One of the big questions with video SEO is whether you’re better off hosting all your videos on YouTube or whether you should host them on a different platform. Hosting your videos on YouTube means driving traffic to your content on youtube.com. Hosting your videos on another platform allows you to make your website the primary location for all your videos to try to drive traffic there.
Either option allows you to get your videos indexed and ranking in Google search. Details of how to do that for your website are available in our post explaining how video SEO works. So the answer to this question really depends on your business goals, your aims with video, and your website’s authority.
There are four factors to consider and we list the pros and cons of each option:
- audience engagement
By hosting your videos on YouTube, you benefit from the visibility and distribution provided by YouTube search and related video links across the platform. Google search also automatically indexes your videos, so you benefit from visibility there too.
Your own site
Using your website as the primary home for your videos doesn’t necessarily provide the same reach that YouTube does. However, if you have a strong domain with lots of links, but a YouTube channel with relatively few subscribers, then you may find your website will rank better for video queries on Google than the same content on YouTube is capable of.
YouTube doesn’t offer a lot of conversion opportunities and is generally a suboptimal platform for this marketing goal. While you can include links back to your website in the description, and through end screens if you are part of the YouTube Partner Program, neither of these options tends to deliver lots of traffic. You should expect less than 1% of YouTube views to become a site visit with the opportunity to convert directly.
YouTube makes money by serving ads, so it is incentivized to encourage users to stay on the platform. Rather than sending them off to your website or app. At the end of every video a box with recommended or related videos based on the users viewing history will appear. Encouraging them to continue watching more videos.
YouTube is currently testing out shopping links inside videos, which may open up future opportunities for generating direct sales for some B2C businesses, particularly across consumer goods and fashion. However, if you are using Video SEO to drive traffic to your YouTube videos on YouTube.com, rather than your website, then you should generally assume this traffic will not lead to any direct conversions.
Your own site
Sending traffic from search to your own site gives you the most flexibility and opportunity to meaningfully convert customers. You can place videos anywhere on the page, surrounded by calls-to-action and clickable links. You can also gate videos with email forms. Such that businesses that have a lead-centric sales model can use video as a lead-generation tool.
Visitors can also be cookied, so you can retarget them with paid media with Google and Facebook ads.
YouTube has lots of native features which are great for audience engagement. If a user subscribes to your channel, they’ll receive your new videos in their feed when they log into YouTube. In addition, they may also receive smartphone notifications when you publish new videos. This is a compelling value proposition if you are looking at publishing new general interest content with a regular cadence.
Recommended videos which appear at the end of any video can also be very valuable for driving additional engagement. Frequently further videos from your channel will appear alongside others once a user finishes watching one of your videos.
Playlists are additionally a useful part of the YouTube architecture, as these can be used to group your videos. They can also rank themselves within Google and YouTube search. Playlists can therefore be an effective way of ranking for more keywords without creating lots more content for each term.
On the negative side, YouTube videos will frequently be interrupted by pre-roll and mid-roll ads. Unfortunately, this is true for all videos on the platform. If you treat YouTube as the primary home for your videos, you have to accept that users may be interrupted throughout your videos by ads for other products and services. Which will disrupt their viewing experience and distract them.
Your own site
Sending traffic to your own site allows you to customize and direct audience engagement in a more meaningful way than with YouTube. This does require more work to set up. Clickable annotation links can be added to videos. Email subscription buttons can be added to subscribe users to your email list or CRM. And you can customize a video player to include branding and controls of your choice.
Using Tools like Wistia Channels or Vimeo Showcase, you can create distraction-free environments built for “binge-watching”. This can encourage users to view a large number of videos in succession, without the related videos or ads that come with YouTube playlists.
Lastly, If you use videos to capture email addresses and generate leads, you can then set up automated email notifications to let users know when a new video is published.
YouTube Analytics is fairly detailed and allows you to see how many of your views are coming from where. From Google Search, YouTube search, embedded videos and suggested videos across the YouTube platform. You also get a good breakdown of subscribers. Plus, the ability to see what percentage of viewers end up converting into subscribers.
Watch time and view duration data are also helpful. Although this data is typically sampled and aggregated, so can’t be broken down according to individual viewers. It can, however, be segmented based on location, demographics and device – and videos can be compared with one another.
Your own site
Paid video hosting platforms like Wistia and Vimeo integrate better with Google analytics and most CRM systems. So you can take a user-centric lens with regards to video consumption, and collect all of this data within the other tools you are using to measure your marketing. You can then see who has watched what and set up marketing automation based on viewing behavior.
However, the built-in analytics within both the Vimeo and Wistia apps isn’t particularly helpful on its own. It doesn’t provide the level of segmentation and traffic source data YouTube does by default. These platforms really come into their own when reports are set up with Google Analytics or Google Data Studio.
Can you get the best of both worlds by using both?
Many people think that by using a paid hosting provider on your own website, and then also upload the videos to YouTube, that you can get the best of both worlds. This is partially true, but unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple.
The benefit of using both a paid video hosting platform on your site and YouTube separately is that site visitors will consume video using all the advantages around conversion, audience engagement and measurement. While having your videos on YouTube allows you to benefit from the reach this platform provides.
However, if you are still sending users to YouTube rather than your own site by including your YouTube videos in Google search, you may be cannibalizing traffic to your own website. While not seeing much traffic return in kind from YouTube itself. And if you are trying to build a significant subscriber base on YouTube, not using YouTube embeds on your website means you lose a significant opportunity to increase your view and subscriber counts by leveraging your website as an asset to improve your YouTube presence.
All told, the best strategy is one that is heavily reliant on your specific business goals. If you are trying to generate leads and sales through your website, you will generally be better off driving traffic to your website and hosting with a paid platform. We recommend Vimeo or Wistia. You can then use YouTube as a secondary platform to help build your brand. But with only videos that help you reach new audiences. Keeping an eye on rankings to ensure YouTube doesn’t needlessly take away traffic that could have been sent to your website.
On the other hand, if you are trying to build mass awareness of your product or service, and don’t make money primarily through direct sales, you may be better off driving users to your YouTube channel and focusing on primarily building your audience there. Your website can then be used (either with YouTube or other embeds) as a support for this video strategy. To capture more users and bring them to your YouTube videos.