How to optimize your video content for search

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In 2008, Google’s search results got the latest upgrade in a long line of tweaks and small improvements: the company began including videos on its first page of search results.

Suddenly, online publishers everywhere had to not only think of optimizing text, but rich media as well. The problem, however, is that search engine “spiders” are unable to read video content (yet). Instead, they have to depend on a variety of surrounding page elements to determine the relevancy of the video.

Sounds fairly straightforward. Yet, a perusal of Google's search results will often includes the same handful of companies in the first page of search results. Sites such as YouTube, Metacafe, Revver and similar video portals routinely rank higher than smaller websites.

“It appears only five or 10 sites have figured out how to get onto Google,” says Benjamin Wayne, CEO of Fliqz, a video services provider. “And that small pond means big opportunity for marketers.”

Online video analytics company Tubemogul says its numbers show Internet users are more willing to click links they know lead to a video, no matter where the link is displayed. Also, eye-tracking studies have confirmed that users immediately gravitate toward video search results, often looking at a video thumbnail before the first link on the page.

The problem, of course, is that Google is notoriously tight-lipped about the factors it considers in determining which videos gain the coveted top spot on the first page of its search results. Publishers and vendors are left to guess and experiment to see what works.

“The good news is that it's much easier to get a first-page result, but you have to do something completely different for what you do with all your other forms of SEO,” Wayne says. 

Fliqz provides video SEO as a service to its customers, so we asked CEO Benjamin Wayne for his advice to publishers trying to crack the first page of Google results, advice that the company claims is succeeding in landing one-third of its clients' videos on the front page of Google.

Host your videos

Unless you plan on getting 100 million unique visitors to your site anytime soon, it is unlikely you will be able to compete with YouTube on Google's search results. Yet, many publishers think that uploading to YouTube and embedding the video on their site is optimizing content.

Wayne says that it just creates duplicate content and YouTube will win the battle every time.

However, take this advice with caution as it ultimately depends on the video’s purpose. If it is for branding reasons, it may be smart to upload to every service possible to get the best reach. According to TubeMogul, the only other site that helps users discover more new videos than YouTube is Google.

However, if you’d like full control over the viewer’s experience and want the eyeballs to remain on your website, keep the video on your own servers.

MIND YOUR Title tag

Similar to traditional SEO, your title tag is important. Be sure the name of the video page has the same name as the video.

Make sure the name of page is as detailed as possible. For example, “Tour of a Philadelphia rowhome” is better than “house tour.” 

However, unlike traditional SEO, metadata such as “description” doesn’t seem to have much affect of video results. It is likely that someday Google will consider other data points when ranking results, so if your content management system automatically generates the description data, be sure it is relevant to the video content, just in case.

Video Sitemap 

Even an SEO novice knows that a well-crafted machine-readable sitemap is the key to having search engines accurately crawl your site. However, video content needs its own special kind of site map.

Video sitemaps are written in mRSS, a version of RSS that allows for more rich media in its content.

“The only way the Google knows video content exists is if someone submits it directly to Google,” Wayne says.

Automate the process by using Google’s Webmaster tools to have the search engine automatically crawl your specified video sitemap on your server .

A warning: all tactics can be made irrelevant with a tweak to Google’s algorithm. So stay current and check your search results occasionally to be sure your strategies are working.

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