Video is SEO friendly, Google-Panda friendly and on Google’s results pages to stay. Google is placing more value on long stays and visitors watching videos stay longer than others. So it's time to start taking video seriously and Gareth Davies details five ways video can seriously help your SEO.
'Universal Search' results merged videos, photos, news results and more into the one results page. Video quickly forged a place within search results following Universal’s launch. Video thumbnails made their way to the upper zone of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) and sometimes took up as much space as the top organic text results.
Observers have consistently gauged how users interact with this new form of search listing, and some of the results are surprising … especially for SEOs.
Even though 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, a Forrester study from Jan 2010 suggested that a product page with a video on it is 53 times more likely to achieve a page one listing on Google.
According to a study by aimClear in March 2011, more people clicked on video results too. “Videos in universal search results have a 41% higher click through rate than plain text“, said aimClear’s Manny Rivas.
Big brands, big video numbers
Major online retailers have started publishing video in scale. Overstock, for example had an estimated 166,499 videos on their site by Sept 2010 and Amazon 67,021.
Image data source: State of Video in E-Commerce. Quarterly Research Report, Q2 2010
In a post-Panda Google, video appears to have an important place so here are five reasons why using video can help your SEO campaigns in 2011 …
1) Video can make your pages more sticky
Google has consistently indicated that the current algorithm uses time spent on a page from a click as an indicator of page quality. Thus, a high bounce rate or ‘short click’ can be seen as an indicator of a lower quality page, whilst a ‘long click’ (or more time spent on a page) identifies a better page to show a searcher.
With this in mind, few things can be stickier, encouraging long-clicks, than a relevant well-produced product video.
An August 2010 study by Comscore backs this up, showing that on average people stayed two minutes longer on a website when they watched video.
2) Videos can help your product rank
Your chances of getting a page one listing on Google increase 53 times with video because there is still much less competition for video pages.
YouTube dominates the results
Informational videos are king
When it comes to the types of videos that Google likes to list, informational type videos do the best. In fact over 80% of the videos that Google serves up in the search results are informational videos.
Pure sales style videos tend not to rank as well. So if the aim is to maximize your chances of showing as a video thumbnail link in the Google results, uploading informational videos to YouTube is your best bet.
3) Videos get links
Maximize exposure for your videos by uploading them to multiple video search engines.
Hosting on sites like YouTube, Daily Motion, Metacafé and Vimeo increases views and link building opportunities. You can add links to your credits (either as part of your profile or in the video description field).
Shall I promote my web page or the YouTube page?
When link building with video, you need to think about what page you want to promote. Is it the video search engine page, or your website?
To get people to link to your website rather than directly to a YouTube page, add value to the page on your website. If you can do this, then people will feel more compelled to link to your web page than YouTube.
One way you can do this is to embed multiple videos onto one web page to create a series of related videos.
Another option is to re-purpose your videos to produce related content. This can include transcriptions, presentations, PDF downloads, screenshots as images and podcasts.
Create pages on your site that are richer resources than the YouTube page then people will more likely link to your site. Remember the adage ‘optimize for users not search engines’.
If you can optimize your web page it is sometimes possible to outrank YouTube. In the example below taken from Google.co.uk, there are video pages ranking as text links appearing higher than the YouTube video thumbnails.
Both the highlighted video and text listing of a video page are mine. The text listing may be higher because that page is a richer resource which helped it gain more links.
Social media links
Add Twitter and Facebook into the promotional mix and there is a lot of potential. Remember the links don’t only come from the sites themselves but from bloggers and others who share your link, write about it and display it via their Twitter feeds.
Self-hosting your videos
Self-hosting your videos gives you control and makes your website the original and only real source for that content. As everyone will have to go to your web page to see the videos, this will then become the obvious place for people to want to link to as well.
There are some cons with this though. Apart from the additional cost of investing in a streaming server to host your videos, 80% of the video results shown in Google are from YouTube and a lot less than 20% are self-hosted.
This fact makes ranking a self-hosted video more difficult, however as shown above it’s not impossible to promote a self-hosted video page to attract links. And with enough links, the page can rank as a text link in Google.
Embed source links
Another good way to get links is to include script in your video’s embed code with a link back to your website as the source. This is similar to the way that some surveys, polls and plug-ins work as well as some of the video search engines themselves.
A good example of this is the “embed this video" feature on Vimeo’s website.
For example, if you want to embed a video from Vimeo it serves up code that contains three text links back to the Vimeo website. There’s a link to the video, the user page and the Vimeo homepage. That’s a little bit cheeky to my mind, but it doesn’t seem to bother Vimeo. See the example below:
Embedded text links back to your website is a great way to build links. This is especially effective if you can come up with lots of creative ways to incentivize bloggers and webmasters to share your videos. A word of caution …
Do not add unrelated links pointing at different domains or you will likely incur the wrath of Google!
4) Video as content creation
One limitation suggested of video is that it’s thin content with nothing much for a search engine to index.
Whilst Google’s technology is always advancing its ability to ‘read’ video content, there are many ways that video can be turned into rich user and search engine friendly content.
Text transcription The most obvious solution is to transcribe the video into text content and paste that text on your web page underneath your video. This way users and search engines can read the content. If someone can’t turn the sound on because they are at work, they can still get the information.
Screenshots as images Another approach is to take screenshots of the video files and add these as still images to support the transcription. The image files could also be uploaded to a photo sharing website such as Flickr to get more exposure and links. Combined with the text transcription, this is also a great back-up if (for whatever reason) someone can’t play the video.
PDF download Could turn the text and still images into a PDF download.
PowerPoint slideshow Video can be converted into PowerPoint presentations too and uploading the exported versions to slide show sharing websites like www.slideshare.net can help get links too.
Audio as podcast Could the audio section alone, work as a podcast file?
You must be clear about what you want your videos to achieve. Is it traffic to your website or do you want people to watch your videos?
If producing videos is a brand exercise, then having lots of people watching your video on YouTube (or video sharing websites) may do the job.
However it is not so easy to get visitors to your site from your videos on YouTube.
From experience, YouTube viewers will typically convert at fewer than 1% to visitors to your website. If you have the resource to promote well enough, the pros of self-hosting video are clear.
There is a third way …
Think YouTube, think trailer
The third way uses both YouTube and self-hosting.
Accept YouTube as the best route to exposure, but not necessarily the best route to traffic, and start to think of video for SEO more like a movie producer who wants to encourage an audience to watch his/her movie. And use a trailer.
If you were just about to release a great film, you would want your trailer shown everywhere possible. The trailer job is to get folks to the movie theater. You can do the same …
Upload a teaser, or a selection of your video content to YouTube, and use it to advertise your self-hosted content.
This way it is possible to chase maximum eyeballs via YouTube whilst keeping a grip on the marketing objective of attracting more visitors to the website.
With SEO and video, its important to first establish what you want to achieve. Is it branding, targeting specific keywords or link building? Do you want lots of views on YouTube, or perhaps more tailored traffic to your website?
For SEO, video can help make your pages more sticky. Users like watching video and the subsequent long clicks appeal to Google.
Videos can also help your product pages rank on Google. The best chance of achieving this is by uploading informational videos to YouTube.
Videos can also attract links, from video search engines, bookmarking websites and blogs for instance. Links might come to your ‘source’ pages and you can include links on self-hosted videos’ embed code.
Videos can be a good source of rich content if you re-purpose them.
Video can drive traffic.
You can avoid the YouTube v self-hosted dilemma in a third way, using trailers on YouTube to drive traffic to your site.
As with all things, there is a trade-off, so ultimately it’s a case of finding the right balance in your approach to help meet your objectives.