Amplifr is a social media scheduling and analytics platform

Learn more

How Does the YouTube Algorithm Work?

Every aspiring YouTube creator should know one thing in order to increase their chances to get discovered on this video platform. You’ve guessed it, it’s the answer to the good old question “how does the YouTube algorithm work?”

By Ana Simova, content writer at Ranking Press

Since YouTube’s algorithm is somewhat complex and changes quite often, it can be difficult to figure out why some videos are ranked higher than others and what specifically a YouTube creator needs to do in order to get more views and subscribers. This is exactly what we’ll cover in this article, because understanding how this algorithm works is one the most important steps to boosting your presence on YouTube.

What is the YouTube Algorithm?

The YouTube algorithm is the software (programming code) and the hardware (computer machines) behind YouTube’s ranking system, or the process YouTube has implemented to filter its billions of videos. It’s why its users are shown those videos they like the best, or at least those videos YouTube’s algorithm thinks they’d enjoy watching the most.

YouTube’s algorithm is fairly complex and works on many different levels. If you are searching for a video in the search box, YouTube will give you the most relevant and most watched videos for the keyword you’ve typed. However, if you are on the trending page or looking at the suggested videos stream, the algorithm works a bit differently.

In any case, the algorithm’s job is to analyze the data and statistics regarding your activity on YouTube and every single video on their platform.

By doing this, the algorithm knows what kind of video content you enjoy watching and shows you those types of videos so you maximize your engagement and time spent on the platform. That’s why the algorithm nowadays takes the videos’ watch time and engagement rate more seriously, compared to the number of views.

In the past, people have tried to understand how this algorithm works in order to increase the views of their videos with a couple of tricks. But throughout the past few years, YouTube has changed their ranking factors quite a bit. Now YouTube wants you to know what you need to do in order for your videos to rank well. The reason for this is simple – it will make you create better and more engaging videos instead of merely buying views.

What is YouTube Algorithm’s Main Purpose?

The primary goal of the algorithm can be separated into two parts.

The first one is to find valuable videos for a specific person at a specific time. This is important so that the users of this popular video platform are satisfied with the videos they’ve found and watched. This is similar to how Google search works.

The second part of the algorithms’ objective is to keep the viewers on the platform engaged for as long as possible. This sounds logical since YouTube is a business and the largest platform for video content on the web, so keeping viewers for as long as possible will get them better monetization and higher earnings via the ads YouTube hosts.

Many businesses are practicing this, so getting higher user satisfaction and having more loyal and invested clients is the right way to succeed. This is a good goal to have and a win-win solution for both YouTube and its users.

How Does the YouTube Algorithm Work?

How does the YouTube algorithm determine which videos should get higher ranking than others? Let’s explain this in more detail.

Search Results

It may sound surprising, but YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. It has almost 2 billion monthly active users, many of whom are using the search bar to find new and worthwhile content to watch.

YouTube scans the title and description of every single video with the goal to understand them better and figure out what they’re about.

For example, if you have a video on how to make a vegan burger, people interested in the topic of veganism or something closely related to it (vegetarianism, plant-based diet, and so on) might find it. Your video can be ranked high in the search results or not – it all depends on the keywords included in it but also that user’s specific history and interests.

The fastest way to rank higher is to use long tail keywords that people search less often (like ‘black bean vegan burger recipe’) in comparison to broader keywords like ‘best vegan burger’.

Suggested Videos

It’s not rare or unusual for some channels to get more than 50% of their video views from being in the “suggested videos” section. Getting your videos there is, in fact, the fastest way to grow your channel. If YouTube recommends your content, your views and subscriptions can exponentially grow.

To get on the suggested videos list, you first need to be creating really engaging content. It’s great if your videos are longer than 5-6 minutes, but that wouldn’t be important if they are not watched by your subscribers for at least a couple of minutes or more than half of their duration. Remember, YouTube’s algorithm finds watch time very important.

