Video Search Engine Optimization – SEM Déjà Vu

Video Search Engine Optimization   SEM Déjà VuThe following post was written by our guest, Jamie Sterling. Jamie is a contributer to SearchEngineOptimization.com and recently started a video series dedicated to online video and search. Jamie is also a marketing coordinator at Impaqt, a well-known search engine marketing firm.

Video search optimization is fascinating. Why? Because it allows search marketers to relive the early days of search engine optimization (SEO). And, because Video SEO presents a unique challenge for search engines, who must address the problem of indexing rich media content which resides on most Web sites today and is not very search engine spider-friendly.

With the rising popularity of video hosting and sharing sites (like YouTube), as well as the advent of Universal Search, which includes the placement of videos, photos, blog entries, news stories, and other search verticals on the main search engine results page (SERP), video has an increasing chance of being found and seen online – and optimization is an advertiser's answer to HOW. With the large amount of video online, it is important for companies to understand the things they can do to help get their videos get noticed now – and in the future.

While online video has proven to be popular with many audiences, the heavy viewers come from a younger demographic, meaning we should expect this medium to increase in effectiveness as this demographic ages and more consumers shift from TV to online video. Recent findings released by Ipsos MediaCT from MOTION showed that the PC is slowly encroaching on other visual media, as screen time spent on a PC nearly doubled its overall share with digital video consumers since early 2007. This report also found that the percentage of video consumed on TV among online video viewers declined from 75% in February 2007 to 70% in February 2008.

There is no doubt that online video is all the rage now. The younger generations epitomize self-promotion. They publish their thoughts, private photos and videos, and even relationship statuses, online. Unlike baby boomers and older generations who are voracious content readers online, the younger generation tends to 'scan' text content and definitely prefer more easy-to-digest content formats – like podcasts and videos. As a result, we have seen video content proliferate. In fact, Internet users in the US watched 11.5 billion online videos in March 2008, up 13% over the previous month (February 2008) and 64% over the previous year (March 2007), according to comScore Video Metrix. That is an average of 83 videos watched per viewer during March. And, according to eMarketer, a total of 154 million people are expected to watch online videos this year, which is one in two Americans. By 2012, this audience is expected to grow to 190 million! And, as is customary in the online world, where there is content, there are interested searchers and where there are interested searchers, there are advertisers attempting to target them. And, where there is competition, there is a need to stand out, hence the need for optimization.

Currently, video search optimization is in the same stage as search engine optimization (SEO) was back in 1998: its infancy. Today standard search engines are indexing video and other digital media content using: file names, Meta tags (video title, description, and keyword tags) and surrounding page text content. In most cases today, the video tags can be unlimited and the content can be unrelated. Like early SEO, many online marketers have begun to overuse keyword tags and also are attempting to use unrelated, but high-traffic keyword terms to help their videos rank higher. For example, I noticed an online YouTube producer use a popular politician's name as a tag on a humorous non-political, unrelated video to gain ranking – and it worked to help the video gain traffic quickly! This and keyword overuse are tricks of the trade that I have seen work to help videos become popular virally, tactics that, in standard search engine optimization, will get you penalized in the search engines and are considered to be Black Hat tactics.

In fact, on his TechCrunch.com blog, Dan Ackerman Greenberg, an employee of viral video marketing company The Comotion Group, writes about the secret strategies to create viral videos on the Web, a brutally honest posting that has now received a bit of negative attention on the Web. These 'strategies' include using "fake headlines." The tip from Greenberg: "Titles can be changed a limitless number of times, so we sometimes have a catchy (and somewhat misleading) title for the first few days, then later switch to something more relevant to the brand. Recently, I've noticed a trend towards titling videos with the phrases 'exclusive,' 'behind the scenes,' and 'leaked video.'" And, there was a rumor circulating that advertisers were purposefully manipulating YouTube thumbnails to include pictures of swimsuit-clad women, which Greenberg proves to be the case: "YouTube provides three choices for a video's thumbnail, one of which is grabbed from the exact middle of the video. As we edit our videos, we make sure that the frame at the very middle is interesting. It's no surprise that videos with thumbnails of half naked women get hundreds of thousands of views.”

