The Top 3 Video Hosting Services: Wistia, Vidyard, BrightCove The video hosting question is asked and answered, right? YouTube and Vimeo have claimed the space, so just use one of those. And hey, they’re free.
Problem is, it’s not so simple. Anyone who’s wondering where their video should live should be prepared to look beyond native social hosting if they want their video to have the most impact on their business.
It can be a hard sell, deciding to pay good money for video hosting when the most popular solutions are free. You might not even realize that YouTube isn’t the be-all end-all for hosting, and you might not understand how valuable alternative hosting services might be. But the key to aggressive video marketing is to mix the two.
Social video posting and video hosting services are not the same thing. Putting your video on social channels like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook will always be key to any aggressive video marketing strategy, but you should use those services alongside a dedicated video hosting service designed to capture and provide data for your business. These are separate — but related — activities.
Custom video hosting platforms like Wistia, BrightCove, and Vidyard are essential for companies engaging in full funnel video marketing, and their capabilities far exceed those of YouTube and Vimeo. That being the case, let’s dive in and talk about the value that these video hosting services can provide.
While other services exist on the market, Wistia, BrightCove, and Vidyard are the three main players that you should know about. Their features are broadly similar, but they have enough distinct differences that there will be a clear standout that will fit your business needs the best. These differences mostly hinge on hosting space, bandwidth restrictions, and cost.
A general rule of thumb is that Wistia is a good choice for people looking for entry-level pricing. We pay roughly $200 per month for our needs here at Epipheo. Vidyard will average around $1,000 to $2,000 per month. BrightCove advertises its $500 per month entry level, but it’s really a suite of enterprise level tools that could cost tens of thousands of dollars if you made full use of them.
That said, you might get what you pay for. BrightCove, being more enterprised focused, has some very robust publishing tools and video monetization schemes for their tier of the market. This article won’t go further into these tools. Instead, we will focus on the video hosting options for each of these three services.
Video Hosting Value 1 – Analytics | Analytics | Analytics
The question on everybody’s lips in the video marketing world is as follows: “Will video give me the right ROI?” Analytics themselves cannot assure you a suitable ROI, but the right statistics will show you details that will help you make better strategic decisions. For example, knowing what content causes attention leakage will show you what content you should fix.
The traditional metric everyone has lived by is the view count. However, current thinking is that your video’s view count is likely just a vanity statistic (a number that makes you feel good, but doesn’t mean much for your business). The problem is that someone only needs to watch your video for three seconds to count as a view. Given that your video is likely more than three seconds long, some number of those views didn’t get to your message.
You need more granular insight to understand how your videos are performing, and here’s how to get them and what they mean.
Viewer Tracking – Hosting services will allow you to identify, track, and sort through the people or potential customers who are watching your video. You can then add this data to your CRM to get real-time updates on who is watching, and what they’re watching. Our sales team at Epipheo uses this feature of Wistia all of the time. This viewer tracking is valuable whether you’re prospecting, bulk emailing, lead scoring, or questioning whether a potential lead is engaging in your video content. This feature is pixel tracking writ large, and it illuminates a whole range of insights that are simply not available to you with out-of-the-box video hosting.
Video Engagement Analytics – Hosting services will show you deeper engagement metrics and audience trends. These include rewatches, drop-offs, and video interactions. We’ve been able to glean a lot of great data by looking closely at when specific viewers re-watch multiple videos, or share videos with other people at their companies. If we send prospects four video examples and see that one or two get more play, this helps us understand how to engage with the prospect. It also sets us up for future prospecting with similar companies. This engagement data, combined with viewer data, has been the holy grail for tracking video engagement.
Video Heatmap – A video heatmap will show you how far your viewers are watching in your videos. This data is expressed as a percentage graph that will show you your video’s drop-off points… or, where people generally stop watching. We use this statistic to see if our message is resonating with the audience. If it’s not, we can identify where the drop-off happens and re-tool that section of the video so it will perform better. This is a great metric to look at when seeing how far through a video your users are getting.
