Why using ‘free’ online video platforms for your content marketing is bad business [updated]

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Correction 3 June 2014 9:50am: Some claims made in the original version of this article were confusing and/or incorrect. Where confusion may occur, some statements have been edited, while others have been annotated with specific corrections.


Who doesn’t love a good YouTube stat? Over one billion unique visitors watching six billion hours of content every month, from more than one million creators, uploading 100 hours of video every minute…

It’s amazing we actually get any work done with all those funny cat videos and RedBull stunts.

No wonder then, that when many marketers start using video in their online marketing the default choice for hosting their videos is YouTube. After all, it’s free right?

Well, no not really. You actually pay a hefty price in marketing value. Here’s the lowdown on the hidden costs of using a free platform and why it you might like to consider a professional video platform for your business video:


It’s not actually free

Many people believe that YouTube is an altruistic gift from Google to ensure every person on Earth can watch video for free. Quite to the contrary, YouTube is an advertising funded platform that eMarketer estimates earned Google $5.6 Billion last year (11% of total Google ad revenues). What drives those ads (and therefore Google’s revenue) is content. Your content. So of course it costs you nothing to upload your videos because Google clips the ticket every time someone views it. [Editor’s note: If linked to your AdSense account, the content creator also gets a cut.] And that doesn’t mean there’s no cost to you.


Bye bye, viewers (and therefore customers)

You’ve gone to all that effort of creating a good video, and posting it on YouTube means there’s a chance one of your competitors will pop up as an ad beforehand, or overlaid right on top of your video, or as a suggested video next to yours. So, YouTube’s free hosting is great if you’re happy to lose your viewers to competitors who have paid Google to take them off you. [Editor’s note: Channel owners have the option of disabling advertising on their YouTube content. Brands also have the option of paying to deploy YouTube’s advertising tools on their own content.]

Even more significantly, YouTube is the third most blocked website in the world – blocked in China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey and many Australian Government departments and corporates at time of writing.


Who benefits from your viewers? Not you

Google makes such great revenue from advertising on YouTube because pre-roll advertising, overlays, calls to action and promoted content are very effective tools to compel viewers to action. By putting your content on YouTube, you’re essentially providing them with real-estate to sell. However, using a professional video management platform means you, and only you, can use all these powerful tools to convert your own viewers into customers.


When SEO goes bad

It is often remarked that YouTube is the second largest search engine. It uses its own search algorithm for searching within YouTube, but it’s part of Google – the number one search engine – and is a big part of Google’s revenue. If you embed a YouTube video in your website, where do you think the Google result is going to send them? You guessed it – YouTube can outrank your site, depending on a number of factors, so people searching for your video may be sent to a site with millions of competitive videos and distractions rather than to your own website. Conversely, using a professional video platform can significantly enhance SEO for your website and drive much higher Google rankings.


Pay nothing, get nothing

In return for your free hosting, YouTube can change their settings and rules without any reference to your needs. An example of that is the recent change to business channels in YouTube. You might have a lovely branded YouTube channel but as soon as a viewer clicks on one of your videos they’re taken to a standard YouTube play page with – you guessed it – sponsored and suggested videos that can lead your viewers astray.

You don’t have absolute control over the ads and branding YouTube decides to place before your video starts or during it. YouTube can and does advertise competitor products and brands while your content is playing. It makes sense really, if the viewer is watching a video about cars they will naturally run ads relating to cars, even if it’s your competitor.


YouTube absolutely serves a particular purpose as a social video site and does it very, very well, but it’s important for marketers to consider the alternatives to a service that is not designed with your interests in mind.

Marketers spend a lot of time, effort and money creating valuable content to engage their audience – which can very easily be thrown away in return for ‘free’ hosting. So make sure you consider your video management options thoughtfully and be mindful of brand, security, control and customer experience to maximise the value of your all important content.



* Sponsored content is content that has been created by or on behalf of a partner of Marketing and published by Marketing as part of a commercial arrangement. As with all opinion articles on Marketingmag.com.au, views expressed represent those of the author only.

Nick Whitehead
BY Nick Whitehead ON 2 June 2014
Nick Whitehead is head of sales at Viocorp.