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How the YouTube Shorts Algorithm Works

There’s no denying the effect TikTok had on social media. If it weren’t for TikTok, we wouldn’t have Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight, or YouTube Shorts. Many of us aren’t as familiar with YouTube Shorts as we are with Instagram Reels or TikTok, but that doesn’t mean YouTube Shorts aren't just as powerful. In fact, YouTube Shorts has over 2.5 billion users (more than TikTok) and can be a platform to help expand your audience and build brand awareness.

Interested in learning more about YouTube Shorts? Follow along to get the 101 on YouTube Shorts and tips and tricks for leveraging the YouTube Shorts’ algorithm to maximize your Shorts’ content performance.

YouTube Shorts 101

Before we dive into algorithm specifics, here’s a brief introduction to YouTube Shorts. Like Instagram Reels and TikTok, YouTube Shorts is YouTube’s solution to short-form video. YouTube Shorts has the same user base as YouTube, making its 2.5 billion users a major way to get your brand or product in front of new people.  

To access the YouTube Shorts feed, you’ll use the regular YouTube app and tap the ‘Shorts’ icon on the bottom navigation bar. The feed features videos no longer than 60 seconds. Brands can use Shorts to showcase a product or service and even drive sales. However, the goal is to create videos that are entertaining.

What is the YouTube Shorts Algorithm  

Just like any other social platform, YouTube has an algorithm that suggests content to its users. MIT Technology Review reports that YouTube’s algorithm is responsible for driving 70% of what users watch on the platform. In other words, to create high-performing YouTube Shorts content, you’ll need to know what factors help prioritize content within the algorithm.

How does the YouTube Shorts Algorithm Work

Social media algorithms are nothing but recommendation systems involving a couple of ranking factors. Here are 3 ranking factors YouTube uses to suggest content.

#1 Watch history: YouTube analyzes personal video watching history including what users are watching all the way through and what they are skipping.
#2 Watch time: How much time users spend watching videos.
#3 Content Comparisons: How videos are ranked with similar users. This helps determine the relevance of a video for a specific audience.

Keeping those factors in mind helps the algorithm recommend content that’s relevant to its users.

Tips for Mastering the YouTube Shorts Algorithm

#1 Create Entertaining Content for Your Niche

YouTube states on their website that audience viewing behavior is the main driver of the algorithm, not the actual content. What does this mean? It means that YouTube doesn’t prioritize or recommend high-quality, professionally produced video content if no viewers are engaging with it. To that point, scrappy, authentic content that captures, and keeps the attention of viewers is going to garner some attention. So, even though we are talking about the specifics of algorithms, to really succeed, focus on creating content people want to watch, not content that can “beat the algorithm.”

#2 Know What’s Trending on YouTube

Another aspect users want to pay attention to is if their content is showing up on the  Trending tab. Trending videos on YouTube helps viewers see what’s happening on the platform by showing Shorts that a wide range of users will likely find interesting. This Trending list is updated every fifteen minutes, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get your video in the spotlight!

To determine what should show up on Trending, YouTube looks for things such as how quickly and how many views a video is getting, how recent the video is and how it is performing compared to other video uploaded at the same time. There’s also a way for you to see what type of content is trending before you press record! PLANOLY's weekly trends in the social calendar delivers social trend recommendations consisting of trending audio, video ideas, and/or video transitions each week. Plus, the trend recommendations include how to apply each trend to your niche.

How to Create Engaging YouTube Shorts Content

Now that you understand what is happening behind the scenes with the YouTube algorithm and know the importance of engagement as a key factor in the algorithm, here are two extra tips for how to maximize your video performance.

#1 Consider going Live on YouTube and connecting with your audience in a more meaningful way.
#2 Keep the content fun by having fun making it. Content burnout is real and it will show in your Shorts if you're creating just for the sake of having something to publish.

For even more tips on how to succeed with Shorts, look at this recent PLANOLY blog article. As you start to explore and stock up on creative video ideas, make sure to tap into PLANOLY’s new “Ideas” feature. The “Ideas” feature is a centralized place on PLANOLY where you can review and brainstorm your saved content.

Takeaways

PLANOLY may have started with photo-based platforms though as social media trends evolve, so do we! We don’t just tell you about the power of video, we make them ourselves, and help you schedule yours too!  Use PLANOLY's multi-channel workspace to plan, customize, and schedule your video content for YouTube Shorts on both the Web Dashboard and Mobile App - check out this step-by-step guide here.

Still not sure how to get started? Try repurposing your TikTok or Reels content to start experimenting on YouTube and soon enough, you will feel confident to publish your first Short!

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Allie Teegardin

Allie Teegardin is a contributing writer at PLANOLY. As a writer, adjunct professor, and baker, she makes sure to add value to whatever she creates.

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