Paid for traffic will ruin your channel growth! Disaster beckons!

Paying for traffic for your YouTube channel will NOT bring you the success you want. Rather it will lead to a confusing mess for all involved that will neither benefit your channel, your bottom line, nor Google’s ability to help you get your content ranked and served up to people who want to see it.

The only people this will benefit are those selling the advertising in the first place. I want to tell you about how I took on the offer of a free advertising campaign that guaranteed to give me 5000 views on a video of my choice, and while that promise was comfortably delivered, the results were not what you might think.

I didn’t really pay! They were gifted

Read on to understand why you should never pay for advertising on for your YouTube channel.

What’s the (Stat)Story?

Statstory approached me to try out their advertising offering – paid for advertising to promote a particular video on YouTube of my choice!

The pitch

Hey, I came across your channel scrolling through YouTube, and thought the content was pretty sweet!  I work for a company that does YouTube marketing, and we can deliver views by running ads on your videos.  I think your channel could really benefit from the increased engagement, and exposure.  If that sounds like something you would be interested in trying it send me an email, and I will get you set up with some free ad credits!

Granted that sounds a pretty generic introduction, but nonetheless I got into a conversation with the rep from the company and, basically, I got $40 worth of credit that would guarantee me 5000 views.

Wait, how much for 5000 views?

They have various pricing structures where dollars buy ‘coins’ and ‘coins’ buy advertising. They have packages to suit all budgets and pockets as you would expect, but by my calculations this was worth about $40. It’s cheap. It is definitely cheap, so I think you have to expect a certain standard of advertising for $40. You aren’t getting a Times Square billboard here, and you probably aren’t going to have folks breaking down your door to give you their money (or full attention, in this case).

Guaranteed views?

How to they do that? Simply put, their partner networks run ads until 5000 views are achieved. By hook or by crook, my video would see an improvement of 5000 views. Fair enough.

In return I would create a blog post – what you are reading now – and make a video about the impact from my point of view.

The draw of guaranteed views is massive. Views equals exposure. Exposure equals growth right? That’s the idea, and there isn’t a youtuber out there who doesn’t want more views. Particularly new channels, battling for a foothold or trying to draw in new subscribers. And that’s a massive problem in some ways. We create stuff, so we want people to see it and enjoy it and we would probably all happily sell our granny to get close to the level of the biggest and best on youtube. But you can’t force this process, you just have to build engaging content that people will enjoy.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this experiment. Despite the suggestion of greater engagement and increased watch time in the pitch, I was skeptical of how much benefit paid-for-views would actually provide for my channel. But I wanted to know and honestly I thought one way or another it would make for a decent video.

With that in mind I chose a video that was reasonably successful on my small channel but where the traffic had slowed down. In essence I wanted a video that had had it’s day in some respects, and was ready for a boost. I chose a video reviewing my first 183 days using the copy trading tools on etoro.

Here is a look at how the video had performed up to the point right before the advertising was kicked off:

Video performance to 5th January

1417 views, 91 hours, it has brought a single subscription to my channel and made £27 in ad revenue. It represented a good baseline to see how paid for views could improve the stats on this video.

Finally it is worth noting the average watch time of this video was 3:53 mins with a click-through-rate of 6.9%. Decent for my channel.

The views start rolling in.

Come the 6th January, the campaign kicks off and in the YouTube studio, I can see the views rolling in. Views are updated in real time, but the thing is, I couldn’t see the full impact this advertising was having on my video as many of the stats aren’t updated for a couple of days. I knew I had to wait a bit longer to see the whole picture. I could see a few more ‘likes’ on the video but there were no comments and not much change in the subscribers.

Were people watching? Were they interested? How long did they watch for? Where were they coming from? Were the viewers the kinds of viewers I hoped to get? Are they interested in personal finance? Was my content helping them?

These were all the questions I had to wait for – for a few days at least.

The results are in.

Oh. My. Goodness. The results were worse than I anticipated!

