For some reason, almost every video pro I talk to today is obsessed with video length.

You put together a script over 60-seconds and they go into cardiac arrest.

The problem is everyone “knows” that attention spans are short and “people just won’t watch anything longer than 60-seconds”. In some ways they’re right.  Attention spans are shorter than ever (shorter than a goldfish by Time Magazine’s showing).

But talk is cheap.  Let’s see what the data has to say about it…

A Real-World Look: GoPro Short vs. Long Videos

To start the process I looked up some of 2015’s top videos ads (Reel SEO has a great tally they run).  GoPro is known for consistently pumping out high views.

So which does better for them — short or long?

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“Owl Dance-Off” was closest to 60 seconds, but still a whopping 2.4 million views away from “Streets of Japan”.It’s easy to spot the winners.

The question is, why would longer videos get more views?

It’s a matter of breadth vs. depth.

Your best viewers (the ones that are going to convert into leads or sales) want more detailed content. 

A GoPro viewer doesn’t just want to see a short stunt clip… they want to drop into the experience as much as possible.

It’s the same for your viewers.  They want to be immersed in exciting results or a cool new process.  It’s the same logic behind Neil Patel’s blog Why 3,000+ Word Posts Get More Traffic.

60-seconds is about 150-200 words.  After your intro you’re looking at just 100-150 words.  Can you really say something of meaning that quickly?

Probably not.

But Isn’t a 60-Second Video More Shareable?!

In our deepest, darkest dreams we all want a video to go viral.  

It’s easy to picture.  Your CMO approves the video, you post it on your blog and POW!  You wake up the next morning to the blissful sound of blazing hot servers getting overloaded with traffic.

So what length of video will get you there best?

ReelSEO did an analysis of the top video lengths to boost sharing.  What they found was a little surprising…

The average length of the Top 10 most shared videos was 4 minutes and 11 seconds long.

Whoa.  That’s a lot more than 60-seconds.

But here’s a classic counterexample: we all see vines or 30-second cat videos that experience massive organic growth.  

But before I go any further on raging view counts … stop and ask yourself an important question: is your salary based off views or sales?

In order for your company to generate revenue you need more than a view.  You need movement down the funnel. How much revenue would be generated by a one-hit wonder, 60-second cat video?  Probably not much.

How much further down the funnel will said cat video get your prospects?

Usually, not very far.  

So not only is shareability increased with longer videos, contribution to revenue can increase too.

But let’s play devil’s advocate for a second.

Even If A Shorter Video Gives You Higher Engagement, Will It Give You Higher Conversions?

When it comes down to brass tacks, nobody really cares about engagement.  

Engagement is a secondary metric that you use in the hope it’s pointing you in the right direction.

The metric you really care about is probably something like:

  • Direct sales
  • Leads generated (which will turn into opportunities and then sales)
  • Brand awareness (which will drive sales via online or offline channels)

We use engagement especially in situations where it’s tough to attribute sales to a single video or even campaign (e.g. it’s tough to attribute a sales spike to Coke’s Super Bowl commercial).

But that can mean linking two metrics that don’t tell the same story, which is a lesson I learned the hard way.

One of our clients, Peak 10 Publishing had us produce two videos for them.  In this case the length was pretty close to the mysterious 60 second mark, but engagement stats were miles apart.

The engagement for video B was more than 20% higher than video A’s.  

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The interesting part is how it affected sales…  

Which do you think had higher sales?

Even though video A had lower engagement, its sales blew video B out of the water.  There was a difference of more than $10 million in revenue!

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I’m not sure.  But I know if you asked me which video was more successful it’s an easy answer.Why wasn’t engagement a good predictor of revenue?  

If The Best Length Isn’t 60-Seconds, What Is It?

The short answer is, it depends.

For a video that moves your viewers further down your funnel I like to start at 4-minutes.

WARNING: your engagement will probably go down compared to shorter videos.  

Someone who was mildly curious will leave your video outraged that you would dare produce a video longer than 30-seconds.

But they were never going to generate revenue for you anyway.

It’s much more important to give your ideal viewers the content they’re thirsting for.

So instead of shooting for a short, end-all, be-all video, aim for interesting and attention-keeping not just attention-grabbing.

The #1 Problem Every Video Has To Solve Isn’t Short Attention Spans…

The real problem is boring content.  How is that the same people who won’t sit still for your four-minute video will binge-watch a 12-episode Daredevil series on Netflix?  

That might seem like an apples-to-oranges comparison, but stick with me.

The real issue isn’t videos are too long, it’s that they’re too boring.  Instead of sacrificing quality content to make the content ‘bite sized’, sacrifice popular opinion to make your video great.

Lance Johnson