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How to Optimize Video for Search Engines

July 19, 2010

When I was a kid, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a book that didn’t have pictures and my favourite toy was my Fisher Price music box. Luckily, I developed a better appreciation of words and content as I got older… but that’s not to say I’m still not a sucker for pictures and video.

I know I’m not the only one who likes visuals. When I post a link, I will often get more clicks to an image or video than what I would to a standard HTML page. Would the Old Spice viral campaign have achieved 6 million views in the first 24 hours (more than Obama’s victory speech) if those videos were just words on a page? Whilst describing Isaiah’s abs in words may be fun, I think you’d agree: seeing is believing!

As Old Spice showed, video can have a big impact on your brand. Whether you have video on your site, or on a third-party site, or both, it’s important to optimize it for search. So here’s a few tips to help you with your video optimization efforts.

1. Start with great content

Whilst great content alone will not earn you that coveted top rank, it certainly helps you on your way. If your content is worth people’s time, then they will watch it and if they like it, they may even share it with their network. It’s always a lot easier to get (or ask) people to link to content that isn’t crappy, and whilst SEO can lead viewers to water, only the video itself can make them drink. 

So with this in mind, it is wise to find out what your audience is interested in and develop content to address those needs. Sometimes what companies “think” their customers want is very different to what their customers “actually” want. Just like with the written word, people watch and share videos that are appealing and interesting to them. Great content will form the foundation of your optimization efforts.  

2. Produce a video transcript

Search engine algorithms are smart, but not to the point that they are able to watch your video to determine how relevant it is to a person’s search query (not yet anyway). The fact of the matter is that they need written content to physically crawl and index.

This is where video transcripts come in to play. Make sure that when planning out your video content, your writers know exactly what keywords you are targeting. This way the script can be developed to prominently utilize these keywords, resulting in keyword-rich transcripts for the engines to crawl.

3. SEO your tags and descriptions

When submitting your videos to third-party sites, make sure you tag your video with your keywords, and include your keywords in the header tag, alt tag and title – just as you would when optimizing any of your preferred landing pages for search.

In terms of the description field, the best recommendation I’ve seen is from the very knowledgable @SEOCatfish:

  • Start with a link to your website or wherever you want the viewer to go for more information
  • Follow it with two sentences summarizing what the video is about
  • End with the video script

According to comScore (2009), we watch more YouTube videos than what we conduct Google Searches. If you’re a YouTube user you’ll know how easy it is to click away from the video you are watching and 20 minutes later end up in a completely unrelated path to what you started out on – it’s like ADD on steroids. For this reason, I think starting the description with a link back to your website is a great way to try to break that browsing mode and get interested viewers back to your site to learn more.

4. Spread its availability

If you’ve spent the time, effort and money to create a video, then it makes sense to put it out on the Internetz and make it available in as many places that it makes sense to, including:

Your Website – Build out an area on your website where all of your videos can live. As with your other pages, make your video page search friendly – create a video sitemap; optimize your video titles, headings, descriptions and tags with your keywords; keep your page load times down; and remember to link to your video pages from within your site using the appropriate anchor text.

Third-party sites – by posting your video on external video sharing sites, like YouTube, you can open up the availability of your video to a much wider audience. If your video is done right, you can use the video to reel viewers on these sites back to your own site where they can learn more. This can be particularly useful for targeting those who may be in the interest and early consideration stages of the buy cycle. Also, if you have a network of distributors, make it easy for them to embed the video on their sites too, which leads nicely into…

Social Sites – Making your videos easy to bookmark, share, comment, and rate can help improve your viral potential. If your company is active in social channels (for example, on Twitter or Facebook), then link to your videos from these places to further encourage sharing, “likes” and comments. Social search efforts are still taking shape, but you don’t want to miss out on any potential social factors in search algorithms when things do move into full swing.

5. Choose an interesting thumbnail

The thumbnail may not seem like a big deal, but when your video appears in search engines, or when your viewers are scanning video lists, or when your supporters are sharing videos, the video thumbnail will likely be the first thing that catches their eye (at least, I know it is mine!). So remember not to overlook this, and make sure you carefully choose an interesting thumbnail image that encourages the would-be viewer to click and see more.

What tips can you share to help optimize video for search?

From → Search Marketing

  1. Great post, Imelda!

    We’re tinkering, more like brainstorming, some ideas for video for our employer.

    It’s not easy! Covering bases, like the items you’ve outlined, will be a big help.

    Thanks and cheers!


    • Thanks Andrew, and you’re most welcome – always happy to share ideas. Good luck with your video planning!

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