The use of these questionable tactics pose the same issue for advertisers that many Search firms faced when struggling to address early SEO problems – how to beat the black hat spammers and ensure that relevant content to selected keywords is ranked as such. Also, like the early SEO days, the engines will catch on to these tactics and qualify them as black hat ones, and engines will then change their algorithms, leaving those marketers in the dust. Regardless of what tactics a business currently chooses to use to optimize their videos, if smart marketers are thinking about this, then they are thinking one step ahead of the engines. And, they can currently plan for what will be the second stage of video search optimization, which has already begun on a range of video search engines online.

The recent slew of video search engines and hosting sites, such as Blinkx, Truveo, Everyzing, and Pixsy are attempting to address how to provide relevant video content using new technology. Various forms of imagery recognition, text recognition, facial recognition, and auditory recognition software have been developed to allow engines to 'read' online videos. Engines will be able to actually crawl inside a piece of digital media and recognize faces, words, and visuals. The use of imagery recognition will help boost a video's branded ranking by reading logos and the like, and it also means that companies with celebrity spokespersons in their videos will be recognized and ranked for it. One of the many things the video search engines will have the ability to do is physically recognize popular faces and then index the spokesperson in connection with the related company. And, we all know celebrities are searched quite often online. So, these high search counts and a recognizable celebrity video could certainly help to boost a company's video ranking.

Today, most interactive marketers are still attempting to grasp the large amounts of data presented by SEO and SEM. Many are paying attention to the hot debate of video advertising formats – pre-roll vs. overlay, etc. Not many are paying attention to this very important topic, which will allow a company to leap ahead of the competition – getting online content – whatever form it may be – FOUND, especially when searching through the millions of online videos. What's the use of spending time debating whether you should hire talent for your company's instructional videos vs. using an employee? Or, why worry about the file format or key message? If your video is not found online, then you are out of luck and the rest of your production worries do not matter so much in the end. So, what can you do to make sure your video does not get lost in the netherworld of the Internet?

Well, you can start with the first generation video optimization tactics I discussed above. Optimize your video's filename with your most important keyword and not an unknown numbering or naming convention only you understand. Add targeted and relevant title, description, and keyword tags to your video – on all sites you publish your video online. And, when a video is housed on your own Web site, optimize the related text content surrounding it. If there is none, add some!

But, don't forget, you can get ahead of your competitors by thinking ahead of the search engines. If you anticipate what the engine's next move will be, then you can prepare your videos to be optimized for the long run. Doing so means that you must begin to think about what is becoming known as second generation video optimization – a practice that many video search engines are already participating in, as mentioned above. The use of imagery recognition, text recognition, and auditory recognition will change the way many think about putting their videos together.

What does the use of this technology mean? It means that you should be thinking about the optimization of your video from the project's conception. Your spoken words and on-screen headings should be optimized to include the video's main topic keywords. This means that a company must identify the video's theme and topic from the beginning and perform keyword research to see which keywords included in the video will go the farthest for a company's specific online performance goals.

Following these tactics will help any sophisticated marketer get ahead and remain ahead of their competition.If you are looking for tips and techniques for Video SEO, please take a look at our category that is focused on video SEO tips, news, techniques and more information for video search optimization.


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What do you think? ▼
  • pyrmont

    Interesting broad conceptual over view. Now where can I go to get the actual tactics?

  • mourf

    I've seen the video file name talked about much around the web. The most popular delivery method seems to be through a Flash player – all Java Script based. Many times, if the the FLV is referenced, the FLV is an attribute fed to the player and NOT part of the source URL.

    So with search engines not executing Java Script do we think they can parse our the video file from an attribute when it is NOT in the source URL?

    When using a flash player on your site, how can one of the major search engines even know video exists on the page when not factoring in media RSS feeds and just focusing on the page itself? media specific meta tags?

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