How to boost your video views and watch-time on YouTube

Posted by Amir Shahzeidi on November 23, 2021
Amir Shahzeidi

This is a guest blog post from Uscreen's Digital Marketing Manager, Amir Shahzeidi.

YouTube is competitive. While the platform attracts 2 billion users each month, it’s also become home to many more creators. In 2019 alone, YouTube saw the number of channels grow by over 25% to more than 31 million YouTube channels.

While healthy competition is always good, it also means you’ve got to constantly up your game to stay ahead of the pack. And when it comes to building a successful channel, you need to know how to get as many views as you can, and how to increase your watch-time.

If you find it hard to attract and hold the attention of your audience, this blog post is for you. I’ll dive into the elements that influence video views and reach on YouTube, and how you can use them to your benefit. I’ll also cover how to hold your viewer’s attention for longer to increase your watch-time.

But first, you need to understand how YouTube's algorithm decides which content to position for the most exposure.

How YouTube’s algorithm works

YouTube's algorithm prioritizes engagement and audience retention above all else. It's built to keep users on the platform and engaged for longer. This means that if you can hold onto audience attention all the way through a video and to the end, the probability of YouTube recommending your videos to a wider audience increases exponentially.

YouTube prioritizes engagement and audience attention by focusing on its users. It develops data profiles based on user behavior. As viewers watch content and interact with the platform, YouTube considers all of these data points and uses them to rank and suggest your videos.

How to boost views and reach on YouTube

Like many other factors that influence how well your channel ranks, increasing views and reach on YouTube can be achieved with a few tweaks. These include video SEO and click-through rates. Here's how each of these factors works.

Use on-page SEO

Whether you plan to monetize live or recorded videos YouTube SEO is important for ranking content. Like web SEO, you need to pay attention to keyword usage and placement. This has to do with the need for YouTube to read metadata. While there are longer lists of things you can do to improve your video SEO, here are three simple tips that you can easily apply today:

1. Use long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords still work on YouTube. As fewer channels go after them, you have the chance to incorporate them, making it easier to rank in search. Make a point to find some in your keyword research.

2. Front-load titles with keywords

YouTube relies on metadata to find content. When its bots scurry to fulfil user search requests, they spot terms many people are searching for. Front-loading your video titles with keywords helps YouTube easily identify your video.

3. Add keywords to descriptions

Descriptions are summaries for videos. And while you may be tempted to include long summaries and fill them with many keywords, don’t. Use your keywords sparingly to show content relevance and keep your description to 150 words or less. As you create descriptions also add variations of your target key phrases in your video tags.

Click-through rate

Click-through rates are influenced by how well your video attracts audiences. When it comes to attracting audiences, strong headlines and attractive thumbnails do the job. This is true for all types of content on YouTube, both live streams as well as pre-recorded videos.

Write titles for people

While front-loading your titles is a great way to up your SEO game, you still need to create titles that appeal to people. The simplest most effective way of creating compelling video titles is by making them value-based. Indicate a key benefit that your audience tends to gain by watching a video.

Use engaging thumbnails

Thumbnails are equally important. They’re typically the first thing that viewers see when searching for content on YouTube or browsing. To make yours attractive, apply the following three tips:

1. Use colors that clash with the platform you’re on 

For example, YouTube’s colors are white and grey. When creating your thumbnail use brighter colors that contrast with the platform to make your video stand out.

2. Test out thumbnails that feature people

You’ve likely seen that many YouTube video thumbnails use faces. It’s because thumbnails with faces work. Faces are personal, communicate authority, and are more engaging to look at than an inanimate object. To create engaging thumbnails, experiment with close-up and extreme close-up shots for yours.

3. Add text

Adding text to your thumbnails gives viewers a better idea of what your video is all about. They hint at value. As you create your thumbnail text, ensure that it supports your titles to make videos look more compelling.

Derral Eves is a YouTube creator and authority on ranking and creating amazing videos. His thumbnail includes contrasting colors, an extreme close up of his face, and powerful text that supports his video’s title.Boost YouTube views best thumbnails

How to keep viewers engaged and boost watch-time

Watch-time is one of the most heavily weighted metrics on YouTube. It applies to videos in every kind of niche. It’s also the strongest indicator of exactly how interested people are in your content. 

Because YouTube wants viewers to watch more and click less, it became important to identify a way to spot how many people abandoned videos. This is how the 50% rule was introduced by Darrel Eves, a leading authority on YouTube.

