YouTube To Let Creators Use Annotations To Link Off-Site To Websites, Merch & More

By Megan O'Neill 

Recently YouTube has been ramping up their annotations, adding a variety of new functionalities, from allowing creators to link to Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, add branding or video links across all videos, and more.  Last Friday, YouTube released a video in which Dror Shimowitz, the Head of Product for Creators and Curators at YouTube, talks about even more annotations updates that are in the works, including the ability to link off-site to associated websites and merchandise.

In the video, which you can view below, Shimowitz explains that, “Annotations are something that partners have been using for a long time, whether it’s to highlight something in the video or to create interactive stories, skipping around in the video or to other videos.  But we think annotations can actually be a lot more than this.”  He says that YouTube is so interested in annotations for a variety of reasons.  For starters, “you have the viewers attention right on the video, so there’s no better time and place to communicate with them than through something in the video.”

Shimowitz also points out that, “YouTube is increasingly moving beyond the desktop, beyond the site.  Mobile is growing like crazy, and we all know and believe that the future of YouTube will also be on the television, and if you think about it, on all these other platforms there is no website.  There’s not a thing that goes around the player offering all sorts of other things, but what does go across all these devices and all these platforms is the video and the player itself, so we think it’s going to become increasingly important to help you achieve your goals of growing your audience and deepening your connection with the viewer through the video itself and through annotations.”

Merch Annotations

To this end, YouTube has launched a couple of new pilot projects in the annotations realm.  The first is Merch Annotations.  A year ago, YouTube launched their Merch Store, a tool to help creators sell channel-related merch directly through YouTube.

YouTube is now preparing to phase out the Merch Store and give partners the opportunity to sell merchandise through annotations that link directly to YouTube’s retail partners.  Shimowitz stresses the fact, however, that “This feature is only to be used to sell your own branded merchandise.”

Associated Website

Perhaps the most exciting news that Shimowitz talked about is the ability for creators to link to Associated Websites.  You can set up your Associated Website in your Channel Settings—note that you’ll have to go through a process to confirm that you actually own the domain that you are linking to.  For now, YouTube only allows channels to associate a single website, but in the future they plan to allow creators to link to multiple websites.

This features is a pilot project and won’t be available to everyone just yet, but Shimowitz says, “If you want to get ahead of the game, make sure that you’ve already associated your website with your channel so you’re ready to go when this feature launches.”

When these features do become available to you, think twice before you go crazy with annotations linking to your website and your merch.  Shimowitz provides a word to the wise, pointing out that anything you link to off-site takes your viewers away from watching more of your videos.  However, when used correctly, these new features should be a great tool for creators, effectively driving traffic to their own sites, merch, other videos and more.

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.