Hello, and welcome to this episode. The YouTube algorithm, how does it work and how can you make it work for you as a small creator? I talk about the misconceptions and simplify this mysterious algorithm in this podcast episode.
Episode 12: Understanding the YouTube algorithm and how you can make it work for you as a smaller creator – Podcast Transcript
The YouTube algorithm, how does it work and how can you make it work for you as a small creator? Hey, Thrivers. I’m Sara Nguyen, creator of Thrive Video Academy, and I’m here to help you go from stuck and overwhelmed to becoming a confident, profitable and thriving creator.
Join me here each week for honest conversations about what it really takes to become a successful YouTube creator without compromising your creativity, sacrificing cheeky drinks with people you love or downtime for yourself.
You’ll hear about the hard lessons I’ve gone through so you can avoid making the same slow and costly mistakes on your journey, as well as my secret weapons to help you dig deep and do the work it takes.
I’m honoured and grateful to have the opportunity to share this together with you right here on the Thriving Creator Podcast. I’m glad you’re here. Let’s get started. There are a lot of misconceptions about the YouTube algorithm, and if you’re looking to create content for YouTube, if you’re looking to grow a business and leverage video on YouTube, I’m going to talk about ways that you can work with the algorithm.
I don’t like it when people talk about algorithm hacking, because I think that’s not really the way you should be thinking about it. I’m going to talk about ways that you can work with it to make it work best for your channel.
I think that there is this major misconception that the YouTube algorithm doesn’t care about small creators, that it only prioritises the large creators like Casey Neistat, Phil DeFranco, those huge creators with millions and millions of subscribers.
But in order to kind of get our head around the YouTube algorithm, we need to understand what the goal of YouTube and the algorithm is. There are two main goals. The first main goal of the algorithm is to help viewers find the videos that they need to watch.
And I think there needs to be a shift in perspective, whereas a lot of people think that the role of YouTube is to push your video out to viewers. But it’s not quite right. It’s actually looking for, it’s trying to match viewers with videos, not necessarily push your one out unless your one is the right one for them.
Goal number one is that YouTube wants to help its viewers find videos they want to watch. That’s goal number one. And goal number two is YouTube and the algorithm wants to keep its viewers, its viewers, people like you or me on YouTube watching more video.
The more time that people spend on YouTube, the better it is for YouTube because the more ads that they can serve you, the more money they make, and the more data that they can collect of you so that they can serve you more ads and serve you more videos.
The game for them is to show viewers videos and to keep them on the platform for longer. Get your head around that concept that YouTube is not out to get us. It’s out to create the best experience for viewers on the platform.
And we can definitely work for us as more creators. How do we do that? In my view and in the way that I work with and interpret and understand YouTube, there are kind of four, let’s call it areas of the YouTube algorithm that we’re going to look at.
And these are youTube search, YouTube suggested videos, the YouTube home screen and YouTube trending. Now we’re going to talk about all of these, but in particular, I think people get really caught up with trying to appear on the YouTube home screen and YouTube trending.
And actually, it’s YouTube search and it’s YouTube suggested videos that are what you actually have the most control over and that you can actually do things actively, do things to help your performance in the actual YouTube search.
We’re going to talk about all of these and we’re going to talk about things you can do to help your channel in the YouTube algorithm. Let’s start chatting about the first one, which is good old YouTube search. So how does YouTube search work?
Now, when I talk about YouTube search, I am specifically talking about when users go into the YouTube search bar and then they type in whatever they’re looking for in the search bar and then YouTube returns all of the different videos. That’s what I’m talking about when I refer to YouTube search.
In terms of YouTube search, I think there’s lots of missed opportunities with YouTube search. How does YouTube search work? YouTube will actually show videos based off their titles.
It will show up based on information in the description and the information in its video itself. Really, if you want to have your video surface in YouTube search, which is a major component of the algorithm, what you want to be doing is you want to be really focusing on creating videos and optimising videos that actually have keyword traffic.
