YouTube SEO: YouTube Suggested Videos Algorithm Deep Dive

Posted On May 5, 2020

18 min read


Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about what you really care about. You want to grow your YouTube Channel Fast, or you are trying to grow a YouTube channel in 2020 and you are tired of the slow drip of views coming from YouTube Search. You want to “blow up on YouTube” and have them suggested you videos and make you “go viral”.


I’m fully aware, that is not what you want to hear. And the first paragraph and last sentence, as well as this headline was designed to stir you emotionally, rile you up and keep you reading the rest of this article if for no other reason than keep reading this article for as long as possible.


This is the strategy that you would also have to deploy in order to win the game called “Suggested Videos” and is recommended by YouTube more. YouTube distribution is driven by user behavior, user preference, and video performance, with the 2 biggest factors being CTR (Click Thru Rate) and AVD (Average View Duration). These are the 2 main factors that popular YouTubers like Mr. Beast (Jimmy Donaldson) focus on, with the third factor being repeat viewers.

I just needed to get your attention and get you to click on this article, and so by telling you to STOP doing something in all caps I was able to. get your attention, be contrarian and get you emotionally invested. And now all I have to do is deliver value by explaining to you How YouTube Suggested Videos work in the YouTube Algorithm, and what you can do about it, while being very blunt with you about how hard it is, even if you know what to do.

This is typically the kind of information that I do a case by case deep dive on with my 1:1 Coaching Clients, and the students in my Membership Group.

“75% Of YouTube Traffic Comes from Suggested/Recommended”

The main reason that YouTube Content Creators want to be recommended by YouTube and Target Suggested instead of YouTube SEO and Search is because YouTube Recommended/Suggested is responsible for more than 75% of Traffic to YouTube and YouTube SEO (Search) is only responsible for 10% of YouTube traffic.

Here is the real problem with that though, it doesn’t matter that much if you’re a small YouTuber.

“90% of YouTube Traffic Goes to the Top 3% of Channels”

Have you ever head “the rich get richer”? Well, that is doubly true for YouTube, though that shouldn’t discourage you completely. In a Tubefilter Article from 2018 based on a data study of YouTube in 2016

Here are some qualities that make it challenging to compete with larger established creators on YouTube:

  • Guarantee quality content with strong production values
  • Established credibility or familiarity with viewers
  • Predictable traffic for the YouTube platform
  • Easier to classify by the YouTube Algorithm
  • Frequent, binge worthy content that is easy to watch
  • Other creators make content about them

In other words, just like in any situation in life, it is hard for an unknown and possibly inexperienced person, to compete with an established brand with more resources, more credibility in the space, and a proven product.


Never play a game that you already know you can’t win. That sounds pessimistic, so let’s put it another way, play the game you know that you can win, by rules that favor you.

It is entirely possible for a Small YouTube Channel to get more views on a video than a larger YouTube channel, it is just unlikely to happen, due to a gap in experience and a gap in being well-known, but it can happen when a new trend emerges, or when their is breaking news like a new product release or a current event.


If you look to historical meteoric rises in YouTube or videos that “went viral for no reason” it was not for “no reason” it was a matter of timing. Now just like stock market trading, it is difficult to time to the market, but it is possible to come in on a wave early and benefit and ride that wave off into the sunset.


YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm

First of all I know what you’re thinking. “Doesn’t your 1 Million View Video, contradict your own point here?” No, not really when you consider how this video started out performing. The first day this video was uploaded it got around 2,000 views. At the time I had 100,000 subscribers, and so for many people that would seem odd.

The topic of Passive Income, and Making Money online had not hit it’s appex in YouTube back in May of 2016 when I uploaded. But later that fall there was more interest in the topic and I had been getting steady and consistent views from my YOUTUBE SEO and the YouTube Search traffic I was generating.

I had also ranked my video #1 in YouTube Search and had a high SEO ranking in Google on top of it. When other people started making videos 6 months later on Passive Income, they looked to my video as the top-ranking video and used similar keywords/tags and titles to mine and some outright copied my YouTube SEO, which I don’t blame them for since I ranked #1 in YouTube Search for the terms Passive Income and Online Passive Income.

If you look at the data I retained consistent traffic for this video for over 2 years, and to this day am still one of the most viewed videos covering it.

YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm

As a result of ranking high in terms of YouTube SEO and having a quality thumbnail, when other people made videos I was the ideal candidate for Suggested Video to be Recommended by YouTube for that topic. Of the 1.4 Million Views I got on the video, with 90% of them being 6 months after I uploaded it.

