Video can be one of the most effective mediums in the online marketer’s toolkit when it comes to promoting your business, product or service. When video is used and optimised correctly, it is possible to reach first page nirvana – even for high converting phrases…
Don’t just take our word for it – statistics show that videos in universal search results enjoy a 41% higher click-through rate than plain-text. This is because they’re given a prominent position in search results – and also because video thumbnails are far more eye catching than boring old text!
Quality also plays a large role – any marketer worth their salt knows that any content aimed at driving traffic to your site needs to be engaging, useful and intelligent – there is no quick fix when it comes to SEO. So make sure your video is well produced with a good concept, informative and to the point.
The next big thing to focus on is visibility. According to Experian Hitwise, consumers in the UK spend more than 200 million hours watching online video. But what’s the point of having a well produced video if no one can find it? By using the same principles as you would to raise the ranking of any other piece of content, you can make your video appear in search listings.
I have been experimenting with video SEO since Google introduced universal search in 2007 and found a number of easy to implement techniques that can push your video above the rest. Here’s how:
It’s vital to learn what your audience is searching for. Keyword research is… key. Businesses frequently target the more generic phrases that have big search volumes but are not actually that relevant when it comes to video SEO.
Generic phrase examples:
- Holidays Abroad
- Office Furniture
- Real Estate
It’s much more valuable to choose the less searched for, and more specific, informative phrases. One way to see the relevance of a phrase is to look at other sites and media that appear for a particular phrase in search – your competitors are all in the same boat so why not follow what works for them?
Informative phrase examples:
- France Vacation Reviews
- Office Furniture Comparison
- How to Succeed in Real Estate
Before beginning your keyphrase research try entering some phrases in Google and see if videos are already appearing in the web results. If videos are not in the top ten results it could mean the phrases you have picked will be very difficult and costly to get videos appearing on the first page.
It is not impossible to make a video rank highly in Google search for a competitive phrase but you will have to allocate a large portion of your marketing budget towards promoting the video in every way possible.
Google has some handy tools which enable you get an insight into how competitive a key phrase is and how much traffic it could potentially generate. The figures these tools provide are not exact, so it is advisable to only use them as a rough guide. You can also use the tool to find similar key phrase ideas.
It’s important to understand the user intent (also known as ‘query intent’) behind a key phrase group, and you can do this by taking advantage of the ‘auto suggest’ element in Google and YouTube search. Performing manual onsite searches quickly allows you to see the suggested most popular searches and can give you some hints, ideas and recommendations for choosing the right phrase to target.
You may be wondering, what exactly is query intent? Query intent is the term given to the reason why a web user is carrying out a search. It is important to focus on query intent when you’re planning the creative direction for your video, so that Google can successfully interpret this content to fit with searcher’s motivations. Think about their end goal – are they looking to buy a product or read reviews about a service, or are they looking for a specific piece of content?
A study by aimclear.com shows how important query intent is to Google. The research was conducted to examine how query intent can both positively and negatively influence the likelihood of video indexing within Bing and Google. The keyword intent types were split into three groups; informational, transactional and navigational with 74 keywords in each group.
- Informational queries cover a broad topic (e.g., colorado or trucks) for which there may be thousands of relevant results.
- Navigational queries seek a single website, or web page of a single entity (e.g., youtube or delta air lines).
- Transactional queries reflect the intent of the user to perform a particular action, like purchasing a car or downloading a screen saver.
Searches were performed for the keyphrases in each group and the results are as follows:
- 84% of the key phrases in the informational group returned videos in search
- 18% of the key phrases in the navigational group returned videos in search
- 12% of the key phrases in the transactional group returned videos in search
So it’s clearly pretty important to consider the creative intent of your video and make sure it is aligned with how the search engine will interpret its content – maybe time to reconsider that quirky art-house style promotional video that no-one quite understands!
The three categories of keyphrase intent can be worked into the video page by optimising the title and description to include them. Optimisation will vary depending on the nature of your video but there is a basic standard that can be followed to maximise exposure in search.
The main elements to focus on when optimising the video page on any video hosting site like YouTube are: Title, Description and Tags. Each of these three elements will make use of your key phrase research.
Include a descriptive informational phrase in the title that invites the viewer to click and find out more. Asking questions or making comparisons are a good way to drive engagement with your target audience. Example: “brewing beer vs lager” or “how to use photoshop”
Transactional phrases can seem spammy when used in title tags or one line sentences (“buy discount contact lenses”, “cheap holidays” etc) – not many videos rank for these type of phrases. It is easier to make transactional phrases sound more natural by using them in the video description, since you’ll have more room to work the content around the phrase.
