As Widen’s resident “video guy,” I am frequently asked video related questions from our customers that entrust us to manage all of their digital media files (logos, product images, live event images, brochures, PowerPoints, audio and video files). They store them in our software platform and then look to us for best practices on how to get the most out of them. Shocking, I know. One of the most frequently asked question is how to use YouTube videos in a business environment. This article is not about whether or not a business should YouTube at all. The answer to that question is very simply, YES! The question I’m asked is “how” to use it.
Is YouTube Credible?
Question: “If you embed a video on your website, would you be seen as more “credible” if that video was from Youtube, or some other video player?”
I recently ran an informal one question survey to gauge the effect YouTube branded video players have on the perception of a brand’s credibility. If you were to embed a video on your website, would you be seen as more “credible” if that video was a YouTube embed (with YouTube branding a controls clearly visible), or some other video player?
I’ve been a video geek for a long time, so I have opinion, opinions shaped by a combination of research, reading and real life experience. To generalize and shorten my opinion, I love YouTube and sing its praises, but also talk about how it has specific advantages and disadvantages for business use. The key is making sure you utilize it for it’s advantages and avoid using it in areas where it can have potential negative effects.
Advantages of Using YouTube
Prior to doing this research, I’ve recommended brands put their videos on YouTube. It is the second most popular search engine next to Google itself. If someone is searching, there’s a better chance of you being found if your content is on Youtube. I can only recommend that you do your research on best practices for adding descriptions and keywords to your videos, and then experiment with differences to see what gets better results for your industry. It is a great way to push traffic to your website.
Disadvantages of Using a YouTube Embed on Your Website
Your website is the area where I steer people away from using YouTube embeds. Marketing teams constantly struggle to not only get more inbound traffic to their websites, they also try to increase length of stay and clicks to other pages within the domain. Once visitors are there, we want to keep them there and convert (subscribe, fill out a form, make a sale, etc.) them. Embedding a YouTube video implants a magical stargate to another far away land where content may or may not relate to you.
At best, viewers will see your other Youtube content. In the middle gound, they may see a stupid human trick video. At worst, they may be taken to your competitors content. I have one exception for recommending to not use Youtube, and that is if the company lacks budget for a video hosting option. In many cases, the benefits of having video present on your site, if used correctly, outweigh any negatives of that video being a YouTube video. Although, as time moves on, other professional options are coming down in price making non Youtube options available to smaller organizations and brands.
I, along with many others with online video experience, believe the combination of ads, suggested videos, YouTube branding, and the link to YouTube.com can cause a severe medical condition called CADD. This condition was coined by Linda Bustos in her blog. She wrote “Don’t underestimate the power of Youtube to activate CADD (Customer Attention Deficit Disorder)!” Laugh at first, because it’s funny, but…
Branding Can Suffer
A little while back I stumbled across the website of a well known brand. The design of their site was incredible, clean, sleek, advanced, and easy to navigate. Everything came together into a unified sleek and modern brand image…until I scrolled down a bit and saw an embedded YouTube video. It disrupted the entire cohesive look and feel of the site. I realized how shocking it was to me and decided to look for any studies on the effects of using YouTube embeds on your site. I even reached out to a popular online video platform to see if they knew of any studies. They did not.
I’m an army of 1 with budget for a beer or a rail drink, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to launch an official study. Instead, I resorted to some good old fashioned free tools and social media to get some data, instead of relying on my opinion. First, I’ll explain the study, I’ll then give the results, and then I’ll go back to my opinion as I interpreted the results.
Study: YouTube Embed Credibility
I created two mock webpages for a fictitious company called “The Executive Co.” I tried to keep it “general businessy.” The only difference between the two sites was an embedded video. One was from YouTube with its normal branding and buttons, the other was a non-YouTube embed from a Vimeo Pro account and was stripped of all of its Vimeo branding. I did not intend for this to be a Vimeo vs. YouTube study, and based on the open ended responses, only a handful of people indicated they noticed.
I then created a simple one question survey in survey monkey, which simply asked: Which version of the website makes the company seem more “credible?”
The question was followed by this image:
There was also an optional open text field for the respondents to explain their answer if they were so inclined. I posted the question to my Facebook page and on Twitter (with various hashtags regarding video and branding) with a simple message asking for people to help me out with a one question survey about the perception of brand credibility. I left it that simple as to not imply my stance or opinion….which prior to this blog, I had never published any content stating my position.
