Video SEO: Tips for Clips that Capture Results
By Michelle Megna
June 20, 2007
One of the hottest trends in e-commerce right now is the use of video, whether to showcase how to use a product and highlight features, to provide more intimate testimonials or to foster community by uploading clips of your customers using your product. Used to be video was dismissed, largely because search engines ignored them. That's now changing with Google's universal search format, which blends video as well as blogs, news, maps and other vertical search content into the results. The other factor driving the video trend is the growth of broadband. According to the video search site blinkx.com, U.S. broadband penetration rose to 73 percent in June 2006, with analysts estimating that this year it will reach 80 percent, and as a result, advertisers, marketers and e-tailers are starting to use more video-based content. And, clearly user-generated videos are popular, as sites such as YouTube are claiming hundreds of millions of members who are watching literally billions of videos a month. Given this new development in organic search, it makes sense to be sure that video content is optimized for search engines. To get the inside scoop on how to do this, we spoke to Suranga Chandratillake, founder and CEO of blinkx and an expert in this emerging field. The most important thing to consider, said Chandratillake, is that video SEO as it pertains to Google is vastly different from standard SEO. "People forget that while Google searches the entire Web for text, it is only searching Google Video and YouTube for video, he said. "It's a huge difference. For instance, if you search for sailing charters in the Bay area, you'll get big businesses, mom-and-pop dot.coms, all of them. It's not the same with video, so it turns SEO on its head. Even if you get your video on Google Video and YouTube and it comes up, it is extremely important to link back to your own site because otherwise, hey it's great people are watching your video, but it's doing nothing for you, you don't get any business if they don't click back to your site." In addition to keeping that in mind, Chandratillake offered the following tips when creating your video, which are taken from the company's White Paper Video SEO:
- Metadata: This is often lost during conversion, so you should apply it each and every time your content is delivered to a new site or is converted to a new format. Also, video tools often create a large amount of irrelevant metadata that gets inserted into the files. Using a "cleaner" such as Sorenson Squeeze, Autodesk Cleaner or CastFire will eliminate the spew.
- Title and Description: Titles and descriptions are the text most commonly applied to videos. If a video is hosted on a hosting or sharing site such as YouTube, insert this information in the provided specified title and description fields. If hosting on your own Web site, the title and description will usually be extracted based on proximity. In order to best represent your content on generic sites, it is advisable to have just one video per page with a simple textual title and description placed near the video itself. In the case of links to the video or other tags, it is advised to use anchor text as well.
- Filename: If you are linking to a specific file that is hosted on a Web server, ensure the filename is a sensible and descriptive one, ideally with hyphens or some other form of separating character in between words. For example, use "climate-talks-video.wmv" rather than "videofile.wmv" or "climatetalksvideo.wmv".
- Tags: If you use a video sharing or hosting system such as YouTube, you will generally be given the opportunity to provide tags, and are strongly encouraged to do so. (Unfortunately, many video sharing sites, YouTube in particular, suffer from prevalent tag abuse problems in which SEO scammers pollute their video tag lists with tens, sometimes hundreds, of popular search terms that are irrelevant to the video itself.)
- Sitemap: Most video search engines allow the provision of a sitemap, starting-point URL or RSS feed. This invitation should absolutely be taken advantage of and used to provide the engine with a simple list of URLs that point to individual pages that host video. If you have followed the advice above, each such page will contain just one video.
- Format: Deciding on a format for your video content can be a critical decision to make with regard to how the content is going to be used. However, it makes little obvious difference to Video SEO. If you're using a video sharing or hosting site, acceptable upload formats are often listed and the content is usually transcoded to one or more formats and resolution ranges for the final displayed format.One thing to bear in mind with format choice, however, is that some video search engines allow users to limit results to one format or another. In this case, if you have multiple copies of your content on the site, you will maximize the chances of your video being returned.
- In-format Metadata: Depending on the tools you use to produce and encode your content, you will often be able to input metadata into the video content file itself. Similar to the popular id3 tags that exist in mp3 music files, these tags are encoded into the media file itself and, thus, are readable to any engine that indexes the content. While use of this metadata is relatively rare, it is likely to increase, so it is recommended that you always replicate any metadata copy for the Web page in these tags. Depending on the format, you may be able to add a title, description, tags, encoding quality and even a full text transcript. In all cases, the more you provide, the more likely you are to match an incoming search.
- Watermarks: Watermarks with your URL and logo are highly recommended, not necessarily because of SEO, but for branding and copyright purposes.
In regard to what practices should be avoided, sites that only use Flash top the list. These sites are difficult for search engines to index. Blinkx recommends choosing sites that allow you to use a one-video-per-page HTML hierarchy that can be easily spidered from a root URL. Additionally, pop-up players are not advised due to the popularity of blockers installed in most browsers.
Video Sharing Site Tips
To get maximum exposure, e-tailers should plan to submit their videos to search engines and social networking sites, in addition to using them on their own sites. Key sites in this area include YouTube, Google Video, MySpace Video, Yahoo! Video, AOL UnCut, MSN Soapbox, DailyMotion, MetaCafe and Revver. While most of these sites provide similar services in addition to the actual hosting service, what differentiates them is the ready-made audience they provide, some being larger than others and some focusing on particular niches that may be relevant to your content. According to blinkx, if you're creating how-to content for example, it's important to get the content on sites such as VideoJug, despite being smaller than, say, YouTube, this site has already nurtured an audience that is interested in this type of content. Some guidelines to follow when providing the metadata to a video sharing site:
- Though it seems obvious, remember to make sure your tags are relevant to your content, just as you would with keywords.
- The more tags the better — use all your available tag space.
- Spread your tags out among your clips.
- Use adjectives. Remember lots of folks are browsing, and they'll use adjectives to find what they are in the mood to view.
- Have some category descriptor tags. It's important to remember YouTube's default search settings are Videos, Relevance and All Categories.
- Match your title and description with your most important tags. Basic SEM practice applies here as well.
- Don't use natural language phrases or waste tag space on words like 'and' or 'to.'
Finally, it makes sense to take advantage of video-specific search engines, such as the one offered by AOL Videos, and of course, blinkx.
"If you submit your link, we'll pick you up and list you," said Chandratillake. "Also, a big part of what we do is offer our service through other sites, for instance Ask.com and Lycos use our search engine, so when you submit to us, your stuff is going to be seen in many different channels, and that's what it's all about." Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.
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