What to say in your YouTube intro? 63 hooks tested

What to say in your YouTube intro? 63 hooks tested play video
Written by: Dexxter Clark
I’ve analyzed 63 audience retention graphs of my YouTube channels and found the best intro hooks.
I was particularly interested in the intros that caused the steep drop offs at the beginning of a video.
In this blog post I’ll share my findings.

How to get more views on YouTube? The data never lies!

You might wonder, why obsess over all the data?
What does it matter if you say A or B?
What does it matter if 40% or 30% of viewers leave after 30 seconds?
Well, the YouTube algorithm measures viewers satisfaction based on Click Through Rate, Average Percentage Viewed and Average View duration.

Based on viewer satisfaction they promote your videos, if you are doing a better job than the competition, you will rank higher.
So keeping viewers watching longer by having a great intro is directly related the amount of views you will get on the video.

In our Audience Retention graphs in YouTube Analytics we can see exactly if viewers are rewatching certain parts, skip or leave a video.

For my study I’ve looked at a couple of data points in 63 audience retention graphs:
  • the length of the video,
  • the Average View Duration (AVD)
  • Average Percentage Viewed (APV)
  • Average Percentage Viewed at 30 seconds (APV30)
  • Time till content (in seconds)
Average Percentage Viewed is at 30 seconds (APV30) is a metric that suspiciously popups up in YouTube Analytics in a couple of metrics.
I suspect that this is one of the things YouTube looks at to determine viewer satisfaction and therefore promotion of a video.

Youtube officially never said so.
I tried to see if I can spot patterns in the data of this study, but I can’t confirm it.
Which says absolutely nothing since I’m missing CTR and search volume for example to see the influence on the amount of views.

But I do see a strong relationship between Average Percentage Viewed over the whole video and the Average Percentage Viewed at 30 seconds.
Which is not really surprising, when more viewers click away in the beginning, less viewers are able to stick around till the end.
But good to see in confirmed by numbers so we can work on this more.

How I interpret the Average Percentage Viewed at 30 seconds:
  • 70% or higher I regard as good
  • 60-70% is average
  • < 60% is not good

Type of Hooks

The hooks I tested:

“In this video I’m going to tell you”

Explaining the contents of the video I think a good idea, so viewers know they clicked on the right video.

However my results often were not great, but not super bad either.
I hit regularly 60% APV30, but I had often very steep drop-offs.
I think this is because this doesn’t clearly communicate why should watch THIS video instead of videos by other creators on the same topic.

Yes, when you start out and want to keep it simple, when you advance: there are more effective hooks.

Relate/recognize/comfort viewers

You relate to the emotion of the viewer, recognize their “pain” or comfort them.

This worked well in most cases, but not in 1 (the proverbial exception to the rule?)
Some videos have as high as 72% APV30.


Displaying authority

You tell what your name is and what your experience is.
For example: I’m Dexxter Clark, I’m declared a saint and won 3 Oscars.
The idea behind this is, it creates trust.

Another reason for me was, that viewers asked me regularly if I was Dutch, I wanted to address this head on, again, to create trust.

In the beginning of the Social Video Plaza YouTube channel, I often got very nasty comments of viewers not taking me seriously because I had less than 1000 subscribers.
That was totally gone since I start mentioning experience and constantly refer to my DJ channel.

When I started my videos with telling who I was, I had an APV30 ranging from super bad (35%) to mediocre (65%).
I see the strongest and deepest drop offs of my whole study.

When you do it later (after the hook, before the meat of the video), I see viewers leaving and a lot of skipping in the videos.

I noticed that skipping and drop-offs are the worst for the easy tutorial videos, I call them in-and-out videos, like “how to upload a video”.
These are often search based traffic, viewers come for that specific piece of information, and don’t care about who’s telling it: the bum on the street or the pope.

But for the strategy videos where you need a bit more brain capacity, like explaining the YouTube algorithm, I don’t see that much skipping.
Those are the videos that have more traffic from YouTube Home or YouTube Recommended.
Those viewers are much more patient.

Which makes this hook very interesting, since every YouTube educator shouts that you should do this.
Based on this data, I’m going to respectfully disagree with that.

Here are some alternatives:
  • In the outro when the end screen is already showing.
  • In a lower third title. Which is my preferred option
And if still want to do it, do it before the meat of the video, but never start your video with that.

Fun fact / weird thing not directly related to content

For example: “did you know that I speak 3 words of Spanish?” (while the video is a tutorial on how-to clean your closet.

The idea behind this is that you trigger viewers curiosity in the hope they keep watching.
It also could be fun for regular viewers.

I saw an APV30 secs from 63% – 67%.
In other words: Not superb, but not bad either.
It works best if you can relate the strange fact directly to the content in the first sentence.

Yes, you could consider it

How important it is

In the hook you explain why the topic of your video is so important.
For example: “you need a compelling thumbnail to get the click of the viewer”.

I saw APV30’s from 34-59% with 1 good video at 66%.
In other words: bad to mediocre.

I think the reason for this is, that viewers already know that it is important, that’s why they clicked on the video, you don’t have to tell them that.


Repeat title

You literally repeat the title of the video.

I saw APV30’s of 52%-59%.
That is almost half of viewers lost before they even got one tiny bit of value.

You would want to do this because of the algorithm.
The algorithm recognizes speech in your video (this is how they make the subtitles).
This way, the algorithm has a better understanding of what your video is about.

