Google’s Official Reference Guide for Video Sitemaps

Googles Official Reference Guide for Video Sitemaps

Last month, I interviewed Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer at Google, on the subject of Google Video Sitemaps.  Matt told us that Google was starting to take a much closer look at video sitemaps and he advised that all video publishers begin to explore video sitemaps.  Today, Im excited to tell you that Google has announced a new site designed to serve as a guide to publishers on how and why they should submit video sitemaps to Google.

For those of you that are unaware of Google's Video Sitemaps, simply put, they are XML sitemaps that help Google index the location of videos on your website. This then increases the likelihood that your video content will have the opportunity to surface within Google Video search results.  If you are new to video sitemaps, I would encourage you to read up on video sitemaps here and here and visit Google's webmaster tools help page for detailed instructions on creating video sitemaps.

The Official Google Video Sitemaps Guide

The new site, located at http://www.google.com/videositemaps, serves as an in-depth guide for Google Video Sitemaps, why they're important, and how to create them.  The site includes:

  • A video introduction to video sitemaps (below)
  • A case study with the Discovery Channel
  • FAQs and info on how (and why) to implement video sitemaps, in non-technical terms
Googles Official Reference Guide for Video Sitemaps

Nelson Lee

I was fortunate enough to speak with Nelson Lee, Product Manager for Google Video Search (featured in the video below), about the launch.  He stated that the new site was aimed at helping all publishers learn about and implement Google Video Sitemaps – "content owners from TV networks to gardening blogs." In the video below, Nelson states the value to publishers, "Submitting a video sitemap means that google can better discover your videos and make them easy to find in search results."

The Opportunity With Google Video Sitemaps

For Google, the opportunity is to build and maintain a comprehensive video index and to increase the relevance of its video search results, resulting in an overall greater user experience and increased monetization.  Google knows that even though they have a good chunk of videos under their belt with YouTube, there are untold numbers of videos all across the web that have not yet been indexed.  As stated on the new site  "Although our knowledge is extensive, not all videos have been indexed by Google yet."

Googles Official Reference Guide for Video SitemapsWhen I spoke to Matt Cutts last month, he also pointed at another potential opportunity.  Clearly it is important for Google to ensure success of Google TV , expected out in the fall.  One core ingredient for success will be a to posses a comprehensive and growing index of video content from across the web.

"We want to be able to crawl and find all the video across the entire web, so that we can return them. … if you think about things like Google TV, coming out in the fall, it's in everybody's interest that all the videos that are on the web be able to be very discoverable and very searchable. and so I think we are going to be putting more and more weight on video sitemaps going forward, like this fall and into the future."

The Opportunity for Publishers

Sitemaps help get videos indexed and improve their visibility on Google Video, where according to Nelson, millions of users conduct video-specific searches each day.   Not only that, but once your videos are available within Google Video, they will then have the opportunity to become visible (with a thumbnail) in Google Search web results, Universal Search results, and other search products.

Googles Official Reference Guide for Video SitemapsThe opportunity to show up in Universal Search video results is compelling when you consider research from Comscore showing that videos dominate Universal Search, with 38% of  Google searchers being served video within Universal search results.

According to Nate Elliot of Forrester, an indexed video stands about a 50 times greater chance of ranking on the first page of Google results vs. any given textual page.

"Not only are video results increasingly common in Google's search results, but your videos stand a much better chance than your text pages of being shown on the first results page.”

Googles Official Reference Guide for Video SitemapsThen there is something I like to call "Thumbnail Power."  A thumbnail result draws the user's eye to view the video results, regardless of whether they are ranked first, third, or fifth within a Google web search results page.

SearchEngineLand covered some eye-tracking studies which confirm that users eyes are drawn to thumbnails.  Even Google released a set of eye-tracking studies that confirm that thumbnails provide helpful information without getting in the way of the user's primary task: finding relevant information. Google also stated that the thumbnail images seem to make results with thumbnails easy to notice when the users wanted them and easy to skip when users didn't.

Discover Success with Video Sitemaps

Googles Official Reference Guide for Video SitemapsOne of the goals of the new site, is to help communicate to publishers the benefits of using Google Video Sitemaps.  To that goal, they have featured a case study with Discovery Digital Media (www.discovery.com), home to the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Fit TV, TLC, the Travel Channel, and a dozen other networks.  According to the site, Discovery has been putting its videos and clips online since 2005.  In 2008 that they began to focus on Google Video Sitemaps as a strategic priority along with expansion of their online video content  initiatives.

