It seems as though no matter the conference, the meeting or the website everyone is talking about online video – specifically how a company can utilize the power of online video to drive organic website traffic. Online video has moved past the short-form user-generated content (UGC) and grown to be an accepted and viable business function for media companies of all sizes. Now, more then ever, companies are making their professionally produced content, both long and short-form, available online. Combine that with the proliferation of video destinations like Hulu.com and this becomes a truly unique time when it comes to online video.
Great, everyone knows the power of online video, but the real question becomes how do you get your videos in front of all those people? Outside of major brands that have an existing fan base looking for the content and viral videos that take off, the best solution is utilizing Video Search Engine Optimization (Video SEO / vSEO). With the influx of video content, whether UGC or professionally produced, and the growing adoption by search engines of “Universal Search” features it is safe to say Video SEO is about to become very important for those websites and brands looking to drive significant organic traffic.
So what exactly is Video SEO (vSEO)? Video SEO at its core is about the discoverability of video content via search engines like Google Video, Blinkx or any of 1000′s of Video Search Engines out there. The bottom line goal of Video SEO focuses on getting your video content to the top of search engine rankings – within both the standard search results page and video search results page. This Video SEO Guide and Best Practices document attempts to cover both areas. It should also be noted that Video SEO is still in its infancy and therefore what actually works and what doesn’t work is still being discovered.
When talking about Video SEO it is important to remember that most SEO best practices come into play. Video SEO takes those best practices and combines them with some specific methods exclusive to video. Our Video SEO Guide and Best Practices is based on the fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization, but with a focus on video as opposed to text. Each of the items we list below are tailored for video and just like with standard SEO, Video SEO is about driving organic traffic to your website – each of the methods below focuses on this core element.
Video SEO Guide and Best Practices (Part 1)
- Page Content
Like with general SEO best practices it is important to have relevant and keyword rich text surrounding the video content in order to build relevancy. The content should be descriptive of what the video contains, if it is a music video then obviously the content should contain keywords related to the music video. It is also important to understand when writing copy for Video SEO that the focus should be on writing for the the visitor, not for search engines.
Outside of pure text that describes what the page contains, a video page should also be a gateway to other pieces of relevant content within your website. Related photos, audio, news not only helps with your Video SEO efforts but gives a more compelling user experience that will impact all aspects of your sites traffic.
Inbound and internal linking are part of the core foundation of SEO and how Search Engines determine relevancy and rankings. However, the big question always becomes how do you build a “white hat” link building strategy? First and foremost, the best way to get good, relevant, links is to have good content. Having good content will jump-start a link building campaign because at the end of the day people will always want to share / post / link to content they find interesting. However, having good content is only one piece of a comprehensive Video SEO linking campaign – for the purpose of this article I am going to break Video SEO linking into 3 parts: inbound, internal and anchor text.
- Inbound Links: there are plenty of ways to get inbound links when it comes to Video SEO, some (like Social Media) I cover later in this article and some I wont get into because I don’t want to make this Video SEO Guide 1,000 pages long. What I do want to focus on are the tactics that will give you the most immediate and beneficial impact. For Video SEO the best and most effective way for getting inbound links (outside of the content itself) is to allow visitors to embed your videos into their websites, blogs, profiles and social networks. Giving the option to embed videos allows anyone to copy a few lines of code and easily paste it into a website so that it plays within their chosen environment. The real benefit of allowing embeds, beyond branding and click traffic, is that you can provide an HTML wrapper which enables you to utilize SEO optimized anchor text that links back to your website. This adds a great deal of SEO value to each video and can generate decent click traffic as well. Another great way to build quality links is to reach out to both internal and external relevant web properties. If you are in a big company you should implement a cross-brand linking strategy where relevant properties link together – this strategy is easier said than done but when done right can be extremely beneficial for all brands involved. In regards to external properties you should contact websites and blogs that are relevant to your topic and work on developing a linking partnership.
- The same best practices used for inbound links should also be used for internal links. By internal links I mean the navigation within your website. Even though internal links are not as valuable when it comes to rankings, they still play two important roles – 1) they help determine relevancy and 2) they help search engine spiders crawl / find your content. Spiderable links like video play lists, related links and breadcrumbs not only help search engines build a good picture of your websites infrastructure but can aid your visitors with content discovery.
- Of course, when talking about linking for SEO you have to spend some time talking about Anchor Text. Quite simply anchor text is the clickable part of a link and search engines use this to help determine the relevancy of a website. Regardless of where your link resides, the anchor text helps search engines determine what that link contains (more relevancy). Ideally, any inbound link will have optimized anchor text related to the content on the page it is linking to. Take the HTML wrapper for the embeddable video player as an example, a great set of links would revolve around the top keywords being utilized on the page: for example: Music Videos and Britney Spears.
With linking it is also important to realize that it isn’t just about quantity, it is more about quality. Search engines, especially Google, value links from relevant websites more than just from a random website. Again, there are no shortages of ways for creating inbound links – a few more options are covered in the below “Social Media” for Video SEO section.
Oh and never, ever, pay for links.
