YouTube watch time: How to reach 4,000 hours and monetize your content

Learn how YouTube watch time can help you get more views and earn extra ad revenue. Plus, discover 8 tips to increase your watch time on YouTube.

Sandy Beeson
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YouTube watch time can make or break your channel. It’s the main way YouTube’s algorithm determines how widely it’ll share your videos and how much money your content will make. Find ways to increase your watch time and your channel will explode. We’re going to show you how to do it.

Claiming a bigger share of the 1 billion hours watched on YouTube every single day involves making small improvements to each and every video you upload. It’s a mindset of continuous improvement that all the biggest YouTubers share.

To help you increase your YouTube watch time, we’ve put together essential tips to keep viewers hooked on your content for longer. Read on to discover how you can boost your channel’s earnings and convince YouTube’s algorithm to recommend your videos to more people.

What is YouTube watch time?

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YouTube watch time is the total amount of minutes viewers spend watching your videos. Fingers crossed yours is already nice and high! The YouTube algorithm uses watch time to rank videos in people’s search results and recommendations. So, increasing your watch time will also help you unlock more views.

Watch time also directly impacts the amount you earn from ads. If you want to earn more ad revenue, simply look to boost your watch time. Not yet making money from your YouTube channel? You’ll need to sign up to the YouTube Partner Program first, and your watch time forms a big part of the application process.

How much watch time do you need to monetize your YouTube content?

If you want to make money from your YouTube channel, you need to join the YouTube Partner Program. There are different requirements to hit before you apply, and watch time is one of the most important.

You’ll need at least 3,000 watch hours over the past 12 months to earn money from Channel Memberships and Supers. But if you want to unlock the YouTube Partner Program’s full earning features, you have to reach at least 4,000 watch hours. Check out the full requirements to join and earn from your videos in our guide to the YouTube Partner Program.

8 tips to improve your YouTube watch time

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Now you know what watch time is, it’s time to find ways to increase it. This means thinking critically about your content and making improvements with each new video. To give you a headstart, here are 8 tips that will boost your watch time.

1. Catch attention with your title and thumbnail 👀

If you want more watch time, getting more views is a good place to start. Convince more people to click on your video and your watch time will skyrocket as a result. 

An attractive thumbnail and compelling title will grab people’s attention and entice them to click on your video. Just look at how productivity guru Ali Abdaal pairs eye-catching visuals with simple titles that neatly summarize what each video is about.

The aim here is to improve your click-through rate (CTR) so each upload is attracting as many viewers as possible. For more tips on how to boost your CTR and widen your audience, check out our guide to click-through rate.

2. Give viewers a reason to watch until the end 🪝

This one’s obvious, but will make a huge difference. When your video keeps viewers watching until the end, you’re getting the most watch time you possibly can. To give your audience a reason to stick around, create anticipation with a punchy intro that sets out what they can expect from your video.

Mr Beast is the king of maintaining his audience’s interest, using cliffhangers and teasers to keep them watching. Follow his lead and get straight to the point. Start your video with a compelling hook that ensures people won’t click away.

 3. Draw viewers in with eye-catching content 🎬

You know what’s guaranteed to harm your watch time? Shoddy footage with rubbish audio. It’s easy to avoid. Simply take care over the video you create and don’t give viewers a reason to click off your content.

Use the best gear you can and take your time to create a flawless edit. This will make your videos more enjoyable and reduce the likelihood of viewers leaving halfway through.

Veritasium is the perfect example of a channel that draws you in from the get-go. Their educational content grabs your attention with eye-catching visuals and high production value. After all, you’d be far less likely to watch a 40 minute video about Einstein if the editing wasn’t so polished!

4. Embrace storytelling techniques to keep viewers engaged 🎭

Everyone loves a good story. By weaving a compelling narrative, your viewers will be more likely to become invested in what happens and watch your content to the end. 

Take Casey Neistat as an example. Right before running the New York marathon, he hooks viewers in with an emotional intro about how doctors told him he’d never run again. Immediately you want to see if he achieves his goal. A well-told story like this will grip your audience and boost your watch time.

