How to 10x Growth with YouTube Traffic Sources

Why YouTube Traffic sources matter

The best videos on YouTube are the ones that intentionally target one traffic source instead of all traffic sources. Lots of creators try to dabble in all three traffic source types rather than committing to just one.

There are different types of videos you can create for education and entertainment, but one type of video can have different styles depending on the traffic source it’s designed to target.

This is where understanding the basics of the YouTube algorithm becomes critical.

What are The Types of Traffic Sources on YouTube?

Technically there are dozens of traffic sources on YouTube, but three matter most. Most traffic is generated through search, browse, and suggested features. There are some smaller traffic sources that don’t fit into these buckets, but they should never be the primary focus of a video.

These can be external sources like websites & social media, “watch later” videos, end screens, and cards.

Let’s Talk about Traffic Source Strategies

For the best chance at exponential growth, you’ll want to create each YouTube video based on one type of traffic source. The target traffic source will influence what the video covers, how you create the thumbnail, and the results you should expect.

Across your YouTube channel you can have videos for all types of traffic, but the key is knowing the one traffic source you want to target before filming a video.

Search: Exactly what it sounds like

YouTube Search is the easiest traffic source to understand, but it can be tough to develop a strategy around. Search is when someone types something in a search bar that leads them to your video. This could be a search on YouTube or Google.

Remember: YouTube videos show up in more places than just YouTube. YouTube search is very different from Google search, so your focus for videos should be on YouTube search traffic. If your video happens to rank on Google, that’s a nice bonus 🙂

A Search-Based Strategy

Building a search-based strategy is great when targeting people looking for specific information. Search is typically slower for growth in the beginning but compounds over time. It works even better when the content is evergreen and in a growing niche.

Search traffic is a more reliable source of views since you’re not counting on YouTube’s algorithm to place your videos on the homepage or suggested videos. Especially since the algorithm changes over time…

Targeting search means it’s important to understand YouTube SEO so your videos are targeting the right keywords.

Search traffic has intent

Knowing the right keywords people search for is just as important as understanding their intent when searching. This is a double edged sword.

You don’t have to understand keyword SEO to understand search intent. If someone is searching “xyz” on YouTube, what are the videos they’re probably expecting to see? There might be one, or there could be multiple possibilities.

What’s their motivation? What do they want?

Are they looking for information? If so, do they want to watch a tutorial? Guide? Explanation? Product review? Are they looking to make a purchase based on that information?

YouTube searches could be topics or questions, but they could also be comparisons and reviews.

Search traffic is great because you know exactly what words a person typed to see your video. They’re looking for specific information, which sometimes translates to purchasing decisions but not always.

It also means that once a viewer gets the information they are looking for, they tend to leave faster. That’s the double-edged sword.

That’s why search-based videos have lower watch time than browse and suggested videos. Search traffic is looking for information and doesn’t always have time to stick around after they get it!!

The bottom line? Meet expectations

You want to make sure your video matches what someone is expecting to watch when they are searching for the keywords you target. If they click your video and then leave after 10 seconds because it’s not what they expected, your average view duration will drop.

Here’s the thing…

YouTube search intent is different

Google SEO strategies don’t work the same on YouTube. The principles apply, but the practice is different. YouTube is designed for more visual content and stories than Google. YouTube is about ranking for videos; Google is about ranking for articles.

People on YouTube want to see how something works, watch how to do something, or see something happen. They don’t want to read about it.

If someone on Google buying a new car is searching for a purple BMW 8 series, they’re probably looking for prices, gas mileage, specs, and where to buy one. They want to learn about it.

If someone is searching for that car on YouTube, it’s because they want to see what it looks like, sounds like, what it’s like to drive, how much room the backseats have, and how much storage space its got. They want to see it in action.

Pro tip: YouTube searches for “how to” are growing 70 percent year over year. When people want to learn how something is done they want to see it, not read about it.

Use that to your advantage : )

Browse: The opposite of search

Browse traffic is people finding your video who were not originally looking for it. Since there is no search bar involved, YouTube shows browse videos on the homepage, subscriptions, explore, and trending.

A Browse-Based Strategy

Videos designed for YouTube browse traffic are typically more attention-grabbing, interesting, or provoking than search videos. There’s more persuasion here in convincing someone to click on the video. Unlike search, browse can offer higher virality and boost your video very quickly.

The thing is, YouTube typically favors newer content, so viral browse traffic does not last long compared to search. The homepage videos are constantly changing, so if you’re lucky enough to go viral there, enjoy it while it lasts.

If you’re a beginner with no videos, chances are your video will initially appear on the home page since you have no search rankings and no subscribers watching your content. As your channel grows, more traffic will start coming from search rankings and suggested features.

YouTube Trending: The crème de la crème of browse

The trending page is the epicenter of all viral videos on YouTube.

It’s extremely difficult to rank on trending, even for the biggest YouTubers. I wouldn’t recommend creating a YouTube strategy that depends on trending as a primary source of traffic. It typically requires an audience and a viral-worthy video with great timing.

That means it’s not the best YouTube strategy for beginners.

Ending up on the trending page can come out of nowhere, blow up your channel with views, and end just as quickly.

Browse Virality:

If you have a video idea that has wide-appealing interest, unique perspective, or some kind of controversial or provocative element, you’ll want to target browse features as your biggest traffic source.

There is an inverse relationship between intent and virality.

What does that mean? A video that does well in search by targeting a niche interest that has high purchase intent probably won’t go viral on browse features.

