Posted by katemats
Hi SEOmoz community!
Let me take a moment to introduce myself since this is my first post on the blog. My name is Kate Matsudaira (Kate Mats for short), and I started here in November as VP Engineering for the fabulous technology team here at SEOmoz. Before that I worked for an online video platform called Delve Networks – where I learned a lot about online video, how people are using it, and perhaps more relevant to this audience, how to make it work for your business. All this experience working with lots of customers to get their video online has given me a lot of insight into the many different ways to use video, monetize video, and optimize it to deliver the highest ROI. In this post I am going to lay out a few tips and tricks for getting started with a video content strategy.
Lots of us keep hearing about how video is such a compelling medium and a great way to engage your customers. Not long ago Rand presented a Whiteboard Friday Video where he covers some of the basics around video SEO, like the trade offs between using a third party site, or hosting the video yourself. In the following post, I hope to add a little more to that topic and talk about some additional strategies that combine these ideas – starting with a 3 step process to help you get started with creating a video strategy for your website
Step 1: Getting Video on Your Website
So you have decided you want to add video to your site – let’s talk about some potential strategies to make the most of your efforts.
There are two options central options for getting video on your site – you can choose a 3rd party or you can host the video yourself.
Generally hosting video yourself is not recommended unless you have lots of technical resources at your disposal (there are lots of moving parts to a video hosting project including: hosting the files, serving up video and the resulting bandwidth costs, selecting and customizing a player, collecting metrics and analytics, etc) – it used to be that this was the best option, but that is no longer the case. For most people choosing a 3rd party video platform is a better solution because they will offer better bandwidth costs, provide you lots of tools to manage your video and help create a compelling user experience.
For this article I am going to assume you are choosing a third party platform and not building everything yourself (although if you were, some of the advice may still be relevant for your project).
Once you’ve chosen a platform (there are lots of options like YouTube, Delve Networks, Ooyala, Brightcove, Fliqz, and more – evaluating each of these could warrant a whole post in and of itself!) you have to think about your video strategy – do you just want video on your site, or do you want videos hosted off-site as well?
Step 2: Defining your strategy – should you host it or post it?
Once you’ve evaluated some options and feel like you know how to get video on your site, the next step is to decide should you just host the video on your site, post it to the video sharing sites, or both*.
* Note: I wouldn’t suggest posting the same video (in the same way) since you really want users to link to your website, not YouTube, for the same content, or you would want your site to show up in the SERPS instead of the video sharing site’s version of your content. But this is not a one size fits all recommendation and there may be cases where this is appropriate; such as when you pay to produce a high quality piece of content and want it on your web site, but want to take advantage of the traffic from a video sharing site – more on this below.
There are some clear advantages of these big video sharing sites including:
- Easy to upload video
- No bandwidth costs
- Lots of traffic
- Easy to share (embed, email to friends, rss feeds, etc)
But there are also some disadvantages:
- Videos are watched on their site, not yours!
- Harder to monetize – if you are pursuing a video ad strategy to monetize your content this harder to do on big video sharing sites
- No link juice if people embed/share your video
- Limited analytics to understand user engagement, video bounce rate, etc
- Tend to be lower quality
- Ads appear on your content
- Limited length/duration
These sites can provide a powerful marketing channel to your site, brand and content. However, if your ultimate goal is conversions you need to have clear plan on how to get traffic and viewership on that track (and that for most of us, means back on your website). This means that you need to think carefully about a strategy that makes sense.
Here is a good list of questions that might help you pick a strategy that works for you.
- Do you want increased brand awareness?
- Are you planning to put ads on your content or charge a premium or pay per view model for your video?
- How are you going to get users to come to your site using your video?
- Are you concerned about bandwidth costs?
- Do you just want something simple, or is having a full fledged platform important to your business goals?
- Is your content long, or is high definitely/quality really important to you?
- Can you create entertaining or useful videos that would gain traction and views on a video sharing site?
- Or is your content very product specific and best used to help your current traffic convert?
Of course you don’t have to pick one or the other, you can use a hybrid strategy. Some ideas I’ve seen work well in practice include:
Put mini videos on YouTube, and the longer length content on your site.
This will act like a teaser and encourage users to come to the site for the rest of the content.
