Search and discovery on YouTube
We know you put a ton of time and energy into making videos and it’s important for you to understand how they get discovered. The goals of YouTube’s search and discovery system are twofold: help viewers find the videos they want to watch, and maximize long-term viewer engagement and satisfaction. Get a better understanding of how the system works, where your content is surfaced, and what you can do to give your videos the best chance for success.
The algorithm follows the audience
YouTube tries to match each viewer to the videos they are most likely to watch and enjoy. With over 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, that can be a challenge. YouTube’s recommendations systems provide a real-time feedback loop to cater to each viewer and their varying interests. It learns from over 80 billion bits of feedback from the audience daily to understand how to serve the right videos to the right viewers at the right time. Our goal is to get people to watch more videos that they enjoy so that they come back to YouTube regularly.
Creators often ask, “What kind of videos does the algorithm like most?” Our systems have no opinion about what type of video you make, and doesn’t favor any particular format. Rather, they try their best to follow the audience by paying attention to things like:
- what they watch
- what they don’t watch
- how much time they spend watching
- likes and dislikes
- ‘not interested’ feedback
Instead of worrying about what the algorithm ‘likes’, it’s better to focus on what your audience likes instead. If you do that and people watch, the algorithm will follow. So, which videos do they enjoy most? How often do they like to watch your channel? Check your YouTube Analytics to answer these questions.
Fluctuations and seasonality
Over time, it’s natural for the performance of your channel to fluctuate. Today’s audiences have a lot of options. They may love you one week and not so much the next week -- or maybe they’re on vacation and not even watching next week. Expect fluctuations and seasonality, and try not to jump to conclusions based on one or two uploads. Take a higher level view of your overall channel performance.
Creators also wonder “What if I want to try something new on my channel?” Experimenting is super important for creative people, and when starting a channel, you should feel free to try all sorts of videos until something works. After that, if you’d like to try something new, do so thoughtfully and listen to audience feedback. If they like it, YouTube will amplify those videos to the furthest extent the audience wants them. If they don’t like them, reconsider the idea, or move the new videos to another channel.
If you have been doing the same thing for a long time and it isn't driving as much engagement as it used to, this could signal it’s time to try out something new. Even the best video formats have a finite shelf life, and experimentation can help you identify the next wave to maintain or grow your engagement.
Whether you’re pursuing a passion or a business, we strive to give every video a chance to reach its potential audience. We realize however that YouTube has a lot of features, and it can be easy to get confused. Keep reading to learn about six key places where your videos appear, and what you can do to improve your chances for success: Search, Suggested Videos, Home, Trending, Subscriptions, and Notifications, in no particular order.
- Myth: If you upload videos early as unlisted and later flip them public, the system will penalize you.
- Truth: Our systems don’t penalize videos that are uploaded early. What matters is how your video performs after you publish it.
Like Google’s search engine, search on YouTube strives to surface the most relevant results according to keyword queries. Videos are ranked based on a variety of factors including how well the title, description, and video content match the viewer’s query. Beyond that, we look at which videos have driven the most engagement for a query, and make sure it’s easy for viewers to find those. Search results are not a list of the most-viewed videos for a given query.
- See what words people use to find your channel in the YouTube Analytics Traffic Sources report by clicking in the ‘YouTube Search’ box. Consider incorporating the most relevant search terms for each of your new videos. You can add them as titles and descriptions -- as long as they’re accurate (and not excessive).
- Write robust descriptions up to 1-2 paragraphs long, if relevant.
- Consider implementing YouTube’s Translation tools to reach an international audience.
- Brainstorm new video ideas by looking at search results for popular and less competitive queries. Identify opportunities to serve an audience that isn’t already well-served.
- Remember to check the ‘trending’ tab for topics that appeal to you or may be specific to your niche.
- MYTH: My videos have fully optimized titles and descriptions. Why don’t they rank higher?
- TRUTH: Search considers many signals, including the watch time of a particular video for a particular query.
Suggested Videos are a personalized collection of videos that an individual viewer may be interested in watching next, based on prior activity. Based on studies of YouTube consumption have shown that viewers tend to watch a lot more when they get recommendations from a variety of channels, and suggested videos do just that. Suggested Videos are ranked to maximize engagement for the viewer. Signals that contribute to these recommendations include:
- Videos that viewers watch along with the current video, or videos that are topically related. They could be videos from the same channel, or from a different channel.
