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What Does Unlisted Mean on YouTube? (Private vs Unlisted: Who REALLY Sees Your YouTube Video)

Kristen McCabe
Kristen McCabe  |  November 29, 2018

YouTube is ideal for sharing videos for business and personal purposes, but that doesn’t always mean you want the world to see them.

When you’re trying to figure out (or change) your YouTube settings, you may be left wondering just how secure your unlisted video is.

That’s a basic overview of the meaning of unlisted on YouTube. If you want your videos to be as secure as possible, it’s best to consider making your YouTube videos private.

This article is your ultimate guide, with step-by-step instructions to public vs. private vs. unlisted YouTube videos and how to manage video privacy on YouTube.

Keep reading, or jump ahead to any of these sections to find the answer you need:

Be sure to check out the last section on unlisted video FAQs, tips, and hacks; those unlisted videos might not be as secret as you think.

What does unlisted mean on YouTube?

People decide to make a YouTube channel for many reasons. Whether it is personal or private, there are times it makes sense to create videos that are unlisted.

To better understand the meaning of an unlisted YouTube video, let’s take a look at what a public YouTube video is. Then, we’ll dive into the difference between unlisted and private YouTube videos. There are pros and cons to each; the best privacy settings for your YouTube videos can vary on a case-by-case basis.

Then, we’ll dive into the difference between unlisted and private YouTube videos. There are pros and cons to each; the best privacy settings for your YouTube videos can vary on a case by case basis.

If your video is unlisted, it will be harder for users to cite a YouTube video in their research papers. 

What is a public YouTube video?

A public video on YouTube can be seen by anyone. It can appear on search results within YouTube, as well as search results right on Google.

For example, when I Google, “dogs at work,” the very first video result is courtesy of YouTube.

youtube-video-public-search-results

Why use public YouTube videos?

If you have a YouTube brand account and you're looking to grow your audience, public video settings are definitely the way to do it.

This would apply to any of the following situations:

  • You are a business sharing videos with prospects and customers. (This could be instructional videos, product reviews, explainer videos, commercials, and more!)
  • You want to make money on YouTube
  • You are a YouTuber growing your personal brand
  • You want more YouTube subscribers

Do you use YouTube for your job? Write a Review →

If you share a video with public settings, remember: Anyone can find it, even if you delete your YouTube video or change the settings later

This means you are also subjecting yourself to judgment, both personal and professional. If you are posting a video with public settings, ask yourself:

  • Would I want my boss to see this?
  • Could this keep me from getting a job?
  • Will anyone consider the video offensive or harassing?
  • If my friends see this, will I be the subject of endless ridicule?

If the answer is yes, think long and hard before you use those public settings and consider uploading your video as private or unlisted.

Get resources on how to use YouTube, FREE.    Explore →

YouTube private vs unlisted videos

So, if public YouTube videos aren’t right for you, what is? What’s the difference between unlisted and private videos? Let’s take a look!

What is an unlisted YouTube video?

An unlisted video can only be seen by people who have the link 99 percent of the time. (The exceptions to this rule are found at the end of this page.)

If you don’t want your video to appear in search results, but you have a large group of people you want to share your video with, unlisted is the way go to.

However, anyone with the link to your video can share that link with others. Highly sensitive information should have private settings.

Why use unlisted YouTube videos?

  • Sharing videos with friends and family
  • When you have a webinar or other video content you want to share with select customers and prospects
  • At times, you want to clean up your YouTube page and get rid of old videos, but still want access for people who embedded the video
  • Getting video feedback from co-workers; think of it like market research with a focus group
  • Online resumes and portfolios to share during job applications

What is a YouTube private video?

A private YouTube video can only be shared with the specific people you invite to view the video. Even if someone has the link, you must give the person access to the video.

This is the most secure type of video on YouTube. Unlike unlisted videos, when you share a private YouTube video, that person cannot share the video with others.

If you want to share your private video with more than 50 people, sadly, you are out of luck: YouTube limits you to share the video with just 50 other users.

