When adding video to your website, you’ll usually need a video host – this is a separate server that stores and plays the video file. Most web servers are more limited, so it’s not possible to store and play video files because of their large size.
So the question becomes where should you host your videos?
Vimeo or YouTube?
The two most common hosts are Vimeo and YouTube (Wistia, Brightcove, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc are additional options.) Each platform has it’s own superpowers and it’s kryptonite. Check out the two videos below. These are the same video posted on Vimeo and YouTube.
- Completely customizable
- Easy custom thumbnails
- Free version is limited ($7/mo for Pro version)
- 2nd most popular search engine
- Limited customization
- Not secure (your video can play elsewhere on the Internet)
- Potential distracted view by other YouTube videos
- Custom thumbnails more difficult
The free version of Vimeo allows embedding, but the best superpowers kick in at the Pro level ($7 per month.) The Vimeo player is very customizable. Notice that I’ve removed the video channel and title, Vimeo logo and the social sharing buttons. I could have removed the play bar and volume for an even cleaner appearance. I’ve also chosen a specific frame from the video to use as the thumbnail.
You can also customize what happens at the end of the video. In this video, I’ve set Vimeo to return to the thumbnail, but I could choose options like sharing, suggesting other videos that I choose, or even a Call to Action button leading viewers to a specific webpage.
You can also set it so that the video can only be embedded into your website, so it’s visible nowhere else on the Internet.
YouTube’s superpower is it’s discoverability. It’s the second most popular search engine and it’s a great place for potential clients to discover you and your services. I typically use YouTube embedding in a blog or other content marketing.
I’m displaying a bit of YouTube’s extra Kryptonite. YouTube does allow some customization, but most folks fail to make these changes. In this embedded YouTube video, you see that YouTube chose an unflattering thumbnail. This can be changed, but Vimeo makes it easier to change the thumbnail.
You’ll also notice that my photo is in the upper left along with the title of the video. Watch later and share are prominent in the upper right corner. And there’s a play button dead center – which could be a bad location depending on your thumbnail (eg if it’s right on someone’s nose.
When you start playing the video, you see the YouTube logo. And viewers can click on that logo to watch on YouTube. If you’re like me, YouTube is a rabbit hole – and I don’t want my potential clients watching cat videos all afternoon. YouTube also recommends other videos at the end – and you have no control over what they recommend. It is possible to turn off the recommended videos when you embed into your website, but most people forget this step. And if your website video pauses the video, YouTube suggests more videos.
Overall, Vimeo is my preference for embedding video into your website. Especially the Pro version which allows additional customization. The only time I stray from this rule is if the video is content marketing. If it’s the type of video that people will be searching for, then it belongs on YouTube.
Finally, it’s possible to put our video on both YouTube and Vimeo. But if your video is on YouTube, adding it to your website will give it a little extra juice in terms of how likely it is to be found by a new client on YouTube (YouTube rewards you for embedding their version into your website.)