The short answer is this: Buying YouTube views is a questionable and risky strategy that can work but that can also backfire. If you are thinking about buying views, do check out the article so that you can make an informed decision. The article covers four questions:
- What is the purpose for buying views?
- Is the practice of buying views allowed according to YouTube’s Terms of Service?
- Can YouTube detect whether or not you are buying views?
- It it an effective way to build up your channel’s popularity?
I decided to research this topic when I noticed that someone using a song from my free background music collection had started a new channel and had a surprisingly high view count for a new channel with run-of-the mill content. A quick look at the channel stats suggested the views were being bought, so I started wondering, “Wow, that was a quick way to get views! Is it something I should be doing? What are the risks?”
1. Why do people buy YouTube views?
The purpose of buying views is to help hasten the natural, organic growth of your channel. Inflating your view count would make your videos appear more attractive. For example, if you see thumbnail links for two cover versions of the same song and one has 100,000 views while the other has 100 views, which link would you be more likely to click? Similarly, if you come across a channel with ten of thousands of subscribers, wouldn’t you be more likely to subscribe as well? Basically, buying views and subscribers is meant to attract more real viewers and subscribers in future.
2. Is buying views allowed under YouTube’s Terms of Service?
No. This is mentioned in this YouTube Policy Article: Working with third party view service providers
“What’s downright not allowed?
Purchasing views for your videos directly from third-party websites (e.g. paying $10 for 10,000 views).”
If you are a partner, buying views and/or subscribers is explicitly forbidden under YouTube’s Partner Progam Policies, which state:
- Do not click on your own ads or use any means to inflate video views, impressions and/or clicks artificially, including manual methods.
- Do not encourage others to click your ads or use deceptive implementation methods to obtain clicks, including clicks on your videos to inflate views. This includes commissioning third party agencies that advertise these services to increase your viewership. The purchase or gaming of subscribers, views or any other channel features is a violation of our Terms of Service.
- Do not manipulate or incentivize others to click on video features, such as “Like” or “Favorite,” to improve your standing and visibility across the site. We consider these to be fraudulent clicks and/or queries.
- Do not employ third party sites and tools to automatically generate artificial subscribers or views. (from Partner Program Policies, www.youtube.com/yt/partners/program-policies.html, Accessed 22 November 2013
If it is detected that you are buying views and/or subscribers, your account will be terminated.
If you are not a partner, and therefore are not monetizing your videos, buying ‘human’ views or subscribers does not seem not to be explicitly against YouTube’s Terms of Service (TOS), but it is explicitly forbidden under the policy article quoted at the top of this section. Buying automated views is definitely against the TOS. Once such practices are discovered, your account would be terminated.
You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, “robots,” “spiders,” or “offline readers,” that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser. (YouTube Terms of Service www.youtube.com/t/terms accessed 22 November 2013)
The problem here is that if you are a non-partner buying views, you would need to have complete trust in the view-selling service to never use automated techniques such as viewbots.
3. Can YouTube detect bought views and subscribers?
A view-selling service CAN operate undetected, but channels buying views can often be easy to spot either through viewbot-generated activity or through anomalous viewership statistics (e.g., a huge and sudden spike in the number of subscribers).
Most view-selling services state that all bought views, comments and subscribers come from real people and are spread out over a period of time to avoid detection and will therefore be impossible to detect. However, this kind of business is already kind of shady—the business model is, after all, based on deception—so it is difficult to trust such statements 100%. Can you really guarantee that the human viewers the services hire always follow their instructions to the letter and will never take shortcuts? Can you guarantee that YouTube will not update it’s monitoring methods to catch behaviors that now go unseen?
Accounts do get terminated regularly; it is not an empty threat. If you drop by the Google Products YouTube Forum, you will see quite a few posts that start off with “Why was my account terminated for no reason?” with replies that go along the lines of “Well, I looked at your stats on SocialBlade and it is obvious that you were buying views and subscribers.”
It’s kind of like steroid use. Does it work? Yes. Can it be detected? Yes, if you are not careful. Can one evade detection? Yes, until the detection methods catch up with the doping methods. Is it worthwhile? Is it worth the risk?
4. Is buying views an effective way to build up a channel?
To a certain extent, it does work. You will get those bought views, but will it lead to more views down the road?
It definitely did work in the past, especially if you were buying the hundreds of thousands of views that would propel your video to YouTube’s front page and the top of relevant search results. If you ask, you will find people who say, “Yeah, I bought views from Company X and everything was great. It really helped a lot.”
YouTube, however, operates differently now. It is now placing a lot more emphasis on viewer engagement when ranking search results and selecting recommended videos. If real views are being bought, it is likely these viewers will only watch a few seconds of each video. Under YouTube’s new algorithms, this would be interpreted as either ‘this video is rubbish’ or ‘the title or thumbnail is misleading’ with the consequence being your videos disappearing from search results or recommendations. If this happens, you would be hurting your ability to attract new viewers and organically grow your view count, thereby defeating the purpose of buying the views in the first place.
You also need to bear a certain amount of risk. If YouTube detects suspicious activity on you videos it may simply reset the views of those videos to zero or it may terminate the account. I was just reading an interesting post on Google’s YouTube forum. The original poster had hired someone to get real views, but it was found that the freelance ‘promoter’ had used viewbots instead. It seems that the dispute has escalated to the point where the promoter is now trying to blackmail the original poster. Do you really need such trouble?
I would recommend against buying views, especially if you are in the partner program. For non-partners, you can consider the following question: “It is OK for me if the existence of my channel depends on the ability of a third party service (and the people it hires) to fulfill their promises?” For me personally, the risks would outweigh the benefits.
Postscript: Can YouTube’s rules be used against you?
Would it be possible for an enemy or rival to hire a service provider to send fake views to your channel and get your account terminated? Yes, it would. I guess the only thing to do is to be vigilant and if you see a sudden and unexplainable surge in views, report the matter on the Google YouTube forums immediately. You can consider taking the following protections to prevent your video from being removed. This advice comes from XXLRay on the YouTube Products Forum:
- Set the video to private to prevent additional false views.
- Use the feedback button on the bottom of your video editor menu to inform YouTube about your observations and counter actions. Tell them you are going to search pro-actively for the source and that you are going to make sure it will not happen again.
- If your video is monetized inform AdSense as well by using their Invalid Clicks Contact Form. Users had their AdSense Account permanently terminated for invalid clicks in the past.
- Once you took these “first aid” actions try to find out the source website for these views from your Youtube Analytics. Search the web for the depending contact data and tell the responsible [parties] to stop directing views to your channel. If they repeat their behaviour take legal action.
- Note that this is no guarantee that YouTube won’t delete your videos. It’s just the best way to tackle the problem I can think of.
- If your video got deleted anyway you may use the YouTube View Abuse Appeal Form. Make sure to describe the counter-actions you took to prevent the YouTube system from damage. (productforums.google.com/d/msg/youtube/OSpl8xFs0SI/b_XW_zmnuoYJ, accessed 13 March 2014)
~by Stephen Richards (longzijun)
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