Just The Stats: The Science of Video Engagement

“Video is the future of content marketing. That is, if it’s not the here and now.” -Chris Trimble, Axonn Media

In 2013, ReelSEO released their Video Marketing Survey and Business Trends Report, which incorporated feedback from over 600 marketing respondents. They discovered the following:

  • 93% of marketers are using video in their campaigns

  • 84% are using video for website marketing

  • 60% are using video for email marketing

  • 70% are optimizing video for search engines

  • 70% will increase spend on video

  • 82% confirmed that video had a positive impact on their business

Clearly, video marketing works. Or at least marketers think it works. But where are they getting their numbers from, and what makes them feel so confident?

As it turns out, there is a whole lot of data that explains the year-over-year increase in video marketing. Video engagement is analyzed religiously by industry sites like ReelSEO and Wistia, and big players like YouTube aren’t exactly shy about sharing. Visible Measures produced an excellent overview video on the state of online video that takes some of the more salient data points and throws them together, but we really should be paying more attention to the details.

What Does Video Engagement Look Like?

Before we talk about video marketing, though, we need to talk about video engagement.

One oft-quoted statistic is that viewer engagement has to happen within the first 10 seconds of watching a video. This little nugget of wisdom has been corroborated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which reports that the average attention span in 2013 was 9 seconds, one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

Quite frankly, this factoid isn’t helpful. Videos run the gamut from 6-second Vines to 10-minute vlogs. This is what we really want to know: where does engagement begin and where does it end?

Fortunately, Wistia weighed in back in 2012 with this helpful video analytics chart, which was synthesized from years of video analytics:

As you can see, the longer a video drags on, the lower its retention, which is expected. Yet videos under 1 minute enjoy 80% viewer retention up to the 30-second mark, while videos 2-3 minutes in length still enjoy 60% retention. 5-10 minute videos (which is just about the cutoff for video marketing purposes) still see over 50% viewer retention halfway through.

In other words, humans are still smarter than goldfish, and your viewers base how much of your video they watch on how long they think it will take them to get the gist of it. This means that you don’t have to overload your production queue with Vines, Instagram videos, and 30-second shorts.

In other words, 100% viewer retention is not the goal. Neither is virality. The goal is engagement from your target viewer.

Except this still doesn’t really answer one important question: How effective is video marketing?

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The Who and What of Video Marketing

Diode Digital found that video promotion is 600% more effective than print and direct mail combined. They also found that, before reading any text, 60% of site visitors will watch a video if available.

Viewers remember videos better, too. Online Publishers Association observed way back in 2007 that 80% of viewers recall a video ad they have seen in the past 30 days. 26% of viewers then look for more info about the product, 22% visit the product site, 15% visit the brand site, and 12% make the purchase.

Business execs prefer watching video, too. Specifically, 59% of senior executives prefer video over text (WeCapture), 75% of executives watch videos while working (Forbes), and 65% navigate over to a site after viewing a related YouTube video.

None of this is really surprising when you take into account that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words (Forrester Research). Content marketing is the art of doing more with less, and there’s no question that video does this superbly.

But where, exactly, do we market videos to get our target viewers engaged?

The Where of Video Marketing

Video can be used in lots of places, and proficient video marketing comes from an understanding of which channels work for your brand and target audience. Much of the supporting data has focused on video on websites, social media/YouTube, mobile, and in emails.

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Branded Website

The first and most obvious place to incorporate video is your website. The home page, landing pages, blog posts, etc., any page is fair game for video enhancement, and the data proves it.

Landing pages with video lead to 800% more conversion (FunnelScience). In fact, 88% of visitors stay longer on a site with prominent video displayed (MistMedia). Those that stay longer spend an average of 120 seconds more on a retail site and are 64% more likely to purchase after viewing a single product video (comScore).

52% of shoppers confess that watching product videos makes them more confident in making a purchase (Invodo). 40% of shoppers will even visit a store online or in-person after watching a video (Google). Online Publishers Association backs this up with a similar finding that 46% of surveyed shoppers would be more likely to seek out additional information about a product after seeing an online video.

The bottom line? Retail sites with video increase conversion by 30% (L2 Specialty Retail Report), and that was back in 2010.

But the love doesn’t just stay at the top of the sales funnel. Even blog posts, traditionally used for bottom-of-the-funnel content marketing and loyalty, enjoy increased viewership with a simple spritzing of video. Moz found that incorporating video into a blog post attracts three times as many inbound links compared to blog posts without video.

