John Lincoln

YouTube’s New Rules for External Linking in Videos

If you’re using YouTube, you’ll want to pay attention to this.

The video platform recently announced new rules regarding how user’s link to outside websites.

The new set-up has been met with mixed reviews, leaving some skeptical of the site’s intentions.

Below I’ll cover what exactly has changed and how it may affect you.

Youtube's new rules for external linking in videos

The Way it Was

Adding links to videos used to be fairly straightforward. YouTube creators could include them in video descriptions, cards throughout the video, or an endscreen. YouTube cards are the dark pop-ups that appear throughout videos (creators can choose when and where these appear). Endscreens take up the entire screen and last up to 20 seconds. Clicking the links in either will lead viewers to sites away from YouTube – often to official websites of the video creators, crowdfunding sites like Patreon or other merchandise stores that allow creators to earn revenue.

The New Rules

As of May, the rules are slightly stricter. Now, rather than allowing anyone to link externally, YouTube requires that users join their Partner program first. To do this, users must also enable monetization.
Users must now enable monetization to add external links to videos
Users must now enable monetization to add external links to videos
In addition, while there was previously no minimum view count to their Partner program, the platform now also requires a channel have at least 10,000 views to be considered. YouTube states: “We know this is frustrating for some but external linking is a powerful tool that provides relevant information to viewers, and therefore, we want to ensure that the creators showing these links are playing by the rules.  Requiring monetization gives us additional information to determine the validity of a channel and its compliance with our policies.” To join and add links, users must follow three steps.

Step 1: Join the YouTube Partner Program

The basis of YouTube’s Partner Program is that it allows users to earn shared revenue from ads placed in their videos. If viewers click on any of the videos, the YouTube Partner will be entitled to a share of the revenue (typically cents or a few dollars.) To sign up, users must agree to the terms and conditions and apply. While users can apply at any time, their application will only be reviewed once their channel has hit the required 10,000 views. According to YouTube, the “new count threshold gives us enough information to determine the validity of a channel. It also allows us to confirm if a channel is following our community guidelines and advertiser policies.” YouTube will then check that your content complies with the YouTube Partner Program policies, YouTube’s terms of service and its community guidelines.

Step 2: Associate Your Site With Your Google Account

YouTube also requires that you add your website as an “associated website” in your Google account in order to link to it. If you haven’t already, users can follow the steps listed here to set up. The site will then go through a verification process, and once approved users will be able to link to it.

Step 3: Add a Card on Videos to Link to Your Website

The final step is creating and adding the actual card to your video. You can do this in your Video Manager section. You’ll be prompted to create the card, select your site URL, and add a title, CTA, and teaser text. Here, you can also link to an approved merchandise or crowdfunding site, or add an endscreen instead of a card.

Possible Drawbacks of YouTube’s New Rules

In theory, the process isn’t overly-complicated, but many still aren’t on board with the new rules. Some see them as a way to draw money away from Patreon and other crowdfunding, and back to YouTube YouTube insists that isn’t the case, and says the change is to “curb abuse” of external links. With the new rules, YouTube will be able to monitor and ensure no terms of use or community guidelines are being violated. Another complaint stems from the fact that in order to monetize, creators will have to allow ads from other businesses (potentially including competitors) to run on their videos. YouTube has addressed this as well, stating “this update is meant to curb abuse and does not affect current YouTube partners or the availability of existing end cards. Additionally, channels do not have to actually monetize any videos as part of this requirement.” And lastly, small businesses in particular stand to lose revenue and traffic if they don’t meet the required 10,000 channel views. With the change, many smaller businesses will find it difficult to funnel viewers to revenue-producing merchandise or crowdfunding sites. YouTube has already removed ads from videos that failed to meet the minimum channel views.

New Links Summary

Time will tell how the new set of rules affects video creators. While existing videos and links will remain unchanged, in order to continue links – to any site – creators will have to be proactive and agree to YouTube’s Partner Program.

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John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation. Ignite Visibility is a 4x  Inc. 5,000 company. Ignite Visibility offers a unique digital marketing program tied directly to ROI with a focus on using SEO, social media, paid media, CRO, email, Amazon and PR to achieve results. Outside of Ignite Visibility, Lincoln is a frequent speaker and author of the books “Digital Influencer” and “The Forecaster Method.” Lincoln is consistently named one of the top digital marketers in the industry and was the recipient of the coveted Search Engine Land “Search Marketer of The Year” award. Lincoln has taught digital marketing and Web Analytics at the University of California San Diego since 2010, has been named as one of San Diego’s most admired CEO’s and a top business leader under 40. Lincoln has also made “SEO: The Movie” and “Social Media Marketing: The Movie.” His business mission is to help others through digital marketing.

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