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In Search of Video SEO That Works

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This article first appeared in the June/July 2009 issue of Streaming Media magazine. Click here for your free subscription.

If you do a quick search on Google for video search engine optimization (VSEO), you’ll get more than 22 million results (see Figure 1, page 40). More than ever, we need to break down what VSEO really means, what it looks like, and how to devise an ROI measurement for the effort.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Google results for "video search engine optimization"

Mark Robertson, a veteran search engine marketing professional and founder of ReelSEO.com, recently posted the results of PermissionTV’s video marketing survey on eMarketer.com. The survey queried 400 senior marketing and media executives, 67% of whom identified online video as a primary focus of their 2009 digital marketing campaigns and budgets. More than 50% of the respondents are also planning the launch of an online video project by the second quarter of 2009. In short, interactive video is a high priority for marketers this year.

The survey also found that brand awareness was cited by 71% of respondents as the foremost value of online video, followed by lead generation (47%), customer retention (44%), and customer conversion (41%). In addition, 33% of respondents expect that their 2009 digital marketing efforts will be least affected by cuts to budgets, much less so than traditional marketing (24%), trade shows (21%), and guerrilla marketing (14%) efforts.

What Does Good VSEO Look Like?
I realized it was time to take a close look at VSEO after being driven through a product demo for a web-based application that promised to simplify the VSEO effort by wrapping videos in logical tags and making them searchable by keywords on the timeline. After a 40-minute behind-the-scenes demo, I asked to see what the VSEO content looks like to end users. In other words, I asked to taste the "secret sauce."

The resulting expedition into Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft Live Search was not good. The keywords that resulted in a video page being listed were derived from a series of inorganic keywords set in a specific order, and the listing was displayed in third place in Google and not at all in Yahoo!.

This exercise left me feeling more confused than ever. The company pitching the product had funding, and its employees were educated, savvy industry types. I just couldn’t fathom how a company could be in business if its product simply didn’t work.

The VSEO Recipe
In the consumer-facing world, VSEO takes several forms that have been wadded together and confused in the minds of the masses; it takes experts in the field to help us understand the variations.

End users looking for a specific type of video are better off going directly to Yahoo! Video, YouTube, or Hulu for a straightforward video search rather than relying on the major search engines, as platforms dedicated to video are more likely to have exclusive content that is easier to navigate with thumbnails and summaries specific to video.

Depending on the point of entry average internet users take to get online, they may go through a portal such as AOL Video, which is powered by Truveo. According to the company’s website, Truveo is "one of the largest video search engines on the Web," powering video search for AOL, Microsoft, Search.com, Brightcove, Qwest, Kosmix, CSTV, and more.

Truveo takes a two-step approach to indexing video content as it is discovered. First, the site uses a standard web crawl to identify new videos, and then metadata is generated and associated with the content. Metadata from transcripts and feeds is gathered, but since most content has neither a transcript nor a feed, Truveo developed a "visual crawler" that looks at surrounding content to determine context.

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