Anytime we talk to people about creating video content, there’s one question that always comes up—no matter what industry, no matter what product or service, and no matter what topic: 

“What is the best length for my videos?”

But asking how long your videos should be is a bit like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” The answer is, of course, it depends.

As a rule of thumb, your video should be long enough to convey your message but not so long that you bore viewers or lose their attention to the latest cat video.

However, that isn’t necessarily the most helpful advice when you’re staring at a blank screen trying to write your video script.

Below, we’ll explore some video length best practices and then show you how to find the “Goldilocks” length (not too short and not too long). We’ll also break down some examples of just right videos so you can see these video length best practices in action. 

But first, let’s look at some statistics on video length to get a better idea of what the research says about long vs. short videos:

Video length statistics

  • People watch one billion hours of videos on YouTube every day [YouTube]
  • By 2021, the average person will spend 100 minutes a day watching online videos [Zenith Media]
  • On average, only 37% of viewers watch to the end of the video [Hubspot]
  • However, the top 5% of videos retain 77% of viewers until the last second [Hubspot]
  • The average length of the top 10 most engaged (liked, shared, commented) videos on Facebook fell from 128 seconds in 2017 to 71 seconds in 2019 [SocialInsider]
  • Longer videos rank higher than short videos on YouTube [Backlinko]
  • In Q2 2020, 79% of ad impressions went to 30 second ads, while impressions for shorter ads declined [Extreme Reach]
  • 90% of consumers watch videos on their mobile devices [SocialShepherd]
  • The average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes [YouTube]

As you can see, there’s no one perfect length for videos. What works well for one person might not work for another, and vice versa. 

Now that we know what the research says about video length, let’s discuss how to actually go about determining the right length for your videos specifically.

How to determine the best length for your videos

Whenever we approach creating a video, there are three basic questions that always guide our decision-making.

1. What is your intent?

Ask any teacher or coach and they’ll tell you: If you want to reach your goals, then you should begin with the end in mind.

Video Intentions
This is called reverse-engineering—starting with the end result and working backwards to figure out what steps it will take to get there. For example, let’s say you want to learn how to do a pull-up. To do that, you’ll need to build up the muscles in your upper back, arms, and chest. And, you’ll need to develop the grip strength to hang from the bar. Knowing this, you have a better idea of the steps you should take in order to do your first pull-up—and how long it’ll take you to get there! 

The same goes for creating a video. Start by thinking about your intended goal or end result. Why are you making this video? What do you want people to do, think, or feel as a result of watching it? This will tell you a lot about how long your video needs to be. 

A video intended to generate leads will likely need to be longer than a video intended to simply answer a question. It all depends on where your viewers are now (their “state of awareness”) and how far you need to move them to complete the goal or take the desired action. To determine that, you first need to answer the question below.

2. Who is your audience?

Knowing who you’re creating the video for will help you decide how long or short it should be. 

Ideal Audience For Video

Imagine you’re making a video on how to frost a cake for your aunt who loves to bake. Now, imagine you’re making a video on the same topic for your best friend who has never set foot in the kitchen. You’d probably need to spend more time explaining tools and techniques for your friend than for your aunt.

As you can see from the example above, instead of thinking about a generic average audience, it can be helpful to picture one specific person—your ‘ideal viewer’. What types of content do they prefer? How do they consume content (mobile, web, etc.)? How much do they know about the topic? These insights will help guide your decision-making.

3. Where will this video be used?

As we saw from the video length statistics above, the ideal length for a video also depends on where you’re going to use it. Different platforms lend themselves to different video lengths. A Facebook video will probably be much shorter than a lesson in an online course, for example.  A video in your Shopify store showcasing a product might fall in between both of those.  

Video Length Best Practices
Of course, there will be other practical considerations that will dictate the length of your videos—like how much time and budget you can devote to producing content—but the above questions can help us get closer to understanding the “right length” for a video. 

If, however, you’re still not sure how long your videos should be, it can be helpful to study some examples of videos that got it right. Let’s take a look.

Examples of long vs. short videos

How to Weatherize Your Truck Cap [Wild We Wander]

At only two and a half minutes long, this video is a great example of short content done right. 

When Justin and Ariele Champion of Wild We Wander decided to build a DIY truck camper to travel the country, there weren’t many how-to resources available—so they decided to create some! 

Instead of producing one long video, Justin and Ariele broke it down into a bunch of shorter clips. Viewers can watch only the videos that interest them, or consume the whole series. Because the topic of this particular video (‘how to weatherize your truck cap’) is so specific, the video is short and to-the-point. 

The takeaway here: don’t make a 20 minute video when two minutes will do! 

Hairdresser’s Guide to Cutting Your Own Hair and Not Ruining It [Brad Mondo]  

Few things are as intimidating as cutting your own hair at home. Yet, that’s exactly what hairdresser Brad Mondo teaches his viewers to do in this 21 minute video.

Because Brad’s audience consists of absolute beginners, the video needed to provide a sufficient level of detail to coach them through the process—so a longer format makes sense. However, because the intent is just to teach people to do a simple at-home haircut, it’s not as in-depth as a training video for a professional hairstylist would be. 

Notice that, within the first minute, Brad tells his viewers exactly what to expect. This is a smart trick to hook your audience’s attention and keep them watching a longer video until the very end. 

I Ate One Big Mac Every Day for 30 Days and Lost 7 Pounds [Jordan Syatt]

Here’s a masterfully done example of a long video.

Jordan Syatt is a health coach and personal trainer to Gary Vaynerchuk. Many of Jordan’s viewers are lifelong dieters who’ve tried every trick in the book to lose weight. Naturally, Jordan expects them to be skeptical of his claim that they can eat their favorite foods (like Big Macs!) and still hit their goals. This video needed to do a lot of convincing, so Jordan opted for an hour-long “documentary” format. It works because it tells a compelling story.

Make no mistake: Producing a video of this length requires a significant investment of time and resources, so you probably won’t do it often. But if you do it well, you’ll reap the rewards for years to come. Jordan created this video a year ago, but he continues to leverage it on his various channels to build authority and recognition. Nice work, Jordan!

Final thoughts: test, test, test

Of course, the best way to know what video length works for your audience and business is to test it out. Try creating different lengths of content and track the number of views and engagements. You might even consider creating several different versions of the same video to see what works best.

Pay close attention to where your audience drops off. If you notice lots of viewers stop watching around the same time, it’s worth taking a closer look to see if there’s something that’s not working. Similarly, if you notice that viewers engage with certain types of content more frequently, that information can help you decide how long your videos should be.

That's where a good analytics tool comes in.

Spotlightr’s video hosting solution with advanced analytics allows you to see who’s watching your videos and how much of each video they’ve watched. You can even split test different videos to see which one gets the best results. If you’re ready to discover the right length for your videos, sign up for a free account and start using Spotlightr today!