Having higher click-through rates is significant for being featured in the suggested videos section. That’s why your videos need to have compelling and attractive titles and thumbnail pictures in addition to worthwhile content.

Trending Page

The trending page on YouTube is where you can discover new content that is becoming popular in your country or geographical surroundings. When deciding which videos to place on the trending page, YouTube’s algorithm takes a few statistics into consideration.

It takes all the videos from your country and gives priority to those that made the most views in the past 7 days. However, even more attention is given to the rate of view growth those popular videos from your region had. So, reflecting on those factors, YouTube’s trending page wants to balance popularity with the freshness of the videos in your surroundings.

Subscription Page

The subscription page of YouTube’s users is the place where every YouTube creator wants their videos to be. For that reason, many YouTubers dedicate a lot of time on increasing the number of their subscribers. Having a lot of subscribers is very useful and will, obviously, get your videos more likes, comments, and shares unless the subscribers are acquired via paid sites. But this also has another benefit.

View velocity is how YouTube determines whether or not a video has the potential to become popular and watched. This is predicted with more than 90% accuracy, and it’s mainly based on the view velocity of your active subscribers. If your videos have higher velocity, then your future videos will be shown to more of your subscribers – even those that had not enabled the notification bell.

However, the opposite is also correct. If your last few videos are watched by a small percentage of your subscribers, your next video will be shown to a smaller group of people that are subscribed to your channel.

Home Page

Every homepage is highly personalized for each particular user, mostly depending on their history. It takes into account their subscriptions to various channels, videos that they liked and engaged with, and many other factors.

YouTube’s homepage shows you related content to the one you’ve shown high interest and engagement in the past. Every user can additionally personalize his or her homepage by clicking the X-button on the videos (or lists of videos) they are not interested in.

Are you on other social media platforms besides YouTube? Sign up to Amplifr to manage your accounts with a single dashboard and receive the best analytical insights and posting time suggestions.

Ranking Factors and How to Optimize Your Videos

Now that you better understand how the YouTube algorithm actually works, let’s go over some ranking factors and explain how to improve yours.

Watch Time

It’s highly positive if your subscribers and other YouTube users watch your videos for more than 50% of their duration, on average. This means they find your content valuable and worthwhile. The average viewing session for a single user on YouTube is around 40 minutes, and as time passes, that number increases.

YouTube wants their users to spend more time on their video platform which is why they started giving much more importance to watch time as opposed to number of views. You can see this yourself if you go in the YouTube analytics – they’ve changed the tab “Views Report” with the one called “Watch Time Report”.

Engagement Rate

In the beginning, YouTube’s algorithm was fairly simple and, as we already said, it only took into account the number of views on a given video. That was the most important metric for a while, well until they started developing more sophisticated ranking factors. But video creators often tried to manipulate their view count in many different ways, so YouTube knew that a change was definitely needed.

Nowadays, engagement is much more important, and YouTube’s algorithm considers the like/dislike ratio, the number of comments and shares on social media and other websites very seriously. So, don’t forget to ask your fans to leave comments, like the video if they’ve enjoyed it, and don’t forget to remind them to share it on their social media profiles.

Subscription Driven

According to a Backlinko study and the research they made on a sample of more than 1 million videos, subscriptions driven from a video is one of the five most important ranking factors. The other four are likes, views, number of comments, and number of shares.

In order to increase your subscriptions, you can create a strategy on how to tell your viewers that even more exciting and compelling content is on the horizon, so they’re more eager to subscribe immediately.

For example, you can do this by creating a video series which is one of the cleverest methods to drive new subscribers.
Another way would be to announce the topic of your next video. This way, those viewers who are interested to see it might subscribe and even hit the notification bell in order to get notified when it’s published.

Keywords (Title, Description, Tags…)

Although they are given less priority, keywords are still quite important. 

YouTube decides what your video is about depending on your video content, title, description, and other information.

