YouTube has been around long enough now and made enough people quite wealthy that succeeding on the platform has become something of a science.
People analyse the way the algorithm behaves to try and glean what it considers to be recommendable content. They test different thumbnails styles for better click-through-rates and experiment with alternative titles.
They even consider the placement of their “don’t forget to subscribe” pop-up down to the second. And, yes, they put a great deal of thought into when the best time to upload a video is.
The truth is, all of these things can have a surprisingly large impact on the success of any given video.
In this post, we’re taking a look at those upload times specifically. We’re going to take a deep dive into what factors are at play when you upload in the morning versus when you upload in the evening, and whether the middle of the week is better than a weekend.
Unfortunately, there is no single YouTube best time to upload that we can throw out there as a one-size-fits-all solution. But when people ask “When is the best time to upload videos to YouTube?” I tell them – An upload schedule is unique to each channel. Look at your audience location and age range then match your uploads to their live patterns. For example school kids before and after school, adults more evenings and weekends. Overtime your audience will show you what they like and when.
However, this a complex topic with a lot of moving parts, so make yourself comfortable, and let’s dive in!
Why Are Upload Times Significant?
The first part of this question is simple enough—YouTube places a lot of stock in popularity. If a video is getting lots of views, YouTube is more likely to see it as something worth pushing out to recommendation feeds.
The fleeting nature of viral videos and trends leads to a “strike while the iron is hot” mentality in which YouTube will want to capitalise on the popularity of a video while it is hot so as to avoid missing the window since they don’t know if the interest will still be there in a few days.
So, it pays to get a lot of attention to your video in a short space of time, even if you are making evergreen content that will still be relevant months or years down the line. And the easiest time to get a lot of viewers at once is when you first upload.
YouTube users are typically very liberal with their subscribing finger. For most of the people reading this post, the chances are that if you look in your subscriber list, there are far more subscribers than you actively keep up with.
There’s nothing wrong with this behaviour—most of us do it—but it does mean that notifying you about new videos can be problematic. If you have a hundred channels you are subscribed to (not uncommon) and at least fifty of them upload on a weekly basis, there’s a good chance that some of those videos are going to clash.
The next problem is that we are not looking at our YouTube notifications all day every day, so we don’t always see notifications in real-time.
The problem here is that YouTube does not like bombarding users with notifications. It isn’t very pleasant, and a surefire way to push people to turn their notifications off entirely, and YouTube certainly doesn’t want that.
So, if you open up your YouTube app and there have been eight new videos from channels you are subscribed since the last time you looked, YouTube won’t always show you notifications for all of those videos. Indeed, they might only show you one!
Even getting your subscribers to “ring that bell” is not a guaranteed way of ensuring they are notified since your video could hit the same bottleneck if a subscriber has multiple videos vying for notification attention at the same time.
TV is not a Good Model
In the early days of YouTube, as the platform started to settle into more than just short videos of people visiting the zoo, many YouTubers took a cue from broadcast television when deciding their upload schedule.
TV show schedules have been carefully honed over years of experience, and typically involve saving your best content for the evening. This is when the most people are going to be sat watching their TV.
For the younger members of our audience, it might be worth pointing out that this kind of system was worked out long before video-on-demand services like Netflix, and even before DVR capabilities. There was a time, not too distant, where shows were broadcast live and if you wanted to watch a show, you had to be in front of your TV during that live broadcast, or hope for a rerun in the future.
That may have worked for those early YouTubers, but the paradigm has well and truly shifted since the late 00s. People have come to know YouTube as a new medium that isn’t beholden to the restrictions of TV, rather than a mere extension of it.
And, with YouTube views increasingly coming from mobile devices, the watching habits of users is further skewing away from those traditional TV schedules.
Timing for Noobs
Before we get into any specific talk about when you should post your videos, it’s worth pointing out that none of this really applies to new channels.
If you are just starting out, you almost certainly don’t have an audience you are trying to please, so there is no sense in trying to work out when the best upload times for that audience are.
In the beginning, you should focus on establishing a routine that works for you. Until you have built up an audience, the important thing is consistency, rather maximising your potential.
Pick a time that works for you and try to stick to it so that the viewers you attract can get used to your schedule. As you grow as a channel, you can begin experiment more with the things we are going to go into below.
