If you’re a YouTuber, you’ll need to look at the YouTube SEO Rank Algorithm Guide below so closely. That’s if you want to start getting your videos to appear in the #1 positions in the “Home” section. It doesn’t matter whether you post a few long videos or a ton of short ones, I’ve got a solution for you!
According to an article by Webfx, YouTube suggests that in order to rank in the “Home” section of their platform, you should have a sure aim. And that’s to keep your YouTube Subscribers and its other users engaged for as long as possible.
In other words, if you want to rank in the #1 search results on YouTube, the goal is to keep people interested and engaged in your videos. This increases the chances that your video will be featured on the home page.
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But, for many people, the way YouTube works is still a big mystery. In fact, YouTube official faces have never hidden information about this sort of thing. Not long ago, at the beginning of 2019, YouTube claims that its algorithm will stop recommending something that they call “borderline content”.
That would have seriously restricted everything that could misinform users. If anything changing in the way the platform works, YouTube quickly announces it. YouTube has something that we can call a “disposition” to arrange a search in a certain way.
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For marketers, it is one of the essential tools. It’s odd, but some people even today tend to say that they see their audience located on the other platforms. If you one of these people you better rethink this position. Why?
Simply, because one-third of the total time online people spent watching videos. No wonder most of them are doing it on YouTube.
What Is YouTube SEO Rank Algorithm?
A YouTube SEO Rank Algorithm is the content audit tool for YouTubers to rank their videos in the #1 position on the YouTube platform like in the “Home” section. But, what if you also want to get more views on YouTube?
Well, you’ll need to respond to viewer comments, create video playlists, design attention-grabbing thumbnails, and more. For your information, according to YouTube stats marketers, it’s the world’s second-largest website. It enjoys over 2 billion people who use it on a monthly basis.
And now, let’s have a look at a brief history of the YouTube algorithm. Eventually, YouTube’s first video was uploaded in 2005.
Fifteen years later, people are uploading 500 hours of video to the platform every minute. So, how do 2 billion users find what they want to watch? The short answer is that it’s changed over the years. But, the long answer is dependent on several factors.
Such determinant factors include:
- View Count
- Watch Time
- Machine Learning
- Borderline Content
- Videos Demonetization
- Brand Safety
In other words, we all know you put a ton of time and energy into making videos and it’s important for you to understand how they get discovered.
The goals of YouTube’s search and discovery system are twofold. To help viewers find the videos that they want to watch and maximize long-term viewer engagement and satisfaction. We’ll use the determinant factors above as our guide.
And as a result, you’ll gain a better understanding of how the system works. Or rather, where your content is displayed. And even what you can do to give your videos the best chance of success.
1. View Count (a.k.a. User Clicks)
For the first seven years, between 2005 & 2012, YouTube rewarded videos that got clicks, rather than the ones that kept users engaged.
Obviously, this system had a tendency to show people a lot of clickbait: misleading titles and thumbnails proliferated. Users would click, but then feel tricked, probably a little annoyed, and then abandon videos partway through. Eventually, YouTube realized that their user experience was going down the drain and changed tacks.
2. Watch Time (a.k.a. View Duration)
Back in 2012, the platform announced an update to the discovery system designed to identify the videos people actually want to watch. By prioritizing videos that hold attention throughout. As well as increasing the amount of time a user spends on the platform overall.
YouTube could assure advertisers that it was providing a valuable, high-quality experience for people. Meanwhile, YouTube was also encouraging creators to stop fussing with algorithm optimization.
For instance, making videos shorter to get a higher retention rate. Or making them longer in order to rack up more watch time. Instead, as it still does today, YouTube encouraged people to just “make videos people want to watch.”
3. Machine Learning (a.k.a. The Algorithm)
In 2016, YouTube released a whitepaper that made some waves. In it, product engineers described the role of deep neural networks and machine learning in the platform’s recommendation system.
(Infographic Source: Deep Neural Networks for YouTube Recommendations, 2016)
Of course, for all the impressive jargon, this whitepaper wasn’t a tell-all. You can read it, but even if you understand it (or get your smart friend to explain it to you), it’s not the equivalent of Coca-Cola’s secret recipe.
It’s more like if Coca-Cola announced that the reason their beverage is so tasty is that it undergoes a carbonation process and also there is sugar in it.
At this point, we still don’t know that many details about what’s under the YouTube algorithm’s hood. But, we do know that it tracks viewers’ perceived satisfaction to create an addictive, personalized stream of recommendations.
4. Borderline Content
For the past few years, between 2016 & 2020, YouTube has faced plenty of questions about the type of videos its algorithm surfaces and promotes (or doesn’t). According to its CEO Susan Wojcicki, YouTube is taking its responsibilities seriously.
