Video SEO: Optimizing Your Videos for Search Engines

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an expert give free advice on how to do something better? You might want to learn to play an instrument, cook a certain dish, or try a new sport. Sure, you could read about it, but sometimes words alone just won’t cut it. Many people would greatly prefer to watch a video of someone demonstrating the very thing they want to learn. This can be a great thing for the person making the video, as they are providing something that quite a few people are looking for. At the same time, the number of potential viewers is quite high for most instructional videos, as they can apply to people with a wide variety of skill levels and goals. This is where properly executed Video SEO comes in.

How many of us watch internet videos? A show of hands, please. Sure, I can’t actually see your hands from here, but I’m still willing to bet that most of you raised them. We may live in the age of the Internet, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our taste for television. Whether it’s music videos, funny clips, or instructional shows, almost all of us periodically watch some sort of online streaming video. Problem is, many people have a difficult time finding something specific that they’re looking for and many web video producers are struggling to attract the right viewers. Luckily, there’s a way to match up videos with interested users, and it’s called Video SEO.

What is Video SEO?

First of all, in order to answer this question, we need to know what search engine optimization is. In simple terms, this is a method to get your website or web page higher up the search engine rankings, in turn getting your website seen by a wider audience. Therefore, video SEO service is a method for optimizing your video to get it seen by a wider audience, thus getting more views and more traffic to the video creator’s website. Considerably like search engine optimization for web pages, video SEO assists in search engine “Spiders” crawl around data, and help the viewer in understanding what is in the video. And again, similarly to search engine optimization, keywords play an important factor in video SEO, this is done through keyword-rich titles and descriptions. This can also be a factor for the SERPs, in turn giving the video more of a chance to be seen by a wider audience. One big difference between search engine optimization for web pages and video SEO is that, at this present time, there is far less content on the web than there is on the internet. Because of this, competition is less fierce and it is less difficult for a video to be seen high up a search engine result, i.e. Yahoo or Google. This is a great opportunity for video content creators, as they are allowed to optimize videos without being concerned with heavy competition. This means it is far easier to get a high search engine result. Typically, an internet user will only view the first 2 pages of a search engine result, so it is paramount that the video is seen high up the search engine result if it is to be seen by a wide audience.

Importance of Video SEO

One of the most important aspects of video SEO is the ability to get a better ranking on the universal blended search results. Since these are results that mix together several types of content, including videos, images, news, books, and local searches, your content has a much better chance of obtaining a high rank if you can master video SEO and have it point to a rich snippet that appears on the video search engine which can improve the viewer’s experience and increase the traffic to your site. This can also make the chances of being ranked on the first page for a competitive keyword much higher.

The importance of video SEO is actually based on the setup of the video, its content, and how you integrate its availability with the words on a page. Text is more important when it comes to using SEO for the simple fact that search engine spiders can’t read what’s inside the video. This also means that if you hope to have your video rank well, it requires that you have written content to support it. The easier you make it for search engines to find and understand your video content, the more effectively it can be indexed and the higher it will rank.

Keyword Research for Video SEO

Besides Google Keyword Tool, you may also try other tools such as the one in YouTube or a software called Market Samurai. The keyword tool in YouTube is very simple. It only gives information about keywords that are closely related to the one that you type and the search volume data. The data about the competition is not included. Market Samurai on the other hand, is a comprehensive tool for SEO research. Unfortunately it’s not free, although there is a free trial without some of the features. The keyword tool feature from Market Samurai gathers data from several sources, not just Google only, and provides more complete information including the competition for Adwords and search engine, and pages that are in the first ten in search engines which work take a longer time.

The process of video SEO itself is quite similar to the process of normal SEO. Keyword research is always the first step that must be done. The objective is to find keywords that have high search volume but low competition. There are several ways to do keyword research for video. One of the most popular tools is the Google Adword Keyword Tool. This tool is a perfect starting point for video SEO and SEO in general. The keywords you will find from the tool are very relevant and the competition is quite accurate. After you have gathered and selected several keywords you can also use it to find out more information about the competition.

