How Does the YouTube Algorithm Work? A Guide to Getting More Views

With more than one billion users—or nearly one-third of all internet users—YouTube is a cultural (and marketing) force to be reckoned with.

Each day YouTubers watch a billion hours of video. And it’s not just cat videos getting all the attention. According to GlobalWebIndex, one in four YouTubers surveyed had watched a branded video in the previous month.

So if your brand is using YouTube as part of your social media strategy, how do you increase your chances of getting your videos seen?

Step one is understanding the YouTube algorithm.

What is the YouTube Algorithm?

The YouTube algorithm is the computerized system that determines which videos people see when they’re on the site. Like the algorithms developed by Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites, it’s all about showing users what they want (or at least what the algorithm thinks they want).

With over 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, YouTube needs a way to automate the selection of videos that surface to each user.

The YouTube algorithm—their “search and discovery system”—will not only decide which results visitors see when they search on the site, but it also determines which ones they’ll be shown in other sections of the site.

There are six key places where the algorithm impacts where your videos can appear: in search results, the suggested videos stream, on the home page, the trending stream, under the viewer’s subscriptions, and through any notifications they have set up.

YouTube is open about the purpose of their algorithm: “The goals of YouTube’s search and discovery system are twofold: help viewers find the videos they want to watch, and maximize long-term viewer engagement and satisfaction.”

But if that’s the stated point of the algorithm, how does it accomplish that goal?

What we know about how the YouTube algorithm works

Buy real youtube views and comments Originally the only thing the YouTube algorithm paid attention to in determining which videos would get a higher ranking than others was the total number of times anyone clicked “play” on a video.

But views only showed the number of times a video player loaded, rewarding creators whose videos got a lot of clicks—regardless of how long the viewer watched. Creators started adding spammy descriptions of thumbnails, generating clicks and getting higher rankings, but not keeping viewers engaged.

So in 2012, YouTube changed their ranking algorithm to reward engagement instead of clicks by dropping views in favor of watch time—a more accurate measure of how engaging users find a video.

How does YouTube determine the algorithm?

Remarkably, YouTube has shared—through an academic paper from 2016—the basic architecture of the system it relies on to decide which videos to show a user when they land on the site.

If you’re a computer scientist, the research paper goes into great depth. Otherwise, the key thing to remember is that YouTube isn’t in the business of judging whether your video is “good” or not.

Instead, buy youtube comments and views the YouTube ranking algorithm focuses on how the audience interacts with videos, using artificial intelligence that “learns from over 80 billion bits of feedback from the audience daily to understand how to serve the right videos to the right viewers at the right time.”

In broad terms, that audience feedback includes:

  • What they do (and don’t) watch
  • How much time they spend watching a video (watch time)
  • How much time they spend watching videos during each visit (session time)
  • Likes, dislikes, and ‘not interested’ feedback

How to improve your organic reach on YouTube

Given what we know about how the YouTube algorithm works, what levers can you pull to improve your ranking and your organic reach on YouTube?

Tweak your YouTube SEO

Before you can improve your watch time and bump your videos’ ranking, you need to be found in the first place, especially when people search the site. That takes some basic YouTube search engine optimization. YouTube gives creators control over the key information its search engine relies on to understand what a specific video is about, including titles, descriptions, and tags.

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