The Definitive Guide to Choosing Between Vimeo and YouTube

I often get asked whether it makes more sense to post a video to YouTube or Vimeo. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the wrong question. In truth, if optimizing the number of people to see your video, and if SEO (search engine optimization) is important to you, then you should not only post your video(s) to both YouTube and Vimeo, but other video sharing sites as well. (UPDATED: Be sure to check out my 3-part series on Video SEO for some additional, updated info on this topic).

As far as YouTube and Vimeo are concerned though, the better question is which player to post on your site(s)? That is what this blog post will attempt to help you answer.

Before I start, let me remind you of the title. It’s a guide for choosing between Vimeo and YouTube. It’s not “a guide on picking the best video distribution system.” There are almost as many different methods for uploading and distributing videos as there are stars in the sky. I don’t want to get into all the pros and cons of self-hosting vs. a video site, etc. I chose these two because of the ubiquitous nature of YouTube overall, and because within the creative community, Vimeo is extremely popular. And as I said at the top of the post, these are the two systems people ask me about. (I will re-iterate the use of blip.tv though if you produce a video podcast, especially if you want it distributed via iTunes).

So, here’s an easy to use guide.

It all comes down to…

Who’s Your Audience?

What is the make-up and demographic of the people coming to the sites where your videos will be shown? Are they professionals? Are they brides and grooms you want to invest thousands of dollars in your services? Then you should have a clean aesthetic that is non-obtrusive to your brand, serves up the best quality, and will be the most “professional.” In other words, hands down, go with Vimeo as the player to use. However, if your site is geared towards a younger crowd (i.e. teens who are used to YouTube), an audience that may not be as familiar with Vimeo, or if you’re producing a regular online video series, I say go with YouTube as the player of choice.

Other factors to consider:

  • Community: the Vimeo community is largely made up of creatives, artists, and professionals looking to discover great content, share, and grow. You’ll therefore will find primarily positive interactions and supportive and helpful comments. YouTube on the other hand is known for having more, shall we say, “colorful” comments, and is a haven for trolls and haters.
  • End play: once your embedded video finishes playing, what are the next options for the viewer. More of your own videos (Vimeo), or other people’s videos that fit within the same style or category (YouTube)?. I’ve seen YouTube videos that don’t serve up other people’s videos at the end, but those are usually on the uber-Tubers who get tens of thousands or more views. I’m sure they’re given extended features. I’ve looked all over YouTube and I can’t seem to find how to change it. If you know the answer, please share in comments.
  • Environment: if someone clicks through to your Vimeo or YouTube account to watch your other videos, what kind of environment do you want them in? With YouTube they will be bombarded with all sorts of ads, and possibly even videos you may not necessarily want your clients seeing (e.g. naked brides juggling cats, etc.). When you click through to a Vimeo video, you get a page dedicated to just that video, its comments and photos.
  • License: technically, Vimeo is only for non-commercial, non-promotional videos with content you have the right to use. Many, many people out there are breaking Vimeo’s policy by posting  clips with copyrighted music and/or are blatant commercial videos. For whatever reason, Vimeo does not enforce this policy. But, should the day come when they do, a lot of people may have dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of videos blocked or removed. Just something to think about. (This is good argument for hosting your own videos and using a service like WordPress.tv.)
  • Privacy: it’s very easy to add a password to a Vimeo video to share with a client. The only similar features YouTube offers is “unlisted” (where the video can only be seen if you have the exact URL) or “Private,” which let you show it to a select group of 50 people via their YouTube accounts.

There’s a lot more I could obviously write about each, but I think I’ve given you enough info to make an informed decision if you’re considering one of these two.

If you just can’t make up your mind, hopefully this video will help you.

Which video distribution resource do you use and why?

10 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Choosing Between Vimeo and YouTube

  1. We switch it up depending on the situation. When Youtube had the 10 minute time limit, I found myself using Vimeo pretty frequently with longer videos. I’m honestly not sold out to either platform, but all things considered, I’d probably go with YouTube. Vimeo has a great community, but YouTube is more recognized by the general public.

    1. Hey TJ, Thanks for commenting. As I mentioned, I think it’s worthwhile to upload to BOTH. There’s no reason to only upload to one vs. the other. The issue is which one you actually embed on your website. And I contend that if you’re audience is primarily made up of professionals, it’s better to use the Vimeo player on your website. I agree YouTube is more recognizable, but Vimeo’s player is brain-dead simple to use. If even someone has never seen one, they’d know what to do.

      1. Ron,
        I’d probably be on board with uploading to both, but I don’t have a paid account with Vimeo, so I think I’ve got an upload limit of 500 megs per week (I think that’s the limit). I just feel like I should save any uploading to Vimeo for times when I definitely need it. Do you have Vimeo’s paid service?

        1. That’s actually a good point TJ I didn’t bring up. The free Vimeo service only allows 1 HD upload per week and 500mb/week. For some people that may be fine. For others, could be an issue. I held out on getting the paid service for the longest time, but finally invested in it a few weeks ago. The $59/year is worth the extra features. Anyway, sounds like you’ve really thought it out. That’s great. There’s no right or wrong in a case like this.🙂

  2. It’s true that YouTube is the catch-all repository for video of the internet, with literally everything from 5 second cellphone kitten videos to feature length films, but it’s also the second largest search engine in the world, behind Google itself. A lot of times if I’m looking for a video, I’ll just start on YouTube rather than hitting Google. Vimeo has its virtues, but if you’re looking for virality, you won’t find it there. But then, I’ve never watched a short film on YouTube.

    I agree with your contention that posting to both is the best policy.

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