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If You Publish It, Will They Come?
Online Video Platform Summit explores the importance of both video SEO and social media recommendation

Mark Robertson, Founder of ReelSEO, moderated a panel at the 2010 Online Video Platform Summit titled "If You Publish It, Will They Come?"

Robertson, who has a background in SEO, started by noting that there's an equal dynamic on optimizing content through both social media and search tools.

"TubeMogul's recent research shows that, while Google continues to generate the highest volume of traffic to online video content," said Robertson, "referral traffic from Facebook and Twitter is growing faster than traditional engines as a source of video views."

Perhaps by next year, Robertson added, social media may overtake Yahoo. 

Frank Sinton, CEO, of MeFeedia-a company that has a media engine to help users find content from across the web but also runs All Player to help monetize content-agreed that social media is a growing force, at least for viewing times.

"The portion of video watched when it has been recommended by a friend is significantly higher than viewing times for content found by search," said Sinton.

Mike Sommers, executive vice president of products for New York-based KickApps, challenged the audience to stick with the basics of video content and use optimization for what it's good for-to drive traffic.

"Don't look at creating new forms of content," said Sommers, "because certain types-funny, safe for work, short-of video content accelerate more when it comes to viral marketing."

News-related video and how-to content tend to be "found" content that is discovered via search engines, added Robertson, but entertainment is driven by higher views fro social media and recommendation.

"Think of it the way an advertiser approaches it," said Sinton. "For instance, what kind of audience are you trying to target, and what kind of videos best reach that audience? Then determine your discovery strategy."

Patrick Starzan, vice president of marketing and distribution at Funny or Die, said the company uses both user-generated and professionally produced content, and that search plays a big role.

"Search is still, for us," said Starzan, "a much bigger factor in our content being played, but social media gives us more engaged viewers. Our optimization (SEO) may be driven by top celebrities we've worked with-Lindsay Lohan searches yield Funny Or Die as one of the top "found" sites-but then viewers spend a lot of time browsing and viewing other videos."

Adam Singolda, CEO and Founder, Taboola, said both search and social media are important.

"Spend time on optimization," said Singolda, "and look closely at the anchor videos which bring viewers to your sites, but remember that most sites-including those with interesting videos-are primarily still not video-centric sites. SEO isn't a big issue for most sites that have video, unless the site has a significant number of videos"

"If you're trying to sell a product, use search," he added, "but if you're pushing entertainment, consider social media. Many websites spend time improving SEO and it may result in double the number of views. But to triple or quadruple viewing, it needs to be disseminated to a number of locations."

MeFeedia's Sinton agrees.

"Two ecosystems are in balance here," said Sinton. "The first is optimizing for YouTube and the other is optimizing for all other video sites or search engines. When people hear about a video going viral, the tendency is to type a search into YouTube.com, so it's not surprising that it's the number two search engine in the world."

"They get a billion queries for videos on their site each month," added Robertson, "which is more than Yahoo gets for all of its search queries."

"Remember that these are also searches just for content on the YouTube site, which makes it an even more impressive number," added Sinton.

When it comes to brand, Funny or Die's Starzan said they took a contrarian approach that paid off.

"We chose to do a walled-garden approach first," he said, "as a way to build the brand, and then eventually rolled it out to YouTube. As a result, we don't see YouTube views as cannibalizing our brand or the video views on our own website. We see about the same amount of consumption on YouTube as we do on our own site."

The summit continues Wednesday, November 3, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

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The continued success of Funny or Die—the site launched by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's "The Landlord"—is a shining example of marrying the best of Hollywood to the best of Silicon Valley.