Q: Do you know what constitutes a “view” on YouTube? Is it a number of seconds, a measure of time, or just if you clicked on it?
A: Surprisingly, the exact definition of a YouTube view is variable and hasn’t been fully disclosed. This is because YouTube/Google doesn’t want larger video producers that run ads to game the system by fraudulently inflating their view count. Google attempts to determine a level of engagement and only count views that indicate a conscious human choice to view a video. For example, a view of an embedded video that autoplays on a third-party site would not be counted toward YouTube views.
Another issue to be aware of is that YouTube applies different standards to the first 300 views than it does to later views. For the first 300, YouTube will count all views, even those that it considers “unvalidated.” Once a video reaches 300 views, this triggers an audit of your views and YouTube will only count validated views. The number will not increase past 300 until there are 300 validated views. It’s likely that validation does require some amount of time spent viewing the video, but that cut-off hasn’t been made public as far as we know.