If you visit YouTube on any given day, you are sure to find a recently published video that has been viewed a million times in just a few days.
Or how about YouTube Records? There you will find the videos with the most views in YouTube history – and the videos that got a billion views in the shortest possible time. (Adele’s “Hello” is at the top and it only takes 88 days to get that staggering number of views.)
Where do these views come from? What exactly counts as a “view” and what doesn’t? For those curious or as a marketer looking to expand your strategy to a platform with over 2 billion users, YouTube has the answer.
Granted, YouTube hasn’t always been the obvious choice for marketers. Sure, there are instructions and explanations, even statistics on how to crack the YouTube code. However, there is still uncertainty about what counts as a view and what does not. What is the basis of a website that is not unfamiliar with regular changes?
What counts as a view on YouTube?
A view counts on YouTube if: 1) it is an intentional playback initiated by the viewer and 2) the video has been overloaded by the YouTube algorithm. In other words, the video was played by a human on a device and YouTube is confirming that it is a legitimate view.
In addition, there is a magical number of views: 300.
Once a video hits 300 views, YouTube temporarily “freezes” the number of views to confirm that it is indeed legitimate games played by real people. The system starts tracking incoming views as well as the first 300. It can delete fraudulent views once identified. Once the initial verification process is complete, the view counter will return to normal, but YouTube will continue to monitor every video for fake views.
Why 300? Numbers below that do not have the power to clutter the YouTube homepage and keep the website off its algorithm.
So wait If there isn’t a secret formula for what counts as a view, can no one update their video to get views? No more. In the early days of YouTube, monetization wasn’t a thing. It was assumed that almost every view fits the original definition: a viewer-intended rendition of a spam-free video. It didn’t take long for the platform to know that the developers could cheat the system. This is loosely referred to as the “artificial” view.
Fortunately, YouTube has gotten pretty good at spotting artificial views. Some of the signs to look for are:
- Views, reloaded: This is the classic case where a single user keeps updating the video to show these numbers.
- Viruses: If a video looks like malware – software designed to harm your computer, server, or network – it will be deleted.
- Website autoplay: If the video is set up to autoplay on a website, it does not count as a view.
Software in YouTube’s security system can detect malware – a computer program that helps send spam messages from your computer – and detect spambots. YouTube will automatically delete them to make the screening process smoother.
Now let’s go through some questions about YouTube video views.
Do your own views count on YouTube?
Yes, your own views count when playing your own YouTube video – but only if you do it once or twice, not if you keep updating the page.
Why is YouTube counting my own views?
The YouTube algorithm sees you just like any other user, so your view is counted.
Do reps count as views on YouTube?
Yes, but only if the repetitions seem natural. When you play a video once, it counts as a view. However, if you keep refreshing the page to artificially increase the number of views, YouTube will recognize this as a spam practice (see definition of views shown above, reloaded).
Are YouTube Views Unique?
No. YouTube’s views are ambiguous. Repetitions and revisits are counted in the number of views. You can see your unique viewer count on your YouTube Analytics dashboard.
How often does the YouTube update view count?
Although YouTube does not publish this information, we know that the views are updated roughly every 24 to 48 hours. Views are not updated immediately.
Do embedded YouTube videos count?
Yes, embedded YouTube video views count when the video is embedded in the content of the page and a user intentionally clicks the video to play it. An automatically embedded video may not count. A background video (i.e. you placed the YouTube video in the background of your website) does not count.
Do Facebook views count on YouTube?
Yes, Facebook views count on YouTube. However, they don’t count if you manually download the video from YouTube and upload it to Facebook.
YouTube guidelines for videos and views
If you want to implement a YouTube marketing strategy, it is important to follow YouTube’s guidelines. If you don’t, your videos will be deleted. The audience has its own guidelines and is taken very seriously.
If a video gets a certain number of views and falls under the guidelines, it can make money. By monetizing the YouTube account, a single video can earn thousands of dollars as it creeps into the territory of millions of views. Accounts that give themselves wrong views are essentially making unfair money. YouTube’s guidelines are aimed at ensuring that every creator works hard on every video they produce.
That means algorithms change – sometimes in the blink of an eye. For the most up-to-date information on the correct video log, check YouTube’s guidelines regularly, especially when changes are announced for the creators.
Another reason viewership is taken so seriously is because of users’ ability to find videos they are interested in. It would be amazing to sift through tons of spam videos trying to get to who you want to get to.
All this talk about algorithms and home pages may seem a little overwhelming when the main question is actually, “How do I use this stuff to get views?” Don’t worry, as long as you optimize videos for search, you will find ways to get people to click your content.
It can be a little tricky to decipher YouTube’s mechanics. However, YouTube uses a system that carefully and skillfully monitors viewer numbers in order to provide the most authentic experience to its developers and users. By counting views before fake views become a real problem, YouTube keeps its platform spam free.
Count your YouTube views to measure performance
Knowing how many people are watching your video is important. You can tell from the views alone whether your title is compelling, whether your thumbnail is effective, and whether your content is worth watching. By measuring your YouTube views, you can successfully implement your strategy for growing your YouTube channel.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for completeness.