Using Wistia’s customisable embed settings to build links with your video content

Yesterday, our friends at Wistia launched a small, but significant new feature which helps to ensure you’re able to get link attribution any time someone chooses to embed one of your videos on their site.

The new functionality, termed “Video Backlinks”, is a minor augmentation to the recently launched “customise” framework which allows you to adjust the settings of an existing embedded video embed on the fly, directly through the Wistia interface, rather than forcing you to manually fiddle with embed codes. The feature ensures that whenever someone decides to embed one of your videos on their site, the embed code they receive in the button provided by the Wistia player will automatically include a link back to the original instance of the video on your site.

Why does it matter?

The web is a multimedia environment and very often the most engaging pages are those that choose to communicate across media types - using images, text and video to tell a story. As such, it’s very common for authors to embed videos as part of blog posts and articles, frequently including content that wasn’t originally created by them.  However, in the vast majority of instances, these embeds don’t typically provide any sort of attribution link back to the website of the content creator, meaning video makers are missing out credit they are rightly due for their own creative content. While a credit link is important on it’s own terms, the potential such a link will have to drive traffic and provide link equity, is critically important from an SEO perspective.

When you embed a YouTube video, the iframe code just links back to the instance of the video on

DistilledU   SEO Training from the Experts   YouTube

This can help to boost the ranking of the instance video on in both YouTube and Google search, but won’t do anything to improve the rankings of the website belonging to the publisher/creator.

Similar is true with Vimeo embeds. While, as default, Vimeo embeds include attribution links underneath the video - these links point to the instance of the video on and the vimeo homepage.


And.... the same is true for the vast majority of third party hosting platforms out there - attribution links will either be absent from the embed codes, or the default attribution links provided pass credit, traffic and PageRank to the hosting platform, but not the actual video publisher.

Wistia have solved this problem by allowing users to set the inclusion of an attribution link as default, ensuring it automatically points to the page it was originally embedded on. If you’re trying to leverage an investment in Video to build links, this is a fantastic addition to the Wistia tool-set.

How does it work?

Essentially, when customising the settings of your embedded player, you can choose whether or not to include an “embed” button underneath the video and then determine whether or not you want the code provided by this button to include an attribution link back to your site - either to the page the video is originally embedded on (recommended), or another page of your choosing (useful if you have multiple instances of the same video across your site and want to consolidate link equity).

The video below explains how to set it up, as well as how to ensure you get your video indexed in the Google/Bing results pages - so that search engines see your video as the “canonical” version of the content, which can help to prevent other sites outranking you should a lot of people decide to embed your video.

Do I need to host with Wistia if I want to build links with my video content?

Absolutely not, though Wistia currently automate the process better and more effectively than the other hosting platforms on the market. If you’re keen to use video as “link bait” in this way, but don’t wish to switch hosting providers, then you can just disable the default embeds buttons and customize your own embed button/box - ensuring an attribution link is included in the code provided, as below:


I’ve built a tool which will allow you to automate this process, all you need is the embed code provided by your video hosting platform of choice.

Should I register for a Wistia account?

If you’re keen to start using video as part of your link building strategy, then there’s no better tool on the market right now than a Wistia account - especially given the Google Analytics integration available. However, it’s not an absolute must; you can still ask use good old fashioned outreach to ask for “credit” or “attribution” from anyone who has embedded your videos without a link, irrespective of what platform they’ve originally embedded them on. While this technique won’t be as surefire as having the link included as default, it can still generate good return.

Note: Neither Distilled nor I were compensated by Wistia for this post - we just wanted to highlight what we think is a killer feature that may go unnoticed by the majority of users. Should any other hosting platform decide to follow suit and offer similar functionality, I can promise that we’ll be sure to cover it.

Phil  Nottingham

Phil Nottingham

Phil is the in-house video marketing expert and chief meme generator at Distilled. He joined Distilled in April 2011, after impressing Will and Duncan with his ability to look like a serviceable pirate following minimal costume changes and has since...   read more

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  1. This is a great tool. Imagine if any viral youtube video used this instead of youtube? The author of the video could have hundreds of thousands of linking root domains.

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    • Phil Nottingham

      Quite potentially! Except that, of course, if you want a video to go viral - YouTube is absolutely the best platform to do that on, because it's incredibly shareable and the additional presence on will ensure maximum visibility for the video.

      I think the use case here is a little bit more around hosting videos that people are extremely likely to embed (probably informational stuff) rather than the sorts of fun videos that typically do well on social networks.

  2. Peter DVRO

    What a perfect timing, Phil! (And Wistia obviously).
    Placing a link through your video without it being too obvious you want the viewer to leave that website and go to yours, is a challenge. For 1500 videos it is.
    Awesome post!

