The discipline of SEO is growing ever wider, if people want something they search for it; if people want it businesses want to sell it, and if you have both these circumstances search marketers can help.
Video has always been a great way to promote yourself online but nearly every week some change in how one of the major search engines operate seem to make video an even more essential part of your SEO process.
Despite it’s unavoidable importance there are very few blog posts dedicated to the subject; however one website dedicates itself to video SEO – Reel SEO, that’s where a significant chunk of my knowledge on the topic came from, and if it isn’t already a website you subscribe to, it should be.
When-ever you’ve been carrying out research and experiments I’ve found it can be a useful experience to synthesize your thoughts into a document. It helps you crystalize your thoughts and helps you share that knowledge within you team.
And in spirit of sharing I thought you might also be interested to read it.
To Host or Not
Traditional SEO best practice suggests keeping a significant proportion of your content on your own site and where you do share content on other sites you do so in return for a credible link.
This decision isn’t as simple when it comes to video. Largely for technical reasons video is typically hosted on third party websites like YouTube & Vimeo.
Over the last couple of years the ease with which you can host video on your own site has fallen dramatically in cost and difficulty, which makes whether you host something internally or externally a marketing rather than a technical decision.
The benefits of third party hosting is largely focused around reach and audience. If you believe some stats YouTube is the second biggest search engine behind Google; you can’t register in those search results unless your hosted on YouTube.
The two main downside are the lack of flexibility and lack of ownership. Hosting content on your own site is much more flexible, you can use technology like MRSS and Video Sitemaps which we will later in the post.
Secondly the traffic is a step removed from your site. If you’re a publisher it’s hard to get a ‘fair’ share of the revenue generated by the adverts on Google and you’ll definitely make less per view than if it was hosted on your own site.
If you are trying to generate leads or sales off the back of your video you may also struggle with third party hosting. Their prerogative after a view is to get the audience to watch another video, this is usually at direct odds with what you are aiming to achieve.
Though every case is different a model we’ve often used that I can recommend is treating the third party sites a bit like the film industry treats DVDs and Blurays. Premiere the video on your site. Any immediate links and traffic the video receives will be directly attributed to you.
Then at predetermined point in time you syndicate the video more widely on the third party networks.
Guy Vaynerchuk has become one of the leading proponents of online video and has written a book on the subject – Crush It The book itself is fairly lightweight but it was worth the cost of the book for the tip of a website that allowed you to upload your video to a dozen of the most popular video sites and centrally manage the analytics and views in one reporting centre.
It’s known as TubeMogul and if you do go down the third party route its a must investigate option.
YouTube Ranking Factors
The algorithm of YouTube hasn’t had the same scrutiny or examination as the main Google Algo but there does seem to be a consensus about the ranking factors used in the YouTube search results.
- playlist additions
- age of video
- channel views
- Inbound Links
Those then used to trigger when a video is displayed in universal search results differ slightly, as do the internal search result on other video sharing sites; but looking at how you can improve each of these factors is always a good approach.
Hosting the Video On Your Own Site
There are numbers of ways to easily host the video on your site. I’ve had some great success with FlowPlayer though it’s not a particular intuitive tool or really an option for people uncomfortable with web development.
Another more basic tool that I’ve been playing with lately that’s nice and simple is Cutt.Tv which is a simple widget based player that can do the job for most people.
You’ll all be familiar with RSS feeds, people have adapted this format to deal more comfortably with media files like videos. Though not that widely used they seem to have a very positive effect on Google indexing videos and can’t do any harm when it comes to ranking.
It was created years ago by Yahoo, but much like micro-formats it’s only recently really started to really come into play. You can find out more about the specification here. But as you would expect there are a number of plugins for most of the major CMS that handle the additional capabilities of Media RSS.
While Yahoo have thrown their weight behind MRSS Google seem to be favouring the Video XML sitemaps which work in a slightly different way.
Video Sitemaps work in a very way to traditional XML sitemaps bar a few tweaks.
Once it’s created you’d go through all the usual Sitemap protocol uploading it in Webmaster Tools and specifying its location in your robots.txt.
Like normal sitemaps in isolation they’re not going to completely shoot your video up the rankings but good indexing is a pre-requisite for good rankings so an important process to go through.
Another good feature of the Video Sitemap protocol is that it allows your to specify a thumbnail image which would be displayed when your videos appear in search results.
This is great for improving click throughs as without specifying the thumbnail Google would choose an still image at random often the middle frame that may not be representative of the video as a whole.
Transcription and Closed Captioning
For a long time it’s been best practice to accompany any audio or video with a text transcription of what is said to better help the search engines understand the content of the video. This is still a good idea and one we really should be implementing on the podcast. It’s a task you can comfortably and affordably outsource to a website like oDesk
and there’s no excuses really.
If you’ve got this text you should really add it as a Closed Caption on YouTube as lots of people seem to think it can help your search rankings for the keywords mentioned in the video’s audio content.