Marketing

How Does The YouTube Shorts Algorithm Work?

March 28, 2024
A lens with an iphone in the middle where a girl is recording herself. The lens has a huge youtube shorts logo in the middle

The rise of short-form video content on platforms like YouTube Shorts has created a new era of content creation and consumption. For creators and viewers alike, the YouTube Shorts algorithm is the engine that powers the discoverability and virality of these bite-sized videos. In this blog, we'll take a deep dive into the inner workings of this algorithm, updated to reflect the year 2023 and uncover the secrets to making your YouTube Shorts stand out in a sea of content.

The Power of Short-Form Video

Before we delve into the YouTube Shorts algorithm, let's talk about why short-form video has become such a sensation. 

In a world where attention spans are shrinking, these quick, engaging clips are designed to grab your attention within seconds. They're snackable, shareable, and perfect for our fast-paced digital lives. Video marketing, especially short-form content, is booming with the highest ROI. 

Such videos promote high engagement as they are highly shareable, and create a sense of community. You can engage with your target audience better and faster as well as create memorable content which are impactful.

The YouTube Shorts Algorithm in 2023: Decoding Your Next Strategy

In 2023, the YouTube Shorts algorithm has evolved to become even more sophisticated. 

Ditch the conventional stats – in the realm of Shorts, views rule the kingdom. Unlike the labyrinth of impressions and click-through rates, the YouTube Shorts algorithm is refreshingly straightforward. So, if your Shorts stats have left you scratching your head, here's the good news!

You see, the Shorts algorithm is like a dynamic duo, working in two distinct phases: "explore" and "exploit." It all kicks off with a small, targeted "seed audience" that your Short is presented to. If this initial crowd gives your content a thumbs-up, you'll hit the jackpot and be introduced to a broader audience. That starting audience is the real MVP because their engagement determines your Short's destiny. If they're not enthralled, your views might hit a plateau.

This algorithm's primary goal remains to keep viewers engaged, and it does so by considering a few key factors, including those updated for this year:

  • Watch Time: Just like its parent platform, YouTube, the Shorts algorithm values watch time. The more time users spend watching your Shorts, the more the algorithm takes notice.

  • Posting Times: The perfect timing and maintaining a consistent schedule are vital for your Shorts. Syncing your publishing times with your audience's peak activity can have a remarkable impact on how well your Shorts perform.

The good news is that uncovering the ideal posting time is a breeze. Head to YouTube Studio, navigate to Analytics and explore the Audience section. Dive into the "When your viewers are on YouTube" section, and there you have it – the optimal time to share your Shorts with your unique audience!

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): CTR measures how often viewers click on your Shorts when they see them. A higher CTR indicates that your video's title, thumbnail, and content are compelling.

  • Thumbnails matter: It might sound surprising, but thumbnails continue to be a game-changer! In the realm of Shorts, your thumbnail is the star of the show. When your Shorts pop up in everyday YouTube feeds, a captivating thumbnail becomes your ultimate tool for luring in more clicks.

  • User Engagement: Likes, comments, shares, and subscribers gained from your Shorts play a crucial role in determining their popularity. Encouraging engagement is key to algorithmic success.

  • Video length: Don't be misled by the idea of an ideal Short length. The key is letting your story dictate the duration, whether it's a snappy 15 seconds or a full 60. Surprisingly, longer Shorts, typically 50-60 seconds, often outshine shorter ones. They capture more watch time and maintain higher average view durations, making them high-performers. YouTube expert Paddy Galloway puts it this way:

  • Views: In the realm of YouTube Shorts, a "view" goes beyond a mere impression. Unlike platforms where even a quick click counts, YouTube seeks deeper engagement. This approach ensures that the views your Shorts gather reflect genuine interest, not just casual scrolling. Longer average view times, typically 50-60 seconds, boost your Shorts' visibility, often accumulating around four million views on average.

  • Video Completion: The Shorts algorithm continues to favor videos that are watched all the way through. If your content retains viewers until the end, it's more likely to be promoted.

  • View Velocity: How quickly your video gains views after it's published still matters. If your video starts to gain traction shortly after being uploaded, the algorithm is more likely to recommend it.

