A Quick Guide to Watch Time – YouTube’s Top Ranking Factor

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Carla Marshall
May 26, 2023
A Quick Guide to Watch Time

As a YouTube creator, the challenge is to stand out. The way to stand out is to understand YouTube and viewer behavior; to research, create, optimize, and promote your videos in a way that viewers love and that YouTube understands.

Key factors YouTube’s algorithms consider include: 

  • Watch History: Which videos a user has watched is probably the best indicator of which videos a viewer will watch. 
  • Engagement: Likes, dislikes, comments, and shares all speak to engagement, and YouTube will recommend videos with similar engagement patterns.
  • Search History: A viewer’s search history obviously says a lot about what content they’re interested in. 
  • Related Videos: Videos that are directly related to the video, topic, or category the viewer is engaging.
  • Trending Topics: YouTube looks at the latest trending topics and recommends videos that are related to those topics.
  • Location and Language: YouTube weighs recommendations based on the individual viewer’s geography, language, and culture. 

However, there’s one overriding metric that YouTube takes into account when it comes to ranking and promoting your content: watch time.

Watch time is the biggest single factor used to rank videos in search results, recommendations, and in trending section. The more watch time a video receives, the higher it will rank on YouTube, resulting in more views, engagement, and subscribers.

Watch Time – YouTube’s Top Ranking Factor

Watch time represents the total amount of time viewers spend watching your video on YouTube. The platform has confirmed that watch time is an integral part of its search and discovery algorithm. 

This metric is the best measure of how engaged a viewer is with a video. It’s simple: the longer they watch, the more interested they are, which means the video is delivering value.

Higher video watch times indicate to YouTube’s algorithm that your channel is worthy of promotion in the feed and suggestions area. For creators, this may result in revenue-generating options like brand sponsorships and partnerships. The typical audience retention rate is between 50% and 60%; therefore, the more time a viewer spends watching your video, the better it is for your YouTube channel.

For creators, watch time — both total minutes watched and as a percentage relative to total video lengh — is the most essential metric to grow their channel and reach a wider audience. 

How to Find Your Watch Time Data in YouTube Studio

  1. Log into YouTube Studio
  2. Click on Analytics in the left-hand column
  3. Click on the Advanced Mode option
  4. Of this dashboard, you’ll find various options for data
  5. Select the following. You can adjust the date range to daily to lifetime and anything in between

Below the main chart, you’ll find a list of the top videos driving the most watch time for your channel:

Watch Time and YouTube Monetization

If you’re a YouTube creator who wants to monetize your content through Adsense revenue,, you’ll need to have generated 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time on your channel over the last 365 days. Watch our video on how to reach this milestone as quickly as you can:

With the help of quality, engaging video content, publishing consistency, optimized thumbnail, titles, and descriptions, as well as other best practice, all YouTube creators can easily increase their YouTube watch time today.