First up, the things I expected.

Low watch time. 43 secs average watch time over 5000 views. That’s pretty abysmal. That’s on a video over ten minutes long. Grim.

Summary data of paid for views

I knew these adds would not be targeted so I was expecting unusual locations when compared to my usual demographic and I got that in spades.

Global viewers
Likes summary

I got some ‘likes’ – that was good. I expected a few through sheer weight of numbers. 160/5000 people saw it in their heart to leave a like. Thankyou, one and all!

What I didn’t expect was zero views from the United Kingdom and what I didn’t expect was only £0.24 in ad revenue from 5000 views. Further there are a few affiliate links in that video and description which also appear to have earned me £0.00.

So this experiment has taken a reasonably decent video by my channel’s standards and turned it into a total turkey in terms of watch time!

Video up to 5th January

As you can see by the screenshot below these 5000 views have cut the watch time by 2:29 taking the percentage viewed overall to 13.5%. Ouch.

Viewer Retention

The story of retention.

In fairness, the retention could be poor for a number of reasons.

First up we have to appreciate that people chose to click on the thumbnail to begin with, so there is the suggestion that they were at least interested in the topic. Or the thumbnail. Something.

Therefore, having done that, they have decided after 44 seconds they had seen enough! They could have been curiosity clicks, perhaps the content wasn’t good enough for them or wasn’t quite what was expected. Considering the geography, perhaps language was an issue. Perhaps the host wasn’t good looking enough.

Click through uncertainty

What I don’t know is the CTR on this video. That is the Click Through Rate. This would tell me how many times this video was offered to a potential viewer before someone clicked on it. A CTR of 100% would mean everyone who was offered this video, clicked on it. By comparison a CTR on YouTube is considered pretty good at around 6%.

Further, looking at the countries listed we are talking about countries with massive populations so it could be this video was shown to millions upon millions of people in order to gain those 5000 views. In all likelihood the CTR on this video is a tiny fraction of a percent.

But there’s even more… looking at the traffic sources for my video – that’s the video that was being watched prior to my video being clicked – you could hardly say they are in the UK personal finance space! There is clearly no pattern at all here.

Given this scatter gun approach, the click through rate is probably terrible, the watch time is definitely terrible, the engagement is pretty awful too and the YouTube brain is left scratching it’s sizeable digital brain, wondering what on earth is going on and probably deciding that, all things considered, this video is probably complete rubbish.

You won’t grow like this

This is why buying advertising like this, for the vast majority, is more than a waste of time and money. It is wholly counter productive for the growth of your channel. There is a train of thought that your videos shouldn’t be promoted anywhere outside of YouTube; just let YouTube find a place for your video naturally and let YouTube use everything it knows about your video and it’s users to match your video to interested users but that’s the subject of a different blog post I think.

But look, watch time and session time on YouTube are such key metrics for creators. 

The longer people stay on the platform because of one of your videos, or the more videos people watch after they watched your video, the more YouTube will push that video. That’s what makes channels grow.

YouTube will continue to expose your videos to new users because people who have watched the video, watched a large chunk of it and reacted positively. YouTube pushes videos organically that have good watch time and good engagement.

So looking at my video here – an average of 44 secs for 5000 views from all corners of the world on a 10 minute video in less than 24 hours is more likely to ruin a channel than help it grow.

Once the dust settles

And after all the hysteria died down what am I left with?

Well, we are back to normal on the views for this video. Coming in at about 30 views a day. I’ve picked up a couple of subs from it in the last week or so and nothing has really changed!

What is clear though is there have been no return users from those 5000 views, at least none that have made a dent in any of my other videos and without any subs or comments I highly doubt those viewers will be back for more. The best I can hope for here is that YouTube give me a another chance and let this video find it’s way to a natural audience again.

Now if that advertising had been more expensive and had targeted viewer interested in personal finance or etoro as a platform, I wonder would I have seen a better response.

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