Video Hosting: YouTube vs Self-Hosting vs Paid Hosting

By March 19, 2013 6 Comments

So you’ve produced your web video. You’re super-pumped about how it turned out. All the right pieces came together. It’s compelling. It’s persuasive. It has the right call-to-action. This web video is going to drive conversions and take your business to the next level. You can’t stop fist-pumping.

But there’s just one more problem to solve: How are you going to get this video in front of your audience? That brings us to the topic of this post. Video Hosting.

There are plenty of video hosting options out there, and there’s some confusion as to which one is the best. The answer is that there’s no such thing as a best option. Each option has its strengths and weaknesses. I’m going to break things down into 3 broad categories: YouTube(Free Hosting), Self-Hosting, and Paid Hosting. Let’s get started.


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When most people think of video hosting, they immediately think of YouTube. It’s by far the biggest and most popular video hosting and sharing site on the internet. And with over 72 hours of video uploaded every minute, it’s massively popular. But even with that massive popularity, YouTube might not be the right fit for your video hosting needs. Here are some pros and cons for using YouTube.

  • Visibility – YouTube gets over 800 million unique visitors each month. This number is astronomical. As far as online video, nothing even comes close. If it’s important that your video be seen by the largest possible audience then YouTube is an obvious choice.
  • Ease of Use – YouTube makes it incredibly easy to start a channel and start uploading video. You don’t have to know any code and you can upload any format or file type and YouTube will convert it and optimize it for you.
  • SEO – Because YouTube is owned by google, it gets indexed by by google very quickly. If your video is optimized with the appropriate titles, tags, description, and captions you’re in a good place to get found by YouTube’s huge audience.
  • Sharability – Youtube isn’t just a video hosting site. It’s a full-blown social network. Youtubers comment, share, and interact with the content they like. Youtube videos are easy to embed on facebook and pretty much any website.


  • Little control over brandingYouTube doesn’t allow you to control how your playback controls or interface look and you won’t be able to get rid of the logo in the lower-right corner. You also can’t control which videos appear alongside your’s. Edit: It was brought to my attention through a blog comment that YouTube actually allows you to remove the logo as well as some other fine-tuning I wasn’t aware of. Full details on embed options can be found on the google developers page.
  • SEO goes to YouTube, not your site – If you have a popular video on youtube, all of that SEO value is going to YouTube, not your site. If your goal is to get people to a landing page and convert them there, YouTube makes that goal harder. Remember, YouTube is in the advertising game and they want to keep people on their site as long as possible in order to serve more ads.
  • TOS Agreement – When you host to YouTube you have to abide by their Terms of Service, which could change at any point in time. This means that YouTube can pull your video offline at any time and there’s not much you could do about it.



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Another option is to host the video yourself. If you’re a small business, chances are you have enough room through your hosting provider to upload a few videos without getting charged extra. If you’re a mid to large-sized company then you might even have dedicated servers that you own and maintain, making self-hosting even easier. Here are some pros and cons to self-hosting

  • Control – Unlike YouTube, you can control every aspect of how the controls on your video player appear (provided you have the right player or coding skills to do it) You also don’t have to worry about any cat videos showing up next to your serious business-focused video.
  • Non-Downloadable – Self-hosted videos are more difficult for others to rip off of your site. With free hosting sites like YouTube, anyone can rip your video and repost it elsewhere.
  • SEO goes to you – As long as you’ve properly optimized your video for the search engines, all of that SEO love goes right to your website, not the hosting provider’s
  • Ad-free – You don’t have to worry about popups, pre-rolls ads, or surrounding ads clouding up your video.


  • Smaller Audience – When you self-host, you’re giving up the massive audience that YouTube has. Remember that YouTube is also currently the second largest search engine. When you self-host, you give up the ability for your video to be found in YouTube search.
  • Possible Cost – If you don’t have enough hosting space already, you may have to pay for it.
  • No TOS – You own the video AND the hosting. You never have to worry about another company taking your video down.

Paid Hosting

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Paid hosting is a third category that’s relatively new to the video hosting world. These providers are trying to combine the benefits of free hosting and self-hosting. The players here are Wistia, Vimeo Pro, BrightCove, VidYard and others. These companies really fill out the middle ground in the video hosting world and may be a good fit if neither free hosting or self-hosting sounds appealing.


  • Control – Like self-hosting you can control how your video looks and how your video player looks. The services here will have varying degrees of control to offer.
  • SEO goes to you – Services like Wistia provide a “SEO-ready” embed code, which automatically makes your video findable by google and the other search engines. And all that good SEO mojo goes to you, not a third party.
  • Analytics – This one is a pretty big deal. Wistia has the most impressive video analytics with their “heat map” which allows you to see exactly which parts of your video have the highest engagement. This allows you to discover where your video is falling flat and then tweak it to get the best engagement
  • Easy to Use – For most of the paid hosting services, your video will be as easy to upload as YouTube. The interfaces are modern and easy to navigate. If you’re self-hosting, oftentimes you need to have some knowledge about FTP or coding in order to get your video working correctly.



Cost – The paid hosting services are delivering most of the pros of self-hosting and free hosting sites like YouTube, so you’ll need to pay for that benefit. The cost for the paid hosting providers will range from $200/yr to $2400/yr
Smaller Audience – As with self-hosting, paid hosting means you won’t be searchable on YouTube.


The ideal hosting solution will depend largely on what your goals are for your video. Here are a few possible goals along with recommendations.

Goal: I want as many people as possible to see my video.
Solution: Youtube
Reason: Youtube has the biggest audience and the most opportunity for social sharing

Goal: I want to get people to my landing page and turn them into customers.
Solution: Self-hosting or Paid Hosting
Reason: Embedding a YouTube video on your landing page gives YouTube better SEO, not your site.

Goal: I want to create content that I can sell online
Solution: Paid Hosting
Reason: Only paid hosting will give you easy tools to hide your video behind a paywall.

Goal: I want to make the next big viral video!!
Solution: YouTube YouTube YouTube
Reason: Have you ever watched a “viral video” on any other site??

There’s much more that could be discussed about video hosting, but hopefully this article can get you started in the right direction. Happy hosting!!


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Bullhorn Media – A video production company serving the Nashville area. We understand that great marketing has always been about great storytelling. And great storytelling is what we do. 


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