And that’s okay. High converting videos will usually have lower views because they serve a different purpose than browse videos.

Search is a great way to convert your audience; browse is a great way to expand your audience.

Suggested videos: The gold mine of YouTube traffic

Suggested traffic is the gift that keeps giving. This is the algorithm working its magic to place a video in front of the best audience to watch it. Think of suggested traffic like a combination of search and browse.

Suggested is arguably the best type of traffic source on YouTube.

It’s also the number one traffic source accounting for the most views on YouTube.

Youtube suggested traffic search as a combination of search traffic and browse traffic

The suggested traffic source comes from a few places, but the biggest is the “Next Up” tab on the right side of the screen. This is when viewers watch your video and see a list of videos to watch next. Some of them will be your other videos, and others will be videos from similar channels in your niche. Sometimes it will be completely unrelated videos that are suggested because of something else the viewer watched.

Pro tip: Pay attention to which external channels account for most of your suggested traffic.

YouTube knows us better than we know ourselves

Suggested videos are how the YouTube algorithm keeps people on the platform. The algorithm’s purpose is to figure out which videos to recommend to keep someone watching more content.

YouTube wants people to watch one video after another after another.

Think about it… you search for a video and watch it, but then how many videos do you click on that show up afterwards? You go down the YouTube rabbit hole.

The YouTube rabbit hole of suggested traffic

Suggestions are based on a lot of things a viewer does:

  • Past watch history
  • Past search history
  • Channels they watch a lot
  • Types of videos they watch
  • Videos that similar viewers have watched

It Starts with Search or Browse, but It Ends with Suggested

When someone first opens up the YouTube app, they’re going to either search for a video or click one on the home screen. The former counts as a search traffic view, and the latter counts as a browse traffic view. After that viewer finishes the video, they can decide to:

  1. Watch a suggested video on the right
  2. Search for something else
  3. Go to the home page again
  4. Leave the app and do something else

#1 is often what actually happens, hence the rabbit hole. This is how YouTube works its magic, and this is how it’s possible that way more views on YouTube happen through suggested traffic rather than search or browse.

YouTube Algorithm’s Secret Sauce

One of the most interesting parts of suggested traffic is how the algorithm calculates adjacent relationships between content. That’s just a fancy way of saying it’s good at finding videos that aren’t directly related to the one being watched, but still interesting to the viewer watching.

Similar enough to what you’ve already watched, but new and interesting enough to make you watch the suggested video.

TL;DR: YouTube finds less obvious patterns to recommend videos that seem unrelated to each other.

Traffic Source content strategy

Basically, for every person watching on YouTube, assume the algorithm can see everything they’re doing, put together a map of interests and habits, and then create video suggestions based around that.

What are External YouTube Traffic Sources?

So far I’ve only covered internal traffic sources. That means people find your video content directly on YouTube, and in many ways. Whether it’s from a search, the home page, subscription feed, notifications, etc. Those are all internal types of traffic.

External traffic comes from other websites than YouTube.

If you post your video link on social media, anywhere on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. views from people who click that link will be external traffic.

Same with embedded videos on your website, email newsletter videos, text messages, etc. Basically anytime you watch the YouTube video by clicking a link anywhere that isn’t on the YouTube app.

And I can’t forget…

Google search is a massive external traffic source on YouTube.

When YouTube videos show up in Google results, that’s an external traffic source. Even though Google owns YouTube, the traffic source is external when views on YouTube are coming from a Google search.

Or if your thumbnail shows up in Google images too. That’s another sneaky way your video can show up outside of YouTube!

The Ultimate Traffic Source Strategy

What is the best YouTube traffic source? It depends on the video. Suggested traffic is the largest percentage of views on YouTube, but it can be difficult to target by itself. That leaves us with search and browse.

Search is good for very targeted results. If your video answers a specific question, solves a problem, or explains a topic that you know people are searching for, then your best bet is search.

Browse is great for more viral, interesting, or shocking videos. Showing something new, unique, or creating a video that hooks people in new ways can be a great way of creating browse content.

Some videos are naturally good at search and browse.

One example is current events and trends-based videos. If something is popular already, or it’s on the rise, people will be searching for it. If YouTube picks up on this, it’ll start suggesting the video and you’ll start to get more views from browse and suggested.

Or the reverse could happen.

YouTube might put your video all over the browse pages immediately, and those initial views will boost your rankings in search and push your video out to more suggested feeds.

Target all Traffic Sources in different ways.

Suggested traffic on YouTube is the best traffic source to have but hard to target.

A well-rounded content strategy should combine YouTube search and browse traffic in a ratio that makes sense for your channel’s objectives.

The Video Strategy

Group similar videos together in playlists, and create multiple playlists by topic or video theme. This creates binge-worthy series which will help YouTube suggest more of your videos.

There’s lots of ways to do this, and you can have the same video in multiple playlists, so don’t feel limited. But don’t make it too repetitive either if the playlists are too similar.

When you have a library of YouTube videos built up, you’ll notice that some videos do really well for certain traffic sources. Pay attention to this.

Especially when it’s not the type of traffic source you were intending for that video to reach. This can give you valuable insights into what your audience actually wants to see.

The best route to take depends on your channel and the type of content you want to create.

The bottom line:

Search is a very important part of a YouTube content strategy, but it’s how you get your foot in the door, while suggested is what will carry you to long term growth. Browse is powerful if you’re creating videos that aren’t highly searchable but have viral potential.