How YouTube’s Algorithm Works: A Step-by-Step Breakdown for Content Creators

GuidesHow YouTube's Algorithm Works: A Step-by-Step Breakdown for Content Creators

Back then, people believed that YouTube actually worked on guesswork. And so, the virality factor is completely dependent on luck.

What it actually works on is what we term as YouTube Algorithm.


An algorithm is a systematic flow of data integrated with AI and machine learning technologies that allows the platform to offer a personalized and user-friendly interface.

Over time the platform has steadily optimized its algorithm to become self-dependent and more accurate.

In this article, we’ll discuss what is youtube algorithm and come up with a step-by-step breakdown of how youtube algorithm works.

A Glimpse of the YouTube Algorithm Back in 2016

YouTube has always been secretive about how its algorithm works. Much of what we know is a mere indication from various experts and ex-YouTube employees. 

Above all, the ultimate aim of YouTube’s algorithm is to help viewers find their favourite videos so that they stay on the platform for a long time. For that, YouTube has adjusted its algorithm many times since its inception.

Back in 2005, the algorithm promoted videos with higher clicks and most views. This led to many clickbait-titled videos showing up higher, leaving the viewers tricked and unsatisfied.

In 2012, there was another shift in the algorithm. This time it was optimized for watch time. Meaning?

Yeah, you guessed it! Videos with more watch times were supposed to be at the top.

Content creators back then began making either very short videos or long videos to increase their watch time.

Even though it was going well for the platform users, YouTube said👇🏻


And continued its quest for a better algorithm. 😉

Introduction of AI and Machine Learning Into The Algorithm

In 2016, however, it added machine learning and AI to its algorithm, changing how people would watch YouTube videos.

Since then, the AI would track how a viewer feels after watching a certain video to create a similar personalized display of recommendations.

Moreover, to track user satisfaction YouTube started collecting reviews and surveys about what kind of videos they (the users) liked the most– all contributing to maximizing the watch time and engagement on the platform.

How Does the YouTube Algorithm Work Today?

To keep users engaged and to present them with relevant content, YouTube employs an algorithm that curates personalized playlists for individual users.

The algorithm takes into account a variety of factors, such as: 

  • User’s search history
  • Watch history
  • Interaction with videos (such as likes, comments, and shares). 

Based on this information, the algorithm generates a list of recommended videos, which are presented to the user on the “Home” page, “Up Next” queue, and in the “Search Results.

The best part is that the algorithm is constantly learning and adjusting, so the recommended videos are the best guess made by the algorithm with respect to the data it gets.

Here’s a breakdown of how YouTube determines what videos to show on each of these pages:

Home Page Algorithm

When someone opens their YouTube account, they land on its Homepage, where there are many videos that it thinks people might be interested in. The selection, however, is broad and done based on two things:

  • Performance: Based on metrics like click-through rates, likes, dislikes, and viewers’ surveys, YouTube shows you videos that have engaged viewers of similar interest as yours.
  • Personalization: Based on the watch history data, YouTube offers videos to users that it thinks are relevant to them. If viewers like pop songs, more such videos will appear on their screens.

What’s In It for You

When a content creator uploads videos, YouTube measures its performance by showing it on the Home pages of users who might find it interesting. Based on the engagement, it’s further offered to more viewers.

So, as a creator, you should upload videos that encourage people to engage consistently. 

What’s more, this makes people crave your content, and they know what to expect from you. You can check YouTube Analytics to see how often your channel is on others’ Home pages.

Suggested Videos

When we watch a video on YouTube, we see a whole list of other videos on the sidebar.

Those other videos are called suggested videos which are displayed via youtube recommendation algorithm.


In addition to performance and personalization, YouTube employs different considerations while recommending suggested videos:

  • Videos related to the one you watched
  • What videos are often watched together
  • Watch history of the user

What’s In It for You

Use YouTube Analytics to know what your audience loves to watch. This can help you zero in on topics related to your viewers’ interests. And don’t forget to create a playlist of such videos that are related to each other.

YouTube is a search engine at its core. That makes understanding YouTube SEO important for creators to grow on this platform.

There could be thousands of search results for a single search query. So, how come one video ranks higher than another?

No, it’s not with the most views.

Here’s how you can make it to the top of the search:

  • Keywords: YouTube algorithm scans through your video metadata for relevant keywords. If it matches the search, your video ranks higher than others. So, make sure you use the right keywords if you want to show up higher.
  • Engagement: Videos with more engagement as related to the search query are likely to rank higher on YouTube.
  • Performance: If your videos are appealing to users looking for your keywords, they are more likely to gain better visibility. The algorithm relies on metrics like click-through rates, watch time, and surveys to test the performance of your content.

What’s In It for You

Learn the art of SEO and optimize your videos to rank higher in search results. Research what people are typing to search for your videos.

However tempting it may seem, don’t practice black hat techniques like stuffing your video descriptions with too many keywords. It can hurt your efforts.

External Factors Impacting YouTube Ranking

Sometimes, your ranking might get affected due to external factors, such as:

#1. Interest in a Topic

Do you know why some topics always trend better than others? They’ve a more extensive audience following compared to other niches with limited exposure. 

For the most part, you can do extensive research before cherry-picking a niche in your initial days.

But most importantly, do what works for you and what interests you.

#2. Competition

The competition for ranking on YouTube is intense, and similar videos may compete for the same ranking position. Videos with a good combination of YouTube SEO and viewer retention are more likely to rank higher.

#3. Season

There is often a fluctuation in viewership because of a particular season. It’s not the algorithm that is responsible for that.

A probable explanation by YouTube suggests that in certain seasons like in September, when school starts, which changes the viewer’s schedule.

The same thing happens during holidays and festive seasons. 

Debunking Some Myths Surrounding YouTube Algorithm

YouTube’s algorithm is one of the most talked-about topics in the world of digital content creation. The internet is filled with myths and misconceptions surrounding the YouTube algorithm, and it’s essential to understand the truth behind these beliefs.

Myth #1. Algorithm is Biased

Myth: The algorithm is designed to favour certain content creators.

Truth: The algorithm is designed to surface relevant and engaging content to the viewer, regardless of who created it. It’s as impartial as possible, considering various factors such as views, engagement, and watch time.

Myth #2. You Can Trick the Algorithm

Myth: The YouTube algorithm can be “fooled” to achieve more views and subscribers. 

Truth: While some creators may have found short-term success through tactics like keyword stuffing or fake engagement, these methods will ultimately result in penalties from YouTube and hurt the creator’s channel in the long run. 

The best way to succeed on YouTube is to create high-quality content that resonates with your audience and encourages real engagement.

Myth #3. Algorithm Matters, But There’s More…

Myth: Some creators believe that the algorithm is the only factor determining their channel’s success. 

Truth: Not just the algorithm, but many other factors, such as consistency, promotion, and community building, play a crucial role in growing a successful channel on YouTube.

By understanding the truth behind these myths, creators can focus on creating the best possible content for their audience and achieve sustainable growth on the platform.

Wrapping Up

So. by far it’s clear that YouTube is not biased in any sense.

It’s the right mix of content quality, resonance, and algorithm that promotes or demotes your content on the platform.

By understanding how youtube algorithm works you stand a better chance to create an algorithm-friendly strategy. So what are you waiting for? Take the first step today.

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