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How YouTube’s Algorithm Actually Works

12 Aug, 2022

How YouTube's algorithm promote your videos on the own and make it easier for you to succeed on YouTube

As a rule, 25% of viewers close the tab after the first 8-10 seconds of the video. The authors of small channels often get upset because the algorithm does not rank their videos and therefore they are not visible to the audience, which results in no views and subscribers. But, is this how it actually works?

What is the YouTube algorithm

That is the tool that determines exactly what to show you in the recommended videos, on the main page, and in the search results on YouTube.

Video hosting algorithms work differently for large and small channels, therefore, recommendations from successful YouTubers often don’t help those who just started. But this does not mean that they do not work at all, you just need to understand where to start and what tips you’ll need to use later.

The main page is what is called “Home” in the menu on the left, where a selection is made based on your own interests. To be honest, getting to the main page, especially with a small channel, is nearly impossible. But, it can and does happen.

Recommended videos are those that are displayed to the right of the main video when watching a video. This is where all YouTubers want to be placed. But you can get into recommendations for a small channel only if a viewer is already watching a video on your channel. In this case, the algorithms suggest other videos on your channel to the viewer.

Trends is another section on the left side of the menu. These are videos that not only create a lot of views and have a great audience activity but also do it in a very short period of time. Therefore, by a happy coincidence and under the fulfillment of some conditions, any channel can appear in Trends. In most cases, news, clips, and shows get to the Trends, because this is super relevant content. No matter who spreads rumors about trends, you can’t buy a place there. To be placed in trends is determined not by any specific person, but by algorithms and viewers altogether.

Seems like small channels can’t get anywhere no matter how hard they try. They can't find viewers and gain views. However, there is a path that opens the way for all beginner channels.

The task of a beginner is to get into the first results for search. For this, you need to select the right keywords and search queries.

Notifications and subscriptions also affect the algorithms, because they are the ones that attract people to watch your new videos, which create such important activity in the first hours after releasing the video. Therefore, it is vital for authors to remind the audience to subscribe and hit the bell as often as possible.

The success of your channel is controlled by two things: YouTube algorithms and the viewers. What does this mean? You can not focus on only one thing; both are important for your successful channel development.

If you make original content and they hit the recommendations, but the quality of the videos is bad and people don’t like them, then your audience engagement and retention will suffer. This means that sooner or later you will start to lose ground.

If you make great content, but the design of the thumbnails leaves much to be desired, you have very little chance that the audience will click to watch and the channel will fail again.

Only if both points are taken into account at a high level, you have all chances to smoothly promote the channel and grow your audience and views.

Don't forget that YouTube doesn't treat your channel as an integrated unit. It monitors individual videos, so don’t be frightened if a video fails - these are just the statistics of one video.

Also, the algorithm doesn't really care about the number of videos you upload per day. That is why it makes no sense to bombard your audience with videos non-stop for days and weeks. It makes much more sense to focus on one thing and make a good quality video. It should be liked by people and picked up by the algorithm.

YouTube is, first of all, about the love and trust of the audience, and then the algorithm. But as we said, these two things are equally important. Lastly, those subscribers who have pressed the bell button will not receive more than three notifications. So uploading in excess is a futile activity.

YouTube algorithm and inactive subscribers

YouTube algorithm and inactive subscribers

A smart algorithm knows which viewers have not watched the content on your channel for a long time. It will avoid showing videos to these subscribers. For this reason, inactive subscribers do not affect the performance of new videos in any way. Once again, remember that individual videos and the channel as a whole are not interconnected in the system of algorithm.

Some time ago, Google representatives told us how the algorithm works. Let's take a look and compare it with what we have analyzed above.

How YouTube Works: Functions, Principles, and Achievements

Besides general information that YouTube bans and removes harmful content every day, distributes income, and encourages authors who work with it, the website page discusses the hosting rules and policies, various user settings, and, most importantly for us, product features.

It is the last section that talks about YouTube search and recommended videos.

