Video length has always been an important factor for marketing agencies and content creators.
I know that more and more clients we are working with through our video agency are factoring in the duration of their videos in the early stages of the video production process.
One of the most important questions you have to answer when creating a commercial video for the Internet is – what is the effective duration?
Often, especially when faced with this type of content for the first time, companies tend to fit everything into one video.
After all, the Internet is not a TV with a huge budget for a 15-second posting. The possibilities are endless — you can upload even 3 hours of video, and all for free.
But how much time is a user ready to devote to your video?
The right answer to the question about the duration of the business video on the Internet is simple — the shorter, the better.
The shorter, the better! Shorter videos are more appealing to the user.
But that may not be so simple as it seems to be.
Bloggers, marketers, and entrepreneurs, when they start shooting/publishing videos and figuring out views/subscriptions/retention, wonder, “Is there an optimal, maximum effective length for a YouTube video?” It really depends on your goals.
Videos under 2 minutes in length are more likely to be watched to the end.
According to the Wistia report, videos under 1 minute in length are most often watched till the end.
According to a later study by the same company, based on 500,000+ samples, videos up to 2 minutes have the highest engagement.
After that, it starts to drop significantly. It turns out that a 90-second video will hold the same amount of attention as a 30-second video.
In what case is it extremely important that the video is watched to the end?
Suppose the goal is product/service familiarity, brand awareness, engagement, and views.
Then, as a rule, short videos are enough. We have to make our message short and fast in our video ads so that almost all viewers have had time to hear/see our valuable and advantageous offer.
Almost all YouTube formats are designed for short videos.
Videos as long as 4:30 are more effective in terms of viewing time
A study by Briggsby (2018) on YouTube ranking factors, among other things, tested the impact of video length.
It turned out that the most effective videos are between 4 minutes and 30 seconds long.
The author used his own indicator – the potential viewing time (since only the author of the channel can know the real-time) – to evaluate it.
It was calculated using the following indicators:
- number of views
- video duration
- retention rate
- percentage of positive reactions.
Here’s what came out:
Where is total view time much more important than engagement/retention from the previous study?
If the goal is to rank high in YouTube search, get into recommendations, get out to monetize, and earn more through AdSense.
This blog post and this patent proves that it’s not the number of views but the quality metric – view time – that’s the key factor.
15 minutes is the average length of the content at the top of YouTube searches
At 14 minutes and 50 seconds, to be exact, that’s the average length of a video on the first page of YouTube search results, according to research by Backlinko (2017).
The aforementioned Briggsby report, though, has slightly different figures – the average length of videos in the top 5 is 11:44.
There are two theories as to why this is the case:
- YouTube shows longer videos because they give more viewing time (hence profit to YouTube itself).
- Users appreciate and choose longer videos more; they like and comment on them, thereby increasing the rating.
However, there are exceptions. If you search for something on the subject of “WordPress”, you can find both one- and two-hour-long videos.
When is it good for us if videos show up high in searches? If the goal is to maximize viewing time, increase monetization revenue, and attract subscribers from search.
Of course, as long as we make videos on popular topics and use SEO optimization.
10-16 minute videos get more likes from viewers
Back to the Briggsby study again: the authors found that viewers tend to like fairly long videos.
Videos lasting 10-16 minutes are well-liked.
Videos under 5 minutes get a lower percentage of positive reactions.
With lengths over 16 minutes, engagement also decreases.
Curiously, videos under 1 minute are the most disliked.
Mind you, these are the ones that have the highest retention rates, according to Wistia. Perhaps it’s because they’re mostly promotional.
In which case are we more interested in getting more likes?
If we want to get more views/subscribers from search and recommendations – because engagement is one of the ranking factors.
More important than numbers
It should be taken as an axiom that if the ad is not interesting, does not catch the story or ideas, then users will close it almost immediately, and no matter how long it lasts: fifteen seconds or three minutes.
It could be that timekeeping doesn’t really matter how popular the video is. Something else is more important. Something that makes us watch and share the video with others.
Brands like Samsung, Levi’s, Heineken, Apple, Carlsberg, and Nike use long videos to get their message across.
These commercials often have a viral effect and are watched by millions.
This confirms that there is no direct correlation between the length of a video and its mass success.
The indicator of the success of a promotional video is its content. This is absolutely certain and undisputed.
The timing, on the other hand, is determined by the business goals the company sets for advertising in each particular case.
How long should the tutorial video be?
