How the YouTube Algorithm works

YouTube algorithm

YouTube’s algorithm is a real-time feedback loop.

It decides which videos to suggest to viewers based on their interests and what they have been watching.

YouTube takes note of what these users engage in, what keeps them occupied, and recommends similar videos based on the statistics.

As a YouTube creator, the algorithm is something you should take special note of.

Understanding how it works is vital to having your videos ranked highly and getting engagements as well. 

How the YouTube Algorithm works in 2021

More importantly, the algorithm is ever-changing.

As long as both creators and viewers keep feeding the YouTube system with data, it will continue to learn and adapt.

A big part of your job is to do the same.

In this article we will discuss how the YT algorithm works in 2021 and what this means for YouTube creators.

YouTube algorithm 2021- Average Standards

YouTube algorithm


  • Ensure your watch time is above 50%.

For a really long time, YouTube promoted videos based on how many times they got clicked on rather than how engaged they kept viewers.

However, that has changed somewhat.

If a video’s watch time is low, YouTube will automatically show it less. 

YouTube’s algorithm gives prominence to videos that have a significantly higher watch time.

If you have a watch time that is generally over 50%, it sends the message to the algorithm that viewers find your videos interesting, and will spend more time watching them.

This will make the algorithm recommend your videos to more people with similar interests.

Here are a couple of ways to increase a video’s watch time.

What Can You do?

  • As a YouTube creator, your video will need to capture the attention of your viewers for as long as possible.

To achieve this, your videos will have to contain as much information as is needed to cover its topic, while being as short as possible.



You would not want to have a video with 15-20 minutes of content just because it is the norm.

Ensure your videos follow structured guidelines, or even write a script.

This way, your video contains all the necessary information and does not have to be too long. 

This makes the video a lot more interesting and holds the viewer’s attention for longer.

  • Increase your click-through rate.

Your click-through rate refers to the rate at which users click on your video whenever it is displayed on a page along with other similar options.

Click through rate


About 50% of YouTube channels have a clickthrough rate between 2-10%.

If you can get your numbers to the higher end of that scale and beyond, you will make the algorithm work for you and have your videos recommended to a larger audience.

There are a couple of ways to improve your click-through rate. 

Colours like dark red, cream and white generally blend in with YouTube’s aesthetics, and these colours are often used by YouTube creators.

You would want to use colours that directly contrast to these so that viewers will be drawn to click on the video.

YouTube Thumbnail


  • Use an attractive title

What do viewers stand to gain from watching your video?

Draw them in with your title.

A lot of YouTube creators make use of clickbait, but the updated YouTube policies are cranking down on videos like this.

Instead, you could use a title that answers a particular question, adds value and impacts on the viewer.

Adding numbers, dates and square brackets also helps.

Emojis also help, but do not overdo it.

  • Monitor your post velocity

YouTube monitors the first 24 hours of your video to see how much engagement you rack up.

Understanding YouTube Analytics


It then shows your video to more people based on how well your video does during that period.

This is because more engagement sends the message to the algorithm that your video is more engaging.

And YouTube wants people to spend more time on their platform. 

What does this mean for you?

You will have to ensure that your video gets as much traction as possible during the first 24 hours after posting.

Doing this will prompt the algorithm to recommend your video to more people.

You can increase your engagement within the first 24 hours by sharing across your various social media channels.

  • Consider what your audience wants

YouTube does not rank videos solely based on how good they are in reality, the algorithm is interested in what keeps users glued to their screens.



You may have to study content trends and statistics from creators who have high rankings so as to tailor your content to suit the audience and in turn drive up your engagements.

Here are some tips

  • Pay close attention to your past videos

Monitor the rate of engagements you get on your videos.

If you notice a trend that suggests that some videos are more appealing to the audience than others, find a way to implement it in future videos.

The YouTube algorithm also recommends videos to viewers based on what they have liked in the past, you could use this in your favour.

  • Publish frequently

YouTube also gives preference to creators who are active on the platform.

For this reason, try not to go long periods without posting and engaging content from other people.

  • Post at times when your audience is likely to engage

Use your analytics to determine an optimum time for making your videos public.

This way, the viewers actually click on your video when they get the notification. 

  • Engage and grow your YouTube community

Reply to comments, talk and engage opinions from your audience.

If it is possible, hold meaningful conversations.

meaningful conversations

Extra YouTube Algorithm Considerations

  • Channel authority

A channel with no subs will struggle to  survive no matter what.

While subscriber count is a vanity metric, if you are able to generate a decent  following, you will get more views.

This helps your SEO which in turn helps you get exposure.

  • Off-platform efforts

Embedding videos on other websites can increase the number of views.

These are counted by YouTube.

Some of the channels mentioned here have a huge subscriber base despite most of their promotional efforts being on places like Facebook.


While it may seem like a lot of work to understand and work with the YouTube algorithm, it is mandatory that you do.

YouTube rankings are determined by its algorithm 70% of the time.

Having the algorithm on your side places the odds in your favour.

The YouTube algorithm gets adjusted frequently, so you will want to keep yourself updated on the latest trends and regulations.

Also, bear in mind that all the work and planning will be in vain if you fail to keep to the rules and end up losing all your hard work.

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Comments on How the YouTube Algorithm works

  1. Tim O says:

    Good advice. Thanks.

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Thank you.

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