Okay, I spent damn near a week fighting youtube’s algorithm for determining what is advertiser friendly. Needless to say, this process was rather frustrating (and I may have gotten a little testy towards a few players on the forums as a result of my foul mood), but I did learn a few things. So, I thought I’d share them with you guys. Hopefully, it will save some of you some headache.
First of all, there is a difference between what is in keeping with the community guidelines and what is advertiser friendly. Community guidelines are like social expectations concerning what is appropriate content (i.e. no porn, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, threats and harassment, etcetera). However, just because a video doesn’t violate community guidelines, that doesn’t mean that all advertisers want their ads showing alongside it. I mean, corporations will rape the environment, screw over their employees, cause public health concerns, and cause society wide ramifications, but they draw the line with a cartoon nutsack. OVER THE LINE!!!
For real though, they have brand images to maintain, and many people will boycott sponsors and give them grief in an attempt to hurt content creators they get mad at. Thus, advertisers effectively have their own, stricter, set of guidelines for determining what is appropriate behavior. Now, not only are these advertiser guidelines rather prudish, but they also not spelled out anywhere. Yes, you can find guidelines, but they are vague, incomplete, and sometimes irrelevant thanks to the fact that Youtube’s algorithm is prone to making mistakes.
When you upload a video to youtube, its algorithm(s) will look at the video and the metadata, and try to determine whether or not it is advertiser friendly. This means that it looks at (1) The content of the video, (2) The title, (3) the video description, & (4) all the tags. It will look at elements by themselves, and as a whole. For example, it will apparently use metadata to help give it context and help it better understand what it’s looking at in the video. Thus, everything has to be Kosher, and a problem anywhere can get your video demonetized. And THE WORST part about it all, is that YouTube will not tell you where the problem is. For example, Content ID claims will give you a time stamp so that you know exactly where the problem is; when you get demonetized, you get no such information, and it’s up to you to determine where the problem is.
Recommended Steps to Find and Avoid Problems
Now, what I had been doing was just filling out all my metadata immediately upon uploading, and then troubleshooting if I ran into a problem. However, given how much of a headache this last video was, I plan on changing my process to best help me identify the offending element.
- First things first, upload the video and set it to unlisted.
- While it is uploading, fill a bare minimum amount of meta data –taking care to ensure that it is non-offensive. This is to help the algorithm determine what exactly it’s looking at, while limiting the chances that something in the meta. So, for a pvp gameplay video;
- Title it “pvp gameplay”
- Put “pvp gameplay” in the description
- Use 2 or 3 tags like “Eve Online Gameplay” and “Eve Online PvP”
- Upload the most non-offensive thumbnail that you can
- Note that missing metadata can cause your video to get flagged!
- Let it finish uploading and processing.
- Wait 10-20 minutes to make sure that it doesn’t get flagged as being inappropriate for advertisers. If it does, our careful selection of metadata means that it’s probably a problem with something in the video.
- If it finds a problem at this step, we can narrow down where exactly the offending section is by uploading ever smaller segments of the video. For example, break the video up into 4 parts and upload them all. Find that section 2 is getting flagged? Well, break up section two into 4 parts and repeat until you have a pretty good idea of what’s causing the issue. If you happen to run into a problem like, section 2 got flagged, but sections 2A, 2B, 2C, and 2D are all clear, then there’s a good chance that the problem isn’t in the section, but with the meta data. And yes, the same metadata can be fine for one video, and cause problems for another. Regardless, once you’ve made your changes to your video, reupload the offending segment and wait to see if it fixes the problem.
- If you don’t get flagged, or removed any flags being caused by the video, proceed by making incremental changes to your meta-data. In other words, just fill in the video descripton, then wait 15 minutes. Just do all your tags, then wait 15 minutes. Then pick a good title, and wait. Make a good thumbnail, then wait. If everything goes smoothly, you can then publish right there, or schedule it for later.
- Due to the incremental changes, you should have a good idea of where the problem is. However, if you have a bunch of tags or stuff in your video description, delete portions of it until you narrow down exactly where the problem is. For example, delete half your tags. If the flag goes away, then the problem was in the half you deleted. If it doesn’t, then the offender is one of the tags you didn’t delete. Just be sure not to delete the metadata that was giving the algorithm context. The algorithm needs that context every time it analyzes your video.
- Personally, I recommend scheduling it for at least a couple of hours later. According to youtube, its algorithm can take up to 48 hours to finish analyzing your video. In practice, I’ve never had a change to monetization status take that long. Normally, I’ll either get flagged right away, or within about 15 minutes. However, I have had a few videos appear fine, gone to bed, and found flags upon waking up. Thus, I like to schedule for several days down the road, and then will usually roll that back to 15 minutes once I’ve waited long enough to feel confident.
- And do note, that after all of this, you can still get flagged by viewers. Fortunately, viewers seem to be less prudish than advertisers, because I haven’t run into this problem.
Okay, here’s a list of video content that has given me problems. Note that it does not include everything that could cause problems. If you want to know more, check out this link. And do note: that none of these are bright line rules. You may get away with something in one video, but not in another.
- Hard cusswords (like F-bombs) in the “opening segment” of your video (I have no idea how long the opening segment is considered to be). Soft cusswords like damn and hell are fine.
- Things that could be considered polarizing, such as politics. Note that it doesn’t actually have to be polarizing (like an opinion piece about abortion), it just has to make the algorithm think that it is polarizing (i.e., a factual reporting of primary results could conceivably cause problems).
- Sexualized content, which can include fully clothed people posing. For example, I had a segment where I saying, “boobs” while showing pictures of celebrity cleavage that got flagged. Other times, I’ve done things like show a single girl in a bikini showing far more skin that didn’t.
- Cartoon depictions of genitalia. Dicks seem to be more likely to cause problems than ballsacks and vaginas (and yes, my channel is called A Bad Show For Bad People, and not A Family Show for Roman Catholic Grandmas).
- Talking about or showing Nazi imagery. For example, a video only clip of a Der Untergang meme video got me flagged.
- Alex Jones/Info Wars memes
Finally, metadata can cause problems as well. A lot of these words will be common sense (i.e. rape, buttsex, cocaine, Hitler), but this isn’t always the case. Youtube will demonetize anything that can create controversy (including things like words related to the LBGTQ community and the meetoo hashtag), as well as A LOT of seemingly inexplicable words (i.e. airline and arthritis). It is speculated that those words are on the list not because they’re problematic in any way, but because they have been found to have been used on videos that aren’t very good for advertising (i.e. the demographic that watches those videos tend not to engage with the ads, or doesn’t have a lot of discretionary income).
Okay, I think that’s everything. If I think of something else, I’ll update this post. Good luck
…and fuck Youtube up its arthritic ass on an airline.