YouTube Audience Retention: 3 Channel Boosting Secrets You Need to Know

Knowing your audience retention rate is one of the first steps to making better videos. Here are three secrets to unlock the full power of this YouTube metric.


Quick! What’s the most important part of a YouTube video? Is it the beginning, middle, or end?

If you know the answer, that means you understand the power of audience retention on YouTube. If you’re unsure or don’t know much about this channel-boosting metric, that’s OK. We’re seconds away from sharing the answer.

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In this episode of TubeTalk, our co-hosts Dan and Rob reveal lesser-known secrets about audience retention. Listen to the episode above to soak up all the wisdom, or keep reading to discover those gems right now.

1. Got High Audience Retention? That Means Your Videos Are Entertaining

Why does audience retention matter so much on YouTube? Aren’t video views the supreme metric for growing a channel?

Not quite. Audience retention measures how entertaining a video is. More than anything, that’s the key to unlocking more views.

Read More: How to Increase Audience Retention on Every YouTube Video

The YouTube Studio has a detailed audience retention report. It shows a video's average view duration, which is how many minutes viewers watched on average. In a hypothetical scenario, you might have a 10-minute video that people watch for four minutes.

And then there’s the average percentage viewed, which is also known as audience retention rate. Here's how YouTube calculates it: Average view duration / length of video x 100 = audience retention rate.

“A good example would be, let’s say your video is five minutes and the average view duration is two and a half minutes,” Rob says. “That would be exactly 50% audience retention.”

And guess what? The higher your audience retention rate climbs, the easier it is to succeed on YouTube.

Some of the benefits are:

  • Increased ad revenue: Getting people to watch for longer means they might view/click more ads. And who doesn’t want to make more money on YouTube?
  • Viewer satisfaction: Videos with higher retention send a positive signal to YouTube’s recommendation system. The video has a higher chance of being recommended to viewers, especially if there are other positive signals (high Watch Time, a good click-through rate, lots of likes, positive survey responses, etc.)

Read More: YouTube Algorithm Guide - How Your Videos Are Recommended to Viewers

2. The Best Audience Retention Rate Is One That Beats Your Previous Rate

When creators discover audience retention, they usually have the same question about it: What’s a good audience retention rate?

But coming up with a general number is difficult for two reasons:

  • Depending on the video, audience retention varies. One example is that educational videos don't hold viewers' attention like vlogs or comedic sketches. Once people get the information they're looking for, they bounce!
  • Comparing your audience retention rate to another creator’s isn’t helpful. It doesn’t explain what you’re doing right or wrong on your channel.

But if you need a ballpark rate to strive for, we do have an answer – sort of.

“My general answer is, ‘Well, what is your audience retention now?’ Rob asks. "If you say it’s currently 30%, I say, ‘OK, that is your benchmark.’ What you need to aim for is an audience retention of, let’s say, 35%. If you increase it from 30% to 35%, that’s like a 20% increase. And then you move on to the next step: Forty percent.”

3. The Most Crucial Part of a Video Is the First 30 Seconds

What happens in the first 30 seconds of your video is critical. Many creators focus on the meat of their content – the sections where they give the most value to viewers. But if people aren’t satisfied at the beginning of the video, they will click away to watch something else. And if they click away, your audience retention rate takes a massive hit.

Read More: Growing a YouTube Channel - 4 Things Creators Overlook

“When you look at your retention graph, it starts at 100% and rapidly drops down until it stabilizes a little bit,” Dan says. “On a lot of graphs I’ve seen, it’s this steady trickling down as the video goes on. We know if people are leaving in less than one second of a video, there’s a good chance we’re never getting them back.”

So what’s happening in the first 30 seconds? More than anything, viewers are deciding if they’re in the right corner of YouTube. They’re determining whether the video matches what they saw in the title and thumbnail.

Viewer drop-off is unavoidable, but there are plenty of ways to decrease it. You can practice getting to the point of your video faster or using pattern interrupters, like images, audio, and different camera angles.

Want more tips to keep viewers engaged? Here are six ways to increase audience retention on every video.