Ahh attention, the marketer’s dilemma. In a world with 6-second videos, 15-second stories, and audio-less-auto-plays, how on earth do you get your videos watched?

Networks like YouTube have started to promote the idea of “watch-time” over “views”. A few hours browsing the Creators Academy will give you insight into videos. We suggest you spend some time there if you’re just getting started.

Understanding visitor behavior

Whatever said and done, it all starts with basic human behavior. Just like this very post, the reason you’re reading this is, that there’s something to gain here, something of value; whether that’s in the form of insight or laughter it doesn’t matter, this is universal.

We recently completed a test on a video that we have on our very own homepage. It’s 6-minute video on how our digital agency works. It’s a tough ask, and what we noticed was as soon as someone saw the video length on the play bar, it scared them away.

That doesn’t really mean that long-form content is bad, on the contrary YouTube promotes it. Long form content is so valuable now that it is one of the main factors that affect ranking algorithms by measuring rate of decay.

YouTube Creators Academy resources

What we’ve seen as the key gauge for the success/failure of a video’s watch time is demographics. Are you really telling the right story to the right audience? Then again, this has always been our ethos; “banking on human behavior” and the data proves it.

Let’s dissect the video

The video we’re analyzing on this post is something that can be found on our homepage. It’s a basic play button that causes people to check it out.

There’s nothing stopping people from clicking play, it’s prominent, it’s out, it’s big. To give some context, the data we’re talking about is from over 1,500 page views spanning throughout a week.

As soon as users start watching, they leave, quite fast. It could be a mix of a lot of things, but let’s use some test examples as comparison data.

We had to re-create the graphs to protect the anonymity of our client data. These videos are high performing videos we have made after a lot of testing.

Example 01
B2B 30 second video on the landing page

B2C Video Analytics

Example 02
B2C 60 second info video on a product page

B2C Video Analytics

We’re putting this out there for you to understand what the patterns look like. Short videos targeting the right demographics work. We’ve managed to lift up the total percentage watched from about 30 to 50%.

The drop-off rate is almost always uniform, because the videos are small, there isn’t much buy-in. It’s as easy to watch a video that is 10 seconds long, as it is to click away – which is why our video statistics became very interesting for us.

The rate of decay and the metric that matters

This is an important metric we look at to measure audience retention, targeting and overall success of a video. How quickly do people leave, and why?

As a reasonably educated marketer, we already know that “views” don’t matter (relatively speaking). We understand that % of video views dictate the quality of that video. On top of that, when you refine it, what we see is that watch-time(%)/time(s) gives a much better grip on understanding people’s affinity to content.

Data collection and the “Aha” moment

When we launched the video on Surge, we created a “Turnstile”. A turnstile is a virtual roadblock that is used to capture certain types of data for lead generation.


Initially, the lead capture grabbed the first/last name and email to get comprehensive data, which took a toll on viewership. So, we made it simple, we just want your email.

The video has some interesting stats.

  • 25% of the viewers that see the video thumbnail, click play
  • The turnstile is placed on the 28th second
  • Upon “play” the viewership drops to 55% by the 26th second
  • The average rate of decay pre-turnstile is 1.5% per second
  • The turnstile reduces the audience to 36% (19% drop-off from play)
  • The viewership at video end (6:00) is 16% (20% drop-off from turnstile)
  • The average rate of decay post-turnstile drops to 0.06%
  • The improvement in retention pre/post turnstile is 2,500%

Cognitive marketing and irony

50% of the email submissions on the leads generated are invalid. These are what we like to call “smart ones”. They’re too good to be caught by the “traps” of the mundane marketer. These are the rebels, the anarchists and the revolutionists fighting against the corrupt systems.

Let’s take a step back.

Yes, you managed to avoid giving away your personal data, but that wasn’t the goal. The video was designed to get buy-in.

We’ve seen repeating patterns, whether you’re trying to buy a car, make an enterprise sale to a fortune 500 company or just sell a pen. You need your customer to buy into the process. It may not be the end point of the conversion, but it’s a segment they need to go through. What we’ve understood here, is that when a stranger commits, not money, not time but even a little bit of data, there’s a perception of buy-in.

Because of the fact that you gave us your email, be it real or fake. The video now holds more value than it did before. Now that we have your buy into what we do at Surge, subscribe to the newsletter, for more updates about cool things we do backed by data.

The video analytics tool we use here at Surge is called Wistia, and we give credit where it’s due. It’s an amazing platform that we use to integrate across the Surge marketing stack. If you want to learn more about the customer acquisition stack by Surge check out the video here.