How to Decide Where to Host Your Videos

First off a confession: the deeper I got into writing this blog post, the more the plot thickened. It felt a bit like a “Whodunnit” along the lines of the podcast “Serial” that I just listened to (Season 1).

The more you know, the more variables get introduced, and the harder the decisions get.

But the silver lining is that for most of us, there are some very clear advantages or disadvantages to one solution or the other.

Before that – for those of you who are a bit fuzzy about what hosting really is and how it’s different from embedding – here is a definition (also to be found, of course, in the Definition Day Resource on this website):

Uploading or Hosting a video means that you will upload videos directly on your site just as you would upload images on your site.

Embedding is a two step process where you upload a video on a third party site like YouTube, and then you copy a small bit of code that they furnish for you, and paste that code into your post or page on your own site. The code is like a link that shows the actual “thing”; the “thing” being a video.

Before I get into too much detail, the one thing I walked away with is to never self-host a video on your site. Use a third party site and embed from there onto your website. The reason being: Hosting platforms, such as YouTube, take your video and automatically adjust (transcode) it to where it’s being played, making the video fully responsive to whatever environment it happens to be in.So, if I’m on a cell phone it will give me a much smaller video file so it can start streaming immediately, but if I’m on a powerful desktop computer, I will get a much bigger file with better image quality and it will still load and start playing immediately; the video is responding to it’s environment. If you self-host on, say WordPress, you do not get this.

But, as always, there are exceptions:  You will have far better outreach and search results if you upload video natively onto a social network (if it allows for it). See my blog entry: How Video Plays on Social Media.

The three variables that should inform your decision on a hosting platform are:

  1. Are your videos private or public?
  2. Are your videos free or do people pay for them?
  3. Do you need tons for statistics of how your videos are being viewed?

What does this mean?

  • Public videos mean that they can be found organically, they are searchable, they can go viral, and you’d want them on social media
  • Private videos would be behind a pay wall or part of a private subscription channel. They are not publicly searchable, downloadable, or shareable.
  • Statistics and analytics are useful for sales videos when you want to know exactly who watches them, how far into the video they get before you lose them, who your demographic watching is, etc.

Here my take on it (and I’m focusing on the three ‘big’ hosting services: YouTube, Vimeo, and Wistia):

If you have a video you want to share with the world and it’s properly labeled so it doesn’t need your websites environment to make sense:

  • Host it on YouTube and make it shareable, downloadable, and public. Then embed the short code into your website. And use it as a native video on social media (especially on Facebook, which is in competition with Google as they own YouTube).

If you have a video you want to show on your website only, because it only makes sense within the environment of your site:

  • Host it on VIMEO, set the privacy settings you prefer, and embed it on your website
  • Or if you want to spend the money and/or have an account anyway: Host on WISTIA and follow the above

If you are serious about SEO, statistics and analytics:

  • Hands-down Wistia is the place to go (and the price to pay)
  • Alternatively: Host natively on Facebook (free)
  • Host on YouTube (free) and embed on your site

If you need a pay-wall or strict privacy settings:

  • Host on VimeoPro or VimeoBusiness
  • Host on Wistia

Know also that there are many other services out there that focus on niche markets, like e-courses, and there are many other hosting options. We will look into a few of those later this month.

Lastly, here are the questions to ask of any hosting service sorted by importance. Cost is last, because the bells and whistles will inform cost…

  • Is there automatic optimization of your video (encoding, resolution, responsiveness)?
  • What are the privacy and sharing options?
  • What statistics and analytics are available?
  • SEO: Is there a keyword integration option?
  • Are pre-rolls or advertising used by hosting service (see YouTube) and can they be controlled, if so at what cost?
  • Is there a social media integration?
  • How responsive is customer support?
  • How are costs broken down: # of videos allowed, MB of storage per month, or in general, users, stats available, etc.

If you want to get into the “nitty gritty” – here some pros and cons for the most popular hosting sites: YouTube, Vimeo, and Wistia.

While you do that, I’m going to go and un-host my videos from this WordPress site and switch them to YouTube and Vimeo.

 YouTube:

Pro Con
2nd largest search engine Terms and conditions (read them!)
Owned by Google (search preference) What happens after your video finishes: auto play into other videos
Pretty good statistics Comments: they can be awful/mean
Subscription possible Every video is downloadable of YouTube (thanks to convyoutube.com)
Automatic optimization of your video (encoding, resolution, etc)
Videos are downloadable
Tablet and mobile friendly

Vimeo:

Pro Con
Great for showcasing work (i.e.: for artists, filmmakers, animators, etc.) Fee “basic” level, which offers 500MB/week upload and very few features and no stats.
Nothing shows before or after your video Not searchable
They have a very good Vimeo Video School “Crushes” colors
Fee structure is fairly priced User interface not so UX friendly

 Free package very limited (Plus is about $10 a month/5GB and statistics. Pro is about $200 a month/50 GB, sell on-demand, statistics)

 Wistia:

Pro Con
Serious analytics and stats More expensive ($0 for three videos), up to $100 and $300/month
Good user interface (Searchable), but very small audience
More comprehensive API (application program interface) No promotional help – it’s strictly hosting
Great SEO: you can embed keywords into your videos
True colors
Great customer support
Great educational videos and learning center
Searchable (but very small audience)
Social Media Sharing options built in
Great for backups of your video library