YouTube Algorithm Change – What You Need To Know

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On March 14th, YouTube altered its “Suggested Videos” algorithm in order to display more relevant video suggestions for viewers. In a post, YouTube states that:

Previously, the YouTube algorithm suggested videos based on how many people clicked to watch a video. After March 14th 2012, the algorithm for suggesting videos are based on which videos contribute to a longer overall viewing session rather than how many clicks an individual video receives.

YouTube cited issues like misleading thumbnails as a reason why the previous “most clicks” system was preventing videos with deeper engagement to the top. In other words, some users were gaming the system by implanting thumbnails that appeared to be related to the video currently being viewed, only to direct viewers to a “suggested video” that had nothing to do with what they were previously viewing, resulting in huge amounts of clicks and views.

Mashable summarizes the changes well in the video below:

So What Does This Mean?

With this change, YouTube is essentially rewarding videos that keep people on the site (or watching multiple videos in an embedded player) longer. The new algorithm takes into account total viewer session length for each visit to YouTube.  

YouTube offers up this encouragement:

Our algorithms are offering suggested videos (that include both related and recommended videos) that are based on which videos contribute to an overall longer–and more engaging–viewing session, versus the number of viewers who clicked on the video. So if you’re making videos that people love and stick around to see, you’ll find more of them appearing in our related videos, helping to grow your audience.

So How Can I Do That?

  1. Produce Videos in Series: Producing several videos around one topic will increase the chances that a viewer will click through several videos in that series, in theory because they were interested enough to watch the first. Candidio is ideal for this. Tie Dye Grill does a great job of creating a short video for each of their menu items.
  2. Create Playlists:Be sure to create YouTube Playlists to bundle the videos and present them nicely on your Channel homepage. Both Viewers and the YouTube algorithm itself will recognize videos in a playlist to be related.
  3. Calls To Action: Don’t be afraid to tell viewers at the end of your video to check out your other videos. You can either do that on-camera, with graphics or with YouTube Annotations.
  4. Pay Attention To Analytics: Mashable postulates that a “30-second video that averages 25 seconds of viewing time is less likely to be recommended than a four-minute video that averages 28 seconds of viewing time.” While this may or may not be the case, the only way to really know how well your videos are performing is to check your analytics frequently. If engagement drops off 28-seconds into a four-minute video, you might want to consider editing out the parts that viewers aren’t watching.

While it’s doubtful that the average business or non-profit content marketer is gaming the system through bogus thumbnails, these changes should keep you monitoring your analytics and suggested video results for all of your content. Have you noticed a change in your suggested videos? Let us know in the comments section below.

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  • Julie Perry

    Great find, Steve! Thanks for the heads up about this official announcement about the YouTube algorithm. I think this is how it should be — and maybe it help do away with all the spam clicks that people buy/sell on sites like Fiverr. I assumed that this is what they were doing when they started offering engagement data via YouTube Analytics, so it’s nice to know they’re officially stating it. (And if they weren’t actually doing it before, that they are now.)
    Again, this is how it should be.

  •  @Julie Perry this is a good step but Im curious on if this should change strategy to make longer videos, even if an individual viewer doesnt get to your CTA or end to click through to others does making a longer video help your chances of getting more views from more relevant viewers? Do you sacrifice some of the staying power & quality of a video just to get more topical views? Its kind of like the blog post title debate, keyword heavy or something that gets clicks in social channels. Great post stevenshattuck 

  • StevenShattuck

     @cjtheisen  @Julie Perry  stevenshattuck I would say the only reason to purposely make longer videos is if your analytics show that they are successful.

  • theAaronCraig

     @Julie Perry and @cjtheisen: Just because YouTube’s algorithm changed, doesn’t mean that the attention span of YouTube users has. My point is that a 2-minute or less video should still be the rule unless there is some huge exception.  For example, my company’s YouTube page,, deployed a series of videos launching a new product. If we combined into one large video, we would have a 6 to 8 minute video. By creating short segments, we can better engage the end user, and they will be able to view the exact portion they wanted, whether it be the control set-up, high-pressure washdown, etc.
    With YouTube’s new algorithm, my hope is that since these videos have been well received, they will still pop-up as suggested videos.
    Good post @StevenShattuck.

  •  @theAaronCraig  @Julie Perry  @StevenShattuck what I read into it was YT wants people to stay on YT longer to serve them more ads. If someone is interested in part 1 of your series then more than likely they would be interested in 2, 3 and so on. Why not make it 1 video thats longer that will theoretically add to a users viewing session which will help you show in suggested videos on relevant topics? I doubt they did away with view stats entirely so by making one video you stand a better chance of showing the suggested section and driving views to one place, albeit not as targeted. Im not saying my method is right by any means, just trying to figure out if it helps YT “SEO” even though it may hurt other conversion based metrics. Aaron you have to remember a B2B viewer looking to spend tens of thousands on a machine and is actively researching it on YT may have a longer attention span than your typical web surfer. 

  • Michael Lambert

    I had a video that appeared as a suggested video on after a video named Lil Wayne Vs Goku I changed the thumbnail ,and the nest day my video disappeared as a suggested video on that video. Why ?

  • Thanks for the comment Michael. While I can’t be certain about what might have changed, my guess is that by updating the video thumbnail perhaps YouTube’s search algorithms reevaluated the video and changed how it ranked the video and, to your point, with what videos it should be associated with as a suggested video.