This week, YouTube unveiled a comprehensive video aimed at addressing the myriad questions that have arisen among its content creators regarding its short-form video platform, YouTube Shorts. These inquiries span a wide spectrum, ranging from the intricate mechanics of the Shorts algorithm, distinct from its long-form counterpart, to what constitutes a view, along with an array of best practices for creators aspiring to harness the full potential of the Shorts platform.
While YouTube has remained discreet about divulging the precise intricacies of its algorithm, a step taken openly by competitors like TikTok and Instagram, it did proffer a wealth of high-level insights designed to illuminate the path for creators venturing into the realm of Shorts.
Moreover, Sherman highlighted an intriguing deviation in the definition of a ‘view’ within the Shorts ecosystem compared to certain other platforms. On some platforms, the mere viewing of the first frame suffices to register a ‘view.’ However, Shorts adopts a more nuanced perspective, considering a view as reflective of a user’s genuine intent to watch the content, thereby introducing a threshold of meaningful engagement. Although the exact view threshold remains undisclosed, YouTube deliberately refrains from sharing this information, primarily to deter attempts at gaming the system.
Sherman emphasized that there isn’t a prescribed video length that inherently augments a creator’s chances of gaining visibility within the Shorts landscape. Instead, creators are encouraged to focus on the optimal duration necessary to convey their narrative effectively. However, Shorts steadfastly maintains its commitment to content durations of 60 seconds or less, preserving a clear demarcation from its parent platform, YouTube. This stance differs from TikTok, a key rival, which has ventured into longer video formats after pioneering the short-form genre.
An additional noteworthy tidbit from the Product Lead is YouTube’s counsel against the creation of custom thumbnails for Shorts, a practice commonly observed on the long-form YouTube platform. The rationale behind this guidance is that, in the Shorts experience, most thumbnails are obscured, serving merely as an entry point. Once users are engaged in the swiping interface, these thumbnails remain hidden from view. On the topic of hashtags, Sherman acknowledged their potential significance but noted the difficulty of offering a generalized recommendation, given the diverse nature of content on the platform.
Surprisingly, Sherman dispelled the notion of optimizing the timing of video publication on Shorts, except in cases where real-time relevance, as seen in news content, is crucial. The quantity of Shorts produced also failed to emerge as a pivotal factor in gaining traction; quality invariably trumps quantity.
Furthermore, Sherman shed light on the enigmatic phenomenon of Shorts videos taking off and subsequently witnessing a decline in view counts, a perplexing issue that has prompted creator frustrations. According to him, various facets of the algorithm are tasked with identifying suitable audiences for a video. Sometimes, these algorithms successfully locate an initial audience that resonates with the content, resulting in a surge of traffic. However, the subsequent trajectory depends on user engagement and preferences, leading to either sustained popularity or a gradual tapering of views.
Crucially, Sherman discouraged creators from resorting to the practice of deleting and reposting Shorts in an attempt to spark virality, as this behavior is generally perceived as spammy.
Contrary to concerns about Shorts cannibalizing long-form content, YouTube has articulated its intention to facilitate the seamless integration of Shorts with long-form videos, with plans to enable creators to link between the two formats by the end of September. However, it’s worth noting that the platform recently disabled links in other parts of the Shorts experience as a preventive measure against spam.
Beyond Shorts, YouTube has unveiled plans to test a novel feature. Channels with a prolific upload schedule, characterized by multiple concurrent uploads, will have their content bundled together on a dedicated shelf. This approach allows viewers to explore the entire gamut of a channel’s offerings without inundating their subscriptions feed with numerous individual videos, demonstrating YouTube’s commitment to improving the user experience across its diverse content landscape.