Identifying Relevant Keywords

When selecting keywords for your site, it can be tempting to not put too much thought into it and just select the first words that come to your head that you think people will search for. But the truth is, keyword selection requires a lot of thought and premeditation if you want to properly optimize your site. The main aim of identifying the correct keywords is for your site to rank at top positions in the search engines for these words. Not rank highly for irrelevant words and phrases that will not generate traffic to your site. Specific, relevant keywords will generally generate the most traffic to your site. When choosing keywords, there is such a thing as being too specific. Let’s say you have a magical unicorn figurine to sell that is made out of unmeltable ice. You could choose the keyword “ice unicorn”. Now this is extremely relevant to the product that you are selling but how many people are actually searching for that term? You may well get a high search engine position for that term but will it actually generate much traffic to your site? A better keyword to choose might be “crystal unicorn” or even just “unique unicorn” because that might be what people with no prior knowledge of what you are selling might search for. It is unlikely that they knew they were looking for an ice unicorn.

Analyzing Keyword Competition

First, you need to identify if the given keyword term has universal search results. For those unfamiliar with universal search, it is the term to categorize Google’s current method of blending results of various types into one set of results. For example, a search for any topical current event or celebrity likely yields news and blog results, whereas a search on a specific product can yield shopping and web results. Video results are blended into search results when Google deems the keyword as having particular interest to searchers. This can be characterized by a video results column, or a video thumbnail being mixed into the results. Though the increasingly common blended video results can be viewed as positive, a keyword with heavy universal search results will be difficult to take video competition, as your potential video viewers can be lost to other types of media.

According to Forrester Research, it is 50x easier to achieve a page one ranking on Google with a video, in comparison to a web page with plain text. With search results favoring video with heavily weighted results such as blended or video-only search, it is important that you can weigh if your keyword has attainable video ranks, or if it is too competitive to directly compete with.

Key phrases are always part of SEO for videos. That is the landmark of Search Engine Optimization (SEO): getting your video content ranked highly on search engines for the phrases that best reflect what your video is about. Up until now, the best practice for keyword analysis had been borrowing from your experiences in optimizing your web pages. You had a look at the most frequently searched keywords in your industry via Google AdWords Keyword Tool and you checked your keyword’s relevancy and competition using some sort of keyword difficulty tool. These methods just won’t cut it for analyzing a keyword’s competition in video search; different types of web results require different types of keyword competition analysis.

Using Long-tail Keywords

In the realm of search optimization, keywords are relatively few or single word search queries with a high search volume and a large number of results. A large number of businesses compete to be on the first page of Google search results for these queries. While a large company with a high budget may rank well for such a query, for the small to medium sized businesses it can be a really tough fight and they may burn through a large portion of their marketing budget trying to rank. For example, a real estate firm that is attempting to rank for the keyword “home loans” will find it very difficult to compete with the large banks and therefore need to allocate a large portion of their marketing budget to SEO or Video Production or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) just to see any return. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are small niche market search queries with little to no competition. While each individual query may have a low search volume, when an aggregate of masses of these types of queries are considered, they make up about 70% of all search traffic. Long tail keywords are where internet gold can be found. Since there is little competition and abundant plentiful quality traffic, any business that can create SEO optimized content and get on the first page Google search results for a long-tail query, in essence, has free advertising to a receptive and relevant audience. This is especially true for YouTube search results.

Optimizing Video Metadata

Titles and descriptions are key building blocks to creating good video metadata that can be easily indexed by search engines. An engaging title will attract human viewers as well as search engine crawlers. Crafting a descriptive video description also is of immense benefit as it allows search engines to discern the content of a video more effectively. This can lead to better rankings for your videos in search results. Add tags; these are keywords that are attached to videos. They are another tool to specify what a video is about. This will enable your videos to be displayed when someone searches a relevant keyword. The more tags you add, the more widely your video will be indexed. Adding video location information through Google webmaster tools also helps to define to Google, the areas which your video is relevant to. This can allow for display of your video in location-based searches. Coming soon to video search are video sitemaps. This is an extension to the sitemap protocol and can be submitted to Google and other search engines. It provides specific information about a video, allowing them to index the video more effectively and return it as a search result. Information included in a video sitemap can include runtime, category, age appropriateness, and expired date. This is definitely something to look out for in the future.

Writing Engaging Titles

When writing titles for your videos, it is much more beneficial to write something engaging and creative, even if not fully descriptive, than to write something boring but very descriptive. You should try to strike a good balance between the two. A good title will get people to watch your video, while a bad title can make it very hard to get anyone to click on your video. This in turn will affect your video’s ability to get views. Remember to be honest with what you have in the video. Do not try to fabricate a video with a title that promises something that the video does not deliver. A good example of this would be what the author did to bring you to this article. He could have titled this article “How to name your titles and get more views.” Now that would have been fully descriptive but I’m sure a much less effective title than the current one. A similar “bait and switch” with video titles can lose you subscribers. If you have a video with a great deal of views and many unsubscribers, you might have done this and want to analyze the correlation between the two. Worthy or not, I felt the need for that anecdote.

