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We analyzed 1.3 million You Tube videos to better understand how You Tube’s search engine works. We found that a video’s comment count strongly correlates with higher rankings. Longer videos significantly outperform shorter videos. The average length of a first page You Tube video is 14 minutes, 50 seconds. We discovered that video views have a significant correlation with rankings. The number of shares a video generates is strongly tied to first page You Tube rankings. There’s a moderate correlation between a channel’s subscriber size and rankings.

Specifically, we looked at the correlation between ranking factors — like views, comments and shares — with You Tube rankings. This means that even small channels have a chance to rank their videos in You Tube. Video likes are significantly correlated with higher rankings. “Subscriptions driven” has reasonably strong correlation with rankings.

Considering You Tube’s emphasis on user engagement, this result isn’t a big surprise.

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But at a certain point, views have diminishing returns.

That’s why you often see high-quality videos rank above lower-quality videos (even when the lower-quality video has significantly more views).

But does You Tube use comments as a ranking signal?

Our data suggests that they do: As you can see in the chart above, the more comments a video has, the higher it tends to rank.

This could represent the fact that You Tube can now understand video content without the help of metadata. Videos that contain an exact match keyword in their video title appear to have a slight edge over videos that don’t. 68.2% of videos on the first page of You Tube are in HD.

This means that including a keyword in your title may improve your rankings by a slim margin. We found zero correlation between keyword-optimized video descriptions and rankings. I have detailed data and information of our findings below.

Key Takeaway: Channels with lots of subscribers have an advantage in You Tube.

However, videos from smaller channels consistently outrank videos from popular channels.

And high-quality videos generate ranking signals (like audience retention) that You Tube values.

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