Social media algorithms can be vexing. They’re powerful, changeable, and somewhat mysterious—particularly if you create content for a relatively new feature, like YouTube Shorts.
The YouTube algorithm plays a significant role in determining the success of your efforts on the platform. In addition to publishing high-quality content, many creators also optimize other factors that affect post ranking and distribution, including publication timing, i.e., when to post.
Strategically timing your YouTube Shorts can help you leverage the algorithm to meet your social media goals. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is it important to post YouTube Shorts at the right time?
Deciding when to post content is key to any social media marketing strategy because you want to catch your audiences when they’re most active on the platform. On most social media platforms, you can increase your reach by strategically timing posts to coincide with your audiences’ most active windows. Although Shorts is a relatively new feature on YouTube, the same applies to short-form video content hosted on the platform.
A little bit of strategic timing can positively influence the following metrics:
When a viewer plays a video and watches at least 30 seconds of it, YouTube counts that activity as a view. Posting Shorts at the right time can ensure that your content is live and searchable while your users are online, which can increase the total number of views your videos receive.
Posting at the right time can increase engagement—particularly if your channel responds to or is conversant with current events and trending topics.
Return on investment
The YouTube algorithm factors in video performance and watch history, which means that earning a large number of early views can increase your likelihood of reaching a larger audience over time.
How does the YouTube algorithm work?
The YouTube algorithm is the set of mathematical rules YouTube uses to determine which videos to show to audiences. YouTube has yet to publish extensive information about how the platform ranks and promotes YouTube Shorts, so most of what is publicly known about how the YouTube algorithm works relates to long-form videos.
Here’s an overview of the common knowledge about YouTube’s algorithm:
- How YouTube serves content to viewers
- Posting time
- YouTube videos don’t index immediately
- YouTube doesn’t display newly uploaded content in chronological order
- Shorts and long-form videos algorithms are distinct
How YouTube serves content to viewers
YouTube’s algorithm evaluates the following data points to serve users with high-quality, relevant content:
- Types of content a YouTube user watches or doesn’t watch
- Individual video performance, including views, watch history, and search history
- Viewer feedback, including likes, dislikes, and the “not interested” designation
- Satisfaction surveys
- How much time a viewer spends watching content
- How well content matches a user's search query, if applicable
According to YouTube, publication time doesn’t influence a video’s long-term performance. That said, YouTube acknowledges posting time can influence how many early views a video gets, which can make YouTube more likely to recommend the video to other viewers. As a result, most creators strategically upload YouTube videos to coincide with when their audiences are on the platform.
Here are a few posting time details to keep in mind:
YouTube videos don’t index immediately
It takes YouTube two to three hours to index videos and display them in search results, so some creators post videos a few hours early. For example, if the optimal time to post based on viewer activity is 5 p.m., you might upload videos by 2 p.m. if you want users to find your content via a search query, like “how to make vegan cheesecake.”
YouTube doesn’t display newly uploaded content in chronological order
Unlike many other social media platforms, YouTube doesn’t display content in chronological order. While posting time still matters, having the most recently uploaded video on the platform at a given moment doesn’t necessarily increase the likelihood YouTube will recommend your content.
Shorts and long-form videos algorithms are distinct
According to YouTube employee Todd Sherman, YouTube uses separate algorithms for long and short-form content: Because many viewers enjoy watching different kinds of content in different formats, separating the algorithms allows the platform to better meet most user needs.
Experimenting with Shorts can be a low-risk endeavor for an established creator. If your first attempts don’t perform well, they won’t hurt your long-form content rankings.
Todd also noted that both algorithms rest on a similar set of principles, meaning much of the information available about the long-form algorithm also likely applies to the Shorts algorithm.
What is the best time to post YouTube Shorts?
The short answer is: It depends. Because YouTube Shorts are relatively new, there’s no definitive public information about the best times to post. Instead, many creators use YouTube Studio to determine the optimal time to post, based on data about their specific audience’s behaviors on the platform.
