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YouTube Algorithm: 6 Questions Answered

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YouTube is sharing more details about how its search and recommendation algorithms work in a new video where the company answers questions from users.

The YouTube team published a similar video earlier this month, though its newest video answers an all-new set of questions.

There’s quite a bit of material to go over so let’s get right into it.

Impact of Changing Titles & Thumbnails

If a video isn’t performing well, would it help to change the title and thumbnail? Or would that make the algorithm lose confidence in the video?

YouTube absolutely recommends changing the way a title or thumbnail looks, as it can be an effective way to get more views.

That’s generally because the video looks different to viewers and that’s going to change how people interact with it when it’s offered in their recommendations. YouTube’s algorithm then responds to the change in user behavior, not the act of changing the title or thumbnail.

The act of changing a title or thumbnail does not inherently trigger YouTube to increase the impressions for a video. It’s all about how users respond to the change.

In general, making changes to a video is only recommended when it has both a lower click-through rate and it’s receiving fewer views and impressions than usual.

Algorithm Response to Old/Inactive Subscribers

Can old/inactive subscribers negatively affect the performance of a video? The concern is this could lead to a lower CTR, which may result in the video not being recommended as much.

YouTube’s recommendation algorithm doesn’t focus on the subscription feed as a primary signal. The algorithm is focused on how well a video performs in the context it’s shown in.

Ranking on the home page, for example, is based on how well that video performed when shown on other users’ home pages.

YouTube’s algorithm understands which viewers have not watched a channel’s content in a long time, and will avoid showing content from that channel to inactive subscribers.

So inactive subscribers are not something channel owners should be worried about.

How is a total subscriber count relevant if YouTube won’t push out content to all subscribers based on their inactivity/lack of engagement on the channel. Shouldn’t videos be pushed out to someone unless they unsubscribe?

YouTube’s recommendation system does not push videos out to anyone. What it does is pull videos in and ranks them for users based on what they’re most likely to watch.

Subscribers are one of many signals used to rank videos for users. It testing, YouTube found prioritizing content from channels a user subscribes to dramatically reduces how many videos users watch and how often they come back to YouTube.

That’s why YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is designed to recommend content users are likely to watch, regardless of whether it’s published by channels a user subscribes to.

Related: YouTube Reveals New Details About its Algorithm

YouTube Search Results

How does YouTube rank search results?

Just like Google’s search engine, search on YouTube has a similar goal where it wants to show users the most relevant results for their queries.

Videos are ranked in YouTube search according to a variety of factors, but the most important factors are relevance and performance.

Relevance is how well the title, description, and content of a video match the user’s query.

Performance is related to which videos users chose to watch after conducting similar queries.

YouTube’s algorithm also considers engagement metrics such as how long and how much of a video users choose to watch.

To clarify, YouTube’s search results are not a list of the most viewed results for a given query. It’s more about which videos are the most relevant and which videos a user is most likely to watch.

Related: Google Explains How YouTube Search Works

Multiple Languages on the Same Channel

Can uploading videos in two different languages on the same channel affect how videos from that channel are recommended by YouTube?

Uploading in different languages on the same channel can be confusing to viewers. For that reason, YouTube recommends creating separate channels for each language.

However, if the channel specifically caters to an audience that speaks multiple languages, then keeping all content on the same channel makes sense.

Importance of Watch-Time

Does it take a certain amount of hours of watch-time before a video is recommended by YouTube’s algorithm?

There’s no particular threshold a video needs to meet before it starts getting recommended.

Channels may notice some of their videos gaining momentum months after being published because it’s common for users to show interest in old videos. This could be because a particular topic is rising in popularity, or new viewers of a channel may be going back and watching previous videos.

Most users do not watch videos in the order of most recent, or decide what they want to watch based on when it was published. So a user’s home page will often contain videos published weeks, months, or even years ago.

See YouTube’s full Q&A video below:

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GOOGLE

Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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