9 Ways to Improve Audience Retention on YouTube

Author's avatar Marketing UPDATED Apr 14, 2023 PUBLISHED Feb 5, 2021 11 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    “Audience retention” – the phrase reminds one of a sailing term, perhaps something to do with a leaky boat.

    However, audience retention is actually a vital YouTube metric for those trying to convert their YouTube video viewers into paying, converted customers.

    So, ahoy matey! Point your YouTube Channel compass north and let’s navigate over to the Sea of YouTube Audience Retention.


    What is Audience Retention?

    Audience retention – in YouTube terms – measures the amount of people who continue to watch your video after pressing the play button.

    We’ve all started a video on YouTube and navigated away after fifteen seconds, right? Your audience retention rate, for either a particular video or for your entire video, measures the number of people who DON’T navigate to a different video or off YouTube entirely after fifteen seconds or even a minute. It measures the amount of people who stick around to watch your entire video – or at least most of it.

    Imagine you have a channel on dogs. Your channel-wide audience retention rate is 60%, but your most-watched video’s audience retention rate is 72%. That means that, on average, a typical viewer sticks around for 60% of one of your videos.

    However, your most popular video keeps people hooked for 72% of its play duration. In other words, people typically watch 72% of that popular dog video before navigating to another video or off of YouTube entirely.

    Considering that 72% is a fairly high audience retention rate, we’re guessing there’s at least one corgi in that video!

    How to See Your Audience Retention Report on YouTube

    If you’d like to see your own YouTube channel’s audience retention report, we’ve got good news for you: you actually have two options. You have a channel-level audience retention report and a video-level audience retention report at your disposal.

    To see your channel-level audience retention report, which documents your YouTube audience retention rate averaged across all the videos you’ve posted on your channel, sign into YouTube Studio.

    Next, select the “Analytics” tab, which you’ll find in the left-hand menu.

    Finally, select the “Engagement” tab from there, and your channel-level audience retention report will be there, waiting for you.

    *Editor’s note: Want a free way to track and visualize your YouTube channel’s performance? Download this free YouTube Channel Performance Dashboard template to get started today!

    Alternatively, if you’d like to drill down at the video-level and get an audience retention report for one specific video, first sign into YouTube Studio.

    From the left menu, select “Videos” and click on the Video for which you’d like to see an audience retention report. Again, navigate to the left-hand menu, and select “Analytics.”

    Finally, choose the “Engagement” tab from there. Your video-level audience retention report awaits you there.

    Editor’s note: Did you know that you could view your dashboards from your mobile device, tablet or Apple Watch? That’s right. With the Databox Android or iOS mobile app, you can literally wear KPIs in your pocket, or on your wrist!

    Related: 25 Marketers Share How to Grow Your YouTube Channel, Subscribers, and Views

    What is the Average Audience Retention Rate for YouTube?

    According to some reports, the average audience retention rate for YouTube hovers between 50% and 60%. That means the typical YouTube viewer watching a typical YouTube video can be expected to stick around for 50% to 60% of the video’s entire duration.

    Databox’s research, however, reveals that typical retention rates are slightly above 30%.

    *Editor’s note: Want a free way to see how much time your viewers are spending watching your YouTube videos? Download this free YouTube Watch Time Performance Dashboard template to get started today!

    However, 30% is just an average – which means that a significant number of YouTube videos outperform that number. If you’re looking for ways to improve your own YouTube audience retention rate, keep reading. We’ve compiled a handy-dandy list of 9 ways to improve audience retention in your own YouTube videos that you’ll definitely want to print out and keep next to your webcam.

    9 Ways to Improve Audience Retention on YouTube

    1. Take advantage of the video chapters function
    2. Offer a sneak peek
    3. Pick video topics with the help of keyword research
    4. Use a script
    5. Post consistently
    6. Be concise
    7. Deliver value as quickly as possible
    8. Use onscreen graphics
    9. Include pattern interrupts

    1. Take advantage of the video chapters function

    Kasper Langmann from Spreadsheeto says, “I think one thing that all YouTube content creators should be doing, whether it is for marketing purposes or personal, is making use of the video chapters function, which not only increases your audience retention rates but also improves your watch time.

    Viewers often come to videos with specific information they would like to get out of them already in mind. Having your video split up into accurately-named chapters allows a viewer to find what they need and reduces the risk that they will start to watch your content and then click away after a few seconds because they are not willing to wait for what they are after.”

    Helping people find the information they need as quickly as possible is always a great move in marketing – try it in your YouTube videos, too!

    2. Offer a sneak peek

    Jake Jorgovan from Lead Cookie says, “Having a sneak peek or the preview of the contents at the beginning of the video will keep the viewers interested and hooked up till the last second of the video.”

    It’s a great idea – if people know the video they’re watching has the information they need, they’re far more likely to watch that video until its end.

    3. Pick video topics with the help of keyword research

    Marcus Clarke from Searchant.co says, “Keyword research is one effective way of improving audience retention on youtube. By researching keywords, you will know what your target audience needs. Make use of Youtube’s autosuggest feature. Make the content relevant to your keywords and create content that adds value.”

