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YouTube algorithm: how does it works and how to use it

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 is 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 you channel either 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 learn 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 education materials – with all the lectures, travel blogs and how-to-do stuff. 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. Here’s why: one-third of the total time online people spent watching videos. No wonder most of them doing it on YouTube.

For many people, the way YouTube works is a big mystery. In fact, YouTube official faces have never hidden information about this sort of things. 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. Let’s figure out the essentials of how it works.

How does the recommendations system work?

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.

For starters, YouTube tracks users’ interests and try 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. 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 of how YouTube filters videos for recommendations. Clearly, the information about user aka “user history and context” influences candidate generation and ranking. The impact of deep learning on the system is hard to overrate.

YouTube recommendations system is built on Google Brain and uses various deep neural network architectures to track every aspect. The creators of YouTube say that “[the] system learns one billion parameters and are trained on hundreds of billions of examples”.

Five pillars of the YouTube algorithm

YouTube has divided all their videos into five different sections. There is as follow: home, search, suggested videos, trending, and subscriptions. There is nothing unique about it, and many other resources use a personalized algorithm to satisfy the user’s requirements. YouTube, as very-well-designed marketing project, helps users’ find the videos they would like to watch and enjoy. In exchange what YouTube receives is an increased amount of time, the average user spent on the platform.

Let’s take a look at these sections.


So, search. That is where YouTube has a starting point for every user. YouTube ranks videos in search of information about a video, including hidden videos too. It contains a video title, description, tags, thumbnail, category and subtitles. It is vital to choose the right and proper formulated information in your video. Vague and obscure keywords could be bad news and place it far from the first page of search. For example, tags place your video with similar ones. If you choose the wrong tags first, YouTube will put you in the wrong section. Too common tags also are not good, because you’ll find yourself in the big company and most like blend with it.

To put your video into a competitive position in the search, YouTube will consider these factors as the most important ones. Other aspects influence this system. It’s matter how many videos have been watched on your channel. The more, the better chances you have to be higher. Well, it is natural, isn’t it? The topic you cover is essential – if people watch the video from the same area lately, it has more chances to stumble upon yours.


The trending page as it comes from the title is about news – what’s new, what’s become so popular that it became viral and so on. The important thing is that YouTube in the trending section shows broadcast from a user’s country.

Suggested Videos

As we have said before, YouTube managed to create a unique experience for each user. It means that suggestions couldn’t be the same for two users. YouTube engineers claim that they analyze many parameters to make a single suggestion. It includes users’ activity history, the engagement rate, the topic, comments and shares, the stats on video that seems to be relevant for a recommendation.


Subscriptions allow users to view all the uploaded videos from their favorite channels. It’s a convenient and straightforward section that shapes the user’s page identity. The way the user act on these subscriptions is highly essential. If users tend to watch a video right after it was uploaded, it will affect how YouTube ranks the channel.

How YouTube determines the algorithm

What the algorithm suggests and generally how it works completely depends on a user’s behavior. What people watch, and what they ignore is the most significant part. It creates a bubble, so to speak, that contains the user’s most relevant themes and topics. The algorithm will cover it in suggestions.

How much time people tend to spend watching videos. Watch time matters more than click-through rate, even though it happened to become a rule only recently. For many marketers, it’s the marker of quality the video possesses.

How often a channel uploads a new video. In fact, if you want to have a good ranking, stay consistent. YouTube’s ranking system is very sensitive to consistent channels. And so are the users. When we say “consistency” we mean two things: how often you post new videos and how logically arranged your content is. It is easier for people to decide whether they need to visit your channel or not if they have a clear idea of what you do.

The watch time or how much time people keep staying on the platform. As we said before in this article, the watch time is one of YouTube’s ranking factors. In the suggestions you’re most likely will get videos with a length that YouTube defines as comfortable for you. On the other hand, a video with a higher watch time will be rank higher in results. It increases the chances that your content appears in suggested video lists. The more videos you have with high watch time level, the better your channel will rank.

The engagement rate. That includes all the impressions as likes and dislikes, comments or shares.

“Not interested” choice. Well, all user’s preferences are important. If you didn’t express interest in something, you draw the line of what shouldn’t appear in your suggestions list. YouTube finds it very important.

How to make YouTube’s algorithm working for you?

We have already mentioned some tips on the topic, but let’s learn how you can use all the information about the algorithm in practice.

Take care of metadata. 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.

Add subtitles. Did you know that people often watch video soundless? Without subtitles, you might be invisible on YouTube ranking and not reachable for people who will turn it down for some other content.

Choose captivating thumbnails. The image you select to represent your video is as important as description or title. YouTube will offer you some image, but to use it might not be the best decision. Make your own. 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.

Create playlists. It is surprisingly of great importance. 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, Ireland. 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.

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