The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

The last time I mentioned a Universal Search study by Searchmetrics was at SES Toronto 2012 during the Q&A session that followed the panel about Developing a Video Optimization & Marketing Campaign. Evan Carmichael captured the moment and posted the photo below to The Entrepreneur Blog.

So, be forewarned: What I’m about to say may shock you.

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

If you’re optimizing videos on your website so they can be found in Google universal search results, you’re probably wasting your time. Even if you’ve created a video sitemap “to make sure that Google knows about all your rich video content,” you’re probably just spinning your wheels.

Why?

As Google itself says, “When you submit a Sitemap to Google that includes video information in a supported format, we will make the included video URLs searchable on Google Video.”

Although submitting a Sitemap is easy, getting your video content indexed by Google doesn’t get it a high ranking in Google search results. To get high rankings, your videos also need to be relevant, get more views (or more viewing time), and obtain good ratings.

As Carl Von Clausewitz wrote in his book, On War, “A small jump is easier than a large one, but no one on that account, wishing to cross a wide ditch, would jump half of it first.”

Now, Google Video, video.google.com, was the largest video search property on the Web … once upon a time, many years ago. But, have you taken a look at Google’s video site lately?

According to Compete PRO, video.google.com got 10,760,803 unique visitors in March 2011. A year later, video.google.com got 1,457,400 unique visitors in March 2012. And two years later, video.google.com got just 98,828 unique visitors in March 2013.

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

By comparison, youtube.com got 143,670,312 unique visitors in March 2011. A year later, youtube.com got 148,973,688 unique visitors in March 2012. And two years later, youtube.com got 163,342,267 unique visitors in March 2013.

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

In other words, the video SEO war is over … and YouTube won!

So, if you aren’t publishing your videos on YouTube and then embedding your YouTube videos into your website or blog, then your videos aren’t very likely to get enough views – or watch time – to rank very well in Google Universal Search results.

That’s what I said almost a year ago at SES Toronto 2012 that shocked, shocked Jonathan Allen, the other speaker on the panel about developing a video optimization and marketing campaign.

Universal Search Results in the Google SERPs

And that’s what I’m going to continue saying, now that I’ve read the latest study by Searchmetrics, which is entitled, “Universal Search Results in the Google SERPs – Review 2012 and Forecast 2013.”

Since some of the findings may shock you, let me begin by examining the quality of the data. Searchmetrics based its analysis on search results for several million keywords analyzed over the course of 2012. And the data pool generally consisted of the first five pages of search results.

And Searchmetrics found that the proportion of keywords with at least one Universal Search integration in Google search results declined in the US over 2012. At the beginning of the year, the proportion was still about 86 percent. But the percentage dropped to about 75 percent by December.

According to Marcus Tober, the founder of Searchmetrics, “It seems that Google is optimizing Universal Search and is actually only displaying additional results when the user is expecting them.”

Online video marketers may be shocked to find that there’s been a reduction in the number of video integrations, which have long been the most frequently displayed integration in Google search results. At the beginning of 2012, the proportion was about 76 percent. But that percentage dropped to about 62 percent by the end of the year.

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

According to Tober, “The integration of videos peaked slightly after March, before falling back gently in July through August to the starting figure of the spring. Since then the percentage share of video integrations in Universal Search has fallen continuously.”

He adds, “The reasons for the increase include the (sporting) events in the summer of 2012 – firstly the UEFA European Championship in Poland and Ukraine (8 June to 1 July), closely followed by the Olympic Games in London (25 July to 12 August).”

Searchmetrics also took a closer look at video integrations and found that YouTube was the market leader. About 8 out of 10 video integrations in Google Universal Search in the US are from YouTube.

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

Tober says, “In the USA, there was little movement in 2012. A slight upward trend in YouTube at the expense of its competitors is barely noticeable.”

He adds, “Both halfway through the year and at its end, the proportion of YouTube integrations rose in comparison to the competition. As you might expect, this trend is reversed among the competitors.”

Searchmetrics also took a look at video rankings by provider. The chart below compares the average initial position of a video integration from YouTube with that of its competitors. The basis is the first two search result pages.

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

According to Tober, “In the USA, the average first video integration of YouTube is about two positions ahead of the average first position of a competitor’s video. In February, both curves dropped by two positions, but towards the end of the year climbed back to the starting level; the relative distance tended to remain constant, except for the October and November figures.”

So, what’s the net-net?

