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YouTube Clean-Up 101

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, so if you have an existing account for your brand or business, keeping it updated, fresh and clean should be a high priority. As both marketers and business owners, we are often tasked with the job of “cleaning up” an older account – which begs the question….How??  We’ve put together a comprehensive list of best practices as well as detailed instructions to help accomplish what may seem like a daunting task. Let’s start from the beginning

Step One – Brand Your YouTube Channel

You want to make sure to fill in all areas. Here’s a step by step list of how to do that.

  1. Click the blue “Customize Channel” button
  2. Click the gear icon, turn “Customize the layout of your channel” on and save
  3. Upload your channel icon (800px x 800px)
  4. Upload your header image (2560px x 1440px)
  5. Select a featured video for both new and returning visitors
  6. Add a channel description (there’s no word limit so add everything in here that you think a user might need, with the most important/interesting items at the beginning)
  7. Add a contact email
  8. Add links to your website, social media pages, and anything else that you are trying to promote or get more eyes on

Step Two – Edit, Unpublish, and/or Upload New YouTube Video

If you have videos that are simply not relevant to your brand or product, unpublish them. If you happen to still be linking to them on your site, you will need to deal with that as well to avoid broken links. It makes no sense to keep content that is no longer relevant or severely outdated. 

On that same subject, if you have an updated version of a video and feel as though the older one might be linked to from others’ sites, rather than unpublish the outdated video, you can add a card at the beginning of the old video with a link to the newer version of the video. Just know that there is a possibility that someone may ignore the suggestion to view the new video and continue watching your outdated content. The decision whether to unpublish an old video would have to be on a case by case basis – if the information is so outdated or could possibly be harmful to your brand or the consumer, it might make sense to unpublish, to be sure no one views it in the future. Since there are no limits to the number of videos you can have in an account, deleting seems unnecessary – but you may want to retitle videos that are out of date and have been unpublished, in order to ensure that it does not accidentally get republished. Adding something like OLD/UNPUBLISHED to the start of the title should be sufficient. Unpublished videos are only viewable if you’re logged into your own account.

Edits – For videos that need some slight tweaks, here is a list of edits that you can make to an existing video.

  1. Titles – Optimizing your titles is of utmost importance. You have up to 50 characters, so choose wisely! You want to start with your keyword phrase and then make sure your title is compelling.
  2. Descriptions – Like the title, you want to make sure to get your keyword phrase(s) in the beginning, but unlike the title there is no character limit. Make sure you add a detailed description of the video including links back to your site or other sites of interest, including any URLs that might be referenced within the video itself. Always include the full URL including the http/https and if you want to track the URLs you can use a service like
  3. Tags – The first tag should always be your target keyword phrase. Next, in the order of importance and relevance, list other key topics in your video using both specific and broad keywords.
  4. Captions – If you have older videos that you never captioned, now is your opportunity. Not only does this make your video more accessible to those with disabilities, these days lots of people watch videos in silence while reading captions. Additionally, check any existing captions that may have been auto-generated and not edited, for better accuracy.
  5. Cards – These can add an interactive element to your existing videos in order to promote other videos, playlists, your website(s), merchandise, or other channels. Cards will appear on both desktop and mobile as a small rectangular box in the top right corner of the video. If someone clicks, the card associated with the video appears along the right side or below the video based on device. This is a great way to link to an updated version of an older video or to complementary content.
  6. End Screen – Similar to cards, end screens can point viewers to other videos, playlists or channels on YouTube, ask for a viewer to subscribe to your channel or promote your website or merchandise. They can be added to the last 5-20 seconds of a video and will also appear on both desktop and mobile. Because these come at the end, they would be more suited in a situation where the video content is still fairly relevant, but you have other complementary content or other options you would like the viewer to be aware of once they are finished watching.

Step Three – Organization


Once you have all your branding and video editing squared away, you then want to think about the organization of your channel and video library. There are 2 great ways to organize your content – creating Sections and Playlists. 

Before organizing your channel into Sections it’s best to first create Playlists. A Playlist is an ordered list of videos – usually with a specific theme or area of intent. To set up a new playlist complete the following:


  1. Start with an existing video that you would like to have in a particular list
  2. Underneath the video, you can either click “Add to” or click to edit the video
  3. Choose an existing playlists or click “Create new playlist” 
  4. Add a title and choose privacy setting 
  5. Once you save this, you’ll want to then head over to the Creator Studio to add a keyword-rich description as well as the rest of the videos for each newly created list

You can access your playlists either on the left sidebar or when you click on “My Channel” choose the “Playlist” tab. If you don’t yet have a lot of your own videos, you can supplement and add videos from other channels to your playlists as well!

Once you feel as though your playlists are in good order, you’ll want to start thinking about your Sections – you can have up to 10 sections per channel. To create a Section complete the following:


  1. Click the “Customize Channel” button 
  2. At the bottom of the next page click “Add a Section”
  3. Under “Content,” use the drop-down menu to select the type of content you want to appear in your section – options are: Individual Video, Playlists, Shows
  4. Under “Layout,” you can then use the drop-down menu to select either a horizontal row or a vertical list
  5. Click “done” and you’re good to go

The new section will now appear as a tab on your channel’s homepage.


Seems like a lot, right? Well the good news is that you don’t have to tackle all of this at once, if you can carve out a small amount of time each week to dedicate to the organizing and updating of your Youtube Channel, it will only be a matter of time before you have something that you are proud to have as an addition to your brand or company. Oh and once you have a gorgeous, organized channel, you will be that much more motivated to come up with ideas in order to plan and create new video content for your audience!