The ultimate YouTube publishing checklist to maximize views

Creating a single YouTube video is a ton of work. By the time you’re done planning, scripting, filming, editing, and exporting, you barely have enough brainpower left to navigate the intricacies of publishing. Regardless of whether you're a seasoned YouTuber, digital marketer, or budding vlogger, it takes work to balance quality, consistency, and engagement.

Introducing: The ultimate YouTube publishing checklist!

We've covered everything, from pro tips to guidance on avoiding copyright pitfalls. Whether you're a creator just for fun or relying on YouTube for income, this guide is your blueprint for success. Dive in and make your next video a standout hit!

Copy this checklist to your project management app, or keep a printed version at your desk. We explain each of these steps in detail below.

The full YouTube publishing checklist

Content preparation

☐ Write an intriguing and relevant title

☐ Design a catchy thumbnail

☐ Write a detailed description

☐ Add relevant tags

Audience engagement & accessibility

☐ Review for audience suitability and safety

☐ Add subtitles for accessibility

☐ Design an engaging end screen and cards

☐ Set up comment filters for clean engagement

Video organization & settings

☐ Categorize your video into a relevant playlist

☐ Set your video's visibility preferences

☐ Categorize your video accurately

☐ Review and adjust monetization settings


☐ Strategically promote your video

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1. Write an intriguing and relevant title

Craft a title that's both descriptive and captivating. It should convey what the video is about while also sparking a little curiosity, which will boost click-through rates (CTR) and help to improve the video’s ranking. But make sure it’s authentic; misleading titles can reduce trust with your viewers and hurt your channel's reputation. As if that wasn’t enough, you should also aim for less than 60 characters to make sure users can see the full title in search results.

2. Design a catchy thumbnail

Your video's thumbnail is pivotal in getting more clicks amid YouTube's vast sea of content. This checklist item works with your title to urge viewers to press play, while also making a good first impression that enhances your brand recognition and trust.

Here are five tips for creating a click-worthy YouTube thumbnail

  • Genuine representation: Avoid clickbait; match the video content.
  • Title synergy: Thumbnails and titles should complement each other.
  • Evoke emotion: Emotional thumbnails resonate more.
  • Minimal text: Keep it brief and on-brand.
  • Bold colors: Vibrant hues grab attention.

Thumbnail of a Good Mythical Morning video
Titles and thumbnails should work together, like they do in this example. 

3. Write a detailed description

YouTube descriptions are crucial for discoverability and engagement: Not only do they let potential viewers know what they’re getting and give current viewers a reason to stick around, but they also contain keywords that make your video discoverable on YouTube. 

For the best description, start with an engaging hook and incorporate SEO keywords. Include links to related content or resources and, for long videos, add time-stamped chapter markers. For that, you can use YouTube’s “Automatic chapters” feature during publish or Descript’s AI Chapter Generator before you export. 

And remember, while YouTube allows ample space, being concise and relevant is vital. 

4. Add relevant tags

YouTube tags are keywords that enhance visibility, not just by topic relevance but also by capturing common typos or related keywords. For instance, if you're discussing the luxury brand “Givenchy,” some might type in “Givency” or “Givinchy.” Or consider the actress Saoirse Ronan, whose name often gets a creative twist like “Searsha Ronan.”

But remember, while tags can be lifesavers for tricky terms, for most content, they're just a gentle nudge in the vast YouTube universe.

5. Review for audience suitability and safety

Here’s the part where you make sure your video is shown to the right audiences. First, make sure your video's kid-friendliness aligns with legal requirements: if it’s aimed at an under-13 audience, you should check “Yes, it’s made for kids.” If it’s not primarily for kids, select “No, it's not made for kids,” which will enable features like personalized ads. 

Second, if your video contains mature content, select “Yes, restrict my video to viewers over 18.” This will limit certain features, like the ability to embed your video on external websites. 

Finally, always conduct license and copyright checks to respect creators and stay in YouTube’s good graces.

6. Add subtitles for accessibility

Adding subtitles to YouTube videos broadens your reach, catering to people who are deaf or hard of hearing or people who just want to watch without sound. It also helps viewers facing language barriers. On top of that, transcription also makes videos more discoverable by enhancing SEO. 

