YouTube.com is changing focus to reward engagement levels of individual videos. The new YouTube algorithm change will devalue videos that receive large numbers of clicks, but fail to maintain the attention of the viewer. According to the latest post on YouTube’s Creator Blog:
“We’ve started adjusting the ranking of videos in YouTube search to reward engaging videos that keep viewers watching. This is a continuation of ongoing efforts to focus our video discovery features on watch time, and follows changes we made to Suggested Videos in March, and recent improvements to YouTube Analytics.
The experimental results of this change have proven positive — less clicking, more watching. We expect the amount of time viewers spend watching videos from search and across the site to increase. As with previous optimizations to our discovery features, this should benefit your channel if your videos drive more viewing time across YouTube.
We added new Time Watched reporting to YouTube Analytics, so now you have even more tools to evaluate the performance of your videos and channel. So keep making great videos that your fans will love and share, and encourage them to discover more of what YouTube offers, and you’ll see your own fan base grow, too.”
YouTube Algorithm Change: Moving in a New Direction
This YouTube algorithm change was prefaced by a statement last August by Eric Meyerson, head of Creator Marketing Communications:
“YouTube viewers watch a lot of video — over 4 billion hours a month at last count. But the average household also watches several hours of video per day on their TVs. So for YouTube to become the most important media in more people’s lives, we’ve got a lot of growing to do.
Over the past few months we have made some changes to YouTube to encourage people to spend more time watching, interacting, and sharing with the community.
To support this, we’ve updated what we call video discovery features, meaning how our viewers find videos to watch via search and suggested videos. These changes better surface the videos that viewers actually watch, over those that they click on and then abandon.
Why this shift? Our video discovery features were previously designed to drive views. This rewarded videos that were successful at attracting clicks, rather than the videos that actually kept viewers engaged. (Cleavage thumbnails, anyone?)
Now when we suggest videos, we focus on those that increase the amount of time that the viewer will spend watching videos on YouTube, not only on the next view, but also successive views thereafter.
If viewers are watching more YouTube, it signals to us that they’re happier with the content they’ve found. It means that creators are attracting more engaged audiences. It also opens up more opportunities to generate revenue for our partners.
These changes have so far proved very positive — primarily less clicking, more watching. We saw the amount of time viewers spend watching videos across the site increase immediately, and this positive trend has continued as we’ve made additional tweaks to our suggestions. Improvements in the stats we measure, such as average view duration, provide a solid indication that the videos we are recommending throughout the site are even more engaging.”
YouTube Algorithm Change: Update to Analytics Tools
In an effort to help content creators with the YouTube algorithm change, the site has updated their reporting and analytic features to increase understanding of a video’s performance. Enhanced “Views” report now offers increased information that shows more “time watched” data. You can see “Estimated minutes watched” from the “Views” report or choose other data options from the “Compare metric” drop-down menu.
Another factor important to user engagement is YouTube Annotations. There is now a beta version of Annotations Reporting that offers insights on viewer click and close rates.
This new YouTube algorithm change has been greeted with skepticism from some long time users. Many users have voiced their displeasure on YouTube’s blog, leaving feedback in the form of comments. One such response from Cory Williams seemed to resonate with many:
“I believe your studies might be a bit old considering March was a great month for vloggers. Since March there have been a lot of changes. Most of it geared towards more professional content. If the site now depends on longer videos then you’re going to miss out on a lot of greatness on the traditional 1 to 3 minute range which happens to be about 80% of the site. Essentially, you’re going to force people to unnecessarily draw out the point of their videos in order to capitalize on the changes. This will have an effect on the quality of videos being made and a lot more of the popular users may get frustrated.
My advice would be to study the way things were back in 2009 when the site depended more on the rating and favoriting system. When YouTube took away the “top favorites”, it took away a big part of it’s soul. THAT is how the good wholesome organic content was essentially found back then. I know this for a fact because I was consulting for several major Hollywood agencies looking for quality content to feature. I’ve been on this site now for 7 years and even though I’m not on top anymore, I know how things work inside and out. I’m afraid that many of the people who are working there these days don’t have the type of information that I have because they haven’t been around long enough to study it. YouTube is relying on numbers to tell them how to advance rather than the knowledge of how those numbers came to be.
……Right now the formula you have set out is only fit to entertain the viewers you have now. Sure you might get some good returns from them but I assure you it will not promote growth. I’d rather see this site have lots of people watching shorter videos than a few people watching longer ones.”
YouTube is one of the most popular sites on the web, with an extremely large amount of content generated and consumed on a daily basis. As YouTube seeks to improve their user’s experience, they must be careful to ensure these changes do not negatively effect their popularity.