December 2016 Update:

Many of YouTube’s biggest stars have been complaining that a recent change to YouTube’s algorithm for trending content has left them with far fewer views on their videos than they have seen in the past. Heavy has a great write-up on these concerns, and the channels that have been affected the most (according to the people behind them).

YouTube has offered this clarification which does not explicitly state any changes to their algorithm, but does try to offer some loose guidelines on how the trending feature works.

As more YouTube personalities report issues, we may see a deeper response from the Google team, but at this time rumors of a change to YouTube’s algorithm are unconfirmed.


Did you hear that YouTube has made some changes to their algorithms? If you’re a marketer that has started hyperventilating, I want you to breathe! We’re going to walk you through what this means for your videos. The change won’t affect how your videos are uploaded, however, it will affect how your videos appear in YouTube searches and ultimately, how many times they’re watched.

Courtesy of Search Engine Watch, here’s Eric Meyerson, YouTube’s head of Creator Marketing Communications, explaining why YouTube algorithms made the transition from number of views to time watched:

“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.”


YouTube ranked your video higher, based on the number of views your video received.


YouTube ranks your videos higher, based on the amount of time people spend watching your videos.

What does this mean for Marketers?

YouTube’s new algorithm wants viewers to stay on YouTube as long as possible. In saying this, the longer your video and the longer people stay watching it, the better.  The trouble here is actually maintaining viewer attention span. The challenge for marketers is to create compelling and valuable content that is better than ever before.

What does this mean for shorter videos (i.e. under 30 seconds)?

YouTube algorithm will unfortunately not favour these types of videos, regardless of how many viewers watch the entire thing. Why? The video is still only 30 seconds long and does not stand up against a video that is 2 minutes and holds viewer retention until the very end.

In many situations, 30 second videos are still effective; we are not suggesting you avoid creating them. However, having them stand alone on YouTube will not help your rankings. Pair your 30 second videos with longer versions that will maintain viewer attention spans and keep people on as long as possible. Keep in mind that the only way to keep viewers watching longer is with great content!

Want to know where your viewers are dropping off in your video, as it happens? Take a look at how Real-Time Analytics can deliver your information faster!

Stephanie Goodman