How to upload a video to YouTube – COMPLETE GUIDE
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Written by: Dexxter ClarkOnce you have successfully created a new YouTube channel, there is a “slight” chance you might want to upload a video in the future.
How does that work via your internet browser?
It’s not as simple as only uploading a file and you are done.
There is so much stuff to fill out!
You can’t skip it, because it is important!
In this article I’ll help you to understand how you can upload a YouTube video, what you need to fill out and how you can upload multiple videos.
I also answer frequently asked questions like:
- how can you continue or pause an upload?
- How can you upload videos longer than 15 minutes?
- How to deal with a stuck video upload
- How to fix bad video quality after upload
This article is written from the perspective and experience of a YouTube video creator.
I’m not a lawyer, nor claiming to be a legal expert.
Always consult a lawyer concerning legal matters.
1. Export in the right formatBefore you can upload a video, you need to make sure you have exported your video file in the right format from your video editing software.
YouTube supports the following video formats:
- HEVC (h265)
What is the best video format to use for YouTube?YouTube says: MP4 with a high bitrate and h.264 codec and AAC audio codec.
The standard aspect ratio is 16:9, but it supports other ratios too.
If you want to know exactly which video settings you need to use in your video editor, take a look at Google’s support page on the topic
Exporting videos for YouTube in Final Cut Pro
When you work with Final Cut Pro, you don’t have much control over the video encoder and quality.
You can choose to upload the video directly to YouTube in Final Cut Pro.
However the quality of that setting is bad.
The video is blurry, like your autofocus on your camera is broken.
You can choose to export the video with the “ProRes 422”-setting, which is basically a huge uncompressed video.
Or you can choose to export with the “x264”-setting, which is a MP4 file compressed in x264 format.
This file is a bit weird because the file is smaller than ProRes 422, but still HUGE for a x264 encoded file.
The biggest downside is again the quality, it is abominable, it is blurry and the videos look bad on YouTube.
Choose to export your file in ProRes 422.
Internally the file on YouTube’s side is still converted to their own proprietary format (I suspect x264 or x265), but their encoder is much better than the one in Final Cut Pro.
2. How do you post a video on YouTube?
- Sign in to YouTube if you already aren’t
- Everywhere on YouTube is a camera icon with a plus sign in the top right of the screen. Click on that icon and choose “upload video”
- Select the video file(s) you exported from your video editing software. You can also drag and drop files to the upload panel on YouTube.
- Wait for the upload to finish
Video as Draft
YouTube uploads your video as a draft.
Once you’ve completed all the steps in the draft, it will become a regular video.
Personally, I find the draft idiom very handy.
When I upload multiple videos, I don’t want to fill out the details right away.
The draft-feature keeps track of which videos I still have to give some “love” by filling out the meta-data.
3. Fill out the video meta dataThe Meta data is:
Video titleA good video title:
- Is relevant to the content of the video (I mean: don’t use clickbait)
- invokes curiosity so the viewer clicks on the video
- contains target keywords, so you can be found in YouTube Search (and Google)
Also the video title generator on this site might help you out.
Video descriptionDescribe the content of your video.
The YouTube algorithm puts a lot of weight on the video title and description to determine the topic of the video.
So, an accurate description can help you to be found in YouTube search and Google.
A good video description contains:
- A compelling hook to draw viewers attention above the fold (first 3 lines)
- Timestamps if you have a longer video
- Your website and social handles
- Links to products when your recommend them
- Links to other videos and playlists to improve session watch time
Custom thumbnailYou don’t have to use a custom thumbnail, but I recommend you do.
With a custom thumbnail you can increase the chance that viewers click on your video.
Some basic photo editing skills can come in handy here.
Try to design a custom thumbnail that sparks curiosity.
PlaylistYou can put your video in a playlist.
A playlist is a group of videos.
You can link to a playlist from a video in description, card or end screen.
But you can also show a playlist on your YouTube channel page.
Suitability for childrenCheck the checkbox: “my content is made for kids” if your main target audience is children.
