Whenever you watch a video about how to be successful on YouTube and why your videos aren’t performing, you’ll always here that “YouTube’s algorithm just shows people what they want to see.” You’ll be told all about how YouTube does a fantastic job of figuring out what kind of content people want and funneling the vast majority of user traffic towards that content. If your channel is failing then it’s because you’re doing something wrong. It’s always your fault and never YouTube’s fault. If you just put more work into getting it right and giving your viewers what they want then you’ll definitely succeed at showing the algorithm that your content is worthy of becoming the next big thing on YouTube.
This is a lie. I know from experience.
My YouTube channel spent many years “at the bottom.” I made a video in 2021 about a hot topic at the time: Windows 11 and how the sinister requirements Microsoft published for running it fit into a greater threat to general-purpose computing (TCPA, Palladium, Trusted Computing, you name it) that has been brewing since at least 2003. There was no shortage of Windows 11 coverage in the news when I published that video one week before it went release-to-manufacturing (RTM). The cutoff for upgrading was absurdly high, only allowing PCs built in the past 3-4 years to get it. The noise around Windows 11’s release should have shoveled heaps of traffic at my video. Instead, the first 300 days of publication on YouTube only caught about 20,000 views.
Then something crazy happened. Near the end of April 2022, 2 months shy of a year after publication, the video began taking in THOUSANDS of new views daily, then TENS OF THOUSANDS of new views. The view count had doubled by the end of April. 18 days later, the view count had literally multiplied by 10 times. Two months later, the meteoric rise in view counts slowed at 1.66 million views, finally settling down in the 1.8 million view range.
If YouTube’s algorithm really shows the viewer what they want…why did a video worth 1.8 million views stagnate for 10 months before taking off? The reason is deceptively simple: while “The Algorithm™” might generally work the way that the YouTube fanatic channels claim it does, the truth is that YouTube really is a lottery. New and stagnant videos are shown to an extremely small number of people at a time. If you’re lucky enough for that absurdly tiny group to have a few click-throughs and long watches of your video, YouTube runs the experiment again by showing it to more people, and continuously tests your content this way to decide if it should be allowed to succeed or fail. Bigger channels get a bigger group of people to enable their content to “take off” since they’ve “proven themselves” to the algorithm as reliable drivers of views. This sounds like a brilliant way to come up with good video suggestions at first glance–but it’s actually pretty terrible.
Your video’s success relies on a few watches by a very small group of people. What happens if it’s the wrong group of people? Your video fails. The planet has 8 billion people, and the vast majority of them won’t care about your content in the slightest. If you’re a big channel then this doesn’t really affect you due to the size of your subscriber base and the favoritism shown towards larger channels, but if you’re a smaller channel like mine was (and is, if we’re being honest) then it really is nothing more than a lottery with the odds leaning very strongly against you. This ignores all the rug-pulls YouTube does to force you to make more content at no cost to them, constantly, forever.
That’s the truth they don’t want exposed. Don’t waste your time trying to succeed on YouTube. The pay you’ll get will never fully justify the amount of work required, and YouTube will gladly drive you into the ground to milk you for every last ad dollar.