- YouTube counts more than 1 billion users — that’s one-third of all internet users.
- Internet video traffic will compose 80 percent of consumer internet traffic by 2019.
- Viewers retain 95 percent of a message when it’s delivered via video (vs. 10 percent via text).
Customers — and search engines — love videos. Getting your videos seen by your target audience starts with practicing search engine optimization for video.
What you should know before you say, “Action!”
SEO will help people find your videos. But adding members to your tribe calls for strategizing quality content before you start shooting. Here are two can’t-skip video-planning steps:
1. Establish a goal.
Social Media Examiner advises defining a video’s purpose. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Educate an audience? Introduce a new product? Use your goal to set corresponding success metrics: site traffic, shares, lead generation, etc.
2. Do your homework.
Let keyword research shape video content. Start in two places — search engine results pages (SERPs) and YouTube (even if you don’t post to YouTube).
SERPs: Go to a search engine and search your target keywords. If the results on page 1 include videos, this demonstrates that people are satisfied with video content for those queries.
YouTube: YouTube is its own search engine, and YouTube Suggest — the search bar at the top — tells you EXACTLY what people are searching around particular keywords. If you make a video targeting one of those keywords, someone will find it, because they’re already looking for it.
SEO for YouTube videos
Let’s start with the video behemoth, YouTube. Any brand can get started with YouTube anytime, anywhere — without any budget.
“Videos are ranked based on a variety of factors including how well the title, description, and video content match the viewer’s query. Beyond that, we look at which videos have driven the most engagement for a query, and make sure it’s easy for viewers to find those. Search results are not a list of the most-viewed videos for a given query.”
The following tips will improve your YouTube ranking factors:
Title: Write a searchable title that includes your keyword. YouTube suggests keeping your video title to fewer than 60 characters to keep it from getting cut off. According to YouTube, questions, top lists, and newspaper-style headlines that pique curiosity encourage click-throughs.
Description: Write 200-plus words in your vid description, and include your keyword. Longer descriptions make it easier for YouTube to understand what your video is about, and the video engine then can deliver it to the most-interested viewers. (For the record, the maximum description length is 5,000 characters.)
YouTube displays the first 125 characters of the video description in search results (this is the copy that appears next to your video thumbnail). Make sure your description starts out with a bang!
Thumbnail: Speaking of thumbnails, they’re the first thing, along with titles, that searchers see when looking for a video. YouTube says thumbnails and titles “work together as a team to build anticipation while accurately representing what’s in your video.”
Viewers quickly abandon videos whose content doesn’t match the thumbnail. (On a related note, the first 15 seconds of your video are the most important!) Remember: 90 percent of the best-performing vids on YouTube have custom thumbnails, so don’t overlook this SEO factor.
Video file name: Don’t leave your video file name something generic (for example, video123.mp4). The file name is another opportunity to tell search engines about the content of the video, so include your keyword!
SEO for self-hosted videos
SEO for self-hosted videos looks a little different. Here’s what you can do to get your self-hosted video found by search engines.
1. Place the video at the top of your page
This tells search engines that the video is the most important piece of content at this URL. Just like with real estate, (video) location matters! Wistia, the hosting platform, also recommends making your video at least 600 pixels wide.
2. Include a transcript
Give search engines something to read by including a transcript of the video content. The transcript should include your target keyword. Make your transcript reader-friendly by adding bullet points and subheadlines.
Why wouldn’t you want to use YouTube?
In spite of how easy it is to get started with and work in YouTube, some brands opt for self-hosting videos. Why?
When a customer watches a brand’s video on YouTube, they’re NOT on a brand’s website where they could sign up for email, request a quote, make a purchase, or more. YouTube is great if your most important video metric is views.
3. Add schema markup
Schema markup describes your video to Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, making it easier for these search engines to index your content and serve it up in search. Google provides a schema markup implementation guide that shows what to include in the HTML of your video page.
Try these tips from Backlinko for optimizing the three required schema tags for video:
- Title: Make it keyword rich.
- Description: Share what the video is about, and be sure to include your keyword.
- Thumbnail: Create a thumbnail that will capture eyeballs in search results.
4. Create a sitemap
A video sitemap makes your video more discoverable for search engines. According to Google’s developer documentation on video sitemaps, you can create a new video sitemap or add video info to your existing sitemap.
Google requires the following elements in a sitemap:
- Play page URL
- Thumbnail URL
- Raw video file URL and/or the video player URL
After you create the video sitemap, submit it to Google using Search Console. (Conduct your own research on how to submit to other search engines.)
Be aware that your video may take 10 to 15 days to show up in Google search results.
Quality is the No. 1 factor in SEO
Relevant content that provides value to your audience keeps them coming back for more. Over time, your business will earn recognition as an authority, and search engines will reward you with higher rankings for high-quality videos.
You don’t need a big budget or expensive equipment to win raving fans. Experiment with your video content to discover what works — and do more of it. Favorable search engine results will follow!
Erin Van Handel
Erin Van Handel blogs about sewing at siemachtsewingblog.com. She’s an ex-journalist with a marketing M.B.A. and most recently worked as a marketing consultant.