If you have a broad audience (not specifically children), check “my content is not made for kids”.
This is an important setting, YouTube will penalize you if you set this wrong.
Children`s content has some restrictions: no comment section, no end screen, no ability to show ads etc.
You can find more information about the topic in the YouTube Community Guidelines.
Age restrictionIf your video contains adult content, you need to mark it accordingly.
This means that you can’t use ads on your video.
Be aware that nudity is absolutely not allowed on YouTube, except for certain educational purposes.
You can find more information about the topic in the YouTube Community Guidelines.
Paid promotionIf you are paid by someone to promote a product or service, you need to check: “My video contains paid promotion”.
The same applies to “add message to inform viewers”.
This is a legal thing, make sure to be truthful.
TagsTags are not important anymore, don’t bother with them.
Only use tags for often misspelled words.
I’ll tell you everything about the myth of tags (+proof) in my article about the topic.
Language, subtitles and closed captionsYou can add Closed Captions (CC) or subtitles to your YouTube videos.
This can improve the consumption of your content for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Make sure your video language is correct, otherwise the speech recognition algorithm for the subtitles will go bonkers.
YouTube will generate subtitles automatically, but they are often not accurate.
To take advantage of the subtitles, I would advice you to check the subtitles for “misunderstood” words.
Recording date and locationNot important, unless you want your video to be found by location.
A travel vlog for example could benefit from this.
When someone searches for information on Tenerife for example, the video can be found more easily in YouTube Search and Google
Licence and distributionYou can choose between two license types for your video:
- Standard YouTube license – you are protected by law. Nobody may use your video (=default)
- Creative Commons – everybody can do with your video whatever they like
- allow embedding: do you want users to be able to embed your video in websites? (default: yes)
- Publish to subscriptions feed: do you want your subscribers to get a notification of your video? (default: yes)
CategoryDon’t bother, the YouTube algorithms disregard this setting, because most creators don’t fill it out correctly.
Comments and ratingsAllowing comments:
- Allow all comments – everyone can comment on your video
- Hold potentially inappropriate comments – YouTube tries to detect spam and negative comments (=default). The potentially inappropriate comments are shown in the Comments section in YouTube Studio in the tab “held for review”.
- Hold all comments for review – everybody can comment, but you need to approve every comment explicitly before it shows up on YouTube.
- Disable comments – nobody can post a comment
You can sort comments by:
- top – the comment with the most likes is shown on top
- newest – the oldest comment is shown at the bottom, newest on top
When you disable this, viewers can still click the thumbs-up or thumbs-down, but only the creator can see how many.
MonetisationIf you are a partner of the YouTube Partner Program (YPP), you can add ads to your video to make money.
In the monetisation tab you can enable or disable the ads.
You can also choose which ads you want to show:
- Display ads – an ad on the video watch page. You can’t disable this option.
- Overlay ads – at the bottom of the video is shown an ad graphic
- Sponsored cards – the cards in your video can contain ads (the “i” icon in the top right of the video)
- Skippable video ads – at the beginning or during your videos are video ads displayed that a viewer can skip after a couple of seconds
- Non-skippable video ads – the viewer can’t skip the ad. This diminishes the viewer experience, but you earn more from the ad.
- Before video - pretty self explanatory.
- During video - only when a video is longer than 10 minutes. You can specify the location of the ads.
- After video - only for videos longer than 10 minutes.
Ad suitabilityIn order to show ads, you have to self-certify your video content.
Some advertisers don’t want their ads to be shown on videos that are violent, contain strong language or contain sexuality.
Be honest in the self certification process, YouTube will penalize you if you aren’t.
Be aware that the certification applies to your entire content: video, title, description, thumbnail etc.
