Boost YouTube “Watch Time” with User-Generated Video

Jan 14, 2013 10:10 AM  By

If there’s one thing you can count on in the digital world, it’s that every so often Google will make a big algorithm change that will shake up how e-commerce managers manage their business. And sure enough, recently Google by way of YouTube announced that it’s adjusting its ranking so that videos with more “watch time” are ranked highest. In other words, the amount of time a video is watched in one stretch matters more than how many times people watch it.

This change shows that YouTube is measuring video’s impact by how engaging it is, and by how many people sit and watch it in its entirety, rather than by measuring thousands of people who only watch a few seconds. As YouTube said in its own blog post about the algorithm change, “less clicking, more watching … this should benefit your channel if your videos drive more viewing time across YouTube.”

Meeting the “watch time” requirements that result in higher rankings will likely be tough for many online merchants. For one thing, product videos are typically only about 30 seconds long and therefore can’t rack up as much watch time. They’re more like commercials than narrative videos, and are intended to compel people to quickly get the information they need and then (hopefully) place an order.

The answer to this ranking problem may lie in online merchants’ user-generated videos. Your site visitors like to see what other shoppers are saying about your products, since they’re theoretically honest opinions coming from outside the business. User-generated videos are usually informative and often funny, which can compel viewers to stay tuned longer.

To leverage this approach, you need to encourage customers to submit their own videos to your YouTube channel and your website, and you need to manage this content effectively. For retailers with thousands of products, it helps to automate some of these tasks. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Publicize your willingness to host customer videos. Create a banner on each product page that welcomes review videos, and also mention this in follow-up emails after orders are delivered. Offer incentives like discount coupons or product giveaways to encourage submissions.

2. Provide a mechanism for uploading videos to your own website. For example, you need to create an upload form that people can use to upload and describe videos. You also need a server to host the video – either your own or via a third-party company.

3. Make sure you have technology in place to filter out inappropriate content.

4. Conduct A/B testing to see which customer videos attract the most watch time. Promote the videos driving the most conversions.

5. Make sure you post the videos to YouTube, if your customers don’t – or give them an easy way to do it themselves.

There’s no doubt that user-generated videos are some of the most watched on the Web. On any given list of high-traffic videos, like The Huffington Post’s regular feature “Top 9 YouTube Videos of the Week,” a good number usually come from people instead of brands. So, make the most of your customers’ willingness to show off their video-making skills, and boost your own YouTube channel watch time.

But don’t discount the effectiveness of your own product videos in boosting sales and conversions. They still count towards helping customers make informed decisions, just not towards the higher ranking you’re looking for on YouTube.

Dr. Melody King is the vice president of marketing at Treepodia.