When someone is searching for a video in the search bar, your video won’t show up if you didn’t put at least some exact or related keyword in the title, description, tags, and so on.

Even though other factors have a heavier impact on your video rankings, the keywords put it on the list for which you want to be highly ranked. If you make a script before recording the videos, make sure that you include the keywords you want to rank for. You can then check the transcription and see if YouTube has transcribed it correctly.

The keywords should be added throughout the video so it sounds natural. Still, it’s critical that your main keywords are placed in the beginning of the video if you want to give it more weight.

Thumbnail

YouTube doesn’t analyze the content of the thumbnail but relies on the data it gets from user interactions instead. If we compare two videos with a similar title, description, visuals, and content, the one with a better and more compelling thumbnail will have a higher CTR (click-through rate).

So, simply because it has a more captivating thumbnail, one of the two videos will get much more views and the channel – more subscriptions. In order to improve your thumbnails, you need to create one or a few new thumbnails for which you’re going to do an A/B test. It’s best to do it for your most popular ones – but if you have the resources, by all means, do it for the rest of your videos as well.

This tactic can get you even three times more views, but be sure to do an A/B test on videos older than one month. Additionally, if your CTR is lower than 10%, you can change the thumbnail a few days after publishing the video without doing an A/B test.

Even More Tips for a Better Organic Reach

Want to increase your rankings and organic reach? We’ll give you more tips on how to do it, so let’s proceed.

Polish you SEO

Every minute there are more than 400 hours of videos uploaded on YouTube and almost 3 million videos being watched. If you want to be the one whose videos are easily found, then you must up your SEO game.

There are quite a few services and applications that can help you find more relevant keywords that are popular and similar to your main one. This way you will rank for more than one keyword related to your topic and you will increase the chances of your videos being found.

Google AdWords (Keyword Planner) is a great tool, as are VidIQ and Ubersuggers. The last one uses information from AdWords, Google Suggestions and YouTube to give you a list of the most relevant keywords. Spending a little time to come up with a great title that piques the interest of your viewers and potential viewers is always a time well spent, so don’t make the mistake of underestimating SEO.

Keep Your Viewers Watching

If your subscribers and other viewers watch your videos regularly, as soon as you publish a new one YouTube won’t wait to show them. YouTube’s algorithm knows that if they watched your previous video content, they will most likely watch your new one, especially if it’s on a similar topic.

To keep your viewers watching, it’s clever and useful to recommend some other relatable video at the end of every new upload. You can even create a playlist, which will give your viewers another video to watch after they finish watching your last one.

Engagement and Loyalty

Since YouTube’s algorithm is all about watch time and engagement, you should regularly engage with your subscribers and make them loyal to your channel. Ask them questions, reply to their comments, create giveaways, but most importantly, give them content worth watching.

Watching the videos again and again, as well as rewinding, sharing, and commenting on them, makes your subscribers highly engaged, so include CTA’s not only at the end of each video but throughout them as well.

Videos Your Audience Likes

Making videos that your audience likes to watch is a smart approach to having a better genuine engagement from your viewers. As we said a couple of times, high engagement is crucial and one of the most important factors for your channel’s growth. For this reason, it’s best to ask your viewers and subscribers what kind of videos they’d want to watch in the future.

This way you’ll get plenty of ideas for new videos and your subscribers will get exactly what they want – so it’s a win-win situation for everyone, plus you’ll have higher engagement. At the end of a video, you can ask them to suggest ideas in the comment section for future videos. Furthermore, you can write and pin a comment at the top of your videos asking them the same question. If you have enough followers on social media, you can ask them there, or create polls so they pick the best ones.

Learn more about how to get YouTube subscribers and grow your channel in 2019. Don’t have a YouTube channel yet? We’ll show you how to make one step-by-step in our complete guide on how to create a YouTube channel.

And as always, if you have any questions, give us a shout out!

Share the story

Subscribe and get new articles first. We send an email once in two weeks.