YouTube has sought to provide some more insight into how its algorithms decide which videos to highlight to each user, by answering some common questions about its search and discovery systems, which could provide some more direction for your platform approach.
In a new video on the Creator Insider channel, YouTube’s Rachel Alves addresses five questions posed by YouTube creators relating to the use of tags, recommendations, algorithm updates, and more.
How valuable these insights are will be relative to your channel specifics, but in summary:
Should you share your videos outside of YouTube, given YouTube may not be able to attribute all the engagement metrics off-platform?
Alves says creators should ‘absolutely’ share their videos outside of YouTube as that can only increase your chances of discovery based on viewer activity, regardless of direct attribution.
“If your videos are getting more traffic from external sources, like social media, it’s likely increasing your potential to be discovered by more viewers. Another benefit is that those viewers now have that video in their watch history, so there’s a higher likelihood that they may be recommended one of your other videos in the future.”
Why do people get recommendations for videos uploaded 10-12 years ago?
Alves says that YouTube’s system is designed to match viewers with videos that they’re likely to enjoy, regardless of when that video was published. That means that even older videos, which still see relatively high engagement, will continue to be recommended in line with viewer interests.
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Alves says that many viewers ask for this, and notes that YouTube recently rolled out its ‘New to You’ tab to highlight more channels from outside of each viewers’ regular viewing experience.
When applying video tags, should you focus on specific tags or more broad matching topics to maximize discovery?
YouTube’s video tags provide another way for creators to align their content with specific queries, though YouTube specifically notes that tags are not a major algorithm consideration.
“Tags are descriptive keywords you can add to your video to help viewers find your content. Your video’s title, thumbnail, and description are more important pieces of metadata for your video’s discovery. These main pieces of information help viewers decide which videos to watch.”
Alves reiterates this, advising creators to focus on the elements that viewers make decisions about when they’re choosing what to watch – so the title, thumbnail image and description. Alves says that creators would be better off focusing on what’s working for other, similar videos related to their topic, as opposed to optimizing tags.
Has YouTube changed its algorithm recently?
Alves says that YouTube is always making changes to its algorithms, but notes that they do get a lot more queries about possible algorithm changes at this time of year.
Alves says that this is likely because of large-scale shifts in viewer behavior, caused by the return to school across the US. With students returning to school, that often means that channels see a change in their metrics, with fewer views on weekdays, but higher activity on weekends.
That can make it seem like something has changed with the algorithm, when really the shift is relative to viewer behavior caused by outside lifestyle shifts.
There’s no game-changing insight, as such, within this new overview, but it does provide some more context as to how YouTube’s systems work, and how content is shown to each user in the app.
That could help you better understand some of the elements, and factor them into your planning.
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Instagram Launches Live Test of Longer Videos in Stories
After it was spotted in testing last month, Instagram has now officially launched a live test of 60-second videos in Stories, which will mean that longer video clips will no longer be split into 15-second segments, and played across various Stories frames.
We asked Instagram about the update, and it provided this statement:
“The ability to create longer Stories posts comes highly requested by our community. We’re excited to be testing 60-second Stories so that people can create and view Stories with fewer interruptions.”
Instagram says that the option is currently being tested with a small group of users, with a view to providing more creative freedom, and further integrating the app’s various video options to streamline its creative tools and functions.
Which, really, is the key focus. Back in January, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri flagged a coming consolidation of the app’s video products, with a view to better facilitating creation, and scaling back the platform’s various tools. That started with the merging of its video feed posts into a single format early last month, along with the retirement of the IGTV brand.
As Mosseri explained to Decoder:
“We’re looking about how we can – not just with IGTV, but across all of Instagram – simplify and consolidate ideas, because last year we placed a lot of new bets. I think this year we have to go back to our focus on simplicity and craft.”
The re-thinking of its approach has been largely influenced by TikTok, which has become the most popular social app among young users, overtaking Instagram as the cool place to be.
Part of TikTok’s core appeal is simplicity – on TikTok, you open to a full-screen feed of video clips and live-streams, with all of it combined into one, optimized, focused listing, tailored to each individual user.
Instagram is far more segmented, with Reels in a separate feed, and Stories in its own section. That could be restricting optimal take-up, which is why Instagram’s now looking to bring all of these elements together, which will also, eventually, enable it to showcase the best of each aspect in a single, more-engaging stream.
The expansion to 60-second video clips in Stories is another step in this gradual merging, which, at some stage, will likely see the app open to a full-screen feed of Stories, feed posts and Reels, all in one, enabling IG, like TikTok, to use the full breadth of uploaded content to maximize user engagement.
It’s still a way off that next stage, but longer videos will mean that users can now post full Reels to Stories, for example, essentially merging the two functions automatically. Then it’s just determining how it shifts from the traditional feed to a more Stories/Reels aligned one instead.
That’s a bigger step, and a more fundamental change for the app. But as part of Meta’s broader focus on winning back younger users, you can bet that it’s coming, and likely sooner, rather than later.
Which is why this new test is a significant step. It’s limited for now, but you can expect to see longer Stories videos coming to your Instagram app sometime soon.
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