Uploading Videos to YouTube
by Sam Campbell
You did it! You made a video. Whether it was a breeze or fraught with hours of preparation, editing, and hand wringing, you’ve got a video that’s ready to be uploaded to YouTube. Congratulations.
This is the point when many new YouTubers experience a bit of frustration because they just want to get the video onto the platform, but there is suddenly a new set of decisions to be made.
How to upload a video to YouTube is a question everybody has to grapple with, so here’s the definitive rundown of everything you need to know.
Before you hit that upload button, let’s just double-check all the specs and save yourself a little time. Here’s what to know before uploading a video to YouTube.
- Video Length. The default video length when uploading from any device is set to 15-minutes. Verified accounts can load longer videos. If your video is longer, then take a moment to get verified.
- Upload file size. YouTube’s maximum upload size is 128GB or 12-hours. They go with whichever is less. If your video is larger than 128GB, try compressing the video with your video-editing software prior to uploading. Remember that compressing your video will reduce the file size and, when done correctly, also maintain the quality.
- Video Format. The file types you can upload to YouTube include: .mov, .mpeg, .mp4, .avi, .wmv, .mpegps, .flv, webM, and 3GPP.
- Resolution and Aspect Ratio. The aspect ratio should be 16:9, which is standard for desktops. Loading a video with a different aspect ratio will result in YouTube adding padding to ensure the video is displayed correctly. Meaning, YouTube will help ensure people can still see your video, regardless of the player the viewer is using, without cropping or awkward stretching.
- Bitrate. The video bitrate is basically how much data can be transferred all at once. Bigger files or higher resolution videos require more bitrate to be conveyed. See the chart below.
Okay, so you’ve got the video completed and it’s formatted just right for upload. Now take a look at this quick upload prep checklist. Sure, you can decide this stuff on the fly, but if you are taking your YouTube career seriously, you’ll want to be purposeful and strategic about your upload process, which means having already thought about this stuff.
Yes, you can just call it “Joe’s First Video.” If you want to be more strategic and get more views right from the start, you’ll want to give this a little more thought. The title is the first thing potential viewers read when they are searching for videos they might be interested in. There are three rules: Descriptive, catchy, click-worthy.
Being descriptive and catchy just means you are telling them about the main idea - what they’ll get out of watching this video. Is it a tutorial? A recommendation? A review? Something funny involving cats? This isn’t the time to be secretive or sly. Don’t be subtle.
The title is one of the features that tells YouTube who to show your video to when they search your topic. That means you need to think in terms of keywords. If it’s about turtles, make sure the word turtles is in the title.
The title also tells viewers they are in the right place. So, as you design something descriptive and catchy, let them know whether it’s advanced crochet techniques for pros or beginner knitting for people with no hand-eye coordination.
Crafting a catchy title doesn’t mean you add a knock-knock joke or make it rhyme - although alliteration can be useful under the right circumstances. A catchy title means the viewer and YouTube know exactly what they’ll get out of watching this video. Avoid making it too long or it will be cut off. Just make it interesting enough that you don’t leave it as “advanced knitting” or “pro knitting tips.”
For a complete guide on naming your YouTube videos, check out our complete guide.
The same effort that you put into your title should be put into your YouTube video description. The right description will help you get found in searches on Google as well as within YouTube. That means you need to include keywords and a little more detail about what viewers can expect.
For example, suppose the title was something about beginner knitting for people with no hand-eye coordination. In that case, the description should list a few techniques and give them an exciting promise about how they can still learn to knit - but only with your unique tips designed just for them and their specific hand-eye coordination challenge.
You might let them know where to go if this video doesn’t sound quite right. Some people choose to let viewers know videos in this series are available if this one isn’t right for them. Then they’ll add links to the next few videos in their description.
YouTubers also let viewers know that they offer intermediate and advanced video series so that people who were attracted to your channel know they can find something geared for them on your channel.
Whatever you do, remember to add a call-to-action. Make it clear. Say something like, “click not to watch” or “save this video if you don’t have time to watch it now” or watch this video now for a quick solution.”
For a complete guide on writing your video description, check out this article.
Tags are like the final, last-chance effort to get your video seen in search. It’s a way to throw the kitchen sink at it. Viewers don’t care about tags much, but search engines and YouTube sure do.
Tags are just short words and phrases that say precisely what your video is about without having to trouble yourself with full sentences or catchy headlines. Use a lot and make sure they are relevant. Don’t say “advanced knitting” if this is a beginner video. Do say, “how-to” if it’s instructional.
