Make Money on YouTube: How to Get 4,000 Hours of Watch Time

Want to get 4,000 hours of Watch Time on YouTube so you can begin to monetize your content? Find out how with our in-depth guide!


In this post, we're going to guide you through what it takes to get 4,000 hours of Watch Time on YouTube. This is the number of watch hours you need to apply to the YouTube Partner Program and start making money.

Read More: YouTube Partner Program - How to Monetize Your Channel

Want to reach that milestone faster? Keep reading for the latest tips and tricks.

What Does 4,000 hours of YouTube Watch Time Actually Mean?

For the 4,000 hours of Watch Time to count, your videos have to be public. So that means you can't do a live stream on YouTube and then set it to unlisted and expect all those watch hours to count. Also, any videos you've deleted or set to private won't contribute to the 4,000 hours. YouTube will subtract all of that time from your total.

Read More: YouTube Monetization - Which Videos Count Toward 4,000 Hours of Watch Time?

Also, you have to achieve that 4,000 hours in 12 consecutive months. The videos don't need to have been published in the last 12 months, but they need to have been watched in the last 52 weeks.

Watch the video watch for more details about this topic:

How to Track Your YouTube Watch Time

If you want to track your Watch Time hours, the YouTube Studio has a dedicated page in the left-hand navigation panel called Monetization. This will show your subscriber and Watch Time progress.

Alternatively, if you want to keep tabs on your Watch Time, subscribers, and other channel stats, download VidIQ. You'll get this awesome real-time stats bar. No need to worry about the price either, this one's on us – completely free.

Why 4,000 Hours of YouTube Watch Time is a Major Creator Goal

With that all being said, let's get into the right mindset. This is something I frequently talk about with creators who have these types of goals in mind. If you start a YouTube channel with the sole purpose of getting 4,000 hours of Watch Time and 1,000 subscribers, the majority of you are never going to make it. It takes more than a desire to get monetized to succeed on YouTube.

Here's why:

  1. You're thinking far too much about yourself, as opposed to your audience.
  2. It's too big a goal to achieve when you first join on YouTube.

Four thousand hours is a lot. That's 240,000 minutes or a single person watching your content continuously for 166.6 days.

If you publish your first video on YouTube and get just an hour of Watch Time, you should be proud of that.

YouTube wants as much data as possible out of your content so that it can trust you with its advertising partners. Remember, it's not YouTube who's paying you directly; it's those advertisers. YouTube essentially is a middleman in this case, and it needs to make sure your content is controversy-free.

Make Evergreen Content to Boost Your Watch Time Success

Take a look at these stats. They are real-time view counts for some of our top-performing videos on the vidIQ channel. Notice anything in particular? Take a look at the publish date:

Most of these videos were published more than six months ago and still bring in thousands of daily views.

You've probably heard of these types of videos before. They are called evergreen, and you should definitely post such videos on YouTube.

Read More: Why Evergreen Content is the Key to More Views on YouTube

Getting discovered on YouTube can be quite difficult. But you can make it easier by making content that's likely to appear in YouTube search results.

The types of videos...

  • Answer questions lots of people are asking.
  • Provide valuable information on topics people are searching for.

For example, if you make a video about the latest software update on a game, your content may surface in YouTube's search results because the topic is relevant. Depending on the shelf life of that topic, your videos can last longer in terms of getting views and Watch Time. It may not be as sexy as sudden, viral success. But if you get it right, your videos will generate consistent views over a long period of time.

We've seen this happen many times on our YouTube channel. Once you have 5-10 pieces of evergreen content, your views increase, and you get much closer to 4,000 hours of Watch Time.

Create Live Streams to Accelerate Your Watch Hours

If you're a user or follower of vidIQ, you know that we do channel audit live streams every Tuesday.

When we first started doing these live streams, we got maybe 50 to 100 people watching them. But our audience grew exponentially in the past few years. The more viewers we gained, the more Watch Time we earned.

Check out the Watch Time we got from this two-hour live stream:

Do the simple math. If 600 people watch a two-hour live stream, for instance, that's 1,200 hours of Watch Time. Now, I can't promise you those types of numbers, and I wouldn't even recommend doing live streams when you first join YouTube. Because chances are, no one is going to watch.

When you're six or even nine months into your YouTube journey, that's the time to do it. By then, you might have a few hundred subscribers. And even if 20 people watch your streams for an hour, that's a nice bit of Watch Time.

Those people are your super fans. They care about you and your progress on the YouTube platform. But it does take time to cultivate that audience.

Be Consistent to Make Your YouTube Watch Time Grow

Don't get me wrong; viral videos are a wonderful thing. They really give your channel a kick. But I never go into the video-making process intending to make a viral video. It's just a very happy and very welcome bonus when it does happen. When people ask this question, and they do genuinely ask it – "how do I make viral content?" – this is my answer:

"Aim to make better content on a consistent basis."