  • Video Quality: High-quality production, including clear visuals and good audio, can lead to a better user experience and more significant algorithmic support.

  • Post frequency: Nate black studied 35 billion short views on YouTube and found that channels that have shared over 200 Shorts usually experience a steady boost in views as time goes by. Don't be discouraged by your initial view count – keep uploading more Shorts! Remember, those opening three seconds of your Short are make-or-break for grabbing your viewer's attention. So, make every second count!

  • Keyword and Hashtag Usage: Properly utilizing relevant keywords and trending hashtags in your video title, description, and comments can enhance discoverability.

New Signals for Success in 2023

In 2023, the YouTube Shorts algorithm continues to use these signals to predict which videos users want to watch:

  • Viewed vs. Swiped Away: This metric measures the percentage of times that viewers watch your Shorts instead of swiping away from them. It's a clear indicator of audience engagement. Todd Sherman, the mastermind behind YouTube Shorts, spills the beans. Unlike the traditional, long-form videos where viewers make conscious choices, Shorts largely pop up right in the feed, almost like fate. That's why the algorithm sends Shorts out on a grand tour, testing them with countless views to evaluate their worth. The proof? Just peek at the "Viewed vs. Swiped away" metric in your analytics – it's the real deal!

  • Watch History: A user's watch history remains a significant deciding factor for which Shorts they'll be served. The algorithm aims to provide a continuous drip feed of content that aligns with a user's interests. 

  • Similar Content: Shorts are served based on the content that users have interacted with in the past. So, the content similar to videos that other people have enjoyed continues to play a role in the algorithm's recommendations.

  • Engagement: Engagement, including watch times, likes, comments, and shares, continues to be vital for your overall channel. While comments and likes are great for the ego, the Shorts algorithm focuses on other signals like Viewed vs. Swiped Away and Watch History.

  • Relevance: Your content must still be relevant to your YouTube community. While you should pay attention to trends, stay true to your niche to avoid alienating your loyal followers.

Ways to Enhance Your YouTube Shorts Content

To make the most of the YouTube Shorts algorithm, consider these updated strategies:

  • Make a Content Strategy Specifically for Shorts: Shorts may have a different audience than your regular channel, so decide whether they belong to the main channel or warrant a separate channel.

  • Quality Over Quantity: The algorithm rewards high-quality videos over a high volume of content. Focus on creating a few standout Shorts.

  • Be Entertaining: Engaging content is key to keeping your audience's attention. Analyze your analytics to discover what entertains your audience and replicate that in your content.

  • Use Trends to Your Advantage: Use trending YouTube music to your advantage. Running your Shorts like you run a TikTok channel can lead to thousands of views.

  • Experiment: Don't be afraid to try new content types, lengths, and styles. If one video performs exceptionally well, replicate the elements that make it special.

  • First Impressions Matter: Invest effort into the first few seconds of your Shorts to hook your viewers right from the start.

  • Find Your Best Posting Time: Publish your Shorts when your target audience is most active on YouTube. Posting time can have a significant impact on performance.

  • Be Picky with CTAs: Call-to-actions are powerful if used correctly. Make sure your CTAs align with the content and don't interrupt the viewer's experience.

  • Do Keyword Research: Use keywords to increase discoverability. Optimize your content with relevant keywords but avoid keyword stuffing.

  • Enhance Titles, Hashtags, and Thumbnail Images: Ensure your video title, hashtags, and descriptions match your video content. Customize your thumbnail to be compelling and eye-catching.

  • Review Performance: Analytics are your crystal ball for predicting future success. Analyze patterns in what works and what doesn't.

  • Repost Smartly: Repost short-form content that's appropriate for Shorts, but ensure it's optimized for YouTube.

Conclusion

The landscape of YouTube Shorts is in a perpetual state of flux, adapting to the ever-changing digital environment. As we step into 2023 and beyond, the future of short-form video is bright, and those who master the art of cracking the YouTube Shorts algorithm will thrive in this exciting digital era. It is good to consider that these algorithms tend to consistently change and evolve, so stay vigilant and keep up to date with new releases to stay on top of your shorts game! 

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