General Audience Insights – Lastly, these video hosting services provide a bucket of data related to your audience’s browser type, device type, and location. You can use this insight to optimize for platform delivery. Almost the entirety of our traffic comes from the desktop, which makes sense with our target persona. This dictates a lot of our design strategy and messaging.
Now that we know what analytics are important, let’s compare our three services and see how they stack up. Wistia, Vidyard, and Brightcove all provide in-depth viewer and engagement data. All of them can be integrated with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, which is a huge plus.
The real standout here is BrightCove.
Specifically, BrightCove gives you data on the top domains that have embedded your video on their site, letting you see data on your video that is pulled from locations outside of your domain. On top of this, they also shows you what search terms people used to discover your video, which is useful for developing an organic strategy. Lastly, they identify your biggest traffic source. Whether that is direct, referral, social, or something else, you can get that insight at a per-video level.
That last part is important. Google Analytics will show you a lot of data about your own site, but BrightCove drills down to the video level, letting you make more granular decisions.
As for our needs, we were most interested in viewer tracking and engagement metrics, and all three of these services provide useful data on those fronts.
Video Hosting Value 2 – Lead Generation & CTA’s
It’s no secret: YouTube and Facebook have a vested interest in keeping people from leaving their sites. They get revenue by keeping people engaged and locked in. In most cases, this runs counter to the needs of businesses who are trying to use video to drive leads and conversions. With the meteoric rise of video as both a marketing medium and a communication tool, it only makes sense to find ways to drive leads and calls-to-action.
Lead Generation – No matter how you use video… on landing pages, on lead forms, or as a complement to lower funnel page content… gating video content behind a turnstile is very useful for driving conversions. Depending on your video hosting marketing automation platform, you should have the ability to capture the first name, last name, and email address of your viewer. Or, in some cases, you might be able to pull custom forms in directly from your marketing automation platform. Obviously, you want to make sure you are gating the right kind of content behind a form. It makes no sense to restrict awareness-level video content, and your conversions depend on the amount of interest you’ve been able to drum up. You should only gate lower level funnel content.
CTA’s – If you don’t want to risk a bounce from a gated lead form, a CTA, or call to action, can work wonders if you place it at the end of the video. And certain services will let you put one within your video, as well. Your CTA will appear as a button within your video, and you can use it to drive people to a custom page with a lead form, driving your viewer further down the funnel.
How do our three platforms stack up for lead generation? Very similarly. The real question you need to answer comes down to what CRM and marketing automation integrations you need. You can see a full list for Wistia Integrations here, Vidyard Integrations here, and BrightCove Integrations here. All three services integrate with HubSpot, Marketo, and Salesforce Pardot, three of the the major players in marketing automation.
From there, BrightCove has the most integration service options, followed by Vidyard and then Hubspot. All three platforms require a setup fee to integrate your marketing automation. It’s annoying, since this fee comes out of nowhere. Don’t go into these services thinking integration will be free just because it’s listed as a feature. It will cost somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 on all three platforms. That should factor into your budget.
The winner in this section is really whichever service plays nicest with your marketing automation platform. Our stack at Epipheo includes Hubspot, so Wistia works the best for our needs.
Video Hosting Value 3 – Customization
YouTube embeds are ugly and unreliable. But fortunately, you can wave goodbye to them if you use a custom hosting service. Video customization lets you design your player to include your brand colors. You can also do some creative things with thumbnail images, which is important since your video’s thumbnail is one of the biggest factors in how well your video will perform. You also have access to video controls, allowing your viewers to loop, autoplay, adjust the volume and size of your video, and also use social sharing and embed options. You can also password protect your content, which is very useful for any brands that do a lot of internal video or client work.
All three video services offer some level of customization, but Vidyard has a huge advantage: they have A/B thumbnail testing. This will help you figure out which thumbnails work best for your audience. None of the other platforms offer this feature at the moment.
