YouTube released a new one this week video designed to answer creators’ questions about its short-form video platform, YouTube Shorts. Questions it answered ranged from how the algorithm for Shorts differs from YouTube’s long-form algorithm to what counts as views, to other best practices for creators looking to maximize their potential on Shorts. .
While YouTube hasn’t necessarily revealed its secret sauce by posting details of the algorithm, as TikTok and Instagram have, it has still offered some high-level insights aimed at guiding creators in making videos for Shorts.
According to Shorts product lead, Todd Sherman, the Shorts algorithm is different from the long-form algorithm where people tap on videos to watch, essentially making a specific choice which then generates more recommendations. But on Shorts, people scroll through content not knowing what’s coming next. While both recommendation systems are designed to feature videos that people will like and enjoy, the Shorts feed prioritizes a more diverse feed because people browse hundreds of videos versus the Long format’s 10 or 20.
Sherman also noted that not all flips in Shorts count as views, unlike some other platforms where the first frame view counts as a view. (TikTok counts views as soon as a video starts playing, it says). On Shorts, however, the view is meant to reflect that the user intended to watch the view, so the creators have a “meaningful threshold” that indicates that someone intended to watch the view.
The company, however, doesn’t publish what its viewing threshold is, because it changes it from time to time and doesn’t want people trying to make fun of the system.
Additionally, Sherman said there is no certain length that benefits creators in showing their videos: Instead, creators should think about how much time they need to tell their story. But he also stressed that the Shorts will remain focused on videos that are 60 seconds or less, so as not to blur the lines with YouTube itself. This differs from rival TikTok, which experimented with allowing creators to record longer videos after popularizing the short-form format.
Another interesting insight offered by the product lead was that YouTube doesn’t want the creators of Short to bother creating custom thumbnails like they do on YouTube, because most thumbnails are never seen. The Shorts Video Shelf where thumbnails will appear is just a gateway to the Shorts experience, but once you scroll through it, you won’t see thumbnails for other videos. He also added that hashtags can be useful and meaningful and that creators should use them, but it’s hard to generalize this advice.
Time of day in publishing is also not a factor to optimize, except for someone focused on news where the freshness of the information shared would be important. Even the quantity of Shorts published is not a determining factor in gaining popularity: it is more a matter of quality than quantity.
Sherman also explained why the Shorts sometimes take off and then the view count drops, leading the creators to complain they were “stuck.”
“There are parts of the algorithm that try to find people, find creators and audiences,” Sherman explained. “And sometimes these algorithms can actually find an initial audience, a group of people who might like your video. And depending on how it goes, the traffic might gradually go up or down,” she said.
He also advised against deleting and republishing Shorts in an attempt to get them off the ground, given the risk of it being seen as spam.
The company says it doesn’t view Shorts as cannibalizing long-form videos, but rather plans to introduce ways that will allow creators to link their Shorts to their long-form videos by the end of September. However, it recently disabled links elsewhere in the Shorts experience as a spam prevention measure.
Elsewhere on YouTube, the company says it will be testing a new feature where channels that upload heavily, such as those with multiple current uploads, will have them all grouped together on a shelf. This way, viewers can explore everything from that channel but it won’t push other videos down in the subscription feed.