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Industry Trends
August 17, 2023
min read
Noam Yadin

What is the YouTube algorithm?

Many YouTubers, both professional creators and those starting their video-creation journey, regard YouTube’s algorithm as a complete mystery. The thing is - YouTube’s algorithm for recommendations drives 70% of what people watch on the video-sharing platform. With over 51 million YouTube channels - a number that grew by 36% since 2021 - it’s crucial for YouTubers to understand how YouTube’s algorithm works in order to stand out on the platform and see even more success.

What is the YouTube algorithm? 

The YouTube algorithm is a complex system that ultimately delivers tailored video recommendations to users. It is designed to personalize the user experience and provide content that is relevant, engaging, and keeps viewers on the platform for longer periods. Understanding the YouTube algorithm is important for YouTubers because it directly impacts the following:

  1. Visibility and reach: The algorithm determines whether a video will be recommended to users through various channels such as the homepage, search results, suggested videos, trending, and subscription feeds. If YouTubers understand how the algorithm works, they can optimize their videos and channels to increase their chances of being discovered and gaining visibility among their target audience.

  1. Audience engagement: The algorithm takes into account user engagement metrics like watch time, likes, comments, shares, and subscriptions. Videos that receive high levels of engagement are more likely to be promoted by the algorithm and recommended to a wider audience. By understanding the algorithm, YouTubers can create content that resonates with their viewers, encourages interaction, and boosts engagement metrics, ultimately leading to greater exposure and growth.

  1. Monetization and revenue: YouTube monetization is heavily influenced by the algorithm. Videos that attract a larger audience and generate higher engagement can earn more ad revenue and increase the potential for sponsorship opportunities, brand collaborations, and other forms of monetization. By understanding how the algorithm prioritizes content, YouTubers can optimize their videos to attract advertisers and maximize their revenue potential.

  1. Strategic content planning: The algorithm considers various factors like video titles, descriptions, tags, thumbnails, and viewer retention when recommending content. By understanding these factors, YouTubers can strategically plan their content to increase its appeal, relevance, and attractiveness to the algorithm. They can also identify trends and topics that are more likely to gain traction and generate interest among viewers.

  1. Sustainability: The YouTube algorithm is not static and undergoes regular updates and changes. Staying informed about these updates and adapting to algorithmic shifts is crucial for long-term growth and sustainability on the platform. By understanding the algorithm's trends and preferences, YouTubers can adjust their content strategies and stay ahead of the competition.

What factors influence the YouTube algorithm 2023?

Our algorithm doesn’t pay attention to videos, it pays attention to viewers. So, rather than trying to make videos that’ll make the algorithm happy, focus on making videos that make your viewers happy.” Here are some factors that affect the YouTube algorithm 2023:

  • User engagement metrics: User engagement metrics play a crucial role in determining the visibility and ranking of videos. These metrics include likes, dislikes, comments, shares, and subscriptions. Videos that generate high levels of engagement are more likely to be recommended and featured prominently. The algorithm also acknowledges when viewers clicked ‘not interested’ on videos.
  • Watch time: Video performance metrics, especially watch time, are significant factors in the algorithm's decision-making process. Watch time refers to the amount of time viewers spend watching a video. The algorithm prioritizes videos with longer watch times, as it indicates that the content is engaging and valuable to viewers. YouTubers should aim to create compelling videos that captivate and retain audience attention, leading to longer watch times and increasing the likelihood of recommendation.
  • User’s platform history: The algorithm also takes into account a user's preferences and browsing history. It considers: the types of videos users have previously watched, how recently the user watched a video about the same topic, what the user has searched for in the past, and how many videos the user has watched from a specific channel. YouTubers should be aware of their target audience's preferences and create content that appeals to their interests to increase the chances of their videos being recommended to relevant viewers.
  • User demographics: The time of day and the language you speak

How can you improve your reach on YouTube?

Optimize videos with keywords

YouTube is the second largest search engine with over 3B searches per month. With that in mind, SEO is super important. Focus keywords can help increase the chances that your video will pop up in more YouTube searches. It also gives YouTube’s algorithm a better idea of what you content is about, so its easier for it to recommend your content.

Pro tip: Make sure to include the keyword in the video’s title, description, and tags. 

