I’m sure that by now, you’ve come across websites on which you can view videos, not just on YouTube, but plenty of others as well. For example, a band’s website might show you clips from their concerts. A plumbing website could have lots tutorials about how to do basic things around the home. A charity’s website could have videos showing you how they use your donations to benefit others. Whatever the purpose of the website, videos are a fantastic way to grab viewers’ attention, with interesting and exciting content, prompting them to get in touch.
There are, of course, different ways you can include videos on your website, including uploading them to your website (or self-hosting) and embedding them from elsewhere. It is quite common for people to do the former, uploading videos to their website. However, I really would not recommend doing that. That’s why, in this blog, we will find out more about these methods, we will cover why that’s a bad idea and why instead you should embed them from elsewhere. Happy reading!
By now, we know there are two ways for you to include videos in your website, for your viewers. The first is self-hosting and the second is embedding. Here is a quick summary of how each works.
This is a very simple way of adding videos to your website. Whether your website uses WordPress, Squarespace or any other platform, it simply involves uploading the video to the same server (computer) that hosts your website. You would do this in much the same way as you would upload images to your website, or PDF documents.
Embedding a video on your website is a little more of an ‘involved’ process. First, you must upload your video to a video hosting service. This could be anything from YouTube, to Vimeo, Dailymotion and Wistia. It’s important to note at this point that certain website platforms only provide support for embedding videos from specific video hosting platforms. If in doubt, you should always use YouTube, as that is the most common. It is possible to make your videos ‘private’ so nobody can see them on the platform and they can only be viewed on your website.
Next, you need to copy the web address (URL) through which you access the video on the platform and paste it into your website. With WordPress, this can be as simple as pasting the link on your website, wherever you want the video to appear. With a platform such as Squarespace, you may need to add a video block first, although copying in the web address is exactly the same.
As I have mentioned, self-hosted videos are particularly simple to achieve. However, they are generally a bad idea. Here are 7 key reasons why you should avoid them.
One of the major benefits of hosting your videos on a hosting platform, such as YouTube or Vimeo, is their popularity. Taking YouTube itself, the platform has over 2 billion logged in users each month. That’s an incredible amount and it doesn’t even take into account users who aren’t logged in. It’s often the first port of call for people who want to find videos on a topic. It means also that people will be more likely to find your video, and of course your website. They’ll even be able to share it more often, through its excellent social media sharing capabilities.
If you choose to self-host your videos, or of course if you choose to keep your video ‘private’ on these platforms, you are essentially missing out on all of those fantastic features. That’s obviously less favourable, especially if you want your videos to have a wide reach.
If you choose to upload the video files to your website, one thing you’ll likely notice is that your video doesn’t necessarily look consistent across browsers. That’s because each browser has its own way of handling video playback. That means that the same video might look great in one browser, yet not as good in another.
As well as that, you’ll of course have to make sure that your video file is in the correct format, to upload to your website. Depending on the app or programme you use to convert your video into the correct format, you may find the conversion quality varies. There’s a saying – you get what you pay for. If you’re using a free programme to do the conversion, as most people would, the chances are that the output video quality won’t be as good as a more sophisticated programme.
All these issues would be negated simply by hosting your video through a platform like YouTube and embedding it on your website. That way, anyone who views the video on your website will be streaming it and the video quality will likely be consistent across all platforms/devices. That’s exactly what you’re after, presumably.
If you were to upload a video for your website to the same host, you’re more than likely to find that it doesn’t play correctly, if at all. That’s down to the hosting package you have. Those with high or even unlimited budgets can easily afford to pay for the best hosting packages, which wouldn’t have a problem with hosting a few small videos.
However, most hosting, especially for smaller websites, is done on a budget. That means either the server the website is hosted on is slow, or there is limited bandwidth, or both (of course). Either way, this will result in any self-hosted videos being slow to load, or constantly buffering, which is exactly what you want to avoid. The harder it is for your visitors to view your videos, the more they will lose patience and therefore the more likely they are to leave your website, never to return.
This can all be resolved by simply embedding your videos on your website. That way, viewers are only streaming the video through your site, so performance will be consistently better. Of course, if your viewers have a poor internet connection, they will still have performance issues. However, you will at least know that those issues are not down to you and your website.
Sadly, uploading a video to your website isn’t as simple as uploading one file and you’re done. There are many different standard video resolutions in existence right now, which include 480p, 720p, 1080p and 1440p. There are of course others as well. Different devices will be capable of viewing different resolutions. For example, a desktop computer with a good internet connection would be better off with a higher resolution, such as 1080p or 1440p. However, a small mobile device would require a version with a lower resolution, such as 420p. On top of this, certain browsers can sometimes require different video formats, although if your video is in an .mp4 format, you shouldn’t have any issues.
