Like google, youtube likes to keep their algorithm well under wraps, but as 2017 kicks off it looks like there’s been a few changes to the algorithm that’s got a lot of big creators up in arms. However many smaller youtubers are hopping on the bandwagon and seeing this as an opportunity to level the playing field.
Because the details of the algorithm are top secret everything you hear about it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. In reality there’s no way to know for sure what is going on beyond observations and analysis.
So, let’s go over exactly what you should be focusing on if you want to have success on youtube in 2017.
Content creators invest a lot of time trying to climb the ranks of the search results but a look at the metrics youtube gathers shows that videos tend to get a lot more views via suggested videos rather than organic searches. While this isn’t exactly new information, it’s something to keep in mind. Instead of spending quite as much time trying to conquer the search results invest some of that time in working out which other creators videos you want to have your videos popping up in the suggested videos for and optimising them for that.
The two go hand in hand really, if you can get your video appearing in the suggested videos theoretically it will get more views and you’ll see an increase in the videos search result position.
Watch time has long been touted as one of the major influencing factors in how well a video will do. It was thought it was a determining factors for how much youtube will promote your video, what spot it can claim in search results and whether it appears in the suggested videos. But watch time isn’t quite as simple as you might think. It’s not just about the watch time on your latest video, it actually encompasses the watch time of your entire channel, the watch time of your recently uploaded videos, and your most recent upload.
It’s thought that uploading a video that performs badly can affect the next couple of videos you upload, as well as the previous couple.
If you can nail the watch time on your newer content you could find that your older videos will start to rise from the depths and start getting more views. But if you have a few videos lingering in your library that are performing particularly badly it might be time to get rid of them because they could be hurting your channel and your future uploads.
Your videos relevancy to your channels other content and to content that already exists on youtube is a pretty important thing to focus on. If a channel that focuses on sports releases a makeup tutorial chances are it’s going to be hard to get much success from it, it’s not relevant to their existing content.
Creating content that is relevant to what your channel produces helps give your channel authority on that topic. Youtube can work out that your channel is all about sports and can measure your success in that niche. If you suddenly jump out of your box and make a video about makeup youtube isn’t going to know what kind of audience response you will get from it. It’s like stepping into the unknown - like when a film star tries to start a music career, it’s a mystery how successful they’ll be in the new industry.
This is why a lot of youtubers run multiple channels. It helps keep their main channel focused on their niche while allowing them to make videos about other things.
What the viewers are watching
If you’ve got a video appearing in the suggested videos then the amount of users that choose your video to watch next are going to help make or break it. Youtube wants to keep viewers on site consuming content for longer and the easiest way for them to do that is to be presenting them with relevant content that they might want to watch next. Each time a viewer chooses your video to watch after a related video it’s like it gets a little bonus point in the suggested videos (this is affected by other metrics like how much of your content they stay to watch etc). Get enough of those bonus points and it’ll start to bump your video up.
This is part of why parodies are so successful on youtube, they’re relevant to an already popular video that is getting a lot of views. When you make a parody you’re piggy backing off of the original contents success. If you can end up in the suggested videos for a highly viewed video by doing a parody then chances are you’ll be getting quite a lot of views.
Engagement has always been thought of as a big determining factor in your videos success, but engagement has changed. It seems youtube isn’t putting quite as much weight on likes and comments as they once were and this could mean the end (or at least a decline) of all those begging for likes and comments that is so prevalent on youtube.
While you don’t want to ignore engagement because it’s still a part of growing your youtube community and probably does factor in to an extent, engagement has changed.
It looks like youtube is favouring looking at viewers path through the content to work out engagement. How many viewers clicked on your video in the suggested videos and what did they do after watching your video? Did they leave youtube? Did they consume more of your content? Did they click onto another related video from a different creator?
It makes sense to go this route because as creators you have little control over what your user decides to do after they’ve watched your video. You might ask them to like or comment on your video, but you’re probably not going to ask them to try and find your video in suggested videos and click on it.
In reality, the engagement metric is the one that was being abused the most in 2016 with creators asking on all the social media platforms they’re on for people to go and comment and like their newly released content “go check out my new video snapchat fam, and leave a comment with a pineapple so I know you came from here!” *shudder*.
The first few hours/days
Another reason creators are all over social media trying to get their viewers to go and watch their newest video asap is because getting views on on your freshly uploaded content will help give it a boost. It’s thought that if you can get a decent viewership on your videos in the first 48 hours then chances are you’ll end up appearing in the suggested videos and earn a decent spot in the search results. This can be a tough pill to swallow for new creators with small followings as it’s tough to get views, let alone get them in the first 48 hours.
