In general, from a YouTube video, in order to get someone to visit our site, we might display our domain name throughout (with a watermark image perhaps), ask them to visit (call to action), and provide a link above the description fold. This all works, but we have another option available. We can include a clickable annotation within the video that links direct to our site. YouTube calls it Associated Website Annotations.

YouTube external link annotations to associated web sites

Setting up YouTube Associated Website Annotations

1. First, make sure that your YouTube account is in good standing else there is no point in moving forward until you get that corrected.

To check where your account stands with Google, click here after logging into your Google/YouTube account.

If all is good, move along.

2. Next, we must (usually) verify our YouTube account.

The account features page may reveal that we already have the ability to use external annotations but it doesn’t hurt to verify anyway to open up other features.

To start let’s click the Verify Your YouTube Account link.

Then we choose a method of verification. The options are between Voice call and SMS.

If you have a mobile phone and don’t mind using up an incoming text (assuming you have limits for incoming texts), choose SMS. Select your country (although it’ll likely be auto-detected), and enter your phone number without dashes, and click the Submit button.

You should get a verification code sent to your phone immediately. Enter in the code into the page on YouTube and click the Verify button.

A “congratulations” message should follow.

3. Next, make sure that your web site is verified in Google Webmaster Tools.

To do that, just add the domain and download an HTML verification file and upload it to the root of your site. All of the instructions will be there for you, and there are actually a couple different verfication methods. You should also verify the ‘www’ subdomain and set your preference between ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ while you are in there. This has nothing to do with YouTube, but I just wanted to bring it up.

And if you have intentions to direct link to affiliate links, don’t be discouraged, because you still can. Just setup a PHP redirect file on your verified domain with the affiliate link.

4. Now you need to add a web site as the associated web site for your YouTube account. To do that head to the Advanced Channel Settings page on YouTube.

Add the web site address to the Associated website box and click the Add button. Then click Save.

Once the first site is verified, any other site that you add to Webmaster Tools (you can add up to 1,000 currently) will be able to be linked to using external annotation links as well.

5. Now, head to your YouTube video manager page and locate the video that you want to add an annotation to.

Next to the Edit link, drop down the arrow and choose Annotations.

On the Annotations screen for the video, if this is your first time doing an external annotation you will need to click the Enable button in the blue ribbon across the top.

Look over the External Links Terms & Conditions and if you agree with them, click on the I Accept button.

Adding the External Link Annotation


1. Navigate to the place in the video that you want to include the annotation.

2. Click the Add annotation button.

3. Draw it into the video.

4. Fill in the settings.

5. Specify that it is a Link.

6. Choose Associated Website from the list.

7. Enter in the URL.

8. Save and re-publish the video.

Video: Watch Along as I Prepare a YouTube Account for External Link Annotaion Use, Then Add an Clickable Annotation to a Video

For troubleshooting, FAQs, and more detailed steps regarding setting up links to external sites within YouTube videos, check this YouTube support page.