Once you’ve shot some great video for your business, it’s natural to post it to YouTube, right? It’s the world’s second-largest search engine and second largest overall website by volume, after all.
Not so fast.
Just because YouTube is free and comes with a huge audience doesn’t necessarily make it a great fit. Many businesses would benefit from self-hosting their video content, or at least hiring a third-party provider to manage the video.
Here is what you need to know about self-hosting versus posting your video to YouTube.
Which Provides a Better Viewing Experience?
One of the big perks of paid self-hosted video is it generally looks better than if you host it on YouTube. The playback tends to be smoother, the controls are more responsive, and often the video content itself looks better.
Fundamentally, self-hosting gives you control over your video — and you retain ownership of the video content. “YouTube video has one definite drawback: once you upload it to the platform, it no longer belongs to you, but to YouTube,” Terry Smith writes at the Usabilla blog.
YouTube, he points out, takes advantage of its ownership arrangement by adding three things to most videos:
- Suggested follow-up videos
- Its logo
The first two points deserve their own discussion, which we will touch on shortly. From just a usability perspective, though, YouTube will clutter your video — and likely funnel some of your traffic back to its site via that clickable logo.
Besides fighting clutter, self-hosting your video gives you total control of the content, digital marketer Lori Ballen writes. “You have absolute control over the content. There is no confusion over copyright or third-party rights, as you retain all rights to the work. No one (except your hosting provider) can ban, modify or delete your creations. You can also manage download options, limiting or allowing access as you see fit. Finally, you can easily incorporate analytics to get demographic and traffic statistics for each video.”
The team at design shop Visual Hierarchy conducted its own experiments with self-hosted and embedded video, and they concluded that there is no real comparison as far as design and user experience go. “Those who wish to provide a better experience to their viewers and to offer more options for video playback are likely to choose self-hosted videos,” they write.
Why Self-Hosted Promotional Videos Work Best
Let’s return to YouTube’s ads and suggested videos for a moment. For branded content, advertising or any other kind of promotional video, these two YouTube add-ons are particularly problematic because they let your competitors steal your audience.
This is easy to do, too; all your competition needs to do is bid on keywords relevant to your video, and their ads will pepper your video content.
“You want to keep your customers on your site,” the team at GoAnimate writes. “Why direct them to YouTube where they may become distracted or, even worse, see an ad for a competitor? Is hosting your video on YouTube worth the increased risk of losing that potential customer?”
What’s more, YouTube is susceptible to malicious tampering. As Mary-Ann Russon at the International Business Times reports, your competitors could easily hire a brigade of people — or even write a program — to repeatedly click the Dislike button on your YouTube video. This can get your video demoted on YouTube’s site and make it disappear totally from its recommendation system.
This isn’t to knock YouTube too much. Embedded video hosted elsewhere can be useful — and we’ll explore that in just a moment. For now, it’s worth keeping in mind the three things below you can only do with self-hosted video, all of which can boost your web presence.
You can build links to your site with your video.
Videos are actually great ways to build links to your website and improve your SEO — but you have to actually own the videos for this to work. “When a YouTube video goes viral it can create thousands of links from social shares and people posting the video on their own websites, but all of these links are pointing back to YouTube,” veteran SEO practitioner Daniel Vassiliou writes at the Conductor blog.
“If you host your best video content (and are exclusive with it) on your site, then you can build natural links and traffic to your site as people share the video and embed it within their own blog posts.”
You can include transcriptions on the page.
Transcriptions don’t sound like that big of a deal, but they’re actually hugely important for making a video (or the page that hosts it) easy to find in search engines. As marketer Jamie Sellars notes at the DMR blog, these transcriptions help search engine bots such as Google’s crawlers understand what’s on a page and slot it in its rankings appropriately.
YouTube videos can be optimized for search, too, but this will only deliver traffic back to YouTube.com.
You can create rich video snippets for Google’s search results.
Sellars has one more important point in his post: If a video naturally lives on your website, you can create a rich snippet — basically, a thumbnail of the video — that shows up on Google’s search results page.
“Video rich snippets take up the most real estate on the page, making them more eye-catching,” he writes. “The video thumbnail can also be any design you like, allowing you to be more creative in getting a higher click-through rate (CTR).”
YouTube results can also feature rich snippets, but again those only point back to YouTube.com
So, the question of self-hosted vs. YouTube for marketers all boils down to control. If you host on someone else’s site, you lose control of where your audience goes and who communicates with them. If you want your viewers to take any specific actions after watching your video, you need to host it yourself.
So, Does YouTube Ever Work for Video Marketers?
YouTube can still be a valuable platform. It is the second-biggest website on the planet, after all, and it attracts tens of millions of viewers every hour of the day.
“[YouTube] tends to be really good if you are trying to get the maximum amount of views,” says Marcus Krieg, the director of strategy and video optimization at WireBuzz. “You know to extend your brand, to become a thought leader, those sorts of advantages to YouTube, but only about 1% of your video viewers are actually going to click through to your website or engage with your videos.”
David Caron, founder and CEO of inbound marketing company DCD Agency, agrees. “When creating a brand awareness campaign, you have to have that video content on YouTube,” he writes on the company’s blog.
“It has to be there. It is going to enable you in front of the massive audience that is looking for services or products or anything that you’re offering. If they’re looking for it on YouTube, they’re looking for it on Google.”
Why Businesses That Rely on Video Should Consider Self-Hosting
Still, handing ownership and control of your videos over to a free platform is often penny-wise and pound-foolish. While self-hosting does represent a financial cost that YouTube wouldn’t, you’re paying for better video management.
If you’re on the fence about whether self-hosting is the right move for your business, Craig Moll at Signal Strength has a helpful cheat sheet:
- If you only have a handful of videos for non-promotional purposes, YouTube or Vimeo would work just fine.
- If your content is episodic or for entertainment purposes, YouTube or Vimeo would be fine, too.
- If you are looking to establish “a more curated on-brand experience,” you might need to upgrade to self-hosting.
- If video is a crucial part of your marketing, it’s time to look into self-hosting