Is your YouTube engagement where you want it to be?

Earning billions of daily views and video searches, YouTube’s popularity speaks for itself.

And like any other type of social media engagement, competition on YouTube is fierce.

For brands big and small, growing a channel and dedicated audience is no small feat. Especially when performance is tied to the ever-changing YouTube algorithm.

The good news is that there are ways to increase your reach and move your video metrics in the right direction.

Below we explain how YouTube engagement is calculated, plus we provide 10 ways to increase your YouTube engagement rate.

What is YouTube engagement?

YouTube engagement refers to the level of activity associated with your channel and videos. This activity includes views, shares, “Likes,” comments and new subscribers. 

YouTube’s native analytics provide metrics to help channels understand how engaged your audience is. From there, you can draw insights to boost engagement. For example, increasing YouTube engagement starts by identifying trends such as the following:

  • Which videos are retaining the most viewers?
  • Where do most of a video’s views come from (ex: YouTube search vs. suggested videos)?
  • Which videos yield the most subscribers?
  • Which videos have the longest video duration?
  • Which videos earning the most comments or likes?
YouTube engagement measured by watch time

Leveraging insights from YouTube analytics can uncover ways to optimize your content and channel’s for further engaging your target audience.  Below is a snapshot of how the platform analyzes unique viewer and engagement for any given video:

YouTube impressions funnel inside YouTube's native analytics platform

You can gather insights around YouTube engagement on both a video and channel-wide basis. You can keep a pulse on your top-performing content on your YouTube Studio dashboard.

General YouTube analytics dashboard

Meanwhile, individual videos can be analyzed further via “Reach, “Engagement” and “Audience.”

individual video engagement on YouTube

Both big-picture and granular data points can clue you in on what videos are doing well. Also, which fell flat and the sorts of content your audience actually wants to see.

What factors impact your YouTube engagement rate?

Like any social algorithm, YouTube’s algorithm ranks content based on a variety of factors. One of these factors is the level of engagement of a video. A video with a higher YouTube engagement rate will likely rank higher on YouTube compared to other videos targeting the same demographic or audience with a lower engagement rate.

Some factors that contribute to a YouTube video’s level of engagement are more impactful than others. Here is a strong list for starters:

  • Account activity. This includes how often you publish videos, respond to comments and engage with other YouTube accounts. Off-platform activity such as traffic from search engines or social networks can help you here, too.
  • Video duration. This includes how long your videos are. Conventional wisdom says that “longer” videos (8-10+ minutes) earn more engagement. That’s because longer watch times result in more time spent on YouTube. There’s obviously exceptions to this, though.
  • Video titles, descriptions and formats. These details help YouTube understand what your content actually is. Likewise, these details help ensure that your videos get suggested across other YouTube channels that serve a similar demographic or audience. This would make it more likely to attract a more highly engaged audience to your videos.
  • Topics and target audience. Simply put, your YouTube engagement is largely dependent on your audience and industry. A SaaS company or niche channel will likely have a lower ceiling of potential viewership. That said, sticking to consistent themes and topics for a specific target audience will set you up for more engagement than making your channel a dumping ground for clips.

This list isn’t the be-all, end-all of YouTube engagement. How users engage with YouTube content formatting will be ever-evolving as the platform changes over time. That said, these are all factors that channels (mostly) have control over at the time of writing.

How to calculate your YouTube engagement rate

Here’s a simplified formula to figure out your engagement rate:

Total interactions / total impressions x 100 = engagement rate percentage

To calculate your YouTube engagement rate, start with your total video interactions. Interactions include views, shares, “Dislikes,” “Likes,” comments, new subscribers, and lost subscribers. If those are too many metrics to count to be relevant to the goals of your YouTube channel, it’s customary to narrow down your interactions to just “Likes,” comments, and shares. These three metrics are considered to be the most valuable metrics to determine engagement on YouTube.

Second, you’ll want to take your total number of interactions and divide it by your total impressions. Google tells us that “Impressions are counted if the thumbnail is shown for more than 1 second and at least 50% of the thumbnail is visible on the screen.”

You can find impressions in the “Reach” tab in YouTube analytics. Lastly, take the total video interactions divided by the total impressions and multiply that total by 100 to get your engagement rate percentage.

10 tips to improve your YouTube engagement rate

Let’s be super clear: there is no secret to succeeding on YouTube.

