YouTube Search is Now Optimized For Time Watched — Should Creators Be Worried?

As I’m sure you all know, YouTube has been going through a lot of changes, and it seems that with every single change they make, independent creators get more and more worried about their channels’ fates. With that being said, YouTube announced last Friday that they’ve started adjusting YouTube search rankings to prioritize “engaging videos that keep viewers watching.” YouTube claims they’ve made this adjustment based on the positive results they’ve received during their experiments.

Does this mean that only longer videos would be favored over shorter ones!?

While this is the general concern amongst the commenters on the original post, YouTube emphasizes that this adjustment is designed to drive more viewing time across YouTube. While I can’t speak on behalf of YouTube, I don’t think this means that they are favoring longer videos — they are mainly trying to make sure that the videos on their site make viewers stay on YouTube. So basically, if Ryan Higa were to make a 10-second video, and viewers then clicked to watch another one of his videos, that is something YouTube would see as a positive.

The word “engagement” could also mean differently to YouTube and Creators

While I don’t speak for everyone, I do believe that “increasing engagement” to a typical creator means getting more likes/dislikes, comments, questions, messages to their channel. For YouTube, however, my hunch is that “engagement” to them means more people viewing more videos, and conversely, less people leaving the YouTube website. YouTube is merely trying to decrease the bounce rate to their site as much as they can. Does this make them bad people? Definitely not. The reason is because this is the common goal for any web page on the Internet. When you create something online, whether it’s a webpage, blog, tool, or something else, you obviously want to make sure people won’t leave it! This is exactly why you can only annotate videos hosted internally on YouTube (for now at least).

What can creators do to adapt?

No matter what, YouTube will never be the way it was when it first started. It’s gotten way too big to get back to that point, and it’s getting bigger every day by the minute. The same thing happened to Facebook — what was once a community for college students has turned into a giant social network full of diverse people all over the world. Regardless of what changes YouTube will make in the future, you, as a creator, will have to get more creative to make sure that your viewers navigate through your videos. The BIGGEST adjustment you could make is taking advantage of adding a call-to-action (annotation) at the end of all your videos. In hindsight, the basic formula should be:

Let me know what you guys think about this change in the comments below.

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