High quality digital video is an integral part of our lives. We watch it on our phones, tablets and laptops, in sickness and in health, to the tune of one hour and sixteen minutes a day. It’s a powerful tool. Before the rise of digital media, video belonged to businesses with big marketing budgets. Today, direct to consumer brands use it to connect with customers, show off products and drive conversions.
Using video to grow your business
Time for some statistics. Right now, video makes up 73% of all consumer IP traffic. By 2021, Cisco predicts it will account for 82%. In a recent survey, Animoto found that four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read the description.
Video content works. It performs consistently across diverse industries. Landing pages that use video have significantly higher conversion rates. Wistia found that visitors spent 2.6 times longer on pages with video than on those without. Whether you make enterprise software, create pie recipes, sell shoes or build houses, video can help you engage and convert your customers.
Access to a global marketplace means more opportunities, but it also means more competition. Your website is your chance to show users how your solution can help solve their problems. Video helps you add a level of personal customization to problem solving. It puts you in the room where it happens.
But, you need to do more than create great content. You need a fast, reliable way to deliver it to any device, anywhere, at any time. You can make the greatest video in the world but if it takes thirty seconds to buffer and stalls every five seconds, it won’t matter. Your visitors would abandon the page and head over to your competitor’s website.
Sharing video content
If you want to create and share your own video content on your website, you’ve got three main options.
- Upload the video to a video hosting platform like YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia
- Natively upload it to your site and deliver it through your host server
- Use a CDN for global presence and fast, seamless delivery
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option:
Using a video hosting platform
Using a hosting service like YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia has a number of benefits. The services are specifically designed to make the process as intuitive as possible. Sharing the video to your own page is easy. Grab the embed code, put it in and you are good to go. The hosting platform compresses and optimizes your video for different devices, browsers and bandwidth. You don’t have to go anywhere near the backend or worry about delivery speeds.
There’s something for every goal and budget. YouTube is free with a strong social media angle, a solid creator studio and a powerful search engine. If you want your videos to be discovered in search and build a following, YouTube is a solid option. But, if you want to gate content, the unlisted option doesn’t really offer enough flexibility or security as anyone with the url can access it. Both Vimeo Business and Wistia offer secure video hosting for businesses and have solid gating features.
Using a video hosting service gives you very little control over what the video looks like once it’s on your page. You can’t really change the player to fit with your overall design. You have no choice over the kind of ads that play before and during your video. While Wistia and Vimeo Business let you decide who sees your video, if you host your videos on YouTube you’ve got no say over how users interact with or use it.
Uploading a video to your website
You can upload your video directly to your website. Unless you have a phenomenal server plan, this is probably the least desirable option. An influx of visitors that goes above your usual rate can easily lead to crashes, long buffering times and distortions.
Remember how slow streaming was in the early days when you and your roommate wanted to watch two different things at the same time? No one wants to go back to that. People don’t like waiting. If you want to keep visitors from bouncing off your site, you have to deliver your content fast. Amazon calculated that delivering content one second slower would cost them 1.6 billion in lost sales per year. If Amazon, with their loyal client base and army of Prime members loses customers over a one second slow down, think about how much speed can impact your business.
But, it’s not just about the speed. If you upload a video natively you are also responsible for compressing it and optimizing it for different media players, browsers and devices. It’s a lot of extra behind the scenes work for a meager and costly reward.
Delivering video through a CDN
Using a CDN is a great way to deliver content quickly to users around the world. A CDN leverages a globally distributed network of servers in multiple regions to serve your content fast. It reduces latency and takes seconds of page load times at a fraction of what an in-house solution would cost.
A CDN compliments your hosting plan. For the cost of bandwidth, you can automatically scale up or down based on your traffic. The CDN will “pull” media from your server, and then “repeat” it to every consequent visitor from the node closest to them. This allows you to keep your hosting footprint light and your server cool, while delivering large volumes of video.
As with the video hosting platforms, you can embed your videos on various web pages. Unlike Wistia or Vimeo, this option gives you full creative control over what the media player looks like on your website and how users interact with it. You can let users download videos and even charge for them. This can be a really useful features for brands that create e-courses or training materials.
If you rely on ads for a percentage of your revenue, using a CDN gives you a pretty big advantage. You gain full control over which ads to run and where they are placed. This way you can deliver relevant ads that align with your brand and appeal to your target audience.
The best hosting method for you
Cisco predicts that by 2021, CDNs will carry 71% of all internet traffic. Video sharing platforms already use CDNs to deliver content and using one yourself gives you the same level of granular control over your website.
How you host your videos depends on your own business goals and preferences. You don’t have to pick a single one. You can use a CDN like Beluga to deliver custom gated content to your customers via your website. You can use a platform like YouTube as part of your content marketing and community building efforts and host videos specifically designed for viral sharing.
Video isn’t just video. Every piece should serve a unique purpose. Use that purpose to figure out the best way to host and distribute it. When a visitor lands on your website, they judge it as a whole. They look at the loading speed, the way your video thumbnail fits in with the rest of the page, the resolution of your images and how intuitive your design is. Your customers are looking for a full experience. A video delivery strategy that favors speed and usability will keep them coming back for more.