Video Hosting Value 4 – SEO
Custom hosting solutions are powerhouses for optimizing your SEO, and this is a huge value add. One of the historic downsides to using video is that, without some serious code work, it was impossible to expose your video’s SEO data in a format that Google’s crawlers could see. And Google visibility can make or break your content. Now that search is starting to give preference to video, it’s really important to make sure that your video’s information is indexed correctly.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we can admit that it’s easy to get lost when it comes to indexing, site maps, and URL schemes. This topic gets very technical very quickly, and that falls outside the scope of this article, but take our word when we say that all three services have similar SEO features. These include single unique URLs for your videos, Schema, and Video Site Maps. They also do JSON – LD to inject your video data into search results.
While all of these features are available at setup, it’s still up to you to attach the correct scripts, metadata, and text information. Otherwise your video won’t be indexed correctly. This process used to take hours and days, with lots of code work, but these platforms automate the task, which is a huge value add.
If you need bulk transcription of your video’s scripts, we recommend SpeechPad. But it’s worth noting that Vidyard offers transcription services as well, and in multiple languages, which is kind of a cool offer.
Video Hosting Value 5 – Hosting / Security / Asset Manager
Content indexing and asset management is a massive headache for anyone who works with large volumes of video. It certainly is for us. With multiple versions of videos, a plethora of client and marketing ork, and client-facing work that is sometimes private or sometimes public… it’s easy to lose track. We eventually got to the point where we broke Google Drive, which was a sign that we needed to find another solution.
This isn’t even taking security needs into account, which is a huge issue for business level video hosting on free services.
Fortunately, all three of our video hosting services offer features that address these core needs. Hosting: All three services offer video hosting at scale. Our experience has shown that all three services have acceptable upload, transcode, and video recall. This all shifts depending on the volume of video you’re working with, but as of the time of writing, all three services offer a similar per-gigabyte cost for video storage.
Security: Video hosting services let you control your content’s availability. You can post your video to a private page, which will keep it out of Google’s index. You can also gate any video behind a password. Our favorite feature is IP and Domain Blocking/Allowing, which lets you restrict access based on where your viewer is watching from. Vidyard and BrightCove both offer IP and Domain blocking, while Wistia only supports domain restrictions. Asset Management: All three of the services in question allow for general file structures, playlist creation, permission levels for folders, and video tagging. And they all work well. We often had trouble with Google Drive not recognizing certain tags, and in general the recall was buggy at best. Our luck got much better once we upgraded to a dedicated video hosting platform. You can also make changes to a video within these platforms, and these changes will be pushed out to wherever your video is shown. This is difficult or impossible to do on free services.
When you’re evaluating these services, the contest seems to be a wash on the cost-per-GB level. Everything comes down to features and overall cost. As we stated earlier, Wistia is the most affordable, but that’s due to its low monthly fees, which are not tied to usage. BrightCove, being enterprise-focused, is a clear leader in security, while asset management is similar across all three services.
Before we finish up, it’s important to highlight some distinctions between the platforms that don’t fit elsewhere.
As we’ve mentioned before, BrightCove is really intended to be used for enterprise-level video marketing. While it excels in security, its biggest differentiator is its suite of publishing and video monetization tools. Neither Vidyard nor Wistia even touch on these capabilities. This is most likely why BrightCove is so much more costly than the other services. Consider whether those features are deal breakers or deal makers for your particular needs.
Both BrightCove and Vidyard offer a very cool feature: live video streaming. This comes with some very useful capabilities. You can stream live video directly on your company’s website, or integrate your streams with your marketing automation and CRM platforms.
On the flip side, BrightCove offers some forward-looking studio features that let you see how many people showed up to a presentation, read their body language, and show real-time drop off points. And all of this data can be pushed to your CMS or marketing automation platform. They also do some lightweight interactivity features, but it isn’t a core competency for them the way it is for Rapt Media or HapYak. We wouldn’t rely on it for anything but the most basic interactions.
Lastly, Wistia is the easiest service service to dip your toes into. They have all of the core features that we think are necessary, and their price point is the easiest to swallow if you aren’t working at the enterprise level.
This is a lot of information about a complex topic, but hopefully it provides some clarity if you are looking to improve your video marketing game. As is the case with everything, choosing a technology platform is mostly about understanding your business needs and knowing what problems to solve. But with custom video hosting, the first step is understanding that free services aren’t meeting your needs the way you thought they were. From there, it’s up to you.