The problem that I see a lot of creators make is that they don’t do the keyword research. And I’m a big keyword research girl. I fully believe that this is the way, particularly for small creators to start seeing traction and to start seeing progress in YouTube.
During your keyword research, finding topics where there’s actually search volume and creating videos about them, and then making sure that you utilise best practise for those keywords. For example, taking a keyword where there’s actually some traffic, making sure that you use the keyword in your video, you say it in your actual video, add it to your title, add it to the description, add it to the tags.
And that way YouTube knows that, hey, this video that Sara’s released, you know, mentions and is about StreamYard tutorial. The problem that creators have is that they try to gain this part. They try to get keywords that has nothing to do with their actual video in an attempt to rank for it.
And this is not what you want to do because it’s not going to help you, because it’s going to send negative signals to the algorithm that this is just a spammy click bait channel. You’ll want to find keywords that have traffic and that are relevant, add them to your video and optimise them the best as possible.
That’s how you play with YouTube search. It’s all about keywords. It’s all about finding the right ones and then optimising the actual video for that. The second thing that you can do to help you surface in YouTube search, it’s all about YouTube thumbnails.
The problem that I see people have with their YouTube thumbnails is one that the text is really small. Whether you’re viewing me on a mobile or on a desktop, you can see that there’s not a lot of text on my thumbnails.
There’s just enough to give people context of what the video is about. And where I can, I try to make the thumbnails a little bit brighter and a little bit lighter. I think that’s the other problem that people have. They go too dark in YouTube.
I try to make it simple with text that’s bold. This is not a place to add text that’s cursive and curly text. One, it’s hard to read. And two, you don’t want to lose that opportunity. So if people can’t see at a glance what it’s about, then you’ve lost them.
They’re not going to click and they’re not going to watch your videos. For your thumbnails, you want big text. You want ideally something that will help you stand out against the other videos. And for me, I like to use lighter coloured backgrounds to make this happen.
And a little bit of contrast. I keep it really simple. There’s an image of myself, big image of my face, big image of bold block text and a couple of images to give people context of what the video is about. And that’s really what you need.
And that’s what you need to do to get it working for you in YouTube search. Take note of all of those things. I’ve kind of thrown a couple of things at you there. But these are the things that I also found once I honed in on really made a difference in surfacing my video and surfacing my content in YouTube search and therefore growing the channel.
For the next part that we’re going to talk about is YouTube suggested videos. With YouTube suggested videos, these are the videos that appear on the right-hand side of YouTube on a video and on a mobile, they’ll appear underneath the actual video.
These are the other ones that we can kind of work towards trying to make sure that we optimise our content the best that we can so that our videos get shown there as well. And we want to get shown in suggested videos.
It also includes videos that auto-play after the video has finished and they are an opportunity to get more traffic. How does YouTube know which videos of yours to show a viewer after they watched a video?
There are a couple of things that you can do to give your videos the best chance of showing in suggested search. There are things that you can do, such as you can create a playlist. I create playlist for my channel and I’ve grouped them as relevant.
So don’t create playlists just for the sake of creating a playlist. You need to create playlist and add new videos in there as they make sense. Categorise your videos and if it makes sense, put them into that actual playlist.
And this will help YouTube to understand these videos that she’s got in a playlist these are all related to YouTube training or these YouTube videos here in this playlist, they’re all related to live streaming or these ones are all related to tech reviews.
So it’s helping you to understand that after it’s shown one of your videos, it can pick another one from the playlist because that will make sense. The other way that you can help surface suggested videos is to add them to your card.
On your video itself, add little cards on the top right-hand corner. The cards feature linking it to other videos and you can also link your videos in the description as well. Once again, we want to tell YouTube and give them the most data to say, hey, after watching this video, go and watch this one.