First, videos weren’t being found in Google Universal Search results as frequently at the end of 2012 as they were at the beginning of 2012. So, if you are counting on your videos – wherever they are hosted – to be found in Google search results, you’re sailing against the wind.

Second, 8 out of the 10 videos that are found in Google search results are hosted YouTube. Oh, and these YouTube videos rank about two positions higher than videos hosted on any other site.

Third, if you really want or need to host your video on a YouTube alternative, then check out Dailymotion, which got 11,637,980 unique visitors in March 2013, according to Compete PRO.  Even videos hosted on eHow, which got 72,245,957 unique visitors that month, rarely appear in Google search results. That’s why there’s also an eHow channel on YouTube.

I realize this isn’t conventional wisdom. But don’t shoot the messenger. Every time a paradigm shifts, even YouTube gurus and video marketing experts get headaches.

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

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About the Author -
Greg Jarboe is president and co-founder of SEO-PR, a content marketing agency which provides search engine optimization, online public relations, social media marketing, and video marketing services.  Jarboe is author of "YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day". He is also a contributor to "Strategic Digital Marketing: Top Digital Experts Share the Formula for Tangible Returns on Your Marketing Investment" by Eric Greenberg and Alexander Kates; "Complete B2B Online Marketing" by William Leake, Lauren Vaccarello, and Maura Ginty; as well as "Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions" by Guy Kawasaki. Jarboe is profiled in "Online Marketing Heroes: Interviews with 25 Successful Online Marketing Gurus" by Michael Miller. Jarboe is on the faculty of the Rutgers Center of Management Development as well as Market Motive.  He is also a correspondent for Search Engine Watch as well as the Knowledge Transfer blog. He is also a frequent speaker at industry conferences. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Josef Holm

    Very interesting piece. Hosting videos anywhere other than YouTube for SEO purposes is a waste of time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/greg.jarboe Greg Jarboe

      Don't shoot the messenger, but that's what the Searchmetrics data indicates.

  • http://twitter.com/ivannelson Ivan Nelson

    Greg, nice article but I am not sure I agree with your conclusion. The fact that YouTube videos get more links in search could be caused by other factors like higher YT utilization.

    Also, fewer videos are coming up in search because Google is now analyzing the quality of your YT channel viewer interactions in addition to the number of views. So a video that has lots of views but a high rate of thumbs down will no longer come up on the first page of search results. This point is supported by your last graphic wich shows competitors are gaining on YouTube at the end of 2012.

    • http://www.facebook.com/greg.jarboe Greg Jarboe

      Ivan,

      If 8 out of 10 videos in Google universal search results are from YouTube, then that's the platform that most online video marketers will want to use. And if those YouTube videos rank #8 in the results while videos hosted on Dailymotion, Vimeo, eHow, and others rank #10, then most online video marketers will still want to use YouTube. The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong - but that's the way to bet.

      • http://twitter.com/ivannelson Ivan Nelson

        Greg, I think you need to look at Chris Savage's comment, which I totally agree with. Even if your video is ranking high, where is the traffic going once it is redirected to YouTube? If you are trying to convert your video into a sale on your site, are you confident about your chances if your prospects wind up clicking out of your channel and into your competitor's channel?

        If all you want is increase your brand awareness, then YouTube is probably the right answer. But don't be fooled by the top level numbers, the truth ususally hides deep in the numbers.

    • http://savagethoughts.com Chris Savage

      The other fundamental question here is: where is the traffic going for the videos that are indexed? Most YouTube results in SERPs point back to YouTube because YouTube is always going to outrank your site.

      If you are trying to monetize your traffic by converting them on your site (by making a purchase, signing up as a lead, etc) then you should be worrying about where all your traffic (video seo included) is going. If you're not trying to monetize your traffic with conversion but are instead trying to rack up ad views and pure brand impressions then you don't need to be worried about where your traffic is going and can focus purely on views.

  • https://twitter.com/philnottingham Phil Nottingham

    Hi Greg,

    appreciate the work you've done here - but I really must take issue with the conclusions you're drawing from the search metrics data and I think statements such as "If you’re optimizing videos on your website so they can be found in Google universal search results, you’re probably wasting your time." represent some fairly questionable advice.

    Firstly, Google video search data doesn't say anything about the value of video results in universal search. While Google video may be on the decline, there is still potential value in having rich snippets back to your site if those are being delivered in the blended organic results.

