The recommended length of web videos

One of the most exciting things about what we do at 522 is working with those who have never been involved with video production. In many cases, our first call with a new client involves a discussion about the video production process, how to integrate videos on the web and how to get started. In addition to questions about the overall process, one of the frequent questions we address is…”How long should a web video be?”

Well, that is a good question. The “typical” or “recommended” length of a web video is constantly debated. In many cases, there is data to backup the development of both short web videos and longer form content. Here are a few articles that discuss the recommended length of a web video:

  • What’s the best video length for the web? – This article presents a few different thoughts on the recommended length. Overall, this article suggests a maximum length of three minutes for a web video.
  • 101 Online Video Stats to Make Your Eyes Glaze Over – This article presents a number of statistics on the viewing habits of online viewers. One of the most compelling statistics is that 33% of viewers click away and move on after the first 30 seconds of a web video. So, you really need to grab your viewer’s attention from the start.
  • GoMakeThings.com – This blog entry discusses how viewers definitely watch longer content if they’re engaged. For example, the popular TED web video series often includes content around 15-20 minutes in length.
  • What Is a Good Video Length for Lead Generation? – This blog entry discusses the recommended length of web videos designed for lead generation purposes. The article suggests to use a shorter, 2-3 minute video to “hook” the audience and then introduce longer content later.

So, given those resources, there are a few different answers. Here is my take on the approach you should use when trying to identify an appropriate length for your online video content:

The Basic Length

In general, most people would say that an informational/overview web video should be three minutes or less. And, I would have to agree. I feel that this a good rule to follow for videos included in the overall flow of a website (i.e., recruiting videos, brand films). Website visitors scan pages looking for the most relevant information to their needs. When clicking on a video, they also expect to learn something very quickly. A video that has an immediate impact helps build trust with the viewer and takes a step towards developing a relationship.

Beyond the Limit

Overall, it is usually best to stick with the three-minute rule. However, there are times when you definitely should break this rule and go beyond the normal 3-minute limit. A longer video should be used in scenarios where your viewer has indicated a higher level of interest in your content. Here are some scenarios where a long-form web video can have a greater impact:

  • Membership Content – Websites with community members have a built-in audience who is looking for more content. These members have demonstrated more interest and you can use this opportunity to develop longer web videos. Typically, a member-based website can have longer-form tutorials and other educational content.
  • Opt-in or Subscription Content – If you have a lead form on your site or have acquired subscribers, then you have a platform for more in-depth video content. A subscription indicates that a website visitor liked the top-level content and are interested in viewing some more content. Take this chance to push the envelope and use a longer piece if your content warrants it.
  • Deep Linked Content – When website visitors navigate through your website and access deeper content, then they are looking for some more information. In these cases, you can elect to produce a longer web video and really connect with the audience. Answering detailed questions and being transparent builds trust with the audience.
  • Mashup Content – Do you have a wide variety of evergreen video content? Then, it may be helpful to develop a compilation for your website visitors. Website visitors who have already viewed shorter segments would be further inclined to watch a more comprehensive presentation.
  • It’s Good – People love to watch compelling videos…much more than reading a text document… such as this blog post. But seriously, if your video is good and captivates the audience…..then forget any type of rule or recommended length. Go beyond the limit.

Summary

While there are many opinions about how long an online video should be, the most common response is certainly three minutes or less. However, take your video and your audience into account, because it might be more effective to create a video longer than three minutes.

Resources

Creating a video doesn't have to be complicated. Here are a few resources to help you along the way.

  • New to Video?

    A first timer's guide to
    producing video.

    Get the Book
  • How Much is
    a Video Worth?

    A complete guide to
    calculating the ROI of video.

    Get the Book
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