Trigger Happy YouTube: Use With Caution

May 11, 2012 , 29 Comments

YouTube offers a free and convenient video platform, for anyone to use. What a great opportunity for the frugal online marketer, right?


There are certain uses for YouTube, but it also comes with substantial risk. In fact, there are some kinds of videos that absolutely don’t belong on YouTube, under any circumstances and if you run an online business, you need to know about this.

Read on to learn about the risks of using YouTube and discover exactly what kinds of videos do and don’t belong on YouTube.

The YouTube Risk Factor

By using this service, you agree that we can drop the ban-hammer on you any time, without warning.During our recent web clinic webinar we spoke briefly about some of the benefits and drawbacks of using YouTube as your video hosting platform. This caused quite a flurry of questions and so we thought that it was worthy of a post by itself.

The first point that needs to be addressed is the risk associated with hosting your videos on YouTube. Unfortunately, I know about this first hand, since my largest YT account was banned some time ago.

Without going into too much detail, here’s what happened:

  • The account was over a year old.
  • It contained 115 original videos, no copyright violations and completely TOS compliant.
  • It had more than 1,000 subscribers, who actively participated with comments, likes etc.
  • It was banned without warning, without explanation and without chance for recourse, from one moment to the next.

There are a lot of spammers on YouTube. Some of them using bots to download and re-upload other people’s videos, some participating in comment spamming and much more. Because of this, I estimate that hundreds, or even thousands of accounts are banned on YouTube, every day.

However, even a completely legitimate account can be wiped out, for no discernible reason.

This brings us to rule number 1:

Never put any video on YouTube, that you can’t afford to lose.

I’ve received far too many messages from people who’ve experienced the same thing as me: they had a real, legitimate and non-spammy account and had it banned for no reason. Rule number one is not trivial.

And it gets worse: your videos and your account always need to be compliant with YouTube’s terms and rules. However, those rules can change at any time. Even if all your videos are TOS compliant right now, the TOS can change over night and your account can get whacked because it’s no longer compliant with the new rules that were just created. Google (the owner of YouTube) is notorious for doing exactly this, with many of their services.

Essentially, you don’t really have any rights to any videos you upload to YouTube.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

There are some advantages to uploading videos to YouTube. The most obvious one being that it’s free to use.

In addition, the platform brings a certain traffic potential with it, especially since it’s often used much like a search engine. Your YouTube-internal rankings are based on the number of views, number of likes, ratio of likes to dislikes, keywords in the video title, description and tags and good old backlinks to the video. Get these factors optimized and you can have a video appear in the search results on YouTube, as well as in “related video” sections for other videos.

Another advantage is that it’s sometimes easier to get a YouTube video ranked in Google search results, than getting a page from your own site ranked. This is because A) YouTube belongs to Google (and Google likes to promote Google) and B) domain authority is a very strong ranking factor in Google.

Unfortunately, there are also some serious drawbacks to YouTube, even apart from the sudden-account-death risk.  One of them is the video quality, which isn’t terrible, but also isn’t thrilling, on YouTube. This is especially true for screencast-type videos.

Apart from that, there’s also a branding problem: YouTube is interested in promoting YouTube. They are never interested in promoting you, your content or your website/business. Every YouTube video contains YT branding, links back to YT, links to YT social options and links to related videos, even if you embed them on your own site. This can partially be fixed (more on that later).

Take the above, combined with the risk of losing your account and the conclusion is that you don’t have much control over your YouTube videos. A video on YouTube is like an asset that you don’t own or control and that’s never a good thing.

What Does and Doesn’t Belong on YouTube

Here are the types of videos that belong on YouTube:

  • Anything private and completely non-commercial. E.g. a vacation video you want to share with your friends, which has absolutely nothing to do with your business.
  • If you’re on a budget: things like “casual” videos you add to your blog and videos that don’t directly have a conversion goal.
  • Viralbait: videos that have the express purpose of going viral, through the YouTube social media elements. This would be part of brand marketing.