There are many studies that point specifically to the length of 8-10 minutes of training videos as being optimal.
The most ambitious and most cited to date is an analysis of 6.9 million views of training videos hosted on the four EdX platforms of major universities (including MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley).
Logs on the servers were analyzed, and student viewer engagement was calculated. “Attention” was counted as continuing to watch the video, and “loss of attention” was counted as three events: a student concurrently opening another internet page, a student closing or stopping the video, the video ending itself.
Screening sessions shorter than five seconds were filtered out.
The result was that the attention span was the highest (falling by nearly 100% from the start) until the 9th minute, while video clips were stopped for around 40% of the viewing sessions by the 12th minute, and videos were viewed up to the 40th minute in only 20% of cases.
Interestingly, the same study also analyzed some qualitative characteristics: for example, videos with close-ups of the lecturer were watched better than videos with a general view behind the lectern (such videos lost on average 60% of the audience by minute 12), while videos in the so-called Khan Academy style (where the teacher draws something on the board in the course of narration) were watched on average better than videos with slides.
A video that lasts a lifetime
Given the current trend of joblessness and time pressures, it’s riskier to make long videos. In such cases, content matters.
Long videos can include reviews, interviews, testimonials, image videos, or any video showing the process of creating a product, project, etc.
A long video should contain a unique story, be engaging and interesting, creating a subtle emotional connection between the brand and the audience.
How to increase the video duration limit on YouTube
By default, videos up to 15 minutes in length can be uploaded to YouTube. However, if your account is verified, you can add longer videos.
Here’s how to validate your account:
- Open the YouTube mobile app.
- Tap the New icon at the bottom of the screen, then select Upload video.
- Tap Record or select a video longer than 15 minutes.
- Add a title, description, and options for the video. Click Next.
- Follow the on-screen instructions. Choose whether to listen to the confirmation code via phone or receive it via SMS.
YouTube Length Limitations
You cannot add files larger than 128GB to YouTube.
To edit or convert your video, you can use a free solution like the ones mentioned here.
The maximum duration of a video is 12 hours. If you see a video longer than 12 hours, it means it was uploaded before this rule took effect.
How long a video should be on Instagram
Instagram has long grown from being a social network for photos. Now you can post videos in feeds, stories, and IGTV.
But what’s the maximum duration limit in each of the sections? Let’s get to the bottom of it.
Video duration in the feed
When you publish a video in the main feed, you can upload or record a video up to 60 seconds long.
You can opt for a longer video when uploading it, but you’ll have to choose a one-minute chunk before publishing it.
Video duration in Stories
Videos in Instagram Stories are limited to a duration of 15 seconds. But this limitation is easy to get around.
When you upload longer videos, they are automatically cut into chunks of 15 seconds each and displayed in chronological order.
The length of a live stream
Instagram users can start live streaming videos up to one hour long. All streams are saved as videos and are available for future viewing by subscribers.
This option can be deactivated.
For longer streams, a new stream has to be started every 60 minutes.
What are the requirements for uploading IGTV videos to Instagram?
Duration of the video
Videos must be at least 1 minute in length. Maximum duration:
- 15 minutes for videos uploaded from a mobile device.
- 60 minutes for videos uploaded from a computer.
Type of video file
Videos must be in MP4 format.
Video resolution and size
- The video aspect ratio is 9:16 for vertical videos and 16:9 for horizontal videos.
- The minimum frame rate is 30 fps. The minimum resolution is 720 pixels.
- The maximum size of a video shorter than 10 minutes is 650 MB. The maximum video size of a video shorter than 60 minutes is 3.6 GB.
If you consider the data from all the studies mentioned above, we get:
- Make videos of up to 2 minutes if you want direct advertising of products/services, increase brand awareness, maximize reach and views. Short videos are more likely to be watched to the end.
- Publish 10-15 minute video content if you want more view time and likes, monetization revenue, good search traffic, and YouTube recommendations. Long enough (but not too long) videos are loved not only by algorithms but also by viewers.
Disclaimer: Don’t artificially increase the length – if there is a lot of “water”, unnecessary and superfluous, users won’t watch long anyway.
And if there is little viewing time, search/recommendations, and, of course, monetization of content will become worse.
Similarly, with artificial video cuts. You need to shoot as much as you need to cover the topic.
Video tutorials, hour-long interviews, or major investigations are completely out of the research average but definitely go down a treat. And they blow up Trends.
Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner, and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios, or brands all over the globe.