6 Ways to Generate 4,000 Hours of YouTube Watch Time FASTER!

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Carla Marshall
December 7, 2023

If you’re a YouTube creator who wants to make money through the YouTube Partner Program, YouTube requires 1,000 subscribers, have three valid public uploads in the last 90 days and either 4,000 hours of watch time in the last year or 3 million Shorts views in the last 90 days.

We covered subscriber growth in-depth in a separate post, but for now, let’s focus on watch time and the importance of building it through your content.

4,000 hours watch time = 240,000 minutes.

That’s a lot of minutes, but we’re going to give you some solid advice on how to get your videos watched by more people and get you to that goal faster. We’ll also let you know which TubeBuddy tools will help you. 

Need a visual tutorial? Watch our video to make sure you’re doing everything correctly when it comes to watch time:

#1 Video Length and YouTube Watch Time

You may think that the longer your video, the higher the watch time hours. 

That’s just not true. It may even backfire if your analytics are reporting that viewers are dropping out before the end of the video. YouTube is looking at those metrics, and the more viewers who abandon your content, the less likely YouTube is to serve it up to more people on the platform. 

It may be a much more successful strategy to create shorter videos that people watch longer than making a long video where people click out only 20% of the way through.

How long do your videos need to be? The answer is as long as they need to be to get the point across. Being able to condense and package up your videos in the shortest amount of time possible will significantly benefit you.

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#2 What’s the Deal With YouTube Shorts and Watch Time?

If we’re suggesting that you make your videos as concise as possible, should you be creating Shorts content instead of longer-form videos? Not necessarily.

Any subscribers you gain from your Shorts will count towards your goal of reaching 500 (the other metric you need to qualify to join the YouTube Partner Program and become eligible for monetization). 

BUT the watch time generated by YouTube Shorts, especially if they’re served to viewers via the Shorts shelf, will not count towards your 4,000 hours needed. So keep creating Shorts if that’s the kind of content you love to do, but remember that you’ll need to reach 3M Shorts views in 90 days to check that box in the YouTube Partner Program requirements.

#3 Audience Retention Metrics are Your Friend

If you have been publishing videos to your channel, you’ll have some performance data to work with, giving you feedback on how your content resonates with viewers.

There are several tools that both YouTube and TubeBuddy have that can help you with things like audience retention and drop-off rate.

On YouTube, you can access your audience retention analytics via YouTube Studio. Just click on a published video and click ‘Analytics.’ From the new dashboard, click on ‘Engagement’ to access the data you need. Look out for ‘Typical Audience Retention’ and ‘Key Moments for Audience Retention‘ metrics. We’ll be taking a deeper dive into these reports in a future post.
If you have a TubeBuddy Legend or Enterprise account, you have access to our ‘Retention Analyzer’ report, which will tell you how many people are still watching your video at various time intervals, e.g., 30 seconds or 60 seconds in.

Retention analyzer is a key tool for gaining access to the YouTube Partner Program.

If you see a dramatic cutoff in retention, you should address that in your content strategy. Think about the types of videos you’re making or how long the videos are. Keep a very close eye on audience retention after you’ve published a video to see where improvements can be made.

#4 Publish Your Videos When Your Audience is Online

When you publish a video, you want to ensure that as many viewers see it as possible. One metric that will be invaluable for you is knowing when your viewers are online and where most of your viewers are watching.

For instance, if you’re based in the United States, but most of your viewers are based in Japan,  you should publish in Japan Standard Time to leverage those potential viewers and subscribers.

If you want to know when the best time to publish is, TubeBuddy has a tool that can help you with this exact metric, and it’s available to anyone with a license. 

Go to your YouTube Studio and open the TubeBuddy icon at the top right, then scroll down to ‘Extension Tools’ and click on ‘Best Time To Publish.’ You’ll be redirected to the ‘Audience’ tab of YouTube Studio Analytics. On this dashboard, scroll down to the ‘When your viewers are on YouTube’ section. 

Just below YouTube’s graph, you can see recommendations from TubeBuddy about when to publish your next video. It even tells you the best time to live stream!

Ideal video publishing metrics to increase watch time and meet YouTube Partner Program requirements.

Why is publishing time so important? The first 24 hours after you’ve published a video are the most crucial for a creator. If a new video gets some good traction with initial views, engagements, and watch time, this sends a strong signal to YouTube that your video is performing well. This may lead to it being promoted to new viewers.

#5 Make the Most of End Screens, Info Cards, and Playlists

Info cards and end screens are two fantastic YouTube features that allow you to link to other videos (and much more). This can give your viewers more context on a topic you’re discussing or can enable you to promote more of your content. So if you’re not taking advantage of either of these extras, make a start today! 

While many creators use end screens and info cards to send people to a specific video, did you know that you can also add a playlist as a link? Why not create a playlist of the videos that have gained you the most subscribers to leverage that content. 

This is an important strategy for generating extra watch time for your channel. YouTube rewards video content that keeps viewers on the platform for as long as possible. In addition, guiding viewers to a curated and relevant Playlist will help raise your watch time. 

#6 Use Comments to Drive Engagement

When it comes to comments on your YouTube videos, it always pays to respond in a timely manner, especially in the first few hours after publishing. So why not create a canned response comment that includes a link to your most popular video or a playlist of videos on a similar topic to drive engagement and more watch time and views?

You can also create canned responses with open-ended questions to generate more conversation. Such as:

  • What was your biggest takeaway from the video? 
  • Did you learn anything new? 
  • What was your favorite part? 

Very often, when viewers get a notification that you have responded, they come back to your video and maybe watch it again, which leads to even more engagement.

If you are on the free level of TubeBuddy, you get one canned response available to you. If you’re on the Pro level or higher, then you get as many canned responses as you want. 

Just go to your YouTube Studio and open the TubeBuddy icon at the top right, then scroll down to ‘Website Tools’ and click on ‘Canned Responses’.  Then you can add in your own.

Comment automation to increase engagement and watch time

YouTube Watch Time and Your Channel

Generating 4,000 hours of watch time to join the YouTube Partner Program may feel like a daunting task, but it can easily be achieved if you spend time on your content and promotion strategies. The most important tip we can give is:

Make your videos easy to watch and give viewers a reason to subscribe to your channel.

If you continue to show up, publish videos, and work on improving production and content, you will reach your 4,000 hours, and we will be here to celebrate your success!

Carla Marshall

Carla Marshall has 10+ years of experience in video marketing, social media management, content marketing, DRM, & SEO.