Video SEO Basics Part 1

This is intended to be a very brief overview of a very broad topic. If you’d like to know more about a specific tactic or tip, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

Let’s pretend you are a marketing director for an auto dealership, and you’ve just created a nifty video that explains why your dealership is the best:

Here are the questions you may have:

  1. How do I use this video to improve my website’s search engine ranking?
  2. How can I make sure this video generates additional website visitors via search engine?
  3. What can I do to increase the likelihood someone will watch my video on YouTube?

First, let’s talk about where we can place videos online:

1. On our own website. If you upload a video and place it on your own website, you’re showing the search engines that you’ve got a quality multimedia website. It’s my opinion that Google looks for brand-level activities – things that a big brand would do like issue press releases, social network participation, video publishing, job postings, etc. – to help determine a specific website’s trust and quality. So, when we publish a video on our own website, we’re doing something a big brand would do and that’s a good thing.

2. On a video sharing website. The biggest and baddest video sharing site in the USA is YouTube, and obviously you want to publish your video on YouTube if it’s intended for public consumption. Outside of the USA, I’ve found that MetaCafe is pretty big (check out this video of an Elephant playing in the surf I put on MetaCafe about 18 months ago during my trip to Thailand – 62k views and counting). Besides YouTube and MetaCafe, you might consider posting your video to DailyMotion – videos on that site seem to show up in search engine results regularly. If you’re in a very particular niche, you can find video sharing sites specific to your audience that might be worth posting on as well.

3. Both places. This is the best practice. First, you put the video on your own website so that the search engines associate your site with the video. Then, you put the video on all the appropriate sharing sites so that it can be found.

Now that we know WHERE we can post videos, let’s talk about HOW we can optimize them for search engines.

On-Site Video Optimization – Posting To Your Own Website

When you post a video on your own website, you want to do a few things:

1. Pay someone else to actually host and stream the video. When someone clicks the play button on your video, the video data is ‘streamed’ to the viewer from the video ‘host.’ Hosting and streaming videos requires a small army of powerful servers, and that’s something that most companies don’t have. So, unless you’ve got a crack in-house IT team that has setup your videos on a cloud-hosted content delivery network, don’t even think about hosting and streaming your own videos. It’s just silly.

Instead, check out BitsOnTheRun and Vzaar (my favorite) for private, low-cost video hosting and streaming. These companies work just like YouTube in the sense that you give them your video and then they give you an embed code. However, unlike YouTube, you can make sure that the video is only available to you. Think of using Bits or Vzaar as the same as YouTube, except unlike YouTube your videos are only available for your personal, private use.

2. Create one dedicated page for your video. Search engines are looking at the content surrounding a video to try and determine what the video is about. Therefore, you want to create a dedicated page for each of your videos, grab the embed code from Bits or Vzaar, and then:

  • Title the page using keywords relevant to the video.
  • Put a 1-2 sentence text caption immediately below the embedded video with more relevant keywords included.
  • Make sure any included text on the page is relevant to the video.
  • Make sure your page’s meta description tag is applicable to the video.
  • Optionally, you may want to include a text transcript of the video. This is a good practice for ADA compliance, but it’s also good for SEO.

3. Create two video sitemaps. One should be a regular human-readable page that links to all of the videos on your website. The other should be an XML video sitemap that meets Google’s requirements.

4. Create a video RSS feed and syndicate it. If you’re going to create a lot of videos, it’s a good idea to create a special RSS feed for that specific purpose. Then, syndicate the feed (here’s a nice list of RSS video syndication opportunities).

5. Create some on-site links to your video on other pages of your site. If you’re really trying to get your video to appear in the search results, create links on other pages of your website to your video page. Make sure the links have video keyword anchor text.

Following these steps will help you maximize the value of the video you’ve created, because they will help search engines recognize you are the creator of this fine piece of content. Search engines reward content, and being a video producer – even if you only produce a handful of videos – is a great way to differentiate your company from your peers.

Next week is Video SEO Basics Part 2, where I outline how to optimize the videos you upload to YouTube.