YouTube vs. Third-party Video Hosting Providers – Which Option is Best?

Oct 09, 2012 12:33 AM  By

YouTube is often the default location for hosting videos – and there are plenty of good reasons why merchants, just like other online businesses, go with this option when they need a fast and easy way to get product videos on the web.

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As a video hosting site, YouTube’s capabilities have become more sophisticated and the site is highly user-friendly for merchants. However, you should ask yourself what features you need behind the scenes, and what data you want to glean from video usage – the answers will dictate whether you go with a free or paid option.

YouTube is free, and it’s user-friendly – and since it’s the second-largest search engine in the world, it offers a massive built-in audience for product videos.

However, YouTube isn’t your only avenue when it comes to hosting videos. Third-party video platforms can give you capabilities that you don’t find on YouTube. Here are some features to consider when you’re weighing your video hosting options.

Website traffic
Many website owners believe that their site must compete with YouTube for video placement in search listings – and that therefore, they need to place their videos on YouTube or they don’t stand a chance of getting a video displayed on Google’s search results when compared against YouTube (the second most-popular site on the web).

However, this isn’t quite the way things work out: The algorithms that determine video ranking will heavily factor in a site’s topical authority. A shoe site, therefore, will most likely rank higher in the placement algorithm for a shoe video than a similar piece of content on YouTube, a video portal.

Another thing to consider is the fact that Google is pulling the strings when it comes to how YouTube videos show up in search results. Anyone who works in SEO knows that we live or die based on the changes to Google algorithms.

If Google decides to tinker with the ways YouTube videos turn up in search, and you’ve put all of your video “eggs” in the YouTube basket, your options for changing your video strategy will be limited.

Presentation
You can embed YouTube-hosted videos on your retail website, and the process is a snap. However, you don’t have much control over the size of the video or how it’s presented. YouTube videos typically take up a lot of room on a product webpage, which is precious real estate – you might prefer to use some of the space for product descriptions or special offers.

If you use a third-party provider, you have more display options available to you. For instance, you can have tabs on a product page for your videos, which visitors can select if they want to view a video. This means the video player isn’t automatically taking room on the page.

Seamless ordering
If a potential customer sees one of your product videos on YouTube – or if they watch it on your site, or perhaps via a social network on which it has been shared – they need to take a few steps if they want to order the product. They may have to find their way back to your website and locate the correct product page; or if they’re already on your site, they need to figure out how to add the item to their shopping cart. Either way, you’re making shoppers take several steps, which may discourage them from completing the purchase. Third-party hosting providers may offer features like being able to add a product to a shopping cart directly from the video player itself.

Cost
YouTube is free, and free is good, especially in tight economic times.

However, like anything free, you lose out on some functionality even as you save money. For instance, an online retailer may have hundreds, even thousands, of product videos to upload. On YouTube, this process will be extremely time-consuming, since the site wasn’t made for this kind of mass uploading. Third-party providers usually offer automated ways to create and upload videos, freeing up time for other projects.

The free vs. paid argument also comes into play when you consider whether you want to learn more about how your videos are watched, and how effective they are in driving sales. YouTube doesn’t give you added features like conversion rate tracking or A/B testing, which a paid solution likely does.

Dr. Melody King is vice president of marketing at Treepodia.