By trying to balance a broad, fair range of opinions with making sure that outright dangerous information doesn’t spread. For instance, YouTube says that algorithm changes in early 2019 have led to 70% less watch time for “borderline” content.
Borderline content is defined as content that doesn’t quite violate the platform’s community guidelines but is harmful or misleading. It’s a complicated issue because it touches every issue. From white supremacy to the coronavirus.
5. Videos Demonetization
For instance, in March 2020, YouTube creators say the platform was demonetizing videos that so much as alluded to the existence of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, YouTube’s position is that it wants to support a diversity of opinions.
As an example, of how governments should respond to the coronavirus, but not the dangerous ones. Like videos saying the virus is a hoax, or that drinking hand sanitizer will cure it. There’s even more to that!
Like when Wojcicki announced that “when people come to YouTube searching for coronavirus topics, on average 94% of the videos they see in the top 10 results come from high-authority channels.”
6. Brand Safety
Regardless of where you stand, the developments are ongoing, so this is an important discussion for both creators and advertisers to keep informed about.
If you’re a creator, remember that just because the algorithm is rewarding the content you make with high visibility and ad revenue doesn’t mean YouTube won’t turn around and demonetize your channel or video. That’s if your content crosses the line into something advertisers find objectionable.
Meanwhile, advertisers need to know that their sneaker ads aren’t funding anti-vaxxers or conspiracy theorists. The YouTube algorithm in its current form is designed to demonetize borderline content, mostly to protect brands.
At the same time, YouTube says it might never be able to guarantee 100% brand safety.
How does YouTube SEO Rank Algorithm work?
And according to Pew Research Center, 81% of YouTube users in the US say they regularly watch videos recommended by the algorithm. If you’re a creator working on getting more YouTube views, or a brand-building out your YouTube marketing strategy, the platform’s recommendation algorithm counts for a lot.
That said, how do you optimize your channel and videos to work with it, not against it? Unfortunately, YouTube usually isn’t known for being super transparent with creators or advertisers about how the proverbial sausage is made.
So, henceforth, we’re going to take a look at how YouTube SEO rank algorithm works. Based on the history of YouTube’s priorities when it comes to helping viewers discover new videos. As well as all the latest YouTube algorithms, changes for 2020.
YouTube SEO Rank Algorithm Works Like This:
Firstly, according to YouTube, the algorithm is basically a “real-time feedback loop.” Especially, that tailors videos to each viewer’s different interests. Whereby, it decides which videos will get suggested to individual users.
Secondly, the algorithm’s goals are twofold. In that case, find the right video for each viewer, and get viewers to keep watching. Therefore, the algorithm is watching user behavior as closely as it watches video performance.
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The two most important places the algorithm impacts are search results and recommendation streams. But, how does the YouTube algorithm influence search results? Well, search results are based on several factors.
Unsurprisingly, the videos you get when you search to watch let’s say “carnivorous house plants” will be different from the videos I get when I search for “carnivorous house plants.” Search results are based on factors like metadata and engagement.
Your video’s metadata includes the title, description, keywords, etc. And how well those match the user’s query. While, your video’s engagement includes likes, comments, watch time, etc. As well as how well they engage users.
How the YouTube algorithm influences recommended videos
The recommendation stream is a two-fold process for the algorithm. First, it ranks videos by assigning them a score based on performance analytics data. (Scroll down for our list of all known factors.)
Second, it matches videos to people based on their watch history, and what similar people have watched. The idea is not to identify “good” videos but to match viewers with videos that they want to watch.
The end goal is that they spend as much time as possible on the platform (and therefore see as many ads as possible). For the record, there are three other places the algorithm makes a big impact:
- Your YouTube homepage
- Trending Videos
- Your subscriptions
- Your notifications
How YouTube determines the algorithm
Just like Google, YouTube’s algorithm aims to provide searchers with relevant, personalized videos. There are five separate sections of YouTube where this algorithm works: Home, Search, Recommended Videos, Trending, and Subscriptions.
That means that for each of those sections of the interface, YouTube works to present users with options that they’ll love. But how do they know what videos their audience will love? That’s where the algorithm comes in.
Similar to the way that Google no longer accepts Keyword Stuffing, YouTube wants to see videos that are created for your audience instead of trying to beat the system. You shouldn’t load your descriptions with keywords or create videos that you think the platform will like.
While we don’t work at Google, here’s a running list of all the different factors that YouTube has mentioned in its various public discussions of the algorithm over the years. When it ranks a video, the algorithm looks at
- Whether people click on a video (a.k.a. impressions vs. views: thumbnail and title are important, here)
- How much time people spend watching a video (watch time, or retention)
- The likes, dislikes, comments, or shares a video gets (a.k.a. engagement)
- Or, how quickly a video’s popularity snowballs or doesn’t (this is called view velocity, rate of growth)
- How new a video is (new videos may get extra attention in order to give them a chance to snowball)
- Or, how often a channel uploads new videos
- How much time people spend on the platform after watching a video (session time)
Creating videos for your audience and your audience alone is enough to catch YouTube’s eye.
