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Vevo on how to get more YouTube views (and avoid an ‘algorithmic death-spiral’)


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Ed Walker, VP of original content & production at Vevo, used his presentation at Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit to explain how to ensure videos on YouTube benefit from – rather than rub against – the platform’s recommendation algorithms.

Walker used Vevo’s catalogue of music videos and original content – more than 400k videos in total – to illustrate the kinds of tactics labels and artists should be thinking about. Vevo’s catalogue generated 76.3bn views on YouTube in the first quarter of 2019 alone.

“Design is key to the optimisation of content,” he said, before leading into examples of what good design is in the context of YouTube videos, on a platform where 75% of Vevo’s views are coming from algorithmic recommendations (e.g. the ‘up next’ suggestions).

“We know that as a business getting into that algorithm and understanding it is key for driving views and value to our partners,” he said. “The first 15-30 seconds are key to establishing positive connections within the algorithm and servicing it in a positive upward spiral as opposed to a death spiral downwards.”

Walker gave an example of two different videos for the same track by an (anonymous) major pop act. For a video with a ‘set-up period’ (a non-musical introduction ahead of the music starting) YouTube’s algorithm would drive 750m views, but for a video where the music starts at the beginning, it will drive 1.5bn views.

The only difference between these two videos was cutting the ponderous, non-musical introduction. The simple rule is that putting music at the top of the video will generate far more algorithm-driven views.

This lesson was used to change the format of Vevo’s own ‘Dscvr’ videos, which previously had a 30-second intro. When looking into the data, Vevo realised that there was “quite a severe drop-off” in views. The solution was what Walker called “thumbnail optimisation”, where the key information about the video was shown on-screen, so that the music began straight away when a viewer pressed play.

Walker also talked about how Vevo changed the format of its Dscvr videos which normally had a 30-second intro. When looking into the data, they noticed there was “quite a severe drop off” in views. “The audience have clicked on it,” he said. “They want to see it. So show them it.”

Walker added that the metadata around videos remains a crucial factor to get right too. “Titling is really important. Get people to the content with an engaging thumbnail that shows exactly what it is going to be and when they are in the content give them what you told them they are going to get,” he said. “If there is a delay, they are going to click off and you are going to get into that algorithmic death spiral.”

For more on this topic, see our report on Walker’s colleague Greg Duffy’s speech on ‘growth hacking’ the music video, from our Sandbox Summit New York conference earlier this year.

Eamonn Forde

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