UPDATE – I got my account back, here’s the update!
It’s a gut wrenching feeling when you see a years worth of hard work thrown right out the window and what makes it worse is that is was done by your best friend. Yes, YouTube is my businesses best friend and we were getting along great! Together we had gained over 4,000 awesome subscribers, just about 300,000 views and we were proud to be teaching others how to grow their business using YouTube ethically. I emphasis ethically because there are a lot of people looking to make a quick buck and trick others into scams, buying thousand of fake views, filling YouTube with spam and harassing others. Not only was I against all that, but I strongly encouraged others to use YouTube ethically and stay within their guidelines and rules. In fact, in one of my last videos titled “How To Get More Views On YouTube – Top 9 Techniques”, I gave 9 ethical ways to get more views and directly told people not to buy views. As you can see, YouTube and I got along great, we had a great respect for one another, and quite frankly…we loved each other (don’t tell my wife). In today’s post I am going to tell you the story of how it all fell apart in 72 hours.
It All Began With Strike One
It all started when I woke up Friday morning (1/31/14) to an email saying my video titled “How To Get More Views On YouTube – Top 9 Techniques” was flagged as inappropriate, violated the community rules and has been removed. My first thought was, “this is a joke because YouTube and I are best friends. I always follow their rules” and I halfway expected the from field of the email to say The Price Of Nigeria (you know…the guy who has 50 million dollars he needs to transfer to the US and wants to put it in your account). But, unfortunately it was wasn’t from the Prince, it was from YouTube.
It’s hard to describe my first thought when I realized this was actually real, but, confused, shocked, and stunned pretty much sum it up. I quickly jumped out of bed, went to the computer, logged into my account and the video was flagged in red. Being that I am VERY careful to follow my pal, YouTube’s, rules I began thinking maybe I misread the guidelines (yes I have read them, their playbooks and read through their creators info on producing good content). After reading their community guidelines, what felt like 20 times, I was still in a great state of confusion. Nothing I did in that video violated their terms.
At this point, I began to think why someone would flag the video and every scenario ran through my head. Was it a competitor? Was is some kid who was in a bad mood because I didn’t sub4sub them (subscribe back to their channel because they subscribed to mine)? I had no idea what it was, but the thing that got me worried was this line of their email:
“Once a video is flagged, it is reviewed by the YouTube Team against our Community Guidelines. Upon review, we have determined that the following video(s) contain content in violation of these guidelines, and have been disabled: ”
That worried me because my pal YouTube was saying someone flagged the video, which at that point they reviewed it themselves and agreed it violated the terms. Shoot! What heck did I do wrong?
What Did I Do Wrong?
After doing some research, on YouTube of course because I still love them, I realized there were certain types of videos and certain keywords in the title of videos that will automatically get flagged without warning. This means that if a video title contains any keywords YouTube has on the naughty list that video gets flagged without anyone actually flagging it. I believe this is their way of having those videos go through the appeal process so they can manually review them to be sure they are quality videos and not spam. This of course is all theory, no one has hard actual proof of this. But, it seemed to be a very common occurrence among videos that contained keywords like “youtube views” “get more youtube views”, etc in the title.
Alright! If this was true, it was starting to make sense. People buying YouTube views is a very big problem within YouTube and there are a lot of people who promote their YouTube view buying service by creating videos titled “How to get more YouTube views” to get people to click on it and then that video says “Use our service to get cheap, fast and easy views”. It now made sense why my video got flagged. They just want to make sure it was legit.
At this point, I started to feel a lot better because I can totally understand why it got flagged. YouTube did still love me, it was just a process they use to keep the good quality videos up and the bad ones out. I am on board with that, if I have to have my video down for a few days just to help them fight off the Spammers…I am ALL FOR IT! From the research I found, all I had to do was appeal the flag and they would manually review it (which they probably didn’t do earlier even though the email said they did) and the video would be back in a few days. Sweet! Appeal sent, time to wait!
Now I am feeling really good. YouTube is still my bff, I didn’t actually violate the guidelines and everything will be fine in a few days. Even though things were looking up, my YouTube account still had a strike on it since my video was flagged. That is just how the system works, it’s programmed like that, even if a keyword triggered my video to get flagged instead of an actual person. The problem is that strike lasts for 6 months and if any other of my videos get flagged within those 6 months my account can be suspended or terminated. The good thing is that that was the first flag I had ever gotten and I have been on YouTube for over a year; so I should be fine over the next few days. Once my appeal goes through, the strike and flag will get removed and my account will be in good standing. And this is when YouTube and I started to have relationship problems.
Strike 2 You’re OUT
It is now Sunday, (2/2/14) and I get a comment on one of my videos: “you damn spammer”. This confuses me beyond belief because I freakin’ hate spam/spammers and am the EXACT opposite of that. So, I look up the video and realized it is actually an unlisted video, which means this video shouldn’t even be coming up in the search results. The only way you can see this video is if I send you the link directly or you go to a page I set up with this video on it. Either way, you can not access this video unless I actually send you to it.