When it matches a video to a potential viewer, the algorithm looks at
- Which channels and topics have they watched in the past?
- What have they engaged with in the past?
- How much time do they spend watching?
- How many times has this video already been surfaced for this person?
- What don’t they watch?
How YouTube Recommendations System Works
YouTube recommendations have an essential role in helping more than a billion users every day find videos that match their interests. What is impressive about the recommendation system is its scale.
We all knew how vast YouTube is; to operate successfully with such a huge number of users and perpetually coming content is not easy. YouTube is handling that task brilliantly. Not only arranging a unique online experience for each user but balancing new content with an old one.
For starters, YouTube tracks users’ interests and tries to interpret what content they enjoy the most. It is only part of the way it works. The way of tracking that is much deeper, and it goes far beyond content only.
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They “measure” likes and dislikes, watch time, comments, average view duration, user’s demographic data and location, click-through rate, previous searching. That is enough information to understand a user’s behavior on the platform.
Once YouTube gets the idea of what the user may like, they started to filter videos for recommendations. YouTube uses two neural networks for that goal: the first one is for candidate generation and the other one for ranking.
We can see in the picture how YouTube filters videos for recommendations. Clearly, the information about the user aka “user history and context” influences candidate generation and ranking. The impact of deep learning on the system is hard to overrate.
How to Beat the YouTube Algorithm
YouTube tries to match each viewer to the videos that they are most likely to watch and enjoy. With over 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, that can be a challenge. YouTube’s recommendations systems provide a real-time feedback loop to cater to each viewer and their varying interests.
Their goal is to get people to watch more videos that they enjoy so that they come back to YouTube regularly. Creators often ask, ‘What kind of videos does the algorithm like most?’ Well, their systems have no opinion about what type of video you make and don’t favor any particular format.
Rather, they try their best to follow the audience by paying attention to things like:
- What they watch
- What they don’t watch
- How much time they spend watching
- Likes and dislikes
- ‘Not interested’ feedback
Instead of worrying about what the algorithm ‘likes’, it’s better to focus on what your audience likes. If you do that and people watch, the algorithm will follow. So, what’s more, do you need to know?
You may consider:
- Which videos do they enjoy most?
- How often do they like to watch your channel?
Not forgetting, you can always check your YouTube Analytics to answer these questions. So, how do you make YouTube’s algorithm start working for you?
Well, I am sure we’ve already mentioned some tips on the topic above already. But, let’s learn more about how you can use all the information about the algorithm in practice.
1. Publish often
First of all, the quantity of videos, and frequency of upload, is a very important factor for the YouTube SEO Rank Algorithm, and YouTube’s home screen especially. It’s that personalized list of new and interesting videos that are kind of like Instagram’s Explore page.
If you can increase quantity without losing quality, go for it. The more videos you publish, the better chance you’ll have of hitting the right nerve. Maybe you can turn that one big hit into a series.
Or you could introduce a new, low-effort weekly feature that fits into your brand’s established niche; like a Tuesday reaction video or a Wednesday study with my session, or a Thursday Twitch stream.
2. Watch Time
On the other hand, you should make your videos public when your audience is watching. Recency is an important ranking factor for every social media algorithm. Not to mention, we can name (the Instagram algorithm, the Twitter algorithm, the Facebook algorithm), and YouTube is no exception.
YouTube’s notifications feature pings your subscribers when you upload a video, and it’s definitely most effective if that happens when they’re looking for something new to watch.
But on the whole, we recommend taking a look at your YouTube analytics to pick the optimal time of day or week to drop your newest masterpiece. In many cases, this also means scheduling your YouTube videos ahead of time.
3. Videos Optimization
You need to optimize your video description text. Contrary to popular belief, that block of text underneath your video isn’t just a place to link to your socials. Although you should definitely do that, too.
It also helps the algorithm surface your video when users are searching for your topic. So make sure you front-load the first sentence with a clear, keyword-focused description of your video.
Make sure you:
- Use natural language, not keyword salad.
- Focus on one or two keywords and repeat them in both your description and title.
For more detail, check out the complete guide to SEO-optimized YouTube descriptions, including tips on zeroing in on your keywords.
Another key performance metric for the algorithm is view duration. You might see advice that advocates for making your videos shorter or longer. But really, just make them as interesting and fun to watch as you possibly can.
4. Repeat What’s Working
If something works, rinse and repeat. Building leverage on YouTube, as these five unexpectedly interesting YouTube channels have learned, requires paying attention to what your audience wants.
