October 30, 2008
How To

How to Optimize Video Content for SEO: 7 Tactics to Improve Your Rankings

SUMMARY: Online videos are hot! Web users watched more than 11 billion videos online in one month alone last summer, and more than half of viewers took some action after viewing them.

See how a search marketing manager reaped substantial rewards after implementing SEO best practices to significantly increase daily views – and daily business – on his website.
Web users love online video. A summer report from comScore shows that U.S. residents watched more than 11 billion online videos in May 2008. And 52% of those viewers reported taking some action after watching, such as looking for more information or making a direct purchase, according to our 2009 Search Marketing Benchmark Guide.

Derek Fulford, Manager, Search Marketing, Weather.com, achieved an impressive 275% increase in daily views when his team optimized for search a series of archived online videos for one division of their organization.

If your site employs online video, you can borrow Fulford’s tactics to ensure that your content is indexed by search engines and shows up when users enter relevant keywords.

“For us especially, being a publisher site with revenue dependent on ad sales, video is something advertisers are familiar with,” says Fulford. “Our sales team is effective at selling video ads, so the more video we can generate and the more views we achieve, the more ads we can sell.”

Based on the success of that first campaign, Fulford’s team is now working to create a standard video SEO protocol for all of Weather.com’s video content. Flash-based players can make search-engine indexing more difficult. But Fulford found that many techniques used to optimize text-based content can be adapted to the video environment.

Fulford’s top seven tactics for improving search visibility for video content, include educating video production teams on front-end SEO, employing keyword targeting strategies, surrounding online video with tags, user comments, and other text-based content.

Tactic #1. Educate your video production team on SEO basics

Many critical steps in optimizing videos happen when files are created and placed onto Web pages. So, marketers must work closely with their video production team to ensure they understand the basics of SEO. In larger organizations, video production may be handled by a separate division.

To avoid confusion, Fulford recommends engaging in a formal SEO training process with any video production team. Key elements should include:

- Hosting an “SEO 101” training session with the video team. This session can introduce video producers to key concepts, such as:
o Identifying keywords for video titles and file names
o Tagging options
o Creating keyword-rich text descriptions of video content

- Planning a follow-up “SEO refresher” course or a more advanced training session several months after the team has begun employing SEO basics.

- Meeting with individual team members who’ve shown interest or requested deeper training on SEO topics.

- Writing a one-page, SEO-basics document that the team can take away from sessions to use as a resource during their day-to-day production duties.

Fulford stresses that even after conducting such training marketers should double-check new video files to ensure proper SEO techniques are being used.

“You can’t expect the video team to do everything, so you have to review their work.”

Tactic #2. Conduct research to ID relevant keywords for searches

As with all SEO campaigns, optimizing video content begins with identifying relevant keywords. Here are a few essentials:

- Identify a specific theme for video keywords.
Web pages may contain multiple content sections and navigation links that you can target for search engines. But video content tends to be shorter and more tightly focused.

For example, Weather.com features dozens of videos on hurricanes. Rather than choosing a generic search term such as “Hurricane,” the team identifies storms by a specific name or location, such as “Hurricane Ike” or “Hurricane Ike Houston.”

- Use keyword research tools to supplement your keyword list.
Once you’ve identified a major theme, keyword research tools, such as Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery, can identify popular terms, highly competitive terms, and useful synonyms that Web users are likely to type into a search engine.

- Identify related terms that share the same root as your primary theme.
The Weather.com team may have several videos related to Hurricane Ike, for example, which are targeted with keywords that describe exactly what aspect of the storm the video covers, such as:
o Hurricane Ike damage
o Hurricane Ike damage Galveston
o Hurricane Ike flooding

- Use the term “video” as a modifier.
Web users looking for online videos typically include the term “video” in their queries. Make sure you add “video” to the key terms on your list:
o “Hurricane Ike damage video”

Tactic #3. Host each video on its own Web page

Help search engines index your videos by creating unique landing pages for each video on your website.

Most online video is displayed by Flash players, which don’t facilitate searching for keyword-specific content. Instead, use your landing page as a primary resource. Design it to provide keyword-rich html content that can be easily indexed.

Also, be sure to use keywords in the page title and URL. Instead of coding videos with an indecipherable string of letters and numbers, create URLs that include a description of the video content, such as /video-hurricane-ike.mov.

At times, your hands may be tied by your organization’s video infrastructure. For example, Fulford was able to optimize archived video content for one division of Weather.com. But his team is still working to move away from a Flash-based video platform that hosts the majority of its video content.

Marketers should meet with the product manager responsible for your organization’s online video strategy and infrastructure to ensure that creating unique landing pages for each video file is an option.

Tactic #4. Write compelling titles and descriptions for your videos

Video titles and descriptions are prime areas for keyword-rich content.

- Create a video-naming policy that employs keywords in each video title.
For example, Fulford’s team created a series of videos covering the health effects of weather phenomena that included titles such as:
o Air Quality Inside Your Home
o Exercise-Induced Asthma

- Have the video production or marketing teams write a brief, one-paragraph description of the video’s content. Refer to your keyword list to ensure that the paragraph includes targeted search terms.

- Include keywords in the video’s meta description:
o Limit descriptions to 140-150 characters
o Write in complete sentences
o Be descriptive about the video’s content
o Don’t repeat keywords too often – that looks like spamming

Tactic #5. Employ video tagging and user comments on video pages

Video tagging, popularized by YouTube and other social video platforms, offers another chance to add keywords to your pages. The same can be said for user comments on the page.

- Tagging online videos by pre-determined categories provides SEO benefits through keyword-rich anchor text. Assigning categories and linking related videos with a keyword-based tag gives search engines another navigation link to crawl.

- Let search engine spiders crawl user comments by using html text to code comments on video pages. Placing comments in frames prevents search engine spiders from crawling.

User comments represent fresh content that can be frequently indexed to gain high visibility for your video content.

Tactic #6. Include a transcript

One of the best ways to provide text-based content around your video files is to include a complete transcript of the words spoken during the video. You can include the transcript on the same landing page as the video file, title and description.

Google recently unveiled a project using speech recognition to index the words contained in online videos. But the experiment is limited to videos related to the U.S. elections next week. There’s no way to be sure when (or if) Google will expand the platform beyond its Google Labs test. For now, that means transcribing video content in-house or using an outsourced transcription company.

Tactic #7. Add a video site map to your website

Video site maps are XML files that let search engines index your content by providing a list of URLs contained within your site – along with descriptive information, such as frequency of updates and the page’s relative importance.

Make sure your site map includes:
o Link from the home page
o Complete list of videos available, organized by category
o Keyword-rich video title text as links to video files

Google lets websites submit a video site map based on the search engine’s protocol. Google’s program lets websites submit a list of URLs that contain video files, along with descriptive information, including:
o Video title
o Description
o Duration

Useful links related to this article:

Google’s Video Site Map program

Google Labs’ Audio Indexing experiment:


MarketingSherpa guide to using keyword research tools

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