YouTube Algorithm

YouTube answers 10 frequently asked questions about its recommendation algorithm and video search and discovery.

YouTube Algorithm: In part 3 of YouTube’s “How Discovery Works” series, Rachel Alves, a Product Manager working on YouTube’s recommendation system, provides the answers to the 10 most frequently asked questions about search and discovery on the platform.

You can watch the Creator Insiders video at the end of the article or keep reading for the juicy bits.

If one of my videos under-performs, is that going to hurt my channel?

It is unlikely that an underperforming video on your channel will hurt the future trajectory of your channel. What matters a lot more than the performance of individual videos is how viewers respond to each video when YouTube recommends it to them.

On a per video basis, if a video’s previous performance is used to indicate its potential, we would never have viral videos, Alves explains. Individual video performance is what matters most.

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Does changing a video’s title or thumbnail re-rank the video in the algorithm?

Yes, that may happen. YouTube’s systems will always respond to how viewers interact with videos, not whether you changed a video’s title or thumbnail. If you change your video, viewers should change the way they react to it. The algorithm will learn from viewers’ reactions.

However, the act of changing a title or thumbnail probably won’t make any difference.

If I take a break from uploading, will that hurt my channel performance?

YouTube has studied thousands of channels that “took a break” at some point and found that there was no consistent correlation between break length (number of days between uploads) and changes in views following the break.

However, behavioral changes in the audience during a break may affect performance after a break. For example, people’s interests may change, or they may start watching other things. It really depends on how good your new content is, but it still may take time for viewers to get back into watching your channel again after a break.

Creators are encouraged to take breaks, as most of them can’t keep producing the same level of content without burning out. Breaks are essential to keep your mental health and maintain a high standard of quality in creativity.

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My video views are low, but the click-through rate and average view duration are fine. What’s happening?

When looking at your own channel analytics, you are comparing your results against your own standards. As explained in the first answer, YouTube’s systems rank your video based on your results compared to the other recommendations it makes.

If your click-through rate and average viewer duration seem high, and views and impressions are still low, it probably means that other videos are ranking higher for your viewers.

Does monetization affect video discovery?

No. YouTube’s recommendation algorithm doesn’t know which videos are monetized and which are not, but it will take into consideration the “maturity of content.”

Any signals like violence, sex, profanity, and racism, will affect video discovery, as they are used to match with viewer interests.

If I upload a video as unlisted and later flip it to public – will that hurt my video’s performance?

No. What matters is how viewers respond to your video once it has been published.

Is it better to post videos early in the day vs. later at night?

The time a video is published is not known to impact a video’s long-term performance. YouTube’s recommendation system is designed to match viewers with videos that they’re most likely to watch, regardless of when creators upload them.

If you want to find out when your audience is online, to run premieres or live streams, you can use the “when is your audience online” card in YouTube analytics, under the audience tab.

How important are tags?

Not much. Tags are mostly used to help correct common spelling mistakes (e.g., YouTube vs. U Tube vs. You-tube). Viewers will mostly use a video’s title and thumbnail to decide what to watch.

Does setting my channel location to a specific country help me better reach viewers in that audience?

No. A channel’s location is not used to determine how videos are recommended to YouTube viewers.

Do I need to upload daily or at least once a week?

No, creators shouldn’t be stressed out about uploading daily or weekly. YouTube has run analyses that show that views growth is not correlated with the time between uploads. Therefore, you should always use the demand and expectations of your audience category to decide how many videos to upload in a particular time period.

In essence, focus on your audience, and the algorithm will follow.

Product Manager, Rachel Alves, answers 10 frequently asked questions about YouTube’s recommendation algorithm.

Conclusion

To get the best results on YouTube, it’s best practice to focus on your audience. If you know what people want and what they like watching, you should always adjust according to their interests.

The algorithm will reward you with recommendations and more impressions, but you always need to keep experimenting over time. As is logical, if you create the same content all the time, you won’t be able to keep your audience interested long enough. Also, keep in mind that audiences change.

If you make the same content, at some point, you won’t be catering to the same viewers. To effectively build an audience on YouTube,  you will need to do two things at the same time – attract new viewers and retain the ones you already have.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

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