But viewers have to watch the video, and viewers clearly don’t like it, and the algorithm reacts to that.

I think the cause for this is: viewers already know that that is what your video is about, because they clicked on the thumbnail.
So viewers might get the idea that you are not getting to the point and waste their time.


The intro that is not really an Intro

By far the highest APV30’s was the not-really-a-hook-hook with percentages of 70% and up (without exception).
This intro goes really quick almost fluent over into the content within 2 or 3 sentences.
You don’t get the idea that you are already in the content, when you are in the content.

The time till content is max 20 seconds, most even 10 seconds.
The audience retention graphs of these videos are a fluent wave.

Mr Beast is famous for these types hooks.
I’ll talk later in this article I’ll talk more about Mr Beast and the 2 second rule.

My reasoning for why this works: you don’t get the feeling that the creator wastes your time.
It is not your typical intro and don’t get the feeling of being “sold” to.


Best Practices based on this data

Ask for subscribe

Should you ask for a subscribe in the beginning of the video, before the content?
I say NO, because of 2 reasons:
  • The data shows clearly, the longer you wait to get into the content, the more viewers you lose.
  • You ask for a subscribe, before viewers got one single ounce of information out of the video.
    How could they ever determine if you are worth subscribing to at the moment you ask them?
In other words: asking for a subscribe is a complete waste of viewers time, that hasn’t got valuable for the creator either.
What kind of subscribers do you get when they really subscribe based on your Call To Action in the beginning of the video?

If you want to ask for a subscribe, do it at the end of the video when the end-screen is already showing.
Or use a subscribe animation later than 50% into the video, so your Call To Action only reaches viewers that like your content.

2 second rule

The data shows clearly that viewers decide within 2 seconds if they are going to watch your video or not
So, within 2 seconds:
It must be clear that viewers clicked on the right video, without repeating the title

Also, never start your video with:
  • your bumper
  • logo
  • full screen text, like “this video is sponsored by”
  • Sponsor message
Think about it: what is your biggest pet peeve of YouTubers?
Not getting to the point quickly enough, especially when watching multiple videos of the same creator.
That is what the 2 second rule is all about.

Drop off during intro

The seconds-till-content is a metric I invented, because I wanted to see the perception of viewers and if there was a connection between drop-off and seconds-till-content (which there is).

For the majority of videos: the most drop-off happens during the intro, not when you give value in the meat of the video itself.
As soon as intro stops, so does the majority of the drop-off.
So the shorter you keep your intro’s, the more viewers you keep in your video.

Just by looking at the audience retention graph of a video, you often spot where the intro ends and the video actually starts.

Don’t use an English title, thumbnails and intro

When your video is not in English, don’t use English titles, thumbnails and intro.
This may seem logic when you live in America.
But for a lot of countries (like The Netherlands), using English words is considered hip and modern.

The problem is that English viewers think that a video is in English.
They click on a video, they see the intro, and then they hear your native language, which they can’t understand.
Viewers click away and the algorithm thinks that your content is bad and will promote it less.

When you do this (having English title, thumbnail and intro), you will see in your audience retention graph: as soon as you start to speak in your native tongue, you have immense drop offs.

Do your intro (and title and thumbnail) in the language of the video.

Confirmed my Mr Beast

I also compared my results with the intros of one of the biggest creators on YouTube: Mr. Beast.
I know Jimmy to be obsessed with his audience retention graphs.
Great! So I can test my data on his content.

In his intros he just explains the setup, the idea of the video is and or is going to happen.
For example:
  • “anything you can fit in this triangle, I’ll pay for” – that the whole intro: 4 seconds.
  • ”this is a professional bounty hunter, if he successfully hunts me down he gets 100,000 dollars.
    He has until midnight to steal this backpack from me.
    All I gave him was a knife”. - 9 seconds
His seconds till content is consistently between 4 to 23 seconds with the majority under 10 seconds.
Jimmy’s intros are 1 to max 3 sentences.
Which complete confirms my study.

Striking is, is that the hooks, go over so smooth into the content, that you are in the content before you know it.
The intro doesn’t feel like am intro.
There are no bumpers, no introduction of jimmy, it dives straight into the content.
You don’t get the idea that he is wasting your time.

I also noticed that there are a lot of text and animations in the intro to make extra clear what is going to happen in the video.

Almost all videos above 10 minutes, probably to be able to gain some decent watch time.

The content is targeted towards an audience of 15-25 years of age, my target audience is a little bit older.

Audience makes a big difference.
I can see that in the audience retention graphs of Social Video Plaza, my DJ channel and my retro game channel.
It is much easier for me to reach an APV of 50% on my gaming channel than my DJ channel.
And it is much easier to get an APV of 50% on my DJ channel than on Social Video Plaza.

Also my Indian audience has one of the worst audience retention of the whole world on both my DJ channel and Social Video Plaza.
An audience which I don’t have on my gaming channel.
Which is why I slowly starting to delete videos that attract the majority of Indian viewers.

So not everything might not apply to your videos, study your Audience Retention graphs to see what applies to your audience.
You’ll might find that the exact numbers slightly differ, but basics of this study will hold up for you as well.

When you are serious about YouTube and want to take it to the next level, take a look at my video training program: Viral Strategy.
The program takes you step-by-step through the process of getting views, subscribers and going viral.

For new creators I included a module that guides you step-by-step through the process of starting, creating and setting up a YouTube channel.

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