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Video Optimization

February 14th, 2011 | | Video SEO

Oftentimes, webmasters get so caught up optimizing the obvious that they forget (or don’t know how) to get down into the nitty gritty.  One thing that is commonly overlooked in optimizing web pages, are videos.   Be it because many people don’t know how to optimize for them, and the thought is overwhelming, or because many people don’t even know it’s possible, video search engine optimization is often neglected, which is unfortunate considering the amount of time is spent watching videos online.  According to a Nielsen study, viewers spent 45% more time watching videos online in January 2011 than in January 2010.

Videos are important because they engage users and users search for videos in different ways than they search for written content.  If your web page includes videos as well as written content, logically, you will attract a larger audience.  It’s not enough just to place a video on your web page, though.  It needs to be optimized, as would any other content, to make it more accessible via search engines.  This blog strives to cover the basics of video search engine optimization, so that, at the very least, you can take the beginning steps to optimizing your featured multimedia.  To start, I’ll touch on how people search for videos, which types of videos can be crawled by search engines, how to create a video sitemap, and, in general, how to optimize videos.  Without further adieu, let’s get started.

First things first, how do people search for videos?

Search Engines – Now more than ever, Google is putting a lot of weight into videos, which makes it easy to find videos just as you would find any other web page.

In addition to video results showing up organically, Google has also implemented a video specific search page that will provide video only SERPS.

Google isn’t the only engine indexing videos, Bing has also integrated video results but does not seem to place as much weight on them and the primary results do not always come from YouTube.  (Google owns Youtube, so this is no surprise.)

YouTube – Youtube is the most popular way to search for video content on the web. While hard data is hard to come by, if YouTube were a search engine, it would only be behind Google in terms of search queries, which have been estimated between 3-4 billion a month.

Social Media – Social media is a quick way to spread a video.  Videos can become viral instantly when placed on Twitter or Facebook.  Much like content network ads, people are not “searching” for videos but instead have them thrust under their noses and, in the right context, watch and pass the video along to an even wider audience.  Social media won’t fit every type of video, and it’s important to note that not all videos need to be viral, many businesses can’t (and shouldn’t) produce videos with characteristics that commonly theme viral videos.   All videos should be made with the target market in mind, whether they will be viral or not is not necessarily relevant.

What Types of Video Files Can Be Crawled?

Google can crawl the following video file types: mpg, .mpeg, .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .ra, .ram, .rm, .flv, .swf, so long as the files are accessible via HTTP. Metafiles requiring a download of the source via streaming protocols are not supported.

How To Optimize Videos

  • Name your files accurately, using keyword rich names rather than the default code number that is automatically assigned by your camera.
  • Using the same target terms as selected for the video, optimize the rest of the web page on which your video is hosted.
  • Add a keyword rich title and description for the video, as you would (and should), the rest of the web page.  (This should be included in the sitemap, as will be shown below)
  • Look for anchor text opportunities when spreading the video.  That is, when sharing the video with others, ask them to utilize keyword rich anchor text linking back to the video.
  • Encode your video using multiple file types, so that it’s easier to download and spread!

Include Videos in Your Sitemap –

Steps to Manually Create a Sitemap:

  1. Create a text file and save it with an .xml extension.
  2. Add the following to the top of the file:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″>

  1. Add the following to the bottom of the file:


  1. Create an entry for each URL. The <loc> tag is required; the others are optional.

<url>     <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>     <lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>     <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>     <priority>0.8</priority> </url>

  1. Upload your Sitemap to your site.  The file should be located at www.domain.com/sitemap.xml

Google’s webmaster central states, “Video content includes web pages which embed video, URLs to players for video, or the URLs of raw video content hosted on your site.  If Google cannot discover video content at the URLs you provide, those records will be ignored by Googlebot.” As such, each video URL entry in the sitemap must contain:

  • The Video Title
  • A Short Description
  • Play page URL
  • Thumbnail URL
  • Raw video file location and/or the player URL (SWF)

A Few Video Sitemap Tips

  • Make sure that your robots.txt file isn’t blocking any of the items (including the play page URL, the video URL, and the thumbnail URL) included in each Sitemap entry.
  • Make sure that the information in your <video:title> and <video:description> fields match your live site as Google will verify this.
  • Each Sitemap or mRSS feed file that you provide must be under 10MB in size when uncompressed, and can contain no more than 50,000 video items.  If your uncompressed file is larger than 10MB, or you have more than 50,000 videos, you can submit multiple sitemaps and a sitemap index file.

For a description of video-specific tags, and more tips, check out the rest of Google’s tips for creating a video sitemap. For more information on optimizing videos, check out the Youtube help section.  If any of you have more video tips that you would like to share with the crowd, I would love to hear them!

Amy is an Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.

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