How the YouTube Algorithm Works in 2024

content strategy how to grow on youtube youtube youtube algorithm youtube analytics Jan 01, 2024

Today we dive into the heart of the YouTube algorithm, analyzing data from 2020-2023. This analysis isn't just based on my channel; it extends to a variety of channels across different sizes and niches. Here, I'll break down the four main factors that will give you a deeper understanding of YouTube's workings.


Remember, understanding the algorithm isn't about manipulating your content to exploit it. Always prioritize your audience's interests and focus on the total addressable market for your topics.

1. Watch Time: The Undisputed King

It's a common misconception that Click-Through Rate (CTR) and Retention are the main drivers of success. However, it's the combination of these elements, creating what I call 'Interesting Watch Time', that holds the key. This explains why larger and smaller channels alike see a strong correlation between these metrics and their success.

  • Shorter videos need higher CTR and views to perform well and generally cater to a broader audience.
  • Niche topics benefit from longer videos, high watch time, and in-depth content.

2. The Power of Returning Viewers

Forget about upload frequency or the 'quality over quantity' debate for a moment. The real game-changer is increasing your returning viewers. High average view durations and watch times are closely linked to this group. Keep your traffic high, and as your returning viewers increase, so will your video performance and impressions.

While attracting new viewers is crucial for growth, it's the returning viewers who can most reliably boost your initial video performance.


3. Tailoring Content for Traffic Sources

Each traffic source on YouTube has its quirks. A versatile content strategy that performs well across different sources, such as Browse and Suggested, can be more effective.

  • Live videos and podcasts do well with Suggested Traffic, thanks to their ability to boost session time and overall watch time.
  • Regular videos (VODs) excel with Homepage and Search traffic, and under certain conditions, with suggested videos. Don't underestimate Search Traffic; it's billions of searches per day.
  • YouTube Shorts thrive on minimal swipeaways, high loops, rewinds, and shares, which help start new sessions on the platform. The ideal length for Shorts is around 40 seconds.

4. Becoming a Destination Channel

The ultimate goal is to become a channel that viewers specifically seek out. This means being the reason they're on YouTube, the first videos they watch, and the channel they stay with. If you command a significant portion of their viewing session, you're effectively more authoritative.

Key Takeaways

  1. Consistently attract both new and returning viewers by prioritizing viewer behavior and psychology.
  2. Establish yourself as a destination channel with unique content pillars.
  3. Leverage various formats and traffic sources effectively.
  4. Focus on consistency and value delivery, rather than getting caught up in the quality vs. quantity debate.

Final Thoughts

Value creation is key. Being reliable and desirable means consistently delivering value. For most creators, showing up regularly with well-packaged videos is more sustainable and effective than occasional 'spectacle' content.

Remember, this advice is tailored for solo creators, who make up the majority trying to grow on YouTube. So, make it practical and adapt it to your resources and circumstances.

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