YouTube actually doesn’t give that much away when it comes to what works on the site and what doesn’t. However, the clues they do give, via resources like the Creator Playbook, and the Creator Playbook for Brands, and Advertisers,  are pure gold. Now the latest guidelines have been issued, in the form of Creator Discovery Handbook, which is full of useful advice both for content creators, as well as video marketers. Let’s take a dive into it right now:

YouTube Creator Discovery Handbook

Navigating a course in and around YouTube can be a tricky business, especially if you are new to the platform and want to use it to build your brand. It’s the second-largest search engine in the world, and as such, you need a strong strategy to be able to reach your target audience on the site. That audience will also need a way to find you – if you are not visible because you haven’t optimize your video content properly, then they may never get to know you even exist. With billions of viewers using YouTube to search for anything from the latest information of the financial markets, to the best recipe for mocha ice cream – and absolutely everything in between – right now is the time to start to connect with those users.

YouTube’s new Creator Discovery Handbook is a guide to the video optimization, and marketing features built in to the infrastructure of the site. It aims to answer many of the questions that creators have asked. It’s meant to be used in conjunction with the Creator Playbook for a more rounded explanation of the features, specifically:

  • Watch Time
  • YouTube’s Homepage
  • YouTube Search
  • Video Discovery
  • Channel Discovery

In this post, we will focus on Watch Time and YouTube’s Homepage.


Watch Time: The Most Important YouTube Metric

Regular readers of ReelSEO will know just how important Watch Time is as a factor in a successful YouTube video marketing campaign. We’ve written posts about it, given you tips about it, and even made videos about it:

If there is one strategy that YouTube has consistently pushed onto video creators and marketers, it’s the need to increase Watch Time on your videos and on your channel. That’s all very good, but what exactly is Watch Time? Basically:

Watch Time is the amount of time in hours, minutes, and seconds a video is watched. 

In 2012, YouTube update its algorithm to favor and reward videos that kept viewers engaged, as opposed to video content that merely garnered clicks but don’t entice viewers to stay to the end, or to watch further videos on that channel. Watch Time is also measured across a viewing session on YouTube, and the stats can be found in your YouTube Analytics > Views report:

youtube views watch time

Watch Time is also measured across a viewing session on YouTube – if your videos are engaging enough they should encourage the viewer to stay on the site longer.

So, why not make your videos shorter then? That way, viewers will sit through the whole thing and your Watch Time will shoot through the roof? Not so, say YouTube. Your video isn’t more likely to be seen just because it’s shorter – or longer, or any length. If your video is compelling and interesting enough to make a viewer sit all the way through then it doesn’t matter how long it is.

Key Takeaways and Best Practices:

  • Creators should focus on uploading interesting content that keeps the viewer engaged to the end
  • Don’t try to “game” Watch Time
  • Use relevant thumbnails for your videos – viewers are more likely to watch the whole video if it’s something they chose rather than were tricked into watching
  • Refer to the “Captivate Your Audience” section of the Creator Playbook for great audience retention tips
  • Embedded videos still have Watch Time, so encourage followers and subscribers to share

YouTube’s Homepage: Getting Your Video Found

youtube logged outGoogle – YouTube’s parent company – loves it some inclusion. As a user of the internet, it very much wants you to have a Google account so you can access a huge range of goodies, like GMail and Drive. It wants you to seamlessly skip from one feature to another, and of course, it wants to collect all of that lovely data you are generating while doing it. If you are logged out of Google, then you will miss out of certain features, and sites like YouTube will appear differently for you than if you were logged in.

YouTube Homepage – User Logged Out: Home page is returning a very broad range of results to cater to the massive demographic range it has across the globe. It’s impersonal and generic (because really, how could it be anything else?).

YouTube Homepage – User Logged In: Logging into YouTube using a Google account changes the whole focus of the page to that of the individual user. Now, all active channel subscriptions are visible, along with Playlists, ‘What to Watch’, ‘Watch Later’, and ‘History’ features, as well as a link to the user’s channel page.

youtube logged in

Which is great for that user, but how do they ensure that their video content is going to reach as many people as possible: In the new Creator Discovery Handbook, YouTube advises the following:

Key Takeaways and Best Practices:

  • Encourage viewers to subscribe (so your channel shows up on their homepage)
  • Encourage those subscribers to log in every time (otherwise your channel won’t show up)
  •  To take advantage of the ‘What to Watch’ ranking, upload videos regularly so your subscribers can see more of your content

The second part of our in-depth look at the new YouTube Creator Discovery Playbook can be read here.