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YouTube Explains How Shorts Algorithm Works


YouTube recently provided creators with more details on how its Shorts algorithm works during an interview with Todd Sherman, the product lead for YouTube Shorts.

The discussion aimed to clear up common misconceptions creators have about the Shorts algorithm and how it differs from YouTube’s algorithm for long-form videos.

In this article, we delve into the 11-minute conversation, which touches on the importance of audience-focused content creation, the definition of a ‘view,’ and the strategic considerations behind video length and customization.

Additionally, Sherman addresses questions related to hashtags, posting frequency, and the lifespan of a Short.

The Algorithm & Audience

According to Sherman, the long-form and Shorts algorithms’ core goal is to connect viewers with videos they find valuable.

Sherman emphasized that the saying “don’t think algorithm, think audience” holds for Shorts, much like it does for long-form content. He said, “The audience is the algorithm.”

There are differences in how the algorithm works for short-form content due to its unique format.

“We want [viewers] to feel satisfied with [the videos],” Sherman said. “But there’s a lot of things that we do in short form that sort of are different and focused on the fundamentals of short form.”

Unlike long-form videos where people actively select a video to watch, Shorts viewers often discover content by swiping through a feed.

This distinction necessitates a different measurement approach, Sherman states:

“At the core, we’re trying to get videos to people they value, both in long form and short form.”

Defining A View

Sherman clarified that it doesn’t when asked whether every video flipped through in the Shorts feeds counts as a view.

Unlike other platforms that count the first frame as a view, YouTube aims for a view to indicate an intentional act of watching.

Sherman explains:

“What we try and do with a view is have it encode for your intent of watching that thing so that creators feel like that view has some meaningful threshold that the person decided to watch.”

Exact thresholds aren’t shared publicly to avoid potential “gaming” of the system.

A new metric in YouTube Analytics shows the percentage of times a Short is viewed versus swiped away to help creators analyze performance.

Ideal Short Video Length

Sherman suggested that creators prioritize storytelling over targeting a specific duration when asked about the ideal length for a Short.

He also addressed the question of thumbnail customization, explaining that most of the traffic for Shorts comes from the feed rather than the Shorts shelf.

As a result, the team has decided to allow creators to select a frame from their video as the thumbnail instead of offering custom thumbnails.

Hashtags, Posting Frequency, & Lifespan

Sherman said Hashtags aren’t required but can be meaningful depending on the creator’s needs and context.

He addressed the question of posting frequency, asserting that there’s no magical threshold of posts that will guarantee success. Instead of posting numerous low-quality videos, he encouraged creators to invest their time in producing better content.

Sherman explained that Shorts may initially gain a few hundred or thousand views and then drop off due to the algorithm’s attempt to find an audience for the content. He suggested that these early views can be seen as exploratory as YouTube tries to help creators find their audience.

In Summary

Key takeaways from the discussion center on understanding your audience, creating quality content, and leveraging the unique features of Shorts.

Keep these points in mind:

  • Audience is Key: The Shorts algorithm aims to connect viewers with valuable content. Focus on understanding and serving your audience, not trying to game the algorithm.
  • Views are Intentional: Not every video scroll counts as a view—the intent of watching the video matters.
  • Storytelling over Duration: There isn’t an ideal length for a Short. Concentrate on crafting compelling narratives that keep viewers engaged.
  • Quality over Quantity: No magical number of posts guarantees success.

Featured Image: Jan Krava/Shutterstock



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