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Lights, Camera, Action: Our Big Collection of Effective Video SEO Tips

You did it! You built your website! You’re even starting to master this SEO thing. 

There’s just one problem: you’re not getting the hits you want. 

One way of helping is to diversity your SEO beyond content alone. 

Take video SEO, for example. You can’t afford to ignore it since web traffic is predicted to be 80% video this year. You know you need to do it, you just don’t know how to do it. 

What is Video SEO?

Video SEO is to regular SEO as a zebra is to a Thoroughbred. They’re technically the same family of animals, but you wouldn’t put a zebra in a saddle and run the Kentucky Derby. 

The same is true of video SEO. The rules aren’t the same. 

In basic terms, video SEO is the art and science of optimizing a video to rank in search engines. Same premise as regular SEO, right? The difference is that search engines can’t read a video the same way they would read a blog post or a webpage. 

Web crawlers can’t actually see any video content. Normally, web crawlers are built to scan text. So if you want a search engine to index your video properly, you have to apply SEO techniques differently. 

Decide What Type of Video to Shoot

To make things easier, let’s break video content into a process similar to a blog post: choosing your content, creating your content, optimizing your content, and sharing your content. 

When it comes to video, the first step in the process is to decide what type of video to shoot. This will depend on a few factors, such as: 

  • What your business does
  • What content your customers would find useful
  • What you’re trying to accomplish with your content

Each type of video achieves something different for your business. Here, we’ve gone through a few of the most common types of videos. 

Explainer Video

Explainer videos are exactly what they say on the tin: they’re videos meant to explain something. 

In practice, this could mean anything from walking viewers through a process step-by-step, sharing helpful tips, teaching viewers how to solve a complex problem, or showing a tutorial. 

Let’s say, for example, that you’re an auto mechanic. If you wanted to create an explainer video, you could shoot a video showing viewers how to change their oil. Or, let’s say you’re a construction company. You could show viewers how to estimate the cost of a remodeling project. 

As you can probably guess, these videos are great for companies that provide some kind of expert service. 

These videos are fantastic because they appeal to the most common type of search query: the informational query. Think about how many times a day you open Google and type in a question. Videos like this directly answer a question, and unlike blog posts, they don’t require reading. Plus, it sets you up as an expert in your field. 

Company Culture Video

If you want to make your brand more human, a great way to do this is a company culture video. 

Emotional connection helps you cut through the thousands of ads people see every day. If people see that a brand’s persona and values align with their own, they’ll be more than willing to champion your brand to others. 

This is especially true of younger customers who increasingly prioritize brand responsibility and personal connection. 

Company culture videos humanize your brand. How? Simple: they show the human faces behind your brand. 

Make no mistake: company culture videos are just as much about marketing as any other video. The difference is that in this case, you’re drawing the viewer in by giving them a peek behind the curtain. 

Company culture videos could be anything from slice-of-life videos to interviews with employees to behind-the-scenes footage from a product launch to videos of your company’s latest outing. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to show your company’s unique dynamic. 

Vlog/Webinar

Finally, there’s the vlog/webinar, which can be personal, deeply informational, or a bit of both. 

Vlogs (i.e. video blogs) are traditionally used by bloggers speaking directly to the camera. They’re blogging on film instead of typing paragraphs. 

Webinars, on the other hand, are online classes. Instead of typing out a long how-to guide, you can host a webinar to take a deep dive into a topic without fear that your viewer’s eye will wander away from long paragraphs. 

Your brand can marry the two for maximum effect. It’s a chance to go deeper than an explainer video, and if your brand has a strong following, webinars can be marketed as products in their own right. 

You can also post weekly or monthly educational vlogs on various topics of interest to your viewers. If you keep a regular schedule, your viewers will eagerly tune in for the next installment. 

Choose Engaging Video Content

You know what type of video you want to shoot. Time to break out the cameras and post to YouTube, right? 

Not so fast. 

You still need to figure out your video content. After all, you wouldn’t just decide you want a how-to blog and post the blog without any words. 

Plus, all the best video SEO won’t help if you’re not keeping viewers around until the end. According to YouTube, your goal should be to get as close to 100% viewer retention as possible, which means getting viewers to watch the whole video. 

Of course, video content isn’t the same as written content. That doesn’t mean the process is that different. 

What’s Your Value Proposition?

First things first: what’s your value proposition? 

One of the biggest SEO mistakes in the book is poor content. Most content falls short when its creators fail to consider what makes the content valuable to their customers. 

Basically, you have to consider what your video offers your customers. 

Do your customers want to learn something? Do they want a solution to a problem? Do they want to be entertained? These are very different things. A good video is targeted on the right value proposition. 