Here are a few factors that determine the best posting time for your channel:
- Target audience demographics
- Time zone
- Competitor activities
- Trending topics and current events
Target audience demographics
Viewing patterns vary according to your target audience’s age and other demographic factors. For example, a target audience of working professionals is more likely to watch YouTube in the early evenings than during working hours, while college students may be more active in the late afternoon and late at night.
Your time zone and your viewers’ time zones also affect your ideal posting times. For example, if you live in New York and your target audiences are most active between 5 and 9 p.m. in their local time zones, you may post content at 2 p.m. ET to reach your West Coast viewers.
If your competitors all post during peak viewing times for your audiences, you might try posting content at slightly off hours to minimize competition. For example, if your audiences are most active between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and all of your competitors post exactly at 6, try posting YouTube Shorts at 6:30. This way, you’re still solidly within peak hours but face less competition from other new videos.
Trending topics and current events
Be aware of trends and events relevant to your particular niche. For example, if you cover politics and political activism, your viewers may be particularly engaged in the wake of major Supreme Court decisions and around local and national election cycles.
3 tips to identify the best time to post YouTube Shorts
- See when your viewers are online
- See when your videos earn the most views
- Test different posting times
The best time to publish YouTube videos varies depending on when your audience is most active on the platform. There isn’t a single exact answer to the question of the best time to post, but with a bit of digging and experimentation, you can find the best time for your channel.
Here are three tips to help you find your optimal posting time:
1. See when your viewers are online
The YouTube analytics section can help you determine the best time to post videos by showing you when your viewers are online. Here’s how to find your viewer data:
1. Open YouTube Studio.
2. Navigate to your channel dashboard.
3. Click “Channel Analytics.”
4. Click the Audience tab.
5. View the bar graph titled “When your viewers are on YouTube.”
You’ll see a graph showing the days and times your viewers were most active on the YouTube platform during the past 28 days, with the dark purple bars corresponding with most active times.
YouTube videos tend to get most of their views in the first two days, so you can schedule your posts so this period covers the days and times when your audiences are most active. You can also experiment with posting videos during the most active periods or two to three hours before these periods to allow YouTube time to index your content.
Your channel dashboard might not display this graph if you haven’t had enough channel traffic in the past 28 days. In this case, you can manually gather data using the process in the next step.
2. See when your videos earn the most views
You can also gather your own data using YouTube’s Realtime data section, which contains information about views during the past 48 hours. Here’s how:
1. Open YouTube Studio.
2. Navigate to your channel dashboard.
3. Click Channel Analytics.
4. Click the Overview tab.
5. Consult the Realtime data in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
This section displays a bar graph that tracks video views over the previous 48 hours. Although the graph doesn’t show time markers, you can work backward from when you’ve accessed the data (labeled “Now”) to identify the days and times your videos earned the most views.
Note the most active times, check back 48 hours later, and repeat the process. You can gather data for one to two weeks, taking note of any patterns that emerge along the way. Although you may continue to record peak viewing times for a month or longer, two weeks should be enough to start noticing any significant trends.
3. Test different posting times
Because YouTube hasn’t yet divulged how recency (when the video is first posted to Youtube) factors into the Shorts algorithm, one of the best ways to find the optimal time to post Shorts is to experiment. Testing different posting times can also help you A/B test how posting during periods of high activity affect your video performance.
To use this strategy, pick several times and days to post content and review your results. If you’re seeing consistently strong results at a particular time, keep posting then—even if you haven’t determined why that particular day lends itself to such strong performance.
Once you find your sweet spot, stay consistent. Consistent posting can help your audiences know when to find you. As you build a loyal following, your users may intentionally log in at your typical posting time in anticipation of new content.
Best time to post YouTube Shorts FAQ
What time is the best time to upload YouTube Shorts?
The best time to post YouTube Shorts depends on your specific audience’s behavior on the platform. You can use YouTube analytics to figure out the best time to post.
What is the best duration for YouTube Shorts?
Research suggests that longer Shorts (i.e., Shorts in the 50-to-60-second range) tend to outperform shorter videos.
How do YouTube Shorts get viral?
YouTube Shorts can go viral if they receive a lot of views, earn a high number of engagements, and are widely shared by YouTube users.