While I was busy teaching one of Bulldog Reporter’s PR University Master Class webinars on Friday, several of my friends and colleagues were busy writing stories about a sudden drop of video content in the rich snippets that Google sometimes displays in search results. I found out about the latest changes when Jennifer Slegg, the founder and editor of The SEM Post, contacted me to ask, “Do you have any comments about what you are seeing?” Heck, I hadn’t seen a thing until she contacted me. Sometimes you find the news. Sometimes the news finds you. So, I took a crash course on what had happened while I’d been busy preparing for something else.
The Case of the Disappearing Video Snippets
The first blogger to break the story was Chad Gingrich, who writes for the SEER Interactive blog. On Wednesday, July 16, 2014, he said, “Today we started seeing across many clients that video snippets stopped appearing in the SERPs for domains. YouTube snippets are unaffected, however, it seems that video snippets may be going the way of authorship thumbnails.”
Gingrich included several graphics in his initial post, including this one comparing Vevo’s video pages (which are still getting snippets) to Moz’s Whiteboard Friday posts (which have lost snippets).
An early update by Gingrich on Thursday, July 17, included this chart of Mozcast data that confirmed the significant dip in video snippets.
A later update by Gingrich on Thursday noted that SEOlytics had chimed in with an analysis of 10,000 video results, which showed a loss of 87% of domains displaying video results and 44% fewer video snippets in the Google SERPs.
On Friday, July 18, Danny Goodwin of Search Engine Watch reached out to Google, and a spokesman said simply that, “We'll continue to show video snippets where it's most relevant.”
Is Google Removing Thumbnails in Favor of Paid Ad Real Estate?
That day, a post by Larry Kim on The Wordstream Blog said, “The recent deletion of authorship photos from the SERP, followed closely by the loss of video snippets might point to a larger trend: Is Google going to remove all visual elements from the organic results, so that only the paid ads have eye-grabbing images? If so, that sucks for SEOs.”
Slegg’s post later that day included an updated their chart from Moz, showing that there had been a 4% increase in the number of video thumbnails showing in the search results over the previous day. However, the over decline from July 16 was still quite dramatic and there’s no way of telling if the uptick on July 18 will continue.
Slegg also noted, “There has been speculation that the change was related to the recent authorship change, which saw author thumbnails disappear from the search results. However, a Google spokesperson has confirmed that the change is not authorship related.”
So, Where Does That Leave Video Marketers and SEOs?
As Slegg observes, “If you are an SEO who makes extensive use of video rich snippets in the search results, Google has made a change that dramatically affects the number of video thumbnails (snippets) that appear in the Google search results. The changes also hint that there might be an algorithm change that goes beyond video snippets in play as well.”
But as I told her – after quickly coming up to speed on the latest changes – there are some things that SEOs who have lost visibility with the new video thumbnail changes can do to mitigate the impact. A recent analysis of Google universal search results by Searchmetrics (June 18, 2014) found that videos appeared in 65% of Google searches in the U.S. However, 54% of these video results were from YouTube, about 5% were from Vimeo, about 5% were from Dailymotion, and MUZU TV, Howcast, Artistdirect, and eHow each had about 1%.
So, YouTube still has a stronger placement compared to non-YouTube video sources. In addition, the average first Video integration from YouTube was about two positions ahead of the average first position of a video from any other website. So, although it may seem counter-intuitive, your best strategy for improving the ranking of your video content in Google universal search results often involves improving the ranking of your videos in YouTube instead of using schema.org to mark up your videos or creating a Google Video Sitemap.
Those are my comments about what I’m seeing ... belatedly. However, please share what you are seeing in the comments area below. Or, join me at the Grill the Gurus session at next week’s Reel Video Summit. I’ll be floating between tables.