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  3. David

    Hey Phil,

    Excellent post! Really enjoyed your mozcon post on Video SEO and this is going to help us a ton.

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  4. Phil -- thanks for pushing for us to better serve the needs of the SEO and video communities. Your presentations and posts on link building with video were the inspiration for this feature and we are really excited to start using it ourselves. So thanks!

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  5. Hey Phil as always thanks for sharing. We are advocates of Wistia thanks to you :)
    We have been mocking around with embed codes in the past and the fact that Ezra's team have adopted it just reinforces the platform practicality and easy to use interface. In my humble opinion I think its one of the best platforms out there.

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  6. Hi Phil, great article as ever, but I thought I would just say that Videojuicer has been doing that since it was founded back in 2007!

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    • Phil Nottingham

      Hi Dave,

      I don't actually think this is the case... I've just had a dig into all the video juicer apps and functionality and don't see anything like this. Any chance you could expand and explain exactly how it works with VideoJuicer?

      The standard iframe embed provided on a VideoJuicer player doesn't include a backlink and I can't work out how you would activate that setting if it is available.


  7. Ah, sorry Phil, I was talking about what Wistia calls their 'customise framework', that allows you to change the content & functionality of a player without changing the embed code. That's what we've been doing since 2007. What you're calling backlinks, no, we don't offer that right now, although you can achieve something similar by putting in your own permalink (which can be done automatically via our API, if required).

    The backlink is a handy feature though. we'll see if we can add something similar when the new version of our platform has gone line later this month. Will keep you posted!

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  8. Lori Belton

    I'm a definitely a Wistia fan. I've used this feature before. The customizable embedded code is a great way to get the most out of the video content. I really like
    YouTube and the opportunity to reach a larger audience, but oftentimes that can come with the price of ads or other "YouTube recommended videos" that a company may not want displayed on their videos, during times when they have the need to publish a video on their website. I would choose to use both YouTube and Wistia, although I like both for different marketing needs. I love the many Wistia options offered to customize share buttons with the video content's embedded code, as well. Great article. Thank you for sharing!

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  9. While I agree this is a useful feature, I think you are remiss in not mentioning that these types of links would be the kind that Matt Cutts has identified that should be no followed, but that option does not exist in the interface. I reference this article:

    I myself would be fine with pushing the more "aggressive" link building but I think it should be mentioned for those that are more risk adverse.

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    • Phil Nottingham

      Hi Dave,

      Yeah - I disagree. I don't think this is applicable to what Matt was talking about, although I appreciate there's a lot of subtlety in Matt's choice of words that has broadly been misinterpreted, including in that article.

      While you could abuse this tool if you wanted (Slapping a load of video embeds on random sites, or paying for links with embeds) - In the actual use case of someone clicking "embed" in order to embed your video within an editorial post, then I think automatically getting a link appended to the code is completely legitimate.

      Vimeo embeds do the same thing but automatically link back to, rather than the publisher's site - in practice this is no different. It's not a problem either, per se, for infographic embeds - the critical point is in ensuring it's an editorial choice to embed (and therefore link to) the content.

  10. Hey Phil -
    While I tend to agree with you for the most part, in the video Wistia is clearly only hyping this for a link value angle and even talking about passing page rank. I think that is exactly the wrong way tp be talking about this kind of link. I think that they should probably implement an option to make this nofollow and give those webmasters who want to limit exposure the choice.

    I have always been annoyed with Vimeo embeds, and its kind of funny because they are so stringent about nofollowing all the links on your profiles and videos. We beta tested their Pro offering when I was at Zacuto and I was pushing for those paying for Pro to have nofollow turned off, but they were adamant that wasnt going to happen.

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    • Phil Nottingham

      If we set a paradigm where content linked to, editorially, in the context of an embedded video should be nofollowed - then I think we've completely lost the point of nofollow entirely. I also think it's completely legitimate to not have the option of nofollow - just as it's possible to not allow people to embed your video if you wish. Through adding this functionality, you're simply saying "I'm happy for you to embed my content if you link to me" and if Matt has a problem with that, then I think he's completely wrong and I'd be happy to argue it with him.

      I totally share your frustration for the way in which Vimeo go about their business, but I can see why they may choose to nofollow the pro links in order to prevent spam. You can see that a lot of people would just sign up for accounts in order to get that link - which would be tantamount to a paid DA90 odd link for $200 per year.

      I have a hard time seeing how anyone is going to be able to spam this tool, aside from by illegally distributing other people's content, which becomes a legal issue, rather than something related to Google's webmaster guidelines.

