Chase Charaba, Co-Editor-in-Chief
At the end of 2016, YouTube suddenly changed its algorithm for calculating and presenting videos to viewers, leaving many popular creators to protest the change and label it as damaging to YouTubers everywhere.
YouTube’s new algorithm is just a sign of changing viewing habits and YouTube’s plan to reinvent itself. Contrary to the majority opinion, the algorithm change was necessary and is beneficial to small YouTubers.
This algorithm is responsible for what videos show up in the suggested tab beside the video a user’s currently watching and what’s on the trending tab. The algorithm deals with what videos are shown to a viewer compared to another video.
Many YouTubers such as pewdiepie and JackSepticEye said the new algorithm is killing their channels. They’ve claimed their videos are not being viewed as much as they used to be and that people are being randomly unsubscribed from their channels.
The algorithm does have major problems. Watch time is now the primary method for calculating what videos are displayed to viewers. Longer videos now do better on YouTube than shorter videos, but this doesn’t mean short videos don’t get views. Watch time isn’t a good, reliable factor for promoting certain videos.
Another issue is the Trending tab, which appears to be broken following the update. Whereas it previously showcased recent viral videos and up-and-coming videos, it now shows many videos from popular TV shows like NBC’s Today. These videos often have fewer views than new videos that aren’t on the Trending tab.
Despite the hate this new algorithm receives, it’s actually a good tool that smaller, unrecognized YouTubers can use to their advantage.
It all comes down to metadata, the behind-the-scenes information an uploader has to provide YouTube with when they upload their videos. This includes a video’s title, description, tags, thumbnail and playlists.
The platform is known for clickbait. This method works, but the algorithm works differently.
Large, established YouTube channels have fallen into the habit of promoting their new videos with clickbait and flashy thumbnails that don’t really have to do with the majority of that video’s content. They rely on their subscriber base to have notifications turned on or to arrive on their video watch page through a link on social media. That isn’t how it works anymore.
Large channels might be losing subscribers and getting fewer views because they aren’t adapting to the metadata system.
Using relevant tags and titles will allow YouTube to learn what a video is about. YouTube can then share the video as a recommendation to those looking for similar videos. Tagging videos with good search terms helps to get a video displayed higher on search results, which can lead to more views.
YouTuber Roberto Blake made a video detailing how creators can use good tags to get more views, even with the new algorithm.
“If you don’t know how to properly tag YouTube videos for search and discovery, then YouTube will have a harder time promoting your videos to new viewers and even to your subscribers based on what else they’ve watched,” Blake said in the video’s description.
YouTube is a search engine. Creators who understand this will have their videos rank higher and get more views if that particular topic is being search frequently. Making videos about trending topics will get more views than videos about the uploader’s life.
Just because a majority of YouTubers are calling out the new algorithm and complaining about losing views and subscribers doesn’t mean the algorithm is bad. It’s a flawed system that needs to be changed, but when it’s used correctly, success can still be found.
As long as these big YouTubers continue to blame the platform for their channels’ shortcomings, small YouTubers can grow by using good tags and understanding how to use the system.
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