Let’s settle one argument right now: You absolutely must be using video as the foundation of your online marketing. No matter what you’re selling or promoting, video will convey your message in the most compelling and convincing way. In just sixty-seconds a video could easily convey all the key points of a thousand-word blog post; and do so in style. Consumers prefer brands that use video in their communications.
Research by Tubular Insights indicated that 64% of consumers make a decision to purchase on the basis of viewing a video about a product. At a B2B marketing level, a study by Wordstream found that 59% of executives would prefer to watch a video than read text.
Long story short: Videos convey information fast, and can be more influential than other mediums in respect to shaping viewers’ opinions and actions.
So, video works at a human level. But, what are the SEO benefits of video marketing?
Well – merely uploading a marketing video to YouTube is highly unlikely to provide any SEO benefits. It’s probable the video will never break double-digit views. This is no different to the ‘build it and they’ll come’ approach to launching a website: cue Crickets and tumbleweed. Fleeting single-digit traffic. Videos – like websites – should be created with an SEO and search-marketing strategy in place from the outset: ‘What search query should the video be the perfect answer to, and how can we optimise everything to achieve the click?’ In practice, that’s often not the case.
The number one problem with video SEO optimization is that clients either don’t bother doing it, or make an attempt to correct the course at a later time when they’ve reached the conclusion the video isn’t doing anything. My hunch is that clients often believe (perhaps because of ‘viral’ hits that make the headlines) that the content of the video itself is the ‘be-all and end-all’ of the exercise, simply not realising that without optimizing for search intent most of the benefits of creating the content will be left on the table. It’s a belief that if the video looks good and people can view it, the job’s done… right? Wrong.
Here is the most likely common scenario:
A Marketing Department junior uploads the video to YouTube. The title is unchanged and the meta desciption is left blank.
The video is embedded on a thin-content blog post, or posted on the corporate Twitter account or LinkedIn company page.
The video gains a handful of initial views (often by people already connected to the client’s business in some way) then quickly fades into history.
The client feels they wasted their money making a video, and don’t bother repeating the exercise.
How to Optimize YouTube Videos
#1 Make Maximum Use of YouTube Title SEO!
Think of the title of your video as a long-tail keyword phrase, and do keyword research just as you would for the preparation of any other content. The title is also the only line of text associated with your video that most people will bother reading. Despite being of critical importance, far too many marketers screw this one up and entirely forget the search-intent of their potential customers. Is anyone going to Google for a video using the phrase ‘acme_inc_product_presentation_video-SPRING2021[FINAL].mp4’ NOPE! Even a million monkeys with a million typewriters would not EVER Google that. The title of your YouTube video (up to 60 characters) must match the search intent, contain relevant keywords up front, and have a call to action – a reason to click! e.g. ‘hiking boot review video’ = Lame. ‘Waterproof Hiking Boots for 2021 – Top 5 Tested and Reviewed’ = Nice work!
#2 Never Leave the Description Blank!
The desciption really does matter. You don’t need to write a novel, but writing clear SEO-friendly descriptive text with the natural inclusion of keywords can better help YouTube understand what your video is about, and why it might be more relevant than competing videos. The video’s desciption is also the place to include a list of timestamps, essentially a table of contents to direct viewers (and search engines) to the most relevant sections of your video.
#3 Design Your Own Goddam Thumbnails!
I cannot over-emphasise the importance of taking the time to design a compelling thumbnail for your video. Think of the thumbnail as a movie poster, does it provide a potential viewer with a tempting peek at what the video is about, its production quality, and who’s doing the talking? Don’t forget to add some compelling text to the thumbnail. The thumbnail should scream “I AM THE VIDEO YOU ARE LOOKING FOR!” Above all: Never, EVER let YouTube decide what to display as a thumbnail on your behalf. Video thumbnails for SEO are an artform, find a designer with experience in thumbnail creation! Wistia’s video SEO guru Phil Nottingham explains on the Wordstream blog, “At Wistia, we found that our videos with custom human thumbnails receive a 30% higher play rate than those without.”
The Ahrefs YouTube channel demonstrates how video thumbnails are done right!
How Can I Improve My Video SEO?
Your video SEO strategy must extend beyond the confines of your YouTube channel. Getting your YouTube SEO right – by following the steps above – is critical, but you also need to implement on-site optimization wherever you embed the video. If your video is intended to act as a call-to-action to bring viewers into a marketing funnel, you’ll need to embed the video strategically.
#6 Embed Your Video in Prime Position!
When embedding your video on a landing-page, draw attention to it! If a picture (video) paints a thousand words, place it ABOVE the words, right at the top of the page. I’ve seen all too many clients spend good money producing a decent video, to then hide it – un-signposted – at the bottom of a rarely visited ‘About Us’ page. If a video isn’t prominently positioned, visitors to the page will likely assume it’s not especially important. Be intentional with your page design, don’t clumsily shoehorn a video as an afterthought. A word of caution, DON’T go crazy and embed the same video in multiple places all around your website – this is in effect keyword cannibalization, both Google (and your site’s visitors) will go around in circles struggling to figure out the relevance the video has to the page, and in turn which page should be ranking highest.
#7 Video Won’t Rescue a Sub-Par Page!
Video is an awesome tool for SEO, but embedding a video on a page that fails many other SEO best practices is not going to be a magic bullet. Poorly optimized pages won’t magically heal themselves and draw traffic just because a video has been added to them. Get all the other on-page SEO factors working in your favour first.
#8 Maximise Your Investment!
Sure, embedding YouTube videos can help your SEO goals – but don’t get hung up on that objective alone. The simple fact is: Commercial videos are most often promotional tools for their creators, they generally don’t attract many backlinks. Unless your video is of an entertaining ‘viral’ nature, or otherwise highly useful or newsworthy, then using acquired backlinks as the only metric for success is somewhat flawed. SEO can only deliver so much (and climbing Google’s rankings can take time) so don’t forget to syndicate your video via your mailing lists, social media, or paid sponsorships.
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