How Does the YouTube Shorts Algorithm Work?

youtube shorts algorithm how to go viral short form video content

If you’re a content creator, you’ve probably noticed the buzz around YouTube Shorts. Since YouTube’s short-form section launched globally in 2021, over 1.5 billion users have been watching those videos every month. And as of February 2023, YouTube has started sharing ad revenue with Shorts creators, making it one of the most attractive platforms for those looking to monetize short-form videos.

While it seems the YouTube zeitgeist has recently shifted to Shorts, as some creators are starting to see success with this new format, many still don’t know how to best use it to grow their channel.

Below, find answers to some of the burning questions about YouTube Shorts, including how the algorithm works, and how you can start using Shorts to reach more viewers.

Should you post Shorts and long-form content on the same channel?

Good question. After all, they’re two different content formats, so it makes sense that you’d consider keeping them separated.

Well, it depends on your audience. As Pierce Vollucci, a product manager at YouTube, says in this video by Creator Insider: “Try to group your channels around similar audiences, who enjoyed the same, or similar content. Separate them out when your viewers have totally different interests.”

That means it isn’t necessary to start a new YouTube channel just for posting your Shorts content. In fact, it can help you get even more out of your long-form content — more on that below.

Is the Shorts algorithm connected with that of long-form video?

The quick answer: no.

In an interview with Colin and Samir from Creator Support, YouTube employees Todd Sherman and Rene Ritchie answered the most common questions YouTube creators have about Shorts. When asked if the Shorts algorithm was connected with the algorithm used for long-form videos, Sherman made it clear that this isn’t the case — and that it hasn’t been for a while.

“When we first started out with Shorts, there were some users that really started leaning into watching them, and inadvertently their home recommendations started getting taken over by short-form video in a way that was crowding out long-form video that they would have otherwise preferred to watch,” Sherman said. “We observed that, caught it very early, and then very deliberately started separating short-form recommendations from long-form recommendations.”

So there you have it: there are completely separate algorithms governing Shorts and long-form videos on YouTube. But does that mean you should just ignore Shorts if you’re a long-form video creator?


@Colin and Samir really crushed this interview & delivered so much value about YouTubeShorts! #greenscreen

♬ original sound – The Leap

How does your Shorts’ performance affect your long-form videos?

There’s a crucial nuance to understand when tackling this question, which Ritchie covered while discussing misconceptions about YouTube’s algorithms. “One of [the myths about the algorithm] is that the algorithm pushes videos for creators,” he said. “People think, ‘I made a video, why isn’t the algorithm pushing it?’ When in reality, the algorithm pulls videos for viewers.”

Essentially, that means while creators often think of video performance in terms of “things I can do to appease the algorithm,” they should really be focusing on their audience. They should be asking themselves what their audience wants to see, not what the algorithm needs to boost their video. That shift in mindset will help you better understand how Shorts affect your channel’s overall performance.

Let’s say you have a Short that underperforms. Will that hurt a long-form video’s chance of being served to your audience?

Here’s what Ritchie said: “We don’t look at channel or creator for those sorts of things. We look at video and topic. For example, your next video might be a banger, and it’s in nobody’s best interest to not show that video because it could be the most successful video ever.”

That means creators who want to experiment with Shorts don’t have to worry about their channel tanking just because their first short-form videos don’t turn out too well. Remember, Shorts and long-form content are governed by separate algorithms.

But what about the opposite situation? What if you have a Short that does really, really well?

Ritchie has the answer there too: “If we focus on the audience, the answer is more people are aware of you. More people have seen that video. And maybe when they’re on the home page and they see your next [long-form video], they’re like, ‘Oh, I recognize them from that Short,’ and the audience behavior will benefit you in the next long-form video.”

So remind yourself that you can’t put your success or failure at the foot of the algorithm. Instead, you should always be thinking about your audience.

How can you use Shorts to grow your YouTube channel?

While some creators might specialize in Shorts, most of them would want to integrate the format into their overall content strategy. Why? If there’s one trend that the team behind YouTube is noticing, it’s that posting a combination of Shorts and long-form content helps improve a channel’s growth.

“We’ve actually done some analyses recently where we looked at audience growth for channels that only made long-form videos, and channels that made both long-form and Shorts videos. The channels that made Shorts actually seem to be growing faster,” Vollucci said.

So there are signs that posting Shorts can help you grow your reach, but what exactly should you be doing with them? Since there’s no algorithm link between Shorts and long-form content, you need to think about the strengths Shorts have that long-form video can’t match, rather than worrying about what the algorithm will think.

According to Ritchie, creators can use Shorts in a number of ways. “We have to think, as creators, what is our strategy there? Are we looking at Shorts as a way to drive discovery towards our [long-form content]? Because Shorts, really, their power is in discovery,” he said. “So do we want to drive [our audience] towards long-form? Or do we want to use Shorts as a way to grow a new audience? Or do we want to use it to experiment with a new content type?”

Since creating Shorts is so much faster than putting together a long-form video, creators need to experiment and see how Shorts fit into their overall content strategy. And since the algorithm won’t punish you when your Shorts underperform, there’s really no risk involved.


This is your sign to start posting on youtubeshorts!!!!!! 📸

♬ Palace (Sped Up) – ADTurnUp

Do you need to post a certain number of Shorts to start succeeding?

Vollucci has a pretty simple answer here: “No. Every Short is given a chance to succeed no matter the channel or the number of videos on the channel. Performance of a Short is dictated by whether or not people are choosing to watch and not skip a video in the Shorts feed.”

If you don’t have any Shorts on your channel yet, don’t feel like you have to publish a bunch of them at once just to start seeing some success. Try making a few Shorts and uploading them, and let your audience’s reaction dictate how you use them in the future.

Let’s keep things short

YouTube might just end up being the hottest platform for multi-faceted creators. While TikTok is great for those specialized in short-form video, it seems like the wind might be turning, and creators with a fuller skillset could potentially find better success on the older video platform. So if you’re already a YouTube creator, start experimenting with Shorts. Not only would they not hurt your long-form content, but Shorts could also help you achieve massive growth.

Follow The Leap on TikTok and Instagram for more content creation tips. We also make a newsletter.

Nicholas Bouchard
About the author

Nicholas Bouchard

Nick Bouchard is a content writer and marketer with a passion for creation. His hobbies range from writing fiction to wrestling. He can only be photographed in national parks and on mountains, and pictures of him usually come out blurry. Some wonder if he even exists at all.
Follow us on tiktok