You have to self certify in the following categories:
- Inappropriate language – don’t run your mouth in YouTube videos
- Adult content – even talking about sex is off limits for ads
- Violence – watch out, some gameplay footage may be deemed violent
- Harmful and dangerous acts – pretty self explanatory
- Drug related – pretty self explanatory
- Hateful content - pretty self explanatory
- Firearms - pretty self explanatory
- Sensitive issues – things like terrorism and controversial issues
Video elementsEnd screen
In the last 20 seconds of your YouTube video you can show the viewer other videos (or playlists) to watch.
These videos (and playlist) are clickable elements on the screen.
You can specify which videos you want to show to the viewer or let YouTube choose a video for every viewer.
You can also add a link to your website or a channel subscription link.
Cards are little popups in the top right corner of the video during video playback (with the “I” icon).
The cards show the viewer other videos (or playlists) to watch or links to a website.
VisibilityYouTube videos can have 3 visibility statuses:
- Private - nobody can see your videos, except the creator and people with a google account you’ve granted explicitly access to your YouTube channel.
- Unlisted - everybody can see your videos when they have the link to your video. The video itself is not displayed on YouTube (also not your channel page) and can’t be found by Google or YouTube search
- Public - everyone can see your video. The videos you’ll see on youtube.com are all set to public. A notification will be sent to your subscribers when you set a video to public.
I recommend you always upload your videos as private, for 2 reasons:
Otherwise your video will go live the minute the video is uploaded and finished processing.
If this happens, YouTube has not have enough time to process the video in higher video resolutions.
Only the lower resolutions are available for the viewers that click on the notification.
You might forget to fill out (some of) the video meta data.
This means that your video will be release without it.
Your video does not have a fair shot against the competition, because it’s simply lacking information.
You can set the default upload visibility in the settings in YouTube Studio.
You can schedule a date and time for the video to be released.
On the specified date and time, the visibility state will flip from “private” to “public”.
You can only schedule “private” videos, not “unlisted”.
You can set a video as premiere.
This is combination of a regular video and a live stream.
With a video premiere, your video will be streamed to your subscribers and are not able to skip to other sections in the video (just like a live stream).
Before the premiere starts, it will show a countdown timer.
A notification will be sent out to your subscribers the first time you change the state from private (or “unlisted”) to public.
This only will happen when you checked the checkbox in “licence and distribution”.
More details on YouTube notifications for creators in this article.
How to upload multiple videos to YouTube?You can upload multiple videos at once.
This works the same way as uploading one video, but instead of selecting one video on your computer, you select multiple.
You can also drag-and-drop multiple video files to the upload panel on youtube.com.
Uploading multiple videos at once makes it easy to batch content: you shoot, edit and upload multiple videos in batches.
This way you can leave you computer on for a night to upload all the videos for that week in one run.
Frequently asked question regarding video uploads
What happens if you close YouTube while uploading?Your download will be interrupted, but is not lost.
When you go back to YouTube Studio you will see a video draft with a progress indicator in your video list.
It is possible to resume your video upload.
I’ll tell you how in the next chapter.
How to continue interrupted upload YouTube video?Your browser crashes, you click “cancel” by accident or close your browser (while you were uploading in a different tab).
It happens to all of us once in a while.
It will most likely happen on a 120GB video at 95% :)
Luckily it is possible to continue an interrupted video upload.
There are two ways to resume an interrupted video upload:
1. Treat the upload as it being a new video.
If YouTube recognizes the file as being partially uploaded earlier, it will automatically continue the upload.
The upload progress will jump from 0% to 45% all of a sudden (or any other percentage at which you interrupted the upload).
This way you know that it continued the upload.
It doesn’t work always, regretfully.
I noticed that you need to upload with the same internet browser for the upload to continue.
Switching to another computer for example, will result in the file uploaded from start.
Also, make sure the file has still the same filename, otherwise it won’t work.
If YouTube doesn’t recognize the interrupted upload it will create a new upload and starts uploading from scratch.
The broken upload will still be visible in your video list, so you need to delete it manually.
2. resume upload
When you go to YouTube Studio and look at your video list, you will see the video in the list with the message “Upload interrupted”.
Click on “resume upload”.
When you click “resume upload” it will open a dialog that asks you to lookup the video file on your computer that was interrupted.