If you run out of relevant ideas for tags and want to brainstorm a little more, use a keyword, tag, and hashtag finder tool. There are a lot out there. HERE is a tool worth checking out.
For a complete guide on tags for your videos, check out this article.
Best time to upload to YouTube
YouTube has analytics and metrics that show on your dashboard to help you optimize your videos. It’s got more data than we can cover here, but one of the tips it will share is when to share your video.
If you’re using the right tags and keywords to attract your ideal audience, YouTube will take all the information about your viewers and let you know when your ideal audience tends to be online and searching YouTube.
That way, your video will have the best chances of being seen by your audience just as they are online looking for something to watch. It even segments your subscribers so you can upload a video while they are online.
YouTube sends your subscribers a push notification that you just uploaded a video, making sure they are captured at the exact moment they were probably looking for something to watch - or at least were online.
If you don’t have reliable metrics yet because you’re new to YouTube, you can still rely on general best practices. Right now, that advice is to post between 2-4 pm EST on Mondays, Tuesday, or Wednesdays, and between noon - 3 pm EST on Thursdays and Fridays.
Now that you’ve done all the pre and prep work, actually loading the video will be a cinch.
How do I upload a YouTube video from my desktop?
- Sign in to YouTube. It’s worth mentioning that if you have multiple accounts, remember to sign in with the correct account. You don’t want to have to take a video down and reload it to the correct account, risking the loss of views you already earned on the wrong account.
- Head to your home screen and click “manage videos.” It’ll take you to your YouTube studio where you’ll click, “create” followed by “upload videos.” You’ll see a pop-up where you can drag and drop your video or click on “select files” to choose from all available files on your desktop.
- While the video uploads, you can select all the options you want, such as choosing a thumbnail image. Remember that even though the thumbnail may not have keywords and tags, it’s still an important tool for attracting your audience. Something that is recognizable, interesting, or shows what the video is about is crucial.
For example, if the video is about cats playing piano, make that the thumbnail. Don’t show a face or talking head unless it’s of a recognizable celebrity you’re interviewing or a make-up look that you are showing off for your beauty blog.
- Then enter the video title, description, and tags. This will go a lot faster because you already did your research and you know what will work.
- Select a playlist if your videos are filed a certain way. Tell YouTube whether the video is made for kids and whether there are any age restrictions.
- YouTube will give you a link to your video, so be sure to save the URL. This is the link you’ll use to promote your video once it’s completely loaded.
- You will choose the video visibility, which is public, private, or unlisted. If you plan to monetize your video, and you want people to be able to find you, be sure to choose “public.”
- You may notice there is also an option to schedule the publication of your video. This is incredibly useful if you plan to create your videos ahead of time, and you want to schedule them, rather than have to repeat this process every time you want to launch a video.
- Hit save! Then leave the browser tab open until the video is completely uploaded to YouTube.
How do I upload my YouTube video from my mobile device?
This process is very similar, but with a few key differences.
- Download the YouTube app for your phone, whether you’re on an iPhone or Android. Open the app and sign-in.
- Tap the video upload button in the top right-hand corner of the screen. It’s on the home screen and looks like a video camera.
- It’ll give you the option to “Upload or “Go Live.” Right now, you want to upload. The Go Live button is for live streaming.
- Tap “Next” and follow the prompts provided by YouTube. You’ll want to set your privacy to “public” so you can monetize your video (if applicable) and maximize viewership.
- Add your title, description, tags, and thumbnail. Then click “Upload” to finalize the process.
Make sure you’re in a place with strong Internet or cell service. You don’t want to lose the connection and have to start all over again when you can find a more stable connection.
Can I upload multiple videos to YouTube at the same time?
Yes, and no. YouTube doesn’t have a special feature for this, but you can drag and drop several videos at once to the upload tool. They will still load one at a time, but you won’t have to wait for one to load before you can drag and drop the next video.
How do I upload long videos to YouTube?
As mentioned previously, you can only upload videos longer than 15- minutes if you’ve validated your account. Once that’s completed, you can load videos that are up to 128GB or 12-hours long, whichever is smaller.
An important note is to remember that you have to keep your browser tab open while loading videos. If you are multitasking, it can be easy to close your tab accidentally.
It’s also worth reminding you that you need a stable connection to load your videos. Wait until you’ve got a strong internet or cellular connection before hitting that upload button.
That’s it! You should be able to upload just about any type of video to your YouTube channel and upload it correctly! Don’t forget the importance of your file types, sizes, and aspect ratios to make sure both viewers and YouTube don’t have any trouble playing back your videos, and always take an extra moment to consider your title, description, and tags to ensure you’re reaching your video’s full potential to be watched.