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Alex Bersin

By Alex Bersin

Senior Manager, Content at Brightcove

How to Increase Video Views


Increase Video Views

You did it. You finally finished that video you’ve been working on for months. Now comes the moment of truth, the moment all that hard work finally pays off. You check your video analytics: 23 views.

We’ve all been there. As frustrating as that is, trying to get more video views can be equally aggravating. That’s why it’s time for a better understanding of video views.

What are video views, really?

To product managers and engineers, video views are how many times a video is played. It means a play request was sent to the player, and the player began playing the video.

To marketers, video views are opportunities. They’re opportunities to make potential customers aware of your brand, consider your product, and decide to shop with you. But these opportunities imply more than play requests. They assume the right audience is consuming your content.

The reason marketers get frustrated with video views is because that’s the only metric they’re tracking. Remember when pageviews used to be the primary web KPI? Marketers quickly caught on that they also needed to track metrics like bounce rate and time on page to see how their content was performing.

To be clear, video views aren’t a bad metric. In fact, video views are fundamentally the same metric as pageviews: they both measure the number of times your content was viewed. But if you want to increase how much your content is consumed by the right people, you’ll need to track other metrics.

How to measure video views

Going viral used to be considered a legitimate marketing tactic. That is, until marketers realized that lots and lots of views from the wrong people didn’t help them achieve their goals.

Tracking video views the right way means treating digital video like any other form of online content. And the same rules for measuring digital content also apply to video: you have to start at the beginning.

Measuring Impressions

Before anyone can view your content, they have to arrive at it from another channel (like clicking off an email) or within a channel (like scrolling through a social feed). When they do, that’s called an impression.

Impressions do not represent individual viewers (a single viewer can generate multiple impressions) and they do not indicate video plays or views. Whether hosted on a web page or a social post, an impression is when your video is loaded on that page or post. That’s the technical definition.

To marketers, impressions measure how effective your video strategy is at attracting potential views. Impressions are key to tracking views because total views can only be as big as total impressions. So if you want more views, you’ll need to start by getting more impressions.

Impressions can be tracked using your CMS, the native social platform, or third-party tools like Google Analytics or HootSuite. You can also track the results of videos distributed across multiple channels in one place with platforms like Brightcove.

Measuring Play Rate

After someone sees your video, the next step is to play it—to view the content. This is where video views finally get some screen time, but even then, they’re not a solo act. Play rate is the percentage of loaded videos that were actually played: total video views divided by total video impressions.

To marketers, play rate measures how effective your video strategy is at converting potential viewers into actual viewers. Play rate is also key to tracking views because total views are only as high as your marketing promotions are true to the video’s content.

Play rate can be tracked using your online video platform or native social platform. However, not every tool automatically calculates the percentage. If you want to quickly compare videos by this metric, you’ll need to export the data into a spreadsheet, build your own dashboard, or invest in a solution that does all of that for you.

Measuring Engagement

Tracking video views doesn’t end once a viewer presses play. For a view to matter, the viewer has to consume some meaningful amount of the video’s content. This is commonly referred to as engagement.

Also called view-through or retention rate, engagement measures how much of a video was viewed. While video views aggregate all durations (from less than a second to the entire length of the video), engagement can show you the average amount of your video that viewers watched.

To marketers, engagement measures how effective your video strategy is at converting actual viewers into potential or engaged customers. Engagement is key to tracking views because total views are only as valuable as the percentage of content consumed.

Engagement can be tracked using your online video platform or native social platform. While most tools display this data in the form of a chart, Brightcove also provides an Engagement Score. This metric divides a video into 100 equal parts and calculates the average percentage watched per view, so you can compare videos with a single number.

How to increase video views

Increasing video views primarily depends on serving up the right content to the right audience. You wouldn’t expect a video about Roth IRAs to get a lot of views among middle schoolers.

Assuming you have the right content for the right audience, there are several tactics that can help you increase your impressions, play rate, engagement, and ultimately your video views.

Optimizing Impressions

Video impressions are not unlike search impressions. Both metrics measure how much your content resonates with your audience.

