Even for text based web content there are no hard and fast rules for Search Engine Optimization. There are guiding principles and general “rules”, but you can find 5 different genuine SEO experts or “gurus” and get 5 different formulas for proper optimization of content, all of which are mostly right and all of which are slightly different.
SEO for web video is a whole different…and more ambiguous…ballgame. Video SEO is a combination of fact that is severely limited, assumptions that might be mostly true but are still assumptions, alchemy, and Wild Ass Guesses, also known as a WAG. Given that, to date, video SEO is so inexact, many folks will ask, “Why bother with video if it is so hard to get it found?” There are several reasons:
- Because site visitors absolutely LOVE video content. One study showed that visitors were 52% more likely to watch a video…even a bad one…than they were to read text based content.
- Because search engines love video content as well. All other things being equal, video content will show up higher in search rankings than text content.
- Because web video is growing at an unbelievable rate. I used to think web video was “the next big thing”, but no longer. It is not “next”…it is HERE. NOW. HUGE. And getting bigger as I type this. FAST.
here are a few statistics that bear this out:
> comScore found that US Internet users watched nearly 40 billion videos in January 2012.
> Marketing Charts shows that conversion rates for online video increased 10% from 39.9% to 43.9% duringthe 4th quarter of 2011.
> Visible Measures reports consumers chose to watch branded video 2.75 billion times in 2011 compared to 2 billion times in 2010.
Web video placement
In short, not only is video growing, it is growing at a phenomenal rate. So yes, you DO need to at least consider adding web video to your site. With that in mind, and despite the fact it involves alchemy and some WAGs, lets explore SEO for web video.
The A no.1 way to get your web videos seen is to do something I advise against…sort of. During peak hours video uses over 37% of the entire webs bandwidth, with YouTube alone hogging about a third of the total. Because of that, obviously a great way to have your videos seen on the web is by uploading them to YouTube. The fact that YouTube makes it so easy is just an extra benefit, so we should all be uploading out videos to YouTube…right?
Yes, but with two HUGE caveats.
First, if all you wanted was for people to see the video content you create by going to YouTube you wouldn’t even HAVE a website or blog, right? After all, the whole reason for having a site is draw visitors to it. Unless you use YouTube carefully, putting some thought into how much you want to upload and what you want to keep just on your site, you will have some video getting a LOT of views, but all of them will be watched on YouTube instead of your site. And remember, YouTube is not the only video portal on the net, just the biggest. If you choose to use it you might as well use the others as well and get all the exposure you can.
Besides not putting EVERYTHING you want seen on portals like YouTube, don’t put ANYTHING on YouTube you might want to sell, be it a how-to video on building a baby’s crib or a music video of you and your boyfriend singing a song you wrote that you think people will buy…LOL. Do produce the entire how-to video on crib building, then selectively edit it to make a short “teaser” video, showing just enough to get people interested without giving away the farm. Basically grab a few clips from the entire video to make a commercial.
With very rare exception, do this with every video of yours that can be seen on the internet. Give viewers enough to pique their interest, then use that interest to draw them to your site where they can see the entire video.
The only exception I would advise making is for video sites that will put advertising on your videos AND SHARE THE REVENUE WITH YOU. An example of this is a small, little known company named Blubrry (No, that is not a spelling error. Apparently they don’t like the letter “e” at Blubrry). Blubrry will give you, free of charge, a channel, much like YouTube, in one of their categories, and if your videos get viewed enough to interest any advertisers they will make you an offer to split ad revenues with them. I particularly like Blubrry because you have full control over what advertising shows up in your videos. They will host the videos on their server, though I think their server pricing structure is too high, or the videos can be served by another source. I do two weekly shows on the net, one, a political show on a site I own and one a humor show on a site I collaborate on, and the videos for both I serve from my Amazon S3 account, a much less expensive alternative.
The best place to have your videos shown is on your own website or blog. After all, remember, your prime action in having a blog is to get people to come visit it. Everything you do that is site related should be done while considering “eyes on the page”.
The alchemy and WAG influenced technical side of video SEO
So…we come to the nuts and bolts of how to get eyes on your video and on your site.
- First, make good videos…good from the production side and good from the content side. The dollars spent on producing quality video are amazingly small, though using the tools does have a bit of a learning curve, but it is not that bad and well worth the effort.
- Second, give each video a title besides the page or post title that is on your website. If you are uploading the video to a portal like YouTube, title the video with just as much attention as you give post titles on your website. The best titles (along with tags and keywords, which we will discuss later) are informative or educational titles, far outperforming transactional titles. Following up on the crib building instructional we talked about earlier, “how-to build a crib” will far outperform “buy this crib building video NOW!” How-to” equals informative and/or instructional and is good, while “buy now” is transactional and not nearly as effective. Also, make the title catchy. People need to notice it as well as search engines.
- Use video you place on such places as YouTube and Blubrry as portals back to your site’s other content. In the description field of a YouTube video make sure you get both the URL to your site and the site name in the first section of the description. On YouTube, the very first thing a viewer will read in my video’s description is the URL I would like the viewer to go to.
- Keyword and tag absolutely EVERYTHING you possibly can without destroying the readability of any titles and text. On YouTube the tag area needs to contain everything that applies to that video, including long-tailed tags.
- Write a KEYWORD RICH description of the video post
- Search engines “see” the file name of the video file that is being played. Name the file with SEO in mind. If your site is Handcrafted Furniture and you make that video on building a baby crib we were talking about (above) and categorize it under “Baby Furniture, then name the file “handcrafted-furniture-baby furniture-build-crib”.mp4 (or other appropriate file extension). Since 1998 the LFN convention (long file name) has allowed for file names of 255 characters. Use them. As an added benefit, you will not find yourself looking in your computer’s file system, seeing “hfbfbc.mp4” and wondering what the heck it is.
- Search engines love video and rank videos well. With that said, they don’t watch the video, so they cannot search its content as they do text…you need to have text in a page or post to go along with the video. This tests your creative ability. Good SEO practice demands a minimum of 300 words of text to give you really good results, BUT if you write too much about the video content site visitors have the option to skip watching the video and can just skim the text, spending less time on the page, to the detriment of your site’s rankings with search engines. It can be a challenge to give the search enough KEYWORD RICH text to index without giving away the farm.
- For video that is hosted on your site as opposed to a video portal like YouTube, use a sitemap that is specifically optimized for video. In the case of a WordPress site that is easy by using a plugin like Video SEO.