YouTube Algorithm Explained: How to Maximize CPM

By Editorial Staff

If you’re looking to build your following and increase your channel’s visibility on YouTube, mastering the YouTube algorithm is crucial. According to Hootsuite, the algorithm decides what people watch on YouTube 70% of the time, and Pew Research Center found that 81% of American YouTube users say they regularly watch videos recommended by the algorithm. Everything from how you post to how you interact with your subscribers is taken into account when it comes to the algorithm and maximizing CPM, or the cost per thousand impressions in terms of the advertisements in your videos.

Like most social media networks and video-sharing platforms, the YouTube algorithm is constantly evolving. To boost your video views, you should first do your research on the ever-changing algorithm and how it evaluates your content.

How the YouTube Algorithm Has Changed

If you look into the history of the YouTube algorithm, the platform rewarded videos that got clicks from 2005-2012. Back then, it didn’t matter how long a viewer watched the video. This is where clickbait was born – and YouTube quickly corrected the algorithm to improve the user experience of those who got annoyed by misleading titles and thumbnails. By 2012, YouTube announced that they would reward the videos that engaged viewers the most. In other words, view duration became most important.

By prioritizing and pushing videos that held viewers’ attention, YouTube realized that they increased the amount of time a user spent on the platform overall. To boost their videos, many content creators began either making shorter videos to keep viewers engaged without losing their attention or making longer videos to rack up more watch time. As a result, YouTube discouraged these practices and tried to tweak the algorithm to motivate YouTubers to create videos that made “people want to watch”.


The YouTube Algorithm Today

Through trial and error, YouTube has landed on an algorithm model that resembles platforms such as TikTok’s “For You Page”. According to YouTube, the algorithm today is a “real-time feedback loop that tailors videos to each viewer’s different interests”. In other words, the type of content that users interact with the most will be suggested to them on their recommended page. Not only does YouTube track user behavior to attempt to find the “right” video for each viewer to keep them coming back to the website, but the algorithm also closely pays attention to video performance.

According to Hootsuite, the two most important places the algorithm impacts are search results and recommendation streams. This means that two people could search the same thing on YouTube and get different results based on the content they’ve previously watched. Overall, search results are based on factors such as your video’s title, description, and keywords and how well they match the user’s search alongside your video’s engagement, such as the likes, comments, and watch time. 

To work with the algorithm’s recommendation system, you should know how it operates:

  • YouTube will rank your video by assigning it a score based on performance analytics data.
  • The performance data that YouTube looks at are impressions vs. views (clicks), watch time and retention, engagement, rate of growth of your video, upload date, how often you upload, and how much time people spend on the platform after watching your video.
  • The algorithm will match your video to people based on their watch history, and what similar people have watched. It also considers statistics like how many videos the user watched from your channel, how recently the user watched a video about the specific topic, and the user’s demographic information.

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How to Make the YouTube Algorithm Work for You

For many people, the algorithm can be a mystery. However, there are a few pieces of advice from YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki that prove to be a huge help:

1. Adhere to YouTube’s guidelines

Over the past few years, YouTube has undergone many changes in terms of its community guidelines in order to make content more ad-friendly. In 2019, YouTube claimed that the algorithm changed and as a result, watch time for content that was harmful or misleading decreased by 70%.

2. Perfect your thumbnails and titles

Even though YouTube discourages clickbait because it takes away from user experience, they still take clicks into account. If someone sees your video and doesn’t click on it, that can be a bad thing in the eyes of the algorithm. Also, putting words on your thumbnail is a great tip when you take mobile users into consideration.

On the app, the thumbnail appears the largest on the home page – so it will be the first thing a potential viewer sees. Before they even read your title, the words in the thumbnail can draw them in without a second thought. Putting extra thought into your thumbnail and titles is important – it can turn an impression into a view.

3. Stick to a consistent posting schedule

Just like if you’re starting a new blog or if you’re trying to boost your Instagram as an influencer, staying consistent with how often you upload videos on YouTube is essential. YouTube tends to boost videos from channels that upload often, which feeds into the reason why daily vloggers do so well. Similarly, YouTube boosts new videos on the platform to jumpstart their rate of growth. Therefore, the more often you have new videos, the more often your video could appear on someone’s recommended page.

4. Optimize your video description text

Besides linking your social media accounts, you should include keywords in the first sentence of your description to improve the chances of your video showing up when people search for that topic. For the most success, focus on one or two important keywords and repeat them in your description and title.

5. Keep your views engaged and engage back

Reply to comments, like comments, and keep your viewers throughout your whole video. The longer your view duration is on a video and the more you interact with your viewers will both please the algorithm and be beneficial for your channel.

With these tips and insights, you can create quality content while making it stand out on the platform to maximize CPM, boost your video rankings, and attract new subscribers. Even though YouTube’s algorithm will continue to grow and advance, these tricks should stand the test of time and help you break out onto the trending page for years to come. In the future, keep your focus on the platform’s changes, and your videos are bound to stay on top.

This article was written by Selena Ponton

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