Why use private YouTube videos?

  • Confidential internal company information
  • Family videos you don’t want to risk being seen by strangers
  • Personal video storage
  • To upload a video and schedule when it will be shared publicly on YouTube

That last one is why I use private videos. With a few thousand dog pictures on my phone (literally), I run out of room quickly. By uploading my videos to YouTube with private settings, I can still keep my content without running out of storage space on my phone.

The following chart details the specifics on who can view public, private, and unlisted YouTube videos.

Chart: Public vs private vs unlisted YouTube videos

If you’re confused by the difference in those settings, or have further questions about who can see your unlisted videos when it comes to your YouTube channel and sharing, use this chart as your guide.

Feature Unlisted Private Public
Can people watch my video if I send them the URL? Yes No Yes
Can anyone see my YouTube video if it is embedded in a landing page?

Yes

No Yes
Does my video show up in YouTube searches, related videos, and recommendations? No No Yes
Will the video be posted on my YouTube channel? No No Yes
Will my video show in subscriber feeds? No No Yes
Will my video appear in public playlists on YouTube? Yes No Yes
Do people need a YouTube account to see my video? No No Yes
Can the video be added to a section of my YouTube channel? Yes No Yes

If you’re on the fence between unlisted and private, I recommend unlisted, and here’s why.

The disadvantage of private YouTube videos

When you have super-secret content you need to guarantee no one else will see, private is indeed the way to go.

But, be aware that anyone you want to share the video with needs to have a YouTube account (And be logged in to it). This is the same as a Google account; anyone who has Gmail will be able to access the video.

Many people have Google accounts, so this won’t be an issue. However, here are two things to consider when making a YouTube video private:

1. Some people aren’t all that tech savvy

There are some family members of mine (who shall remain nameless) who don’t have a Google account. If I want to share a private video with them, I would need to set up their login. Then, I’d need to make sure they stay logged in or remember their password!

All in all, some people in my life would require a lengthy phone call full of instructions to view the video, so private might be too much work in the long run.

2. Company firewalls and security settings

If you are sharing a private video for company purposes, your co-workers will not just need to have a Google account, they must be logged in to it.

If your company doesn’t use Google for business purposes, make sure there are no firewalls blocking access to personal Google and YouTube accounts.

Remember, even if they can access their personal YouTube accounts at work, some employees may prefer not to log in when they fear their company may be able to see their private information.

How to create an unlisted YouTube video

Use these instructions to upload an unlisted video to YouTube. If you need more in-depth information on the process, read this article on how to upload a video to YouTube.

1. Go to your YouTube channel and add a video

Begin by making sure you are logged in to your YouTube channel.

Once you’re on your YouTube homepage, click the add video button in the upper-right corner. (It looks like a little video camera.)

From the drop-down button that appears, choose “Upload video.”

how-to-create-unlisted-youtube-video

2. Choose “unlisted” in your YouTube video settings

Now, it’s time for the important part: selecting your video’s YouTube privacy settings!

To do so, click on the word “Public.” Then, on the drop-down menu that appears, choose the word “Unlisted.”

unlisted-youtube

3. Upload your YouTube video

Upload your video where the screen says “Select files to upload.”

If you missed step two, and uploaded your video first, you can still ensure your video is unlisted before publishing.

Once you begin uploading your video, you’ll see a screen that looks like the image shown here. On the right side, you’ll find a menu that starts with the word “Public.”

youtube-video-settings

After clicking on the word “Public,” choose “unlisted” in the drop-down menu that appears.

youtube-private-vs-unlisted


Here’s what the privacy drop-down menu looks like if you’re uploading an unlisted video from your mobile phone.

uploading-unlisted-video-to-youtube-with-mobile

4. Publish your video to YouTube

Making sure that the drop-down menu says “Unlisted,” click the “Done” button in the upper-right corner of the video.

youtube-unlisted-video

5. Share your video’s link

As soon as you’ve published your video, a page that looks like this will appear.

