There is SO much misinformation out there on the YouTube Algorithm. It’s not some big, bad, beast we’re trying to trick or bribe into surfacing our content on YouTube. The algorithm is not out to get you (even if it feels that way sometimes.)
Believe it or not, it’s primary goal is to surface your content to the highest number of the right people. – The people who actually want to see it! The confusing part is just figuring out how to properly communicate who those people are to the algorithm. Let’s break down how to do that…
But first, I want to introduce you to Brent Hughes. On his channel, he shares his passion of restoring old Voltzwagen vehicles. He started on YouTube to connect with others who had the same passion. When he began, he really struggled with the time it took to edit his videos. He needed a way to make it sustainable, so he started looking for ways to better to meet his audience’s needs, and he began experimenting on his channel. He started live-streaming at events and that found these really resinated with his core audience and the interactions was something they all enjoyed. This became a great way to make community content. Then, he started playing around with shorts. He found those to be extremely helpful for discoverability.
I love that through working with us, he really understood that experimentation is the key to growing as a creator but also in connecting with his community. Go check out his channel here.
Poor Misunderstood “Alfie”
I think the most misunderstood thing about the YouTube algorithm is how it surfaces content. There are so many misconceptions about the algorithm:
- More likes and comments will make it go out to more people.
- Finding the right keywords and metadata will make your video blow up.
- One poor performing video will ruin your channel.
- YouTube favors bigger creators.
- I must rank on the search page to be a success.
The algorithm is not this mysterious, moody deity that will bless you if it’s feeling generous that day and smite you if it’s not. The algorithm is trying to help you. Its focus is on the audience and paying attention to how humans are interacting with your videos. And I promise, everyone has an equal opportunity to grow on YouTube.
Alfie has Evolved
Waaaaay, back in the day there was something to this whole “keywords” thing. And this is probably why there is mixed information out there. Also, since Google works a bit this way, it seems like YouTube would as well. But that led to people thinking, Great! I can cram the word chicken 983 times in my description and Yay! I’m the top ranking chicken video! – even if it’s not about chickens. That’s a problem. YouTube has come a looooong way since then, including creating a whole different system for shorts.
At the end of the day, YouTube is an ads business. This is how YouTube makes money. YouTube wants to reach the right person with the right video at the right time, so they can stay on the platform for as long as possible and watch more ads that are targeted directly to them. This is why the algorithm wants to know what your viewers want to see.
4 Positive Viewer Signals
So what is Alfie looking for? What are the viewer signals that will let the algorithm know it has surfaced the right video to the right person at the right time?
1) The Click
The viewer sees your title & thumbnail and decides if they want to click. If you want to see how you are doing on this, go to your analytics and check out your impressions, click thru rate and views.
Make sure you are not only looking at CTR. That alone does not tell us much. It’s when you look at all three that you are able to really understand what is happening. Maybe you have a high click thru rate, but your channel isn’t growing. If that’s you. Look at your impressions. Are you so niche in your area that you aren’t reaching a broader audience? Try to go a little more discoverable and see what happens. Your CTR, might go down, but if your impressions go up, that was the goal with that video and it was a success!
Trying to get more clicks? Let’s work on your title and thumbnail. Are you really building intrigue and using emotion to draw people in? Example: I’m in the fitness niche and I know my audience wants to feel more confident looking in the mirror. I can post a video titled, “How to do pushups.” Or I could title it, “Feel more confident in the mirror by doing pushups.” Drawing in the emotion and WHY they want the content is always going to yield better results.
2) The Watch
You got your viewer into the video (yay!), now what are they communicating while they watch the video? Check out your retention graph to see how your audience is watching your video. Did you have a good opening hook? Did you keep their attention to the end? Did they skip around or abandon it?
Another metric that is important around this one is Average Percentage Viewed, or APV. How much of your video are your viewers actually watching. Is there a magic number for this? Nope. But it is better to have 30% of people to watch 80% of your video. The best advice we can give you on this is to compete against yourself. Work on your hooks and storytelling. Then look at your retention graph and look for patterns. Are you losing people at the same parts? Where are your graphs flattening out? What’s keeping them watching? Seeing this visually can be incredibly helpful for you to make data-driven decisions.
Want to get better at this? Do some research by watch more YouTube! Watch videos in and out of your niche. See how they do their hooks. Pay attention to their storytelling and calls to actions. Analyze their structure and try it for yourself! Also, pay attention to the viewer signals you give while you’re watching. What made you click into the video? What made you skip or abandon content? Think about all of this and begin applying it to your channel.
3) Extending the Viewing Session
What happens at the end of your video? Are people watching another one of your videos? Are you sending them off of the platform? To see what viewer signals you are sending to the algorithm, check out your end screen activity in your analytics. Look at your clicks per end screen elements shown. Sometimes you put lots of elements to boost your “end screen elements shown,” but what we really care about is if people are actually clicking those elements. Is this an effective call to action or not. This is why I think it is better to have one element shown and one call to action pitched in your closing hook.
4) Viewer Satisfaction
You have probably seen this survey pop up at the end of watching videos, asking about how satisfied you were. Now this is a lot harder to see the results of, but it is still a very important metric to the algorithm. To get a hint of this, check out your returning viewers. This is a very powerful viewer signal to Alfie to let him know that your video is going out to the right audience.
To maximize this, think about each of your viewers and the relationship you have built with them. They are not simply a person you’re trying to trick into watching a second video or watch for longer, etc. Your goal is to give them exactly what they are looking for. You are trying to provide the most value to that person, while making it an enjoyable experience. Keeping this in mind as you craft each part of your video will really maximize this viewer satisfaction and keep the algorithm working for you, not against you.
You may sometimes notice copyright claims on shorts content. YouTube’s systems are constantly scanning all content and will likely detect music and mark that content with a copyright claim. If you are in the partner program, copyright claims do not affect your shorts revenue share. (phew) But to help with this, you can use YouTubes audio picker or upload shorts with your own music as well.
Keep Changing Lives!