Hacking Your Perfect YouTube Video Length

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Hacking Your Perfect YouTube Video Length

While going through my lengthy list of startup blog subscriptions the other day, I came across a fairly well-known blogger who was talking about his recent foray into video marketing. The general concept of the blog was about how he lost tens of thousands of dollars and what he learned in the process. Without revealing his identity, I’d like to just point out a major flaw in his reasoning that many startups are going to repeat.

YouTube Videos are Content plus Timing plus Timing

His general breakdown concluded that his problem resided in the content he was posting and not where it truly lied: in the timing. As soon as I saw he made his videos run at just under 10 minutes, I knew the outcome already. My point was really hammered home a few paragraphs down when he posted his website’s average visiting time and it was a full six minutes shorter than his videos.

Now, the concept here is noble, and in fact, the content contained within the videos is extremely well put together and valuable. But to think that your video content is going to more than double your visitor’s average time spent on site is a bit ambitious to say the least.

Interest is Waning

The problem is that attention spans are not increasing on the Internet, they are decreasing. When I first started in digital marketing years ago, the “8 second rule” was heavily espoused. It simply stated that you had eight seconds to catch a user’s attention and get them to stay on your page before they clicked off into the sunset.

But when I recently looked into some metrics on how website load time plays into your bounce rate, it became clear that the 8 second rule was way off. Some of the numbers I saw suggested that the actual rule of thumb should be between 1 and 3 seconds—that is to say, you have between 1 and 3 seconds to capture your audience’s attention and keep them on your site.

Hit Them Hard and Quick

And while that certainly is a tight window, it’s definitely a good one to be aiming for. Even if you don’t make that 1 to 3 second attention grabber mark, chances are you’ll hit the 4 or 5 second mark which is much better than our antiquated 8 second number. The bottom line is that if you want people to stay on your page, you need to hit them hard and hit them quick with material that interests them.

With videos, this goal can be extremely difficult to attain, especially with YouTube ads or buffering—forget about the one second mark. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. You should always aim for a quick attention grab, not make me look at your oversized hipster glasses while you tell me your name. As I learned in a playwriting course back in college, you should always start off with dramatic conflict or action, never something passive. This is sound advice for your opening line of video script as well.

Keep it Short and Hard-hitting

From there, the next challenge is to keep the viewer interested in your video. From our example above, we can see why the blogger is complaining—his videos didn’t get the attraction, pull or numbers that he thought they would. A better approach to timing out your YouTube videos would be to check your average bounce time and then keep your video run time under that number.

So if your average website visit is 3 minutes, shoot for a minute and a half of pure knowledge bombs. No fluff, no filler—get them addicted to your vids, subscribed and then hit them with the 10 minute videos (possibly even making them pay to subscribe). Remember, Vine and Instagram video have taken off for a reason—people want fast information. Oh, and it’s not all bad for our fellow blogger—he revealed that his targeted message got through a lot better with the videos, so while his overall leads were down, his higher-converting leads were up…but that’s a topic for another day.

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