Explorer Series

The impact of YouTube's algorithm updates on content creators and publishers

March 16, 2023

YouTube is one of the largest and most popular social media platforms, and its algorithm plays a crucial role in determining which videos are recommended to users. Over the years, YouTube has made several updates to its algorithm, which have had a significant impact on content creators and publishers. In this article, we'll dive into the impact of YouTube's algorithm updates on content creators and publishers, and explore strategies to adapt and thrive in this ever-changing digital landscape.

This topic is hugely important because YouTube's algorithm updates have a significant impact on the visibility and success of content creators and publishers on the platform. With over 2 billion monthly active users and more than 500 hours of video uploaded every minute, YouTube is one of the most popular and competitive platforms for content creation and distribution. The algorithm updates can have a major impact on a channel's views, engagement, and revenue, making it crucial for creators and publishers to stay informed and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Background on YouTube's Algorithm

YouTube's algorithm is a complex system that determines which videos are recommended to users on the platform. It takes into account a variety of factors such as the viewer's watch history, search queries, and engagement with videos. The algorithm is designed to keep users on the platform for as long as possible, by recommending content that is relevant and engaging to each viewer. The algorithm also plays a significant role in determining the success of content creators and publishers on the platform.

YouTube's algorithm has undergone several changes over time. In the early years of YouTube, videos were ranked primarily based on view count, with the most viewed videos appearing at the top of search results and suggested videos. However, as the platform grew, YouTube realised that view count was not a perfect indicator of video quality or relevance to users.

In 2012, YouTube introduced the "Watch Time" metric, which measured the total amount of time users spent watching a video, rather than just the number of views. This change encouraged creators to make longer, more engaging videos that kept viewers on the platform for longer periods.

In 2016, YouTube announced a major update to its algorithm, dubbed "Machine Learning." This update incorporated deep neural networks and machine learning technology to better understand what users want to watch and to provide more personalised video recommendations.

More recently, in 2020, YouTube introduced several changes to its algorithm to promote "authoritative" sources of information and reduce the spread of misinformation on the platform. These changes included reducing recommendations of content that could "misinform users in harmful ways" and increasing the visibility of authoritative sources such as news organisations and medical experts.

So with all that being said, what are the key factors that YouTube’s algorithm takes into account when recommending videos?

  1. Relevance: The algorithm looks for videos that are relevant to a user's search query or viewing history.
  2. Engagement: The algorithm favours videos with high engagement, such as likes, comments, and shares.
  3. Watch time: The algorithm prioritises videos that keep users watching for longer periods.
  4. Video quality: The algorithm looks for well-produced videos, with good lighting, sound, and editing.
  5. Channel Authority: The algorithm favours videos from channels with a strong reputation for producing high-quality content.
  6. Viewer behaviour: The algorithm takes into account a user's past viewing behaviour, such as videos they've liked, commented on, or shared.
  7. Metadata: The algorithm considers the title, description, tags, and other metadata associated with a video.

Recent Algorithm Updates

One of the most significant updates occurred in 2021 when YouTube began testing a new feature that automatically hides dislikes on videos. This change was met with mixed reactions from the community, with some arguing that it protects creators from harassment and others claiming it reduces transparency and accountability.

Another recent update involves YouTube's focus on long-form content. The platform has begun promoting longer videos in its algorithm, with a particular emphasis on videos that keep viewers engaged for longer periods. This shift has encouraged some creators to prioritise longer videos in their content strategy, while others feel it places an undue burden on creators to produce longer content.

Additionally, YouTube has made changes to how it recommends videos to viewers. The platform has placed a greater emphasis on individual user preferences, such as watch history and liked videos, to provide personalised recommendations. This update has been largely well-received, with many creators reporting an increase in engagement and views as a result.

These updates have had a significant impact on content creators and publishers. For example, the change to hide dislikes has led to a shift in how creators approach viewer feedback and engagement, with some relying more heavily on comments and other metrics. The emphasis on longer-form content has also changed the way creators approach video production, with some shifting away from shorter, snackable content in favour of longer, more in-depth pieces.