Navigational phrases can be used in the title and work well for brands and services; I try to lead with an informational three or four word phrase and then attach the domain.com to the end of the URL. It is also good to optimise the description content to include a navigational phrase. For example, “Learn Guitar With Matt Walker of zeta.net” – zeta.net is the navigational phrase here.
Keyword relevancy and positioning are considered to be some of the biggest ranking factors. Remember that people are not searching to buy stuff on YouTube; they are searching for topics that entertain or inform them – so choose your keywords wisely!
The placement of keywords can make a difference; I have found that putting the targeted phrase at the start of the video title can increase its chance of ranking well. Try to make the heading as clickable and alluring as possible; for example by asking a question or by creating intrigue – make the title so curious that it’s impossible not to click and see what the video is all about!
A well thought out, detailed description that includes your chosen keyphrase can greatly improve a video’s position in search. Including your keyphrase once or twice is best practice; trying to fit it in too many times can make the description appear spammy, so be sure to make it as organic and ‘human friendly’ as possible.
You can use the description to drive the viewer to your site by linking to more information or enticing them with an offer. It is also advisable to add links to your social channels, this enables the viewer to connect directly with you or your brand.
Youtube uses tags for organising videos. If implemented properly, tags can give an extra boost to get your content seen by the target audience. Use the same keyphrase in both the title and the description to maintain consistency throughout the page.
If you have performed keyphrase research then chances are you’ll have already done most of the leg work when it comes to selecting and adding tags.
My tested approach is to tag the primary keyphrases, then start to look at what people might be thinking, and how they search. So if you have a video all about coffee I would add phrases such as: “how to make the perfect coffee” or “where does coffee come from”.
Most of the top video hosting sites allow you to pick an image frame from your video – this will be used as the ‘thumbnail’ image that is displayed in the search results and at the start of a video. Make good use of this feature and your video will really stand out from the rest in search verticals. Think of it as a visual call to action image – your chance to catch the viewer’s eye.
If you’re using YouTube, the site will standard-select three different thumbnail images for you to choose from, and Adwords YouTube allows you to upload a custom thumbnail image. Vimeo also allows you to upload custom thumbnail images.
YouTube gives you the ability to upload transcripts for your video. This is great from an accessibility point of view – but also offers an added video SEO benefit.
Text transcripts that are uploaded to YouTube are spider crawlable – so be sure to include your primary keyphrases – more on this later!
Hosting the video on your own site can be very beneficial if done right, because you can reap the rewards of increased traffic – viewers are also likely to stick around to see what else your website has to offer.
The single best way to make sure Google can find, crawl and index your video is to create a video sitemap (more about this below) but you can help Google along a bit by choosing a video player which is 100% crawlable by search engine bots.
HTML5 is the latest standard and includes support for video, audio and dynamic graphics. Although HTML5 has entered the video scene in a big way flash is still the dominant format supported by most browsers so it order to reach as many people as possible it is advisable to use a flash player with HTML5 fallback support.
Flash video players have been the browser-supported standard for many years but they are not ideal for web crawlers as the spider bots are strongly dependent on video sitemaps to get meta information about your content. The video sitemap contains information that the the spider bot will need to analyse and index the video, such as the title, description and thumbnail.
HTML5 continues to take market share and may indeed one day become the dominant standard that is used for playing videos in browsers.
You’ll need to do a bit of research to see which player suits your needs – here’s a few options to get you started:
When Google’s spiders crawl the page where your video is hosted, they will be looking for information to help Google understand the subject matter, and although search engines are pretty clever these days, the spiders can’t actually watch your video to see what it’s about.
As I mentioned earlier, one way to help search engines understand what you are targeting is to create a text transcript of the video content and add that to the page. Make sure the content is original (which shouldn’t be hard) and include the target keyphrase – but don’t over do it or you could end up being demoted for keyword stuffing.
You will need to include your keyphrases across multiple elements of the page – don’t just cram them in anywhere! The user must always come first so make sure content reads well and captures the readers’ attention. The most important areas in which to include your keyphrases are:
Title tags – the title of the page is often the first thing a user will read in the search results. It must be attention grabbing and include your keyphrases.
Main body content – the main copy on the page. Google will look at the location of your keyphrase on the page, so it’s better to put them high up to give more weight. If you find it hard to add copy you can list a transcript of the video as suggested above. Remember to include the keyphrase a couple of times in the page but don’t overdo it and make sure it reads well.
It’s important to get to grips with video sitemaps when self hosting. A video sitemap works in the same way as a standard sitemap and is designed to tell Google where your video is located so that Google bots can find and index it for search. They can be created manually or by using a tool .