First, make sure you’ve chosen the correct language and caption certification. (For the vast majority of videos, you’ll choose “This content has never aired on television in the U.S.” If it has appeared on television, select the caption certification it used at that time.) With tools like Descript, adding subtitles to your YouTube videos is incredibly easy.

Exporting a subtitle file for to a YouTube video with Descript
Exporting a subtitle file for to a YouTube video with Descript

7. Categorize your video into a relevant playlist

There are countless ways a person can discover your YouTube channel. Playlists are your channel's roadmap, guiding viewers through your content. If one of your playlists is catching fire, adding that fresh upload could fan the flames, boosting views and engagement. Use the right playlist to increase views and viewer engagement on your YouTube channel. 

8. Design an engaging end screen and cards

End screens and cards act as a way to keep viewers watching your channel. They guide viewers to other videos, playlists, or your channel’s homepage. 

End screens are the last 5–20 seconds of a video that directs you to another video, a playlist, or to subscribe to the channel. Cards, also known as info cards, appear mid-video to give viewers the option to watch another video or playlist for more context: for example, if you’re creating a quick-start guide for a new camera model, you can direct viewers to a longer video about the best ways to use the camera settings. 

Both features are simple tools for significant channel growth.

An end screen on a Descript video, which leads to two additional videos and a subscribe link.
An end screen on a Descript video, which leads to two additional videos and a subscribe link.

9. Set your video's visibility preferences

Before publishing, head to the Visibility page. By default, videos for creators 13–17 are private, while 18+ are public. Adjust to Public, Private, or Unlisted as applicable. If you're not ready to go live, schedule your video for later. 

You can also set your video as a Premiere. This lets you and your audience watch the new video together in real time, complete with live chat. It’s a great way to get a nice bump in views right out of the gate. You can either set your video as an instant Premiere to view it right away, or schedule your Premiere for later to give yourself time to alert your audience that something new is coming.

Finally, ensure your settings align with YouTube's policies, especially if you've faced a Community Guidelines strike. Once set, click “Save.” 

10. Categorize your video accurately

Selecting the right YouTube category boosts your video's discoverability. Some categories are simpler than others: For example, “People & Blogs” and “Science & Technology” just require one selection. For “Education” videos, you can specify all sorts of things, from the grade level to the exact homework problems you’re addressing. Proper categorization makes sure your content reaches the right audience.

11. Review and adjust monetization settings

Here's a quick checklist if you want to make money on YouTube:
  • Disclosure: Flag if your video has paid promotions like product placements or sponsorships.
  • Eligibility: Ensure your content aligns with YouTube's monetization policies.
  • Partner Features: If you're in the YouTube Partner Program:
    • Toggle monetization on/off.
    • Pick your ad format
    • Control mid-roll ad placements.
  • Ad Suitability: Rate your videos against advertiser-friendly guidelines for quicker, accurate monetization decisions.

Stay transparent and follow the guidelines for the most effective monetization.

12. Set up comment filters for clean engagement

Engaging with viewers via comments is key, but managing them makes sure the comment section is a fun place to be.

Here's how to tailor your YouTube comment settings:

  • Allow All: Every comment is visible, but some may be held if flagged as inappropriate
  • Hold Potentially Inappropriate: Filters out comments that might be unsuitable, with an option to increase strictness
  • Hold All: Manually approve each comment
  • Turn Off: Disable comments entirely
  • Blocked Words & Links: Set specific terms or URLs to be held for review

Choose settings that align with your community vibe to ensure a better experience for all.

Pro tip: Turn on embedding to reach new audiences on platforms like websites and newsletters. Also, permit your content to be repurposed as YouTube Shorts to improve brand awareness and drive more viewers towards your channel. 

13. Strategically promote your video

You’re not done yet. After publishing on YouTube, active promotion is key to maximizing reach:
  • Engage with your audience: Dive into comments and use YouTube's community tab to foster discussions and boost video visibility.
  • Tap your collaborators: Notify any featured guests or collaborators; their social media shares can expand your audience.
  • Share the right stuff on social:
    • Instagram: Share highlight clips.
    • Twitter: Share teaser clips.
    • Blogs: Embed videos with added context.
  • Use analytics: Harness YouTube analytics to refine your content strategy based on viewer feedback and engagement metrics.

That’s it!

Until these steps become second nature, let this checklist be your guide for every upload.

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