Search ninja part 3: How to find unlisted YouTube videos with Google

Summary:YouTube recently enabled new functionality allowing for unlisted videos. But just because they don't show up in YouTube's search index doesn't mean they can't be found elsewhere! In this post, I show you how.

It's not every day that you learn something new about a site you have visited multiple times almost daily for years now. Recently, I learned that YouTube now has unlisted videos. These are different from private videos that only allow 25 others with YouTube accounts to view them. These new unlisted videos piqued my curiosity, what with my near-obsessive desires to locate content that's otherwise not meant for public consumption, so, naturally, I decided to look into it and seek to answer the one burning question in my mind: "How do I find these videos if they're unlisted?" The search ninja will show you how!

To start, the primary value of these new unlisted videos is so a person can share a video with anyone of their choosing, yet have it not show up in YouTube search results. You can read more about them from YouTube's unlisted video help page, but the way I found out about this whole thing in the first place was purely by accident. Long story short, I read an article that had a YouTube video embedded in it. Although I could watch the video there, I decided to click-through to see it on YouTube's site and read any comments below the video. Lo and behold, I was greeted with the following message above the video:

This video is unlisted. Only those with the link can see it.

Immediately upon seeing that message, I went to Google and performed the following search: site:youtube.com "This video is unlisted. Only those with the link can see it"

If that looks completely foreign to you, make sure you read my search ninja post where I cover many of Google's advanced search operators, like site:, inurl:, intitle:, -, and others.

Now, after looking through a few pages of the aforementioned results, I noticed that many of them were people's comments containing the words I searched for. As such, I decided to filter them out and see results from only people who, for whatever reason, decided to add those words in their descriptions. Luckily, this was simple to achieve, thanks to the indexed comments residing on YouTube pages that contain the term "all_comments" in the URL. As such, I ran the following query: site:youtube.com "This video is unlisted. Only those with the link can see it" -inurl:all_comments

Far-less results overall, but far-less false-positives as well. Granted, you can still find your way to unlisted videos via people's comments (for some reason, it seems certain folks like to reiterate the fact that the video they just watched is unlisted), but the next thing I want to show you is a faster way to filter these results while being a bit more broad with your search!

Have you ever used Google's video search? If not, then all you need to know is that anything you search for will return results that link to videos. The beautiful thing is you can still use Google's advanced search operators as if you were performing a regular Web Google search. With that in mind, give the following query a shot: site:youtube.com "This video is unlisted."

That's roughly 300 results (at the time of this writing) that are all videos and, somewhere within the page, contain the words "This video is unlisted." They're practically giving themselves away!

Bear in mind that while there aren't many results for unlisted videos now, there most certainly will be in the future. This functionality is quite new to YouTube and, given some time, will be picked up more and more as people learn they can create unlisted videos. All the while, Google will keep crawling the Web as it does and indexing comments and descriptions that totally make an unlisted video a moot point... almost. After all, only those of you reading this or those interested enough to think of these methods themselves will be leveraging Google's index to find what YouTube doesn't keep in its index. Never mind the slightly-comedic fact that Google owns YouTube.

As a preventative measure, if you plan on utilizing unlisted videos for your forum/community/site/etc. for purposes of training, educating, or otherwise, just make sure you don't add to your description, title, or tags that the video is unlisted. Likewise, moderate your comments so that nothing ridiculous ends up getting your unlisted video indexed in Google, such as, "Look at me, ma! I'm watching a video on YouTube that says "this video is unlisted!" I am awesome!"

Lastly, one day, you should be able to start throwing in some keywords you're interested in to see if any unlisted videos are indexed in relation to them. For instance, if you're interested in seeing what type of unlisted YouTube videos Google has indexed in regards to Facebook, you could perform a search query like the one as follows: site:youtube.com "This video is unlisted" intitle:Facebook

There's nothing quite as empowering as finding your way to information you're interested in residing in presentations/formats that you shouldn't be privy to. Google enables us to do this with astonishing ease. Stay tuned for more "search ninja" posts where I will continue to help you sharpen your search skill set! In the mean time, if you've yet to, be sure to catch part 1 and part 2 of my search ninja series.

-Stephen Chapman

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Topics: Browser, Social Enterprise

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

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