That said, there are common qualities between the top-performing channels and videos. While you can’t control the algorithm, you can tailor your content for more reach and views.

Below we dig into actionable ways to improve your YouTube engagement rate. These tips are based on recent trends, YouTube’s own best practices and what we’ve seen firsthand.

Pro tip: If you’re looking for something a bit more tactical, try our YouTube strategy template. It will help you conduct brand and channel audits that support a more engaging YouTube presence.

Get the template

1. Prioritize platform and community engagement

Marketers love to debate YouTube’s status as a social network.

But the platforms’ ongoing Community features signal how the platform is getting more “social.”

Like any social app, interactions go hand in hand with reach and engagement. This includes:

  • Responding to comments
  • Engaging with other channels and users (via comments and “Likes”)
  • Asking questions of your audience (in your video descriptions or content itself)

Consider that YouTube puts recent comments front-and-center in your analytics dashboard. The platform explicitly encourages timely responses and interactions. In YouTube Studio, you can actually reply to all of your unacknowledged comments without leaving the page.

If nothing else, posting updates via the Community tab ensures that more people see your videos. These posts can serve as a friendly nudge to your subscribers who’d otherwise miss your latest upload.

2. Promote your YouTube content across multiple channels

Content distribution is all the rage right now.

And rightfully so given the legwork it takes to create a YouTube video.

Reposting and cross-promoting your YouTube presence is a smart move. You might be surprised at which social networks or marketing channels result in more eyes on your content.

For example, consider the following ways to funnel more YouTube engagement to your channel:

  • Embed videos on your website (via your homepage, landing pages or blog)
  • Include a link to your YouTube channel in your Linktree or social bios
  • Cross-posting YouTube links on platforms like Reddit, LinkedIn or Pinterest

YouTube actually keeps track of your off-platform traffic in the “External sites or apps” report in every video. Think of this as a sort of stripped down version of a Google Analytics report.

YouTube engagement based on external sources

This report can highlight opportunities to drive YouTube engagement through other channels. Likewise, you can assess whether your YouTube SEO is on point (but more on that later).

3. Create more YouTube Shorts content

The fact that YouTube Shorts is amassing tens of billions of views daily on their own is staggering.

Likewise, it’s all the more reason to experiment with short-form content. Shorts represent YouTube’s response to TikTok and the popularity of “the endless scroll” when it comes to content.

Beyond the potential for engagement, Shorts serve as a way to organize your channel. That is, you can separate your long-form content on your main channel and bite-sized clips.

While this doesn’t guarantee YouTube engagement by default, it does provide more chances to get picked up by the algorithm. Especially YouTube really seems to be favoring Shorts right now.

If you’re new to Shorts, consider the following to kickstart your presence there:

  • Recut long-form videos into short-form content
  • Cross-post vertical video content such as TikToks or Instagram Reels
  • Experiment with smartphone-only video ideas with Shorts

And hey, that last point leads us to our next tip.

4. Experiment with new video ideas

You’ll never know what actually drives engagement on YouTube until you test for yourself.

There’s no shortage of video ideas to fill your content calendar. If you’re in a creative rut or realize that your current video formats aren’t working, try something new. For example:

  • “Versus” content (ex: comparing products, methods to do a task)
  • How-to content and tutorials
  • Review and reaction-style content

All of the above are proven formats that offer a lot of creative freedom. Not to mention they’re like candy to both the YouTube algorithm and Google.

Channels like Pianote publish a wide variety of content that fits into a few specific buckets. For example, they create a combination of lesson videos and gear videos targeting beginner pianists. Needless to say, they’ve found a winning formula primarily through educational content.

example of YouTube SEO from Pianote YouTube channel

You may naturally want to avoid YouTube cliches or anything that borders on clickbait. That said, there’s a reason why many of the most popular channels follow similar formula that includes:

  • Videos geared toward a specific audience (that still has appeal to general views)
  • “Edutainment” that answers questions or piques viewers’ curiosity
  • Longer-form videos that cover topics comprehensively

The takeaway here is to be open-minded to new ideas and test formats for yourself.

5. Create a consistent publishing schedule

Rarely do channels grow when they post at random.

Feeding the YouTube algorithm means sticking to a consistent content calendar. This doesn’t mean sacrificing quality for quantity with your content. YouTube specifically recommends creating Shorts because of their lower time commitment and potential for scale.

