A second way to dominate the suggested videos column is to focus on engagement actions. A report recently released by Philip Zeplin at Novel Concept, suggests that the algorithm (in this case the search results algorithm) may give weight to videos with lots of likes, dislikes, and comments. He does admit that “videos that are generally good enough to receive a high watch time and viewer retention, are also naturally videos that engage people.” So take the data he presents for what it is: a limited window into the black box of the YouTube search algorithm.
Data aside, from a theoretical and historical standpoint, it does stand to reason that YouTube’s algorithms look favorably upon videos with lots of likes, dislikes and comments as it has in the past. When a viewer has an emotional reaction to a video as expressed in a like, dislike or comment, it could likely lead to a longer watch session. In YouTube parlance it could look like this:
- You watch a video and your brain releases a ton of chemicals (endorphins, etc.).
- You click “like” and comment about how great it was.
- The punch of these chemicals recedes as the video ends and you want more of those chemicals.
- You click on another video.
- And that’s how you ended up in that part of YouTube again... 1 hour later.
I’d add to this that encouraging these actions could potentially create a heightened emotional experience in the viewer that wasn’t necessarily there before. If a call to action spurs a viewer to engage, it could have a similar effect as the psychological concept that body actions like smiling can influence our emotions. Therefore, by giving a call to action to engage with a video we are potentially creating a heightened emotional connection for the viewer where there was none before, which could lead to a longer session and more suggested video algorithm love for our videos.
There’s another, less theoretical, reason to encourage commenting. At Frederator Networks we encourage commenting heavily because YouTube has stated that it utilizes comments as a form of meta data around a video. We promote commenting by replying to a lot of comments, but also posting our own comment questions with each video. We typically post a question in the comment section when we release a video that pertains to the property being discussed. This serves two purposes. First, it generates more comments. Second, it helps condition the algorithm for keywords surrounding that property. For example, on SpongeBob we might ask the question: “Who’s Your Favorite SpongeBob Character?”. People then reply with the names of the characters from the show, thus telling YouTube this video has a lot to do with that show.