“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. It comes from James Gaines, owner of UniqueSquared.com, 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 specializing in search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising. Smigler is also a contributor to Practical eCommerce.
On-site or YouTube?
James Gaines: I own UniqueSquared.com, an ecommerce site. We produce many product videos and tutorials and 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 to not using public sites for our tutorials that will be displayed on product pages?
Sales vs. Exposure
Scott Smigler: That’s a great question; its answer may change as search engine algorithms evolve.
Yes, there is an advantage to hosting video tutorials on your site versus 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 click through to visit your website.
As a result, assuming you can optimize 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 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 receive from search engines, it may help you 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 Slingbox.com domain, when I click to watch the video, I will be taken to the Slingbox site, where I can purchase the device.
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.