YouTube Demonetization: What to Do if You’re Penalized in 2021

The internet has become a hotbed for new words and phrases, but none have been thrown around in recent years quite as much as “demonetized” or “adpocalypse”. 

If YouTube had a “word-of-the-day” calendar, “demonetized” would probably show up on every single page. 

But what exactly is demonetization? 

Why does it happen? 

And, perhaps most importantly, what can you do when your videos get demonetized by YouTube?

In this article, we’re going to answer all of those questions and more, so you know what steps to take when your videos are demonetized, and how to supplement your YouTube income in 2021.

What is YouTube demonetization?

YouTube demonetization is when a video (or sometimes an entire YouTube channel) loses the ability to earn advertising revenue. 

This all started a couple of years ago when big news sites like The Times and Tech Crunch began reporting that ads from reputable brands were appearing on videos that were promoting terrorism and anti-Semitism.  

Understandably, many advertisers began boycotting YouTube, and Google was pressured to put new policies in place fast

Philipp Schindler, Chief Business Officer at Google hastily released a statement that covered YouTube’s next steps in the matter: 

“Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values. For this, we deeply apologize. We know that this is unacceptable to the advertisers and agencies who put their trust in us. That’s why we’ve been conducting an extensive review of our advertising policies and tools, and why we made a public commitment last week to put in place changes that would give brands more control over where their ads appear.”

Problem solved, right?

For YouTube and their advertisers, perhaps. For the creators on the platform, not so much. 

Almost immediately, creators on the platform began to notice a considerable dip in revenue on videos that most believed didn’t directly violate the new demonetization policies. 

This was dubbed the adpocalypse. To rub salt into the wound for creators, it seemed that demonetization was not being conducted fairly. 

Creators noticed that their videos were being demonetized, while similar videos uploaded by huge brands weren’t suffering the same fate. This is explained in better detail in this Philip DeFranco video: 

Why did your video get demonetized?

So, now you know what YouTube demonetization is, but why has it happened to you? 

The main reason given by YouTube for demonetization is that the video (or channel) in question doesn’t meet their advertiser-friendly content guidelines

There are many topics considered not suitable for ads. Here’s the list of the main ones as given by YouTube: 

YouTube advertiser content guidelines

This list seems pretty straight-forward and understandable. Of course, advertisers don’t want their content associated with those topics. 

The problem is that the list is too vague and this can result in the demonetization of videos that wouldn’t normally be considered offensive or harmful at all. 

For example, “sensitive events” is a broad topic. The coronavirus is the most recent subject to be considered a “sensitive event” and YouTubers are finding themselves demonetized for even mentioning the word in their videos, including the popular gaming channel AngryJoeShow:

Even worse, YouTube creators have noticed – once again – that the same treatment is not applied to big news organizations, as you can see here with an ad appearing before a COVID-19 video from The Sun: 

YouTube video screenshot

In addition to violating Youtube’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines, a new Feb 2021 update means that any accounts who don’t have an up to date AdSense account will also be completely demonetized. 

Watch this video to see if this applies to you and how you can fix it: 

What to do when you’re demonetized by YouTube (in 2 steps)

If you do find your videos demonetized then there are steps you can take to hopefully get monetization switched back on. 

Step 1: Re-evaluate your content 

First things first, make sure you haven’t accidentally breached the content guidelines by rewatching your video carefully. 

Look out for anything you may have said that could go against their guidelines – for example reference to sensitive topics – and make sure you censor any language that could be deemed inappropriate (e.g. swearing). 

Here’s a great video that goes through an extensive list of demonetized words: 

You should also make sure you aren’t using any footage or music that’s currently under copyright. 

While re-evaluating your content, check your video title, thumbnail, and video description as these are all trawled by YouTube’s algorithm. 

Step 2: Contact YouTube 

If you’re sure you haven’t breached their guidelines, the next thing to do is contact YouTube and ask for a manual review

This is a way to appeal the action. It means a human being will review the content and see if the algorithm has made a mistake. If it has then your monetization will be switched back on. 

Supplementing your YouTube income

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, sometimes your demonetized videos will stay that way and you’ll never be able to make money from those videos again. This can be incredibly frustrating if you’re trying to make a living from your YouTube videos. 

As YouTube ad revenue is such a volatile and unpredictable source of income, you should look to supplement your income in other ways.

1. Sponsorship deals 

Partnering with a brand and getting your video sponsored by them is a great way to supplement your YouTube income. 

Sponsorship deals are mutually beneficial because brands get their product in front of a willing audience and you get a more solid revenue stream than YouTube advertising.

This is a type of “influencer marketing” and it’s very popular among marketers, with 89% believing it to be effective. 

What’s more, you don’t need to have a huge following to be considered for a sponsorship deal. 89% of advertisers prefer to use profiles with less than 100,000 followers, and 35% opt for influencers with less than 10,000 followers because they have a better engagement rate. 

This can be a great revenue stream for you if your content falls outside of what’s acceptable based on YouTube’s new advertising guidelines, for example, videos that cover true crime stories. 

Here’s an example from a true crime creator. You’ll see that the video begins with a sponsorship message: 

Reach out to brands that you think will be a good fit with your audience, let them know important metrics (such as how many subscribers you have, how much engagement each video gets, and so on), and hopefully you’ll be able to start a brand partnership that creates a steady stream of revenue for you. 

2. Sell merchandise

Selling merchandise allows you to increase your revenue without relying on other companies so much – as you would be with YouTube advertising and brand deals. 

This is a path that many YouTubers take because it’s easy to do (through print-on-demand advertising) and it also forges a stronger connection between you and your viewers. 

Merchandise can make your viewers feel like part of a club. It’s a way for them to show their support for you and, unlike when they watch an ad, they get something in return for their support. 

This is something that a lot of YouTubers do. Here’s an example from MrBeast: 

YouTube video screenshot

MrBeast, like many popular YouTubers and internet personalities, uses Merchline for all of his merchandising requirements. 

But any print-on-demand store will suffice. Print-on-demand basically means that a product will only be made when it is ordered, so no need for you to buy 500 of your own t-shirts and cross your fingers that they sell! 

3. Ask for donations

Another way to increase your YouTube revenue is to ask your viewers for donations. There are a couple of websites that facilitate this, such as Patreon and Buy me a coffee

“Buy me a coffee” is a great way for viewers to support you when they can’t afford (or don’t want to buy) merchandise, as it allows them to donate a smaller amount. 

Patreon is a little bit different. It’s more like a subscription service and is usually used for followers to access exclusive content that they wouldn’t get on Youtube. 

Here’s an example from the YouTuber Abroad in Japan’s Patreon page: 

Abroad in Japan Patreon page

The best way to ensure you make a steady income from YouTube is by opening up as many different revenue streams as possible – so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try all of these methods out and see what happens! 

Final thoughts

When you’ve put so much time and effort and hope into your YouTube channel it can feel really demoralizing to get demonetized. 

But hopefully the tips in this article will help you to reduce your chances of getting demonetized in the future and supplement your income in other ways.

To further increase your YouTube success, check out our article: YouTube SEO: 13 Ways to Rank Higher in 2021.