Practical Ecommerce

Ask an Expert: For SEO, Better to Host Videos or Use YouTube?

“Ask an Expert is an occasional feature where we ask ecommerce experts questions from online merchants. For this installment, we address a question about hosting videos for search engine optimization purposes. It comes from James Gaines, owner of, an online store that sells audio equipment and related accessories.

For the answer, we turn to Scott Smigler, founder and CEO of Exclusive Concepts, a Massachusetts-based Internet marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising. Smigler is also a contributor to Practical eCommerce.

If you’d like to submit a question, email David Maier, staff writer, at and we’ll attempt to address it.

James Gaines

James Gaines

James Gaines: I own, an ecommerce site. We currently produce many product videos and tutorials, and then place them on our product pages. For search engine optimization, is it better to host our videos on our site or use public video services like YouTube or Vimeo? In other words, is there an SEO advantage by not using the public sites like YouTube or Vimeo for our tutorials that will be displayed on product pages?

Scott Smigler

Scott Smigler

Scott Smigler: “That’s a great question; its answer may change as search engine algorithms evolve.

“Yes, there is an advantage to hosting your video tutorials on your site versus using video sharing sites like YouTube or Vimeo, in theory. If you optimize your videos well enough to push them to the top of search result pages, everyone who clicks to watch your video will land on your website, where you’ll have an opportunity to convert them into a sale. If you are hosting your video tutorials on YouTube, however, only a small percentage of the people who watch your video will ever click-thru to visit your website.

“As a result, assuming you can optimize your videos for SEO better than, say, YouTube, you should host your videos on your own.

“Video hosting services do provide a lot of value, however. It’s quite common to see YouTube videos indexed high on the search result pages. That’s because YouTube itself is a trusted domain, and because YouTube pages are optimized in a way that appeals to Google’s algorithms. YouTube also makes it easy for people to share videos, which further compounds the traffic benefit you’ll receive. While a video-sharing site like YouTube may not maximize the traffic you could receive from search engines, it may help you to get more views for your videos, which can be a good way to elevate your brand’s visibility.

“The two screenshots below illustrate my point. The first is a video I found when I searched Google for “Slingbox,” the electronic device. Since the video is hosted on a page within the domain, when I click to watch the video, I will be taken to the Slingbox site, where I can purchase the device.

Search results for "Slingbox" showing a video on

Search results for "Slingbox" showing a video on

The second example, below, I also found when searching Google for “Slingbox.” But this video is hosted on YouTube, and by clicking I will be taken to YouTube, which does not sell the device, of course.”

Search results for "Slingbox" showing a video on YouTube.

Search results for "Slingbox" showing a video on YouTube.

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. Crystal Galloway November 30, 2011 Reply

    James…while I somewhat agree with the expert here I don’t feel that he is fully explaining every option when it comes to hosting your videos on an external site such as Vimeo or Youtube. I have many clients that have videos on their sites but hosting the video on their domain would slow down the server and reduce the speed of their site (thus impacting their rankings in google).

    If you get a Vimeo account you can lock out the video from being seen on vimeo embed it into your website and only allow the video to be viewed on a specific domain. That way the search engine doesn’t index the video in vimeo and the user can only see the video on your domain.

    • David Bartenstein December 21, 2013 Reply

      Very nice addition Crystal! Thank you!

  2. cokekiller December 6, 2011 Reply

    Crystal – Can you expand on your explanation. How would one go about telling the search engines NOT to index the Youtube version and ONLY index the page with the embedded video on your site.

    Is this really possible? Thanks…

  3. JamesATL December 12, 2011 Reply

    Yes, how would you do that. I am interested as well. Also, I am wondering if Scott or another person from Practical Ecommerce might be able to help us out here.


  4. Brian Whyers January 31, 2012 Reply

    I have several client sites that get very little traffic and, while we’ve done basic SEO, there is little in the way of inbound linking or even relavent content in many cases. For these, YouTube or living on the site is the question. Our servers are fast and we can optimize things so I don’t think performance will be a factor.