July 9, 2020

How Does YouTube Search Work?

YouTube is an online video-sharing service that was created in 2005, before quickly being bought by Google in 2006. 

With over 500 hours of content being uploaded every minute by creators, Google employed their search engine tactics to create Youtube’s search ranking system. When users submit search queries, YouTube sorts through videos in order to find content that is most relevant and useful to the user. 


When determining a video’s relevance, YouTube looks at a variety of factors, including title, description, tags, and video content. 

By comparing these factors against the user’s search query, YouTube will be able to rank videos that are most likely to be of use to the user. If the user searches for a specific keyword or phrase, YouTube will show videos that include those keywords in the description or title. 

Focusing on relevance also helps YouTube determine which videos to rank higher on the results page. The videos that more closely relate to the user’s search query will be listed at the top of the page. 

For example, if a user searches for “best sports clips of 2020”, YouTube will first show videos of sports clips in 2020. After that, users will see videos that are less relevant, such as videos of sport clips of 2019 or even the worst sports clips of 2020. These secondary videos would still be interesting and useful to the viewer, but are not nearly as relevant as the first video.  

Due to YouTube’s search result system, it is extremely important for brands to be thorough and extensive when uploading video content. Neglecting tags and titles will only hurt your video’s chance of being featured at the top of YouTube’s first search result page. 


Another way YouTube sorts video content is by looking at engagement levels. A video might seem like the best fit for a search query based on title or description, but in reality, it might not be useful to the user at all. 

By looking at engagement signals from other users, YouTube is able to tell whether or not a video is actually relevant. This is done by considering how long users watch a particular video or if they skip to a specific timestamp. 

For example, if users are only watching a minute of the first video in the search listing for a specific query, but are watching the entire second video listing, YouTube can determine that the second video is more relevant than the first. Using this knowledge of engagement, YouTube will re-sort their search results page to show the second video first. 


YouTube search algorithm is designed to determine quality based on expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. These three signals are also the framework for Google’s E-A-T SEO. 

To determine quality, YouTube considers the creator, the account, previous videos, and reputation. Brands can showcase their expertise and build their reputation by discussing topics they are knowledgeable about and have experience dealing with. 

If a real estate agency is posting videos about buying and selling cars, those videos might not be considered quality material. But if a real estate agency is posting video content regarding mortgage loans, tours, and showing tips – YouTube will identify this as quality content. 

Focus on creating genuine and authentic content that will foster a sense of trust between your brand and viewers. Not only will you build a strong relationship with your audience, but you will also build a beneficial relationship with YouTube’s search result system.

The basis for authoritative sources varies depending on the topic or category. When dealing with content such as news, politics, or science, YouTube focuses on the credibility of the source. International news channels are more credible than exploitative tabloids. When it comes to areas of music and entertainment, freshness and popularity are more applicable signals than credibility. 


In addition to focusing on video content, YouTube also takes the user into account when determining relevance and search result listings. YouTube considers their user’s search history and watch history, which means that search results might be different for two users even when submitting the same query. 

If two users both search for “bass”, their results will differ heavily depending on previous activity. For example, if one user has previously watched fishing videos, their results will feature videos of the fish bass. If the other user frequently searches for music tutorials, their results will feature the instrument bass.


In an attempt to anticipate the wants and needs of their users, YouTube gives video recommendations to their users. On the homepage, users will be shown videos that are similar to content they have viewed before, or new videos from their favorite creators. YouTube also provides recommendations in the “Up Next” section – these are the relevant videos that will play for the viewer after their current video has ended. 

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