The Youtube Algorithm Explained in 2024

March 15, 2024

Youtube is a video-sharing website that makes it very easy to watch and share videos online. Today, many users create videos specifically to upload to their YouTube channels and earn significant bucks doing so. However, starting a YouTube channel from scratch can be quite daunting to do and that’s why this article will help you understand how the YouTube algorithm works and how you can game it to gain an advantage over other creators.

What is the YouTube algorithm

In simple terms, an algorithm is a mathematical formula used to solve a computational problem. In YouTube’s case, the algorithm calculates how the platform decides who gets to see your videos. The algorithm won’t directly decide how many people click on your video and how much of that video they watch but it does influence how many people are exposed to your video. That’s called an impression. Every time your video shows up on YouTube and a user has the option to click on it, that counts as an impression. Keep this in mind because it’s going to be very important later on when we talk about what’s important for the algorithm.

How do audiences work on YouTube

Before we talk about the algorithm itself, you need to understand how audiences work on YouTube. Every channel has an audience. I like to think of the audience as a circle that represents the total amount of people who are exposed to your video.

Each video you create will have an impact on this circle. It will either expand it, shrink it, or move it depending on your video's performance. If your video performs well, it will expand your circle and youtube will promote your video and channel to more people. On the other hand, If you’re video doesn’t perform well, it can have the opposite effect, shrinking the exposure your channel gets until you start having great videos again.

There is a tricky middle ground where sometimes a video will initially do poorly and then start doing very well a few days or weeks later due to it gaining more popularity in a different audience or circle. This usually happens when your videos either cover a different topic than usual or present a new approach to something which usually attracts new eyeballs.

How to Game the Youtube Algorithm in 2024.

A good video on YouTube fulfills the following 2 criteria:

  • Has a high Click Through Rate (CTR) - CTR is the percentage calculated by dividing the total number of views by total number of impressions multiplied by 100. The biggest factor that influences your click through rate will be your Thumbnail + Title combo. You always hear people saying the thumbnail matters a lot and this is why.
  • A high View Through Rate (VTR) - VTR is also a percentage that calculates how far the average viewer gets into your video. The higher the VTR, the better your video will perform. To calculate view through rate, you take the average amount of time watched in minutes (or seconds) divided by the total length of the video, multiplied by 100.

Many other factors can lead to increased viewership on YouTube but if you continuously work on improving these 2 stats, I guarantee that you will be rewarded with more views by the algorithm and grow your subscriber numbers.

Numbers change from one topic category to another and certain audiences present different consumption behaviors but if you are looking for some overall benchmarks here are some numbers to guide you:

  • High CTR - Aim for 15-25%. Be aware that CTR changes a lot with time. It’s possible to have a 40% CTR in the first few hours and then descend into the single digit numbers.
  • High VTR - 50-80%. For long form videos (not shorts) you want to aim for +70%, however, it’s normal for VTR to be lower/higher depending on your video length. It’s much easier to retain people all the way through on a 3min versus a 40min video.

Another important thing to understand about the YT algorithm is that it compares these numbers to YOUR channel average and not other creators’ videos. When you go into the creator studio, you will that the algorithm takes your newest video and compares it to the last 10 videos you released. This is important to know because you are competing with yourself and will always be rewarded for putting in more effort than last time.

If your average watch time and click through rate is always higher than the previous 10 videos, you will sky rocket the growth of your channel.

YouTube Algorithm for Shorts

Youtube shorts have exploded in popularity over the last years and many creators are seeing incredibly channel growth from shorts. While the algorithm for shorts is still very new, there are some similarities and differences with the long format one that are worth mentioning here.

  • View Through Rate (VTR) - Just like on long videos, how much time people spend on your short is important. However, your VTR for shorts needs to be way higher than on long videos. For under 30 seconds you want +90% and sometimes having more than 100% is not just possible but even recommended. The best shorts are usually viewed more than once.

💡 TIP: Craft your shorts in such a way that makes people either want to rewatch or head into the comments section and start a conversation.

  • Likes - Unlike long form videos, likes matter a lot more on shorts. While it’s hard to naturally optimize for likes, it’s important to make sure that your content is not just bait for either engagement or viewership. Make sure you make valuable content instead of tricking people into watching your video to the end.
  • Swipe Away - The last metric that is very important for shorts is how many people swipe away in the first 3 seconds. Make sure your first 3 to 5 seconds are as captivating as possible. Create interest and make sure that people don’t just swipe away whenever your short shows up.

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