Social Media

According to Simply Measured, video is shared 1200% more times than links and text combined. Diode Digital also discovered that 60% of viewers will watch video before reading any site text, and will share their experience when presented with a “share this video” button. Even more encouraging, Invodo reports that 92% of mobile video viewers share video.

These stats should be enough for most brands to start including videos in their social media updates, but many have been slow on the uptake. In fact, only 700 tweets a minute include YouTube video and only 120 tweets a minute include Vines, but over 9,100 tweets are sent every second (Twitter)!

Obviously, video is useful for social media engagement, yet the number of videos being shared on social media is significantly lower than you’d expect. Back in 2011, while 71% of companies were on Facebook and 59% were on Twitter, only 33% were on YouTube (UMass Dartmouth). The numbers tell the story: video marketing still hasn’t been as readily adopted as other forms of content marketing.



In order to really get an idea of how video could be leveraged to increase a brand’s social media presence, YouTube statistics are in order. ReelSEO’s YouTube Statistics 2012 shed’s light on the massive video search engine’s reach by pointing out that 500 years’ worth of YouTube video are watched on Facebook every day. It’s no surprise that YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine after Google, or that YouTube accounts for 28% of all Google searches.

500 years’ worth of video a day translates into 3042 hours worth of video watched simultaneously across the world each second. According to YouTube, more than 1 billion viewers watch its videos each month, clocking over 6 billion hours. One hour of video is uploaded to YouTube each second, 100 hours are uploaded each minute, and get this: more video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks have created in the past 60 years.

YouTube’s Vice President of Global Content, Robert Kyncl, famously claimed that video will soon be 90% of all Internet traffic. No one’s going to argue with him on that one.

Surprisingly, over 80% of YouTube traffic actually comes from outside the US, pointing to a huge global viewership many businesses haven’t even begun to tap. Also surprising is the fact that mobile views make up more than 25 percent of YouTube’s global watch time, which turns our attention to yet another video marketing channel.

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Many laptop and desktop viewers only stick with video for 2 minutes or less, while mobile users are more patient. iPhone users watch 2.4 minutes on average, Androids users give 3 minutes of their time, Symbian users 4 minutes, and iPad users 5 minutes (Visible Measures). Translated into percentages, mobile and tablet shoppers are 300% as likely to view a video as laptop/desktop users (Invodo).

This could just be because of the difference in venues: online video is about 50% of all mobile traffic (Bytemobile Mobile Analytics Report), and is predicted to become 75% of all mobile data traffic by 2016 (Cisco). So, it makes sense that mobile viewers would be more accustomed to using their mobile devices to watch video. It would certainly explain why, as mentioned earlier, 92% of mobile viewers share videos.

The reign of mobile video doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon, either. This makes mobile-ready websites and landing pages an absolute must. And you know what else mobile devices are good for? Checking emails.

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Some of us think of email as an archaic, clunky form of communication that just makes our lives harder. Many people have a backlog of hundreds of unread messages that will go straight into the trash without being opened. In 2014, email marketing almost seems archaic when compared to hip alternatives like social media.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Gmail’s new tab system was designed with email marketing in mind, and there’s a lot of supporting data to back up the benefits of video for email campaigns.

Videos in email have been shown to increase click-through rates by over 96% on the first introductory email (Implix Email Marketing Trends Survey). GetResponse reported similar numbers with its observation that emails with video have a 5.6% higher open rate and a 96.4% higher click-through rate. The effect video has on press releases is even more impressive: multimedia press releases with video are viewed 970% more than text-only (PR Newswire).

Put another way, email subscriber dropout is reduced by 75% with the incorporation of video (Eloqua). And get this: emails with the word “video” in the subject line are opened 7% more often (Experian). That’s all it takes.

For convenience, Wistia’s You’ve Got [Video] Mail compiles most of the relevant data on video in email marketing in one handy infographic.

The When and Why of Video Marketing

In short, video is everywhere these days, and with good reason.

Brands that haven’t yet tested out video marketing are seriously doing themselves a disservice. Even if a start-up or scale-up doesn’t have the resource to commit to in-house production, outsourcing is always an option. As of December 2013, there were over 6,455 video production companies in the US, 2,206 postproduction services, and 384 distribution services (IBISworld1,2,3).

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Yet, despite all the data supporting video marketing as the best ROI vehicle under the content marketing umbrella, brands have been slow to take action. The US video marketing spend in 2013 was only around $3 billion, and in 2016 that number is expected to reach $5.43 billion (Forrester Research), a paltry sum compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars that effective video marketing could generate in the long term.

Morale of the story? Now is the best time to start taking video marketing seriously.

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