Should You Host on YouTube? Ask These 3 Questions First

Since launching in 2005, YouTube has revolutionized the way we think about video on the web.

Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube, with over 100 hours of content uploaded every minute. According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network and it has become the 2nd largest search engine in the world after Google.

It seems obvious therefore that since YouTube is ‘where the audience is at’ that you should host your videos there, right? Not so fast!

When deciding if YouTube is right for your business, ask yourself these 3 questions first.

1. Where is your audience coming from and how will they find you?

YouTube has a large, built-in audience of loyal viewers who are constantly on the lookout for new educational or entertaining content. There is also a large number of people who, when searching specifically for a video related to a certain topic, will go directly to YouTube and search there. You could benefit from some of this traffic, but you’re going to have to compete for it.

On the other hand, many potential viewers might be searching for a given keyword or phrase using a broader search engine like Google. Video has been shown to be 50 times more likely to rank on the first page of Google than text-only webpages. By hosting your video on YouTube, you will still increase the chances of being found in Google, but you’ll miss out on harnessing the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits for yourself.

Consider instead hosting the video on your own website – preferably on a dedicated landing page which has been optimized for the topic and keywords relevant to the video itself. This media-rich webpage should rank well above those of your competitors for a similar keyword and, best of all, viewers will then already be on your website.

Sure, you could host the same video in both places but, assuming you optimize both videos for search in a similar way, you’ll essentially be competing against yourself for traffic.

2. What action do you hope that they will take after watching?

Many companies have found success in regularly producing content for a branded YouTube channel, such as Salomon Trail Running. Their goal appears to be simply to increase brand awareness and affinity over time by producing engaging short films that are geared to a specific but large fairly audience.

YouTube is a perfect place to host this type of video, since users can subscribe to the channel to be automatically notified of new videos and videos can be easily embedded and re-distributed around the web to maximize reach. A call-to-action such as “Subscribe to our YouTube Channel” along with in-video links to related videos would work quite well.

Your own videos might have a more specific, shorter-term goal such as generating new leads by converting search traffic from Google into inquiries through your website’s contact form. By self-hosting, viewers would already be on your website so a direct call-to-action could be provided such as “Click here to find out more”. By contrast, YouTube’s goal as a website is to keep viewers on YouTube so that they continue to watch other videos.

3. How will you measure the video’s success?

Hoping to get 3 Million views on your video? YouTube may be indeed be the place for your content, provided that it is suitable for a broad audience and that casting the widest ‘net’ possible is your strategy. But if your goals are more specific, such as increasing sales of a highly specialized B2B product or service, then forget vanity metrics such as views, subscribers, and Tweets – you need to focus on conversions.

By measuring instead the number of views it takes to have a viewer successfully take a specific action, then applying this rate of conversions to the rest of your sales funnel (or pyramid), you should be able to get a good sense of the return on your investment.

Read more: ‘Metrics and Beyond – Gauging Your Video’s ROI’ from Wistia

Sometimes the desired results are less measurable and quantifiable, especially when not dealing with videos for the web that can be integrated with other analytics systems. You might be trying to engage your staff or to help existing customers be more successful with a product. The important thing is to establish clear goals for a video before you start and to make sure that any key performance indicators that are used are indeed relevant.

What are the Alternatives?

When it comes to video for business, we’re a big fan of using a professional video hosting solution such as Wistia to embed videos directly on your company’s website. Unlike YouTube or Vimeo, Wistia doesn’t try to be a destination or community in itself and comes packed with an increasing number of tools and features to help you convert viewers and to measure success.

Having said that, if you’re a filmmaker hoping to get exposure and to engage with others by commenting on their work and participating in contests, try Vimeo’s free or paid hosting. If you’re a brand hoping to reach the broadest audience possible and who is less concerned about conversions, then YouTube is a given. But what these two platforms and many others like them have in common is that they are a social network first, and a hosting solution second.