Why YouTube's '301 Freeze Rule' Might Restrict Your Videos From Going Viral

For all those social media addicts out there who constantly chase the "numbers -- whether it be followers, friends or page views -- Google, in its inimical wisdom is here to tell you, popular videos are no longer a guarantee you will go viral on YouTube. In case you're not aware, with the 301 Freeze Rule, your video could be frozen in time, never to see any additional add-on ever again.

Welcome to "Club 301 Freeze"

Ted HamiltonTed HamiltonGoogle Analytics Product Manager Ted Hamilton defines a "view" as "currency," or a "video playback that was requested by an actual user." In an effort to eliminate "counterfeit views" or those generated by bots or other forms of forced viewer counts (stimulated by false advertisement or computer programs), statistical verification is triggered when a video reaches the magic number of 301, which ultimately freezes your count. This, in turn, virtually disallows you or your followers to see the actual number that might be still accruing thereafter.

Oh the Irony

In Google's tenacity for weeding out false views created by automation, the review process that kicks in at the 301 mark is conducted by what? You guessed it - automation! So, there's no human intervention involved -- only lines of code that's supposed to know the difference between a legitimate and not-so-legitimate view.

Line in the Sand

Hamilton, in June, 2012 admits that he was not there when the decision was made to halt incoming views at the random 301+ mark. He agrees however that a line had to be drawn between the "innocuous" and what was "serious business." Yes, a vague justification - but the only one Hamilton was able to come up with when interviewed by video journalist Brady Haran in the above video.

LIKES on the other hand. . .

Likes on the other hand are not put through the same rigor as page views according to Hamilton, because "likes are fewer in magnitude and Google's systems can handle them more easily."

Who's Faster: Viral or Counterfeit Videos?

Logically, it would seem to me that 'true' viral videos could rack up views even faster than counterfeit videos, so how does YouTube discern the difference between the two? This question was never addressed nor answered by Haran or Hamilton. Even if one was to make an appeal, as I have done with one of my own videos, the chances of Google or YouTube responding to you is slim to none. Like those voluminous views coming in, so are people stuck at 301.

Modus Operandi

This appears to be Google's modus operandi. Similarly when one is suspended from Gplus, and attempts to go through their appeals process, suspensions to my knowledge are never lifted.  See more on this topic at: Google+'s Long History Of Suspensions In Search Of Remedies.

The Black Hole

It seems that when 301 videos get stuck as such, they are censored ad infinitum. Yes, both Haran and Hamilton indicate the freeze should only last for a couple of hours, but in actuality, this is not accurate. My video has been frozen for over a week, and I have discussed this issue with many folks online who have had videos in this limbo status for months. This is even the case, when a 301 frozen video has a high number of likes and comments, which logically would indicate popularlity. But apparently Google's bots have not added those triggers to their "freezing" algorithm.

What's to be done?

If you're rockin' the 301 freeze as well, you have the following options. You can submit an appeal or you can contact Ted Hamilton directly. He can be found on the following social networks: Gplus and LinkedIn.

Unless you vet them thoroughly, it's not advisable to sign up for services that purport they can unfreeze your account and add additional "real people" views. Taking that route might actually have YouTube cancel your video altogether.

Hamilton assuages this issue with: “I wouldn’t say that it causes angst, but I would certainly classify it as an annoyance.” No, Mr. Hamilton, I don't think "Club 301 Freeze" see it as so much as an annoyance, but as a persistent headache that doesn't seem to have a remedy.




Jan 31, 2014
by Anonymous

I've seen videos with more

I've seen videos with more likes than views and wondered what was going on.

This would explain it I suppose.