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YouTube & Video Spam: A Guide For Content Creators & Marketers

It's not safe to assume that just because a deceptive technique works, YouTube approves of it. Here's what you need to know.

Video spam hasn’t been a big problem since the early days of YouTube, but the advent of live shopping on what has now become the number one streaming platform for ad-supported reach means that we need to revisit the issue.

This post provides everything you need to know about YouTube and video spam (but were afraid to ask).

Basically, spam, scams, and other deceptive practices that take advantage of the YouTube community aren’t allowed on YouTube.

In addition, YouTube doesn’t allow content that tricks people into leaving the social video platform for another site.

And, this policy applies to videos, video descriptions, comments, live streams, and any other YouTube product or feature.

Oh, and it’s worth noting that violating these guidelines can get your video removed from YouTube.

And, we wouldn’t want that, now, would we?

It’s important that your understanding of what constitutes video spam aligns with YouTube’s guidelines for preventing spam on its platform.

What Is Video Spam?

Video spam is content that:

  • Promises viewers they’ll see something, but instead directs them off-site to view it.
  • Promises viewers they’ll make money fast to gets clicks, views, or traffic off YouTube.
  • Directs viewers to sites that try to gather personal info or spread harmful software.

But, video spam is also:

  • Posting the same content repeatedly across one or more channels.
  • Massively uploading content that you scraped from other creators.
  • Auto-generated content that computers post without regard for quality or viewer experience.
  • Massively posting affiliate content in dedicated accounts.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list.

Now, if users, partners, or other creators see content that they think violates these guidelines, they can use the flagging feature to submit it for review by YouTube’s staff.

Or, if they find a few videos or comments that they would like to report, then they can also report the channel.

Back in December 2017, YouTube hired 10,000 additional employees to review content that might violate its policies.  So, there are now a lot more cops on the beat.

But wait, there’s more!

What Is Misleading Metadata Or Thumbnails?

If you’re posting content, don’t use misleading metadata or thumbnails. This includes:

  • A thumbnail with a picture of a popular celebrity that has nothing to do with the content.
  • Using the title, thumbnails, or description to trick users into believing the content is something it is not.

This is especially true if there’s a serious risk of egregious real-world harm.

What Are Scams?

Scams aren’t allowed on YouTube.

This includes content:

  • Making exaggerated promises, such as claims that viewers can get rich quick or a miracle treatment can cure chronic illnesses, such as cancer.
  • Offering cash gifts.
  • Promoting pyramid schemes (sending money without a tangible product in a pyramid structure).
  • Promising “You’ll make $50,000 tomorrow with this plan!”

And, it’s worth noting that this list isn’t complete.

What Is Incentivization Spam?

Incentivization Spam is content that sells engagement metrics such as views, likes, comments, subscribers, or other metrics on YouTube.

This type of spam includes the following types of content:

  • “Subs 4 Subs” videos, which offer to subscribe to another creator’s channel solely in exchange for them subscribing to your channel.
  • Videos that offer “likes” for sale.
  • Videos that offer to get a channel to 100,000 subscribers without any other content.

And, keep in mind this isn’t a complete list.

What Is Comment Spam?

YouTube doesn’t allow comments, where the sole purpose is to gather personal info from viewers, misleadingly drive viewers off YouTube, or perform any of the prohibited behaviors noted above.

Examples of this type of content include:

  • Comments about surveys or giveaways that promote pyramid schemes.
  • “Pay Per Click” referral links in comments.
  • Comments that falsely claim to offer full video content. This type of content could include TV shows.
  • Posting links to harmful software or phishing site in comments: “omg just got tons of Bucks from here! – [xyz phishing site].com.”
  • Comments with links to counterfeit stores.
  • “Hey, check out my channel/video here!” when the channel/video has nothing to do with the video it was posted under.
  • Posting the same comment repeatedly with a link to your channel.

As you’ve already guessed, this isn’t a complete list.

What Is Live Stream Abuse?

This policy covers live streams intended to stream content that belongs to somebody else and aren’t corrected after repeated warnings of possible abuse.

Policing requires channel owners to actively monitor their live streams and correct any potential issues in a timely manner.

Obviously, the following types of content are not allowed on YouTube:

  • Using your phone to stream a television show.
  • Using 3rd party software to live stream songs from an album.

But, keep in mind this list isn’t a complete list.

If you want to better understand YouTube’s Community Guidelines on these issues, watch this unlisted video that was uploaded to the YouTube Creators channel on May 1, 2019.

For more information, visit YouTube’s Help Center, which was recently reorganized to provide more clarity around their Community Guidelines and policies concerning “misinformation.”

There, you’ll find an article that provides detailed definitions of the six significant types of misinformation and explains what these policies mean for creators.

What Happens If Your Content Violates These Policies?

If your content violates any of the half a dozen policies listed above, then YouTube will remove the content and send you an email to let you know.

If this is your first time violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines, then you’ll likely get a warning with no penalty to your channel.

If it’s not, then YouTube may issue a strike against your channel.

If you get 3 strikes within 90 days, your channel will be terminated.

YouTube may terminate your channel or account for repeated violations of the Community Guidelines or Terms of Service, as well.

YouTube may also terminate your channel or account after a single case of severe abuse, or when the channel is dedicated to a policy violation.

And, as should be perfectly clear to content creators, these guidelines cover the most common forms of video spam, deceptive practices, and scams, but YouTube may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here.

It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, YouTube approves of it.

Channel owners who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide greater viewer satisfaction and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

As the Grail Knight warns in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989):

“You must choose. But choose wisely.”

More resources: 

Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock

Category Content YouTube
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Greg Jarboe President and co-founder at SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe is president of SEO-PR, which he co-founded with Jamie O’Donnell in 2003. Their digital marketing agency has won ...

YouTube & Video Spam: A Guide For Content Creators & Marketers

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