How the YouTube Shorts Algorithm Works

With a great understanding of the YouTube Shorts algorithm, you’ll be better able to optimize your content and find success on the platform!

A cursory scroll on YouTube will see you find short, vertical videos popping up on your feed. Inspired by the likes of TikTok and Instagram Reels, these short-form videos are the platform’s answer to the growing appetite for bite-sized vertical video content. 

It’s no surprise that you’re seeing more brands and content creators pivoting to YouTube Shorts. Since first launching in 2021, they’ve seen a year-on-year growth of 135%. Now, YouTube Shorts receive over 50 billion views per day, with the appetite for consumption greatly outpacing the number of Shorts being uploaded to the platform. 

With so many Shorts already on the platform, successfully cutting through the noise to see your content rank among the top might sound impossible. Because the algorithm relies on a series of signals based on metrics gathered from a user’s interactions and watch history to then determine how to organize content on their feed, your content can rank highly. 

Here, we’ll break down everything you need to know about the YouTube Shorts algorithm and the top tricks and tips to optimize your content so it finds its best audience. Let’s dive in!

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What you need to know about the YouTube Shorts algorithm

The first thing you need to know is that the algorithm for YouTube Shorts is different from the main YouTube algorithm for long-form videos. 

The Shorts algorithm operates on two key principles: explore and exploit. Unlike YouTube’s long-form videos, where users proactively choose which video to watch and then have suggestions come up after viewing, Shorts appear as videos displayed in a continuous feed. Users just swipe up to see the next video in the queue, leaving the decision-making to the algorithm. 

By first exploring the value of a Short by exposing it to a targeted, small audience, the algorithm will assess if this group engages well. Should it have high engagement, it will then be exploited and shown to a broader audience, skyrocketing your views. All of this, however, hinges on several key factors that influence how YouTube Shorts ranks in the algorithm. These include:

  • Viewed vs swiped away: When a video appears in a user’s feed, they’ll either stop to watch it or carry on scrolling. This is the metric that measures just that, allowing the algorithm to discern those videos with high engagement and those without.
  • Watch history: To increase relevance and the potential for engagement, the algorithm will determine what content appears on a user’s feed based on the content they’ve previously interacted with. While only a prediction, the algorithm chooses content it thinks the user will enjoy.
  • Post frequency: While many will debate how many Shorts should be posted daily, the algorithm favors quality over quantity. Rather than post countless videos daily, focus on creating content that has your target audience in mind and resonates with their interests.
  • Relevance: The algorithm will display on a user’s feed Shorts they believe are relevant to the user’s interests, as these videos are likely to have higher engagement and watch times than those not related to their interests.
  • Engagement: Whether through comments, shares, likes or watch time, the more a user engages with a type of Short, the more of that particular category they’ll then see. 

How to optimize your YouTube Shorts videos

Now that you know how the YouTube Shorts algorithm works, you can focus on creating content that engages audiences and appeals to their interests. Follow these tips to maximize your YouTube Shorts videos for the algorithm!

Video length

Initial findings suggest that the longer your YouTube Shorts, the higher the view count. The reports found that those where the average view duration was higher than 50 seconds averaged 4.1 million views, which seems to suggest that those Shorts between 50 and 60 seconds perform better than shorter ones. 

The caveat here, however, is that ultimately the magic formula isn’t in abiding by a set length but rather in ensuring you convey your message effectively within that time. 

You need to hook viewers and deliver the key message within the first three seconds. If your video doesn’t have an attention-grabbing opening, viewers are more likely to swipe away. 

Take this example from stylist and influencer Carla Rockmore as inspiration for your Shorts. In this video, she immediately opens with a question posed to the audience and then proceeds to show her solution. It’s a fun way to grab the audience’s attention and keep them watching, invested as they are in the outcome. 

Content Relevance 

As well as ensuring your Shorts are curated to the needs of your ideal audience, you can also maintain relevance by capitalizing on trends. From trending songs to challenges and memes, using formats that are currently trending is a great way to maintain relevance and attract views. 

In his Shorts, creator Nathan Lust used the trending “I’m Just Ken” and the surging popularity of the Barbie movie. It paid off, with the video garnering more than 4.7 million views and 1,500 comments.  


Many focus so much on the content of their Shorts, that they forget about the thumbnail entirely, choosing any standalone image that does little to entice audiences to your video. Instead, consider the thumbnail like the movie poster for your Shorts content. It should be high-quality, captivating, and related to the content of your video. 

Take this example of a strong thumbnail from baker Audrey Saurus. When sharing a Short of how to make chocolate chip cookies, Audrey uses a high-quality thumbnail of the baked cookie so audiences don’t just see what the finished product looks like but are encouraged to keep watching to see the steps involved in the baking process.

Video Metadata

Metadata is all the SEO information about a video that helps it rank higher in search results and user feeds. For creators, you can optimize your video’s metadata by including a strong video title and description that features keywords and relevant hashtags. 

Consider the example from makeup artist Nicola Chapman, whose Short for “Super simple 40-second smokey eye” has garnered more than 70,000 views. The title is rich in keywords relevant to the video, while the description includes hashtags that are industry-specific and tailored to her target audience. Nicola also uses a captivating thumbnail that is a great indicator of the content of the video and directly relates to the title. 

Show up Consistently

You’re more likely to boost visibility across your YouTube Shorts and grow your audience if you’re posting consistently. However, quality will always win over quantity, so while it’s important to post frequently, you want to ensure the content is relevant to your target audience. 

Admittedly, showing up consistently with content that’s relevant to your audience and video metadata you’ve optimized can be a challenging feat – especially when it comes on top of other social media commitments. But with Plann, you can now schedule your YouTube Shorts, allowing you to show up on the platform consistently as you capitalize on the incredible growth potential of this new short-form video format. 

YouTube Shorts Algorithms FAQs

How does YouTube know what Shorts to show viewers?

The YouTube Shorts algorithm gathers metrics on a user’s watch history and engagement with similar content. Coupled with the views a creator’s Shorts has, they will then recommend Shorts in the feeds of users based on these factors as they deem the content to be most relevant to the user. 

How do I get more views on YouTube Shorts?

As stated above, optimizing your content for YouTube Shorts can help boost visibility and get you more views across the platform. This involves using a strong thumbnail, and clear description that tap into SEO keywords and relevant hashtags, as well as conveying your message within the first three seconds of the video. 

Is there a trick to viral YouTube Shorts?

Ultimately, the greatest success you’ll find in achieving viral YouTube Shorts is focusing on quality. Create content that is relevant to your audience and be sure to have an engaging opening that captures their attention so they want to keep watching. Following the tips above will also steer you towards success! 

Boost your YouTube Shorts performance with Plann

Whether you’re struggling to keep up with the fast-paced nature of social media or simply want to devote more time to growing your business and focusing on those tasks that take place offline, Plann’s range of features is sure to help save you time with an automated social media strategy. 

From AI-generated captions to cross-posting, analytics, hashtags and more, Plann can help you maintain a consistent posting schedule while you remain focused on business growth. 

Go on, and redeem your 7-day free trial of Plann Plus. If you don’t like it, keep using Plann for free!

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