Be consistent with every aspect of your YouTube workflow, from the way you film to the scripts you write to how you present on camera. Master video editing, custom thumbnail creation, and writing good titles. Overall, improve on your previous content by 1-2% every time.

If you create 50 to 100 videos over a year, you'll look back at those videos from 12 months ago and say, "Wow, those were terrible, but look where I am today." If you put all of your efforts into just one video hoping it will go viral, you are going to drive yourself insane. Plus, you'll burn out on YouTube very, very quickly.

Let me give you an example. When we launched our Spanish language VidIQ channel, it grew slowly. But we knew we were creating good content consistently. And once YouTube had enough data and positive signals from our content, the channel started blowing up. No viral videos – just good, consistent content being shared with the right audience.

In the end, we didn't just reach 4,000 hours of Watch Time; we crushed it. Now our content attracts significant views, like this video with more than 800,000 views.

The Secret to YouTube Watch Time Success: Quantity vs. Quality

Everybody wants to create the best quality content they can. But at what point do you reach diminishing returns? Is it worth putting in extra resources to make one video better, or is there a cutoff point where you move on to the next thing?

It’s that classic question of quality versus quantity. My personal opinion is that quantity is more important as a new creator.

Read More: Quantity Over Quality - The One Thing New YouTubers Should Focus On

The experience you gain by being consistent on YouTube helps you learn how the platform works. If you're focused solely on making videos, you will never know how your audience reacts to certain topics.

The more videos you publish on YouTube, the more data YouTube has to play with to serve up your content to the right audience. Think of it as filling out an application form. The more boxes you tick and the more thorough your answers are, the stronger the application is.

Also, when it's time-sensitive content, you really need to consider how fast you can get a video out. When there is a big new story, yes, you could spend an extra few hours making the perfect video. But then you're losing out on the potential audience that wants that information right now.

Now, this is not a hard and fast rule. Tech creator Marques Brownlee does amazing reviews on products. But he doesn't try and rush those reviews out as a product is released. He may do a quick video when it first comes out, but then he spends a considerable amount of time creating a very high-quality piece of content after.

With this method, he gets the best of both worlds:

  • A quick video that rides the waves of a trending news story
  • A quality, high-value video for his audience

Here's a good example of a quality, take-your-time video:

How to Analyze YouTube Data to Understand Watch Time

Ignore YouTube's analytics at your peril.

If you didn't know, on the Reach tab of the Analytics dashboard in YouTube Studio, there is a data funnel of impressions, click-through rates, and Watch Time stats.

If you mouse over the information icon, it tells you in YouTube's own words that you can increase the chance of YouTube suggesting your content by increasing click-through rate and Watch Time.

When it comes to Watch Time, you can analyze each video in great detail by looking at audience retention. You can do this via the Content dashboard on YouTube Studio.

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

Of course, you want to get as high a Watch Time as possible. And while there is no magic Watch Time percentage, if you're getting over 50% consistently, you're doing a good job. People usually abandon videos when they're bored or don't receive what was promised in the title.

On the graph above, you can see where you might have pain points. Maybe your intro is far too long, and viewers lose interest before you even start.

Every once in a while, check your audience retention on the last five to 10 videos and determine whether or not there is a consistent pattern of viewers leaving.

And while we're on the subject of Watch Time, don't fall into the trap of making longer videos to reach 4,000 hours. Make the video as long as it needs to be for your audience.

For example, we cannot make a video about how to delete a YouTube video for 20 minutes. But we can create a bite-sized, three-minute video that gives the viewer exactly what they want. It also gives YouTube positive signals and launches our content to the top of the search rankings.

Listen to Your YouTube Audience!

We received hundreds of comments from the vidIQ community saying that they wanted to get 1,000 subscribers to get a Support-A-Creator code for Fortnite.

We already knew we had a lot of gamers who follow and watch VidIQ. But what we didn't realize was just how many of those gamers play Fortnite.

While it is true that you will find out a lot about your audience from YouTube analytics, you'll never discover secrets like that. And all we had to do was ask our audience a question. I bet you can guess what we did with that information.

That's right, we assigned Dan, our gaming expert, to get the answers you need and to create a video on that topic. The video has generated more than 660,000 views. At one point, it sat at the top of the YouTube rankings for a very juicy search term.

Is your community is generating video ideas for you? Use a couple of their suggestions. If they respond really well to those videos, you'll get to 4,000 hours of Watch Time faster.

Getting 4,000 hours is a major accomplishment. Next, set your sights on gaining 1,000 subscribers.