The majority of these views, over 1.1M came directly from YouTube’s recommendation systems or what we refer to as the YouTube Algorithm. 800,000 views were a result of YouTube suggested videos and 340,000 were a result of being shared on the YouTube Homepage. The way YouTube content is served is different for each of the systems whether we are talking about YouTube Search, YouTube Suggested Videos or YouTube Homepage Recommendations.

YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm
Bar Graph of YouTube Analytics as Roberto Blake explains the YouTube Algorithm and YouTube SEO.
YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm


How does a video get recommended by YouTube Suggested Videos in the sidebar? This is something that most YouTubes are clamouring to know.

What if I told you I’ve managed to pull this trick off a few times? And what if I told you that I’ve gotten the BIGGEST YOUTUBERS and even MEDIA OUTLETS to give my video traffic without writing a single email or DM just by leveraging YouTube Suggested Videos and YouTube Search and that I did it on a video topic I NEVER COVERED BEFORE?

It came down to TIMING. As I said earlier timing is more important than people realize. I was at an event called Adobe Max and the new Microsoft Surface Studio had been announced but few people had access to it.

Well they had them on the showroom floor so I asked someone to help me film a quick hands on review with no preparation and not having any experience with the product I gave my first impression of it and did a quick sketch to see how the product feels. This video probably has my lowest like ratio and people were a bit snotty in the comments about it not being a perfect review or having gorgeous B-roll footage like their favorite Big YouTubers…

But I had almost no competition for this and was able to get a video out the same week as the product announcement and beat many of the Biggest Youtubers to releasing a video on a new high-end product from a major brand.

YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm


Disclaimer: this is MY PROCCESS and BREAKDOWN and actively I’m NOT targeting this method. (I favor my current strategy that prioritizes high CPM and high conversion videos, vs high view videos). Your results, as always will vary. This also may not apply to your genre or topic within YouTube. This method is not a claim of guaranteed results.

Below you will see that even today in April of 2020 I rank for search with the term Microsoft Surface Hands on Review. Notice in the thumbnail that it clearly shows the product in use, in the real world, or as I like to say “in the wild”.

I’m framing it this way so you understand everything else I’m about to outline in this process going forward that is a factor in a video performing well and being a “CANDIDATE FOR YOUTUBE SUGGESTED VIDEOS”.

YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm

01. VIEW VELOCITY AND TIMING. The YouTube Algorithm for Suggested Videos is NOT the same as the Algorithm for YouTube Search/YouTube SEO. However, if you optimize your video for YouTube Search and you put a video out at the peak of Search Traffic for a particular topic or trend, (newsworthy, product release, franchises, etc.), particularly if you are one of the FIRST or ONLY sources for that content, you will have a high performing video. That initial performance is what we in the industry call “VIEW VELOCITY”.

Your first priority is CTR (Click Thru Rate) and this comes down to TIMING, TOPIC, TARGETING, THUMBNAIL, & TITLE.

  • TIMING has to be at a PEAK in market attention for the TOPIC
  • TOPIC has to be relevant to a broad general audience
  • TARGETING comes down to your understanding of the desired audience
  • THUMBNAIL has to play to the psychology of the target audience
  • TITLE should be designed to be RELEVANT to that target audience and leverage timing

How Did I Do When It Comes To the Qualifiers for a High Performing Video?

  • TIMING – I was EARLY to market the WEEK OF LAUNCH
  • TOPIC – It’s an expensive exclusive product, from a high profile brand with press coverage
  • TARGETING – I knew the tech community and how they respond to product launches
  • THUMBNAIL – I avoided skepticism of clickbait by showing myself using the product
  • TITLE– I used hands on review to stand out EARLY since few people could do that

Any video that I have gotten over 100,000 views on when it comes to YouTube (I’ve done this over 60x), has scored very well on these 5 factors that determine whether or not someone will CLICK on a video and watch it.

YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm


02. YOUTUBE VIDEO OPTIMIZATION. Instead of focusing on YouTube SEO, (Search Engine Optimization) Let’s focus on a new term I’m playing with “Video Optimization”, let’s leave “Search” out of it for now.

What options does YouTube give us for optimizing our videos when we upload them to YouTube?

  • Title of the Video
  • Description of the Video
  • Closed Captioning/Transcription/Subtitles for a Video
  • Thumbnail for the Video
  • Playlist to feature the Video
  • Keywords/Tags for the Video

I don’t necessarily target Suggested Videos as a strategy and I never have made it a priority the way other creators would like to. For one thing, I don’t cover topics typically that would be suited to a broad general audience. My channel had an original foundation of content based in tutorials and answering questions and that is still largely true today.

I get views in proportion to how many people are looking. to solve the problem I’m talking about. That’s it.

