Discovery and performance FAQ

YouTube's search and discovery system helps viewers find the videos that they're most likely to watch and maximise long-term viewer satisfaction. Get answers about your video and channel performance with the following FAQ.

Discovery FAQ

How does YouTube choose what videos to promote?

Our recommendation system narrows down the best set of videos to offer your audience by paying attention to:
  • What they watch
  • What they don't watch
  • How much time they spend watching
  • Likes and dislikes
  • 'Not interested' feedback
  • Satisfaction surveys

How do I get my videos promoted to a bigger audience?

You don't have to be an expert in algorithms or analytics to be successful on YouTube. Instead, focus on knowing your audience. Our recommendation system doesn't promote videos to your audience, but rather finds videos for your audience when they visit YouTube. Videos are ranked based on their performance and relevance to your audience.

How are videos ranked on Home?

Home is what your audience sees when they open the YouTube app or visit YouTube.com. It's where we aim to deliver the most relevant, personalised recommendations to each viewer. When your audience visits Home, YouTube displays videos from subscriptions. Videos watched by similar viewers and new videos are also shown. The selection of videos is based on:
  • Performance – How well your video has interested and satisfied similar viewers, among other factors.
  • Watch and search history – How often your audience watches a channel or topic and how many times we've already shown each video.

How are videos selected for Trending?

Take a look at this article about how Trending works.

How are videos ranked in Suggested under 'Up next'?

Suggested videos are recommended alongside the video that your audience is watching under 'Up next'. Suggested videos are ranked to offer your audience videos that they're most likely to watch next. These videos are often related to the video that your audience is watching, but they can also be personalised based on watch history.

How are videos ranked in Search?

Like Google's search engine, YouTube search strives to surface the most relevant results according to keyword searches. Videos are ranked based on the following factors:
  • How well the title, description and video content match the viewer's search. 
  • What videos drive the most engagement for a search. 
Note: Search results are not a list of the most-viewed videos for a given search.

Does changing a video's title or thumbnail re-rank the video in the algorithm?

Maybe, but it's because our systems are responding to how viewers are interacting with your video differently, rather than the act of changing the video title or thumbnail. When your video looks different to viewers, it changes how viewers interact with it when it's offered to them. Changing your video title and thumbnail can be an effective way to get more views, but don't change what's working. 

How can I optimise my title and thumbnail for discovery?

You can use these tips to optimise your title and thumbnail for discovery:

  • Make sure that your thumbnail follows our thumbnail policy.
  • Use compelling titles for your videos that accurately represent the content.
  • Create thumbnails that accurately represent your content. 
  • Avoid using misleading, clickbaity or sensational titles and thumbnails. These methods can turn potential new viewers away from your channel. It can also result in your video being reported, which makes your video less likely to be recommended to new viewers.

Does monetisation status (yellow icon) impact my video discovery?

No, our search and recommendation system doesn't know which videos are monetised and which are not. We focus on recommending videos that your audience will find satisfying, regardless of whether they're monetised. If your video contains violent or graphic content, it could be demonetised. It may also not be recommended to as many viewers because it's not appropriate. In this example, it's not demonetisation that causes a video to be recommended less, but the content within the video.

How important are Tags?

Not important. Tags are primarily used to help correct for common spelling mistakes (for example YouTube vs U Tube vs You-tube).

Does setting my channel location to a specific country/region help me reach more viewers in that audience? (e.g. Switching location to US even though I'm in Brazil)

No, location settings aren't used to inform how videos are recommended on YouTube.

Do likes/dislikes impact how my video is recommended?

Somewhat. Likes and dislikes are some of the hundreds of signals that we consider for ranking. Our recommendation system learns from whether or not viewers are choosing to watch a video. The system learns how much of the video the viewer watches and if they're satisfied. Your overall video performance is decided by a combination of these factors.

If I upload a video as unlisted and later make it public, will that hurt my video performance?

No, what matters is how viewers respond after it's been published.

Performance FAQ 

If one of my videos underperforms, is that going to hurt my channel?

What matters is how viewers respond to each video when it's recommended to them. Our systems rely more on video and audience-level signals to decide which videos are the best recommendations for your audience. What can lead to a decline in overall channel views is when viewers stop watching most of your videos when they're recommended to them.

If I take a break from uploading, will that hurt my channel performance?

We encourage you to take breaks when you need them. We have studied thousands of channels that took a break and found no correlation between break length and changes in views. Bear in mind it may take some time to 'warm up' your audience again as they get back into their regular viewing routines. 

Do I need to upload daily or at least once a week?

No, we've done analyses over the years and found that growth in views across uploads is not correlated with time between uploads. Many creators have established reliable connections with their audience through quality over quantity. We encourage you to take care of yourself to avoid burnout, which is important for your audience and your wellbeing.

When is the best time to publish videos? 

Publish time is not known to impact a video's long-term performance. Our recommendation system aims to deliver the right videos to the right viewers, regardless of when that video was uploaded. However, publish time is important for formats such as Live and Premiere videos. Take a look at the When your viewers are on YouTube report in YouTube Analytics to understand when to schedule a Premiere or plan your next live stream.
Publishing videos when your audience is most active can be beneficial for early viewership, but isn't known to impact a video's long-term viewership.

What's more important, average percentage viewed or average view duration?

Our discovery system uses absolute and relative watch time as signals when determining audience engagement, and we encourage you to do the same. Ultimately, we want both short and long videos to succeed, so we encourage you to make your videos the appropriate length depending on the content. Broadly speaking, relative watch time is more important for short videos and absolute watch time is more important for longer videos. You can use audience retention to understand how long your viewers are willing to watch and adjust your content accordingly.

Why are my views lower than my subscriber count?

Your subscriber count reflects how many viewers have subscribed to follow your YouTube channel. The count doesn't represent the number of viewers who watch your videos. Viewers, on average, are subscribed to dozens of channels, and may not return for every new upload for channels that they're subscribed to. It's also common for viewers to be subscribed to channels that they no longer watch. Get to know your audience with YouTube Analytics.  

Why is my channel getting less traffic from Home or Suggested?

There are many reasons for a channel's viewership to increase and decline over time. Here are some of the most common reasons for drops in traffic from recommendations:
  • Your audience is watching more of other videos and channels on YouTube. 
  • Your audience is spending less time on YouTube.
  • You had a few high-performing videos or a video went 'viral', but those viewers didn't return to watch more.
  • Uploading less frequently than usual.
  • The topic that your videos are focused on is declining in popularity.
Keep in mind that your audience's interests can change over time. It's important that you always keep experimenting with new topics and formats. To build an audience, creators need to both retain their existing viewers and attract new ones.

An old video recently took off, why?

It's common for viewers to start showing more interest in old videos. Many viewers don't watch videos in chronological order or decide what to watch based on when a video was published. If viewers are showing more interest in an older video, it may be that:
  • The topic that your video is about is increasing in popularity.
  • New viewers are discovering your channel and 'binging' your old videos.
  • More viewers are choosing to watch your video when it's offered to them in recommendations.
  • You released a new video in a series, prompting viewers to go back and watch older episodes.
When an older video starts getting more traffic, think about what type of upload you could release next that would entice these viewers to return to watch more.

How does a 'Made for Kids' designation impact my video performance?

Videos that are set as 'Made for Kids' are more likely to be recommended alongside other children's videos. Content that is not correctly self-designated may not be recommended alongside other similar videos.
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