Remember those kids you grew up with who always goofed off and cracked jokes in class (that is, when they weren’t sleeping at their desks)? Whenever they got a bad grade, they’d say, “It’s just because the teacher hates me.” 

Sure. Whatever makes you feel better.

That’s what it’s like anytime someone blames the YouTube algorithm for their failure to gain a massive audience. No, the YouTube algorithm doesn’t hate you. It doesn’t hate anyone … because inanimate pieces of coding aren’t capable of hatred or any other feeling for that matter.

The YouTube algorithm just does what it was designed to do: Deliver viewers the kind of content they’re most likely to watch. 

Woman filming video for YouTube channel

Content Is Key

Growing a YouTube following can be a slow, difficult, frustrating grind. But blaming the platform won’t get you anywhere. If you can muster up some self awareness and accountability, you’ll realize that your channel’s not growing most likely because your content isn’t resonating with your audience.

Content is the key to success on YouTube. If your videos aren’t enjoyable, people won’t watch them. And the YouTube algorithm won’t recommend them. Simple as that.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to optimize your content to increase its odds of success. This article isn’t about “hacks” or “cheat codes.” What we’re giving you is a better understanding of how the YouTube algorithm works along with some tips on how to make the kind of content that performs well on this platform. 

Man creating outdoor YouTube videos near cold ocean

How to Understand the YouTube Algorithm

The YouTube algorithm is an automated system used to determine the order in which videos are shown on the platform. It’s an integral part of how YouTube operates, as it helps viewers discover new content and personalizes their experience. As a result, understanding the YouTube algorithm is important for both viewers and creators to get the most out of their experience. 

YouTube’s Algorithm Has Changed Over Time

Prior to 2012, video ranking was determined by view count. The more viewers saw a video, the more the video attracted additional viewers. 

But that led to a lot of people gaming the system. All creators needed was for the video to be clicked on and watched just a little bit. That didn’t make for a great user experience since having views as the top metric incentivized clickbait in titles and thumbnails.

YouTube has since redesigned the algorithm, prioritizing watch time. This encourages creators to post quality content that visitors want to watch all the way through and see more of a channel, thus keeping them on the platform longer.

How Does the YouTube Algorithm Work?

Simply put, the algorithm is designed to create the best possible experience for YouTube users. It takes into account a variety of factors, such as the user’s watch history, likes, comments, playlists, and search queries, in order to personalize the content that the YouTube algorithm delivers next. 

The YouTube algorithm also looks at the views, shares, comments, watch time, and other engagement metrics of each video in order to determine which ones should be shown more frequently. This means that videos with a lot of engagement will likely appear higher up in the feed, while videos with less engagement will fall further down.

Woman vlogger creating content for YouTube channel

User history is another thing the YouTube algorithm considers. It looks at the types of videos that viewers have watched in the past, and uses this information to recommend similar videos. If a viewer has watched skateboarding videos in the past, they may see more skateboarding-related content in their future recommendations. 

In addition to this personalization of content, YouTube’s algorithm also helps to ensure that quality content is featured prominently. The algorithm looks at both the engagement metrics of a video as well as its ratings and reviews to determine which videos are worth recommending. 

YouTube wants its creators to make money from their content. To do this, the algorithm rewards videos that perform well by featuring them more often in search results and recommended videos. 

Finally, YouTube takes into account the time of day when showing recommended videos. In general, viewers are more likely to watch longer videos during the evening and shorter videos during the day. Therefore, the algorithm takes this into consideration when delivering personalized recommendations. 

Overall, YouTube’s algorithm is designed to create a personalized experience for each user while also promoting quality content from its creators. By taking into account a variety of factors such as watch history, engagement metrics, ratings and reviews, time of day, and more, the algorithm ensures that viewers are getting the best possible experience while they explore YouTube.

How Can I Optimize My YouTube Videos?

Like we said, creating good content should be your number one priority. And by the way, “good” doesn’t necessarily mean “highly produced.” You can make engaging videos on a bare bones budget. As you monetize, you can always put that money into improving the production value of your videos. 

As essential as content is, however, optimizing your videos for the YouTube algorithm is an important part of maximizing their visibility and success. To make sure your videos are seen by as many people as possible, there are several key strategies you should be following.

  1. Choose an Attention-Grabbing Thumbnail: Thumbnails are the first thing viewers see when browsing for videos, so make sure yours stands out. Choose an attractive and visually appealing thumbnail that accurately reflects the content of your video and entices viewers to click. Images of people with emotive expressions are one type of thumbnail that does well at catching viewers’ eyes
YouTube thumbnail image from Aaron Draplin episode of Brand Outlaw
  1. Use Keywords in Your Video’s Title and Description: YouTube is owned by Google, so it makes sense that search engine optimization plays a role here. YouTube relies heavily on keywords to determine what videos show up in search results, so make sure you use relevant keywords in your titles and descriptions. You can also use keywords throughout the body of your video description to further improve its discoverability.
  2. Include Video Cards: Video cards can be added at the end of your videos to encourage viewers to watch other videos on your channel or subscribe. This is a great way to increase engagement with your channel and keep viewers coming back.
  3. Create Playlists: Creating playlists on YouTube helps keep viewers engaged longer and can help build up a loyal fanbase over time. When creating playlists, make sure to group similar topics together so that people looking for specific types of content know where to go.

