Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending a killer talk about Video SEO by Greg Ng. For those of you unfamiliar with Greg he runs a fantastic web video series about frozen food called Freezeburns (among staying busy with other things). Greg dropped some serious knowledge in the span of an hour about how business can use video to improve organic search engine ranking and increase brand awareness.
Note: this blog post isn’t about how to create great video content, but rather what to do with it once you have it. I’ll leave the video creation topic to another time.
Why Bother With Web Video (or Video SEO)?
Web video is big and only getting bigger. Don’t believe me? Here are some stats that Greg highlighted early in his talk:
- Youtube is the world’s second largest search engine (yes, bigger than Bing and Yahoo).
- More than 186 million US residents watched online video during the month of March 2011, resulting in a staggering 5.7 billion video views; or about an average of 20 views per person (according to ComScore)
- According to Forrester, web video is 53 times more likely than a traditional webpage to receive a first-page organic ranking on search engines.
Yea, I figured that’d get your attention.
What Makes Web Video Work?
The secret recipe for successful online video boils down to 5 ingredients:
1. Quality – like all of your other online content, your videos need to be relevant, interesting and entertaining to your intended audience. Additionally, Greg recommends shooting your video in high-definition (as HD cameras have significantly come down in price over the years) and notes that its particularly important to have good sound quality. Users will forgive the occasional video hiccup, but if the audio is poor they’ll stop watching your video quickly.
2. Community Engagement – more than just a contributing factor to video SEO, an engaged community helps you create better videos through constant feedback as well as increases social sharing of your video content.
3. Distribution – is your video available to users in easily accessible formats and via familiar sites like Youtube, and iTunes? If you want to succeed with your web video, you better make sure to proper distribution.
4. Promotion – like all other online content, you’ll get more views (and impact more customers) if you announce your video through all of your existing communications channels including your blog, email lists, website, social media and traditional advertising.
5. SEO – I believe the analogy Greg used is that video SEO is like “the head of Voltron.” But to translate into layman’s terms, SEO is what makes the other elements all come together.
Video SEO & Youtube
By no means is Youtube the end-all-be-all in online video, but as the most popular online video destination (by a lot); and as a Google property that’s integrated into the search engine; you’ll want to start your video SEO work here. Like its parent company, Youtube ranks videos based on an undisclosed algorithm. However Greg recommends that you fill out all of the available fields when uploading a video to Youtube, and even highlighted a few contributing factors that through iterative testing he’s seen impact the organic rank of his videos. These basics that you should fill out are:
- Video File Name – Putting keywords in the file name (ex: MarketingVideo.mp4) does have measurable, if indirect, impact on the organic ranking of the video.
- Title – Make the title to your video descriptive with the keywords that you want to “own” early in the title. Greg’s example from his own Youtube channel is “Greg Eats and Reviews Wasabi Kit Kats” (as he wants to “own” the “Greg Eats” phrase while still including the specific details of the product he’s reviewing).
- Description – You can include a rather lengthy description that is keyword rich (just don’t keyword spam in order to keep it human-friendly). However, its important to note that Youtube truncates the initial description displayed to 27 characters. With that in mind, best practice is to include a link back to your website first, followed by a your keyword rich description that is relevant to your target audience.
- Tags – An influencing factor in how Youtube ranks videos as well as recommends “related videos;” tags are a way of categorizing by topic or theme. Greg recommends that you use a minimum of 10 tags – 5 that are universal to every video you post (to have consistent discoverability between videos) and 5 that are unique to that specific video. Also, if using multiple word tags input them as one word with initial caps (ex: MethodSavvy instead of Method Savvy).
- Category – Select a category that best fits with the theme of your video. The most trafficked categories are entertainment, comedy, music, sports and news & politics. Please note that you can always switch your category after your video has gone live (which makes it a great variable to test!).
- Thumbnail – Having an eye-catching thumbnail can be a big boost in generating clicks. By default, when using a free account, Youtube grabs thumbnails at 25%, 50% and 75% of the way through your videos. So plan ahead! Custom thumbnails are only available to users with a “brand” or “partner” channel – which can be difficult or expensive to get (brand channels are rumored to start at $200k+).
- Captions & Subtitles – This is a great pro tip. All of the captions and subtitles for the videos are 100% “crawlable” by search engines and do not have to match what is actually being said in the video. This creates a great opportunity for you to use keyword rich (but not keyword stuffed – no “black hat” tricks, please) captions and subtitles.
- Date & Map – Using this option will allow your Youtube hosted video to be shown in Google Earth. As a bonus tip, Greg noted that you can link your Youtube videos to your Google Places (e.g. local search) profile.
- Sharing Options – Greg recommends that you allow everything out of the gate, with the notable exception of “video responses” (which can get a little off-color sometimes). The reason for this is that Youtube factors active commenting and discussion as a factor for the organic ranking of your video. So egging on a comment troll, within reason, isn’t always a bad thing.
Additional Video SEO Pro Tips
Greg’s action packed talk included a wide range of other tips and tricks. Some of his other highlighted recommendations include:
- Video Sitemap – Help Google better index your website (details and instructions).
- Playlists – Use the “playlist” function on Youtube to group your videos into specific themes for easier customer discoverability.
- Own A Theme – if you’re a larger company, or simply intend to produce a lot of videos over various subject matters, don’t be afraid to create different Youtube channels for different “themes.”
- Youtube Insights – Youtube has a free set of analytics that are great for testing purposes (although not as robust as some paid services).
- Syndicate with Blip.tv – Greg recommended Blip.tv as an inexpensive alternative to Youtube. Not only does it syndicate to Youtube, but also has great analytics.
- Nonprofit – If you’re a 501c3 you can apply to Youtube’s Nonprofit Program to receive a free brand channel (which sure beats the heck out of paying $200,000 for it).
Thanks again to Greg for the great talk!