- Videos from a viewer’s past watch history.
Suggested Videos are shown to viewers on the right side of the watch page under (‘Up next’), below the video on the mobile app, and as the next video in autoplay.
- Make strong calls-to-action to watch another video in your series. Really sell viewers on why they should go and watch.
- Long endings may delay viewers from watching more, try to be mindful of how your videos end.
- Use playlists, links, cards and end-screens to suggest the next video.
- Develop a series of videos that are organically connected.
- Make videos related to popular formats on YouTube such as challenges or lists.
- MYTH: My older videos got a lot more views from Suggested.
- TRUTH: They’ve had more time. Always compare the first seven days of your uploads to get a clean comparison.
Home is what viewers see first when they open the YouTube app or visit YouTube.com. It's the one-stop destination for YouTube, a place where we aim to deliver the most relevant, personalized recommendations to each viewer. It’s also a great place for your videos to be found by non-subscribers. Over 200 million different videos appear on Home each day for viewers around the world.
When a viewer visits home, YouTube displays videos from their subscriptions, videos watched by similar viewers, new videos, and more. The selection of videos is based on:
- Performance -- How well the video has engaged and satisfied similar viewers, among other factors.
- The viewer’s watch and search history -- how often the viewer watches a channel or topic and how many times we’ve already shown each video to the viewer.
Note: subscribers watch more from their subscriptions via Home than through the Subscriptions tab.
- Upload on a consistent basis to give your audience an expectation of when they can see your videos.
- Keep viewers engaged for longer and encourage them to come back for more. Whether it’s with a long video, or several short ones, the longer you keep people watching, the more your content may get surfaced.
- Keep doing what works. When you create something that's working for your audience, keep at it. We surface more of what your viewers like. Don't be afraid to experiment but do so mindfully. Observe feedback from your audience and give them time to adjust.
- See how often your channel appears on home, globally, by going to your YouTube Analytics Traffic Sources report and then clicking the ‘Browse features’ box. View the stats under ‘Home’.
- Avoid making content that violates YouTube policies: ensure you title videos accurately, use appropriate and non-spammy tags, and avoid misleading thumbnails.
- Remember, there are two feeds: Home and Subscriptions.
- MYTH: My videos aren’t showing in the feed.
- TRUTH: There are two feeds -- Home and Subscriptions. Videos on Home are personalized based on viewer preferences.
- MYTH: YouTube would be better if the Subscribers feed was the default.
- TRUTH: We’ve tested this many times. Every time it dramatically reduces how much subscribers watch and come back to YouTube.
The Trending feed is a single list of what videos are new and popular on YouTube in a viewer’s country. Some trends are predictable, like a new song from a popular artist, or a new movie trailer, while others are completely surprising. Therefore, we aim to combine popularity with novelty. This list considers view count (especially the rate of growth in views), where views are coming from, and many other signals. Therefore, the video with the highest daily view count may not necessarily be #1 on Trending.
Trending now also includes Creator On the Rise and Artist On The Rise, where each week, up-and-coming creators and artists will be featured for a full day. Learn more in our blog post.
- Consider making broadly appealing, shareable videos. These could help you to reach new fans who might not yet know your channel.
- Keep up your channel’s momentum. Creators and Artists are eligible for On The Rise based on subscriber level (starting at 1K subs - Opal level), as well as metrics such as videos uploaded, growth in views. and growth in subscribers.
- See how often your videos appear on the trending tab by looking at YouTube Analytics Traffic sources report, clicking the ‘Browse features’ link, and looking at the data for ‘Trending’.
- MYTH: Channels get preferred placement and can buy a spot on Trending.
- TRUTH: Trending is never a paid placement. It shows content that has broad appeal.
Subscribers, and the Subscriptions tab
Subscribers are viewers who have opted in to see more of your videos, and they watch them from all areas of the site. They’re your core audience and biggest fans, who often provide important initial signals about new videos you release.
The Subscriptions tab is an area of the site that shows a collection of videos from channels a viewer is subscribed to. This feed includes highlighted videos, and a list of all the most recent uploads.
As a reminder, subscribers also see some Subscription content on Home and in Suggested Videos.