Make sure the video file has the same filename as before, otherwise it won’t work.
How do you pause a YouTube upload?Regretfully, there isn’t an official way to pause an upload.
But the unofficial way works just as well.
You can just stop the upload by leaving YouTube Studio or closing the browser.
Next time, when you go to YouTube Studio, go to the video list.
Now you see your interrupted download in the list of video.
Click “Resume upload” in the video list.
Make sure the file has the same filename as before, otherwise it won’t work.
How can I upload more than 15 minutes on YouTube?YouTube has a default upload limit of 15 minutes for a video.
In order to upload longer videos you need to have a verified YouTube account.
In the features list (displayed in the account section) you can see if your account is verified and which features are enabled, including the longer-video feature.
In order to verify your account you must leave your phone number.
Google will call or text you a verification code that you have to input on YouTube.
Cause of a video upload being stuckIt might happen that your video upload gets stuck when uploading.
This is most likely due to an unstable internet connection.
This probably has 4 causes:
- Your WiFi connection is not stable. Remove interference devices like phones or try to restart your WiFi router.
- Your router is broken. Buy a new one.
- Your Internet Service Provider doesn’t provide a stable connection, try with another internet connection.
Probably if you are able to read this, you have.
I also noticed that it helps if you shout: the louder, the better.
Also foul language works better :)
Video upload stuck during processing / not processingThe problem is probably the video file.
The YouTube video encoders that process the file, don’t know how to cope with the video format.
YouTube converts every video file to their own internal format.
- Try to export the video again from your video editing software, the file might have gone corrupt somewhere along the way.
- Try to export into another codec or file format in your video editor.
- Try to convert the file to another file format with something like Handbrake (=free video converter).
For more details on the video codecs that YouTube supports, take a look at Google’s support page on the topic.
How to fix bad quality after the upload of a YouTube videoThis could have a couple of causes.
Right after the upload.
You don’t have to do anything, it will sort itself out.
When YouTube has processed the video (the process you see with a progress indicator), only the SD version is available to viewers.
YouTube is still busy rendering the file in higher resolutions like 1080p or 4K.
The rendering in higher resolutions takes a while (often minutes and sometimes a couple of hours).
You can’t see this process (or its progress), it all happens in the background.
This is why I recommend you don’t release a video right after the upload: you won’t have all the resolutions available for your viewers.
If your video resolution or video quality doesn’t improve after a couple of hours, there is something wrong with the source material.
If that is the case, you can’t fix bad quality after upload, you need to re-upload.
I recommend you re-upload in a different file format.
For more details on the video codecs that YouTube supports, take a look at Google’s support page on the topic.
It could be in the video codec
Videos are large files because they store a lot of information about individual pixel colors at 30 or 60 frames a second (or other).
To prevent having to store the information for every single pixel at 30 frames a second, they came up with a clever solution: only store the differences between frames.
If the pixel hasn’t changed color between 2 frames: don’t store it.
But when is a change a change? If it deviates 10% from the original or 60% from the original color?
This process is called: compression (it is a bit more complicated, but that is not important for now).
An example of this kind is of compression: x264.
You can only store a maximum amount of changes in order to provide effective compression.
If you store too much, you are basically back at where we started: storing information for every pixel in every frame.
When you have videos with rapid changing colors (i.e. a lot of movement) there is too much pixel information that changes between frames, which results in bad quality.
Confetti for example will result in a big garbled mess.
You could try to increase the bit rate of the video file, which will increase the amount of changes it stores in the video file.
Final Cut Pro
The pre programmed settings when it comes to YouTube and x264 result in a blurry video in a good resolution.
Export as ProRes 422 and upload the video to YouTube by hand.
When you are serious about YouTube and want to take it to the next level, take a look at my video training program: Viral Strategy.
The program takes you step-by-step through the process of getting views, subscribers and going viral.
For new creators I included a module that guides you step-by-step through the process of starting, creating and setting up a YouTube channel.
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