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The end of 2016 was a bit… tumultuous on the Youtube front, with big youtubers such as PewDiePie threatening to delete his channel when he hit 50 million subs (spoiler alert: he didn’t), complaining about the Youtube unsub glitch and the recent Youtube Algorithm change. Other big creators jumped on the bandwagon, publishing videos about how this Youtube Algorithm change is affecting their views and subscribers, citing an approximate 30%-60% loss in views.

Even after scouring the internet for various sources about this supposed youtube algorithm change, I couldn’t find official confirmation from Youtube that there was, in fact, a change. All I found was this vague update from Youtube from December 5th that more or less denied that there was an algorithm change. I then looked to youtube and various creator videos on what they thought was happening. The responses varied, most agreed that there was an algorithm change, and some creators were more positive about the change than others. Analytics don’t lie, and I do believe that creators such as PieDiePie are experiencing the decrease in views. However, Roberto Blake, in his video explaining the Youtube Algorithm changes, cited that his views had increased, almost doubled.

So, why is that? Here are some of my own thoughts after my internet search and watching/listening to videos from both sides of the “story,” as well as how creators (especially small creators like me) can potentially benefit from this change.

SEO: Title, Tag, Description

Most big youtubers fail to optimize SEO. For example, in one of PieDiePie’s recent videos, titled “Started a Fire in the Building! (Experiment Gone Wrong)“, there were only a handful of relevant tags, none of which really allow me to tell you what the video is about without having first watched it (in case you are wondering where I got this list of tags, it is a chrome extension called VidIQ that allows me to see what tags creators are using for each video):

youtube algorithm change 2016

The numbers next to the tags “pewdiepie” and “pewdie” indicate the order that this video will show up in if those terms were typed into the Youtube search bar. While ranking 1st in the searches for two of the terms is good, there are much better ways to optimize the video tags feature on Youtube.

So, what exactly is PewDiePie doing wrong? Here are just two things:

  • Failure to take advantage of the tag feature to the max–Youtube will allow you to type in 500 characters total for tags. That’s a measly 80 characters up there.
  • Using one to two word long tags instead of actual search terms. Three to four word long tags are the best, and these tags should be terms that people type into the search bar. For example, “hot glowing knife experiment,” or even, “experiments gone wrong” might actually rank higher in Youtube search than “glowing knife” alone or “experiment” alone. These tags should give me an idea of what I’m watching before I even start watching it.

Those are the two things I could see right off the bat. If you’re interested in seeing more on how to optimize your SEO, check out Roberto Blake’s video on Youtube tags and getting more views–he is very knowledgable in SEO and is practically an expert.

This “lack of tagging well” is prevalent amongst big Youtubers (especially those with more than a million subscribers)–they often use one word tags and just their username. As several of the videos I’ve watched mentioned, this Youtube Algorithm change favored videos that are tagged right–the thing is, a platform like Youtube should accurately videos to viewers based on their interests. If videos are tagged right, they have a higher chance of getting discovered by viewers because, for example, if I had searched “how to set up recording studio,” and watched a video from that search, I would subsequently be suggested videos with similar tags such as “setting up recording studio” or “recording studio set up.” Videos tagged with a random username or simply “studio” or “recording” will be less likely to be shown to me.

Another thing big creators fail to do well is optimizing their descriptions–many only put their social media links. These have a very similar impact to tags, and I now am starting to put blog-style posts (albeit, they are shorter) in my description boxes, filling it with relevant and quality information for my viewers, but making sure to repeat the “key phases” several times within. Going back to the recording studio set up example, I might have a few paragraphs in the description going along the lines of, “Hey guys, today I will be showing you guys how to set up my home recording studio. Recording studios can be pricey, but they really don’t have to be! // For my recording studio setup, I use a mxl 770 condenser mic…..” etc. Again, I highly recommend looking at Roberto Blake’s video on optimizing SEO for your youtube channel. Since starting to do it a few weeks ago, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the views of some of my popular videos, including my college admissions story and my recording studio set up videos. The latter is still growing in views by about a hundred a day–and I am not a big channel by any means, I have less than 1000 subscribers.

Times Change…

and so does audience preferences. As Tim from Video Creator mentioned in his video, audiences get bored… if you’re doing something that you’ve been doing since 2009, then it may be time to change some of that. Also, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself or your brand. Audiences might not go for 180-degree, completely drastic changes, but they do want a little something different every once in a while. So experiment… algorithm change or not, this is still what you should be doing. Keep your audience on their toes and release new and exciting content. Casey Neistat, a wildly successful vlogger, quit vlogging because he felt creatively bored and wanted to do something different. He changed up his content before his channel could ever start declining… and his channel seems unaffected by the Youtube algorithm change–they’re still garnering millions and millions of views, some doing even better than pre-Algorithm-change videos from two months ago:

View counts

Combatting the Youtube Algorithm Change

From my research and my own experiences so far, I’m unconvinced that Youtube has made a drastic change to their algorithm. After all, it’s always easier to blame an external force that you have no control over rather than reflect in yourself and think about what you could improve upon. I DO believe that Youtube needs to be more transparent about the changes they make and communicate with their creators, both big and small, about improving the platform. But just in case that the Youtube Algorithm change is a thing that’s affecting you, here’s a couple things you can do (and always should do):

  • Reinvent yourself, your content. It may not work right away. In fact, if your experience ends up being anything like mine, you may even end up losing viewers–but fear not. You will get new ones.
  • Make sure your SEO is done correctly! There are so many resources out there that can help you achieve that. And having appropriate title, description, and tags is the best thing you can do to help your videos get discovered.

I hope this article is helpful. Leave your comments/thoughts down BELOW!