- Ask viewers to subscribe in a genuine way, explaining both the benefits and how it supports you.
- Ask them to subscribe in your videos when viewer sentiment is at its highest (such as after a big laugh or a scene’s climax).
- Educate viewers on where they will see your channel’s videos once subscribed.
- Make videos public when you think your viewers are most likely watching. Consider referencing your watch time reports by country and/or state.
- Keep in mind, on average, viewers are subscribed to dozens of channels.
- Understand it’s common to have more subscribers than views.
- Make a repeatable show out of your ideas.
- Remember, that it’s normal for uploading to be met with unsubscribes.
- See how many people subscribe to your channel by clicking into the Subscribers report in YouTube Analytics. It can be helpful to compare your watch time from subscribers with watch time from other traffic sources. You can see the traffic from your subscribers by going to your Traffic Sources report and clicking ‘Browse features’ and then viewing the data for ‘Subscribers’.
- MYTH: YouTube unsubscribes people from channels.
- TRUTH: YouTube doesn’t unsubscribe people. If we do, it’s a bug, and we are looking into every possibility of that.
Notifications are alerts sent when a new video is made public. They can be sent via mobile push alerts or emails. These tend to kickstart early traffic to your new uploads, but don’t necessarily drive the bulk of traffic.
By default, YouTube only sends occasional notifications from channels you watch a lot, or those you’re subscribed to. If subscribers want to receive notifications every time you make a new video public, they can tap the bell icon next to the ‘Subscribed’ button. Learn more.
- The best way to understand how notifications work is by subscribing and tapping the bell on other channels.
- Explain to your audience why their views are important and consider teaching your subscribers how to turn on notifications in a visual way on your channel by making a video with screen-shots.
- Celebrate your dedicated group of fans who have tapped the bell.
- Make videos public when you think most of your viewers are awake and ready to watch.
- See how much watch time is generated when your channel appears in notifications, globally, by viewing your YouTube Analytics Traffic Sources report and clicking in the ‘Notifications’ box.
- If you think you should be getting notifications but aren’t, make sure on your mobile that notifications are turned on.
- MYTH: Subscribers receive notifications for all channels, for every upload.
- TRUTH: Subscribers who ring the bell receive every notification. Subscribers who don’t ring the bell receive notifications based on what leads to high engagement and low opt-out rates.
Restricted Mode is designed to be an optional feature that helps filter out more mature content from view, so that institutions like schools and libraries, as well as, people who prefer a more limited experience, would feel comfortable offering access to YouTube. Viewers must manually turn Restricted Mode on.
You can see if your videos are viewable in Restricted Mode by turning Restricted Mode on and going directly to your video's URL and you can send us feedback if you think your video should be viewable in Restricted Mode. Restricted Mode does not affect whether your videos are eligible for monetization.
A video could be removed from Restricted mode if it contains potentially mature topics such as:
- Drugs and alcohol: Talking about drug use or abuse, or drinking alcohol in videos.
- Sexual situations: Overly detailed conversations about or depictions of sex or sexual activity. Some educational, straightforward content about sexual education, affection, or identity may be included in Restricted Mode, as well as kissing or affection that's not overly sexualized or the focal point of the video.
- Violence: Graphic descriptions of violence, violent acts, natural disasters and tragedies, or even violence in the news.
- Mature subjects: Videos that cover specific details about events related to terrorism, war, crime, and political conflicts that resulted in death or serious injury, even if no graphic imagery is shown.
- Profane and mature language: Inappropriate language, including profanity.
We strive to give everyone a voice, and we value stories where individuals discuss their personal experiences and share their emotions. Sharing stories about facing discrimination, opening up about your sexuality, and confronting and overcoming discrimination is what makes YouTube great, and we will work to ensure those stories are included in Restricted Mode. But just a reminder, to be included, your content must follow the guidelines above! For more details about Restricted Mode, check out this Help Center article.
What keywords could you add to improve the discoverability of your metadata?Try it now
Check out the traffic sources report in YouTube Analytics and click the YouTube search link to see a list of what terms people search for to find your content.
How much of an impact does changing your metadata have on older videos?Try it now
In the Views report from YouTube Analytics, click on the Comparison feature to evaluate views and watch time performance before and after you update your metadata.