As a video creator, you’re facing a multitude of challenges on a daily basis. Making great videos and promoting your channel are just two of them, though they probably take up most of your time.
Staying on top of YouTube updates is another major undertaking for video creators.
Why Keep Up With YouTube Updates?
Knowing what happens on the platform can make or break your channel.
For example, a single shift in the platform’s algorithm can help catapult your videos into recommendations. Or it could cost you thousands of views. To prepare for changes — and harness new opportunities — you need to know about them first.
So far, 2021 has been a busy year for YouTube in terms of innovations on the platform.
Since January, the platform has rolled out several major and minor updates to improve user experience and make the lives of creators easier. Notably, many of them aim to increase your reach, open up new audiences for your content, and offer new avenues of monetization.
This article provides an in-depth run-down of the most important YouTube updates you need to know about in 2021, and how they can help you grow your YouTube channel — and your income.
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YouTube Shorts and the Shorts Fund
To start with, YouTube Shorts is probably something that you have come across before. After all, these 15-to-60-second clips are now omnipresent in the YouTube app. However, you may not know exactly how they work — and what financial opportunities they offer for creators.
Shorts started out in 2019 when Google carried out a survey among users. It found that Gen Z and Millennials found short-form content very attractive.
This is also evidenced in the popularity of Instagram Reels and TikTok — both major competitors in terms of video engagement.
In response, YouTube developed Shorts. It was first launched for testing in India in September 2020. In February this year, CEO Sundar Pichai announced that Shorts had hit 3.5 billion daily views.
In March, Shorts was released in the US. And since July, the feature is available in over 100 countries.
In principle, YouTube Shorts allows creators to generate 15-second videos, overlaid with music.
Users can extend that video to up to 60 seconds, and edit them directly on their phones. What sets Shorts apart from Instagram Stories and Reels is that videos don’t expire after 24 hours.
To make Shorts more attractive to creators, YouTube announced it would provide a $100 million YouTube Shorts Fund. Each month, the company is reaching out to a few thousand Shorts creators to hand out bonuses. This incentivizes the community to embrace the new format.
Pro tip: You can create Shorts directly in your YouTube app, by clicking the + icon in the bottom center, and then selecting “Create a Short”. The standard video length is 15 seconds, though you can add multiple clips to a length of up to 60 seconds. Filters, overlays, and background music are also directly available in the creative space.
YouTube Super Thanks
Apart from the Shorts Fund, YouTube already provides a number of avenues for monetization for creators. The platform’s ad program is the most well-known among them.
In addition, Super Chat and Super Stickers have allowed viewers to tip creators directly during live streams since 2019.
Now, YouTube has added another option for monetization — Super Thanks.
This feature has been in beta testing for a while under the name Viewer Applause. It’s now available, yet still in beta in 68 countries on both mobile and desktop. Super Thanks allows your fans to tip you directly for outstanding content, even outside live streams. They have the option to say “thanks” with direct donations of $2, $5, $10, or $50, available through the buttons below your video.
Once they click to tip you, they’ll see a balloon screen animation. Their donation will also appear in the comment section, allowing you to respond.
YouTube rolled out Super Thanks in response to criticism of the volatility of ad revenue that many creators deal with. Some advertisers even pulled out of the platform.
To benefit from Super Thanks, you have to be in the YouTube Partner Program.
Pro tip: You can enable Super Thanks in the Monetization menu of YouTube studio. You’ll see the Supers tab, alongside instructions to activate it. Once you’ve done that, you can activate Super Thanks through a simple on-off button. The Super Thanks icon will then appear in all your past and future videos.
Automatically Generated YouTube Chapters
One challenge that creators have faced for a long time is how to make their content more discoverable in terms of YouTube SEO.
To rank highly, you have to pick the right keywords, come up with a captivating title, and write a compelling video description.
One crucial element, especially for longer videos, is chapters. Chapters help you tell YouTube about the structure of your content, make it easier to find for potential viewers, and help you rank for the keywords you’re targeting.
