YouTube is Changing its External Linking Policy For Shorts—Here’s What That Means for Creators

Ascannio/Shutterstock, VartB/Shutterstock, tovovan/Shutterstock, Remix by Caterina Cox

In an attempt to make the user experience safer and more enjoyable for audiences, YouTube has announced it will be adjusting how and where external links are displayed on the YouTube Shorts platform. These policy changes will impact both how creators interact with their viewers and direct them to their additional content, so let’s dive into what, exactly, YouTube Shorts creators need to know in order to be prepared for the shift.

What are YouTube Shorts?

YouTube Shorts are essentially YouTube’s take on TikTok—vertical videos under 60 seconds meant to engage viewers with short and sweet content. Like TikTok, this section of the platform also provides a vertical feed of videos for users to watch or scroll through for as long as they desire.

Unlike lengthier videos, YouTube Shorts are meant to be created with a smartphone and uploaded through the YouTube app. Editing clips together, adding audio and other enhancements, and writing out the details of the video are also all done in the app itself. 

Shorts can live on their own channel, or be a part of an existing YouTube channel, and are partly meant to be a way to attract new viewers to a creator’s longer-form videos or other aspects of their online presence—which is why links are so important.

What is the new external linking policy for YouTube Shorts?

Recently, YouTube announced that it would be changing its external linking policy for YouTube Shorts.

This means that links will no longer be clickable in Shorts comments, descriptions, or the vertical live feed. Additionally, channel banners on the desktop version of YouTube will no longer display clickable social media icons.

“We don’t have any plans to make any other links unclickable,” YouTube said in a press release at the time the changes were announced. “We know that links are an important way for creators to share information and recommend products/brands to their communities, so we’re actively working on safer ways for creators to include important links in their content.”

So how can YouTube Shorts creators share links with viewers?

Creators will now be able to add up to 14 links on their channel pages, which will be easily viewable on both desktop and mobile. The first link will be prominently displayed, while viewers will be given the option to see the rest.

The types of links that qualify for these prominent spots include personal websites, social media profiles, and affiliate links. To see a partial list of websites that cannot be linked, such as porn sites or sites where users can pirate copyrighted material, you can check out YouTube’s Community Guidelines.

External links shared in long-form video comments and descriptions on YouTube will not be affected by these changes, and will still be clickable.

Why is YouTube’s linking policy changing?

The primary motivation for the change in policy is to make it more difficult for bad actors to spam users with links leading to “malware, phishing, or scam-related content.” Although the company does have an existing spam problem—as well as measures in place to combat that spam—they consider switching up on the external linking a preventative measure, “because abuse tactics evolve quickly.”

When do these changes go into effect?

The changes to YouTube Shorts’ external linking policy will take place on the following timeline:

  • August 10, 2023: Desktop channel banners will no longer display links
  • August 23, 2023: Up to 14 links of the creator’s choosing will be added to their channel page
  • August 30, 2023: Links in Shorts comments, descriptions, and the vertical live feed will no longer be clickable—this change will roll out gradually over an unspecified amount of time

Additionally, YouTube has stated that they hope to have a “safer way for creators to direct viewers from Shorts to their other YouTube content” by the end of September.

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