How Does the YouTube Algorithm Work?

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YouTube’s recommended section is where people most often go to find new videos to watch. Videos here are tailored to the user in order to make them click on videos YouTube thinks they’ll be most likely to watch. But how exactly are these videos chosen?

Most people refer to this process as the YouTube algorithm. It’s how the site calculates which videos to put in a user’s recommended section. It also impacts a user’s search results. So, knowing how this algorithm works is pretty valuable if you’re a creator trying to reach more of an audience.

YouTube has not explicitly stated how this algorithm works. However, they have discussed it at times in the past and by doing some investigating on the site, people have worked out a general idea of what goes on within this algorithm. 

How YouTube’s Algorithm Impacts User Experience

As noted before, there are a couple areas of YouTube that the algorithm majorly impacts. These are the recommended section, and search results. 

With YouTube search results, the algorithm looks at a few different sets of data on videos. There are literally millions of videos out there on the site, so they need to make sure the most relevant ones to the user are shown first.

YouTube analyzes a video’s metadata such as the title or description and looks for keywords that most relate to the user’s search. So if you know what people are searching the most, you can integrate that into your title and description. It also looks at the amount of engagement a video has. This is the video’s views, likes, and comments. 

YouTube puts videos first in the search results that match the closest to what the user usually clicks on and watches. 

With the recommended section, there is a bit more to the process. The first thing YouTube does is put a rank on all videos which is determined based on that video’s performance. This includes things like engagement, how quickly views are accumulating, how active the channel is, or how long people watch the video. 

After the algorithm has determined a video’s rank, it tries to decide which of these the user would personally want to watch. These are things like what topics and channels they usually watch, what recommended videos they’ve watched before, or how long they watch certain videos. 

What Data Is Used In The Algorithm?

If you’re wondering exactly what you can do to improve the chances that your video is recommended to more viewers, you might want to know exactly what data is used in the algorithm.

Here is the data YouTube looks at when deciding to recommend a video:

  • Impressions: How often does a user click on your video after seeing it?
  • Watch time: How long do users watch your video?
  • Activity: How many videos has a user watched from your channel already?
  • Recent activity: What kind of topics has the user recently watched?
  • User info: Are they part of the video’s usual demographic?
  • Session time: How long do people stay on YouTube after watching the video?
  • View Velocity: How quickly is a video getting views?
  • Channel activity: How active is the video’s channel?
  • Engagement: Are there a lot of likes, views, and comments on this video?

Now, a lot of these are things that you may have little to no control over. However, you do have the ability to influence some of these data sets and improve how YouTube ranks your video. This will help you show up more on people’s recommended page or search results. 

How To Get More Viewers With YouTube’s Algorithm

So what can you start doing to get the YouTube algorithm to favor your videos? There are a lot of easy changes you can make that will get you more engagement and better video stats in the long run.

Use Keywords In Your Titles and Descriptions

When people are searching on YouTube, they will use certain words relevant to the videos they want to watch. If you use words related to your video topic that people are searching for, you’re much more likely to get people to see your video.

Don’t over-use keywords, though, as it might come across odd to viewers. 1-2 keywords per line is a good rule of thumb. 

Stay Active

YouTube rewards active content creators. Make sure you have a consistent schedule of when you upload videos and stick to it. You can also try making multiple videos in advance so you have a backlog of videos ready to post. 

This will not only help you keep the subscribers you already have, but it will also encourage the algorithm to include you more in people’s recommended pages or search results. 

Keep Your Viewer’s Attention

The longer viewers stay on your video and watch it, the better reach your videos will have. This could mean cutting too-long introductions, or irrelevant information in your videos. When people click on a video, they want to see what the title says they’ll see. 

This means you can’t rely too much on clickbait titles, because your video actually has to deliver in order to keep a viewer watching. And now that YouTube’s algorithm focuses on watch time as much as view counts, it’s just as important to keep your viewers interested. 

Cultivate Engagement

YouTube gauges a video’s engagement by the amount of views, likes, and comments. An easy way to get this count up is by encouraging people to comment on your video. You can ask them questions in your video and have them respond by leaving a comment.

It’s also important to respond to your viewers. Liking and replying to their comments will make a viewer much more likely to watch more of your videos and even subscribe to you if they haven’t already. 

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