For example, SEO marketers optimize keywords to align with the queries of their target audience. In the same way, video marketers can pick the channels that most align with the behaviors of their target audience.

  • Use display and paid social for top-of-funnel content. If your goal is awareness, you want high-volume, low-intent channels so your content can reach as far as possible.
  • Use paid search or organic social for mid-funnel content. If you’re targeting buyers at the consideration stage, you want medium-volume, medium-intent channels. Your content needs to reach a good-sized audience interested in specific topics.
  • Use email for bottom-of-funnel content. For buyers at the decision stage, you want the best low-volume, high-intent channel. Your content needs to reach an audience that knows you, likes you, and is primed to buy.

Following this paradigm will help you set expectations for your video views. Decision videos will be limited by the size of your email list, but awareness videos are only limited by the size of your budget. Once you know how many views are possible, you’ll know how many to aim for and be able to identify areas of improvement.

For example, low impressions don’t always mean you’re promoting in the wrong channel. It could mean your video player isn’t loading properly—especially if you’re using a free web player. Compare your source channel’s clicks against your impressions to confirm that your player is working properly.

Optimizing Play Rate

Play rate is similar to email’s open rate (at least it used to be—thanks, Apple). Both metrics measure how well the content matches the marketing promotions.

Just like email marketers optimize subject lines, video marketers can employ several tactics to improve the content experience.

  • Set landing page videos to autoplay. Your audience already demonstrated intent to watch by clicking off of your source channel. Don’t make them click again.
  • Tell viewers to watch the video. Vague CTAs make play buttons optional, not the next step. They also make autoplay unwelcome.
  • Write clear copy. Don’t be clever. Don’t be cute. Explain your video as you would to a stranger in an elevator, not a friend at the bar. This applies to the title, description, and keywords.
  • Create custom thumbnails. Never let the player decide how to promote your video. Select the still that best represents the content, and add concise copy for channels like social.

Even with these tactics, play rate is dependent on the situation. Homepage videos compete with lots of other content for numerous audiences of varying intent. They will never achieve the play rates of landing page videos with a dedicated email audience, especially if the latter is set to autoplay.

Without a doubt, the wrong copy can have just as much of an effect as the wrong content. But be sure to benchmark your play rates by video location before rewriting your campaign messaging.

Optimizing Engagement

Video engagement closely mirrors social engagement. Both metrics measure whether your content was consumed.

In a sea of competing content creators, social marketers focus on optimizing their content to be eye-catching—from custom graphics to emojis to the spacing and placement of the copy itself. Video marketers share the same opportunities to ensure their content keeps and retains their audience’s attention.

  • Trim your intro. Whether you forgot to set your trim points or overindulged on a title screen, a long intro is a great way to lower your engagement. Your audience is busy enough being distracted by the rest of the internet, so hurry up and get to the point.
  • Add subtitles. Subtitles not only make your content more accessible, they make it more engaging. An estimated 92% of mobile users watch video with the sound off.
  • Consider interactivity. Engagement can only get so high in a lean-back experience. Adding interactivity will transform passive audiences into engaged consumers. You also won’t have to wait for them to take the next step. You can put it right on top of the video.

Like play rate, engagement is subject to a couple different factors like length and location. Shorter videos typically have higher engagement than longer videos, so be sure to benchmark your short- and long-form content. You don't want to try to compare the engagement of a 30-minute webinar against a 30-second sizzle.

Similarly, videos promoted on higher-intent channels tend to have higher engagement than those promoted on lower-intent channels. You may have already found that it's hard to get social media viewers to watch much more than 30 seconds. Conversely, the majority of an email audience will probably give you up to three or four minutes of their time.

Why you need more than video views

The whole point of a video marketing strategy is to get people to watch your videos. But just trying to increase your video views will be surprisingly disappointing. You need to measure and optimize all of the metrics related to views before you see the ones that matter increase.

Don't be intimidated by the jargon that comes with video analytics. Video is still content, and the metrics aren’t any different than the rest of digital marketing. The sooner you recognize that, the sooner you'll be able to adopt the best practices you've learned from other digital channels. You may even discover advanced strategies that also apply to video marketing.