Lydia Sweatt is a writer who loves balancing her article/blog time indoors with a healthy dose of nature. She bikes, hikes, and identifies edible plants along the way.
3 Ways to Find the Best YouTube Video Length
What if we told you the ideal duration for a Fortnite video is 9 minutes, 50 seconds? And that no matter how good your content is, trying to exceed that limit will cause hundreds of viewers to click off the video?
Immediately, you’d wonder two things about that mysterious claim:
- How we came up with a number like 9:50
- Why such a time constraint matters
Let’s start with number two. The length of your videos matters because viewers have a wide range of intentions on YouTube. Some are searching for quick answers to everyday questions, such as how to tie a necktie. Others want to know things that take several minutes to explain. They’ll watch a 30-minute video about building a gaming PC and still have the stamina to view more content.
Knowing which type of viewer you’re dealing with makes all the difference. You can plan better content and film videos that are long enough to appease your audience.
Want to learn how it's done? Keep reading to find the best YouTube video length for your content.
Method 1: Calculate the Average Length of Top-Performing Videos
Producing videos at the right length is easier than you think. All you have to do is:
- Go to YouTube.
- Perform a search for the topic/title you’re interested in filming.
- Copy the video length of the top four or five videos.
- Paste the values into a time calculator, such as this one. Then, bam - you’ll get the average length of top-ranking videos for that search term.
For visual instructions, watch our recent video, “How Long Should Your YouTube Videos Be?”
This isn’t the most scientific method, but it’s a good way to capitalize on what works. With this strategy, you at least know that thousands of viewers - maybe even millions - have watched specific content at a length they could stand.
You only have to do a few searches on YouTube to see how eye-opening this data is. For example, run a search for “how to tie a tie.” The average length for the highest-performing videos is 3 minutes, 10 seconds. Why? Because it’s a 30-second task and people searching this query want a fast solution.
What about “how to build a gaming PC?” As a creator, that’s going to cost you about 26 minutes, 39 seconds. Why? Viewers know the task is complicated and will watch a longer video to get the information.
Method 2: Analyze the Average View Duration on Your Channel
There are other ways to glean your ideal video length on YouTube. Instead of calculating average video lengths, you can follow the steps below to see how long viewers watch your content.
- Go to the YouTube Studio.
- Click Analytics in the left navigation menu.
- Below the graph showing channel views, Watch Time, subscribers, and revenue, click See More.
- On the next page, you’ll see a row of tabs near the top of the page. Click Subscription Source. If you don’t see this option, you may need to expand the menu by clicking More.
- This will show you a graph of views, segmented by subscribers and non-subscribers. Be sure to adjust the timeline at the top right corner of the page to get at least a month of data.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see your channel's average view duration.
Here’s what this page looks like for the vidIQ channel:
Here you can see the impact of your subscribers, and generally speaking, how long they watch your content.
On the vidIQ channel, subscribers watch our content for an average of 3 minutes, 21 seconds. So at the very least, we know our audience is willing to stick around for 3 minutes. That doesn’t mean we’ll make videos at that length, but it gives us a benchmark to follow and a time frame for presenting the most valuable information in a video.
Also, where people discover your content on YouTube influences how long they’re willing to watch - and that’s powerful information to have. So you can check the Traffic Sources tab on this same page (below) for a deeper understanding of your average view duration.
For example, look at the two highlighted areas below.
Our average view duration from suggested videos is 3 minutes, 59 seconds. That’s significantly higher than the 2 minutes, 7 seconds we receive from YouTube search.
So for people who watch content like ours, they see a suggested video from vidIQ, click on it, and watch for nearly four minutes on average. Looking at this chart, we may decide to not make videos shorter than four minutes.
Method 3: Analyze Your Subscriber Growth
Turning casual viewers into fans is a great indicator of success. That’s why you should analyze your subscriber growth to see if making longer or shorter content is a good idea.
To get started, return to this page (below) in the YouTube Studio.
On this chart, pay close attention to the percentage breakdown of views earned from subscribers versus non-subscribers. As you can see, 85% of our views come from non-subscribers. Our goal is to convert these casual viewers into loyal fans.
That’s why you have to keep returning to this page. Keep watching the percentage split, and make note of increases or decreases trending in either direction.
If views from subscribers are growing, increase the length of your videos and see where that takes you. If the opposite is true, and you’re losing subscribers, don’t worry about making longer content. You should figure out why you’re losing subscribers first.
Viewer Intent Should Determine the Length of Your YouTube Videos
At this point, we’ve shared three options for choosing an ideal video length. You can:
- Calculate the average length of similar, top-performing videos.
- Analyze your average view duration for certain traffic sources.
- Determine whether your subscriber count is rising or falling, then make adjustments to your video time limit.
These are great strategies, but don’t forget about viewer intent. You should determine how much information will best serve your audience, then make a video long enough to achieve that goal. After satisfying this requirement, you can make adjustments to your video length strategy.
And when you finally do, don't become attached to one video length. Some topics require a bit of creative license, especially when you’re telling an emotional story. If you have a magnetic personality and excellent storytelling skills, you can be flexible with the length of your videos.
Our only recommendation is to never make videos less than two minutes long. So far, we haven’t seen a video that short reach meaningful success on YouTube.
If your video is less than two minutes, you might consider making it a YouTube Short. This new content type has the potential to go viral and introduce your videos to millions of people on YouTube.