YouTube is a popular choice for hosting e-commerce videos, but it has its drawbacks. It’s hugely popular and it’s free – but sophisticated e-commerce capabilities are limited.

YouTube does offer some obvious pluses when it comes to video hosting, and the site provides a fast and easy way to get videos in front of the required eyeballs.

It’s free, it’s user-friendly, and being that it’s the second-largest search engine in the world, it attracts the necessary traffic you need for product videos.

However, YouTube isn’t the only option for video hosting. Marketers need to take stock of the features they need in hosted video – such as flexible presentation options, and metrics and testing. 

Third-party video platforms offer capabilities that aren’t found on YouTube, which you should take into account when you’re deciding if YouTube is the best path. Here’s what to consider:


It’s a common belief in the web world that you have to put your videos on YouTube to have any hope of these videos turning up in Google search listings. (Google owns YouTube, hence the logical assumption).

The idea is that if you host videos anywhere but YouTube – for instance, if you use a third-party hosting company and the videos appear on your own website – your videos can’t possibly compete with videos on YouTube when it comes to search rankings.

But this logic doesn’t quite hold. For one thing, the algorithms that Google uses to determine video ranking place great importance on a site’s topical authority. So a shoe site, for example, will likely rank higher in the algorithm for a shoe video than a similar piece of content on YouTube, which the algorithm views as a video portal. 

It’s also good to remember that Google runs the show in terms of how YouTube videos are ranked in search results. As anyone who works in search engine optimization (SEO) will tell you, the fate of any commercial website hangs on very minor changes to Google algorithms. If Google decides to change the way YouTube videos turn up in search, and you’ve placed all of your videos on YouTube, your options for retooling your video strategy will be few.


It’s quite easy to embed YouTube-hosted videos on retail websites. However, there aren’t many options to change the size of the video or how it’s displayed. YouTube videos usually take up a good deal of space on a product webpage, which you may want to use for product descriptions or special promotions.

If you host your videos via a third-party provider, you have more presentation options available. For example, you can use tabs on a product page to show your video, which visitors can choose if they want to view a video – in which case the video is displayed. Since it’s not there at all times, you get more page real estate to work with.


If a website visitor sees one of your product videos on YouTube, or if they watch a YouTube-hosted video on your site or via a social network, they need to take a few extra steps if they want to purchase the product.

For instance, they may need to navigate back to your website and find the relevant product page. Or, if they’re already on your site, they need to determine how to add the item to the shopping cart. In either case, you’re forcing customers to take longer than needed, which may discourage them from buying.

Third-party hosting providers can offer more shopper-friendly features, such as the ability to add a product to a shopping cart directly from the video player.


YouTube is free, which everyone likes, especially in a flat economy. However, since you get what you pay for, you have less functionality even though you’re saving money. A large online retailer may have hundreds or thousands of product videos to upload.

With YouTube, this process takes a long time, since the site isn’t made for mass video uploading. Third-party providers tend to provide automated tools for creating and uploading videos, giving you more time for other projects.

The free/paid discussion also becomes relevant when you want to gather information about how often videos are watched, and whether they are effective in generating sales. YouTube doesn’t offer added features such as conversion rate tracking or A/B testing.

YouTube offers advanced capabilities for video hosting and the site is highly user-friendly for merchants. However, take stock of the features you need to manage your videos, and the data you hope to track regarding video usage. This will dictate if you decide on a free or paid hosting solution.