For example, you might find a balance posting one “long” video alongside three Shorts weekly. What matters most is sticking to a social media content calendar that’s reasonable long-term.

While there’s a link between YouTube engagement and timing, much data is anecdotal. YouTube Studio actually provides a breakdown of when your specific viewing audience is more active on the app. This can help provide context to the best time to post based on your channel.

graphic representing YouTube audience activity in YouTube Studio's analytics

6. Hook viewers with creative thumbnails

Food for thought: 90% of the top-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails.

Creating an “optimal” thumbnail depends largely on your content and audience. That said, there are best practices that are likewise recommended by YouTube themselves:

  • Make use of colors to catch viewers’ eyes (“dynamic colors” in Google’s words)
  • Use clear text that’s easy to read across multiple devices
  • Feature actual people in your thumbnails to make an emotional connection with viewers
YouTube thumbnail examples

Think of your thumbnail as part of your video’s hook. Random screengrabs are rarely going to excite viewers, especially people who’ve never seen you before.

7. Be strategic with YouTube ads

This is a straightforward tip that may or may not make sense depending on your goals.

That said, running YouTube ads can be an eye-opener for the sake of getting fast data about your audience. For example, you can test different formats, messaging and keyword phrases to see what hits. This serves as a faster way to gather audience data versus waiting for it organically.

8. Take action to improve your YouTube SEO

Paying attention to your YouTube SEO is a low-hanging way to improve your engagement rate.

The platform’s status as a search engine is well-documented, especially as more and more videos pop up in Google results. The goal of YouTube SEO isn’t to spam viewers. Instead, it’s to make small tweaks to your videos to make them more viewer-friendly and easier to find.

YouTube videos showing in Google results

There’s a lot that goes into YouTube SEO, but here are starters to consider:

  • Your video titles (think: “How-to” content pops up in the SERPs all the time)
  • Including keywords in your video descriptions
  • Making use of relevant YouTube hashtags
  • Pointing traffic to your video content from external sources

Like everything else related to YouTube engagement, there’s no silver bullet here. Focus on taking small steps to optimize your content and channel to see what works.

9. Use timestamps to hold your viewers’ attention

If you spend much time in YouTube Studio, you’ll notice how much viewer retention is mentioned.

This metric is key to both YouTube and its algorithm. The more time people spend watching your videos, the more you signal your content as recommend-worthy.

Increasing viewer retention doesn’t require making long-form the only part of your video marketing strategy. Small steps like adding timestamps (which in turn create “Chapters”) on your videos can do the trick.

example of using thumbnails to engage YouTube viewers

Timestamps can help viewers zero in on the exact information that they’re looking for. Most viewers would prefer to skip lengthy intros and get straight to the “meat” of your videos. That’s how timestamps create a better viewer experience and keep viewers from bouncing early.

10. Use the right YouTube management tools

YouTube’s native tools are a treasure trove of insight about your content.

That said, consider that there are other tools that can also elevate your channel faster.

For example, Sprout’s social media management tools can help boost your YouTube presence. Here are just a handful of ways which tie back to the tips above:

  • Easy cross-promote your new YouTube videos across social networks in one platform
  • Discover threads and trends between top-performing videos via in-depth analytics
  • Align your YouTube content with audience conversations via social listening
Sprout Social YouTube engagement features

Are you taking steps to increase your YouTube engagement rate?

Getting consistent engagement on YouTube doesn’t happen by accident.

Doing so requires a strategy and attention to detail.

Following all of the tips above might seem daunting. The reality, though? These best practices become second nature once you see just how much they impact your engagement rate.

Looking for more insights and tips on taking your video marketing presence to the next level?

If you haven’t already, check out our YouTube strategy template to grow your channel faster!

YouTube engagement FAQs

What is a good YouTube engagement rate?

It depends! The average engagement rate depends on the form of content your video is and the topic it’s about. Some forms of content–like livestreams–are more engaging in their nature than that of others. And certain topics are significantly more engaged with than other topics on the platform, such as “how to” content.

How do you increase engagement on YouTube?

The best way to increase engagement on Youtube is by taking steps to consistently promote your YouTube channel. This means:

  • Creating content based on specific topics and pain points relevant to your audience
  • Understanding viewer intent via analytics, keywords and suggested content
  • Engaging viewers with questions and calls-to-action
  • Optimizing your video details such as titles, thumbnails and descriptions
  • Cross-publishing your videos across other channels and platforms