The new YouTube ranking factor to watch

New YouTube ranking factor - time watched popularityThe YouTube machine analyses a range of information about videos in order to rank them. Some of the elements of your video that are assessed for ranking purposes are within the realm of your control. Others aren’t. Recently there has been news of a new YouTube ranking factor. They are now analysing ‘time watched’. This could quite possibly change the (inter!)face of YouTube because you will only return results for quality videos that you might actually be interested in.

‘Traditional’ YouTube ranking factors


Titles are important on two levels. Firstly, your title needs to be powerful enough to attract viewers to actually watch your video. Secondly, your title needs to be appropriate to the content so that when people search for related subject matter, your video will appear in the search results.


This is your opportunity to explain what your video is all about and to include some keywords. Search engines can read descriptions – they can’t read the dialogue in the video audio, so use the opportunity wisely.


Tag your videos according to your understanding of what your audience will be looking for.


The only way to increase your views is to maximise your potential in all other areas so that your video can be seen by more people. Social media is an essential element of increasing your views by sharing your video and allowing it to be shared and therefore spread.

Ratings & comments

These both symbolise the level of interactivity and engagement with your video. They are therefore another sign of the ‘quality’ of your content.

Flagging, likes & favourites

These are more factors that represent engagement with your video. Whether they are likes or dislikes, they represent an interest in your content. If people ‘like’ your video they are more likely to share it.


The more that people share and reshare your videos, the higher you will rank.

Links & embeds

Remember that Google is now the boss of YouTube. With this comes the power of the inbound link. You will also be ranked according to how many inbound links, from outside of YouTube, you have coming in from other websites to your videos.

There are also other factors that YouTube considers in its ranking system including the age of your video, the number of subscribers and your channel views. So much to consider! However, there is only so much you can do and you should have three main priorities. Firstly, produce amazing content. Secondly, optimise your video for search engines and thirdly, use social media.

The new kid on the block: ‘time watched’ YouTube ranking factor

YouTube have just added another consideration. They are now rewarding the videos that keep viewers watching. In other words ‘time watched’. They have added ‘Time Watched’ reporting to the YouTube analytics tool so that video creators can monitor and evaluate the performance of their videos in terms of time watched.

There are a couple of obvious motivations on YouTube’s behalf for this move. Firstly, they want to be the most important source of media in everyone’s lives. They therefore want to encourage video creators to produce videos that will encourage people to watch for longer periods of time and to watch more videos – thereby increasing the amount of time people spend on YouTube. Secondly, they want to support quality content by allowing that content to surface in search results. They are judging quality based on the amount of time someone spends watching a video. You can probably guarantee that a video won’t hold much quality if it has been clicked on 1 millions times but is abandoned within the first three seconds (unless it was a three second video of course!).

YouTube time watched ranking factor

Looks like our video blog has some improvements to be made! This is great data as we can instantly see where we are going wrong with the videos.

If you have any experience of using Google Adwords then the parallels with quality score will be obvious to you. For those unfamiliar with Adwords, Quality Score is a ranking factor for Adwords that Google introduced early on with the Adwords product. It means that advertisers are incentivized to only run ads for keywords that are relevant to their business and to use landing pages that are relevant to the ad. This creates a better user experience keeping all parties happy.

The importance of engagement in social media

You will see from the list above that YouTube are proactive in terms of measuring user engagement with videos as a way of determining it’s ranking. Time watched is possibly the best indicator of engagement with a video and so this move by YouTube seems to be a positive one. It places the onus on video creators to produce high quality content that people will want to watch and will want to share.

You may also want to check out our more comprehensive post on Video SEO basics.

MWP are a video strategy, production and marketing company with a focus on delivering measurable results.

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