How to Decide How Long Your Video Should Be
Get it wrong and your audience will get bored or not fully understand. Get it right and your audience will thank you for it.
Deciding how long your online video should be can sometimes seem complicated, or limiting, so I’m going to try to demystify video length for you.
Most advice you’ll find about online videos says the same kind of thing.
- Keep your video as short as possible,
- Your audience has the attention of a goldfish,
- No more than 60-90 seconds or people will not bother watching it.
Now, I’m not saying this is bad advice… just a little incomplete.
Remember your audience has a limited attention span
It is true that online audiences don’t have the luxury of all the time in the world. They are mostly very busy and conditioned, by most things on the internet, to get instant results. Back in the day of dial up internet, people were happy when a page managed to load at all, but in today’s superfast fibre optic world, people value every half-second they can squeeze out of their day.
So this does usually mean that a homepage explainer video should generally be kept to less than 2 minutes in order to keep engagement levels up as high as possible.
There are many different types of online video, and there are many different types of online audience, and again many different types of situations. The optimum length of your video depends on each video type, audience and situation.
So what do you have to keep in mind when deciding on video length?
First I would recommend considering whether your video’s purpose is to sell your viewers something, or to educate, or entertain them. Videos that are obviously selling something are likely to cause people’s defences to go up and lower their attention span. The voice in their head might say “Get to the point, what are you trying to sell me and how much is it going to cost?”
When your purpose is to educate or entertain, don’t let common consensus hold you back. If it takes 5, 10, 15 minutes or more to get your message across, then as long as your viewers are feeling educated and entertained, they aren’t going to click away. The key is to keep an eye in your video’s engagement graph to see if people are dropping off at a certain point and if there is anything you can tweak to prevent that.
You should also consider how invested your viewers are in what you have to offer. The reason you’ll hear the 60-90 second limit everywhere is because people will often have homepage videos in mind. With a homepage video, the viewers are quite possibly visiting your website for the first time and trying to form an opinion about you.
First impressions are made subconsciously within seconds, but first impressions can quickly change by viewing your homepage video, for better or worse. The viewer has to make quick decisions on whether your website is worth their precious time or not, so you want to convey value in the shortest time possible.
But what about other website pages? Landing pages, product pages, blog pages, or other common page types?
All situations are unique, but the general rule should be, the deeper within your website the video is found, or the more familiar and invested the viewer is in your organisation, the longer your video can be.
A product video can be 5 minutes long without any trouble, if that’s how long it takes to do the product justice.
An educational blog post video can be 10 minutes long and still have high levels of engagement, as long as the content is good enough, and especially if the viewers are repeat visitors to the particular blog.
An ‘about us video’, which might show off your company culture and your achievements, can again be longer and still be of value to your audience, as long as you demonstrate to them why they should care about your company, tell them what’s in it for them.
There will also likely be differences in different audience demographics. Older generations might be more generous with their time, and happily watch a longer video, while younger generations might need to get the message as quickly as possible if that’s what they’re used to.
As a consumer of online video yourself, what do you prefer?
Think about it from your audience’s perspective. After all, you’re someone’s audience too, you browse the internet for answers to your questions, and you watch online videos to find out more information. Do you only ever watch 90 second videos, or are there many occasions when you willingly sit through a much longer piece of content, as long as you find value in it?
I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this topic. As a viewer, how long do you prefer online videos to be?