Trying to understand how the Youtube Algorithm works? If yes, you’re in the right place!

Youtube is the second largest search engine on the internet. With almost 5 Billion Videos Watched every single day and 300 Hours of Youtube Videos Uploaded every minute it’s without question Youtube is a central content hub for society.

However, with all this content how do you get your channel & videos showcased on the suggested videos section or rank page one for specific keywords?

By understanding how the Youtube Video Ranking Algorithm works! In this article, we are going to cover the major metrics that Youtube analyzes in order to rank your videos. Check it out down below.


A Brief History on the Youtube Algorithm

2012: Youtube Algorithm is Born

Just how all social media platform algorithms start out, the Youtube Algorithm was primarily made up of popular content. The metric used to rank content on Youtube was view count (views). 

However, this created a wide spread problem of clickbait throughout Youtube. Creators were making eye catching thumbnails & titles for videos that had nothing to do with the content at hand.

2012-2016: View Duration & User Session Time

In order to combat the abuse of clickbait content, Youtube made some changes to their video ranking algorithm. Now it wasn’t just about view count, it was about:

  1. How long a viewer stayed your channel – User Session Time
  2. How long they viewed your videos – View Duration (Watch Time)

This did reduce the clickbait problem because now only content that people enjoy watching from creators they like is starting to popularize the suggest video section.

However, this update wasn’t all good. This update to the Youtube Algorithm meant to creators that they needed to start producing longer content. Some content creators started to deliver their video’s promise at the end of the video in order to maximize both metrics.

2016: Machine Learning

Thanks to Google’s acquisition of Youtube in 2006, Youtube has been able to solidify it’s spot as the 2nd Most Popular Search Engine. With Google dominating over 92% of Search Engine traffic it’s easy to see why Youtube Video Ranking Algorithm would switch to a Machine Learning & AI operated algorithm.

youtube algorithm

Just as the Google Search Engine Result Page Algorithm must provide the most relevant and quality information to billions of users every day. Youtube now takes this same approach through machine learning by relying on a multitude of factors to rank content.

2017-Present: Quality & Monetization

As Instagram continues to be a platform that billions of people use on a daily basis the necessity for quality content is paramount. Youtube has been accused of constant society tampering. Some have even gone as far as to call it “The Great Radicalizer” for showing a high number of conspiracy theories or misinformation.

Even areas of the monetization section are becoming convoluted with content that is inappropriate for brands and the community. There have been recorded instances of major brand ads like Amazon, Adidas & Hilton appearing on Youtube Channels promoting white supremacy, pedophilia, and other cringe content.

Youtube has been dealing with this backlash from mainstream society. They have been making constant announcements about how they are trying to reduce the amount of “border-line” content in the suggested videos section.

As of the present day, Youtube’s focus is around keeping people on the platform and showing them quality content that will keep them engaged. While at the same time they are trying to make a safer community.

youtube algorithm

Youtube Demographics

First, let’s dive into some of the demographics that Youtube pulls so you can get a fuller understanding of the platform.

  • 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute!
  • Almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day.
  • YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day
  • The total number of hours of video watched on YouTube each month – 3.25 billion.
  • 80% of YouTube’s views are from outside of the U.S.
  • The average number of mobile YouTube video views per day is 1,000,000,000
  • The average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes
  • Female users are 38% and male users are 62%.
  • User Percentage by Age 18-24 – 11%, 25-34 – 23%, 35-44 – 26%, 45-54 – 16%, 50-64 – 8%, 65+ – 3%, unknown age – 14%.
  • Approximately 20% of the people who start your video will leave after the first 10 seconds. Create a damn good intro.

As you can see Youtube is the Video Platform God. They have systematically become one of the most powerful search engines on the Internet.

Just as Instagram allows for increased customer relationships, Youtube has given people the ability to create loyal followings. This is especially true with vloggers and influencers because video allows for a much more personal connection.

Now that you see the importance of Youtube lets jump into Unlocking the Youtube Algorithm!

Breaking Down the Youtube Algorithm

Just below we are going to cover the major metrics that Youtube Analyzes in order to rank your youtube videos. When it comes to going viral/trending on Youtube there is no sure-fire method.

However, understanding how the Youtube Algorithm works will give you a competitive edge. Optimizing your editing and production to focus on these metrics will make you a better content creator and influencer.

 Youtube Algorithm Key Metrics:

  1. Videos Minute Watched
  2. Channel Minutes Watched
  3. View Duration
  4. Session Duration
  5. Session Starts
  6. Upload Frequency
  7. Session End Penalty
  8. Viewing History & Behavior

Let’s go into full depth on each of these topics down below.

1. Videos Minute Watched

youtube algorithm

In order to generate any momentum and leverage the youtube algorithm, you first need views. Youtube’s primary goal is to keep people on the platform the more views & watch time you can accumulate for your Youtube Video the better it will perform.

Views are the most important factor when it comes to ranking. In order for a video to be “successful”, the views need to be greater than or equal to 50% of the 30-day subscriber base. Youtube analyzes the views accumulated for the first minutes, hours, days and even weeks!

It’s important that you flood your videos with views and engagement from outside the platform. This is a great way to give your post an initial boost to help it become a trending youtube video.

2. Channel Minutes Watched

youtube algorithm

The viewership on one video is important in helping that video gain momentum. However, the goal is to grow your channel and increase your subscriber base.

That is why Channel Minutes Watched has authority over Videos Minute Watched.