Overall, the community's response to these updates has been mixed. While some have praised YouTube's efforts to improve the user experience and provide personalised recommendations, others have expressed concerns about the potential impact on creators and transparency. As the platform continues to evolve, it will be important for content creators and publishers to stay up to date with these changes and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Strategies for Content Creators and Publishers

As YouTube's algorithm continues to evolve, content creators and publishers need to stay up to date with the latest strategies for optimising their content. Here are some tips for maximising the impact of your videos on the platform:

  1. Focus on watch time: YouTube's algorithm heavily emphasises watch time, which is the amount of time viewers spend watching your videos. To increase your watch time, create compelling content that keeps viewers engaged from beginning to end. Consider adding hooks at the beginning of your videos to grab viewers' attention and keep them watching.
  2. Use descriptive and keyword-rich titles and tags: Make sure your video titles and tags accurately describe the content of your videos and include relevant keywords. This will help YouTube's algorithm understand what your videos are about and recommend them to the right audience.
  3. Pay attention to engagement metrics: In addition, to watch time, YouTube's algorithm also takes into account engagement metrics like likes, comments, and shares. Encourage viewers to engage with your content by asking questions, creating interactive elements like polls, and responding to comments.
  4. Keep a consistent posting schedule: Consistency is key on YouTube, and uploading videos on a regular schedule can help build a loyal audience. Aim to post at least once a week and consider creating a content calendar to plan your uploads.
  5. Analyse your data: Use YouTube's analytics tools to track the performance of your videos and see how viewers are engaging with your content. Pay attention to metrics like watch time, audience retention, and click-through rates, and use this data to inform future content creation and optimisation.

Successful content creators and publishers who have adapted to the algorithm changes include channels like MrBeast, who creates attention-grabbing and entertaining videos that keep viewers engaged, and Vox, who uses data-driven storytelling and high-quality production to stand out in a crowded field.

By implementing these strategies and staying up to date with the latest algorithm updates, content creators and publishers can continue to grow their audiences and succeed on YouTube.

Impact on the Industry

The impact of YouTube's algorithm updates extends beyond individual content creators and publishers, affecting the media industry as a whole. As YouTube continues to dominate the online video space, it has become a critical player in the digital media ecosystem. Any changes to its algorithm can have significant implications for the industry.

One of the most notable impacts of the algorithm updates is the increasing difficulty of achieving success on the platform for new and emerging creators. With the algorithm prioritising established channels with high engagement and watch time, it can be challenging for new creators to gain traction and grow their audience.

Additionally, the changes have created a more competitive landscape for publishers and brands looking to reach audiences on the platform. As YouTube's algorithm prioritises content that keeps viewers engaged and on the platform, publishers and brands must continuously refine their content strategies to remain relevant and visible.

Despite the challenges, many publishers and creators have adapted to the algorithm updates by focusing on creating high-quality, engaging content that aligns with their audience's interests. Many have also diversified their content strategy to include other platforms and mediums, reducing their reliance on YouTube alone.

Looking ahead, it is likely that YouTube will continue to refine and update its algorithm to better serve its audience and maintain its position as the top video-sharing platform. As such, publishers and creators must remain agile and adaptable to ensure their continued success on the platform and in the broader media industry.


YouTube's algorithm updates have had a significant impact on content creators and publishers. As the platform evolves, creators need to stay informed and adapt their strategies accordingly. YouTube's algorithm takes into account several factors, including relevance, engagement, watch time, video quality, channel authority, viewer behaviour, and metadata. Recent algorithm updates have involved a focus on longer-form content, personalised recommendations based on user preferences, and the automatic hiding of dislikes on videos. To maximise the impact of their content, creators should focus on watch time, use descriptive and keyword-rich titles and tags, promote engagement through calls to action, collaborate with other creators, and stay up to date with the latest trends and best practices. While the impact of these updates may be mixed, creators who adapt to these changes and continue to produce high-quality content will likely succeed on the platform.