Keep in mind... I didn't create a single backlink for any of the videos other than to have them featured on my website "gallery style." My site is brand new so clearly those backlinks were not worth much anyway.
After shipping 3 videos and seeing my flagship video take the #1 spot in a month + other videos trending in that direction for their respective keywords, here's what I find to be the primary ranking factors. IN THIS ORDER.
1. Avg Length of Time Viewed: The video I am referencing has 5 figures worth of views now, but was ranking on page 1 in YouTube above the fold (I think 6 or 7) after just 800+ views after 3 or so days. It was appearing on page one in YT with barely any subscribers and outranking channels with tens of thousands of subs and tens of thousands of views with similar content.
When I looked at my analytics I saw that the average watch time of my videos was 85% of the video. That is so say that on average, folks watch 85% of my video. Looking at the other videos, it's easy to see how folks would watch 85% of mine and less of others. When I saw the average person watched 85% of my video - that was an immediate signal to me that this was the #1 ranking factor as I had almost no subs, only one video at the time, and less than 1,000 views.
2. Engagement (Likes + Comments + Shares): I am placing this as #2 because I don't think there's a way for a channel with tens of subs (not tens of thousands) and only ONE video (at the time) to out rank many videos before it without heavy engagement. I made sure to respond to every single comment (and deleted others). My like count also was "OK" relative to the number of views and shares became more natural as the average person watched 85% of a the video. It's easier to get someone to share your video if they watch the whole thing vs. 50% of it. Keep in mind, I did not use a single "like, comment, share" call to action. My call to action was to click on link in description to visit my site.
3. Subscribers: After about 10,000 or so views I was still there languishing on page 1 but not able to take the number one spot. I was stuck at #4. Again, my primary and ONLY call to action in my video was for folks to visit my site to get on my list which grew tremendously. So, the final tweak I made to try and rank at the top was to e-mail my subscribers and include a link to subscribe to my channel with a strong CTA to do so. I made it easy for them to subscribe in one click vs. having to visit my channel first, then subscribe. I ultimately picked up a rush of subscribers. That seemed to be "the straw that broke the camels back" and within days AND WITH ONLY A FEW HUNDRED MORE VIEWS I was able to take the #1 spot in YT and #2 spot in Google.com for my keyword term overall.
Make your videos easy to watch. The more time folks spend watching your video the more YouTube will recommend the video to other viewers. This gets the ball rolling since you will be heavily reliant on YT recommendations for views at first. 65% of my initial views came from YT recommendations.
When making your video you should be optimizing for length of time viewed. That should be your #1 and sole focus; "if I lined up 100 people who found this video relevant to their interests, how many would watch 100% of this video?" Everything flows from that as again your widget will look something like this...
- YouTube will recommend your video.
- More folks will watch your video.
- More folks will watch a larger percentage of your video.
- Those who watch a larger percentage of your video will engage with your video.
- DON'T do what I did at first - I could have ranked a lot quicker if I asked for the subscription IMMEDIATELY in my follow up e-mail instead of 3 weeks later.