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A Beginner’s Guide to Video Hosting

9 Min Read

What is Video Hosting?

Video hosting is the concept of uploading your video content to be able to distribute it online. There are countless third-party video hosting services, like YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, and more. 

They all serve the same basic function—you upload your content to their site, they host the video on their server, and you use an embed code or link to insert the video content elsewhere, like on your own website. Viewers can also access the video directly on the third-party site if they’re searching there instead.

How Do Hosting Platforms Differ?

The vast majority of brands and individuals will go the route of using a third-party site, with YouTube, Vimeo, and Wistia being three of the most popular options. The different services tend to vary on a couple of key factors, including the viewing experience, analytics tools, and compatibility with other software. 

When it comes to the viewing experience, you’ll want to take into account the site’s policies on advertising, auto-play features, and whether or not they recommend other videos after yours plays. For analytics tools, there are differences in measuring capabilities for metrics like view length and engagement. When it comes to compatibility, some sites have different procedures for embedding video than others, and not every site has a public-facing video site. 

The platform options also vary in price. Some platforms are entirely free or have free versions of their offerings, while others can cost hundreds of dollars a month. The price has advertising implications as well, as free services are more likely to distribute ads on-page with your content. 

Depending on your goals, different combinations of these factors will make the most sense. For example, if you’re going for mass exposure but don’t care about advanced metrics, you’ll choose a different hosting site than someone who will be posting for a limited audience but wants to understand a lot about the audience’s engagement. 

What Differentiates the Most Common Hosting Platforms?

YouTube

YouTube is free to use and wildly popular. In fact, YouTube is actually the second most popular search engine, boasting several billions of searches per month and falling behind only Google. 

Your main benefit with YouTube is exposure, but at the cost of an overwhelming volume of videos for users to choose from. Your content might get lost in the sea of options, but you also have a unique opportunity for massive viewership and engagement. 

Beyond the user base, YouTube is also known for its autoplay feature, which can really hurt brands that are trying to lure traffic to their own website. On YouTube, you only have a few seconds to convince someone to click through to your site before the next video plays. If you miss that window, chances are viewers have moved on and are no longer thinking about your content. This is a serious drawback of the platform for many marketers, leading them to other platforms without this feature. 

Another potential downside of YouTube is the ad presence. Many brands have noticed that ads for their competitors actually play within, or adjacent to, their own brand’s content, leading to an obvious negative impact on the engagement they were hoping to generate. 

Vimeo

Vimeo is our hosting platform of choice at Lemonlight. Vimeo, unlike YouTube, doesn’t show ads with your video content. Vimeo does receive less traffic than YouTube does, but many people prefer it as a more professional, clean-cut alternative. Vimeo also has more privacy options than YouTube, including password-protected features and even limitations on whether other websites will be able to embed your videos or not. 

Vimeo has a free plan available, but most of its features are reserved for paid plans. There are different levels of pricing packages, and the prices correlate pretty closely with how extensive the analytics options are for each package. 

Wistia

Finally, Wistia is a third option that’s gaining traction in the video hosting space. It’s positioning is a little different—it doesn’t have a site where you can browse videos, it just lets you embed your content elsewhere. Because they’re more business-focused, they have more analytics options than many of the other options, including a heatmap and second-by-second tracking metrics. 

Another option that’s available to brands is working with several third-party options in order to take advantage of different combinations of features. It’s up to you to decide what’s most important for your video content, and then to seek out the right platform (or combination of platforms) to meet your criteria for success. 

Is Self-Hosting an Option?

Another alternative for distributing your video content is to host it yourself, eliminating the need to embed the video when you share it. In this scenario, you upload the video file to your own site or cloud server.

There are several pros and cons of using a third-party hosting site rather than self-hosting.

First, the pros: 

  • Third-party sites make the process simple. You can upload a video without understanding anything about programming or the technicalities of hosting.
  • Hosting sites are compatible with most CMS platforms. WordPress can embed directly from hosting sites, for example. 
  • Most hosting platforms have tracking metrics incorporated into their offering, making it easy to access the analytics that are most useful to you. 

Now, the cons:

  • Due to limitations in bandwidth and storage space, your site may not be able to handle video file uploads.
  • If your site can handle the upload, your site’s loading speed may still suffer as a result, leading to negative SEO implications. 
  • You’ll have to account for different sizes and quality versions of your content to accommodate different viewing settings.

Ultimately, we recommend that most brands use a third-party hosting site for their video content. There are very few companies whose servers can support video content at scale with requirements that wouldn’t work just as easily on a hosting platform. At the end of the day, most companies just need to find the right hosting platform for their needs rather than going to the trouble of self-hosting.  

Conclusion

If you still can’t choose between the options, we’ll leave you with one final alternative: Work with us! Video production companies often handle video distribution for you, and at Lemonlight, we’re experts in optimizing your distribution plan to meet your unique marketing goals. It’s a hands-off option for your team that still leads to effective content distribution. Talk about a win-win!

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