Wistia vs. YouTube: What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between Youtube and Wistia? The better question might be: why use Wistia over YouTube? To send traffic to your site, not theirs.

Phil Nottingham


Austin Canary


Why should your business use a video hosting service like Wistia when there’s YouTube? YouTube is the world’s biggest video search engine (1.7 billion unique monthly visitors) and it’s owned by Google — so it must be the best for my business and video SEO, right?

If your ultimate goal is audience reach vs traffic aquistion, sure! However, if the goal is to get your viewers to visit or buy something on your website, you’re going to need to get a lot more intentional with your video marketing strategy. And, that’s where Wistia can help!

Why use Wistia over YouTube?

Wistia and YouTube are two very different platforms with very different purposes. YouTube is designed to serve content creators looking to monetize their videos and organizations investing in big advertising campaigns. Wistia is designed exclusively to support the needs of B2B companies using branded video for marketing, support, and sales.

Allow us, portraying two personified video players, to explain.



Essentially, Wistia gives you full control over the experience, and YouTube is a social video platform that requires a unique strategy.

What are the benefits of using Wistia?

Why should you use Wistia to host your marketing videos? Wistia is preferable if you’re looking to drive traffic to your website, improve conversions, or increase engagement across the websites you control.

Here are some of the main benefits of Wistia for your business and overall marketing strategy:

Video player experience

With Wistia, you can customize your branded video player, player controls, and use custom video thumbnails. When you use custom video or static thumbnails, they tend to get more clicks than your typical video embedded on a website.

Not to mention, videos embedded using Wistia are completely ad-free, and with Wistia Channels, you can control what content your viewers see next. And, you can easily replace your videos while retaining the same embed code — no need to change where it’s embedded!

Video SEO

The automated video search engine optimization (SEO) on Wistia video embed codes help you drive more traffic to your site, not to YouTube (where your viewer will get lost or watch a competitor’s video). Wistia’s powerful player automatically uses the text data from your captions and transcripts, and adds custom schema to each of your videos to get them to rank in all the right places (and get that traffic to come to your site).

Check out our "Video SEO tips." Learn how to get your videos crawled and indexed, implement structured data in a few clicks without any coding, and use analytics to measure success!

Lead generation

Calls to action and email collectors help you generate leads, which you can send to your CRM or MAP integration of choice.

Getting someone’s email establishes a direct line of communication for you to bring them into other campaigns and channels.

User-based analytics

Wistia’s analytics also provide much more detail than the data offered on the YouTube platform. Rather than providing sampled and incomplete data, Wistia’s in-depth analytics show you how your audience consumes and interacts with your videos.

“Wistia’s in-depth analytics show you how your audience consumes and interacts with your videos.”

You can get an aggregated view of a video’s performance with our engagement graphs, or you can drill down to see how individual viewers are watching your videos with our heatmaps. You can even attribute specific viewing activity to a viewer’s email address.

You can learn more about these distinct features of our branded video player in our breakdown comparison with YouTube.

Where YouTube is better

First off, YouTube is great and YouTube is free! YouTube is better if audience reach is more important to you than traffic acquisition. YouTube videos typically drive traffic to YouTube.com from search and social, which means you can’t track interactions with your content as effectively and won’t be able to drive as many profitable actions directly from your content.

If you work for a consumer goods brand, or your customers primarily interact with your brand offline, then prioritizing reach over on-site interactions and tracking may be a fine decision. Equally, if you’re undertaking a big branding campaign in order to increase word of mouth, and you don’t mind rescinding control of how people watch your video, then YouTube is a more appropriate option.

Additionally, folks who subscribe to your YouTube channel can get notifications within the YouTube app. Your video content will also be heavily visible for them across the platform whenever they use it.

In terms of analytics, with YouTube you can get more detailed information about subscriber behavior and break down retention and view counts by subscribers versus non-subscribers, and more. However, subscribers don’t receive any emails.

When to use both platforms

Knowing the strengths of both Wistia and YouTube, the question you’re likely asking is, can I just use both video platforms? Yes! Here are some best practices and things to consider for your video marketing strategy.

Many companies choose to use Wistia for videos embedded on their websites in order to benefit from the advanced tools and analytics, but then also upload videos to YouTube in order to benefit from the social reach that a presence on YouTube provides.

Be aware that having the videos in two places can sometimes cause cannibalization in both search and social. YouTube can sometimes rank above your domain for competitive keywords, and if users choose to share a YouTube version of a video rather than the version of the video on your site, then you’ll miss out on the user-based tracking that Wistia provides. This can be an acceptable price to pay for the additional reach, but each business needs to assess this risk and opportunity in accordance with their own marketing priorities.

Check out our other video host comparison articles: Wistia vs Vimeo and Wistia vs Vidyard.

It’s important to remember that YouTube is as much a social media platform as it is a video hosting platform, and that when audiences watch videos on YouTube, they typically do so without any further context about your brand or the video in question. As such, not all of your videos will necessarily make sense to a broader audience browsing on YouTube.com. YouTube should be used strategically, as part of a wider video marketing strategy, and not just as a repository where all videos are held and hosted.

Which is better, YouTube or Wistia?

We hope by now you’ve discovered there are strengths for both video platforms, and which one is better ultimately comes down to your goals with video.

If you’re a creator looking to post as many videos as you can in hopes to get monetized, or a large brand looking to make your new TV ad go viral, don’t hesitate to post it on YouTube!

If you’re a business that is looking to accomplish specific marketing goals with video, give Wistia a try. Get started with a Wistia free plan today and discover how we can help you bring your video marketing strategy to the next level.

Phil Nottingham


Austin Canary


Mailing list sign-up form

Sign up for Wistia’s best & freshest content.

More of a social being? We’re also on Instagram and Twitter.