YouTube Now Recommends Videos Based On Engagement, Not Just Clicks

    March 14, 2012
    Josh Wolford

How many times have you finished watching a YouTube video, then clicked on a suggested video only to end up watching something that doesn’t interest you at all. YouTube is hoping to cut down on this scenario with a change to how they select these videos.

Starting today, YouTube’s algorithm for determining what videos appear on your suggested or recommended sections is morphing. Instead of picking these videos according to view count only, YouTube will now populate this suggestions section based on time spent viewing each video as well.

Here’s the reasoning behind this, courtesy of the Official YouTube Partners and Creators blog:

The last time you went channel surfing, did you enjoy (or remember) the 20 TV shows you flipped through, or just the shows you watched all the way through? Would you recommend the 20 you surfed through to a friend, or the ones you actually watched? To make the videos you watch on YouTube more enjoyable, memorable, and sharable, we’re updating our Related and Recommended videos to better serve videos that keep viewers entertained.

This makes sense. How engaged with a video the average user is should determine whether it is passed along as a recommended video a particular user. Another, possibly more important point of this move is to cut back on people gaming the system. YouTube elaborates on the YouTube Help site

Previously, the YouTube algorithm suggested videos (whether related videos on the watch page or recommended videos elsewhere on the site) based on how many people clicked to watch a video. This was a helpful way to promote channels, but issues like misleading thumbnails kept this system from bringing videos with deeper engagement to the top. Starting March 14th 2012, the algorithm for suggesting videos will also be based on which videos contribute to a longer overall viewing session rather than how many clicks an individual video receives. This is great for viewers because they’ll be able to watch more enjoyable content; moreover, this is great for creators because it can help build more focused and engaged audiences.

They mention “misleading thumbnails,” which is specification of a number of techniques creators use to boost the views on their particular videos. One of the most prominent examples is the “reply girl.” Users (usually female) will upload their videos as replies to popular YouTube videos, and most of the time show something sexually suggestive or otherwise unrelated image as the thumbnail in order to draw clicks.

Basically, what YouTube is saying here is you have to make your content relevant and it has to be something that people want to watch. If a user clicks your video and only stays for a few seconds because it doesn’t satisfy what they were looking for, you’re going to have a harder time making it to the recommended and suggested video sections.

“How can you adapt to these changes?” they say. “The same as you always have — create great videos that keep people engaged. It doesn’t matter whether your videos are one minute or one hour. What matters is that your audience stops clicking away and starts watching more of your videos.”


Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf