SEO video bandwagon? More like a video skyrocket. Right now, companies of all sizes are jumping at the opportunity to incorporate video into their marketing plans, whether this takes the form of vlogs, online advertisements, or “noncommercial” additional content. For a large part, this is propelled by how it is now easier than ever for viewers to consume videos. As Jen’s article from yesterday reveals, today’s searchers are not only willing to spend time watching branded videos, but are actively seeking them out. The desire is there – now it’s up to SEOs to make the most of it.
But with all the online excitement and the exponential success of 2010’s web-based video advertising, it’s tempting to think that all you have to do is press record, press upload, press play, and then sit back to watch the traffic roll in. Instead, remember that when making and posting videos, it is imperative that you actively optimize everything for maximum SEO potential. It’s a simple equation: applying SEO basics + knowing your goals + doing it well = SEO video success.
Apply SEO basics
Intimidated by videos? Don’t worry: videos respond to many of the same SEO practices that you have done before! Videos, after all, are simply content, and must be presented to viewers and search engines as you would text. The one large difference is that search engine bots can’t actually scan the video directly: instead, SEs rely on the content surrounding a video, the number and sources of inbound links, and its community engagement. Therefore, with videos it’s especially important to
- Incorporate keywords into the title, surrounding text, and tags.
- Maximize your reach by posting on multiple hosting sites, and allowing for interaction such as comments, rating/voting, sharing, video responses, embedding, etc.
- Pursue links like you would for text articles.
But this is only a quick list: for more information, check out SEO Boy’s articles on the top 5 best practices for video SEO, optimizing for YouTube, optimizing for onsite videos, and optimize for third parties, link generation, and ranking.
Know your goals
A well-directed video can work magic for your website; an unfocused one will just take up time, space, and money. So before you start production, lay out your goals. Do you want to direct traffic to your website? Develop brand awareness? Grow your YouTube channel subscribers? Choose an approach based on this goal, and make sure that the form of your video supports it the entire way.
One method of staying focused is to bookend your video with information. In the first 5 seconds, the viewer should know who you are and how to find you; and at the end, you should include a call to action, such as “watch the next video,” “subscribe to our blog,” “visit our website,” etc. If you’re using YouTube, you can help enable this action by inserting a video annotation with links to wherever you would like your viewers to go.
However, it is important to remember that viewers are leery of obvious advertisement. For the most part, people watch television for its programming, not its commercials. Internet marketers have it even harder in this sense, because while captive online advertising exists, viewers have a heightened ability to avoid it by only actively seeking out what they want to watch. Therefore, even if you’re promoting a specific product, it’s important that your video is entertaining, original, and useful to the viewer, or otherwise they will click away, or not share the video with their friends.
Once you know your goals, set up a way to measure success. Use analytics to see whether your traffic increased, or your subscribers went up directly after you released the video. If you connected a video to a product or service, did you end up with more leads? Being able to see if your video is working will help you know whether to keep exploring your current method, or to switch approaches.
Do it well
Lastly, but most importantly, it’s important that you do your video well. Again, the record-upload-play model just won’t cut it: to be taken seriously, you need to make the best product you possibly can. Try applying blogging/copy-writing principles to video editing:
- Watch out for typos – One way to kill a video is to make a straight-up mistake. Do you have any signs of editing (visible templates, unfinished edges, etc.)? Is someone standing in front of a window? Does the sound cut-off? Build enough time into your editing process so that you can get ready for the mistakes and complications that will inevitably occur. And don’t forget to test everything before uploading! There’s usually no way to pause or re-upload videos, so if a problem gets past you, you’ll have to delete your video and all of its historical information before you can start again.
- Check your syntax – Just like you would pay attention to the grammar, flow, and syntax of a text blog, make sure your video makes sense. Every scene should lead well into the next, and the editing should be clean. This doesn’t mean things have to go slowly, or be mundane – keeping a video choppy but sensible is just as much of a challenge.
- Stay current – Before creating a video, see what others have done that is similar, and work from that. Avoid fads and pre-packaged graphics, because most likely, by time you upload they’ve already been exhausted. You also want to make sure you check your video properties so that they make use of your current player’s qualities (export in high-def, upload in a format that’s as close as possible to the original encoding, etc.).
- Use what you can – Not every company is going to have the highest quality of equipment. That’s okay! Use what you have creatively. While good quality equipment and software is important, you can start from the ground up with great results.
- Your form should always be tied to your content – A video is a video. It’s not a text blog, it’s not a TV commercial, and it’s not a radio spot. Videos are time-based, visual, and audio, and because it is natural for humans to invest more “truth” in what we see than what we hear or read, they are uniquely attention-grabbing. Therefore, when writing your script, think of the best way you can get your message across. A how-to? An interview? An interactive plot? Video is a great place for exploration – if you see the opportunity to try something new, go for it.
Videos are an important part of SEO, and will be increasingly influential as boundaries are tested, broken, and forged. By creating videos with these best practices in mind, you can join in the community that’s finding out just where videos can take online marketing. But, of course, with video there’s more than one way to achieve success – what have you tried that’s worked out well?
Jessica is a Creative Specialist at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.