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5. Prioritize quality content over video length 🤩

Only make your videos as long as they need to be. While it might seem logical that longer videos will give you a greater total watch time, this is only true if your viewers stick around till the end. It’s more important you don’t give them the opportunity to get bored and stop watching. 

Be brutal with your editing and cut out anything that doesn’t keep your audience engaged. Check out Google’s video charting 25 years in search as a prime example of snappy editing that maintains your interest throughout.

Edited your video down and it’s still long? That’s not a bad thing as long as people watch all the way through. After all, longer videos offer more opportunities for mid-roll ads, increasing potential ad revenue.

6. Showcase more content by using end screens and cards 🔜

What’s better than someone watching one of your videos? That same viewer watching your entire channel. Use YouTube’s in-built end screens and card tools to promote your other content. It’s a simple addition that’ll significantly boost watch time across your channel.

You’re essentially promoting your content to people who clearly enjoy your videos already. Doctor Mike does this to perfection. He uses his outro to direct viewers to relevant videos, increasing his watch time rather than letting people leave his channel. After all, people who already enjoy your videos are more likely to watch more of them.

7. Guide viewers to your next video in a playlist 🎁

Who hasn’t binged a whole series in one go? See if you can get people hooked on your videos in the same way by creating a playlist. They keep viewers on your channel longer by automatically loading up the next video. 

Once you get people watching a full playlist, your watch time will soon start to climb. TED-Ed could devour hours of your time with their library of YouTube video playlists. The key is that they’re categorized into related topics. So if someone’s interested in one video, they’re likely to watch them all, increasing watch time across the entire playlist.

8. Create buzz with a regular upload schedule 🗓️

Build anticipation for each video with a posting schedule. When viewers know when to expect new content, they’re more likely to return to your channel on a regular basis. 

Take The Try Guys who’ve built a dedicated following with weekly uploads.Their audience knows when to expect new videos and will tune in to watch each episode. When you make watching your content a regular habit for viewers, you’ll find your uploads rack up a healthy watch time right away.

YouTube watch time: Your FAQs answered

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What is a good watch time on YouTube?

A good watch time depends on lots of factors, including the length of your video. This means there isn’t a universal benchmark, but the best creators always look to improve their watch time with each upload.

One of the best ways to boost your watch time is to pay attention to your average view duration. This allows you to compare your content and see which uploads keep people watching for longer. You can learn more about how to use this key metric to significantly boost your watch time by reading our guide to average view duration.

How to check YouTube watch time on mobile

1. Open the YouTube Studio app

2. You’ll see your total channel watch time under Channel Analytics

3. Tap on Watch Time to head into the Overview tab for a 28 day timeline

4. Tap on the Watch Time graph to access more data and see your top content

How to check YouTube watch time on desktop

1. Head to YouTube Studio

2. Click on Analytics to see your total watch time

3. Click on See More below the watch time graph for a detailed breakdown of each video’s watch time

How are watch time and audience retention different?

Watch time and audience retention are both metrics YouTube uses to show you how long people watch your videos, but they work very differently.

Watch time measures the total time viewers spend watching your videos. It gives you a broader view of your channel’s performance. This is why YouTube uses watch time to decide which channels keep people engaged and are worthy of featuring in recommendations.

Audience retention tracks the percentage of each video viewers are watching. This is particularly handy for pinpointing when people drop out of your content so you can learn what to improve in your next upload.

Can you buy watch time on YouTube?

While you can buy watch time for your YouTube channel, it’s likely to do more harm than good. Buying watch time violates YouTube’s fake engagement policy and could lead to severe punishments, including having your channel taken down.

So the question isn’t whether you can buy watch time, it’s why you’d want to risk it. The better way to boost your watch time is to focus on creating quality content and consistently improving your videos.

Increase your watch time and unlock your channel’s potential

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Watch time is a simple metric, but it holds a lot of power with YouTube’s algorithm. Finding ways to boost your channel’s watch time will help your videos get seen by more people. And once you’re earning money from your content, increasing your watch time will unlock even more ad revenue.

There’s no real mystery behind improving your watch time, it’s simply a case of consistently making improvements to your uploads. By following our simple tips, you’ll soon find your watch time climbing across your channel. And if you want to discover more ways to turbocharge your channel’s growth and get your videos seen by more people, check out our guide to YouTube analytics.

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