Why Not All of Your Videos Should Live on YouTube

We’re going through exciting times in the online marketing world. Technology is moving faster than we’ve ever seen before and shows no signs of slowing down. As discussed in the scope of this post, there are three core areas that are interlinked and are growing at a huge rate:

  • Devices

  • Internet speed

  • Consumption of video content

Let's take a look at each of these areas before going on to consider what it all means for online marketers working with video.

The convergence of smarter devices, increased internet speed and thirst for video content

Devices are getting more advanced, more portable, more powerful and - importantly - more affordable which means they are more accessible. We’re not that far from this becoming commonplace:

Above: Sergey Brin riding the New York Subway wearing Google Glasses.

It’s easy to brush this off and say “it’ll never catch on”. Even if it doesn’t look particularly stylish right now, that isn’t a huge challenge to overcome and, as we know, there are always ways to make technology smaller, more compact and more discreet if needed. I mean, how hard is it for Google to hire (or acquire) a group of well-respected glasses designers?! There is precedent here too - just check out Mighty Purse.

It isn’t just devices that are becoming more advanced either.

More and more people are not only getting access to the internet, but are doing so at ever-increasing download speeds. Even as of 2012, the global median mobile speed was greater than 1MPS:


This is usually fast enough to stream standard quality video, certainly enough to watch YouTube videos.

The funny thing is that despite the growth in internet download speeds and general coverage, devices are accelerating at an even faster pace, leading to a pent-up demand for faster download speeds so that hardware can be used to its full capability. This is a graph from Google Fiber on the area:

The key point here is that if innovation is being held back by download speeds or device limitations, a way will be found to increase both in order to keep up.

So where does video content fit in?

It is closely tied into the advances in download speeds. This Forbes article points out that our demand for video content is ever-increasing alongside download speed increases. It is clear that the advances in device technology and availability, alongside faster download speeds, contribute to this demand.

Mobile devices are allowing people to consume video content without turning on a TV. It is becoming more common for people to move around their home using their tablet or smartphone to stream their favourite TV show on demand - as opposed to being told when they can watch something by the TV broadcaster.

On-demand content is becoming the norm, not the exception or the privilege.

In the same Ericsson study as above, the following was stated:

“TV and video is therefore no longer something that is consumed strictly on the TV screen inside the home. It is becoming device-independent and more interactive. Consumers are using several different devices for watching and expanding the video and TV experience.”

As marketers, these are trends that we need to be aware of and sensitive to. They show a clear direction for the future of video consumption which we need to take into account when working with clients on their online marketing campaigns. It also implies a shift in advertising budgets, and online could benefit massively from this trend, possibly to the detriment of TV.

What can marketers take from these trends?

The short answer is, a lot!

However, whilst YouTube offers a wealth of opportunities, it can also offer false hope if you don’t understand what it is best utilized for. As marketers (particularly those of us with an SEO background) we are usually most concerned about driving traffic back to the websites of our clients.

Unfortunately, if this is your goal then you may end up disappointed if you put lots of investment into YouTube. We have a problem in that many marketers see YouTube as being synonymous with online video.

As a result, they put all videos onto YouTube in the hope that this will help them meet their online marketing goals which are tied into getting people to visit their website.

As I will discuss in more detail below, this isn’t the best approach and your strategy needs to be smarter than this.

To be clear though, YouTube can definitely play a part in the online marketing strategy of your clients. I’ll talk more about this shortly.

Specific problems with putting all your videos on YouTube

YouTube isn’t a good source of traffic to your website

At MozCon 2013, Phil presented some data he’d gathered from nearly 100 YouTube channels that shed some light on how much traffic YouTube sent directly to websites. The summary is:

From 95 individual YouTube channels, 904,053,617 views, only 0.72% clicked through to the website of the channel owner.

The best performing channel Phil found was REI that had a CTR of over 4% which was unusually high compared to the average. However, when you look at its channel, you can see that REI is a great example of a company getting it right with YouTube - this isn’t easy to do. You will see that REI doesn’t have insane amounts of views on its videos, but these are very well made and relevant to its target audience - increasing the likelihood of getting clicks to the website.

Obviously this is a small sampling of YouTube channels and there are going to be exceptions. However in general, it seems that YouTube doesn’t drive a huge amount of traffic back to the websites of channel owners.

For this reason, you should not be setting “increase traffic to website” as a key goal of a video campaign hosted on YouTube.

This isn’t to say that YouTube isn’t useful - it definitely is! The reach of YouTube is huge with over one billion unique users visiting the site a month. According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults aged 18-34 than any cable network.

The opportunity for getting your brand in front of the masses and delivering the right message to them is where the true value of YouTube lies. However, don’t make the mistake that you measure brand reach by counting views of your videos.

