Do Pages with YouTube Videos Outrank Self-Hosted Videos?

Published Nov 12, 2014 by James Parsons in SEO
The views of contributors are their own, and not necessarily those of SEOBlog.com

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You have three options when you’re producing video, in terms of where you host it and post it. You can post it on YouTube. You can post it on not-YouTube. You can post it on your own site. A quick glance around the Internet shows you that most people tend to choose option one.

Is YouTube really more beneficial than hosting a video yourself? Can you succeed even if you post a video on a YouTube competitor? How can you make sure your videos are being used most effectively?

Option 1: YouTube Hosting

YouTube is a very valid video host. After all, it’s the second largest search engine in the world, it has a massive number of daily users and hundreds of year’s worth of content is uploaded every day. It’s the natural home for all things video.

Also, most people believe that YouTube, being owned by Google, you gain a natural boost to your search ranking. This isn’t strictly true. Hosting a video on YouTube does automatically mean it’s in that large video search engine, and it’s indexed as well as possible by Google, but it doesn’t gain a natural boost.

  • Most people think a video search tends to look like this.
  • In reality, it can often look like this. Note how YouTube isn’t even the top result for the video; that’s the original host on TED.
  • Even other video hosts can gain prominence, like in this search. Vimeo gets its own search box and gets preferential treatment over YouTube, which is even beat out by a lyrics site.

YouTube doesn’t guarantee a better search ranking, and in fact the original host – even if it’s on your own site – can gain the upper hand. On the other hand, if you’re using a proprietary video player, you may not get a video thumbnail in the search results. This might make a rehost on YouTube a more visible, if not higher ranked, option.

What benefits does YouTube have for video hosting?

  • Ready access to a massive audience. Millions of people visit the site every day, and if you can capture even a fraction of that audience, you can grow by leaps and bounds.
  • Free hosting. You don’t have to pay a cent to host a video on YouTube, and you have immediate access to all of the features it gives you. Other hosts like Vimeo require pro versions for certain functions, and self-hosting can run up bandwidth costs.
  • Guaranteed uptime. YouTube rarely errors out, and when it does, it’s easy enough to refresh the page. You’ll never find your video unavailable unless it’s flagged for a rules or ToS violation.

Option 2: Other Video Hosts

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Vimeo is the biggest alternative video host, but you also have Break, LiveLeak and a host of others. Let’s look at Vimeo for specific examples.

Vimeo’s primary advantages come in terms of quality. For one thing, because the site is comparatively lesser known than YouTube, it attracts higher quality producers. The average quality level of a Vimeo video is much higher than what you might find if YouTube had a “random video” button. Vimeo also doesn’t put ads on your videos.

Unfortunately, Vimeo’s primary drawback is the limitations of the platform. Without the unlimited money and support provided by Google, the company needs to run their site as a business. With no ads, they need to charge you for a business plan if you want to use the site for marketing. It gives you access to cap-free videos, insights, HD plays and plenty of video storage… but you get most of that from YouTube by default.

Other video sites, though less so Vimeo, have one other problem; they’re largely populated by people who were driven off YouTube. That’s why sites like LiveLeak are filled with the borderline porn, gore, shock and violence videos that YouTube bans.

Both YouTube and the other video sites share one common problem; they put your content on a site that isn’t yours. YouTube is designed around keeping users on YouTube. That’s why there are so many related video links everywhere. You want a user viewing on YouTube to click through to your site; YouTube wants to keep them around. You’re fundamentally at odds.

Option 3: Self-Hosted Videos

When you host a video on your own server, you’re expending your own resources to keep it alive and visible to everyone. If you produce videos regularly, you’re going to run into issues with storage space and bandwidth considerations, which can hurt you more than the issues with off-site hosting.

There are advantages, however.

  • You gain some SEO value to your own domain. A video on YouTube ranks for YouTube, not your brand. A video on your domain ranks for your site.
  • You can actually out-rank YouTube. Just look at those example searches above.
  • You can get rich snippets with your video content, in some cases. You will need to jump through a few hoops to get it, but it works when you do.
  • You can direct the user experience. On your site, viewing your video, you can lead users in whatever direction you choose. You don’t have unbranded related videos or links leading off to other sites; you can present the video with as much or as little context as you want.

If you find that server resources are too tight, you can also look into alternative hosting strategies. Amazon’s cloud storage, for example, allows you to host the actual video file and serve it through their CDN.

Using Multiple Hosts

There’s nothing inherently wrong with hosting your video yourself, posting it on Vimeo and posting it on YouTube. The only thing to be aware of is that you could in an extreme case be the target of a duplicate content penalty if you host a video on your site as well as a video host. Google considers the YouTube embed feature a suitable replacement, so you might end up a target. This isn’t guaranteed – in fact, it’s not entirely confirmed to happen at all – but it’s something to be aware of before you upload everywhere.

Written by James Parsons

James Parsons

James Parsons is a blogger and marketer, and is the CEO of Pagelift. When he isn’t writing at his personal blog or for HuffPo, Inc, or Entrepreneur, he is working on his next big project.

Join the Discussion

  • Ty Stewart

    Great article. Thanks for sharing! One thing I’m a little confused on is if the goal of my videos is mainly to improve user experience on my site, is it OK to host on YouTube and embed on my site? I’m thinking that is the best route for my goals but unsure. I will have a YouTube channel as well if people find me there but realistically, these are short, informational videos about a boring topic (insurance) so I’m not trying to get the videos themselves to rank in the SERPS. Give the above, am I losing anything by NOT hosting the videos on my own? Thanks so much if anyone is able to respond.

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