And here are the kinds of videos that do not belong on YouTube:

  • Any business related video that has a direct conversion goal (e.g. a sales video).
  • Any video you place on a page with a direct conversion goal, like a video testimonial on a sales-page (because you will “bleed visitors” through YT embedded videos).
  • Any video, the sudden loss of which would hurt your business.

What to Use Instead?

Wistia LogoThe short answer is that for business related videos, you should either host them yourself or (my recommendation) use a video-service such as Wistia. Wistia provides a fantastic service, amazingly detailed video stats, a great video player and much more. It comes with a whole range of tools that support your marketing efforts and all the videos you see on this site are hosted by Wistia. As usual, I tested a ton of different options and services, before deciding that this one was the best.

The longer answer will be delivered shortly, in a separate blog post, covering everything you need to know about online video.

How to Make YouTube Videos Suck Less

If you take all of the above into consideration and you’re 100% aware of the benefits as well as the risks associated with YouTube and you still want to use the service, we’ve got something for you.

For embedded YouTube videos, you can add parameters to remove some of the YouTube branding, prevent related videos from showing up at the end, set the video to auto-play and more. And we’ve built a nifty little free tool, to help you set all that up: Better YouTube Embeds

This online tool, which takes only seconds to use, automatically sets some options to improve your YT embedded videos and it gives you a simple choice of tick-boxes for further customization. Just grab any YouTube video URL and have a play with it.

Did you enjoy this post? Do you have any un-answered questions about the topic? Please let us know by leaving a comment below!

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About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • hi Shane,

    as I lost your Squidoo videos from my toolbox of how to create a lens when you lost your account I fully appreciate the risks involved. There were some great videos on your channel which are now gone.

    This plug-in looks great and I use ALOT of embedded youtube videos on my site.

  • Hi Shane,

    How about host our video in amazon s3 instead of wistia ?

    I hear a lot of youtube banned because of make money online niche related. How about other niche ?

    What do you mean screen cast type video ? Like we copy our PC screen to guide our prospect ?

    Btw, nice post Shane



    • We’ll talk about Amazon S3/Cloudfront in an upcoming blog post.

      A screencast video is one where you record your computer screen. It’s the type of video I use to make sales-videos and many of my tutorial videos.

      • What about posting to YouTube and hosting on S3 for your site’s video? I have never come across anyone saying that it harms the link juice you get from the S3 video.

  • Hi Shane

    Very wise words as ever!

    I lost a YouTube account last week it only had 2 videos on it. Both were rather cheap and cheerful review videos for a particular power tool which I made as a test. The 2nd video was less than a couple of weeks old but managed to rank well naturally (no promotion) for a medium search term. It jumped ahead of videos produced by a big player in the power tools market. This would have upset said big player :)

    It was generating some traffic to my site. Then without any warning the account was terminated. There was no copyright infringement or any TOS infringement.

    The most annoying thing is that there is nothing you can do about it. Any communication with YouTube/Google just got the same standard response.

    So I am going down the self hosted route.


    • We had the same thing happen to us – I believe the account had over 100 videos in it, too!

  • Excellent post Shane. Certainly an area I’ve overlooked and sure the same for many others.

  • You’re the man! I will be signing up for to Wistia through your affiliate link. Thanks again!

  • Here is a question for you Shane “The All Knowing” what is the best video submission software out there? I do a ton of videos and Im not going to pay OneLoad aka TubeMogul $1000 to $1500 a month. So what do you use?

    • Hey David,

      I use to hire somebody from Fiverr who do video submissions for me but just $5.

  • Thanks for the info Shane. I will be checking out the new widget. I hate the fact that YouTube puts related videos at the end – so good job identifying that need and filling it!

  • Hi Guys,

    The only video hosting solution I have been using for years to host videos is Amazon S3/Cloudfront which is immensely powerful and almost free ( i never paid more than $1 a month !!

  • Very helpful info Shane! Thanks so much for sharing & creating the YT widget.