Going into 2017 it looks like the importance of other social media platforms to promote your content and bring in an audience for your new videos is going to be on the rise.
It’s long been assumed that retention time in it’s simplest form is a factor in how well your videos will do, but there’s a growing suspicion that that is no longer the case. If you have a video with 50% retention time then it could do better than a video with 80% retention time.
It’s thought that the change has shifted away from a percentage based calculation and onto a minutes based calculation, effectively merging the watch time and retention time into a new metric.
For example if you upload a ten minute video and get 50% retention time (five minutes watched), it could outperform a five minute video with 80% retention time (four minutes watched).
If this is the case then this change isn’t the best news for viewers or creators, but it is a great way to keep viewers on youtube longer. A lot of videos on youtube give some kind of information, so if you have a video that the viewer leaves halfway through in favour of another similar video chances are the first video didn’t give the viewer what they were looking for. That means the viewer will have watched x minutes from video one, then gone on to another video and watched x more videos, then possibly on to another one. All of these videos watched will likely come with ads which will earn youtube more ad revenue.
This is purely speculation, it’s something that has been being discussed lately but take it with a pinch of salt because there is no solid evidence that this is the case.
There’s been a noticeable shift onto the upload frequency of channels with youtube preferring creators that are uploading daily. Gaming channels have gained quite a foot hold on youtube as they tend to do daily uploads.
This is a change that is getting creators quite riled up as producing quality content on a daily basis is no easy task especially in certain niches where the video production takes a long time.
Youtube seems to be shifting away from short videos and favouring longer content, the touted figure is somewhere around the ten minute mark. This is another change that creators are not pleased about. When you combine the increased video length with the upload frequency factor it’s even harder for creators to be putting out quality content. Not only do they need to make their videos longer, they need to be making more of them.
Again this is part of why gaming channels are gaining that footing, not only are the uploads usually daily, they also tend to put out long videos.
Video Length + Daily Uploads
Some creators attempted to start daily vlogs to help them conquer this new metric, it allows them to upload content daily, and can be edited into fairly long videos. However most of those creators abandoned daily vlogging down to the sheer amount of time it takes to be creating their channels main content alongside vlogging about their days and editing those vlogs.
The Unsub Bug
You may have heard some big youtubers talking about the unsub bug which basically is a bug that automatically unsubscribes people from youtube channels. Youtube came out essentially saying that the bug doesn’t exist and it’s not happening.
If you do a bit of digging around then you’ll see that this isn’t actually a new issue, it’s just something that’s been thrust into the spotlight recently. Back in 2012 during the great youtube purge where youtube decided it was time for a clean out to get rid of inactive accounts, that seems to be about the time that this auto unsub bug reared it’s ugly head.
While no one knows for sure, it looks like it might not actually be a bug at all, and that youtube simply has this purge algorithm running in the background unsubscribing inactive accounts from channels.
What does it all mean?
So what does this all mean for your channel? What should you be doing to get ahead of the game?
First off you need to decide what is possible for you. I mentioned big creators that tried to start doing daily vlogs to hit those daily uploads and video lengths and ultimately had to stop because it was burning them out. If you don’t feel like you have the time to be doing daily ten minute uploads there’s no point in running yourself into the ground trying to do it. Chances are if you do, your videos will decline in quality and you’ll start losing subscribers, and even though you want to be getting more views on your videos your main focus should still be on building a community and quality content.
Even though you might not want to jump on to daily uploads, you could go for a less extreme version and try increasing your upload schedule by an extra video a week. A lot of channels pull this off by having their main content, then releasing an extra video like a behind the scenes video or a Q&A or a weekly roundup vlog which isn’t going to take as much time to produce as the regular content.
Start paying attention to the other content creators in your industry and what videos they are putting out. Look for videos that you might want to appear in the suggested videos for and optimise your content for that. I’ve seen channels that have sky rocketed their subscriber counts just from having a video (usually a parody or trend) in the suggested videos. If your video can gain enough traction there then it could end up on the youtube home page and in peoples recommended feed.
Experiment with your content and see what happens, if you usually make short videos try making a couple of longer ones and see how they do. Try uploading an extra video a week, even if it’s a short one and see if you start to see any change from doing that. Try and push the engagement up on some of your videos by asking for likes and comments, an on other videos don’t mention likes and comments then see if there is a noticeable difference between how those videos perform. The best way to figure out what is working best is to play around and see what happens.
2017 is a brand new sparkly year, so while there’s a lot of dissension in the ranks of creators at the moment try and focus on what you can be doing for your channel to get it to new heights this year.