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Rene Ritchie talking with YouTube creator, Peter McKinnon

Rene’s Top Five on YouTube: November 2, 2023 Edition

These are the top 5 things I saw this week.

November! First dip below freezing, first frost, first snow, first icy tendrils of winter coiling themselves through my city and heart. At least I have YouTube and creators to keep me warm — if not scorching hot as I spelunk my way across YouTube, X/Twitter, Insta-Threads and all the Slacks and Discords in between to bring you the most interesting and impactful news of the week!

🤔 ‘When will I get Thumbnail Test & Compare (A/B Testing)?’ That’s what a ton of you were asking me this week after I shared some best practices about the upcoming feature. Here’s the deal — After a very, very tiny test earlier this year, it was rolled out to 10K accounts for a slightly less tiny but still very small test earlier this fall. The next step will be a not-tiny but still kinda-small-in-the-massive-scale-of-YouTube test with 50K accounts late this year. That’ll let YouTube not only make sure everything is working as intended and polish things up as much as possible, but finish up the massive amount of work it takes to update everything that thumbnails touch across the platform — which is SO MANY THINGS — and get it out to every account and all creators as soon as possible next year!

📷 True story: I was crossing the street with Peter McKinnon a couple weeks ago when we got to talking about how the YouTube algorithm actually works. It got intense enough we had to 1) get out of the intersection so we wouldn’t be hit by oncoming traffic and 2) hit pause, fly back to Canada, hit record, and make a whole, entire, gorgeously color-graded video for his channel so we could share the conversation with all of you. How to blow up, when to start a second channel, understand Shorts, all of it basically. Huge thanks to Peter for the hosting — and the coffee! — so make sure you check it out!

🤳 Creator Advice is back, y’all! That’s right, after a brief hiatus to let me catch up on some projects like the 7 Million+ view ‘Get a Taste of the Latest YouTube Updates’ video — What? I know, right?! — we’ve got piping fresh hot takes from some of the best creators in the business on how to be better at the business of creating. Building on the likes of Airrack, Michelle Khare, MrWhoseTheBoss, Sydney Morgan, Mark Rober, Jordan the Stallion, Haley Kalil, and so many more (hi Karl!), the latest Short on AI with Cleo Abram just went live. More with HopeScope, Hayden Hillier-Smith, Sam from Wendover, Jenny Hoyos, and so many others to come! Check out the full Creator Advice playlist so you don’t miss any of them!

📈 Tip of the Week: In a previous Top 5, I mentioned that if a video isn’t doing well and you think it might be the algorithm, one of the best things to check is click-through rate for just your subscriber feed. There’s absolutely no algorithm there — zero percent! — so you can quickly see how your core-est of core audiences are responding and gut check if the issue might really be topic, title, thumbnail, or execution. Well, turns out some of you weren’t as familiar with metrics broken down by traffic sources as I’d assumed, so let me just add that it’s an area of Advanced Analytics that’s really worth exploring. You can see how videos are performing not just overall, but specifically in the algorithm (home page recommendations), search, suggested, notifications, sub feed, and more. Including external sources, which brings me to…

📊 Bonus Tip of the Week: If a video blows up via an external source, is that a good or a bad thing? The answer is, mostly good. Kinda. If your core audience, the ones that follow everything you do, are viewing on social in an embedded browser where they’re not logged in and then not viewing on YouTube where they are logged in, that video won’t go into their watch history which can affect future recommendations. This is why some creators don’t post links on social, only announcements. So, we can all weigh convenience vs. conversion and do what we feel is best for our audiences, but beyond that, if a video blows like on Google Search (which can include Google Discover, the built-in news feed on Android) where it’s a completely new and casual audience and you get a ton of views but not much in the way of retention, that won’t make much of a difference. To quote Todd Beaupré who leads Discovery and Growth at YouTube, ‘Search, Home, and Suggested features primarily learn from performance on those traffic sources respectively, so external traffic shouldn't hurt’ — so, EL5, I just look at it more like frosting to the on-platform cake!

Now back to the contenting!