  • I understand what you are saying about YT. I have had an account banned and what really annoys me more than anything there is no warning that it is coming, there one day gone the next. You would think they would send a warning and allow you a day or two to correct anything they feel is a violation of their TOS. Surely their systems could handle a little bit of tweaking to issue warnings….

    What I like about YT is that it is one of the biggest search engines now for people looking for information and that is why we all want to have videos on YT… to get some of that traffic. If we host our videos elsewhere our videos are not going to be found by all those people searching YT. So for marketing purposes there really is no alternative…. is there?

    Anyone had much experience or any experience using YTs sponsored video service? I would be interested to know whether or not that is financially viable. I know so marketers use it relentlessly… “Six Pack Short Cuts” ring a bell anyone?

    • Hi Graham,

      I agree that you can use YouTube to get some traffic. I think the point is that you shouldn’t upload any videos to YouTube that you can afford to lose – essentially content of high importance (such as sales videos) should be hosted somewhere else.

      In many instances it is still worth uploading videos to YouTube as an extra traffic source.

  • Hi Shane, Thanks for this post and to those who have contributed. I’m currently researching best web based practices to design and develop my first website and am finding your advice invaluable. Cheers LB

  • So glad I found this post. Was about to make all my video go to youtube.

    What if you upload your video to both youtube and Wistia – would that be okay?

    • I think that should be fine, yes. If you use a video sitemap for your site and Wistia videos, but the same videos are also on YouTube, I’m pretty sure Google will favor listing the YouTube videos in any search results over the ones on your site. But that’s the only downside I can think of.

  • Great post Shane, thank you for reminding us about the risks. Its just so easy to get caught up like this

  • I sure appreciate your insights here. I’ve heard of YouTube lockouts before, but always assumed the victims were violators of TOS and spammers. I’ll still use YT, but it will always be with the knowledge that things can suddenly go south with them. Better to know the pitfalls and prepare than to carry on blithely unaware of the risks.

  • Hi Shane

    I’ve just re-read this post after watching your recent video (the marketing experiment) where you have used YouTube.

    I’m torn between using YouTube and Wistia. As you’ve highlighted, there are pros and cons with both. I’m happy to pay for the pro version of Wistia and like the idea of having unique videos on my site only. As you wrote this post a couple of years ago, has your opinion changed at all, i.e. would you still advocate the self-hosted route?

    • My opinion is still the same, yes. I have started using YouTube more again, but the rules above still apply: I would never place a video that’s directly tied to a conversion goal on YouTube. Also, I’m prepared to lose all of the videos I have on YouTube from one moment to the next. For example, while I am seeing some traffic coming from YouTube and that’s nice, I would never build on YouTube as a major platform for my business. If it’s a bonus, that’s fine, but if my business needs YouTube to survive, that would be bad. The same is true about other social platforms as well, btw.

  • Graeme Clemett says:

    We’re using webinarjam to record webinars and they automatically load to YT. The problem of course is that we are reliant on YT for the hosting.

    Can you recommend a way to get those videos off YT and onto Wistia so that we can display them in our members area?

    • Hi Graeme,

      In your YouTube account, go to your video manager. From there, you can download your videos and the upload them elsewhere (e.g. Wistia). You can also set your videos to be unlisted or private or delete them altogether. This way, you can still use WebinarJam, but host the webinar replays on a more suitable server.

  • Hi Shane,

    Have you tested the Vimeo and as video hosting solutions and didn’t liked them? They both are much more affordable than Wistia, and you maintain the ownership over the video. I am giving a try to vimeo but I didn’t find much information on the web comparing wistia vs vimeo vs

    Thank you for the great work you’re doing!

    Best Regards,


    • A friend of mine uses Vimeo Pro and is quite happy with it. I think it’s an option worth considering, but I haven’t tried it myself.

  • Hi Shane,
    Thanks for your answer. I’ve started with an Vimeo Plus account, for now everything works nice.
    Best Regards,

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