If done correctly you can make your video appear in universal search for selected keyphrases, as well as in the video results.
There are five required main elements that the video sitemap must contain in order for Google to pay attention to it:
- Video location page URL (creating a thumbnail image can be a great way of making the video more clickable)
- Thumbnail image location URL
- Raw video file location and/or the player URL (SWF)
As long as the video sitemap contains the information above, Google will be able to see the location of your video and add it to the video index. Google offers more parameters for the sitemap which can help Google bots understand a bit more about the video such as duration, geotargeting (A space-delimited list of countries where the video may or may not be played.) and uploader information.
Below is an example video sitemap from Google which contains the elements that can be used. To see more visit the Google support page for video sitemaps.
<video:title>Grilling steaks for summer</video:title>
<video:description>Alkis shows you how to get perfectly done steaks every
<video:player_loc allow_embed=”yes” autoplay=”ap=1″>
<video:restriction relationship=”allow”>IE GB US CA</video:restriction>
<video:gallery_loc title=”Cooking Videos”>http://cooking.example.com</video:gallery_loc>
Once you have created the video sitemap you will need to submit it to Google via Webmaster Tools.
Follow these steps for Webmaster Tools sitemap submission:
1) On your Webmaster Tools home page, select your site
2) In the left sidebar, click Site configuration and then Sitemaps
3) Click the Add/Test Sitemap button in the top right
4) Enter /system/feeds/sitemap into the text box that appears
5) Click Submit Sitemap
Once the sitemap has been successfully submitted it will take some time to be processed and for Google to start indexing the page. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that Google will do this, but it is more likely if you have a relatively strong domain. Also, building links to the page in which the video is embedded can help Google find and index it faster.
Analytics give you the ability to check out your video’s ‘playback locations’ – these are the websites that have embedded your content into a page.
Try reaching out to owners of the sites where your video is embedded to see if they would like to run a feature or interview about you and your brand. This is a great way to potentially achieve more exposure – the site owner has already expressed enough interest to embed your video, so there’s a good chance they’ll want to engage further.
There are many social networks that can be used to promote content, but not all will be best suited to your product or service, so a little bit of research is required to get your content in front of the right people.
Facebook and LinkedIn can be used to search for groups and pages where your topic or industry is being discussed, helping you engage with interested parties. Don’t just jump in headfirst and post your video on multiple pages though – try to build up a rapport with the posters first or you risk being considered a spammer and gaining negative attention.
Twitter is a useful resource when it comes to finding individual users who are talking about your topic and it’s easy to spot influential users. Play around with different ideas for tweets that will entice people to click on a link to your content and then share with their followers.
Guest posting can be a really great way to promote your content and get it in front of a larger audience – especially if that audience is already talking about the product or service that you are promoting.
Who are the opinion leaders in your field? You could tailor an article towards their readership – make it informative and try to add value or create an emotional connection.
If your video is about a product you could write about its history, or the design and build process.
If your video is about a service you could write a case study article about it in action (just make sure it is interesting, educational and insightful).
Whatever your chosen topic, just be sure to remember the golden rule of guest posting – avoid making the copy sound advertorial or promotional in any way.
By building relationships with the blog owners you approach and engaging with commenters, you could find yourself becoming an industry thought leader. For more advice about becoming a successful writer of guest posts, we recommend an excellent blog post: ‘Apply the Golden Rule to Guest Posting’.
An easy but often overlooked way to share content is to make use of your own websites, social media accounts and existing contacts. Use all the tools you already have to hand to get your video out there!
Keep monitoring your video’s progress and make adjustments if necessary. Check up on the search terms people use to find your video, and identify the referring sites that have been sending traffic to your video page. The YouTube analytics feature provides informative data and insights which can help you.
When your video hits 500+ views you should have enough data in your analytics to narrow down which keyphrases have been performing well and which haven’t been as effective.
Look at the estimated minutes watched and the average view duration columns and single out search terms which are capturing the viewers attention. The search terms that have a higher than average view duration suggest that the viewer has found what they were looking for. Make a list of the best performing phrases and try to work additional phrases into the title, description and tags.
Video SEO is now a powerful method for brands to increase visibility in search and get a message, product or service in front of a much wider audience. Video hosting sites have become the go-to places for users who are looking for information and instructional content online – and with Google making video more and more prominent in results, the trend looks set to continue.
Take time to understand the vital elements of video SEO; research your target audience and intelligently promote your content and you can drive traffic and engagement through the roof.
I would love to hear any of your own experiences with video SEO. Please comment below or contact me on Twitter.