that “people around the world are now watching a billion hours of YouTube’s incredible content every single day!” Apparently, this major milestone was passed sometime “last year.” Since YouTube’s watch times hit 100 million hours of video a day at the end of 2012, that’s a 10-fold increase in just four years.

Now, ridiculously big numbers are hard to visualize. So, Cristos Goodrow, the VP of engineering at YouTube, used this analogy put this major milestone in perspective. “If you were to sit and watch a billion hours of YouTube, it would take you over 100,000 years. 100,000 years ago, our ancestors were crafting stone tools and migrating out of Africa while mammoths and mastodons roamed the Earth,” he wrote.

I count three as a study by Matt Gielen, of Little Monster Media, entitled, “Reverse Engineering the YouTube Algorithm.” Now this shouldn’t be brand new news to savvy video marketers but it is worth reiterating just how important this information is for publishers, brands, and their marketing teams. His very rough view of how the YouTube algorithm is currently weighted gave “Watch Time” 85 percent, “Relevancy” 10 percent, and “Other” 5 percent. Gielen made it clear that “Watch Time” DOES NOT mean minutes watched. He said Watch Time is a combination of the following:

  • Session Starts, Video (25 percent);
  • Session Starts, Channel (20 percent);
  • View Duration, Channel Average (20 percent);
  • Upload Frequency (15 percent);
  • View Duration Video (10 percent);
  • Session Duration (5 percent)
  • Session Ends (5 percent)

Gielen states that in his view “the algorithm is designed to promote channels that are capable of uploading videos that get and keep a large swath of their niche audience watching. If you want to be successful on YouTube the best advice we can give you is to focus on one very specific niche interest and make as many 10-minute or longer videos as you can about that singular topic.” Yes, I should have shared this strategic insight with you before now. But, sometimes you need more critical data before you start to question your fundamental assumptions. That critical data arrived during the past couple of days.

3 Essential Tips for YouTube Marketing

These are the three big YouTube numbers have been hit by Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. And now it’s our job to figure out how to face the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. On short notice, here’s my best tactical advice:

#1 Optimize your videos and playlists for Watch Time:

Industry expert Mark Robertson confirmed that since October 2012, YouTube’s algorithm has prioritized videos that lead to longer overall watch time or viewing sessions, rather than videos that get more views. So, if viewers watch your videos – and suggested videos – beyond the first view, then your videos are more likely to be ranked highly in YouTube’s search results and related videos. So, use YouTube Analytics to see what videos are successful at keeping viewers watching. Pay close attention to the Watch Time report and Audience Retention report. Keep viewers watching each of your videos by using effective editing techniques to maintain and build interest throughout each video. Then, direct viewers to watch more content by adding end screens to each of your videos. Next, build your subscriber base, because subscribers are your most loyal fans and will be notified of new videos and playlists to watch. Finally, build longer watch-time sessions for your content by using playlists and creating a regular release schedule to encourage viewers to watch sets of your videos instead of just single videos.

Optimize your videos and playlists for mobile devices:

How do you do this? Well, if you’re making content for a mobile audience, then you should really consider making vertical content. For most smartphone users, it’s just more natural to hold the device one handed and upright, so the vertical format is more palatable for many. How important is a mobile-first strategy? Well, December 2016 U.S. data from comScore found the Top 50 YouTube channels, on average, extended its desktop audience (reach) by 218% after including consumption on smartphones and tablets. Plus, total viewing time on the Top 50 YouTube channels increased its desktop engagement by 380% when accounting for mobile viewing. Finally, 69 YouTube channels reached a monthly audience of at least 10 million viewers across desktop and mobile combined vs. just 15 YouTube Partners who reached that threshold on desktop alone.

Optimize your video marketing strategy for YouTube: 

Yes, other video platforms are getting “views.” But, 5,500 consumers recently told researchers commissioned by Brightcove that 50% of their social video views currently take place on YouTube, 36% on Facebook, and the remaining 14% is split over networks like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Why is that significant? Because 46% of consumers said they’ve made a purchase as a result of watching a brand video on social media. And readers of Tubular Insights knew that before we learned that people around the world are now watching a billion hours of YouTube’s exceptionally diverse video content each and every day. How diverse is it? Well, the State of Online Video, the recent YouTube video report powered by Tubular Labs, found the top content genres were: Superheroes IRL, Late Night TV, Surprise Eggs, Songs & Nursery Rhymes, Parody, Lip Syncing, Challenge Videos, Holiday Related, Lip Related Beauty, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump. So, YouTube has come a long way, baby, since the days of yore when many people thought that YouTube was where you went to watch funny cat videos.

If you have better tactical advice – or want to risk counting to four when listing the YouTube video marketing assumptions that have been blown to bits – please share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.