However I optimize my videos as much as possible for THE ENTIRE YOUTUBE ALGORITHM, but I would say YouTube SEO favors my channel and its content because most content on YouTube and most viewers are prioritizing entertainment and general audience content, where I have a market that nobody is necessarily fighting for.

So while 75% of traffic is based around highly competitive niches and topics and split between people wanting Suggested Video Views and Homepage Video Views… the shear amount of volume left over in the 10%+ of Search Traffic and the other 15% of other viewership is up for grabs for anyone who wants to dominate there.

I optimize every aspect of my videos the best of my ability and to the taste of my intended target audience. That is my approach to Video Optimization. Everything is optimized as well as it can be.

03 EXTERNAL TRAFFIC. Everyone says the best way to grow on YouTube, is on YouTube, and I don’t entirely agree. YouTube jus wants people on its platform. If you get people on the platform and keep them there, especially if you took them away from a competitor, why wouldn’t YouTube reward that?

Not to mention, remember YouTube cares about what people previously watched and will suggest and recommend them on other videos on the homepage based on what was previously watched. You need to get someone to watch, don’t romanticize HOW you get them to watch (as long as you did it legitimately). You will see even now your YouTube homepage has very little do with what you Subscribed to but rather what YouTube videos you previously watched or frequently watch.

I promote my videos outside of YouTube on other platforms so that I have a better chance of those viewers having me in their most recent watch session or me starting their watch session on YouTube, increasing the odds they will see more videos from me, both in Suggested Videos and Recommended on the Homepage.

04. SUGGESTED VIDEO INVENTORY. The best candidates for YouTube Suggested Videos will be your own content, more so that that of another content creator. I know what you’re all hoping for is to siphon views from a famous YouTuber like MrBeast or Casey Neistat, but unless you’re making a reaction channel or commentary channel, you probably won’t.

Here are the main factors for YouTube Suggested Videos:

  • Viewer preference and previously watched videos
  • Videos related to the topic of the current video
  • Videos related to the current videos channel/creator

Your own videos have the highest likelihood of being suggested by YOUR OWN VIDEOS. Currently this is true for most of my YouTube Suggested traffic and it’s probably true for you as well.

I’ve made over 1400 videos and some of them are 100+ videos deep into a topic, which gives me a large volume of videos where I rank #1 in YouTube search for some relevant term for those topics, and also a large volume of suggested video candidates. It also means that there is an increased chance a viewer has watched a video for me on the topic before.

The problem is that I don’t cover a single topic or niche, nor am I a personality-driven channel or famous figure. I missed the boat on all of these or if you want to be critical you can call them a mistake on my part. You can see where if I had become more personality (made the content as much or more about me than the topic/subject) I would be at an advantage with a larger channel sub count in the over 100K category (currently 400K+) or if I had focused on a single topic like either Making Money Online/ Finance like Graham Stephan, or YouTube Tips like Catherine Manning (aka Content Bug).

Both of these creators married the combination of personality-driven channels, with niche topics they can go deep on, and they will be top performers in their niches for a very long time because of this.

So you want to “Target YouTube Suggested Videos”? Well let’s look at what that means:


YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm


Suggested videos show up recommended on the Sidebar of another video when viewed on a desktop and under a video when on a mobile device. YouTube Suggested videos are based on the following:

  • Viewer preference and previously watched videos
  • Videos related to the topic of the current video
  • Videos related to the current videos channel/creator

When you consider those are the 3 dominant factors behind YouTube Suggested Videos, the title of this article comes back into focus “STOP TARGETING YOUTUBE SUGGESTED VIDEOS”.

Here is the harsh truth about YouTube Suggested videos and that 75% of all YouTube Traffic Number:

  • Viewer Preferences and Previously Watched Videos: Favors Big YouTubers, Established Brands, Mainstream Media, Established Franchises (Topics), and Current Events/News
  • Videos Related to the Current Video Topic: Favors Creators with Large Inventories, Proven Traffic, Recent Uploads.
  • Videos Related to the Current Videos Channel/Creator: Favors Big YouTubers, Frequent Uploaders, Established Channels
  • YouTube channels with large budgets can be consistent and can get more average view durations and watch time and will likely be in the Previously Watched videos log of a viewer multiple times compared to a smaller channel
  • YouTube channels with large teams can move quicker on current events, get access to products or releases or event opportunities that smaller channels don’t, allowing them first-mover advantages and early views.
  • YouTube Channels that can upload frequently will be more relevant and recognizable to viewers, increasing their chances of high CTR (click-thru rate)
  • YouTube Channels that are popular will have multiple channels that make videos about them or have collaborations that make them more likely to be suggested against a variety of videos on YouTube
  • YouTube Channels that are Personality-Driven are their own topic, and so they hit all 3 factors hard compared to a variety channel.
  • YouTube Channels that are NICHE-Focused, tend to have a better chance of being suggested based on previously watched videos, and relevancy to the current video being watched.
  • YouTube Channels that are established have the advantage of knowing what their viewers will share, and that sharable content

This is again as I said earlier, the rich get richer. This is not a criticism of YouTube as a platform or larger content creators or meant to discourage you, it is meant to outline exactly WHY the system works they way it does. It is supply and demand consumerism.

