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SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

8 Ways to Optimize Video Content for Search

Optimizing video for search is easy to overlook and incredibly important. An Inc. 500 CEO tells you how to do it right.
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To say that online video is a phenomenon could only be called an understatement. Every minute, YouTube users upload another 20 hours of video, and every day the site streams 100 million videos.

Yet when it comes to using online video content to help bolster a website's search engine rankings and drive more traffic to it, there is shockingly little definitive direction on how to do this effectively, despite the fact that according to a recent Forrester Research study, videos are 53 times more likely to generate a first-page ranking than traditional SEO techniques.

How did this situation come to pass? Led of course by Google, the search engines are making a bold effort to transform online searching into an experience far richer than the simple list of web page results that we have come to expect.

Dubbed "universal search," the inclusion of disperate types of results can be found in searches for many of the most common sorts of queries; a search for "jesse james" in Google, for example, returns traditional web page results along with images, news items, Twitter feeds, and, yes, videos imbedded directly into the search results as well as links to videos in YouTube.

With the advent of universal search, video content has been showcased by Google and its peers on the first page, and prominently above the fold (the point in the page which you can see without scrolling). This real estate was previously allocated to the third of fourth organic search results. Essentially, video content that does get selected is by default awarded a high ranking on the first page.

More important, many companies find that it is easier to achieve high rankings with video content. First, there is simply less video content out there to compete with for visibility. Second, the video that is out there is generally very poorly optimized, tagged, and referenced, so Google has a hard time identifying and associating the right content with the right search term.

What this all boils down to is a huge opportunity to drive traffic, leads, and, ultimately, business through your website by executing a basic video content strategy that utilizes simple SEO rules of thumb. This step-by-step guide will provide you with 8 quick tips to get your video SEO strategy off to a terrific start.

SEO Tips for Video: Choose the Right Place to Host Your Content

When it comes to hosting video, you have two choices: You can host it on your own site or host it on a third-party site, such as YouTube. The correct choice depends on your goals.

If you want to maximize total video views and you generate value from the views themselves (because, for example, your product is featured in your video), then use a third-party site such as YouTube because it will have the biggest built-in traffic.

However, if your goal is to use video to bring potential customer into your site or to increase the volume of your site's search referrals, then it is best to host your video yourself. Typically, this is done by embedding the video streamed from a video service into a page on your site.

SEO Tips for Video: Pick a Good Title and Description

This really isn't much different from picking a good title and description for a web page for SEO purposes. You want to be verbose, include your most important keywords, but to do it in a way that is user friendly and not simply cramming in the highest possible number of keywords.

For example, if this article were in video form, I would use a title like:

SEO for Video Content: 8 great tips to maximize the SEO benefit of video content

instead of

SEO Video, Best SEO tips, youtube video SEO, traffic from video, www.wpromote.com

Sadly, we still see way too many of these types of titles these days.

SEO Tips for Video: Use a Transcription Service

Since Google cannot look at a video and understand its content per se, associating a text transcript with your videos is a great tool to let the search engines – and video sites such as YouTube – get a better read of your video content. You can manually type up a transcript and upload it to a video service along with your video, or you can use one of a number of automatic transcription services that do it for you. Associating transcripts with your video is a key step in unlocking the content otherwise stuck inside of your great video content.

SEO Tips for Video: Consider Mass-Upload Services

There are very convenient resources such as TubeMogul.com that automate the process of submitting your video to all major (and even some minor) video sharing sites in one fell swoop.

Though these services are simple to use, it is still important that you think before you act; this relates back to the question of whether you are seeking to promote video to enhance search referrals to your site or you simply want to read the widest audience possible.

If you just are going for views, using these convenient services is a no-brainer. However, if you are looking to rank for the keywords related to the video, and you give up this content to the major video sites, most likely their pages will rank higher than your pages on Google, since their sites most likely already have far more site authority than your site has. If your goal is to improve your site's ranking by driving links and traffic to the page on your site, you may want to use mass-upload services sparingly or not at all.

SEO Tips for Video: Include Video in Your Sitemaps

If you are choosing to host video on your site, then it is critical to make sure the search engines know to index the pages that contain the videos as well as information about the videos themselves. You can accomplish this by creating a video sitemap.

A sitemap is a document that tells search engines about pages on your site so they have a better chance of being indexed (in Google's case, these are managed by using Google's "Webmaster Tools.") A video sitemap is a type of sitemap used to specifically identify and tag videos on your site. A good video sitemap will include the video file, a thumbnail image, and title and description information. If your site does not have a video sitemap, the search engines will be unable to include your video directly in related search results (though they could still index the page on which the video lives.)

SEO Tips for Video: Optimize Your Video URLs

Consider this SEO 101: Optimize the URLs of pages on your site by including in them information about the page itself (In other words www.store.com/maytag-dishwashers.html is a better URL than www.store.com/product12345.html.)

The same logic should be applied to the page that contains your video:

www.mysite.com/video/seo-tips.html is a stronger URL than www.mysite.com/seo-tips.html

SEO Tips for Video: Keep It Short

As brilliant as you think your video is, you should not expect anyone to watch a video that runs longer than 10 minutes. Personally, I consider 10 minutes to be a bit too long, as I am prone to tune out after more than 3 minutes unless the content I'm watching is truly awesome.

If you have 30 minutes of content and you just can't cut it down, then make it into a series of smaller videos. This has the benefit of keeping users' attention more engaged through each video. it also allows you to multiply the number of videos that you can optimize, tag, drive traffic to, and rank highly on Google for.

SEO Tips for Video: Spread the Word

Once you have created content worth sharing, tagged it, and submitted and uploaded it, it's time to get the word out. Videos attract an incredible number of in-bound links, which is key because in-bound links have a disproportionate effect on boosting your SEO rankings.

To spread the word, post a link to your video on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, allow and encourage commenting on your video, and make it easy for users to share your video on their Facebook, Twitter, Youtube accounts and personal blogs. E-mail your mailing list and link to the video. Encourage your employees, colleagues, friends, and family to help get the word out, too.

If your video is a bit more commercial and less likely to go viral, an inexpensive advertising campaign on YouTube or Google is always an option, and can often provide the much-needed spark to help a video gain an audience.

The bottom line is that online video is far more than a good way to kill time; it is an amazing medium to educate your customers, expand your reach, drive traffic to your site, and increase sales. With some unique content and a basic understanding of how to handle the SEO for that content, you can tap into this exciting and dynamic opportunity.

SEO Tips for Video: Additional Resources


Check out Google Video Sitemaps

SpeakerText offers a quick and reliable video transcription service.

TubeMogul.com is a good tool for mass-video uploading.

Check out Mashable's list of the top 10 video sharing sites.

Ramp.com is a useful content-indexing tool.

Michael Mothner is the founder and CEO of Wpromote, a search-engine optimization and pay-per-click management consulting firm based in Los Angeles.

Last updated: May 10, 2010




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