Understand Your Audience

Because the algorithm rewards engagement, it’s important to understand the people who engage with your channel as well as the people you want to reach with your YouTube videos. Of course you want to have fun making your videos, but you can’t have an audience of one. You have to know your audience and create with viewer satisfaction in mind.

We recommend creating customer avatars early on. A customer avatar, sometimes known as a buyer persona, is a snapshot of your ideal customer, or in this case, the ideal viewer of your YouTube channel.

Woman creating a YouTube video

Start building your avatar by listing demographics: age range, gender, income level, location, occupation, etc. Google searches can help you figure out some general ranges for the demographic information you’re looking for.

After demographics comes the fun part: psychographics. This is where you dive into your target audience’s general lifestyle. What are their beliefs, attitudes, interests, values? Most importantly, what are their sources of frustration, and how can your channel address some of those pain points? Even if you’re creating an entertainment channel, you’re addressing pain points of boredom or the need to forget about life’s problems and laugh for a little while.

Compile this information into an outline or narrative. You can even give these avatars a name. That way, when working on content, you can ask yourself, “Would John like this?” “Would Michelle find this entertaining?” Let the narrative describe your average viewer’s daily problems, how those problems affect them, and how they are transformed after engaging with your channel.

Yeah, this sounds like a lot of upfront work. But trust us. Knowing exactly who you’re creating videos for will make your content much more useful, entertaining, and engaging for your intended audience.

Forget about gaming the system. Play by YouTube’s rules while focusing relentlessly on constantly improving your own content. 

Don’t Be Afraid of Analytics

Monitoring your video analytics is essential for improving viewership and engagement. YouTube Analytics provides important data about watch time, view count, audience retention, traffic sources, and more, which can all be used to better understand how viewers interact with your videos and make informed decisions about future content.

We get it. Analyzing YouTube channel data isn’t everyone’s strong suit. And for many creators, looking at numbers just isn’t fun. You don’t have to pour over your data to the point that you stop enjoying creating videos. But dedicating some time—even once a week or once or month—to see what’s working and what isn’t can make a big difference as to how many people are enjoying the content you create. 

data analytics image

Definitely don’t be afraid of negative numbers. These are valuable. Train yourself not to take dislikes or unsubscribes personally. Instead, use these data points to inform you about where you need to improve.

Just don’t feed the trolls. Negative comments are an unfortunate part of this video platform. Know which commenters are worth your time. 

Can TubeBuddy Help My Video Performance?

TubeBuddy is a powerful video optimization tool that can help you get the most out of your YouTube channel. It provides a wide range of features designed to improve your channel’s visibility, reach, and engagement. With TubeBuddy, you can:

  • Track and analyze your video performance 

  • Research keywords to find the best tags for each of your YouTube videos 

  • Discover new topics to create content around 

  • Enhance your YouTube channel’s SEO 

  • Analyze and measure your audience’s reaction to your videos 

  • Automate bulk edits to save time 

  • Create detailed analytics reports to better understand trends 

  • And much more

testimonial for YouTube analytics program TubeBuddy by Roberto Blake

With its easy-to-use interface and comprehensive analytics tools, TubeBuddy can help you gain an edge over your competition by giving you insights on what content works best for your target audience. This way, you can fine-tune your video optimization strategy and drive more views, subscribers, and overall success on your YouTube channel.

Sign up for a TubeBuddy account through our Brand Outlaw link. You can also learn more about split-testing, an important marketing tool, in this article.

How Long Does It Take to Grow a YouTube Channel?

Growing a successful YouTube following can be a slow and steady process. It takes time to get your content seen and shared, and it requires effort to create engaging videos that capture the attention of viewers. 

Depending on the quality of your content, the strength of your audience’s engagement, and the size of your channel, it can take anywhere from weeks to months to begin seeing tangible results. 

The most important thing to remember is that it will not happen overnight. You must be patient and consistent in order to see results. You should post new videos regularly and stay active on your channel, responding to comments and joining conversations with other users. This will help you build relationships with viewers, which can lead to long-term success.

Man using phone to record YouTube video outdoors

The YouTube algorithm favors channels that are engaging, have consistent viewership, and are regularly updated with fresh content. That means you need to focus on creating content that’s useful and relevant to your target audience, as well as making sure your existing content is up to date and accurate.

Like we said, these aren’t cheat codes. Forget about gaming the system. Instead, play by YouTube’s rules while focusing relentlessly on constantly improving your own content. 

This will get you a lot farther than complaining that an algorithm hates you.