How long should a video be for Lead Generation?

Content Strategiest Tom Parish jumps in and answers the big question “How long should a video be on your web site for lead generation?”  Sometimes too much information kills the lead generation process. – Bill

Useful links: Twistage •  YouTube

I get asked this question by clients, and I’ve been curious about it for some time. Why do we humans seem to want to watch a video for only 1-2-ish minutes when it comes to introducing an idea? What is it about that slice of time that feels like we’re getting something of value, yet watching any longer (and occasionally any less) just doesn’t seem to appeal to us?

In 2009 I read two surveys that showed in detail that most viewers dropped off from watching videos after 2+ minutes. Earlier this year I did an informal survey of all my video podcasts, which tend to run as long as my audio interviews (10-20 minutes), and I looked at my clients’ videos, too, which run 3-10 minutes in length. What I saw in the engagement metrics at (a hosting company I admire, respect and use) showed clearly that I’d lost half my audience after 2 minutes of the video podcast, and by 10 minutes only 10% of the viewers were left. Same results happened to my clients. However, based on feedback from listeners, the audio versions are getting listened to the entire time.

Part of the deal here is two heads talking (interview style) doesn’t offer the eye a lot to look at. Clearly an audio version gives you all you need.  However, people seem more and more interested in video versions of long conversations, but getting them ‘into’ the meat of the conversation takes some extra effort. A short version can do this along with front-loading the longer interview with a ‘call out’ or ‘hot point’ that is pulled from the conversation to keep people hanging on for more. But I digress ….

There was one exception around length, especially with B2B content: Any time a video had well-defined ‘how to’ steps in it, the viewers stayed on for the entire video, almost without regard for length. But that’s been the case even for audio podcasts. If the content is compelling and impacts what you do in your job or at home, you’re going to listen and get the scoop for yourself. That’s a key message I’ve used for years in my podcasting with clients. Now that there’s greater emphasis on video, what is the best strategy for including video podcasts in a lead-generation process?

First, why 2-3 minutes for videos? My thinking is we’re all subconsciously programmed in some way for that amount of time. Music singles (remember 45 rpm records?) were rarely longer than 3 minutes. More relevant, I think, is the length of movie trailers, which are almost always less than 2.5 minutes – really, check for yourself. They are carefully crafted to draw you into the movie (some better than others) within that 2.5-minute limit. Sometimes you’ll see a movie trailer that is 1-1.5 minutes, and so often you feel kinda cheated. It was not long enough to give you a good feel for the plot. Like with my 45s, songs that were short made me feel a bit short-changed because I had to pay for those records, and they broke if I wasn’t careful, and they scratched easily. But those were the old days …

So the lesson here is take the “how to” approach and create a 1- to 3-minute introduction as your lead generation to draw people in and get the most interested to follow you back to your site for the longer version and maybe an accompanying white paper or other related resources on your site.

We’re all familiar with YouTube, and the average video length of the most popular ones, if I recall, is less than 3 minutes. Likely the best way to use video for a website that has really valuable long-form content (interviews) is to focus on keeping the interview fairly tightly edited and less than 10 minutes. Then create a 1- to 2-minute YouTube short version to capture people’s attention and bring them back to your website. The reason for this is YouTube allows you to insert a lot of keywords into your description and tags, and YouTube videos rank well (meaning, very visible) in Google searches. Reminds me of the old days of SEO when you focused on putting lots of tags on web pages to improve ranking. Now people put those tags on videos. But remember, you want to drive people back to your website for your lead-generation purposes. So put the longer version of the interview there, where you can include a sign-up form for viewers to get more information, or to see the entire interview for free.


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