The 50% rule tracks the exact second in a video where half of your viewers leave. Your goal should be to push that 50% mark as far as possible for each video, making as many people watch your videos for longer, and possibly all the way to the end.Boost YouTube views audience retention graph chart

Keeping viewers engage may seem like a tall task but it's not. In fact, with just a few tweaks to the way you structure your videos, you'll be able to engage your viewers in a powerful way at the start and hold their attention throughout your videos.

To help give your watch-time a bump up, here are five tactics you can start using today. 

1. Hook users at the start

If you've been in the marketing industry any amount of time, know that people are paying less attention online. Stats show that attention spans decreased to 12 seconds in a decade. And this matters for video marketing. For your videos to be impactful, and to boost your watch-time, you must find a way to grab attention immediately.

A hook is the first set of words viewers hear at the beginning of your video and it's important that they resonate with your audience. To create a powerful hook, you have to lead with value. Your message has to be as clear and aligned with the expectations set by your video title. When creating a strong hook, your goal is twofold. First, you want to assure viewers that they're going to get exactly what they promised. Second, it shows them that sticking around won’t be a waste of time.

In Neil Patel’s video titled ‘The Real Reason Your Blog Doesn’t Rank’, he opens with a problem his viewers have. He then commits to helping by stating he will explain the number one reason why your blog doesn’t rank.

2. Use pattern interrupts 

High watch-time isn’t a mistake. It’s the result of meticulously planned videos and something that pattern interrupts can help you achieve.

A pattern interrupt is the sudden introduction of a new idea. The new idea breaks viewers’ thought patterns, forcing them to pay attention to what they are watching. 

Pattern interrupts have their roots in the study of neuro-linguistic programming. They're effective because they challenge the mind. When a new idea is suddenly introduced, the mind can't help but become attached to it. 

They are also highly successful. Buffer tested pattern interrupts on its YouTube channel and saw it grow by 61% in 30 days.

You can use them in various ways. For example, you could interrupt a viewer’s thought pattern by introducing a new camera angle, humor, a graphic to better explain a concept or visual effects. 

Growth Tribe uses humor at the very beginning of their video to pique interest.

3. Tell a story

Psychology proves that people love a good story. And when it comes to creating one, it’s all about structure. Structure your videos using a simple format to ensure that you keep viewers engaged. Here’s what that looks like:

  1. Lead with a strong intro that sets the scene.
  2. Share value in the body of the video. 
  3. Close with a summary and call to action.

Your goal is to leave viewers feeling better off for having spent time on your video and storytelling will help you get the job done.

4. Create connected content

Connected content helps audiences follow a path for video consumption. And that’s a good thing for your videos and channel. It means more watch-time as people move through your videos. 

You can create connected content by using viewing loops, content loops, and playlists. Here’s a look at how these work.

Viewing loops

Viewing loops are created by prompting people to watch more relevant content you’ve created. As viewers consume more content, they create a ‘loop’. 

Viewing loops can be formed using in-video links and by suggesting ‘watch next’ videos. The key is to leverage various calls to action to create your loop. 

Boost YouTube views viewing loops

Content loops

Content loops are based on related content that follows a straight line. This makes them perfect for telling stories and drawing viewers into your channel. When creating your content loops, think of larger topics that can be used as core themes that link related videos. 

For example, Ahrefs offers tons of great advice on how to improve SEO. Having created a collection of SEO-related videos, they then grouped them to produce a resource any SEO-hungry YouTube user would love.

Boost YouTube views content loops


Playlists are a collection of videos within a category. They’re not just particularly popular for audiences looking for binge-worthy content, they can also be effective at ranking high in YouTube search results.

Growing a thriving online video business requires tips and tactics for community growth. To help our customers, we built a playlist with all of our best content on how to grow a community.

Boost YouTube views playlists

5. Give viewers a reason to watch to the end

Incentivizing your audience is an effective way to encourage longer watch-time. It’s also easy to do. Simply mention that there will be a giveaway, exclusive insights, or an offer that viewers need to stay tuned for details.


YouTube is an amazing platform filled with tons of opportunity for brands. But to develop and maintain a successful channel, you’ll need to know how to attract viewers and hold their attention. Focus on optimizing for search and drawing people in with unmissable thumbnails. To boost your watch-time, create compelling videos that keep viewers glued to their screens.

Amir Shahzeidi Uscreen

Author: Amir Shahzeidi

Bio: Amir is the digital marketing manager at Uscreen, an all-in-one video monetization platform that empowers video entrepreneurs and creators to monetize their content and build thriving businesses around their videos.


Topics: Business, Case Studies & Examples


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