Crafting Descriptive Video Descriptions

Use a keyword-rich approach. Now that you have some clear notes about your video, it should be easier to identify keywords. Spend some time to get a list of around 10 words that relate to different parts of your video. These words are what people are most likely to use when searching for your video. Build your description as a short paragraph using as many of these words as you can. Regularly adding these words in your description will further increase search result relevance.

The first thing you should keep in mind is relevancy. Although every video you upload will have a specific message or aim, sometimes that message may jump around or the content may be hard to summarize in a short space. Don’t just look at the first minute and try to sum the entire video based on that, it’s best to watch the whole thing first so you can decide what moments or key things happen throughout. An effective way to break things up is writing some notes purely about the content of the video. This will give the viewer a clear understanding of what will happen when watching, making it more likely they will make a commitment. This step will also help you decide what tags to use later on.

Whether your video is intended for YouTube or for a more professional market, crafting a good video description can be the key to success. Effective descriptions with the right keywords can boost viewing and sharing rates across the board. When applied to SEO, writing a good video description can also help the video surface more prominently in search results. So, knowing how to write something that’s both promotional and search engine friendly is a must.

Adding Relevant Tags

When uploading your video, you will be able to add a title and description to it. However, you will also be able to add tags. These are not visible to the viewer but are embedded into the video. Tags are another way of associating your video with a certain search term. A good way to find relevant tags is to search for a specific term in YouTube and see what type of results come up. For example, searching for the term “gardening” may bring up other related search terms such as “how to grow plants” or “garden design”. All of these are potential tags that you could associate with your video. Furthermore, the YouTube Tag Suggest Tool is a useful way to find the best tags for your video. Based on your video’s title and description, it will provide you with a list of relevant tags that you could use. We always want to use the most relevant tags to our video and it is important not to overuse tags that don’t describe the content of your video. An example could be tagging a video of a dog with “funny cat videos” in an attempt to garner more views. This is not a good idea as it will only serve as disappointment to the viewer and increase the chances of a video dislike.

Video Optimization Techniques

When you spend time creating a video, naturally you want to make sure that it is viewed. You can spend time and money making a video, but you also want to make sure that it is optimized for search engines. Search engines have a hard time searching for video content, what you need to do is provide the search engines with information about your video. To help SEO for your video, you should write a video sitemap and submit it to Google, this will help Google locate your video on your site and it can provide information to Google about the video. With data provided by the sitemap, Google can provide information about the videos on the search result itself. A video sitemap will help describe to the crawlers what is inside the video and it can help it to rank by providing metadata and it will allow the video to get indexed even though there might be no actual text on the page itself. Creating a video sitemap is probably the most important thing you can do for video SEO. Another way to boost the SEO for your video is to use video hosting from a reputable video hosting service. This will ensure that you receive more SEO benefits from your video. YouTube is the most common video hosting service, and YouTube allows you to submit video sitemaps. Sitemaps can also be submitted to other hosting services such as Dailymotion, and With a sitemap submitted, your hosted video can also generate some traffic from search result displayed images. Although this can be of some benefit, better traffic can be made by displaying rich snippets. Rich snippets displays information providing an even better way to inform searchers about the content of the video. When a website supports rich snippets it adds them to the HTML of your page, and with information provided by a properly marked up page, allows search engines to display richer information in search results.

Creating High-Quality Videos

It is said that the best optimization techniques for video SEO are the methods that increase the value of a video. By creating a high-quality video, there is a greater probability of the video being shared among other users. This increase in sharing is likely to result in more inbound links and better awareness of the video. A better quality video will also lead to a longer stream time. Videos that keep viewers consistently engaged maintain a high position in YouTube ranking and search results. Viewed as a bonus, high quality videos that are relevant to the search query will often result in a video rich snippet result. Since it’s the specific content of the video that causes it to be considered of high quality, this section would view content efficiency. Efficient content is content that maximizes viewer interest and crosses the point of value to the point of compromise. This would be the area where title and meta data come in to play in optimizing video search engines. Videos with misleading, vague, or irrelevant titles and meta data will often underperform and lose viewer interest. This happens because although the video may be highly relevant to query, it could fail to meet the searchers’ specific intent. Content that is too specific, although not necessarily bad, can also lead to video underperformance. An example would be a how-to video that is too lengthy or shows viewers how to do something they already know how to do. This is an inefficient use of time for the viewer. The best content is relevant to the query, meets the viewers’ intent, and leaves the viewer feeling that they have gained something of value from the video. It is said that if the value of the video exceeds the cost of the viewers time, then you have a high quality and successful video.

