How Does the Youtube Algorithm Work in 2020 ?

Clear understanding of how the YouTube Algorithm works is crucial if you want to boost ranking, attract, and retain your target audience as a marketer. Luckily, unlike other publishing platforms, YouTube has been open about how their algorithm works, and it’s a straightforward process.

Quality content is the cornerstone of any YouTube content plan. YouTube is a unique social media platform in that content published years ago might today rise to be among your top videos.

Timeliness is not a constraint on YouTube. It is a place where users come to learn about a wide range of topics. And, the best part is that YouTube viewers belong to all age groups. According to data from Google – 75% of GenX watch YouTube videos that relate to past events or people. Further, 70% of millennials watch

YouTube to learn how to do something new. Once you feel that you have perfected the quality-quantity balance for your channel, make sure to have the best hygiene practices in place for your videos – keyword-rich titles, tags, and descriptions. Caption files are an excellent source of meta information, and they also help accessibility.

You should also spend some time creating compelling Thumbnails that boost your click-through rate, an important signal for the YouTube algorithm.

Why is it harder to get views on YouTube in 2020?

Keeping aside the changes that have been made to the algorithm, it comes down to a simple factor: YouTube’s mammoth-sized user base and creator base. More than 300 hours of videos are uploaded every minute to YouTube and hardly 5-10% of videos uploaded on YouTube reach a million views.

That may seem like an insignificant figure but given the number of videos on the website, it’s a commendable number. The controversies also hurt the reputation and brand image of YouTube. How YouTube dealt with them was poor and the following panic hurt its creators.

The mess took time to clean and even today, YouTube denies its mistakes. It made it harder to earn from the platform but it’s not exactly a deal breaker. Once you’re set on YouTube, it becomes easier.

Take a look at how the YouTube algorithm works:

The first thing you need to know is that YouTube’s algorithm supports engagements, which means the users must enjoy the videos they watch to stay longer. So, if you hope to be in their good books, you’ll need to produce quality contents that will keep your audience interested.

To find out which videos are keeping their users engaged, YouTube tracks their users’ activities on the platform from the videos they watch, to the time they spend on a particular video, if they like it, dislike or subscribe to it. Through this method, they can tell which videos are worth keeping at the top search.

YouTube has five different sections, where the algorithm picks the most relevant videos and rank it high for users to see. These sections are search, trending, subscriptions, home, and recommended videos. Let’s consider each of the part to see how the YouTube algorithm works:


To rank high in YouTube’s video search, you need to ensure your title, description, and video content matches what the user is searching because these are some of the things the algorithm considers. Your videos must also be accessible in a way because they will also check to see how many people watch your videos and compare it to other videos with related topics.


The trending section is for new and popular videos. In this section, YouTube considers how many views a popular video has and also how quickly the views grow. They do this to ensure there is a balance between new videos and popular ones so that the popular ones do not outrank the new.


If you have used YouTube, you must have at one point or the other subscribed to one channel or the other. This subscription is also a determinant to how high a channel’s videos will rank. What YouTube does is to measure the number of active subscribers (not viewers) who watched a new video from their subscribed channel immediately it gets published through a metric known as view velocity. If the metric keeps rising, the videos will rank high.

Home and recommended videos

Here the algorithm tracks a user’s history to know what videos are relevant. They then bring up different videos on the user’s homepage according to how engaging the videos were other users that have a similar preference. They will also rank it according to the number of times the user has seen the video or how many of the channel’s subscribers have watched the video.

How do you optimise your videos for YouTube’s Algorithm?

Use relevant keywords

Just like all other platforms, even on social media, you have to make use of the right keywords on YouTube if you ever wish for your video or channel to come up during search queries. Edit the title, tag, descriptions, files, thumbnail files, and transcriptions of your video with the relevant keyword for optimisation.

You can get an idea of the keywords to add by searching for what people typed before they found your channel. Check this out via the search report of your channel to see what you need to add to your video’s title and description if they are not the same already.

Sometimes you might need a little editing, but other times, you’ll have to do a new video using the search results. When trying to add keywords to your title and description, make it clear and straightforward to understand so that the users can be able to read through and click to watch the video.

Use thumbnail

If you want to get lots of viewers even before engaging them with the video contents, you will need to make use of thumbnails. Use a custom thumbnail that is peculiar only to your channel so that users can see there is a difference from other autogenerated ones.

