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Get The Inside Scoop On Driving Your Shorts Success!

YouTube has recently shared some valuable insights about its Shorts algorithm in an interview with Todd Sherman, who leads the YouTube Shorts product. The aim of this conversation was to help creators better understand how the Shorts algorithm works, and how it differs from the algorithm used for longer videos on YouTube.

In this article, we'll break down the key points discussed during the 11-minute conversation. We'll explore the importance of creating content that resonates with your audience, clarify what actually counts as a 'view,' and explain how decisions about video length and customization can impact your Shorts' performance.

Additionally, we'll cover some common questions, like the role of hashtags, how often you should post Shorts, and how long your Shorts are likely to stay in the spotlight on the platform. Keep on scrolling for answers!

The Algorithm and Your Audience

A laptop displaying Youtube's homepage

Is the algorithm governing short-form content the same as that for long-form content? Sherman indicates that there are distinctions between the two. While the concept of "don't think algorithm, think audience" holds true for both, it's essential to recognize that short-form content operates within a unique format.

In the context of long-form content, viewers often make active choices by tapping on videos via mobile devices or clicking on them when using a web browser. This deliberate selection process significantly influences engagement with long-form content.

In contrast, short-form content is primarily consumed as users swipe through a feed, discovering content in a more fluid manner. This distinction leads to differences in measurement and engagement tracking, as the platform adapts its algorithms to accommodate the distinctive behavior patterns of short-form content consumers.

Defining a "View"

In the context of the industry as a whole, different platforms have varying methods for tallying views. On certain platforms, a view is equivalent to the very first frame of a video, essentially equating to impressions. However, the goal with the view metric is to gauge the viewer's intent, ensuring that it reflects a conscious decision to engage with the content. It doesn't necessarily imply that the video is their all-time favorite; it simply signifies a deliberate choice to watch.

Behind the scenes, several factors come into play. For example, whether the viewer actively clicked to watch the video differs from stumbling upon it in a feed. Moreover, factors like the duration of engagement contribute to determining whether the view threshold is met.

'Viewed vs Swiped Away' metric on YouTube

Within YouTube analytics, there exists a metric referred to as "viewed vs swiped away." This metric offers a nuanced perspective distinct from the click-through rate and serves as a valuable tool for content creators to assess how many people are genuinely engaging with their shorts. Whether crafting a concise 15-second video or a slightly longer 60-second one, the ability to capture the viewer's attention in those initial moments remains of utmost importance.

Optimal Length for Short Videos

When considering the optimal length for a short video, the key question arises: Does a shorter duration guarantee viewers will watch the entire clip, or is holding their attention for a longer duration more impressive and likely to lead to promotion?

The critical factor to keep in mind here is the narrative you want to convey. Instead of fixating on hitting an exact duration, the platform's overarching goal is to ensure that videos of any length receive the viewership they deserve over time.

If you're wondering whether there are plans to extend the length of shorts. While YouTube already hosts a wealth of longer-form content, many creators express a desire for more flexibility in short video lengths. Some may prefer 90 seconds, while others envision two minutes or even five minutes for their content. However, there's a recognition that expanding short video lengths could inadvertently replicate the extensive content library already present on YouTube. Hence, the platform's focus remains firmly on maintaining short videos at 60 seconds and under.

Thumbnail Customisations

A person launching the YouTube app on their iPhone

In discussions surrounding thumbnail customization on YouTube, there are two distinct perspectives to consider. On one side of the spectrum, there are content creators who seek complete control over every aspect of their YouTube presentation. Conversely, there's a second group of creators who find themselves spending an extensive amount of time creating numerous thumbnail variations—sometimes up to 30 iterations—for a single video. This thumbnail-intensive process can consume a significant chunk of their time, potentially impacting their overall content creation pipeline.

Sherman highlights the challenge of striking a balance between these two approaches. While being featured on the shorts shelf is undoubtedly valuable, it's important to note that most traffic within the shorts algorithm is generated through the feed. Viewers typically scroll through their feed, swiping and consuming shorts, and may not always notice or engage with custom thumbnails.

In light of this observation, rather than opening up the option for creators to customize thumbnails, YouTube's approach leans towards simplification. The rationale is that since most thumbnails may go unnoticed in the feed, it's not necessary for creators to overcommit resources to thumbnail creation. Instead, the effort and time saved can be channeled into creating more content—an approach that aligns with the platform's goal of supporting content creators in their video production endeavors.

Utilizing Hashtags

Are hashtags a necessary component of content on the platform? Not necessarily. However, when it comes to their significance, it's a nuanced matter that can't be uniformly applied to all content verticals and creators.

In the discussion, it's pointed out that the relevance of hashtags varies depending on the context. In some instances, hashtags may be closely linked to real-world events or trends, essentially functioning as a way to associate content with these occurrences. In such cases, they serve as markers of noteworthy events and can be a valuable addition.

Conversely, hashtags can also be focused on specific topics, contributing to content categorization and discoverability. In both scenarios, the suggestion is for creators to consider incorporating hashtags where appropriate, aligning their use with the content's context and the potential benefits they can bring to content visibility and engagement.

Does Timing Matter?

A yoga instructor making a video for her YouTube channel on her phone.

The time of day doesn't factor prominently into the optimization strategy. However, it's noted that freshness can be more critical for certain types of content. For instance, when it comes to news-focused content, timeliness becomes a key consideration. This aspect is less about the specific time of day and more about the ability to swiftly respond to current events.

Another question often raised is whether posting a high quantity of shorts daily is essential for gaining attention. Sherman provides a nuanced perspective on this matter, emphasizing that there's no fixed rule. The platform doesn't employ a system where reaching a particular daily threshold unlocks any hidden benefits. Instead, it's suggested that focusing on quality over quantity is generally a more effective approach. Posting numerous lower-quality videos that receive minimal engagement might not yield the desired results. Instead, investing energy in creating higher-quality, engaging content, even if it means producing fewer videos, is encouraged.

The interview also delves into the phenomenon where shorts may experience a sudden surge in views, followed by a drop-off. This pattern is attributed to the platform's algorithmic mechanisms, which aim to connect creators with their target audience. Sometimes, these algorithms identify an initial set of viewers who might enjoy the content, resulting in an initial traffic boost. Depending on how this initial engagement fares, the video's visibility may either continue to grow or gradually decline.

A question frequently posed by creators is whether it's advisable to delete and repost shorts that didn't take off as expected. The interview advises against this approach, as it carries the risk of being viewed as spam by the platform's systems. Instead, it's recommended that creators learn from their experiences, adapt their strategies, and move forward by trying again with fresh content.

Final Words

The core insights from the conversation revolve around audience understanding, content quality, and making the most of Shorts' unique features.

Here are the key takeaways to remember:

Prioritize Your Audience: The Shorts algorithm's primary goal is to connect viewers with content they find valuable. Focus on comprehending and serving your audience rather than attempting to manipulate the algorithm.

Intentional Views: Not every scroll through a video counts as a view; what matters is the viewer's intent while watching.

Storytelling Trumps Duration: There's no fixed ideal duration for a Short. Instead, concentrate on crafting engaging narratives that hold viewers' attention.

Quality Trumps Quantity: Posting a specific number of Shorts won't guarantee success. Emphasize quality over quantity to stand out.


Well, aren’t we glad you asked! We at DigiCom are obsessive data-driven marketers pulling from multi-disciplinary strategies to unlock scale. We buy media across all platforms and placements and provide creative solutions alongside content creation, and conversion rate optimizations. We pride ourselves on your successes and will stop at nothing to help you grow.


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