When you’re self-hosting a video, unless you’re using a plugin or platform capable of modifying the resolution dependent on the viewer’s device, which of course does exist, you’ll have to upload all resolution variations. You’ll also have to programme your website to recognise which version of the video it needs to show, which is unnecessarily complicated. It is possible to remove that complication by using a video player, but you still have to tell the player where to find the different video formats. In addition, the more plugins/software you have installed on your website, the slower it can be.
Embedding your videos is a much better option, since the video hosting platforms are very sophisticated. They’re capable of handling all of this, without any additional effort on your part. Your visitors will always get the best possible experience, which is exactly what you want, right?
In some cases, when you’re uploading videos to your website, you won’t mind at all if they are copied or downloaded. However, it is more likely that you will want to prevent your videos from being illegally re-distributed or ‘pirated’, especially if you are trying to make money from them.
If you are self-hosting the videos, you will have to do extra work to prevent this from happening, since a video that has simply been uploaded to your site won’t be protected by default.
However, embedding your videos on your website, from a dedicated video hosting platform can take care of this for you. If you choose, you can have your videos set to ‘private’ so that only those with the link can see them. Then, the only place the video will be found is embedded on your website, but since it is only embedded, it would be safe from illegal copying. Even if you choose to keep your videos public, due to the sophistication of the platforms, they will still be safe. After all, that’s what you want, right?
Have you ever tried to upload a file, say on a contact form or to a forum, and it has told you there is a maximum file size you can upload? Or, if you use a (free) file storage solution like Drobox or Google Drive, have you ever been told you’ve got to upgrade, as you have run out of space?
If not, then you’re lucky! This does happen very often and it is exactly what you’re likely to face if you are self-hosting the videos. Most of the time, both your website platform (such as WordPress or Squarespace) and your hosting provider will impose a limit as to the maximum size of any given file that can be uploaded, as well as the maximum total storage space you are able to have. When you consider that in some instances your host might only let you have as little as 1GB total storage space, and a typical 30 second video could take up anywhere between 1MB to 30MB storage space, depending on its format and resolution, you’ll see how quickly you can run out of space with self-hosted videos.
That’s why embedding your videos from a dedicated video host like YouTube is the perfect solution. You aren’t limited by file upload size and total storage size. That means you don’t have to make compromises on the videos you want to offer to your visitors and even if you were to upload thousands of one-hour videos, they wouldn’t take up any space on your website. It’s the ideal solution, right?
In-case you are not familiar with the concept, bandwidth is essentially the amount of data that your website can transfer to your visitors, in a given time period. Imagine your website is like a PDF document. Whenever a user tries to load the website from their browser, that file is sent from the host to their browser, a bit like attaching a file to an email. The file, of course, has a data size. Every time a user is sent that file, that’s more data that is added to the total sent from your hosting account. It’s that tally of data that counts towards your bandwidth, which is essentially the maximum amount of data that can transferred before the host will block more users from being sent the file, before the renewal period. With a lot of hosts, this time period is annual. You tend to find that it is sold by Gigabytes (GB).
Sometimes a website host will specify a maximum bandwidth for your website, For example, one terabyte (1 TB, or 1000 GB) each year. Let’s say that you have a large, high quality video that requires 1GB of data to be transferred every time the video is viewed. That means you will only be allowed 1000 views of your video, before you exceed your bandwidth. That’s even assuming that your website pages themselves don’t take up any bandwidth, which will never be the case. Clearly, that is not the best solution, since you’ll want your website to be visited throughout the year and you’ll want your video to be viewed more than 1000 times in that year.
Now, you might have seen that some hosts say that you have ‘unlimited’ bandwidth included in your package. Let’s be clear, there is no such thing as truly unlimited bandwidth. If that’s what your package says, your host is basically assuming that you have a small website and under normal circumstances, your website will never use the available bandwidth. Your website would still be subjected to some sort of ‘fair use’ policy, especially on shared servers. If you start uploading lots of videos to your website, you are going to find that your website is penalised at some point, in terms of performance, or even basic access. That’s something you would want to avoid, right?
That’s why embedding your videos is the perfect solution. Whenever someone views them, they are being streamed from a platform that is completely independent of your website, so your website bandwidth will not be exhausted by them. You’ll likely never have any performance penalties for the duration of your hosting package and your visitors will always have access to your website. What’s not to like?
Ultimately, it is your choice how you handle the videos on your website, if they are something you are thinking of including. However, behind all the decisions you make for your website, you must consider the performance and the visitor experience, if you want to attract more visitors. After all, that’s what you build it for, right?
Even though you may get away with self-hosting videos if they’re very small and you only have one or two, my recommendation would always be to host them on a separate platform, like YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion, and then embed them in your website. The simplicity, security and performance benefits this will bring will pay dividends in the long run.
At Digital Lychee, I make sure that I tailor all my clients’ websites to suit their individual needs. In your initial consultation (free and no obligation, of course) we will discuss your needs in full and I can advise you on the best way forward to handle any videos that you may want to include on your website. If you are interested in my services, or you want to find out more about my blog, I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me here.