      I also think it's totally appropriate for Wistia to talk about PageRank and show the purpose of this tool for what it is - as there's nothing inherently manipulative about it (the link isn't hidden and it's easy to remove it if anyone wants to).

      That said, I wouldn't have a problem with having an option to make the link nofollow in the Wistia control panel (though it's currently an optional inclusion anyway for anyone who doesn't want it) - will recommend this to them.

  11. Thanks, Phil, for an insightful post -- and a good reason to think beyond YouTube for hosting videos. In terms of ranking consideration, do you have any thoughts on how to weigh the benefits of using YouTube (which, as a Google property, may confer higher rankings to the site using YT) versus using Wistia for backlinks? Wistia seems like a better choice, both to protect the integrity of the video owner and as a way to gain legitimate backlinks, but I was wondering if it overrides the benefits of association with a Google-owned property?

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    • Phil Nottingham

      It always comes back to the question of "what kind of content do you have and what are you trying to achieve?".

      If you're trying to increase brand awareness, then YouTube is your best option since it will provide the greatest visibility for your content across both search and social - but If you really care about traffic to your site, or links back to your site - then using a service like Wistia is the better option. Not all types of content are appropriate for each of these goals either.... recommend watching the video on this page for a full explanation of these principles.

      Additionally, it's worth pointing out that I don't think the fact that Google own YouTube really has any effect on the way the algorithm appraises websites. Google don't "reward" companies who use YouTube to host their videos with higher rankings, though YouTube is treated as a special case within the Search Engine results pages and pages will typically rank well themselves. However, Google's treatment of YouTube doesn't affect the core principles of letting a goal driven strategy define hosting.

      Hope that's useful!

  12. Hi, thanks for the tutorial.

    I want to embed the video on Pinterest. Is that possible or are you trying to avoid Pinning of the video.

    Let me know when you get a chance.


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    • Phil Nottingham

      Hi Ileane,

      I'm not that knowledgeable on Pinterest I'm afraid, but as far as I'm aware, you can only pin videos from certain sites at the moment, namely YouTube, Vimeo and Daily Motion.

      I expect, going forward, they'll create a tag which will allow any site to make their videos "pinnable", but for now the solution described in this post won't benefit you with Pinterest.

  13. Phil:
    Your posts about Video SEO challenge my old pattern of automatically uploading client videos to a web site. Thanks.
    A client recently uploaded a video to YouTube. As you have explained, they would be better served if they used a service like Wistia in order to get the Rich snippet beside their Google SERP listing.
    My question: If I use Wistia and put the same video that is in Youtube on the web site as well, Will Google think that I am playing a duplicate content game? I doubt the client would like the idea of pulling their video out of YouTube. IN other words can I host the same video on YouTube and on Wistia. Or Will Google view this as spam/duplicate content?
    thanks. Dan Sexton

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  14. Hi Phil-
    Thanks so much for all the wisdom you've been sharing. It's helping me tremendously as I launch a new video branding agency called About Themselves. I’m learning as I go and plan on working my way through the distilledU courses in the coming months.

    Can I trouble you for some advice on how I’m setting things up?

    I’m creating video content and managing marketing campaigns for the benefit of my clients. My videos are well-produced branding pieces as opposed to serial product demonstrations, etc. I’m creating what you refer to as “Hero” content.

    Question: I am hosting my videos on a Vimeo Pro account and then hiding them from Vimeo. The video is then embedded on the clients web page using proper key words, title and description and a video site map is created. This is what I am considering the primary embed location. But, it will also be embedded on my site, and shared on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I want my client to get all the benefit from a branding and SEO perspective of any links and social shares of the videos. The goal is brand awareness, increased site rank and, ideally an Rich Snippet for the client’s site. Is this the proper way to set things up to achieve this goal?

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  15. Hi Phil

    Reiterating many of the statements above, I'm finding reading through your posts incredibly useful in tackling the client issues I'm aiming to solve through video. Thank you for taking the time and sharing your expertise.

    I feel I'm a little off the curve with coming to Wistia so late... but I'm doing my best to catch up. We've been playing around with how to target niche content to a smaller audience with a key objective to drive conversion. We think as I get the impression that you do that the obsession with everything 'going viral' is not particularly helpful as an overall strategy.

    We've been facing the challenges that you outline in your post, Getting a number of videos to the top of google through youtube, which is not going to help conversion, but finding it hard to get full access to the backend of sites to do more of an overall SEO deep dive.

    Discovering Wistia - a company who are 100% dialled into the same opportunities that we see with content is incredibly exciting. Seeing that they've made Video SEO such a clear and simple process is even more exciting. And that's just the start.. Wistia labs is giving a glimpse of some even more interesting ways to drive engagement and clickthroughs. I look forward to your continuing point of view.


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