A new search ranking algorithm update has shaken things up for ecommerce managers who have been incorporating video into their search strategies.

According to Google and YouTube, they are adjusting rankings so that videos with more "watch time" are ranked highest. In other words, the amount of time a video is played and, presumably, watched, matters more than how many times people view it.

The solution to this ranking challenge is user-generated video. We know that site visitors are interested in what other customers are saying about your products. People value these honest, objective opinions from those outside of your business.

What's more, user-generated videos are more than informative. They're often funny, which can compel viewers to stay tuned longer.

Marketing on Google is like parenting. Just when you get used to things and establish a routine, everything changes. This time, it's how Google ranks YouTube videos.

The intent of this change is to measure a video’s impact and engagement, by tracking whether people watch a clip in its entirety, rather than simply counting the clicks of viewers who may only stay for a few seconds. YouTube are explaining the change as an effort to encourage "less clicking, more watching".

As Google said in its blog post about the algorithm change, "This should benefit your channel if your videos drive more viewing time".

While these watch time requirements may reward engaging videos with higher rankings, they may also present a problem for many online merchants. Perhaps the greatest issue is that product videos are typically about 30 seconds long, so they simply cannot accumulate as much watch time.

These are more like adverts than narrative videos, and are intended to quickly deliver the information a viewer seeks and encourage them to place an order.

Fortunately, YouTube also presents the solution to this challenge, in the form of allowing user-generated video. We know that site visitors are interested in what other customers are saying about your products. People value these honest, objective opinions from those outside of your business. What's more, user-generated videos are more than informative. They're often funny, which can compel viewers to stay tuned longer.

To turn user-generated video to your advantage, you first need to encourage customers to submit their own videos to your YouTube channel and website. You also need to manage this content effectively, and for retailers with thousands of products, this may require automating some of the necessary tasks.

Here are some thoughts to help you get started: 

  • Begin by publicising your interest in hosting customer videos. Post a banner on each product page that welcomes video reviews. Be sure to invite participation in follow-up emails once orders are delivered. To encourage submissions, consider offer incentives such as discounts or free products.
  • Provide a way for users to upload videos to your website. This would require a form that guides users through describing and attaching their video, as well as a server on which to host the videos. Be sure to have the technical capability to filter out inappropriate content.
  • Conduct A/B testing to see which user-generated videos attract the most watch time and conversions, then promote them on YouTube and your website.Repost videos to YouTube if your customers don't, or give them an easy way to upload to your YouTube channel themselves.

We continually see that user-generated videos are some of the most watched on the web. On any list of high-traffic videos, such as The Huffington Post’s regular feature, "The 9 Most Popular Viral Videos of the Week", a good number come from people instead of brands.

Why not use your customers' desire to share their opinions and showcase their video-making skills to supplement your own product videos?

It's one more way to boost your YouTube channel watch time and, ultimately, conversions and sales. Just don't give up on your own product videos.

They still contribute a great deal towards helping customers make informed decisions, even if they don't add to the YouTube ranking you hoped for.


Published 25 January, 2013 by Melody King

Melody King is VP at Treepodia and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (4)


Fernando Ishi

Hi there,

I am from Brazil and e-commerce here is just starting compared to the US. Even though I've lived in the US for a few years, I've never seen it in any e-commerce websites over there.
In theory that's the best way to go. But, do you have any examples of e-commerce websites that are already doing it? And again, you have to filter it a little bit because if you put a video on your website that tells that that specific product is not as good as the brand is advertising, or that a product is really low quality, that will certainly influence badly on the performance of that specific product.

Keep up with the good content,

over 5 years ago


Shashank G

If you ask me then this does not surprise me.In fact I support this step of you tube to show the videos with high views in top list only if it does not affect negatively to the other search results

over 5 years ago


Sandeep K

I f look the other way then the business can gain a competitive edge over their rivals through sharing videos that could encourage users to watch

over 5 years ago



Interesting stuff, but unfortunately you completely missed one absolutely critical point- YouTube's totally out-of-control flagging & community guideline enforcement policy.

Both personal experience and anecdotal evidence has shown that video producers posting to YT are likely to find themselves persistently and aggressively flagged (resulting in guideline ‘strikes’) for completely false or spurious reasons, no matter how uncontroversial their content. There is an 'appeal this strike' button, but it usually results in simple confirmation of the strike within minutes.

The producer will then find him/herself labelled & defamed as a pornographer or producer of unsuitable content (such as graphic violence or 'hate speech') in YouTube/Google permanent records. There is no guarantee this information won't be shared with law enforcement authorities at some point in the future, and only a lengthy legal challenge can alter this status.

So overall, my advice is to steer well clear of YT- it’s not worth the risk.

over 5 years ago

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