You can cannibalise your traffic

YouTube is a very strong domain and very likely to rank above your own website for similar queries. Phil has talked about this before so I won’t go into too much detail here, but the key point is that if your goal is to get traffic to your website, then you want to have videos hosted on your own website with relevant markup and sitemaps so that they have a good chance of ranking in their own right. If you put videos on YouTube and on your own website, chances are that YouTube will rank instead of you and, as we’ve just been discussing, chances are that most of the traffic visiting your video on YouTube will not click through to your website.

YouTube is a channel - not just a platform

If you can get into the mindset of thinking of YouTube as a channel as opposed to being purely a platform, it will go a long way towards nailing your video strategy. If you think of it as a platform, then you’re ultimately driving most of the benefits of creating video content to YouTube. It’ll be the ones who will be getting links, social shares and traffic - and ultimately conversions in the form of ad clicks and revenue.

Using YouTube in this manner can help you meet a goal of increasing brand awareness which we’ll look at shortly. But for other goals, such as traffic and conversions, it isn’t likely to directly help you.

What you should be using YouTube for

As Phil, our resident video expert, drills into us every day at Distilled, there are three core goals that should be at the heart of your online video strategy:

  1. Branding

  2. Links and social shares

  3. Conversion

This means that your video strategy should cover all three goals. Importantly though, the tactics you use to hit these goals will differ and mean that YouTube will be your friend as well as your enemy. The goal that YouTube can help you hit most directly is branding; this is due to the sheer reach of the channel and its huge traffic numbers. As mentioned earlier, try to think of YouTube as another channel (not a platform) that you can use to help build your brand - just like TV advertising can.

Despite the similarities with one goal of TV advertising, the approach is very different. YouTube isn’t traditionally a place where people go to watch ads, so your strategy and subsequent tactics need to take account of this. There are, of course, exceptions and we’ll look at a couple of examples shortly.

Before that, let’s focus on the specifics of what you can create in order to help with branding on YouTube.

Focusing on driving action or emotion

The key to helping your video get as much exposure as possible is to give people a reason to share it with others. The instinct to share something is usually driven by an emotional response such as:

  • Laughter

  • Fascination

  • Amazement

If your video content can provoke reactions such as these, it’s much more likely that people will share it.

It isn’t always as straight forward as this though, and even the most successful online videos have required a push to get them started. Seeding video and getting it in front of as many people as possible is important in order to reach the critical mass needed to make it go viral. This is rarely a natural process and often needs active promotion.

Types of video content

There are three basic types of video that can work well on YouTube and get good exposure for your brand:

  1. Stories

  2. Informational / tutorial

  3. Adverts that wow the user

Here are some examples of each.


A recent example of great branding on YouTube was Amazon that released a video explaining its new Amazon Prime Air service which delivers products via unmanned aerial vehicles. While the video clearly promotes an Amazon service, there is a genuine story behind this and, to date, it has had over 13 million views.

The timing of this was impeccable - the day before Black Friday!

You then have videos that are “behind the scenes”. While these could be self-hosted on your website, seeding them on YouTube can give a larger number of people an insight into your company culture, how you work, your values, and can ultimately help drive engagement or even recruitment for the company. This is a good example from Airbnb:

Informational / tutorial

This is a great video from Aston Martin which explains the engineering behind the cars. While the video could be interpreted as self-promotion, this isn’t the case for the majority of the brand’s audience who are actively interested in this information. The video shows the finer details of making the car and portrays these in a very positive light; therefore, Aston Martin wants to reach as many people as possible which makes it a good contender for hosting on YouTube:

Adverts that wow the user

A general rule of thumb is that you should avoid putting videos on YouTube that are overly focused on conversion - which flies in the face of recommending putting adverts on YouTube! However, if ads capture the imagination of the user and provoke an emotion, they can often turn into viral sensations, at which point they’re not perceived as ads anymore.

Old Spice is a classic example here because despite its videos directly promoting its product, the brand isn’t trying to directly convert users. People don’t usually go to YouTube to be sold to! (They already get some videos over-laid with video ads which can be annoying.) Instead, try and create a story around your brand or product that is interesting enough for someone to watch without feeling sold to.

This is a key difference between the mindset of YouTube users in contrast to TV watchers where, even if we don’t like it, we expect to see ads during the break.

Of course, this is a more recent example, just in case you haven’t seen it already!

At this point, the ad has reached a point where it isn’t considered an ad anymore. It’s just an epic piece of content! This level of engagement and interest in an advert is not that common though. There are lots of examples from the last few years but, ultimately, most ads are not at the same level of creativity.


Let’s summarise the key points we’ve covered:

  • Demand for video is growing, you need to be prepared with the right strategy

  • YouTube is a channel, not just a platform

  • You need a video strategy that covers both YouTube hosted and self-hosted content

  • YouTube is most useful for brand exposure

  • Videos need an emotional response in order to be shared widely

I’d love to hear any feedback in the comments. For more thoughts on the changing face of TV, we've launched our Future of TV report earlier this month - you can check it out here

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