A client that is doing some incredible work on the publishing side and seeing exceptional results asked what my opinion was on them hosting their videos internally. They felt they could better control the quality of the videos and improve their search optimization.
The short answer was no. It's not because I don't believe they would be great at it, it's because they are underestimating all of the incredible challenges of hosted video that have already been solved elsewhere. Youtube, Vimeo, Wistia, Brightcove, and a variety of Digital Asset Management companies have already worked through several of the challenges of hosted video:
- Bandwidth Spikes – more than any contextual site, bandwidth spikes are a huge issue with video. If one of your videos happens to go viral… it's not a simple problem and you might need 100 times or even 1000 times the bandwidth to keep up with demand. Can you imagine finally getting your video out there and then everyone's player is skipping and stalling as they're trying (and abandoning the playback)?
- Device Detection – cloud video hosting platforms will detect your connectivity and viewport to optimize the quality of the video for your viewers. That provides an excellent user experience for users who are on very fast connections or slow connections alike. It not only ensures that the video is streamed as quickly as possible, it also minimizes your bandwidth usage.
- Player Features – the ability to add hotspots, forms, call-to-actions, tickers, intros, outros… the list of features being included in distributed players is climbing because the hosted video platforms have entire teams of developers working to advance the benefits of those platforms every day. Companies tend to look at video hosting as a project where they check it off the list and move on… but this is a technology that requires ongoing development and maintenance as devices change, access to bandwidth changes, and popularity of features change. Companies will always be behind when they're trying to develop this in-house.
- Cross-Site Analytics – who has embedded your player? Where is it being viewed? How many views has it had? How long are your videos being watched for? Video analytics provides incredible insight into how users are using those videos, whether or not they're taking action based on them. As with any other content, analytics is critical to adjust your content strategy and optimize it for your audience.
- Search Engine Optimization – Much has been written about video optimization already… but key to our findings is that the search engines do not expect, recommend, nor provide benefit to companies who host their own video. While the popularity of a video will benefit its ability to rank, an embedded video on a page with supporting text and images will rank just as well, if not better, than a destination video page. Case in point is Youtube. We have pages on this site with embedded Youtube videos that rank better than the Youtube page because they're optimized with supporting content.
How Video Hosting Works
Watch the the short video from Wistia on how video hosting works at our post.
Video hosting platforms have a number of other features, including scalable storage, integration with project management platforms, publishing to other video platforms, producing video feeds for subscribing and including in 3rd party tools (like mobile applications), automated transcoding, emailed reports, searchable libraries, video tagging and categorization, video thumbnail creation, and the ability to push publication notices to your social networks. These are all features that may need to be redeveloped if you wish to host locally – that's a lot of work.
With Youtube being the second largest search engine, even if I utilized a service with a better player and quality, I would still host and optimize my video on Youtube. Add video transcription to bump up the content on your video page and ensure it's being found!
In short, I don't advise people to host their own videos. I'm confident that the backlog of projects facing most companies when it comes to development and technology is a lengthy one. Focus on your bailiwick. Taking time to recreate what others work on every day simply doesn't make sense. While costs have plummeted and technologies have improved to make BYO (build your own) possible, there's still a moving baseline in many industries. We DO advise companies to build technologies internally when it makes sense – integrating with third party providers where it also makes sense.
Video is exploding in popularity right now… latching onto a SaaS cloud provider who is dedicated to advancing the experience with many more resources is the right direction to go… today.