What Are Your Goals?

On the other side of the equation, you also have to think about your goals. 

For example, do you want to:

  • Increase conversions?
  • Increase social shares?
  • Build brand identity?
  • Build your linking structure?

From an SEO point of view, videos generally accomplish one of two things: increasing conversions or building links/generating social shares. 

How your video accomplishes those things depends on what your customers want from a video. The best video is a happy medium between your marketing goals and your customers’ demands. 

For example, if you wanted to generate social shares, you have to think about why people share content. Usually, they share content because of one of the following: 

  • Emotions
  • Stories
  • Triggers
  • Social currency
  • Practical value

In simpler terms, people share for entertainment, for education, or for social currency. They share a New York Times article to spread information. They share a Buzzfeed video of Americans eating the smelliest fish in the world for entertainment value. 

See the difference? 

Where your video falls will depend on your brand identity. Are you young and fun? Somber and to-the-point? Socially aware? 

Choose the Right Content for Your Marketing Funnel

You also have to choose the right type of video content for your marketing funnel. 

The sales funnel can be broken into six steps: 

  1. Awareness
  2. Discovery
  3. Evaluation
  4. Intent
  5. Purchase
  6. Loyalty

For our purposes, we’ll break it into three parts: 

  1. Top of the funnel (awareness, interest)
  2. Middle of the funnel (discovery and evaluation)
  3. Bottom of the funnel (purchase and loyalty)

Educational videos of any kind are great for the top of your marketing funnel. This is when your visitors have become aware of a problem and want to solve it but don’t know what they need yet. Educational videos are perfect because you’re not trying to sell–you’re just offering valuable information. 

Explainer videos fall in the middle of the funnel when customers know the possible solutions to their problem are ready to consider their options. Explainer videos (as in, literally explaining how your product or service solves their problem) make it clear what you’re selling and why customers can trust your brand over the competition. 

Demos, testimonials, company culture videos, and other videos belong at the bottom of the funnel. This is the moment when your customers are ready to make a decision. To do that, they need to see your product in action. Demos show your product features in detail and testimonials cement their trust in what you’re promising. 

Know When to Post and When to Host

You also need to know when to host and when to post. Trust us: it’s not a matter of semantics. 

Hosting a video on your own site might limit the video’s reach, especially if you’re a small brand. However, it gives you maximum flexibility to make the video look and feel exactly the way you want. Plus, you can encourage visitors to stay on your site by posting video playlists. 

Posting a video on an outside video platform greatly expands your reach (after all, YouTube is the second largest search engine). Plus, it’s easier to share your videos on other platforms when they’re posted on YouTube. The downside is that you’re limited by YouTube’s formatting rules. 

Write a Script Your Audience Will Follow

Finally, make sure to write a script your audience will follow. 

The benefit of video is that you can speak directly to your viewers. It’s a handy trick on the brain if you want to establish a personal connection. 

However, many video marketers get overexcited and fall into the same traps: over-explaining, getting off track and burying the viewer in jargon. You can avoid all of this if you write a script ahead of time. 

Like blogging, your video content should be conversational. Your talent should use short, concise sentences, just like they would in a real conversation. Choose simpler words (“best” is more natural than “optimal”). If you have to use jargon, make sure to offer a simple explanation of what the jargon means. 

Optimize It!

Now comes the fun part: optimizing your video to conquer the World Wide Web. 

Okay, optimizing your video to conquer your industry niche. 

The point is, your video won’t get any flight time if you don’t give it wings. Hint: web crawlers are responsible for ranking your video. If they can’t read it, you won’t get ranked. They can’t read it if you don’t optimize your video. 

This is the part where video SEO diverges from garden-variety SEO. 

What’s in a Name?

Fortunately, some optimization aspects remain simple. Like, for example, the name of your video. 

Think about what catches your eye when you browse through videos. The title gets your attention first, doesn’t it? 

Fun fact: the same is true of web crawlers. 

Keep in mind, however, that the title viewed by a web crawler and the title viewed by a person aren’t always the same thing. A person looks at the title of the video. A web crawler, on the other hand, will also look at the file name. 

So, if you want to optimize your title, you have to put relevant keywords in both the title and the filename. 

Use Relevant Keywords

You didn’t really think you were getting through a post about SEO without mention of keywords, did you? 

SEO experts argue back and forth about keywords. Some posit that search engines are getting too smart and keywords are dead, while others argue that keywords are just as important as ever. 

Think of it this way: the single easiest way for a web crawler to index something is to check the keywords. Sure, they’re getting smarter every day, but why take the chance? 