Optimizing Video Length and Format

Duration length, a common criticism for video is that it’s too long or short. While it is possible to gauge too long, there aren’t many cases of a video being too short. Modern web attention spans are shortening and this can lead to immediate closure of a video if the user thinks it is too long. This can be detrimental for the length of the video. In terms of length for SEO, it doesn’t particularly matter. The aim should be to make the video the best it can be and in turn, the length will hopefully reflect this. Some points may be reiterated, but the overall aim is to improve duration and interactions, and often engagement for said video length will show in the video itself.

In terms of video file format, search engines usually have no preference. Although, preferential acceptance for universal formats such as AVI, WMV, MOV, and MPEG are quite common. For one, other search engines, specifically Google, may be biased towards their webm format, a format that they developed.

Ideal video length is quite a contested subject. Even though it isn’t explicitly used for video ranking, it can very well be the most important factor for increasing your video’s visibility. As video length increases in duration, user engagement and interaction decreases. Preferences and engagement for video length can also differ depending upon the topic that is covered. It’s important to use critical thinking and best practices when creating a video. Consumer research and company/university information videos have a much higher tolerance and engagement for longer length videos compared to entertainment-based videos.

Implementing Closed Captions and Subtitles

You can check out how to create your own captions or a transcript. After these files are created, they can be submitted to the video hosting site, or manually added to the video if the appropriate features are available. This is also useful for relatively noisy environments where the audio content can’t be understood, and for those who are not fluent in the video’s language. This method can greatly broaden the audience of your video.

Transcripts: a full-text document of the video’s audio content. This can be in the form of an HTML file, which includes the time code designators to synchronize the text with the video’s audio track, or it can be a simple text file.

Closed Captions: a timed text file, typically used to provide an additional accessibility option for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Including captions and transcripts of your video’s audio content can vastly improve the video’s search engine optimization. Captions and transcripts effectively increase keyword density, which is a measure of the relevance of the content of your site. Add accurate, relevant captions and transcripts in these formats:

Promoting Video Sharing and Engagement

Encourage viewers to share your content by using popular sharing buttons accompanied by a call to action. ShareThis, a free online tool that makes sharing content simple, provides customizable social sharing buttons that can be placed directly on your video. These buttons can be configured to appear automatically following a predetermined time into the video with the assumption that viewers who have enjoyed content up to this point are more likely to share it. Adding a “Click to share” annotation directly to your video also serves as a clear call to action. For users directly watching your video on a video host site such as YouTube, it is a good idea to ask the question “Rate or comment this video?” at the conclusion of your video coupled with a verbal call to action narrated into your video audio. Data has shown that user ratings and comments are still heavily weighted when determining video popularity and relevance. Any comments left on your video should be replied to, no matter if they are positive or negative, as this shows viewers that you are engaged and can provoke additional discussion. Lastly, the simple act of setting your video as a video response to a related high traffic video can be very effective in siphoning viewers to your content as they are more likely to click and watch a video response than discover a video through search.

Now that your video has been fully optimized for search, it is time to implement strategies proactive in promoting user interaction and bringing viewers to your video. This can be done in a number of ways. First, it is crucial to have your video content displayed visibly on your page. This can be done by linking, embedding, or possibly even creating a video sitemap. A sitemap is a file that informs search engines about videos on your site. It provides information about the video content and which URLs the search engine should crawl. This allows search engines to retrieve all of your video content, thus increasing the likelihood of it being indexed, often alongside a rich snippet, and eventually seen by viewers. Keep in mind the effectiveness of any of these tactics differs between each hosting solution. Video sitemaps are quite effective for self-hosted videos using a WordPress CMS. For embedded content using a hosting solution with a rich sharing functionality such as YouTube, a simple strategy that encourages viewers to share content can be just as, if not more, effective in getting your video indexed and seen. With sharing in mind, this brings us to the next tactic.

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