Here is an example of a Yoga web site trying to sell their DVDs – in this case they are trying to build up their YouTube brand (see the call to action encouraging users to subscribe), but are also trying to drive traffic to their site by enticing you with the first part of a DVD series. =
YouTube compresses video to a lower quality, so you can offer an high definition or higher quality version on your site.
This is particularly compelling for entertainment based content, or any content that would be thoroughly more enjoyable in full screen mode.
Offer relevant materials (articles, white papers, quizzes, etc) on your site that compliment the content in the video.
Indicating this in the video description will encourage users to visit your site for additional information.
In this YouTube video, there are instructions on how to style your hair a particular way using Foxy Hair Extensions. This user has several of these videos that are very useful and instructional, but they also encourage viewers to purchase the product in the video they are selling.
Put the same video on both YouTube and your site.
Typically you would do this if you wanted to leverage the YouTube distribution channel, but you wanted something else that YouTube didn’t offer – for example some other video providers offer customizable players, substantial analytics, subtitles, etc – or perhaps you have limited resources and want to put the video both places. This strategy allows you to still take advantage of the audience on a big sharing site, but also gives you the ability to showcase the video content to your users as well.
If you are going to use the same video on both YouTube and your site – it is duplicate content in some sense (which in SEO is generally bad), but you can skirt "duplicate content" for video by having a different title/description when you post to YouTube vs. your own site. And this approach could potentially get dual benefits (findability of content on YouTube + visibility on your site and ability to serve advertising/content/have video sitemaps/etc).
If you do go this approach I recommend you think about your users – make sure your web site adds additional value in supplemental, relevant content or a superior experience. And also make sure that the video you are using is designed to help your strategy – if you want more brand recommendation make sure your video showcases your brand in the content, if you want to drive your users to take an action make sure that call to action is clear in the video, etc.
One thing you might want to stay away from is having the the exact same video on your homepage (or the landing page you are steering people to via your video). In general it wouldn’t be a great feeling for a user who watched the video, to go looking for more information and see the exact same video they just watched – you need to give them something different and relevant. For best results, drive people to a specific landing page or microsite (with a very short and easy to remember url) via your video that is tailored to the actions and conversions you want them to take (and this also allows you to track the traffic coming to that page since users have to type in links and can’t click on them in the video).
Finally, it is also important to pick the right content for this strategy. This means creating content that drives your objectives. For example, choose a video that will showcase your brand – that way if it is embedded elsewhere it will carry your branding along to those sites. Having your url or landing page url actually in the video content will show viewers where to go to get more information or similar content. Give them call to actions – tell them what they get if they go to your site – tease them with more content, make it clear what you want them to do.
Step 3: You have a plan, now optimize it!
There are several pieces to optimizing your video marketing – since several of these are likely worth of a whole post, in the interest of brevity I have broken it down into two areas: the video itself, and the metadata for the video (either on your site or the video sharing site).
For the video:
- Showcase your brand in the video.
Edit your videos to showcase your brand in the introduction (pre-roll), or in an overlay like a sub-title (these are easy to add with most video editing software), or in a backdrop in the content (think about interviewing people in front of a big canvas with your brand on it – like celeb pictures at movie reviews). These can be very effective since your branding will travel with the video. Videos sharing sites make it very easy to share (now, there is a compelling statement!) and could end up embedded or ripped on lots of other sites, or in search results, etc. Thus, adding your branding to the video file itself ensures that your company information, brand, or website URL travel along with your content.
- Use descriptive filenames.
When you create a video some cameras will name files things like a234rt.mp4, this isn’t terribly useful to search engines. So just like using descriptive names for your images, renaming your videos to something more meaningful (i.e. dog-walking.mp4) will help with video SEO efforts.
- Add a call to action at the end of the video.
Make it clear to users what to do next — give them your website address, send them to a link to learn more, direct them to similar videos on your site. This is your great chance to steer them where you want them to go. Make it clear to the user what they get if they go to your site.
- Make your audio clear!
A recent NPR story noted that YouTube engineers are creating automated video transcripts to aid in video search. Having clear, understandable audio will help get more accurate transcripts (which not only improves searchability but also accessibility for hearing-impaired users). This is also great for regular users, too, since sometimes it is hard to hear when you have poor quality audio, multiple sources talking at the same time, or music playing during someone’s dialogue.