Simply copy the URL provided and share it with anyone you’d like to see your video.

how to share an unlisted video on YouTube


You can also use any of the social media buttons pictured to share your video on other platforms. (Note: That does mean anyone following you on those platforms will have the link to see your video.)

How to share a video that’s unlisted on YouTube

We just looked at how to share an unlisted video immediately after publishing. If you’ve published your video days, weeks, or months ago, and would like to share it, use these instructions.

1. Go to YouTube Studio and view all of your videos

Begin by viewing all of your videos. You’ll find the video manager in your YouTube Studio. (If you’re not sure how to do that, keep reading. I’ll show you in a moment!)

find-my-unlisted-youtube-videos

2. View the unlisted video on YouTube

Click on the row of the video you plan to share. Then, hover your mouse near the video’s title.

You’ll see a small YouTube icon appear. When you hover over that icon, the words “View on YouTube” will appear.

Click on this icon.

unlist-youtube-video

3. Click on the share button

Click on the share button. Regardless if you want to share a link, embed your unlisted video, or share it on social media, this is the way to go!

share unlisted youtube video


Once you click the button, you’ll find all the options you need:

  • Link sharing: To text or email your video, copy the link the arrow is pointing to.
  • Embedding: To embed your video, click on the first button pictured under “Share a link.” There you’ll find the video code you need.  
  • Social media shares: Use any of the buttons pictured to share on Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms
unlisted-youtube-video-mobile

How to change your YouTube video settings to unlisted

The previous instructions showed how to upload a video with unlisted settings.

However, there may be a time when you upload a YouTube video and proudly set it to “public.” Soon after, though, you get feedback – be it from your boss, friend, or family member – gently telling you that video might not be quite right for public consumption. In times like this, you can go back and change your YouTube privacy settings. (Woo hoo!)

The same way you can change your YouTube name, profile picture, or URL, you can also change your YouTube privacy settings.

Here are the steps to make a public YouTube video private.

1. Go to the YouTube Studio and select your video

View all of your videos, including those that are private or unlisted, in YouTube Studio. (Full instructions are below.)

Once you find the correct video, click on the settings found in the “Visibility” column.

change-youtube-video-to-unlisted

2. Change video settings to unlisted

On the drop-down menu that appears, choose “Unlisted.” (This is also how you can change an unlisted video to become public or private.)

unlist-a-youtube-video

3. Save changes

All that’s left is to click the “Save” button and make it official!

save-unlisted-video-on-youtube


Even if you don’t see any kind of notification, rest assured that you have made your video unlisted as soon as you click save.

How to see your unlisted videos on YouTube

Because unlisted videos don’t appear on your YouTube channel, they can be tricky to find. I promise, they didn’t disappear!

Here’s how to see your unlisted videos without committing a lengthy URL to memory.

And, guess what? It’s only two steps!

1. Go to your YouTube Studio

Click on your channel icon in the upper-right corner of your screen.

On the drop-down menu that appears, choose “YouTube Studio.”

youtube-studio

2. Select “Videos” on your YouTube dashboard

Using the menu on the left side of the screen, choose the option that says “Videos.”

how-to-see-your-unlisted-videos-on-youtube


The page that appears is your YouTube video manager; here, you can see all videos you have uploaded to YouTube.

Use the “Visibility” column to see which videos you have set to public, private, or unlisted.

view-unlisted-youtube-videos

Manage video privacy: YouTube private vs unlisted FAQs, tips, and hacks

Now that you know how to create, share, and change YouTube privacy settings, I’m here to make sure none of your questions are left unanswered.

DISCLAIMER!

Some of these answers could be considered hacks enabling you to see videos that are not meant for public viewing.

Please, don’t be that person. This information is being shared so you have the full story on exactly how secure your unlisted videos are.  

Don’t be a jerk. I’m begging you: Respect people’s privacy.

