When Google first announced the support for video sitemaps, there were many folks who asked why they didnt support MRSS feeds as video sitemaps.  It then became clear that Google did accept MRSS feeds from some partners, but that they were interested in creating a xml sitemap protocol (which is a good idea – more to follow) for video.  Either way, if you were to look at the sitemap instructions on Google, you would not have seen mention of MRSS as an acceptable format for video sitemaps. In fact, if you look at their main page in the help section "About Video Sitemaps,” there is still no mention of MRSS feeds.

What is frustrating about this is that MRSS was something that was established much earlier (2004) and many publishing platforms, as well as podcasting and video podcasting already provide and support MRSS feeds, which can also be read by feed readers.  Additionally, if you examine the elements required for a Google XML sitemap, all are already available in MRSS. We submitted MRSS feeds directly as a video sitemaps in Google and often times they were accepted so long as media enclosures were included (more on that later).

Well, if you check the webmasters help pages now, they have updated the instructions page on how to create and submit video sitemaps and guess what? Google MRSS and RSS2.0 for Video Sitemaps   Tips and Info

"If you publish an mRSS feed for the video content on your site, you can submit the feed's URL as a Sitemap. For detailed information on creating an mRSS feed, including samples and best practices, please see the Media RSS specification. Google also supports RSS 2.0 using enclosures tags for video content and thumbnail urls.”

In fact, Google has actually supported MRSS feeds for some time.  They even had a document buried within the webmaster center that could not be found within the sitemaps section with detailed specifications for formatting MRSS for video sitemaps. On the Google webmaster support forums, there was a question regarding clarification on whether or not MRSS feeds were accepted back in November and the answer was as follows;

"Yes, we do support mRSS for video Sitemaps. It's not explicitly mentioned, which may cause some confusion (we'll fix that :-) – thanks for bringing it up).  What you can do is the following: Just submit your mRSS file as a normal Video Sitemap in Webmaster Tools…”

So, it appears that they did, in-fact "fix" the documentation

So Then, The Question is Which is Better, MRSS or XML Sitemap?

In a related forum post, there was a question on the fact that in Google's documentation, there is no information on what the difference is in terms of indexing preference, value, etc…  IE, are their any benefits to using an MRSS feed over a XML sitemap?  The response was,

"If you're already using Video Sitemaps, I'd stick with them. Some sites already create mRSS feeds (but don't create Video Sitemaps), for them it would be easier to just use the mRSS feeds. If you can do both, I'd recommend sticking with the Video Sitemaps format.”

Being that I am not an IT guru and I certainly know very little about XML, I cant address why Google would choose this method but my guess is that perhaps it helps to standardize the information they need, in a format more easy to digest…  See, I am no IT guru ;-)  HAHA.   Anyone wana confirm?

My Prediction

So, it sounds like XML sitemaps will not be going anywhere anytime soon.  Furthermore, if you read the post that accompanied our interview with Jeremiah Andrick, Program Manager for Microsoft's Live Search, you will see that even Jeremiah indicated it would be a good idea for video content owners to indicate the location of their video XML sitemap in the robots.txt file so that other search engines, like MSN Live Search, could more easily index their video content.  MSN Live is looking for XML sitemaps as well.  If you recall the history of sitemaps for web pages, Google was the first to launch XML sitemaps and most other major search engines have followed.

It may take a little longer now for the video XML sitemaps to become the standard, but they are still preferred by Google.  MRSS may stay the standard for some time depending on whether CMS systems continue to develop the ability to offer XML video sitemaps.   After all, it is in Google's best interest to index videos and have them available for searchers.  Until more hosting providers provide XML sitemaps to their clients, Google will have less video results unless they accept MRSS, and as we stated above, all the elements exist within in both.  Certainly, with MRSS now being an option that is clearly supported and documented by Google, it may also lower the priority of related projects within platform providers to produce XML sitemaps.

As for my experience with both, I offer the following.

Google MRSS and RSS2.0 for Video Sitemaps   Tips and Info First off, in order to use either, you will need the sitemap or mrss feed to be hosted on your domain or 301′d.  In other words, if you are using Blip.tv (a great service), you cannot add the MRSS feed that is located at http://reelseo.blip.tv/rss.  Instead, you need to have the MRSS or XML feed located on your actual domain – so, http://www.reelseo.com/mrss.xml, if you want the videos to be attributed to that domain. There is a simple explanation for this – a screenshot the webmaster tools "add a sitemap" interface: I have had some problems with non-acceptance from Google and errors for MRSS feeds due to the following:

  • Some video hosting providers do not provide a media enclosure with a full path the the actual video content, in most cases, an FLV file.  I have found that Google tends to error out when my MRSS feed has enclosures to a full page player embed URL vs. flv enclosures.
  • Because so many folks use hosting providers, where the flv or other video content, along with the player, are on the hosting platform's CDN, Google will error out and not accept your sitemap unless that domain has their robots.txt appropriately set for Googlebot; and YouTube feeds, error out as well.

With XML feeds, the biggest problem that I have had is that there is currently no documentation on how to remove a video from the Google video search results when added via sitemap.

As for MRSS, there is information in Google's buried MRSS page about how to update or remove a video result from your MRSS feed.  I imagine the same thing could be done with XML if they would allow support for Dublin Core Tag Definitions as they do with MRSS.

Finally, Some More Little-Known Tips

I have also had other issues and have been monitoring the threads on Webmaster center about video sitemaps.  Here are some additional tidbits directly in response to user's requests for assistance:

"…there's one main problem here: the thumbnail URL provided is served with a MIME-type of text/html so when we download the thumbnail, we don't think it's actually a thumbnail. We require a thumbnail to index a video”

"Also, the sitemap is specifying <video:content_loc> as the same URL as the <loc> which is the play page. This isn't the intended use of that tag and not adding any new information. The purpose of video:content_loc would be to link to the actual video file itself… In general, this tag is optional, but in certain situations we may not be able to find the content easily and therefore it would help for you to specify it”

I would have thought this to be more obvious but…

"Google only indexes information which is publicly available, not anything that requires signing in. So no, you cannot get your members only videos indexed.”

Include the location of your thumbnail URL.

"we strongly recommended that you provide a thumbnail URL to increase the likelihood of your video being included in the video index." – a note on that, they state that it is optional, but I have received the following error in the past – "We've detected that one of the URLS in your Sitemap contains a missing or invalid reference to a thumbnail image file. Please ensure that each URL contains <video:thumbnail_loc> element specifying a valid image URL.”
If you want users to be able to watch your videos on Google Video, make sure to set <video:player_loc allow_embed=”yes”, and if you want users to be able to play the video within Google pages, set the player to autoplay so that users will be shown the video after they click on the result, instead of having to click on it twice.

OK, that's it.  Here is some more on How to use Google Video Sitemaps for Video SEO