Recommended article: The best tools for YouTube creators

Promote your videos through social media and other outlets

Instead of relying completely on YouTube’s algorithm, promote your content through other social media outlets. By promoting your content on Instagram Stories or a short TikTok sneak peak, you could spread your reach and attract the attention of people that would never have seen your video recommended on YouTube. This is especially useful if you have a large social following on, let’s say Instagram or TikTok, but are still growing on YouTube.

Create high quality, engaging content

This starts with the thumbnail - and here are a few tips to consider - 

  1. Emotive faces: According to a study, “...humans are hardwired to respond to faces - we have seen this to be consistent across all mediums…faces with complex emotions outperform stoic or benign expressions.” So, consider adding one to three faces in your thumbnail, and make sure they are expressive.
  2. Rule of thirds: In short, the rule of thirds while help you achieve the golden ratio - which minimizes the amount of time it takes for our brands to process an image.
  3. Text: To put it simply, users are more likely to catch the thumbnail as opposed to the title of the video. So, you want to give as much information as possible in the thumbnail (without overdoing it!) and one way to make sure your message gets across is with text. 

Consistency is key

The term ‘consistency’ refers to two aspects - uploading content on a regular basis and sticking to a consistent format for your YouTube videos. As Shopify puts it, most great YouTube channels can be summed up in one breath. For example, MrBeast - extreme challenge-style videos, Joshua Weissman - easy to follow cooking videos, Kara and Nate - travel vlogs, gabbyreads - all-things books and reading.  

This helps viewers know exactly what they are getting and ultimately helps them build a more trusting relationship with YouTube channels - if you love cooking and you see that Joshua Weissman posted a new video, there's a sense of comfort because you want to watch a cooking video and you know that’s what you’ll get. 

Sticking to a consistent uploading schedule and a consistent format will also help the YouTuber stay, well, consistent. They know exactly when they need to have content ready and published, and they know what topics, thumbnails, trends they need to stick with. 

YouTube analytics 

This might be obvious but it’s super important to track analytics in order to understand how your videos are performing and keep bettering your channel. Some of the stats YouTube analytics can reveal include - how your videos are performing, who your audience is, and how viewers engage with your content. 

There are a handful of YouTube analytics tools available across the web and we know it can get overwhelming - so here are the YouTube analytics tools we recommend

YouTube Shorts 

YouTube has noticed that posting a combination of Shorts and long-form videos can really help improve your channel’s growth. Creator Insider analyzed audience growth for channels that stuck to long-form content and channels that combined the two. They concluded that channels that included Shorts into their YouTube strategy grew much faster. 

Now, before you go running to create short videos, it’s important to consider this tip from The Leap - Creators should consider how Shorts can fit into their overall content strategy. And since the algorithm won’t punish you when your Shorts underperform, there’s really no risk involved. 

Let’s take a closer look at YouTube Shorts algorithm

YouTube Shorts algorithm

Just like YouTube’s algorithm, it’s Shorts feature uses various factors to help it decide what kind of content a YouTube user will be interested in. YouTube’s ultimate goal is to show users content they enjoy in order to increase the amount of time they spend on the platform - which means generating more ad revenue for YouTube. 

Some aspects YouTube Shorts algorithm factors in when deciding what content to show on the feed include: 

  • Video length: Reports suggest that longer Shorts (getting just under the time limit) get more views
  • View percentage: YouTube recently introduced a Shorts metric which compares how many people viewed the Shorts video vs. how many people continued swiping. Ultimately, videos that have a higher ‘viewed’ percentage perform better. 
View percentage YouTube Shorts
  • Watch history: The algorithm’s main focus is showing YouTube users what they want so obviously they will look into the users watch history to see what they previously enjoyed and personalize future recommendations accordingly. 
  • Quality over quantity: Many creators believe that YouTube actually penalizes creators if they upload too many low-quality shorts. So, instead of uploading a handful of Shorts a day with little consideration about their quality, focus on creating short-form videos that highlight your channels content in the best light. And, obviously, create content that you’re audience wants to see!  

The YouTube algorithm is constantly adapting, updating and changing completely. But, there is one element that the algorithm will continue putting in the number one spot. At the end of the day, YouTube is all about the audience - the more people that watch on YouTube (and stay on the platform), the more money YouTube can generate through ads. So, YouTube creators also need to put their audience in their top priority in order for the algorithm to favor their content and channel. 

If you’d like more information about YouTube’s algorithm, feel free to reach out!

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