You will also find that many fast-growing channels find ways to overcome this by tapping into the audience of larger channels or by finding a way to have their over “first-mover advantage” or they capitalize on a new trend or a new theme very early and ride it throughout its peak, and then establish themselves as a personality when it is time to move on from that topic.


So let me give you what it is you really want, you want a method to get your videos suggested by YouTube despite not having the advantages that a larger YouTube channel or a Mainstream Media outlet might have. It’s entirely possible if you really want to do it. However. I wanted to make sure we were on the same page in terms of understanding WHY it happens and HOW it happens and why it is hard to replicate and why it’s not a guarantee and can be FRUSTRATING to try.


  • Niche Down to a Topic(s) that Performs for Your Channel (1-2)
  • Prioritize Getting High CTR and View Velocity for Your Uploads
  • Take advantage of TIMELY video uploads
  • Tap into the attention that exists around established brands/franchises
  • Target where you want views to come from at a video/channel level
  • Optimize Your videos Titles, Descriptions, Tags, and Thumbnails to be a good Suggested Video Candidate
  • Rank Your Videos in YouTube Search
  • ONLY upload content that is optimized for High CTR and View Velocity (High Attention Targets)
  • Use Psychology to Make Click-worthy Titles that will engage a viewer
  • Leverage popular trends as targets for suggested videos
  • Use collaborations to be suggested by another creators content in your niche
  • Understand what videos your desired audience is likely to have previously watched
  • Optimize your videos for the YOUTUBE HOMEPAGE
  • Make your videos with a strategy to get binge-watching sessions
  • Use Keyword Research to make sure your videos are classified properly.


If you’ve been on YouTube long enough you might remember a time when Suggested Videos was called Related Videos. And that phrase says it all. How does YouTube Know what a is a Good Suggested Video Candidate to Recommend to a Viewer? Well, it’s pretty simple, it needs to know as much as about that video, and find videos that have similar attributes in common with it, and also it has to now that viewers’ preferences.

To Illustrate that point, I have a well performing video below that I’ve taken a screen shot of and I used incognito mode so you can try to replicate these results based on your own experience and preferences and see where they differ from mine.

But keep in mind, the things I’m talking about here, I have tested on multiple accounts, from multiple computers, even with different VPN accounts. When the world isn’t melting down I’ll go walk around in BestBuy and have someone follow with me a camera to prove it to the hardcore skeptics out there…

YouTube SEO, YouTube Algorithm, YouTube Suggested Videos, YouTube, How to Get Videos Suggested by Youtube, How to get YouTube to recommend your videos,
YouTube Suggested Video Results in Incognito Mode

Let’s break down what videos YouTube Suggested to us on this video about Instagram and Getting 10K Followers:

  • Videos Relevant to the Topic: Videos from Chris Hau, Vanessa Lau, and Jordan Platten About Instagram
  • Videos Related to the Channel/Creator: Videos from Roberto Blake, Videos from People I’ve collaborated With
  • Viewer Preference and Previously Watched Videos: Possible that even with Incognito Mode it picked up my cookies, but I have tried this with a Laptop I’ve been sent for a review that has no history, as well as a spare phone I factory reset, similar results on that. Try these things for yourself.

So, Do YouTube Tags Matter?
I would say they do matter, maybe not as much as they used to, but I think it’s hard to ignore the correlation here. You’re also going to notice a difference here between my results and others, HOW OFTEN MY OWN CONTENT IS SUGGESTED. I made my own content an ideal Candidate for YouTube Suggested videos:

  • I have 2-3 tags in each and every single one of my videos tied directly to my brand.
  • There are matching brand keywords for all of my videos that align with my Channel Keywords/ Channel Tags
  • I link videos that I think are relevant to the same topic together via the YouTube Description box.
  • I link videos I think are relevant to each other in multiple Playlist with descriptions that make sense
  • I link videos together I think are relevant to a topic via info cards and end screens
  • I use overlapping Topic Keywords in related videos both in the Keyword Tags area and playlist description

