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YouTube Algorithm 2024: Focus on Audience

Youtube algorithm

In content development, we hear it all the time that people want something to go “viral.” Well, we all know that’s easier said than done. And, frankly, it’s not really something that can be “done.” There’s no formula for “making” something viral. All you can do is make the best content possible for your audience, and therein lies the secret. With all the talks about algorithms and trying to be cute to get extra clicks, the simplest way to get more engagement with your content is to make video content for your audience, not the algorithm.

This sounds simple, but many of us have spent YEARS trying to figure out the YouTube algorithm and how best to make videos to appease its ever-changing requirements. Over the last two decades YouTube has evolved far beyond its original purpose to crowdsource the video of Janet Jackson’s Superbowl wardrobe malfunction. Since its inception in 2005 YouTube has been used as a vehicle to connect creators with their audience. Over this time, creators have been forced to evolve with it to be successful. Today it’s no different. To better understand where we are now it will serve us well to take a look at where we’ve come from to understand how best to connect to our audience today.

Below is a timeline depicting how YouTube and content creators have changed throughout the years.

2005-2011: Clicks & Views (Clickbait Content)

YouTube recommended videos that generated views and clicks. This was quickly figured out by creators and gave rise to the beginning of clickbait, misleading titles, and thumbnails.

2012: Watch Time

To combat clickbait, YouTube began recommending videos based on watch time. Some creators opted for shorter videos to ensure greater play through, while others started making longer videos to increase overall watch time. YouTube didn’t officially suggest or support either of these options, defaulting to their standard, “make videos your audience wants to watch, and the algorithm will reward you,” response.

2015-2016: Interaction

User surveys and personal response metrics such as Likes, Shares, and Dislikes start to mold each user’s experience on YouTube. This begins the shift in finding/suggesting videos the viewer would want to watch instead of serving them content based on what others have decided to watch.

2018-Present: Algorithm and Audience

In 2018, YouTube’s product chief announced at CES that 70% of time on YouTube, people are watching videos suggested by their algorithm. This fact dramatically affected the ability of creators to produce content specifically for their audience. Knowing your audience, how they behave, what they watch, and how they use information is becoming the single-most valuable piece of information for creating videos for YouTube.

How YouTube’s Algorithm Works in 2024

Our algorithm doesn’t pay attention to videos, it pays attention to viewers. So, rather than trying to make videos that’ll make an algorithm happy, focus on making videos that make your viewers happy. —YouTube

YouTube now suggests and delivers personalized content to each user based on their individual behavior and watch history. When determining what to suggest to viewers the algorithm considers videos that have been watched and interacted with in the past, what channels and content topics the viewer subscribes to, and what videos are likely to be watched together. These considerations are further weighted by factors such as: do people watch the videos when they are recommended, how long/much of the video is being watched, did they like it, did they comment, did they subscribe to the creator’s channel, and what is the regional context (time of day/language). This may all seem obvious, but the shift in making these determinations based on individual user activity is substantial.

What can you do?

“We track what viewers watch, how long they watch, what they skip over, and more. This helps us figure out what kind of videos they like best and what we can recommend to them next.” — YouTube

Knowing that YouTube is no longer evaluating videos themselves and is instead looking to the audience for algorithmic information isn’t to say the video’s content, and how they are published on YouTube, doesn’t matter. In fact, it matters now more than ever. YouTube wants to deliver videos to people who will watch them, keeping them on site for as long as possible. It is essential for creators to provide YouTube with as much relevant information about the video so the algorithm can accurately find an appropriate audience to deliver it to.

Keywords. Relevant keywords describing the video’s content should be used in the title, in the beginning of the description, in the video itself, and even in the file name uploaded to YouTube. This isn’t to say you should “spam” keywords and add things you think people will like or click on. This will do more harm than good. If your video fails to deliver on promises made in the title and description it will perform poorly and not be suggested to others. The same can be said for your video’s thumbnail image.

Thumbnails. Don’t take these lightly – they are critical. Like videos, YouTube doesn’t evaluate the thumbnail itself, but it does keep track of whether it gets clicked on or not. In a group of videos with similar content, make sure yours stands out. The thumbnail is often the first thing people get the chance to evaluate your content with. Make a good impression.

Engagement Tools. YouTube wants people on YouTube, and you want people watching your videos. Use the tools YouTube provides to accomplish both things. Use cards within your videos directing your audience to similar content on your channel. Use end screens with content-specific CTAs letting viewers know where to find more of your content. Create playlists on your channel to organize similar content. Make sure the subscription watermark feature is available for people to subscribe at any point during your video.

Interact. Engaging with the comments your audience makes and with other channels are both excellent ways to keep your channel top-of-mind as well as position yourself as an expert or thought leader in your content’s niche.

Use Your Target Audience. To avoid creating clickbait, jumping on off-brand trends, or trying to manufacture a viral video, use your audience as your guardrail. Make videos for your audience. Make videos they will like, that they need, or that will provide them with information they can use to make their lives better in some way.

Evaluate. Making a video, posting it, and getting it to your audience is great… but it’s also just the first step. Use YouTube’s analytics to keep track of your video’s success. See how your audience interacts with your content over time. See what trends you are able to define within your own content and determine how to build off of your success.

To put this information into perspective, it can all be summed up by saying, stop making videos for the algorithm – make videos for your audience and allow the algorithm to do its job and deliver it to them for you.

Babcox Media Video Services Group helps hundreds of companies like yours produce high-quality video content every day. We do this not only in our 11,000 sq.-ft. studio space, but at your office, factory, or at a top customer location. And, since all we do is automotive video content, you can be assured our team will get your video right. From script writing, story boards, graphics and animations, filming, editing and distribution, Babcox Media is your best partner to help tell your story.

RJ is the Art Director for Engine Builder, Motorcycle Powersports News, Professional Carwashing & Detailing and AutoSuccess.

Contact RJ at rpooch@babcox.com

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