Should you have a YouTube intro? How long should it be?

Should you have a YouTube intro? How long should it be?
Written by: Dexxter Clark, 28-08-2020
In this blog I’ll answer the question: should you have a youtube intro, if yes, how long does it need to be.
I’ll share my personal experience with intro and I’ll tell you what I use instead of a YouTube intro.

Before I dive into the content, let’s get some common misconceptions out of the way around the terms intro, hook and bumper.

What is a YouTube video intro?
Technically an intro is the part of the video where you introduce the video, show or tell what the video is about.
This is also called the hook.

What is a YouTuber video bumper?
A video bumper, not to confuse with bumper ads, is the part of the video which repeats in every video.

It can be a fancy animation, logo, some footage of your videos and is of accompanied by music or sound effects.
The bumper can be used as an expression of branding of the channel.

A lot of people say “intro” when they mean actually “bumper”.
For consistency I call the “bumper” the “intro” for the rest of this blog post, because that is what most people associate with “intro”.
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Why do you need a youtube video intro?

Branding
If you would ask a marketeer this question, he would say: branding.
“This is an expression of you brand, so people can associate themselves with your brand.”

I’d like to argue that there are other ways to brand your videos: your avatar, channel art and a video watermark being the main ones.
If your video intro is the only way you can communicate your branding, you have other problems to worry about.

Trust
That same marketeer would argue that an intro is brand recognition.
If you say or show the same thing over and over again, people are more likely to trust you or your brand.
I’d like to argue that there are other ways to communicate trust.

Viewers can see your face, can look you in the eye and read you emotions.
Again, if the video intro is the only way you can communicate trust, you have other problems to worry about.
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Communicate content of your channel
The only valid argument to have a YouTube intro is to give your viewer a lightning-fast insight in the content on your YouTube channel.
You can communicate what you (and your channel) are all about if the viewer sees your video for the first time.

But to communicate the content of your channel, you need to have more than only a fancy animated logo.

Can you get to the point quickly enough?

When you see viewers put timestamps in your comments or you see comments that say that you don’t you don’t get to the point: this is a huge indication that you need to shorten the start of your videos.
Instead of being annoyed by the negativity of these comments, you need to see these as valuable signals that your audience gives you to increase your audience retention.

The video intro could be a big part of that.
Remember, if subscribers see your videos often, these bumper intros get annoying.
They have seen them over and over again.

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How long should youtube video intro be?

In short: the start of your video shouldn’t be longer than 1 minutes, the intro bumper 0-2 seconds max.
This depends on the type of video, video length and audience.


If your video is 30 minutes long, it could make sense to have the beginning of your video (before you dive into the meat of the video) 1-2 minutes long.
Use bumper of 2 seconds maximum, otherwise people click away.

But the same 1-2 minutes beginning in a 10 minute video is quite long.
I would say, come to the point in 30-60 seconds.
The exact length depends on your audience.
A younger audience has a shorter attention span, than an older audience.

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The best measurement is to test this on your audience: release videos with and without video intros.
Then compare the statistics in your Audience Retention graph in YouTube Analytics.
From second to second you can see where viewers drop off.
Probably you will see that a lot of viewers skip the intro or leave the video.

A lot of big YouTubers don’t even use YouTube video intros.
This begs the question:

Do you need a youtube video intro?

No!
But using a variation on the intro is smart because of the YouTube algorithm.

By watching hundreds and hundreds of YouTube videos over the years, I’ve noticed that intros start to irritate me.
It is such a waste of time, I always skip intros.
I noticed that a lot viewers feel the same way and do the same thing.

With that knowledge, my YouTube video intros got shorter and shorter over the years, till the point that I don’t use them anymore.

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If I use something at all, it is a simple screen with the title of the video.
The only reason I use a title-screen is because of the Google and YouTube algorithms.
I noticed that YouTube algorithms read text in videos.
These texts show up in Google search results sometimes.

In order to keep the flow in the video I use a J-cut, so the audio of the video continues while the image shows the title.
The information of the video keeps flowing, so there is no need for the viewer to click away.
The title screen may even be a welcome pattern interrupt to keep viewers watch longer.

Common YouTube intro pitfalls

Ego
When you think of it, if a YouTube intro doesn’t benefit the viewer, the YouTube video intro is an ego-thing.
It basically says: “look at me, look at how amazing I am”.

If you choose to use a video intro make it short and make sure it benefits the viewer.
Remember, YouTube is not television.
YouTube is YouTube with viewers that have an attention span of a banana.

Never at the beginning of your video
A lot of beginner YouTube creators put their logo or intro at the beginning of their video, before the viewer even got anything of value.
A viewer decides withing 8 seconds if he (or she) wants to see the video or not.
You have 8 seconds to convince the viewer to stay, don’t waste that on your intro.

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Experienced creators that pay attention to their Audience Retention graphs know this.
In other words: it looks amateurish.
Personally, if I see a video that starts with the intro, I click away.
I know that a lot of viewers do the same.

A video intro mismatch
Some creators put their heart and soul in the best looking video intro ever!
But when the quality and style of the video intro doesn’t match the rest of the video, it makes you look bad.
Better to have no video intro than one that doesn’t match the brand, style and quality of your video.

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Conclusion

My personal opinion: don’t do a branded intro for the sake of having a branded intro.
Skip this video intro entirely or use a title screen (like I explained).

If you still want to use a YouTube video intro:
  • Make it super short, preferably 2 seconds or less.
  • Communicate the content or goal of your channel
If you don’t agree with my opinion, look at your Audience Retention graph in YouTube Analytics.
It will always tell you the truth for your video style and your audience.


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Dexxter Clark
Content creator / YouTuber
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