YouTube Videos Slow Down Websites

published by Rachel Gold
August 18, 2021 at 5:21 p.m.
  • Many websites embed YouTube videos to enrich pages with video content.
  • Embedded YouTube videos often make ten or more requests before the video starts playing.
  • The YouTube embedded player uses up to 1 MB of data before it even plays a video.
  • Publishing platform Ezoic recommends replacing embedded YouTube videos with other technologies, which are faster and less resource-intensive.

Why Web Publishers Embed YouTube Videos

If you run a website, your main goal is to keep readers engaged. Writers can achieve this by creating high-quality content. Publishers often embed YouTube videos to boost engagement further, hoping to keep eyeballs on their pages (and advertisements).

Sometimes publishers create their own YouTube videos, enjoying a share of ad revenues from the popular video streaming platform. Others embed videos made by popular YouTubers in the hopes of keeping people engaged in their articles. These videos typically align with the webpage’s content but only earn revenues for YouTube and the videos’ creators.

Publishers use YouTube to keep people engaged. Unfortunately, slow websites tend to turn off users. Furthermore, Google’s new Core Web Vitals initiative favors speedy websites in search rankings. Although this isn’t a huge benefit, small publishers can often outrank larger entities by creating fast-loading websites that avoid shifting content after they’re loaded.

Embedded YouTube Videos Slow Down Websites

Publishers seeking to boost engagement by hosting YouTube videos may instead undermine their efforts. It turns out that the embedded YouTube player is quite expensive in terms of resources. Google’s PageSpeed Insights shows the remarkable impact YouTube videos have on a page’s overall speed. In fact, YouTube itself performs poorly on Google’s Page Speed Insights test.

Ezoic’s publishing platform features a suite of performance optimization tools. Its Leap testing tool scanned this site, reporting that embedded YouTube videos severely decreased performance. After this realization, Appledystopia no longer hosts embedded YouTube videos. They’re simply counterproductive to the success of most websites. Unfortunately, YouTube isn’t the only Google technology slowing down site performance. Meanwhile, the company recently implemented page performance (Core Web Vitals) as a ranking factor.

YouTube’s embedded player results in decreased website performance due to its design and footprint. The software component makes over ten requests to its servers before it even plays a video. Instantiating the player on a web page consumes over 1 MB of memory. This may not seem like a lot, but data charges can add up for a mobile customer on a limited data plan.

The javascript for the player is lengthy and extensive, even on Chrome. You’d figure Google would pre-load Chrome with a YouTube compatible video player for the sake of faster loading. Perhaps, out of anti-trust concerns or greater browser compatibility, even Google Chrome loads lengthy and CPU-intensive javascript just to play YouTube videos.

Use Other High-Performance Video Players

YouTube isn’t the only way to stream video content on your website. Ezoic, a popular publishing platform, offers its own free video hosting service. Their service can be fully monetized, with greater revenues going to the publisher than with YouTube. Beyond free video hosting, most websites earn more money with Ezoic’s advertising than Google AdSense. (Appledystopia uses both.)

Wistia is another popular video streaming technology. Its player is fully customizable and even allows branding. More importantly, it’s fast and enables content publishers to tweak the player far beyond YouTube’s capabilities. Wistia is designed with page speed in mind, making it perfect for smaller publishers who need to outrank massive competitors.

Search the web and you’ll find myriad options for playing video. Just make sure your replacement for YouTube is faster. There are also better ways for hosting YouTube videos if no other options are possible.

Use Video Thumbnail Instead of Embedded YouTube Player

If you’re hosting other YouTubers’ content or you’ve grown a following on the popular video platform, abandoning YouTube is not an option. In this case, using a thumbnail instead of the embedded player will increase page speed performance.

The thumbnail could link directly to YouTube; however, most publishers want to keep readers on the page, and if not, at least on the site. If you’re going to use a thumbnail with YouTube, it’s probably best if the link points to another page on your site. Of course, this increases maintenance, and the page with the embedded YouTube player will suffer from poor performance. It’s not the best usability either. The advantage, however, is that the main article page speed won’t take a hit from an embedded YouTube player.

Although a YouTube thumbnail is merely an image, it’s slightly more complicated than embedding some code. If you’re inclined to use plugins for most tasks, there’s a great one for managing YouTube thumbnails in your WordPress site. Keep in mind; some plugins may negatively impact page speed performance. If speed is your objective, using a plugin could undermine this goal.

Sometimes Text Better than Video

Have you ever watched a YouTube DIY or cooking video, only to keep rewinding and watching the steps over and over? It’s come to the point that I prefer websites to YouTube videos when I embark on a home improvement, automotive, culinary, or handicraft project.

The worst thing about YouTube DIY videos is that they’re usually longer than necessary. This is partly due to the will of many YouTubers to stretch out content to increase revenues. Longer videos provide more monetization opportunities. Thus, what should be a two-minute video on carving a turkey ends up being a ten-minute self-indulgent film school project.

If you’re presenting step-by-step instructions, linear media, such as a video, is often a poor way to convey information. Users must rewind the tutorial to review forgotten or misunderstood steps. They can’t print out a video, so they’re forced to fiddle with their iPhone as they toil under the sink to fix a pipe. Most instructional content lends itself better to static media with photographs than moving pictures with sound. Both are best, and a webpage can embed video in a variety of ways.

We’ve seen that YouTube videos detract from a website’s ability to outrank competitors. Because the embedded YouTube player loads slowly, relies on extensive javascript and uses a lot of data, it performs poorly on Google’s PageSpeed Insights test. Given equivalent content, a webpage without a YouTube video should perform better than one with its embedded player. If you must use YouTube, consider creating a thumbnail linking to another page on your site.

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