It’s sink or swim when creating content for YouTube. Check out the first installment of our three-part guide so you can stay afloat.

If you’re looking to expand your business’s social media reach, YouTube is a great place to start. With mobile video consumption growing by 100% every year and nearly two-thirds of customers more likely to buy a product after watching a video related to it, producing high-quality, high-impact video content has never been more important.

But entering a media landscape that’s already begun the pivot to video can be daunting. Check out our three-part series on the subject to gain a better understanding of what makes for a stable, successful YouTube strategy.

Understanding the Ranking Algorithm

YouTube judges content based on key metrics, and in turn, these metrics determine what videos are promoted to which users. So, if you want your content to succeed, it’s vital that you understand what makes your video rank highly for certain users while barely surfacing for others.

Before getting into the specific metrics at play, it’s helpful to know a bit more about YouTube’s algorithm. According to YouTube itself, 80 billion bits of feedback from the platform’s audience are collected daily, which are then used to detect larger patterns in viewer behavior. The algorithm that determines what is displayed to users is adjusted based on these patterns.

This means that your efforts are best spent focusing on how to appeal to your audience, rather than how to appeal to the algorithm. If users enjoy your content and keep coming back to it, there’s a greater chance that your videos, and your channel in general, will rank highly. That’s crucial, because YouTube doesn’t just rank videos that it thinks users want to watch in the here and now — it ranks content based on what it thinks will drive the long-term engagement of users. In other words, the algorithm is structured to help you build a community around your brand that has staying power.

Each View is Different

Originally, YouTube ranked videos based on the total number of clicks and views they generated. Eventually, however, they got savvy to the fact that views mean different things for different users. While a user may have clicked on a video and loaded it, they may not have been very engaged, or they may not have even watched most of the video. It’s easy to point to video views as a key metric of success, but YouTube no longer just considers total views when ranking videos — it considers the quality of each of those views.

By adding watch time as a key metric, YouTube has given content creators a more three-dimensional understanding of how users engage with videos — and a better chance at expanding their Youtube footprints in a meaningful way. As you shape your online presence, catering to users’ preferences will help the algorithm drive a larger audience to your channel.

Promoting Viewer Engagement

In addition to getting your content in front of your desired audience and upping the odds that they watch it all the way through, it’s also necessary to analyze how users engage with your brand in more nuanced ways.

If your subscriber base is increasing, that’s a good indication that you’re building a community that’s not only interested, but invested in your product. Subscribers are more than just another metric, however — they’re the engine by which your content gets shared. And, if you put out videos with regularity, you’ll be able to build and engage a loyal band of followers. Subscribers, importantly, are a dependable driver of comments and likes, both of which feed into YouTube’s ranking algorithm.

YouTube likes, dislikes, and comments are a good indicator of whether your content is driving conversations, and can be a key way for you to foster a community around your brand. People often think of YouTube comment sections as peripheral — unrelated to the content at hand. While you’ll certainly have to wade through the occasional trollish remark, try treating these comments the same way you would on other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — as a reflection of your target consumers’ preferences and a roadmap for the creation of future video content.

By keeping tabs on how long viewers watch your content, what makes them subscribe, and how they engage with your online presence, you can develop a long-term strategy to keep your target audience happy and involved. In turn, YouTube will learn what your viewers enjoy, making it more likely that the algorithm recommends your content to new users.

Author Jake Dawe

Jake works with our clients and L&T's content management team to create and publish cogent, effective marketing content. A recent graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies, Jake pursued independent research that traced the evolving voice of ``Shouts and Murmurs`` over ninety years. When he's not writing and editing, Jake is probably watching The Crown or making up for four years of lost pleasure reading. Thanks, college.

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