YouTube Answers 5 Common Questions About How its Recommendation Algorithms Work

YouTube has sought to provide some more insight into how its algorithms decide which videos to highlight to each user, by answering some common questions about its search and discovery systems, which could provide some more direction for your platform approach.

In a new video on the Creator Insider channel, YouTube’s Rachel Alves addresses five questions posed by YouTube creators relating to the use of tags, recommendations, algorithm updates, and more.

How valuable these insights are will be relative to your channel specifics, but in summary:

Should you share your videos outside of YouTube, given YouTube may not be able to attribute all the engagement metrics off-platform?

Alves says creators should ‘absolutely’ share their videos outside of YouTube as that can only increase your chances of discovery based on viewer activity, regardless of direct attribution.  

“If your videos are getting more traffic from external sources, like social media, it’s likely increasing your potential to be discovered by more viewers. Another benefit is that those viewers now have that video in their watch history, so there’s a higher likelihood that they may be recommended one of your other videos in the future.”

Why do people get recommendations for videos uploaded 10-12 years ago?

Alves says that YouTube’s system is designed to match viewers with videos that they’re likely to enjoy, regardless of when that video was published. That means that even older videos, which still see relatively high engagement, will continue to be recommended in line with viewer interests.

YouTube needs a new way to highlight new creators

Alves says that many viewers ask for this, and notes that YouTube recently rolled out its ‘New to You’ tab to highlight more channels from outside of each viewers’ regular viewing experience.

When applying video tags, should you focus on specific tags or more broad matching topics to maximize discovery?

YouTube’s video tags provide another way for creators to align their content with specific queries, though YouTube specifically notes that tags are not a major algorithm consideration.

Tags are descriptive keywords you can add to your video to help viewers find your content. Your video’s title, thumbnail, and description are more important pieces of metadata for your video’s discovery. These main pieces of information help viewers decide which videos to watch.”

Alves reiterates this, advising creators to focus on the elements that viewers make decisions about when they’re choosing what to watch – so the title, thumbnail image and description. Alves says that creators would be better off focusing on what’s working for other, similar videos related to their topic, as opposed to optimizing tags.

Has YouTube changed its algorithm recently?

Alves says that YouTube is always making changes to its algorithms, but notes that they do get a lot more queries about possible algorithm changes at this time of year.

Alves says that this is likely because of large-scale shifts in viewer behavior, caused by the return to school across the US. With students returning to school, that often means that channels see a change in their metrics, with fewer views on weekdays, but higher activity on weekends.

YouTube viewing changes

That can make it seem like something has changed with the algorithm, when really the shift is relative to viewer behavior caused by outside lifestyle shifts.

There’s no game-changing insight, as such, within this new overview, but it does provide some more context as to how YouTube’s systems work, and how content is shown to each user in the app.

That could help you better understand some of the elements, and factor them into your planning.

Source:, originally published on 2021-10-23 23:00:00