How to Upload a Video to YouTube: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Upload a Video to YouTube: A Step-by-Step Guide

14min read  

9 Apr 2020

As one of the most popular video hosting and streaming platforms, YouTube is the place to be if you want to have a personal vlog or promote your company with videos. However, if you are new to the platform, you may not know how to upload your video. In this article, we’ll share with you how to upload a video to YouTube from start to finish and make the most out of the platform’s powerful functions. Let’s begin.

  1. Have the File Ready

First and foremost, have your file ready. Make sure you've made your last edits to the video and converted it to the proper format and duration. The video file formats YouTube recognizes are .MOV, .MPEG4, .MP4, .AVI, .WMV, .MPEGPS, .FLV, 3GPP, WebM, DNxHR, ProRes, CineForm, and HEVC (h265). 

file formats supported by youtube

As you can see, the platform supports most of the popular video formats. In case of having a different file format, make sure to convert it to one of the formats above.

What comes to duration, unauthorized channels are allowed to upload only up to 15 minutes long videos. If you plan to upload a longer video, you will need to authorize your channel.

  1. Sign in to Your Account

To upload your video, you need to sign in to your account. If you don’t have a YouTube account, create one. 
Click the Sign-in button on the upper right corner of the page. YouTube channels are connected to Google accounts, so if you have several accounts linked to the device you are using, make sure to choose the one you want to upload your video to.

youtube sign in


  1. Upload Your Video and Edit the Information

To upload the video, click on the camera sign on the upper-right side of the page, next to your user icon. From the drop-down menu, you'll have two options: upload a video or go live. Click on “Upload Video” to move forward. 

youtube upload

Title and Description

After the video is uploaded, you'll be redirected to the editor, where you can edit and add details about your video for a better reach. 
Start with the headline: the name of your file is going to be the default title of your video. So, if your video file was titled something similar to "Video 1 final final," this is where you can change it. 
Right after the title of the video comes the description box. This is where you can give the viewers more context about the video. Ideally, you want your description to be around 250-300 words and contain several keywords, as well as links.

youtube title


When the video is uploaded, YouTube generates and suggests thumbnail options for your video. These thumbnails are screenshots from the video, and as a rule, are of low resolution.
You also have an option to upload a custom thumbnail, which should be 1280 pixels wide and 720 pixels tall. Pay attention to the file size as well: 2MB is the maximum size for a thumbnail YouTube allows. At this point, the option to upload custom thumbnails is available only for authorized channels. 

youtube thumbnail


Next comes the playlist selection process. While adding the video to a playlist is not mandatory, it helps to keep the channel structured and easier to navigate.
By clicking on the Playlist box, you can either choose an existing playlist or create a new one. Once you are finished, make sure to click “Done”, otherwise the changes will not be saved.

youtube playlists


The Audience section has been added recently, and is crucial to consider when uploading your video. If your video is directed at children, that is, the primary audience of your video are children, you need to choose "Made for Kids" as the audience. YouTube will set limitations on the videos marked as "Made for Kids". Paid promotions and notifications will not be allowed for these videos, and YouTube may turn off the comment section. You can check the full list of factors to determine whether your video is made for kids here.
If the video is not intended for children, choose the "No, it's not made for kids" to move forward. In case you want to restrict the video to adult users only, you can do this in the "Age restriction" section. However, this step is not mandatory. 

youtube audience

Tags, Subtitles, and Licensing

If you want to add subtitles to your video or make it more SEO-optimized, "More Options" section is where you can do it. Here, you can add tags to your video to optimize it for SEO. Have a list of researched keywords prepared and add them in the keywords section. 

youtube tags

You can also add subtitles to your video by uploading a document with video captions. Formats YouTube currently supports are .srt, .sbv or .sub, .mpsub, .lrc, and .cap. You can find more information on how to add subtitles and captions to your videos in our article.

youtube subtitles

YouTube also offers two licensing options: Standard YouTube License and Creative Commons. The first option, the Standard YouTube License, essentially means that you give YouTube permission to broadcast your video. Your video can only be accessed through YouTube, and cannot be recreated or used for any other purpose. Essentially, no one can use your work. 
In the case of Creative Commons, other creators are allowed to use and edit your work, including removing the copyright of the original author.

youtube licensing

Video Category and Comments

The last step of editing the video details is choosing the video type and comment permissions. In the video category box, select the category your video belongs to. This, similar to tags, will give more information to YouTube about what your video is about. 

In the comment box, you have an option to disable the comments, allow all comments, or hold potentially inappropriate comments for review. This is the default option YouTube will set in case you don’t make any manual changes here. 

youtube category and comments


  1. Add Video Elements

After you've made the main edits to the video, click "Next" to proceed to the "Video Elements" section. This is where you can add dynamic cards to your video to promote another video, playlist, or even another channel! The option to add links to websites is available only to YouTube Partner Program members. 

youtube dynamic cards

Want to promote another video or add a subscribe button to your video? The “End Screens” section is where you can do it. Here is what the end screen page looks like:

youtube end screen

You can choose one from many template designs offered by YouTube, or create a customized element design for your video from here. You can also control the time when the elements appear on the screen.

Another dynamic element option you have on YouTube are the cards, which help you add more actionable visual content to your video. To add cards to your video, click on “Add”. You will be redirected to a page that looks like this:

youtube endscreen publishing

The editor is simple and intuitive. You only need to select the part of the video where you want to add the card and choose its type. For a more detailed guide on how to add Youtube end screens and cards to your videos, you can have a look at our article here.

  1. Publish the Video

Only one step left before you finally share your video with the world!
The "Visibility" section is where you choose the privacy of your video. You can go with three options.

  • Public - Your video will be available for everyone. It will be visible in search results of YouTube, and search engines will be able to see it.
  • Unlisted - This privacy option is what we like to call semi-public. Only people with the direct link to the video (or the visitors of websites where the video was embedded) can access it. It won't be visible in search and on your channel.
  • Private - Only you will have access to the video.

If the video is public, you also have the opportunity to Premiere it, which creates a TV experience for both the viewers and the creator when watching the video. For our videos, we always opt for the premiere as more subscribers are involved. 

youtube video publish

If you don't want to publish the video instantly, you can schedule it for a later time. For that, you only need to choose the date and time in the "Schedule" box. Make sure to pay attention to the time zone as well. YouTube automatically sets the time zone to the available time zone closest to your location. However, you may want to change it depending on the location of your target audience. Here as well, you can opt to premiere your video. Once the date and time are set up, simply click schedule, and you are done. 

youtube video schedule

Congratulations! You have just published your first video. You can access it following the provided link or from your channel.

youtube video publishedConclusion

YouTube Studio is designed to make the process of uploading your videos and customizing them as seamless as possible. Experiment with it, dive into the tools and analytics. And hopefully, these tips will help you make your start on YouTube smooth and easy. 

Need help with creating your first video? There are hundreds of templates on Renderforest you can use to create professional-looking videos in minutes. Click the button below to browse our template library and start getting creative.

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