The days of using thumbnails of scantily-clad and well-endowed women to drive clicks to your YouTube videos - thereby placing them higher in the search results - are over. Today, YouTube announced that it's changing what it bases its search rankings on. Instead of determining search placement by looking at the number of clicks a video has received, YouTube will instead be basing its search results on the time spent viewing the video.
In other words, if the vast majority of users watch your video all the way through, it will do better in the search rankings. If a lot of viewers stop watching your video after the first few seconds, your video's search engine results with suffer. Naturally, this works two ways: it gives those who produce good content more exposure, while it keeps people on the site longer.
Keeping people on the site longer means more advertising revenue for YouTube, so it's a win-win situation, so long as you're among the content creators who are putting out engaging videos. YouTube has even added a "Time Watched" report to analytics pages, so you can see which of your videos keep people watching and which ones are making people look elsewhere. YouTube says on the Creators Blog that it has "started" to adjust search engine results in this way, so it sounds like this feature will see a gradual roll out over the coming days.
This sounds like a great idea to us, but it makes us wonder if creators will start making shorter videos so a larger number of viewers make it to the end. Would something like that even work? There are a lot of questions surrounding this change that still need to be answered, and you can bet that concerned content creators will be asking all of them in the next few days. What do you think of this new way of ranking videos in YouTube search results?