    Secondly - a reduction in the amount of overall video results served in Google universal search (third graph) does nothing to increase or decrease the potential value they provide to an individual or business - whether for YouTube, another social platform or ones own site.

    The fourth and fifth Searchmetrics graph actually don't compare video providers at all, but only the overall presence of a variety of social video platforms - as SearchMetrics does not have the data to know how every site hosted its videos. I can very well believe that YouTube is gaining on dailymotion, vimeo etc - but that says nothing about self hosted video.

    Additionally - higher YouTube utilization, Google's access to that data and the fact that very few sites with self hosted video have actually yet implemented a video sitemap or schema could well be responsible for the higher proportion of YouTube results in the search results vs others. While Google may be artificially preferencing YouTube videos above others - if you're making that claim (which I'm not totally sure if you are or not), then you really need to back that up with some strong evidence. Even assuming such a preference existed, simply because YouTube appears more often; it does not then follow that it is the right solution for everyone, irrespective of content type or goal - and it certainly doesn't mean that "The Video SEO war is over - YouTube has won".

    An overall drop in videos being returned in universal search is interesting - but could also be to do with many factors, some of which would not affect the viability or value of video rich snippets. It could be that Google have turned down the volume on YouTube itself - seeing that perhaps irrelevant and low quality YT videos were ranking for some terms when they shouldn't. Google could have also decreased the frequency of video results returned per SERP or they could also have got better at reducing the amount of times an interactive flash file is mistakenly indexed as a video. My guess is that different rich snippets, e.g. authorship/sitelinks are being given preference; but we really don't know.

    Most critically concerning in the article though, is the idea that because YouTube traffic is going up and up and up overall - this means your videos should be on there, agnostic of the kind of content you're creating. YouTube search trends do not exactly mirror the trends of Google search and if few users are going on to YouTube to search for relevant keywords related to your videos, but keyword volume in Google organic search is proportionately high - then you would be a fool to use YouTube rather than self hosting/using a secure third party provider, since in doing so you would likely drive customers to YouTube.com rather than your own site.

    To clarify here, I'm not saying YouTube isn't the best choice in some circumstances, but the principle still stands that your hosting choices have to be based on the content type, the keywords you're targeting and your overall goals with regards to Video SEO. If you want to drive traffic directly to your site for specific product focused keywords, YouTube is rarely the right choice against secure hosting. If, however, your videos better befit informational queries that are not so far down the conversion funnel - YouTube is typically your best bet.

  • David Wenner

    One other issue that was not discussed and needs to be taken into consideration is the way Google displays SERP'S. It is my experience that if you distribute your videos in multiple locations then you increase your chances of having multiple results appear for any given keyword. By placing all you videos on YouTube chances are you will find that Google displays your videos under one result.

    Something else to consider.

  • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

    YouTube Wins!
    And if you are wise, you use External Website annotations, an unexpected gift from YouTube, to drive that video traffic to your website.

    What about using Google Plus to show off your videos? More traffic there than on most people's websites, quite well integrated with YouTube and now that Brand Pages can have their own YouTube channel connections, it makes for a very compelling combination of GooTubePlus activity.

  • http://twitter.com/cameronchurch Cameron Church

    Greg - do us a favour and park the 'End Is Nigh' sandwich board for a second, get dressed and come in off the street corner for a cup of a coffee and a bit of a discussion about the above.

    I think perhaps you should (re)read the entire report to better help your "readers" understand what the data in this report is saying (i.e it's only one study of the science of search engine placement) and what it's NOT saying.

    1) Presumably the audience target of this blog is the professional digital video marketer/publisher (i.e. the one trying to make money using digital video), as such you didn't' even mention that, thanks to a quirk in the German Market, we can see that 60% of YouTube's most popular videos are blocked due to copyright concerns. i.e. videos that are not monetisable or professional and are indeed content that is thought to be stolen from original rights holders. If we take that 'noisy' number away from the results what impact would that have do you think? What can we learn here?

    2) When quoting insights it would be best if you queried the "exceptional" instead of ignoring it all together (don't fit the data to your argument, fit your argument to the data - all of it). Take this quote as just one example:

    "In the USA, the average first video integration of YouTube is about two positions ahead of the average first position of a competitor's video. In February, both curves dropped by two positions, but towards the end of the year climbed back to the starting level; the relative distance tended to remain constant, except for the October and November figures"

    What's so exceptional about the October and November figures? Well, how about during this time the competitors gained significantly on YouTube. That's a pretty big fight back given you're blanket statement that YT has won the war. How will this play out going forward? What's the cause of this gain? What can we learn here?