- Think about the duration of your content.
Some video sharing sites, like YouTube, limit content to 10 minutes, but generally breaking up your video into small digestible chunks will make it both better for the user (they don’t have to watch 10 minutes on a topic they don’t care about to get to the 3 minute segmented they are truly interested in viewing) and give you more unique and (hopefully) compelling content. Plus if you are using a 3rd party solution this can help minimize bandwidth costs.
- Add text titles, textual graphics, and other text in your videos.
Much like OCR technology Google is employing new technology to help understand video, so if you put captions and other textual elements into your videos that can help both users and search engines (think about these elements like headings used in news broadcasts)
- Create interesting content.
In general this should go without saying; but I figured I should state it clearly since I have had someone say "I don’t understand why people aren’t watching my [very boring and dry] commercial on product X"
And the metadata:
- Fill out all of the information fields.
If there are fields to be completed like title and description, make sure you fill them out (and use your keywords where appropriate). Use the same approach you’d employ when optimizing your web pages for SEO; video search is very similar to classic web search. Don’t leave any information blank since this is how the video sharing sites expose your content to their audience.
- Use descriptive and catchy titles.
This helps users know what your video is about and can assist with viral efforts. Using keywords in your title, description and tags will make it easier for users to find and discover your content – and they can help you rank higher for those keywords. But like most things in SEO, don’t go overboard – pick a few relevant keywords/tags to focus on that will have the most relevance to users viewing that video. (For example, if you made a video on how to cook pancakes, but you are trying to drive traffic to your kitchen supplies e-commerce site – keywords like pancakes, cooking, etc are probably better choices than "griddle" because they are far more relevant to the user)
- Take the time to setup a profile, channel, etc.
Like Twitter and Facebook, taking the time to fill out your profile and make it meaningful will help users understand your brand and can help you gain more traffic share on the video sharing sites. Many of the video sharing sites make use of channels, so having a channel with organized content gives your account credibility – generally like other community based websites being part of the community will improve your visibility and spending time on these sharing communities should fit into your overall video strategy.
- Choose a good thumbnail.
It is the first thing users see and plays an important role on whether they click or not. Make sure you try to pick a thumbnail that is compelling and relevant. You could probably write a whole post on picking compelling thumbnails, but at a basic level, use common sense and try to answer the question "what photo best encapsulates the content of my video?"
- Put meaningful content around the video.
If you put the video on your site, having great indexable and meaningful content around the video will help search engines understand the context of the video and related content. This is also great for your users. For example, if you have a video on making pancakes, content about pancakes, the history of pancakes, or recipes would all be great surrounding content. For interviews, a summary or other relevant articles would be helpful for the user. And in some cases, transcripts of the video make *excellent* accompanying content.
- Create a transcript.
Some video sharing sites allow you to submit transcripts, there are also some players that allow you to share this with users. This can help a lot with content since transcripts can be understood and indexed by search engines. And if accessibility is a concern for you, creating transcripts is likely hugely beneficial to your customers in the first place.
- Submit a video sitemap to Google.
This is the easiest way to increase your chances of your video showing up in Google search results. You can find more information on that at Google Webmaster Support. [Special tip for those of you reading this in detail: if you want to drive users to your site and only have the thumbnail show up in search results make sure and set the parameter allow_embed="no" ]
- Take advantage of mRSS and HTML 5.
There are lots of great attributes you can specify for the video including things like tags, that make it easier for the search engines to understand and index your content. And with mRSS you can submit the feed to Google, so as soon as you publish new video it will be pushed to them – just like RSS and your blog!
Once you get it on the page, and you spend some time optimizing your content for maximum usability and impact – make sure you have setup some sort of way to measure you success. You should certainly pay attention to views (even better if you can get more detailed video engagement metrics), but many platforms offer even more detailed metrics to help you measure and track the effectiveness of your strategy.
That should be a good first set of things to do to get started with a video strategy. And of course, this is just the beginning there are lots of options and many creative ways to leverage this compelling medium to aid your goals.
If you liked this information or found it useful or have thoughts on video related topics you would like to learn more about, I would love to hear your feedback so please post it in the comments!
More: continued here