That means paying attention to your analytics, but also your gut. The YouTube algorithm wants to give people more of what they’ve liked in the past. Experiment skillfully, take feedback from your audience, give everyone time to adjust.
For instance, there is this local dad who started a channel during the pandemic lockdown, and his premise — answering questions people might usually ask their dad, if, like him, they don’t have one — has racked up 2.4 million subscribers in two months.
It’s a unique, earnest, and emotional value offering, and it’s extra-impressive because this channel succeeded in a content vertical (that is, DIY how-to videos) that seemed pretty much saturated.
Also note that he reads picture books once a month, which leads us to conclude that the algorithm rewards those who make their viewers weep.
5. Use Metadata & Subtitles
You’ll need to first take care of your YouTube video metadata. And as I said, these are the descriptions, video title, tags, thumbnail, category, and subtitles. Make it as clear as the theme of content allows you to.
Adjust your keywords to a user’s search. The words used to describe a video must be the same as people tend to type in the search. Next, you’ll need to consider adding subtitles to your videos too. Did you know that people often watch video soundless?
Without subtitles, you might be invisible on YouTube ranking. And also, not reachable for people who will turn it down for some other content.
6. Redesign Your Thumbnails
Equally important, you should also choose captivating thumbnails in your YouTube SEO rank algorithm strategy. The image you select to represent your video is as important as the description or title. YouTube will offer you some images, but using them might not be the best decision.
Therefore, you should try to make your own thumbnails. Some channels on YouTube uses talking heads as a way to draw attention. What you are getting is a different look that may be more relevant to your brand.
Convince people to subscribe to your channel. As odd as it sounds, many channels use different tactics to make people stay on their channels longer. Ideally – as long as possible by subscribing. The more subscribers you get, the higher your position in the rank will be.
Once you’ve charmed people to watch through to the end, you can then go ahead and use end cards and/or playlists (See #6 in the list of ways to get more YouTube views). To suggest that they watch your next video.
Because no one needs a recommendation algorithm if people trust your recommendations, right? Right.
7. Create Some Playlists
It is surprisingly of great importance to create playlists. People often engaged by stories, and to tell about one of the things that are related to your product or area you work in, could be perfect in the shape of a series of videos.
That will affect the audience retention rate. Analyze how people react to your videos. You can discover that through the YouTube analytics section. Tracking stats on your channel is highly important.
By measuring the successes and failures of your strategy on YouTube, you can better understand how to provide an interesting, engaging experience for your viewers and subscribers. If you know your audience, you can change the way of presenting the videos.
For example, you expect that your audience is between the ages of 35-40 and from a specific country, let’s say, Kenya. In YouTube analytics in the section demographic, you learn that it is not like that at all.
Your audience is younger and its location is mostly in the UK. Now you can change many things in your channel since your audience is different from what you expected.
8. Engage with your community
Talking of a working YouTube SEO rank algorithm, I’ll never stop saying this: You should reply to your comments more often. Talk to your people. Just remember that the algorithm “knows” if you’re having meaningful conversations or just paying lip service to bump up your vanity metrics.
If you’re in the position of having too many people to respond to, you can always do an appreciation video. If no one sends you tens of thousands of compliments every week about the cute noises you make, that’s ok too.
You can skip the video and manage conversations for your channel using Hootsuite. Also, according to YouTube, your channel’s subscribers provide a bunch of important initial signals that help dictate the success of your video.
In other words, these fans are the testing ground — if they love it, the algorithm is more likely to show the video to new eyeballs.
By far, YouTube is the world’s largest platform for video content. A wide range of content the platform is holding can satisfy any user’s requirement. While for the average internet user, YouTube may be something of a way to pass the time, for marketers, it’s a massive field to research, to create, and to learn.
YouTube has two distinctive features on the internet right now. It’s the second most popular search engine and the most popular video platform. The numbers we learn each year about YouTube really are impressive. According to Statista, YouTube has 1.9 billion users worldwide monthly.
Only Facebook can outmatch this number. Ninety-five percent of the Internet population can use YouTube in the native language. Such geographic and linguistic mishmash is incredibly convenient for huge or growing businesses alike.
For successful marketing, you have got to understand how the main video platform in the world is really functioning. It is crucial to know how algorithms can make your channel either a very visible one or buried underweight of similar content.
If you are concerned to convey a message that your business is holding, you must know that the YouTube algorithm learns how users are acting on the platform. In consequence, that has a significant impact on how you should make videos and lead your strategy.
Many people used to perceive YouTube as a sort of entertaining platform. Only for the last several years, we started to think of it as a great source of educational materials – with all the lectures, travel blogs, and how-to-do stuff.
Finally, I hope that the above guide on the YouTube SEO rank algorithm is useful to you. But, if you’ll need more support, you can Contact Us and let us know how we can help you. You can also share your additional thoughts, suggestions, contributions, and or questions in our comments section.