- Social Media: One piece of the promotion puzzle many websites overlook is the social media component. Allowing visitors to share, bookmark, rate and comment on your videos basically allows visitors to engage with your content on a whole new level and can have Video SEO benefits. Adding the sharing component is very easy, most social websites offer a button that can be added to your video page template. Let your visitors do the work for you and spread your content across websites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Del.icio.us, Facebook and MySpace. You can also use a service like ShareThis that allows you to add one button that opens up links to all of the social media websites. Remember, it is not just about driving people to your website to consume content, you also want to create a good user-experience that will keep them coming back. Plus, social media lets your visitors become your very own viral marketing team that spreads the word about the great content on your website. When it comes to social bookmarking websites keep in mind that some wont give you any link value from an SEO perspective (the dreaded nofollow), however they can be great at driving traffic – which is the end goal.What I deem to be the most important component of a Social Media Strategy as it relates to Video SEO, are blogs. Blogs, whether blogging or blog outreach, should play a huge part in any digital marketing strategy, especially when it comes to SEO. Creating blogs revolving around a specific topic will not only generate additional traffic and brand awareness, but give a website more opportunities for cross-linking. Blog outreach can be just as valuable when done correctly because bloggers are always looking for good content. Whether giving a blog the inside scoop on the latest video, exclusive content or even a press release. Getting optimized links from a relevant and highly-visited blogs can help jump-start any Video SEO campaign. I could spend a whole day talking about the importance blogging has for websites and brands…however, that is a post for another day.
- Feeds: There are two types of feeds when talking about Video – RSS and mRSS. Both are similar and easy to create with the right tools. RSS feeds allow a visitor to subscribe to the content on your website and updates them whenever there is new content. RSS feeds do not directly impact Video SEO / search engines but should be used as part of an overall traffic building strategy. mRSS feeds directly impact video search engines by allowing a website to submit their video content directly to video search engines. MRSS feed components contain standard RSS elements like meta data, URL to content and thumbnails, but the key differences are the important additional elements that can impact rankings. These elements, which include video ratings, play count and tags, should be included whenever possible. Each of the video search engines that accept mRSS feeds have different requirements when it comes to building a mRSS feed but the best example and standard comes from Yahoo: Yahoo mRSS specifications.
- Video Sitemaps: The importance of sitemaps in regards to SEO can be debated, I tend to be on the side of they can only help so why not. However, when it comes to a video sitemap and Video SEO there are no doubts how important they are. Why? Google does not accept mRSS feeds, however they do accept Video Sitemaps through their webmaster interface. As with all types of search the 800lbs gorilla is the room is Google and you should do everything you can when it comes to indexing all types of content. When it comes to video traffic and Video SEO, to understand the importance all you have to do is look at Google Video and Universal results. Video sitemaps use the standard sitemap protocol but contain video specific tags. Here are Google video sitemap FAQ’s and Guidelines.
- Title and Meta Tags: As with general SEO best practices meta data should be used to its fullest extent. For video pages the focus should be on the video content. For example the Title should contain the name of the video and video specific keyword sets like “Britney Spears Messing Around Music Video” or “Music Video: Britney Spears Messing Around”. The meta description should be a brief summary of the video that lives on that page. Obviously it is important to keep the meta data as unique and descriptive as possible for each Video page.
- Header Tags: Header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc) should be used to call out the importance of page content. H1 should be used for the main topic of the page , H2 should support the H1 and so on and so on. For example the keyword set “Music Videos” would get a H1 and the name of the video would get an H2.
- Navigation: A good website navigational structure is essential for success for two reasons. First, you want to make sure search engine spiders can easily crawl your website and discover all of your content. Secondly, you want to make it easy for users to navigate your website and find not only the content they wanted but help them discover new content. When it comes to videos, utilizing a simple playlist can accomplish both of these. I wont go into to much detail when it comes to playlists, but the key things to remember are you want them to be crawlable and relevant to the content on the page. A video page is also a great place to bring in all related content, including: articles, photos and audio. All of these help create relevancy as well as enhances the overall user experience.
- Page URL: Another core SEO component is the utilization of a static, and therefore SEO friendly, URL. The URL for a video should have limited dynamic parameters, contain relevant keywords and have a succinct file structure. For example, an ideal Video SEO page URL would be example.com/music-videos/britney-spears/messing-around.html or example.com/music-videos/britney-spears-messing-around.html.
- Video File Nomenclature: As with all elements of Rich Media, how you name your file can have a positive impact on your SEO efforts. Whenever possible you should name your video file in a keyword descriptive manner, for example use “britney-spears-messy.FLV” instead of a random database / CMS generated name. Video File Nomenclature is just another way to help search engines define your page relevance.
How does the new flash indexing impact Video SEO (vSEO)? It doesn’t. Search Engines will not be indexing flash movies: Google and Yahoo are improving the indexing of flash files,
As part of any Digital Guide and Best Practice document it is important to mention the roll that web analytics play. Measuring the success or failure of your digital efforts and the impact Video SEO has on your websites traffic is as important as anything else. Whether you use a top-tier web analytic provider like Omniture or a free service like Google Analytics having a solution to measure and guide your strategy is imperative. However, when it comes to Video SEO, some of the metrics behind tracking your efforts are still being defined. Tracking rankings when it comes to the actual videos in a video search engine results page is an inexact science and will require getting your hands dirty. None the less it is still important to track how your videos are doing in order to make adjustments and implement further optimization.
Video SEO, like SEO, is not “set it and forget it” – SEO is an ongoing process that requires continuous work. As I will say over and over, SEO is one piece of your digital strategy with the end goal of increasing site traffic.