"We knew that searchability was key to driving online traffic," said Randy Abramson, Senior Product Development Manager at Discovery Communications. "Our old system didn't let search engines see the meta data associated with each of our clips. So in 2008 we broke out of that model to create a one-video-per-page model." "Adding Google Video Sitemaps was an easy process," says Abramson. "…The sitemaps are just ingrained in our workflow now."

According to Abramson, Google Video Sitemaps helps Discovery connect to its users and "makes sure they're getting the best experience possible."   Not only that, but being included in Google video search results has helped to drive significant traffic to their video content.

"Since we implemented the new design and video sitemaps in 2008, we've seen a 123% increase in video streams," says Abramson. "And we've definitely seen an increase in time consumed per user. "…That's led to some marvelous viewership spikes along the way, as when video streams watched by visitors coming from Google jumped about 30% in the second quarter of 2010."

My Thoughts & One Google Video Tip

I've have written many times about Google's Video Sitemaps and I've also worked closely with various publishers to implement and troubleshoot issues with indexing so I am intimately aware of the issues that can arise when working to get videos indexed within Google.  With that in mind, I'd like to offer one important tip based off my experience.

It is important to understand that Video Sitemaps are the first part of the puzzle.  The next step is that Google will attempt to verify that the video actually exists within the page.  Here is the key (for now), Google will look for an object/embed tag, video file, or at the very least, a javascript element on the page that references the player or video file.  Once both steps are completed, your videos may be indexed within Google.   If Google cannot verify that the video you claimed in your sitemap exists at the location you have specified, the video will likely not be indexed.

Stay tuned to ReelSEO.  Im very passionate about this subject in particular as it is something I've been actively working with for a few years now.  In the next few weeks, I plan to write some detailed tutorials for getting videos into Google search.

Thanks to Nelson Lee at Google for putting effort into establishing a dedicated site that should provide a nice framework for video publishers to follow and get their videos indexed.  This means that I can now check off #2 of my preditions for 2010.  Yipee, now if you could just help me get #1 checked.


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Posted in Video Search, Video SEO
About the Author -
Mark Robertson is the Founder and Publisher of ReelSEO, an online information resource dedicated to the fusion of video, technology, social media, search, and internet marketing. He is a YouTube Certified, video marketing consultant and video marketing expert, popular speaker, and considered to be a passionate leader within the online video and search marketing industries. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.facebook.com/jimmy.beaune Jimmy BEAUNE

    Hi Mark,

    We've got this problem. We actually host on Vimeo.com (look at http://www.videoagency.tv).
    We want our own MRss. Does Google index and link video from Vimeo on our website, via Mrss ?
    If not, wich OVP suits the best and how we must trick the platform to make it happen ?
    Thanks a lot for helping us. Jimmy

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Hey Jimmy. Stay tuned. Ill be putting up a post in a few weeks about how to do this….

  • http://www.xeropictures.com Alex S.

    Thanks for the post! After reading this I had to go ahead and create my own video sitemap for my current videos. Hopefully, I will have as much success with it as Discovery Channel! Thanks again!

  • http://www.smart-video.tv Smart Video

    This is really great news – there is a lot of information out there ( and here in fact) about how to get your videos indexed, but it is a bit of a mine field for the uninitiated. Its good to see that Google clearly recognizes the value in Video as part of its organic search results. It will also be exciting to see how these elements cross over to Google TV.

  • http://twitter.com/videoBIO videoBIO

    Great article, so glad to see more instruction surrounding Video Sitemaps.

  • Jeffrey

    Great article, if my videos are hosted by YouTube and embedded as a playlist on my website, do I need to use Video Sitemaps? Thanks.

    • Jennasam400

      I have the same question. Maybe Google needs more info and wants the sitemap. Maybe since it is on YouTube, they don't.

  • http://bcmoney.myopenid.com/ BCmoney

    Like the thorough coverage of Video Sitemaps, don't like Google's implementation…
    People taking the extra effort to markup in Google-specific sitemap format doesn't make much sense when mrss has included all the required metadata for many years now.

    Why couldn't Google just parse MRSS feeds already available on most video sharing sites/services, and, even easily available using auto-publishing tools for smaller independent sites (i.e. the gardening blog)?

    Last but not least, one problem with the Video sitemap is that (from what I understand) to be 100% compliant and thus given favorable treatment in any real search term rankings, you must give Google full control of your content by showing raw video locations, but what if you do not want Google to access those videos for their index or share that information with users in their results, especially when users could just download the video from a search result on Google and avoid visiting your site at all… in mRSS, raw video locations are optional

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