  • YouTube search

More than 500 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube every minute. It would seem that this is useless information, but in fact, it carries a hidden meaning for us. This means that every blogger when uploading a video to hosting, has to compete with a huge number of other videos. For this, there are algorithms that help to make something similar to a structure accessible to viewers out of the chaos of copyrighted videos. With a ranking system, YouTube helps videos reach people and answer their questions.

YouTube prioritizes three main elements to deliver the best results in the search: relevance, engagement, and quality.

To evaluate the relevance, the platform takes into account many factors. For example, how well the title, tags, description, and content match the search query.

Interaction signals are a valuable way to determine relevance. According to YouTube, this means that it looks at how relevant your video is to a user’s request. The signal for this may be the time of viewing a certain video for a relevant query relative to another query.

Now let’s talk about "Quality". YouTube's systems are also designed to identify signals that can help determine which channels demonstrate experience, authority, and credibility on a given topic. That is, automated algorithms can do this as well, which means that you should always pay the most attention to the quality of the video. And not only your visual aspect of the video but also the content of your video.

In addition to these three main factors, YouTube strives to make search results relevant to each user and therefore takes into account their browsing history.

This is why search results may differ from another user's search results for the same query. YouTube is trying to understand your audience more than you could imagine. Its algorithms thoroughly analyze the videos of the authors in order to make their own personal selection for each viewer, which exactly matches their interests and needs.

  • Recommended Videos

YouTube includes here both the home page video and the video to the right of the one being viewed in this category. And also the ones that it plays us after viewing the selected one. These can be called recommended videos.

This takes into account signals such as views and search history (if enabled), as well as channels that users subscribe to. Both country and time of day are taken into account.

Another factor that YouTube's recommendation systems take into account is whether other viewers who clicked on the same video watched it to the end. For YouTube, this is a sign that the video is of better quality or more enjoyable.

Therefore, we can conclude that engagement and retention on YouTube are the most important aspects of algorithms. They are both considered for these two points.

Also, for more accurate selections of videos for users, YouTube also carries out surveys to make recommendations even more specific.Points to consider about YouTube's algorithm

So, what are the points you need to consider in order for the algorithm to work for you:

  • Retention. The longer people watch your video, the more they like you. This is the first thing you should understand.
  • CTR. The second super important aspect of getting into the top search queries. People who search the videos they are offered, read not only the title, which already partially contains the answer, but also pay attention to the cover. It either catches their eye and encourages them to click on the video, or not.
  • Audience retention. Not only that people watch videos from start to end, but also that they react to them by hitting likes, dislikes, and adding comments. The more activity you have under your video, the more chances to get into the recommendations and to the main page.

It’s not enough for a new channel that people just watch your videos – they need to be active. Therefore, it is important to remind your audience about likes and comments and motivate them to ask questions or share their opinion. Maybe provoke a discussion.

The easiest thing we can do for our own promotion is to give ourselves a like right after the video is released and write a comment. There is nothing shameful here: in a comment, you can ask people about something important, ask their opinion on an issue discussed in the video, or call for some kind of action.

And what's wrong with putting a like on your own video? Do you like what you created? Besides, the YouTube algorithm doesn't really care who hits the like button. The most important thing is that it’s done.

Do not forget to do the aforementioned steps immediately after releasing your video. This is the most important and decisive time for your videos.

If the video "didn’t make it" at first, is it worth changing the title, description, and thumbnail?

Indeed YouTube recommends changing the thumbnail style and titles in this case. The video will look different to viewers, which means people will interact with it differently when it appears in the recommendations.

However, making changes does NOT cause YouTube to increase the number of video views. It's all about how users react to change. And once again, the trust of viewers and the work of their algorithm are interrelated processes.

We hope that this article has been useful to you. Don’t believe all the rumors and stick to the facts. Use what you know about YouTube's algorithm to help you build a successful channel. Watch videos on our Prodvigate. Tips and Tricks for YouTubers channel and don't forget to subscribe on our social networks. Good luck with your marketing efforts.


Sasha Lerman

Copywriter, writer, editor. Development and promotion on YouTube, as well as many other exciting topics.

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