However, adding chapters manually is also a lot of work. Now, you might be able to do away with laboriously adding key moments, timestamps, and titles in your video description.
Since July 2021, YouTube is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to auto-generate chapters. This feature was beta-tested on eligible newly uploaded videos for a few months, to positive feedback. Now, it’s being rolled out for videos across the platform.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to have chapters automatically added to your own content, you can opt out of it. To do so, disallow chapters in the upload list. If you want to prevent automatic generation for all future uploads, turn them off in the upload flow or in your meta editor.
An Overhaul of Search Results
In August, YouTube overhauled its search results to display more information and tailor results pages to viewers’ tastes.
Now, video previews are available on mobiles as well as desktops. When you scroll over a result in the Android or iOS app, it will automatically play in preview mode on mute with the captions on.
Furthermore, chapters are now visible in YouTube’s own search results. Formerly, they were displayed only in Google’s video search results. This allows users to jump directly to the part of the video they are most interested in.
As a third element of the update, YouTube extended its translation capabilities. If search results for a query in a particular language appear insufficient, YouTube now displays translated content. Users will see AI-translated titles and descriptions.
In sync, the platform has extended its capability for auto-translating captions. Currently, this is only available for English-language captions, but YouTube has announced that they would expand the feature to other languages as well.
Pro tip: To benefit from YouTube’s updated search results, make sure to optimize your video descriptions and thumbnails. Adding chapters manually, or having the automatic generation enabled is a huge part of that.
Introducing Trending Hashtags and Hashtag Landing Pages
Even though hashtags are not a new thing on YouTube, the platform has never made extensive use of them. With the newly introduced features, it’s going to change.
Another new option for viewers to discover content is trending hashtags. Hashtags have been a thing on YouTube for a while — searchable hashtags became available in 2018. But user awareness of them is still fairly low.
The idea behind trending hashtags is that it helps viewers keep up with topics that are currently generating a buzz. In the “explore” section of every user’s page, they can now stay on top of trends and highlight the communities they are interested in.
For creators, this additional feature offers a twofold advantage. On the one hand, there is the chance that your own video will appear in the trending hashtags stream, boosting your views. On the other hand, you can use this feature as a source of inspiration if you’re strapped for ideas for new content.
To decide which hashtags and videos to feature, YouTube analyzes which hashtags see the highest increase in use among users. It then subsets videos across categories like gaming and movies.
Hashtag Landing Pages
A second avenue to boost user awareness of hashtags that YouTube has pursued this year is hashtag landing pages. The company rolled out this new feature in January.
Now, when users search for a hashtag on the platform, the first place in the results is occupied by a link to a dedicated landing page. Here viewers will be able to discover a multitude of videos related to the hashtag in question.
YouTube maintains that the videos displayed on these landing pages are “the best” in each category.
However, how the algorithm that curates them exactly works is opaque. Currently, the landing pages still display a mix of new and old videos, some with only a few thousand views, others with millions. For creators aiming to establish themselves in a crowded niche, this is a great opportunity.
Pro tip: To benefit from #hashtags, all you have to do is add them to your video descriptions. That way, you can ensure that your video has a shot at being featured on hashtag landing pages and in the trending hashtags.
Final Thoughts on YouTube Updates and Their Impact
Many of YouTube’s recently unveiled features offer new ways for creators to increase the visibility of their content, as well as their income.
Whether you’re deep-diving into Shorts to tap into the dedicated fund, or promoting Super Thanks among your fans, video creators can move further away from solely depending on ad revenue.
Hashtag landing pages, trending hashtags, and auto-generated translations and chapters can help you open up your content to new audiences.
At the end of the day, it’s worth taking the time to explore these new features and harness them for your own uses. By continuously integrating YouTube’s updated capabilities into your creation workflow, you’ll be able to sustainably stay ahead of the curve.
One of our experts will get back in touch with you soon.