    3) How about applying some credible journalism (given the mission of this site) and independent thinking about this topic and pull in another source to reference and potentially add a more complete view? How about looking at this data relative to the entire search marketing?

    How do these findings stack up against the fact that Google Search Market Share hasn't really increased from it's position of 67% last year? A sizeable share indeed (2 in every 3 searches) but how do the other 33% fair on the other sites? Does YT rank the same there? Indeed how big of a portion of the searches would/should a Marketer/Publisher care about? (ironically in the report's own imagery they show a Google Search results page where none of the videos on the page are from YouTube!) . What can we learn here?

    4) What about the authors' own pre-amble about how Google uses not just keywords, but cookies, browser info (if Chrome), affiliation with Google+ etc to help position the best video source for the user. And the fact that the algorithm is still far from perfect and in a constant state of flux and "optimisation"? Shouldn't that be tempering your views a little bit? What can we learn here?

    The above 4 issues are just a tip of the iceberg.

    As a self serving profile bumping piece this hits the mark. You're stellar duck right of the ring at the first sing of a counter with "Don't blame the messenger" is right at home in the theatrics of the WWE.

    As a SEO "guru" you've no-doubt notched up a few more points for yourself.

    As a thought leader and credible expert in the digital video space you've left yourself really lacking with this piece.

    Not sure what side of the coin you want to be on but it's either congratulations or better luck next time.

    -- Cameron Church

  • http://wistia.com/ Adam Zais

    Interesting post, Greg. It's certainly sparked some equally interesting reactions. Your conclusions confused me, so I downloaded the report to see if I could better understand your point. Sadly, I'm even more confused. I think the report is saying that a video on YouTube is more likely to be seen than on any other video aggregation site. (Gosh, I hope I'm correct.) Sounds right. I think the report is also concluding that Google Shopping is the market leader when measured by shopping integrations. Okay. Who can argue with their chart? A third conclusion they present is that video is the most popular integration type, compared to images, news, shopping, and maps. Again, the data seems on the money. Even considering their clarification of the decline in relative growth rates of video and, more drastically, shopping integrations. I know that I'm breezing over a number of other details, but what I'm really struggling with is why these data can in any way lead one to logically make the conclusion that SEO is over. Truthfully, I am not convinced that these data are even remarkable, let along truly meaningful.

    In a few minutes of cruising around the Internet I assembled a bunch of data that I could toss together in an equally haphazard fashion to support a statement of: The In-Car Advertising Impression War in the US is Over....and Radio Won!

    Here's the 'data': There are 14,000 radio stations in the US, playing 20 spots per hour (a slightly conservative number). There are 275 million cars. Assuming 50% of them have radios, and 2 hours of drive-time per day, and 50% of the people have their radio on we're talking 2.75 billion radio spots delivered. By comparison, there are 700,000 billboards in the US. Mostly on highways. There are 160,000 miles of what the DOT classifies as highways, or about 5 billboards for every mile. These highways carry 40% of the US traffic of those 275 million cars. Since I think you can see where this is headed I'll end this similarly meaningless and useless spinning of data that passes itself off as rigorous research. Like in the searchmetrics report.

  • simon_crompton_reid

    Greg, I couldn't agree with you more - we have completely migrated our content to Youtube, as we principally use video for discovery, and every test we conducted with Brightcove vs Youtube gave us the same results.

  • http://twitter.com/Matdwright MattyMattMatDWright

    As with most things SEO > covering all areas of optimisation is the winning strategy, drop one ball and you're not giving Video SEO the detail it's conversion rates prove worthwhile.

  • $1236942

    Howdy Greg,

    As always I'll start with the disclaimer that I'm a member of the team at Treepodia.com and as such obviously have a vested interest in this topic.

    I think stating that the largest video content repository mankind has ever known has "Won the SEO Wars" is pretty much a given.

    If there are any marketeers out there who still need validation that Youtube is an important player in the video game, I doubt this post will make the difference.

    The point is Youtube,... AND NOW WHAT?

    Youtube is a great syndication tool, but it wont create your content for you, and the video URLS are not your own. These are issues that regardless of how you're using Youtube you still need to work out for yourself.

    Best,

    Mike

    treepodia