YouTube Annotations Now Support External Links – What It Means for You

YouTube Annotations Now Support External Links – What It Means for You
September 19, 2013

Back in April, I wrote about the latest updates to YouTube’s channel design and layout.  Recently, YouTube introduced another update, this time to their annotations feature. 

Prior to this update, channel managers could use annotations to add brief notes at designated points throughout a video to communicate supplementary information, or as a call to action to link viewers to other YouTube videos.  With the latest update to the annotations feature, channel managers now have the option to link to other websites outside of YouTube from annotations within their videos. 

For marketers, this means you can now direct viewers back to your website by adding clickable links within the YouTube video player. The process, however, isn’t exactly seamless. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Associating your website with your YouTube channel

The way that YouTube manages this new annotation capability is through associated websites. What this means is, before you can take advantage of the new annotations functionality, you’ll first need to associate your website with your YouTube channel and follow the steps to verify your ownership of the domain.  The video below will walk you through the steps for enabling external annotations for your YouTube channel, and this FAQ provides answers to some common questions that arise when associating your website with YouTube.


Adding annotations to your YouTube videos

Once the external annotations feature is enabled for your YouTube channel, you’re ready to start taking advantage of this powerful new option. To do so, navigate into the edit mode for one of your videos, and select the Annotations option, located at the top of the screen. Your video will begin playing with a black timeline below it – pause the video when you reach a point where you would like to add an annotation.

Select the type of annotation that you would like to add from the Add Annotation dropdown menu on the left side of your screen, then type the text that you would like to appear in the annotation. Below the text box field, you also have access to controls for font style, size, color, and the color of the annotation text box.

For the text box, experiment with background colors that either complement the color scheme of your video (if you’re going for a subtle look), or a bold color to help your annotation stand out.  You can also adjust the size of the annotation by dragging the corners of the text box to reflect the desired dimensions.


Next, set the duration for the annotation by dragging the edges of the annotation box within the black timeline area below your video. Finally, check the Link box on the left side of your screen, select associated website from the dropdown menu, and type your website into the field below it. Make sure to add the full URL, complete with http:// so YouTube recognizes it.  Save and publish your video, and your external annotation will be live within your video.


The value of annotations

With the undisputed popularity of YouTube, marketers across industries are leveraging YouTube brand channels as part of their video marketing strategies. Prior to this update, channel managers’ opportunities to connect their YouTube presence with their website were limited to the description field of their videos. External annotations now provide an excellent way to more prominently feature a link back to your website so you can take advantage of YouTube’s audience to drive more visitors to your most valuable webpages. 

To learn more about capitalizing on the power of YouTube for video marketing, and about how to use YouTube and Brainshark together, read this article by Brendan Cournoyer.