When uploading a video to YouTube, some of the settings and options can be confusing, especially for YouTube beginners. One question I receive quite often is, do YouTube categories matter for ranking your videos?
In this article, we’ll go over one of YouTube’s Basic questions, and finally, put this question to bed for good.
First, let’s look at what YouTube Categories are and why the section even exists.
What are YouTube Categories?
The YouTube Categories that you see when uploading your videos are a legacy feature from back when YouTube all began.
Back then, algorithms weren’t anywhere near as complex and intuitive as they are today, which is why YouTube needed your help to classify where your videos should appear. They even had a categories tab and all! This means that if you were a how-to channel, you would categorize yourself like that and could appear in the how-to category when people perused through it.
Now the algorithm takes care of categorizing your videos for you and showing them to people who would be most likely to engage with your content.
YouTube often leaves legacy features like YouTube Categories on the platform (for whatever reason) even when they have no real effect on a video’s ability to rank or where it appears on the platform.
So, now you can probably already see what the answer to the question “do YouTube categories matter” is going to be…
Do YouTube categories matter?
YouTube Categories do NOT matter for your videos ranking ability. I, and many others, have tested the effect of YouTube categories and it has made absolutely no difference.
Should you just leave the categories section blank then?
As YouTube is always updating its algorithm, I would recommend just selecting the most appropriate category in case it does become relevant one day in the future again. It doesn’t pose any real additional work and if things do change in the future, well then you only have an upside.
Does the category of a YouTube video affect the views?
Now the “Category” section of a video does not affect views, but the actual category of your YouTube videos definitely can.
This is more commonly known as the niche that you are in or the topics of videos you make.
For example, if you are in the prank-comedy niche, your videos have the potential of getting tens of millions of views, just because of the popularity of the category. Whereas if you’re in the camera review niche, then your videos only really have the potential of getting 500,000 views.
I’ve put together a list of the most popular YouTube Niches here, but you shouldn’t choose a particular niche, just because it has large view potential. You should create content you’re passionate about as these shine through in your videos, which results in you maximizing your view potential.
Additionally, the category of videos your YouTube Channel currently creates also has a massive impact on potential views. If you for example only upload camera review videos, your audience will be engaged in that particular category/niche and YouTube will promote your content to people who show interest in similar topics.
Say then that you upload a gaming video that’s entirely off topic, your video won’t gain as many views as the majority of your audience won’t be interested in that topic as YouTube is promoting it to people interested in camera reviews (the promotion will end very quickly as the CTR and Retention rates will be awful).
How to categorize your videos for the YouTube Algorithm
Now that you know that the category section on your videos has little to no real effect on your video’s performance, how do you categorize your videos on YouTube?
Here are some things you should pay attention to:
- Be consistent within your niche.
By being consistent, you’re reinforcing to YouTube that this is the topic of videos you make and that YouTube should then promote these videos to people interested in similar topics. By being consistent, you will build up a subscriber base and your viewers will start to gain a certain profile that the algorithm can then use to find similar people that would be interested in your videos.
- Avoid jumping between different categories.
If you make comedy videos, don’t throw in a tutorial on how to master Microsoft Excel (unless you do parody-style, sarcasm-based comedy of course…). Whilst I hate the term “stay in your lane”, it makes sense when you’re trying to build a loyal following and help YouTube categorize your content.
If later on, you can recognize that you’ve built a personal rapport with the majority of your audience, then they will most likely be interested in anything you put out. This isn’t something that you should do though when building your audience and it’s something many creators struggle with doing in the later stages of their careers.
- Add 7-10 relevant tags to your YouTube Channel.
- Include these tags and the main topics of your videos naturally on your about page.
- Include a few relevant tags across your video tags.
- Create YouTube playlists around your core channel topics.
I use and recommend TubeBuddy for finding the best keywords for your videos which you can then incorporate throughout your channel. You can even use it to see the channel keywords of your competitors to get a better understanding of what is and what isn’t working for them.