Turns out this video was actually on a thank you page I have set up once someone opts into my email list/newsletter. For those of you who are not familiar with internet marketing, when someone signs up to your email list they have to enter in their name and/or email address and they are sent an email to confirm that subscription. You are suppose to send them this confirmation email to ensure they actually signed up, this process helps fight unwanted emails! It is common procedure when someone hits enter to submit their email and/or name to bring them to a thank you page that says something along the lines of “Thank you for joining our newsletter. You are almost signed up. We just need you to check your email because we sent you a confirmation email to make sure you were the one who actually signed up. Open that email and click the link and that’s it”. Most people will put up a video on the thank you page saying exactly that.
You probably guessed it, but, the video that got the comment “you damn spammer” was a video I created telling them to check their email and hit the confirmation email. It was a video designed to make sure they would get my emails only if they really wanted them. The irony in the whole thing is that they actually had to sign up for my newsletter to see that video. This means opt’ed in to get my emails, which is the EXACT opposite of spam. AND, they didn’t have to hit the confirmation link in the email if they didn’t want my emails, and every single one of my emails has an unsubscribe link at the bottom. Why they are calling me a spammer is beyond me.
Minutes after receiving the comment “you damn spammer” I get another notice from YouTube that the exact same video with the comment “you damn spammer” has been flagged as spam. WTF! How is that video spam? It is purposely hidden from the public! The only people I want seeing that video are the one who are opting into my email list and it was designed to make sure they actually wanted my emails! Well, I am a smart cookie and I can put two and two together. This person opt’ed into my list, left me a comment and flagged my video as spam to YouTube. Uh oh, that is a second flag!
Side note- The funny thing is the person actually read my first email and is still on my list. Not sure why they are on a “spammers” email list still when they can easily not confirm the link or unsubscribe any time. And the person’s YouTube name is actually the same name they used in their email address, which means I have their contact info now. Although I am tempted to get some kind of revenge on them or even display their info in this post I am not going to because I am an honest, ethical, good hearted person who believes in Karma. Alright…back to the story…
Ah Man, Strike Two
Even though (I believe) the first flag was a default flag and no one actually flagged it, YouTube’s system sees my account with two flagged videos within 6 months and my account is suspended. Just like that, one person sends my entire account into suspension. One. Single. Person. Came in between two BFF’s and tore them apart.
I was actually looking at two of favorite videos before all this happened and between those two videos I have over 1,200 social shares, meaning over 1,200 people went out of their way to share those videos on their social media accounts. They also had over 500 comments, most of which were thanking me for making those videos. This alone should be proof enough I only deliver solid content, make great videos, try to be a positive influence in and on YouTube and am the opposite of spam. I am hoping my late BFF, YouTube realizes this as I begin the appeal process. More on that in a minute.
The thing that that bothers me the most isn’t that my account is suspended. It’s that I strive to bring good quality content that helps people. I put hours and hours into one single video designed to help business owners market their business. Then one person’s ignorance can take it all down in a matter of seconds. Plus, that person is still on my email list receiving all the free marketing content/tips I give out to my email subscribers! Don’t mark my video as spam if you are going to stay on my email list receiving and reading my emails. But, I always tend to find the humor in everything and the funny thing here is that they signed up for my Free Local Video Marketing course which is made up of unlisted YouTube videos…that are now gone…because of them. I guess they aren’t getting the course now haha oh well.
Update – I did a search of my name Sold With Video on YouTube after my account got suspended and the results displayed 4+pages of playlists people created using my YouTube videos. People only put good videos into playlist, never spammy videos. I was actually surprised by how many playlist came up, how cool!
What To Do Now?
The best thing about this happening to me is that I now know how to help others go through this exact process. I am extremely grateful for the experience of this because it allows me to take my stress, fear, and pain and turn it into something that will ease others stress, fear and pain if they have to go through this themselves. So here are the steps I took thus far and where I am at as of now.
Step 1 – First Flagged Video
You will get an email from YouTube explaining your video was flagged. This email will have a link to this page: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/185111?hl=en which will allow you to appeal the flag. I have heard it takes a few days but it’s been 72 hours for me and I have not heard anything yet on my first flag.
I have heard of a lot of people getting their videos unflagged after manual review. But, I am pretty sure you will know whether or not you were misusing the guidelines before you even send in the appeal.
Step 2 – Second Flag and Account was Suspended for Two Weeks
As soon as the second flag came in I was unable to access my YouTube account, all my videos were gone from the search results. This hurts and it hurts big time, most of my traffic, leads and biz gen came from my YouTube videos. I do YouTube marketing for a living and not having a YouTube account makes it pretty difficult to show I know what I am talking about to clients. But, I just have to fight on and that is what I did.
I went to this page: https://support.google.com/accounts/contact/suspended?p=youtube&rd=1 and appealed my account being terminated.
Now I am supposed to just sit, wait and hope for the best. But, as an entrepreneur that is not in my nature. I stumbled onto a video from one of my friends, James Wedmore, talking about how one of his students got his YouTube account unbanned and this post from Gideon Shalwick. It inspired me to write this post explaining my stance, what happened, and hopefully help others who go through this same problem. I will update this page of my status, but I need your support! Please leave me a comment under this video, share this post with your friends, and if you know of anyone who can help please forward them this post.
Thank you everyone for reading. I appreciate you all!