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Searching for Successful Video SEO Strategies: What Really Works

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Some of the obvious ways include ensuring that the video lives on its own webpage and is not part of a video gallery (which is also invisible to Google). It’s also important to make sure that the video has appropriate thumbnails around it, that it has a good title and description, and that there are tags around the video, as well as a transcript, Wilde says. However, producing a good transcript “can be extremely time consuming,” he added. Nonetheless, “those are all the onsite challenges.”

The off-site challenges include creating a video sitemap and submitting it to Google and Bing, for those search engines support the documented standard for video sitemaps, Wilde says. Another disadvantage is that Google favors YouTube videos over other videos. Without submitting a video sitemap with good tags and transcripts and a good thumbnail, it will be difficult for a video to surface inside of the search results, as well as in the Google/YouTube video clip, he says.

Clay stresses that embedding a video on a website is an option. However, when a video is embedded, there are rules in how to go about it so it is effective. “If you follow the rules you can get the video to appear in Google search results, and when people click on the video -- rather than going to YouTube -- it goes to your website,” he says.

There is a way within the website to get representation in the Google search results, and there is a way through universal features so that YouTube results can also appear in the Google search results, Clay says. “You can get both of those pretty effectively,” he added. To do that, the video needs to be associated with some dominant keywords, and the keywords need to be placed in the video’s file name, according to Clay. The keywords can also be placed in metadata and the scripted text, he says. Video can also be optimized for local uses, he added. For local rankings of video, ensure there are keywords that emphasize local properties, he says.

Also, getting viewers to the webpage is the first part; keeping them there is the second part. To increase the likelihood viewers will continue watching a video, producers need to know that research shows if there is a person in the video speaking, it gives the viewer an increased feeling of trust in the website and has a positive influence on conversion, Clay says. What that shows is when optimizing videos, implementation is multifaceted -- covering everything from search-engine ranking to content -- and can be done so the video performs better on YouTube. If it does not show as well in Google, it can be deployed in such a way that it facilitates “in conversion” within a website, he says.

Challenges and Pitfalls

Of course there are challenges and pitfalls to avoid. A few of those include 1) posting a video that is more focused on entertaining rather than providing value; 2) using a Flash player that is not readable by any of the search engines; or 3) posting a video without any optimization.

Throwing up a video while not doing any optimization means the video is not going to show up in search results, so it is not going to be viewed, Clay says. SEO video is “not a matter of ‘make a video and they will come,’” he stressed. Even in the videos that are successful, some promotion is necessary. “There is a certain degree of ‘buzz’ required to get it to accelerate through the industry and among viewers.” So, without any promotion, “it doesn’t matter if the video is hosted on YouTube or not,” he says.

However, for Glosser the biggest pitfall is using a Flash player that is not readable by any of the SEO engines, so no metadata, titles, transcripts, keywords, or search terms are being exposed. When that occurs, it does not matter if the video is on a website, because its value is not being optimized.

In addition, when a video is syndicated and appearing on lots of different websites, the producers have to avoid a situation where search engines point to different versions of the same content that are on websites other than the home website, according to Glosser. The danger of a video appearing in multiple places is that the search engines tracking the video can be confused, he says. While that could be a problem, the way to deal with it is to have the online roads lead back to the home website, even if a viewer goes first to another website to watch the video content, he says.

Another syndication pitfall is attempting to make a “viral” video rather than a valuable video, Aders says. Producers should not “jump on a trend like the ‘Harlem Shake’ and expect to drive results,” he says. “Focus on value and your video will be shared.”

In addition, it is a mistake to ignore mobile devices, because a large portion of online videos are consumed on mobile devices, Aders says. Producers need to ensure the video is launched in a mobile-friendly format so the mobile audience is not locked out, he says.

And producers should be mindful of placing the wrong content on the wrong hosting platform, says Nottingham. The hosting strategy for any specific video campaign should be based on the content type and the specific marketing goals, he says. Therefore, the easiest way to avoid making a mistake is to ensure the creative process starts with a goal, rather than just creating content and then trying to work out how to “optimize it,” he says.

The Future of Video SEO

Despite the challenges and pitfalls, it is likely that within a few years it will be a challenge to conduct business without video SEO.

Having rich media types such as video throughout a website is going to become a prerequisite of having a site that ranks well in the search results, Nottingham says. Video will become something companies need to invest in just to stay competitive. Ensuring that a specific video really helps with marketing goals will become the core activity of anyone working in video SEO. It will affect both the technical and creative side of video marketing, he says.

Clay echoes that opinion, saying video SEO “is something you’re going to have to do.” Videos increase engagement, traffic, and conversions to websites, which will need to have professional-level videos, he says.

In the more immediate future -- within a year or so -- video optimization will be simplified by the search engines, Gould says. While there are tools out there to facilitate XML sitemaps and schema. org markup, the SEO video process can still be a bit technical for some, he says. “I expect to see a resource similar to Google’s Data Highlighter for video to make that more accessible,” he added.

This article appears in the October/November 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "The Search for Successful Video SEO."

SEO image via Shutterstock.

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