For a YouTuber, exposure is the barometer for success. Therefore, it can be disheartening for growing content creators to see YouTube delete their subscribers. YouTube regularly deletes subscribers, and it is crucial for content creators to know why. Unexplained drops can have a negative effect on the creators’ channel, content and forward progression. Misunderstanding this aspect may encourage a creator to force unnecessary changes in content strategy.
It’s not you, its YouTube.
Does YouTube remove subscribers?
If confirmation were needed that YouTube removes subscribers, it was given in a community help forum by a member of Team YouTube in December 2018 (https://support.google.com/youtube/forum/AAAAiuErobUAWHJfWAsqVk). In answering the queries from the creator community, YouTube issued the following statement:
“We regularly verify the legitimacy of accounts and actions on your YouTube channel. We’ve recently identified and fixed an issue that caused some spam not to be removed … we’ll be taking action and removing subscribers that were in fact spam from our systems … (ensuring) that YouTube remains a fair playing field for everyone and should result in higher confidence that you’re organically building a community of authentic fans.”
YouTube’s automated clean ups typically take place towards the end of the year. This is an unpopular move with content creators looking to qualify for the YouTube partnership program as eligibility starts at 1000 subscribers. For those that drop below the 1000-subscriber threshold due to automated clean-ups, YouTube says they are ‘encouraged to reapply once they’ve built their subscribers organically’. Channels looking to qualify for monetization schemes, such as channel memberships and merchandise shelfs may also be affected. YouTube, however, maintains that on average, impacted channels will see their subscriptions decrease by fewer than 15 subscribers.
From various statements and brief Q and As with members of Team YouTube, we can identify why YouTube may be deleting your subscribers.
Why does YouTube remove subscribers?
People close their own accounts
It may not be YouTube deleting your subscribers. One of the reasons subscriber numbers may be dropping could come down to the subscribers themselves. These subscribers willingly close their accounts and their profiles are removed from your metrics.
Closed accounts can linger in your data until the end of the year automatic clean up when they are removed altogether. This issue makes up a natural part of social media’s ebb and flow, so it’s best not to over analyze this point.
Your subscriber numbers may drop when accounts are terminated or otherwise suspended by YouTube. YouTube can suspend or close active and legitimate profiles for any number of reasons that fall under policy violations. For example, accounts can be closed for disseminating violent rhetoric or hate speech, amongst other indiscretions. If the creator has a large number of nefarious profiles amongst their subscribership, they could see a significant drop in subscribers when YouTube administers theirs bans.
YouTube has come into controversy for their policies on closing accounts. In December 2019, YouTube issued the following change to its terms and conditions:
“YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.”
YouTube can close an account if it is deemed not to be ‘commercially viable’, which is open to interpretation. It can be assumed that YouTube retains the right to close any account that does not make money. This latest policy may provide some reason for the drop in subscriber numbers.
Spam and bot accounts
The primary targets of YouTube account closures are spam and bot accounts. These are automated accounts that don’t represent any real entity and only serve to skewer the metrics involved in YouTubes algorithms and data.
If your channel finds itself being subscribed to by a number of fake accounts, it will inflate the subscriber-to-views ratio. The removal of these accounts shouldn’t impact upon the channel’s views and engagement, but it may hinder the efforts of smaller YouTubers seeking to qualify with subscriber-based monetization schemes.
Third party followers are paid to subscribe to your account. These are often a subset of automated bot and spam accounts and are ran by outside software systems. YouTube maintains that they have spent years developing their own systems to combat these. While it may seem a tempting shortcut to success, paying for subscribers could see your account suspended and closed. Your Google account could also be at risk of permanent closure.
More sophisticated third-party systems follow many accounts at once to disguise their bots as credible profiles. You may find your profile has become an unintended target of these bots and when YouTube catches up to them, your subscribership could drop significantly. To avoid the risk of having your account closed, be sure to report any suspected or unusual activity.
As a content creator, you may find your subscriber numbers dropping at unusual times. It’s important to understand YouTube’s methodology in this process. The subscribers that have been removed are simply closed accounts, legitimate or otherwise. You can trust, however, that it’s not any specific action against yourself. You do not need to change your plan or strategy or content on the basis of these removals. Remember that it is not you, it’s YouTube.
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