And this also comes back to your YouTube content strategy as well. It’s also about you creating content that is progressive. A lot of people talk about creating YouTube content that’s a bit Netflix style, that’s bingeable, that’s bite-size, because that’s kind of the behaviour that viewers enjoy at the moment.
I find it useful to not give people 10 things in one go and to break it up instead into 10 little videos. Think of it that way in terms of helping you surface in YouTube suggested videos. And then it’s just the little things, the little technical things that you can do, adding it to a playlist on your channel, adding it to a cart, adding to a description and actually showing people where it actually is.
That is YouTube suggested videos. Now, let’s talk about the good old YouTube homepage. Now, the thing with the YouTube homepage, this is the home tab. And when people go to YouTube.com, it’s all of the personalised videos based on what they’ve watched.
My homepage video recommendations will be different to your homepage video recommendation based off the type of content that you watch and your viewing history and all these other data points that YouTube knows about you.
Now with the YouTube homepage, people are like, oh, I really want to get on the homepage. How do I get my video on the homepage? This is one that is in that category of you really can’t control it because it’s not based necessarily off stuff that you do.
It’s more based off what YouTube’s guessing that viewers want to watch. But you can do things like best practise overall with your YouTube channel, like uploading consistently, keeping up engagement, making videos and categories that make sense to you.
And YouTube may or may not surface it on someone’s homepage. In truth, you really don’t have any control over this. I think let go of the desire to want to be on the homepage. Instead, focus on getting your YouTube’s best practise optimised for YouTube search and YouTube suggested videos.
And if you’re lucky, you’ll start showing more on people’s homepages. But it’s not really one that you have too much control over. Now, the last one that we will be talking about today is the trending tab.
Now, this one, this tab shows videos that are new, that they’re popular. And these are really novelty videos. They also feature a lot of creators on the rise and artists on the rise for musicians. And there is absolutely nothing that you can do to get your video showed here.
YouTube would do it based off what they think. And there’s really nothing that you can do or nothing that you can, I can say that will allow you to take action to do anything to show on the trending, on the trending tab. I wouldn’t focus too much on this because it’s out of our control and it doesn’t really matter anyway.
You’ve got other stuff that you can kind of focus on which, you know, plenty plenty of stuff to focus on that I’ve talked about today. With that said, we’ve talked about the YouTube algorithm.
We’ve talked about YouTube’s goals with the algorithm, that their goal is to match the best videos for their viewers, not push your video out, it’s the other way around. They’re trying to help their viewers have the best experience.
And they’re also trying to help their viewers stay on YouTube longer so that they can send more ads, make more money, and that they can also collect more data on them and continue to improve the experience there. And then we talked about the four kind of key components, let’s say, of the YouTube algorithm.
YouTube search, which is the big one that I highly encourage you to go back all of the advice that I had there on how you can surface in YouTube search and the best practise things that you can do there. YouTube suggested videos which is the second one you can control, which will help you get more traffic and views on your video.
And then we also talked about the YouTube home screen. And then we talked about YouTube trending tab, which we don’t have much control over those two but it’s good for you to know and be aware that that’s kind of where it’s all that.
My objective today really was to show you that it’s not this big, scary, elusive thing that is kind of working against us. There are ways, if you understand it, that you can continue to work towards so that your videos and your channel continues to perform on the platform.
One last thing before I go. I created this podcast as a reminder that you are not alone in this. Growing with video is hard, and I want to be here to help and guide you and others through it.
If you found this podcast episode helpful, please leave a review. This helps Apple and the algorithms put my podcast in front of more people just like you. I’d be incredibly grateful. Thanks for listening.
- [Thriving Creator Podcast] Episode 40: Want Better YouTube Videos? Use This Tool. (Yep, it’s his simple)
- [Thriving Creator Podcast] Episode 41: Someone Needs Your Rescue from Fyre II – Will You Answer the Call?
- [Thriving Creator Podcast] Episode 39: YouTube Success: Revealing the Not-So-Secret Formula