The reason for this is Youtube analyzes this metric over the lifetime of your channel. They look to see if your channel is trending up or trending down. When your channel shows positive growth with an increasing rate. Youtube’s algorithm will start to favor your channel and promote it more often in the browse feed.

3. View Duration

Unlocking the Youtube Algorithm

View duration is the amount of time the user spends on a particular video aka Watch Time.

This metric is great for understanding which content has the highest audience retention. Giving you the ability to understand which type of content is trending for your channel and audience.

The goal of any video should be to keep the audience’s attention for as long as possible. However, make sure that you’re providing quality content. Just because you produce a 3-hour video doesn’t mean people are going to watch the full 3 hours.

Thanks to platforms like TikTok & Vine, Viewer’s attention spans for videos is roughly 15-30 seconds in length. This causes Long-form content to be edited in such a way that it utilizes a lot of quick interruptions. In order to keep the audience engaged and the message of the video on track.

View Duration is a key metric needed in order to grow your channel through compelling content

Pro Tip: Youtube cares about accrued view duration, meaning a 2hr video generating 15 minutes watch time average will perform greater than a 1-minute video with a 30 sec watch time average. Optimal video lengths range from 5-10 minutes.

4. Session Duration

youtube algorithm

In past years the Youtube Algorithm placed high importance on View Duration of videos for ranking.

However, since the 2016 Update, the Youtube Algorithm now places more emphasis on Session Duration. The reason for this shift is because Youtube generates more revenue the longer users stay on the platform. Therefore, if your video is keeping viewers on the platform longer it will be promoted and suggested to more viewers.

When your channel or someone else’s channel holds the user’s attention both channels benefit.

You’re probably asking yourself how does someone else’s channel retaining the user benefits my channel?

The answer is…

5. Session Start

A Session Start refers to the video or channel that first got the user to youtube. Whether it be through sharing a video on Facebook or posting the video URL in the Instagram Story Link, the channel that started the users’ session will benefit as long as the user stays on Youtube.

This is why some Youtube Channels, especially gamers, will shoutout other channels at the end of a video in order to increase the session duration.

6. Don’t Suffer from a Session End Penalty

How does Youtube generate profit? They need people to stay on the platform!

When your video links out of youtube or you drive traffic away from Youtube, you are seriously damaging the growth of your channel. Youtube does not reward channels that drive traffic away.

Session End Penalties include but are not limited to:

  • Linking to Social Medias (Instagram, Facebook, SoundCloud, etc.)
  • Driving Traffic to your Website or Landing Page
  • Opening another Window
  • Not Engaging With Video (i.e. bots or sitting idle for too long)
  • Even When the User Closes the Browser Page!

This is not to say that if you were an influencer, driving traffic to an affiliate link would be a bad idea. The ROI could definitely out way the cons, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid driving traffic away.

Pro Tip:  Remember how we talked about getting a session start, then sending traffic to another channel to increase the session duration? Well when you send traffic to another channel, you have eliminated a Session End Penalty. When you transfer over the user’s attention to the channel, the requirements for keeping the attention go with it. Meaning that you reap all the benefits without any of the negative impacts of a session end penalty!

7. Upload Frequency

youtube algorithm

In past years the Youtube algorithm did not place a high level of importance on this metric. That is why so many channels were able to grow to such a huge subscriber base with a small amount of content. But now this metric is highly important!

The Algorithm now favors a higher upload frequency of a channel. This increase in upload frequency signifies to Youtube that this channel is active and creating new content continually.

But what if I don’t want to spam my audience with videos or can’t get a lot of engagement because I upload too much?

If your audience already engages with you on other social media platforms, then they are used to hearing your voice on a daily basis. Utilize those avenues to increase traffic and engagement on your channel.

In addition, as you continually create a content link back to older videos to increase views and engagement. Linking back to old videos is highly beneficial for your channel because it greatly increases session duration, channel watched minutes, and gives old videos a chance to be revived.

Optimal Upload Frequency For Growth

It appears that the best way to grow the fastest on Youtube currently is with daily uploads. However, without proper time management, this is an incredibly laborious task, that many, including myself, could not accomplish effectively.

That is why 2-3 times per week has been shown to be the next best frequency for channel growth.

Pro Tip: For those that miss an upload. Youtube records activity on your channel by the tracking id’s it receives for every upload of a video. it just so happens that Playlist gets the same type of tracking id’s that videos get. So if you create a playlist and place a video in the queue, the Youtube algorithm reads that as activity on your channel.

8. Viewing History/Behavior

Although this is not a metric that you can measure, it is something that you should think about in regards to your audience. When it comes to understanding what your audience views and interacts with it can help your content creation immensely.

This is just like understanding a customer profile for a business or brand. You need to know what your audience is searching for in order to create the perfect content for them.

A fantastic way to increase your overall exposure and Youtube SEO is by utilizing relevant keywords in your youtube tag section. These keywords are what allow your content to be categorized for search queries on Youtube. The more descriptive and content specific your keywords are the better!

What Does it All Mean?

These metrics are the basis for understanding the Youtube algorithm. Having knowledge of these fundamental core factors can give your channel a serious advantage.

It is important that you check your analytics daily and analyze the information. Not only have the data but being able to interpret it is huge. This will allow you to create better content that will increase your subscriber base, engagement, and most importantly brand exposure. Learn to love these metrics, they hold the keys to your channel’s success.

Like this content? Check out our other article on “Unlocking the Instagram Explore Page Algorithm” or “TikTok FYP Algorithm Unlocked

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