When you think of online videos, what’s the first thing you think of? YouTube, right? While it may be the most popular video distribution platform, that’s not to say it’s the only option. And while YouTube could easily be considered the second most popular option behind Google, if it were a search engine anyway, there’s more to video than throwing it up on YouTube and hoping for the best. With a bit of work, you can make a real impact on your ranking.
Define Your Goals Before You Start
To provide a decent return on investment, your videos must align with your overall SEO and content strategies. If you don’t take the time to define your goals ahead of time, you could cost yourself a great deal of money – and that money could have been spent in other areas that are more effective for marketing or SEO improvement.
If you want the videos to increase the inbound links to your website to help boost ranking – what else are you hoping to accomplish? Do you want them to increase conversions? Increase targeted traffic that is more likely to convert to a paying customer? Or are you fine with it just helping with off-page SEO? This helps craft the content strategy you’ll use in your videos – and ensures you’re not wasting money, or focusing on the wrong benefit.
Write an Awesome Description
If you’re hosting your videos on a service like YouTube – the text in the description helps determine whether or not it will show up in the search results for the keywords you’re hoping for. If you’re hosting on your own website, the description can help users decided if the video content is really what they are looking for, and whether or not they want to watch it.
On YouTube, you’ll have 5,000 characters to write a description of your video. That’s a lot of space, so you’ll have plenty of room to write as much as possible about your video. You can also use that space to ask people to share, embed, and thumbs up the video. This will help influence your rankings not only in YouTube, but in Google as well.
Put Those Headline Writing Skills to Good Use
On YouTube, you only have 99 characters to optimize your title text, so you definitely need to first consider your target keywords, and any other related keywords you’re trying to rank for. But, of course you want to think about your users – who really want to know what the video is about – not just the keywords you’re trying to rank for. Make sure you weave the keywords into the headline naturally – so it’s engaging enough to encourage clicks without completely neglecting SEO.
Make Sure Your Videos Provide Value
Part of ranking focuses on the amount of time people spend watching your videos, just like the amount of time someone spends on your website. That means whatever your video is about, it must provide real value – to keep your audience engaged and paying attention. If you’re just churning out videos for the sake of getting content on your channel – it’s not going to serve you as well as taking your time and creating one absolutely stellar video would.
Use your video to show your audience how to do something – because tutorials are always valuable. Check out your competition and see if they’re using video in their strategy. If you find they are, take a close look at whatever they’re doing – and make a plan for how you can do it better.
If you can’t solve a problem – provide new information. Film white boarding sessions. Interview an expert. There’s always something you can do.
Including transcriptions is helpful in a number of ways. First, when you want to catch someone who’s on the go – it’s not always possible for the to watch your video with the sound on. The transcriptions allow them to follow along with the video when they’re in an environment where it’s hard to hear, or would otherwise disturb people who are nearby.
But beyond usability, the transcription can also help videos get indexed. In an experiment, adding a transcript to a video caused it to go from unranked, to ranking on the first page, in Bing and Yahoo, anyway, within three weeks. YouTube recently included the ability to add transcriptions, but if you’re hosting on your own domain – more on that below – you can include the video transcriptions directly in the HTML of the pages where your videos are hosted.
And, you know I’m a huge proponent of repurposing content, just because it is not only useful for your audience, but also a major time saver for you. Transcriptions are great starting point for creating additional content – such as the basis for a blog post that you can link back to your video.
Host on Your Own Domain if Possible
Sure, video hosting platforms like YouTube and Vimeo have a place – but in terms of SEO value, there’s nothing better you can do but host the videos on your own domain. Why? Because when you use a dedicated hosting service like YouTube, you’re giving them the traffic. You can always embed the video to your site with the embed code, but it’s still getting all the credit.
When you host on your own platform, you’ll want to focus on accessibility, media RSS, and making it available in multiple formats – HTML 5, Silverlight, iTunes/iPad/iPod-friendly video formats, etc. to ensure that as many people as possible can watch the videos on their preferred devices.
Make sure your player code is optimized – it should be no different than the code on any other page on your website in that respect. Focus on delivering a stellar user experience, especially for the visitors coming to you from organic search.
Encourage your users to share the content, but to avoid theft, watermark the videos with your logo.
If for any reason, you can’t host the videos on your own platform, remember there are three things that YouTube looks at when it determines how to display their search results. It looks at the text in your titles and descriptions – hence the first two tips I wrote about – and the ratings.
Create a Video Sitemap
Use an online video platform that will create a video sitemap on a subdomain of your domain – like videos.yourdomain.com.
When you build that video sitemap, make sure it’s configured correctly. Each entry needs to link to a landing page for a video. You don’t have to include metadata, but it’s highly recommended. It’s best to use a video platform that will automate this process for you, or you will have to spend time updating the sitemap each time you add new video content. You can use a video sitemap even if you’re hosting on another platform, too, to ensure they’re indexed in the search engines. It all comes down to the data you provide with schema.
Use YouTube Wisely
If you’re not hosting your full videos on YouTube, it doesn’t mean you can’t still benefit from the popularity of that platform. Instead, treat it as a quick stop on the way to the final destination – your website. To take advantage of the awareness YouTube offers, while still benefiting your video SEO, upload shorter video previews, with annotations in the video that include a call to action to drive people back to your website’s video library. Your preview video should be a separate piece of content – with a different title and description or summary, and maybe even a different thumbnail. Think about whatever the view needs to be motivated to click through. This will ensure you avoid duplicate content, but still create a good user experience.
Video views aren’t added on YouTube until the video is watched for at least eight seconds, so you’ll want to make sure the beginning of your video is enticing enough to keep people watching that long.
Make it Possible for Others to Embed Your Videos
As you build a library of videos, make it possible for others to include it in their work. When you make it simple for others to embed your videos on their website, you’re more than likely going to see an increase in inbound links, which is a clear boost to your SEO efforts.
Include Interactive Elements
When someone is watching your video, there’s a chance to guide them to another step with a call to action. You have several options such as quizzes, surveys, and forms, and even in-video links. This can help your viewers go to your website, app, or another destination to help move them through the funnel.
Promote, Promote, Promote
When you have your videos ready to go and want to start driving traffic to them, it’s time to promote the heck out of them. Share them on your social media channels. Submit them to video search engines. Include them in social bookmarking. If you have a budget, consider using PPC to drive traffic that way.
Share your videos to your existing customers – if they are relevant, of course – in your email marketing messages. Reach out to influencers who would collaborate with you, either in a video, or through content. Write and distribute a press release to announce the development of your video library or new YouTube channel. Promote your video channels in your company’s printed materials.Develop a promotional campaign for your videos.
Video is Part of an Overall Content Strategy
Video is a vital part of content strategy, but it’s not the only thing you need to be paying attention to. Think about how it fits into the rest of your strategy, and take time to regularly evaluate how video is meeting your predefined goals. Don’t be afraid to switch gears or experiment when something’s not working out like you want it to.
What’s been your experience in video optimization? Tell me in the comments below.