Fortunately, your keyword research process is pretty much the same as it would be for any other content. Make a list of keywords relevant to your video that are realistically in your reach. 

Once you’ve got a list, turn to YouTube for in-depth research. Take your keyword list and use YouTube’s autocomplete feature to find long-tail keywords people regularly search for. 

Wait, Where Do I Use My Keywords?

We know you’re thinking of blog posts and wondering, in a state of increasing panic, where on earth you’re going to put those keywords. 

First, stop panicking. Second, you can use those keywords in plenty of places. 

Your title and filename are the easiest places. But you also need to slip your keywords into your video description, meta tags, and your video script. 

Wait, the video script? Didn’t we already say that web crawlers can’t read video content on its own? Yes, we did say that. 

You need your keywords in your script because you need your talent to say the keywords. Not because web crawlers will understand what your talent is saying (they won’t) but because you want those keywords to show up in your closed captioning. 

Surprise: web crawlers can understand captions! 

Also, YouTube’s captioning capabilities remain tragically dismal. If you want decent closed captioning (trust us, you do) you’re going to have to write them yourself. 

Just remember the golden rule of keywords: see no spam, hear no spam, speak no spam. Keep it natural. 

Transcribe It

That video script really is the gift that keeps on giving. 

If you’re already planning to add captions, you’re going to end up transcribing the video anyway. Plus, if you transcribe the whole video, you can include the transcription in the video description. Extra keyword points!

Keep in mind, however, that you won’t be able to include the full transcription if you post the video on YouTube. But you can include a transcript if you post the video on your own site, which is especially helpful if it’s an informational video that users will watch more than once. 

If the video is an extended live interview, this could prove complicated. Don’t try to transcribe in real-time–instead, type out the interview manually afterward by watching the video. That way, you can make sure you transcribe it correctly and post the video to your site with a complete transcript. 

Length Matters

You’re probably already eagerly thinking of the extended informational videos you can make. 

Keep in mind, however, that length matters. 

This is where videos and regular blog content deviate. Long blogs tend to rank higher, while shorter videos tend to perform better than long ones. 

That sounds odd until you remember one simple fact: people have short attention spans. In fact, according to one study, humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish

Complaints about the fall of civilization aside, you have to remember that people tend to watch videos in passing. If they’re watching a video for entertainment value, they’re usually taking a short break from something else. If they’re watching an informational video, they want the answer they came for. 

By popular consensus, aim for the two-minute mark (56% of videos are two minutes or less). 

Choose an Engaging Thumbnail

The title is one of the first things that catches your attention about a video. But since this is a video and not a regular blog post, the thumbnail is just as important as the title. 

The thumbnail is what a searcher will see when your video is indexed, which makes it a crucial factor in whether or not that searcher clicks on your video. And yet, so many site owners neglect their thumbnails. 

If your blog posts are ranking and your videos aren’t, ask yourself: are you using custom thumbnails in both? 

Chances are, you shot custom photography (or got attractive stock photos) for your blogs. Fun fact: videos with custom human thumbnails get a 30% higher play rate

Think of your thumbnails the same way you would think of an Instagram photo shoot. Aesthetics are everything. If it’s not pretty, engaging, and relevant, customers will think your brand is unprofessional. 

Instead of relying on stills from your video, take the time to shoot photographs for the thumbnail. This should be part of your standard video shoot protocol. 

Get Technical

Ready to get technical? 

This is where the science part of video SEO comes in. Since videos don’t have as much written content as blogs, you’re going to have to leverage some technical SEO to make up the difference. The best way to do this is with a separate video sitemap. 

A sitemap is a file where you provide information about files, pages, and videos on your site. Think of it as a roadmap. You’re telling the crawler what’s most important on your site, thus ensuring that it focuses on indexing the right things. 

These are especially useful for videos since a web crawler can’t get as much information from a video as it could from a piece of written content. 

Google Webmasters provides a useful guide for creating video sitemaps

Share It

Finally, don’t forget to share your video across various channels!

If you have social media (hint: you should have social media) post the video to your various channels to see where it performs best. If you post the video on your site, you can also share the post through your social media. 

Keep in mind that you have to optimize your social media posts as well, otherwise the video won’t perform well on that social network and you won’t get any real SEO benefit from it. 

Ready to Rock Your Video SEO?

Ready to go out there and conquer your video SEO? 

If so, great! If your head is still whirling from your new to-do list, that’s okay too. We can help with that. 

We know what makes great digital marketing, including SEO. Whether you’re a small start-up looking to build your following or a big company looking to try something new, we can create a tailored SEO solution that’s perfect for you. 

Ready to get started? So are we. Use our contact page to start the conversation.