When researching and testing out some of these methods, I discovered private family videos meant for sharing military burials with loved ones who could not attend in person. (Which made me feel like a jerk – hence this disclaimer.)

People say, “The internet is forever,” and, “Nothing is really private on the internet.” While that may be true, do your part and respect people’s privacy.

OK, PSA done! Now, on to answer your burning questions about YouTube video privacy.

Can people find unlisted YouTube videos?

Unlisted videos will not appear when searching within YouTube.

While public YouTube videos come up in search results, unlisted videos do not...most of the time.

This is one of those secret YouTube hacks I share with caution.

There are two ways that people can find unlisted videos. (This is why private is best when you have that super-secret confidential content. You know, if you’re a spy posting videos to YouTube.)

1. Unlisted video websites

There is at least one website I know of that compiles unlisted YouTube videos.

Note, I do not recommend going to these sites. As you can see in this screenshot, they are not secure. (So, if you do use these sites, and you get hacked, don’t blame me!)

unlisted-videos


If you’re creating and sharing unlisted YouTube videos, it’s essential to know these sites exist. If you’re sharing unlisted videos with people you don’t trust, or putting them out on social media, you risk your video ending up on these sites.

2. Search operators

Search operators are symbols and words that give users specific results.  

By using search operators on Google searches, users can narrow down search results and get precise results.

Because YouTube videos appear in Google search results, these operators can enable people to find unlisted videos.

This screenshot gives an example of how people can find unlisted YouTube videos through search operators.

can-people-find-unlisted-youtube-videos


Notice there are about 5,000 results.

The good news? 5,000 is a small percentage of the number of unlisted videos on YouTube.

Why can’t I view private videos on YouTube?

If you can’t view a private video on YouTube, make sure that the video owner has given you access.

Even if you have the video’s link, you must have a YouTube account.

If you’re logged in to your YouTube account, and you’re still having problems, check to see if the video creator has given permission to you.

In addition, remember that there is a limit to the number of users who can access a private video; there is a maximum of 50 users.

What about unlisted playlists on YouTube?

The same viewing rules for unlisted, private, and public videos apply to playlists.

  • Public playlists can appear in any search results
  • Unlisted playlists can be viewed by anyone with the link
  • Private playlists require permission to view.

Remember how you chose your video’s privacy settings when uploading it to YouTube? Similarly, when you make a playlist on YouTube, you will choose who has access to view your playlist.

And, the same way you can delete playlists on YouTube, playlist privacy can also be changed, even after you’ve added it to your channel.

Do unlisted videos show up in public playlists?

If a playlist is unlisted, your video is not available for public viewing.

However, if your unlisted YouTube video is shared in a public playlist, your video is out there for the world to find.

In this example, the bottom video, “Cute Black Puppy is Too Excited,” is unlisted. Yet, as you can see in this screenshot, anyone who views this playlist can also view the video.

youtube-unlisted-meaning

Can unlisted YouTube videos be embedded?

Yes, you can embed an unlisted YouTube video.

After uploading your unlisted video, a screen will appear with options to share your video.

Click the tab that says “Embed.” Then, copy and paste the code that appears.

can-unlisted-youtube-videos-be-embedded-yes


Why this matters:
We’ve established that you can embed unlisted YouTube videos.

But do you know what that means? Other people can too! And anytime your video is embedded on a website, anyone who views that blog or landing page can also see your video. So, while your video doesn’t come up in search results, it is out there for anyone to see. 

Whatever your videos needs, YouTube has a privacy setting that enables use of the platform.

Now that you know the ins and outs of public, unlisted, and private videos, you can upload your videos to YouTube with confidence.

Find more ways to ensure social media privacy with the following articles:

Kristen McCabe
Author

Kristen McCabe

Kristen’s global marketing experience extends from Australia to Chicago with expertise in both B2B and B2C industries. Specializing in content, conversions, and events, Kristen spends her time outside of work time acting, learning nature photography, and joining in the #instadog fun with her Pug/Jack Russell, Bella. (she/her/hers)