Translate your video

It is essential to translate your videos into a few other languages even if you are from an English-speaking country. Not everyone knows how to speak English, but they probably would want to watch your video. Translate your video titles and description. It makes more people watch your video and make it eligible for top ranking. Remember to transcribe by using subtitles for viewers who prefer to watch videos without sound. Create your subtitles and upload rather than using autogenerated ones.

Sound convincing

Your content matters. It would be best if you made your video content so engaging that your viewers watch until the end. If you are doing the talking, ensure you sound lively and happy with the fact that you are shooting a video. Also, your content should add value to the users. You can compel the viewers to stay put until the end of the video by saying you have a surprise for them, or any creative thing has in mind.

Do fewer one-offs and more series

Make your videos in such a way that it becomes a series with one connecting with the other. You could do this by making a playlist with videos of the related topic so that users do not see the need of going to check out other videos, especially if yours had value.

Include a call to action

When concluding your video, include a call to action such as subscribing to your channel or next video. When viewers subscribe to your channel, your chances of appearing in search increases. You need to get creative and figure out a way to request that they won’t refuse. Remember also to place the option of receiving notifications if they are not comfortable with subscribing. This way, they would get alerted when you make a new video.

Use YouTube Analytics

Monitoring your analytics will make you see what you are doing right or wrong. The analytics shows you the best time for posting, updating videos, and behavioural patterns of your viewers. Using it help you know the next step to take. If you keep these goals in the backdrop of your YouTube content creation and optimization strategy, you will be rewarded in the long run.

You can also learn about ways to make money on YouTube here. Your presence on YouTube not only creates awareness to your audience, but also increases your Google rankings.

Keep Viewers on YouTube

One thing is absolutely clear – YouTube values engagement metrics like average watch time over views. If your videos can find a way to keep viewers on YouTube, you will be rewarded. There are a lot of things you can do to keep viewers on YouTube:

  • Create high-quality content
  • Sort content into playlists
  • Use end-screens and video cards
  • Create a video series on the same topic/theme
  • Encourage engagement with calls to like, comment and subscribe

Take Advantage of YouTube’s Level Playing Field

YouTube is moving toward creating a level playing field for smaller YouTube channels.

We are increasingly seeing small YouTube channels being suggested by YouTube on the home screen or as part of ‘Topics’ or ‘Mixes’. So, if you are a small YouTube channel, producing great content in a niche, your videos have an increasingly better chance of being visible alongside huge YouTube channels.

YouTube’s algorithm is rendering more personalized content than ever before. Something like this happened to our student-run channel when a video went viral, thanks to YouTube suggesting the content in ‘Browse features’. As of writing this blog, the video had 1.2 million views – 90% of them from YouTube suggesting it to viewers.

Focus on understanding your core audience – what videos they like, what videos they watch till the end. Identify videos with high average view durations. This should guide your content production going forward.

Watch Time and Audience Retention

YouTube is different from other social media platforms because viewers watch longer videos. One of the most important metrics that the algorithm looks at is Watch Time. Longer videos translate to higher watch time, which tells the YouTube algorithm that a viewer might stay on the platform for a longer time.

Couple this with high engagement – content which users watch till the end, like, comment or share – it’s a perfect recipe for greater visibility on YouTube.

On average, 60% of the viewers drop-off halfway through a video. Ideally, you’d want your audience to watch till the end, click on your end screens, like/comment on your video and subscribe to your channel. Highly successful YouTube content creators and marketers tend to do the following to increase their retention rates:

Use content-matching Titles, Thumbnails, and Descriptions

Keep the subject narrowly focused

Use a hook at the beginning – something interesting that promises value to the viewer

I hope you will think of these strategies as you plan your YouTube content for 2020.


Hence, the YouTube algorithm allows a video’s discovery through the search and suggestions functionalities. Using it to your advantage is up to the marketer and creator.

Businesses usually have an advantage over content creators due to the availability of better resources and a pre-existing audience base which will further increase their presence on the social media giant. The algorithm does prefer certain factors for choosing a video to indirectly give it a boost.

A well-made video is no longer good enough to increase viewership. A video’s success in 2020 is determined by its overall packaging, and while it seems biased against creators, in working, it actually provides a level playing field. It’s just that businesses have the advantage of having more resources than smaller creators.

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