You’ll notice the suggested video results are consistent with what I’ve said the YouTube Algorithm uses to determine and appropriate Suggested Video Candidate to Recommend when watching a video. But I decided to make my point by proving this further with other channels. Let’s look at Easy Computer Solutions, at Tech YouTuber with about 40K Subscribers:


  • Videos Relevant to the Topic: 7 of 10 of the Videos are Related to the LG V60 Smartpphone
  • Videos Related to the Channel/Creator: a YouTube Mix playlist and one other video are from the Creator
  • Viewer Preference and Previously Watched Videos: YouTube is mostly recommending other videos directly related to this video, all tech videos, all android devices, and all tech content creators


YouTube Keywords and SEO Results for Eazy Computer Solutions

Using VIDIQ another YouTube SEO Tool, I was able to find the Keywords for the Video, Channel Tags, and the Topic that YouTube Classified the Video As. When you combine that with the title all of the suggested videos make sense and cross-reference that metadata. Eric is using Keywords related to his niche and directly related to the product that is consistent with the videos we see in Suggested Videos from YouTube.

This is all consistent with everything we’ve talked about up until now. But wait! I know what you’re thinking, what about entertainment driven content, and content not necessarily tied to a franchise or to products?

I found a Lifestyle Channel that you might find interesting. I used a video of theirs that is all about an Outdoor Wooden Hot Tub of all things…

YouTube Suggested Video Results

Once again you will find that the results are consistent with what I’ve said. More content from the creators and similar related videos in the genre of OffGrid Living, and Outdoor Adventure, and beyond that videos about building things on your own. It hit a variety of topics that this video can be classified under.

  • Videos Relevant to the Topic: Another Timelapse, a Hot Tub Ad, Another Hot Tub Video, Wooden Fixtures
  • Videos Related to the Channel/Creator: a YouTube Mix playlist and one other video are from the Creator
  • Viewer Preference and Previously Watched Videos: YouTube is mostly recommending other videos directly related to this video, all outdoor and DIY style videos and videos based on watching this video


Using VIDIQ, I analyzed for this video the Keywords for the Video, Channel Tags, and the Topic that YouTube Classified the Video As. When you combine that with the title all of the suggested videos make sense and cross-reference that metadata. And just like with our previous test this was also consistent and showed us a correlation between the videos suggested and the tags being used. I’m not claiming that TAGS/Keywords or responsible for this, however, it is hard to ignore that the information in the Keyword Metadata seems to match the Suggested Video Candidates YouTube showed us.

YouTube SEO Keyword Research for Pure Living for Life


It’s a competely fair and legitimate question. But the answer is pretty simple, ATTENTION.

You can classify your video as accurately for machines as you want, but those machines only purpose is to marry people to content they want to watch based on what they already have watched, and how frequently they watch it and what their interest are. So that is why just optimizing your videos with YouTube SEO doesn’t guarantee you views.

There is also the predictable performance of a video based on how that topic has performed for you in the past. Beyond that, viewer preferenes:

  • Viewers will watch a creator they are familiar with and trust over a creator they have never watched
  • Viewers may not be interested in a topic at the time you choose to upload it
  • Your own audience may not be active on the platform when you choose to upload a video
  • If you cover a new topic or another niche, where you don’t have authority or trust, you may not get clicks
  • If you cover too many topics and are not a personality-driven channel, your audience and the algorithm are confused



YouTube SEO, YouTube Suggested Videos, How to Get YouTube to Suggest Your Videos, YouTube Algorithm
Roberto Blake YouTube Analytics

This is an older tutorial that is still bringing 20K views to the channel and is generating $30/ea affiliate bounties.
$11.83 CPM and $97.92 in revenue. It gets over 30% Avg View Duration and 10% CTR.
Search isn’t Dead. So just remember, that YouTube is a Search engine at the end o the day, and there is a lot of opportunities to leverage there.

In order to do my YouTube Keyword Research and I use Tubebuddy and the Keyword Explorer and the SEO Studio,

In the future, I will be covering more topics on YouTube SEO and specifically how the YouTube Algorithm Works when it comes to search content. If you want to use Tubebuddy to optimize your content you can signup for it for FREE or if you want 20% Off you can use my affiliate link and discount code: robertosbuddy.

There is still plenty of opportunities for a small YouTuber to make a big impact with their content and reach and audience where they can deliver something that nobody else is giving an audience. If you want extraordinary results you will have to resort to extraordinary means, and that will force you to be unconventional in how you execute your content strategies.

If you’re looking help with your YouTube Content Strategy feel free to contact me, or visit AwesomeCreatorAcademy.





Written by Roberto Blake

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