Is Everybody sending you mixed messages on how to increase your viewership and engagement? Let’s try a different approach. Data. This post will analyze masses of data points from varied content creators to determine what truly works and what doesn’t.
We start by analyzing a dataset of 630,974 YouTube channels and 4,683,257 videos associated with these channels. This is a random sample dataset of YouTube channels and represents the typical channels. Therefore, it can give a lot of insight into what helps a YouTube channel succeed or not. In this post, we will investigate a somewhat new feature– chapters:
Chapters help viewers navigate the video and allow for a better understanding of what to expect in the video. They also help increase the SEO ranking of the video because they are based on text — which is indexed. All of this is supposed to increase viewership and engagement - through this, grow as a creator. Let’s analyze these assumptions based on statistical measures from our dataset.
What we will cover in this post
- The definition of engagement
- General statistics about YouTube channels and videos from the dataset
- An overview of chaptered videos and their association with viewer engagement
- Actionable insights on how to increase your channel’s engagement based on data
- Follow-up questions
Definition of engagement
From a business standpoint, creators create content for three main reasons:
- Increasing their online presence and monetizing their content and its’ derivatives (exclusive access, merch, etc.)
- Promoting a derivative business — Content marketing efforts, enlarging funnel for consulting, getting more buyers in an online store.
- As a service for a company\client — for brand awareness and increasing customer acquisition funnels.
What engagement metrics should we look at?
- Increase in reactions (likes and dislikes) and comments.
- Increase income from ad-spend
- Increase following inother channels (Instagram, TikTok, Patreon etc.) as a result of the YouTube video
- Total and average watch times
- Increase in inbound customers from a YouTube video
This article focuses on the increase in reaction and responses to a YouTube video. This is because all the other metrics are not public, therefore, we cannot discuss them.
General statistics about YouTube channels and videos
This section is designed to give the reader a rough understanding of the dataset we used behind the research of this post. This is a random sample of YouTube channels and represents the typical channels. It is safe to assume that the ratios, channel spreads, video spreads, and percentages found using this dataset indeed represent the real-world scenario.
- Total videos in dataset: 4,683,257
- Avg subs per channel:115,223
- Avg views per channel: 32,163,408
- Avg videos per channel: 521
- Average duration of a video: 1,271 seconds (21.1 minutes)
- Average number of views per video: 225,874
- Average number of comments per video: 225
- Average number of likes per video: 3,063
- Average number of dislikes per video: 123
Overview of chaptered videos and their association with viewer engagement
Out of the 4,683,257 videos in the dataset, 63283 were divided into chapters. Clearly, there is a skew towards videos without chapters. This is anticipated because not all videos require chapters (short music videos, for example), and as for the other videos — chaptering is hard — not all creators wish to invest the time and effort in creating them.
Videos with chapters have, on average, 2.95% like/view ratio and 0.28% comment/view ratios. While videos without chapters have a 1.35% like/view ratio and 0.1% comment/view ratio.
We see that both in likes and comments, chaptered videos have 2.18 to 2.8 more engagement than non-chaptered ones. A similar pattern is seen when looking at dislike/view– chaptered videos have a 2X higher ratio.
Chaptered videos have 2.18 to 2.8 times more engagement than non-chaptered videos.
OK, case closed, adding chapters will improve my engagement? Well, not so quick.
Apparently, videos with chapters are longer by 50% on average (The average length of a non-chaptered video is 1998 seconds, while an average chaptered video length is 1262 seconds). This hints that longer videos have more engagement, not related to chapters.
Videos with chapters are longer by 50% on average.
Following is an examination of the difference in engagement between short videos and long videos
Short videos (less than 20 minutes)
Short videos with chapters have, on average, 2.96% like/view ratio and 0.27% comment/view ratios — keeping the same statistics as the general average of videos with chapters. Short videos without chapters have a 1.25% like/view ratio and a 0.09% comment/view ratio — a bit lower than the general average statistics for videos without chapters. Similar results are seen for dislike/view ratio.
For short videos, indeed, we see that chaptering increases engagement.
Long videos (more than 20 minutes)
For long non-chaptered videos, the image is quite surprising.
Long videos without chapters have a 3.59% like/view ratio, while as we saw, short videos without chapters have a 1.25% like/view ratio. Long videos have 3X more engagement than short videos (a similar difference is seen for comments and dislikes)
Long videos have 3 times more engagement than short videos
Moreover, chaptered videos have a 2.95% like/view ratio (no matter if they are long or not), meaning that long non-chaptered videos are more engaging than chaptered videos — long or not (a similar difference is seen for comments and dislikes).
Long non-chaptered videos are more engaging than chaptered videos
How is it possible that long videos without chapters are more engaging? If earlier I said chaptered videos have 2.5X more engagement?
This difference can be explained by the amount of short vs. long videos.
There are 3,660,772 short non-chaptered videos in the dataset we examined and 960,264 long non-chaptered videos — there are 4 times more short non-chaptered videos than long ones.
This skews the general ratios for non-chaptered videos towards those of the short ones — because there are just so many more of them.
As for chaptered videos, there are 26,559 short videos vs. 36,761 long ones — this is expected because we saw that, indeed, chaptered videos are longer on average.
Since the examined dataset represents the real-world case — the 2.5 times average increase in engagement for chaptered videos holds.
Actionable insights on how to increase your channel’s engagement based on data
· Creating long, engaging videos (more than 20 minutes) increases your chances of having much higher engagement rates than short ones. This is a surprising finding in the age of Tiktok and short videos, but in YouTube, it still seems that length is important.
- If chapters are relevant to your content — they have more impact on the shorter pieces than the longer ones. This was a very counterintuitive finding for this OP.
- How to easily create chapters?
YouTube has released a feature for automatic chaptering (seen in the image below — you can access it on the video edit screen.). But, this feature is not creating chapters for this OP and other YouTubers I spoke with.
For the interested creators — my startup has developed the tech for auto-chaptering of video and audio to make this process easier. Feel free to contact us to receive access (You can find a link in my bio)
There might still be open questions based on the information that you saw. But, this post has already taken more time and effort than expected. I will answer some in a follow-up post. Below are some examples for such questions and follow-up post ideas:
- Why do longer videos have more engagement when they have no chapters?
- What is the spread of engagement for videos of different topics?
- Do the same conclusions in this post regarding chaptering and content length apply to different video categories?
- What is the optimal video length per category?
If you would like me to write a post about any of these questions, or if you have more interesting questions about content creation and optimization you would like to ask, feel free to join our Content 3.0 community for creators and raise these requests there. I solemnly swear that I will write a data-driven post about a topic that 10+ creators are interested in.