    Make sure the video you’re filming is on a topic that people are – gasp! —  actually searching for in the first place.

    4. Use a script

    Sandra Chung from PlayPlay says, “Write an effective and thorough script before you even start creating your video, which in theory – sounds simple enough but it actually requires a few steps.

    You’ll want to start with really understanding whom you plan to create this video for and why. This will help determine the tone and the style of the video you’ll use. For example, if you’re creating a video for a baby boomer audience, the language you use will naturally be quite different than if you were creating it for millennials.

    If you use the right language, style, and messaging for the right audience, they will naturally resonate with your video better.

    Then, you’ll want to make sure that you use engaging intro, end screens, plus transitions. Use high-quality visuals and think about other elements like text and motion graphics which can help perfect your storytelling.”

    We’ve all seen improv skits that have gone on a little too long. Instead of making your YouTube video seem like something out of an awkward comedic sketch, try making it something more like a well-written Shakespearean play instead.

    5. Post consistently

    Natalie Andreas from natalieandreas.com says, “Posting consistency is critical in improving audience retention on YouTube. Viewers and subscribers should know when to expect your next video, as well as the typical length and content. This ensures that your audience is primed and ready to fully consume your content.”

    Andreas makes an excellent point. Consistency breeds trust – and trust breeds improved audience retention rates!

    6. Be concise

    John Frigo at Best Price Nutrition says, “I think one thing people can really do to improve retention is to make videos a good length, be concise and to the point. Many people have long intros and ramble and it’s 3 minutes before you get to the content and many people will tune out because of that.

    Many people also tend to make content longer than it needs to be, especially creators who are monetized and know that 10 minute plus videos get better ads and make more money, they also can tend to get pushed more by the algorithm. However, that does not mean that you should stretch a 5-minute video into a 10-minute video just for that reason, you’re better off keeping it a 5-minute video and having better engagement than making it a 10-minute video and losing 90% of the audience at the 5-minute mark.”

    If your video is too long, no one’s going to want to watch it in its entirety. Brevity is key.

    7. Deliver value as quickly as possible

    John Locke at Lockedown Design & SEO says, “Get to delivering value as quickly as possible. Follow a formula similar to this:

    1. what the video is about.
    2. Optional quick channel bumper (keep it short).
    3. The bulk of the video, giving and answer to a question or delivering on the promise in the video title.
    4. Next-to-last: call-to-action to subscribe or thumb up.
    5. Last: Optional unanticipated outtakes or B-roll.

    This helps videos get to the point quickly and keep viewers interested through the duration of the video. Many videos start with a thirsty second channel trailer and that is often unnecessary.”

    Locke’s theory that people want value as quickly as possible is a good one. We’re not saying you should make your videos nasty, brutish, or short – but we ARE suggesting that you perhaps not waste your audience’s valuable time.

    8. Use onscreen graphics

    John Ross at MCAT Test Prep Insights says, “The most effective way of improving audience retention on YouTube is to utilize onscreen graphics.

    We’ve done extensive A/B testing without any onscreen graphics (with videos that are more like vlogs in nature), and videos with heavy editing that add tons of onscreen graphics like images, charts, and funny cartoons.

    The videos with onscreen graphics were insanely more successful.

    To be specific, we ran a test with our MCAT test prep videos, and the videos with graphics had average view duration times that were over 2 minutes and 20 seconds longer than the videos without graphics.

    And these graphics are not hard to add.

    You can find stock graphics through programs like Motion Array and add them in with ease as part of your editing process. So that would be my #1 tip to improve audience retention on YouTube, add onscreen graphics.”

    Using graphics is a tested and true method of improving audience retention.

    9. Include Pattern Interrupts

    Nikola Roza at SEO for the Poor and Determined says, “The one effective way of improving audience retention is utilizing the power of pattern interrupts.

    A pattern interrupt is anything that briefly breaks the flow of the video and forces the viewer to pay more attention (because they didn’t expect it).

    For example, if you have a video about keyword research for SEO and it consists of you standing in front of the camera and talking, then an effective pattern interrupt is you showing an image of Google SERPs with keyword X and where you rank for it.

    That’s just an example, and pattern interrupts really can be anything that seems out of place in your video but that you include intentionally.

    If you want to see how it’s done, take a look at Brian Dean’s videos. He’s a master of interrupting you and keeping you watch his videos till the very end.”

    Variety is the spice of life and of YouTube videos. Keep things interesting!


    By implementing these strategies and leveraging marketing reporting software, you can effectively improve your YouTube audience retention, build a dedicated following, and achieve greater success on the platform.

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    Article by
    Mariana Santiago

    Mariana Santiago is a copywriter, email marketer, theatre geek, and adventurer. While she's redoing her website, you can find her on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you're looking for someone to obsess over the power of CRM-ESP integrations with, she'd be happy to oblige.

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