Knowing Your Audience: Timezone Edition
Before you can determine when the best time to upload for your channel is, you need to establish the timezones of your core audience. Unfortunately, this will be trickier for some channels than it will be for others.
On the plus side of things, this part being trickier is usually a sign that you are doing well as a YouTuber.
If your channel has a very clear audience geographically speaking, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
For example, if your audience is almost entirely UK-based, you can just mark it down as GMT (or BST depending on the time of the year) and move on to working out what the best time of day to upload is.
Unfortunately, if your audience is a little more widespread, things won’t be so simple. For example, English-speaking content that is not geared towards a specific region (people in America probably don’t care about local news in the UK, for example) could theoretically appeal to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand—countries that cover a whole gamut of timezones.
Depending on the exact part of each country we are talking, it could be the middle of the night in the US and Canada, early morning in the UK, late afternoon in Australia, and early evening in New Zealand. All at the same time.
Needless to say, working out the best time to upload in this situation is a little more complicated.
The best bet here is to try and determine if you have a primary market. For most YouTubers, it will likely be the region they live in, but if you have one region that consumes your content noticeably more than other areas, it might be worth focussing on that.
And, if you don’t have that one region you can zero in on, you can just pick the one you prefer, or go back to uploading at a time that suits you first and foremost. As we will explore shortly, the exact upload time isn’t the be-all and end-all of YouTube success.
Knowing Your Audience: Age and Habits Edition
We talked a little above about how YouTube has well and truly moved away from those viewing schedules set out by broadcast television, but how does that help you establish your own upload schedule?
Before we get into this, we should clarify that none of these are hard rules—there are always exceptions. Also, we’re leaving out Generation Alpha, which consists of people born between the early 2010s and the mid-2020s.
Given that, at the time of writing, the oldest example of Gen Alpha will be around eight years old, there’s no sense talking about when the best upload times are for them, as there are a whole other set of rules to factor in when making content for children.
Firstly, let’s talk about the Zoomers, also known as Gen Z, which covers people born between the mid-to-late 1990s to the early 2010s. These are children and young adults who have always had the Internet—and mostly had YouTube—their whole lives.
They will usually be in some form of education (unless you’re reading this in ten years) which will put a limit on their viewing time. If your primary audience falls into this bracket, you probably want to focus on early mornings and late afternoons.
This age range is not particularly suited for late-night, as younger Zoomers will likely be in bed, and older ones will be busy being teenagers and young adults.
This generation covers people born between the early 1980s and late 1990s and is notable from a YouTube perspective as being the generation that YouTube’s success was built on.
Millennials are mostly out in the world now, meaning they tend to have jobs, and not many jobs allow you to sit and watch YouTube while you’re working.
But, while this generation may remember a time before smartphones and broadband, they have nonetheless grown up with it, and are very comfortable using the technologies that are built around these things. In other words, you may lose your millennial audience during the mornings and afternoons, but you could still catch them on their lunch breaks thanks to the ease with which YouTube can be watched on the phone these days.
Evenings can be a bit hit and miss, however.
The millennial age range is both young enough to still be out socialising on an average night, but also old enough to have slowed down a little, and nights in more than nights out.
Generation X, also known as the MTV Generation, the Latchkey Generation, and the Lost Generation, is a generation of people born between 1965 and 1980.
This generation had mostly hit adulthood by the time the Internet started changing the world, and so tend to be less embracing of technology than their younger counterparts.
This generation doesn’t tend to be accessible from a YouTube perspective outside of their downtime, which means you’re far less likely to catch them before early evenings.
You may get some traction in the mornings, but you are unlikely to get a significant amount of Gen X watching YouTube on their phones at lunch breaks.
Baby Boomers, Silent Generation, and Greatest Generation
Though some Baby Boomers are still young enough to be in the regular workforce, we’re lumping these generations together because they are all more or less in the same situation, which is retirement.
For older YouTube viewers, the upload times are far more flexible, Generally speaking, you want to aim for before early evening, but other than that you should be good to go.
Where possible, try experimenting with different upload times. Bear in mind that the videos will need to have a similar level of expectation for the experimenting to be effective.
There is no sense comparing a video that you expect to do really well with a video you hope will at least be average.
Ultimately, the congestion caused by multiple video uploads and the unpredictable schedules of individual users will always make the ideal upload time something of a guessing game, so experimenting may be your only surefire way to know.