Results of the Survey
Over the next few days or so, I received 57 responses to “Which version of the website makes the company seem more “credible?”
- #1 – Non-YouTube embed = 39 (68.42%)
- #2 – YouTube embed = 18 (31.58%)
Of the 57 responses, 46 respondents explained their answers. The open ended explanation field yielded some interesting information about why people responded the way they did. This was an optional field, so not all respondents entered a response, but for those that did, they generally fell into the following buckets:
- They liked the design of the YouTube interface better – 9 (19.6%)
- They liked the design of the non-YouTube interface better – 10 (21.7%)
- The appearance of YouTube hurt the credibility of the business – 20 (43.5%)
- The appearance of YouTube helped the credibility of the business – 3 (6.5%)
- They liked the design of the YouTube interface better – 9
There were 12 open ended comments that talked about the the pros of the YouTube option. Of those 12, 9 picked it based on the the inclusion of the video title. I’d love to add a simple title to the non-YouTube version and then ask these respondents the same question again.
10 people confirmed that they liked the design of the non-YouTube interface better. These answers were fairly consistent. They felt that the cleaner look and feel, and absence of Youtube’s branding and additional buttons helped to keep the interface of the overall website clean and uniform.
20 respondents confirmed that the appearance of YouTube hurt the credibility of the business. Simply including an embed from YouTube made these viewers have a less credible view of an organization.
In contrast, three respondents stated that they felt #2 was more credible and YouTube was the reason.
After mining through the data, I feel somewhat validated on my previous opinions, but I now have an additional reason for suggesting use of non-YouTube video embeds on your website. Prior to this experiment, I warned people mostly of the the potential pitfalls of YouTube activating Customer Attention Deficit Disorder. The ease of clicking the well recognized YouTube logo in the lower corner of the video player allowing them to leave your target destination (your domain) and wander off in a land of unrelated or competitive videos outweighed any slight SEO benefits gained by the inclusion of the YouTube video vs another video player.
The majority of respondents felt the non-YouTube embed made the business look more credible. The majority of respondents chose this because of the negative effects of the YouTube branding. Yes, there were other reasons why the design of #1 was the reason, but by far, the negative connotations of YouTube outweighed the benefits of a cleaner design.
While I may have subconsciously felt it, I had not previously verbalized the effect YouTube branding has on the perception of credibility of a business. Maybe this was because I didn’t feel it was as important as the other reasons, or because I didn’t have any data. Whatever the reason was, I now feel I have a better understanding of the importance of simply this: You look like a bigger deal if you don’t use Youtube embeds on your website.
Ron Burgundy would think you have many leatherbound books and that your office smells of rich mahogany (You need to watch the original Anchorman if you don’t know this line). I didn’t realize the power of this silent killer until I saw these numbers. No matter how much time, effort and resources you put into creating your video and your website, simply including an embed from YouTube can make viewers have a less credible view of your organization. Especially for organizations that can easily afford to employ the services of an online video platform, this is a hard pill to swallow. I’m also glossing over many of the other benefits to using an online video platform, which any of the main players in that industry like Brightcove and Wistia will be happy to tell you.
For 3 respondents, they stated that YouTube “added” to the brand’s credibility because it was a more credible source for video content. Why is this? I’m not sure exactly. Like other findings in this study, I think it’s worthy of follow-up questions and surveys. I wonder if these respondents are confusing “credibility” and “popularity.” I wouldn’t have to try very hard to explain the difference between them, but it matters not for this survey. these people have an opinion, they have a reason, there are others like them, and they are potential customers.
Overall, these numbers tell me the presence of a YouTube video on your website is more likely to hurt your credibility, than it does of helping it. Also of note is that there were no negative comments for #1. All comments were either preferences for #1, for #2, or negative comments for #2. I interpret that to mean you can’t hurt your credibility by using a non YouTube based video.
Different people have different opinions about different aspects of embedding video on a website. In today’s melting-pot world, this is not shocking. But online video marketing is a rapidly evolving space, and having access to current knowledge of how your potential customers view your marketing moves can make a significant impact on the perception of your brand. Whether they’re right or wrong, or if they agree or disagree with you, knowing your options and the potential side effects of them can give you a significant advantage over your competition.
At the very least, if your competitor embeds a YouTube video on their website and you’re smart about keywording your own YouTube videos, it means you might be able to show up on their homepage…..