This article was recently featured on SearchEngineWatch.com .
Although YouTube isn’t the only option in video distribution, it’s hard to deny that if YouTube was a search engine, it’d be No. 2 in the world behind Google. A strong argument could be made for producing and optimizing video for SEO results, especially if you think about how much time you devote to content marketing to garner rankings for web pages. Given the amount of competition on the written web, ranking for video in YouTube may be much easier and — as an added bonus — top spots in YouTube often mean an equally attractive position in Google’s universal search results.
Optimizing YouTube videos for SEO
The YouTube algorithm relies on three signals when ranking your videos within YouTube’s search results:
- Text in your titles and descriptions.
- Number of views, and recent trending.
Since I’m more of a cat person, I tried searching for “stupid dog” (dog lovers: don’t worry I’m equally allergic to both). Here are the results:
Surprising results! You’ll notice that the top result for “stupid dog” only has 1.2 million views, and the second place result has over 3.3 million views. Despite over 8,000 comments, and over 5,000 “likes,” “louisck” can’t catch a break, as trending for their video is relatively flat over the past two years.
Even though “camilamrgh” isn’t sharing their analytics, you don’t really need to know how their trending looks. It’s probably the deciding factor. We know the following:
- Both videos have short titles, and no mention of “stupid dog” in their description
- louisck’s video has more views
- louisck’s video has more ratings
What’s the deciding factor here? Obviously, camilamrgh’s video views have been trending higher over the past two years, and earned them the top spot. Lo and behold, look at the top results for “stupid dog” in Google search:
Some may say this is a terrible example because these videos aren’t optimized at all, but that’s the point. These videos are poorly optimized, but rank extremely well, even in Google! Just imagine if the video was optimized for “stupid dog” and any number of other keywords that could be relevant. Here’s a checklist you can follow to optimize your videos in YouTube:
- Title text: You have 99 characters to optimize your title text, so consider your target keywords and any other keywords you may want to rank for, but don’t forget including your branding and descriptive text. If you have little chance of getting that top spot, aim for second to boost views by proxy. Related videos also get lots of views.
- Description: You have 5,000 characters, which is a lot, so use all that space to write as much about your video as possible. Since user ratings and views play a factor in your search rankings within YouTube, and therefore Google, make sure to ask for people to rank your video, but also share and embed your video.
- Tags: Useful for search terms you use in your title text and description, including names and branding.
- Broadcasting and Sharing Options:
a. Privacy: Most marketers may set videos to “Private” while working on them prior to an official launch date or campaign. Just make sure to set them to public when the time comes.
b. Comments: It’s up to you whether you want to enable comments or not, just keep in mind: If you disable commenting, users will go elsewhere to talk about your video, your brand or your message.
c. Video responses: These help boost views because they are automatically linked to your original.
d. Ratings: These have a direct impact on your rankings, so make sure you set this to “yes.”
e. Embedding: Blogs and social media shares really boost views and help your message get to new audiences outside of YouTube. It’s a good idea to keep this enabled.
f. Syndication: Again, anything to boost your views will help your video rank higher in YouTube and Google, so keep this enabled.
- Getting views:
a. YouTube considers a video “viewed” after eight seconds of runtime, so make sure your video has enough “pull” to get you past that hump.
b. Embedding it in your company blog or on product pages can boost video views and encourage discovery.
c. Post your videos to your Facebook channel.
d. Encourage others to share your video on social media platforms within the video itself by asking people to share it in your video itself and in the description.
e. Seed your videos on bookmarking and listing sites.
f. Distribute links to your videos in press releases and embed them in social media releases .
g. Promote views of your video by buying them through Google Adwords.
h. Group your videos into smaller parts and link them all together using playlists.
- Getting ratings:
a. Rank your own video – I’ll never tell.
b. Encourage others to rank your video by asking for it within your video, description, etc.
If you don’t have the technical resources, infrastructure or budget to host your own video, YouTube is the best way to get great SEO results for your videos, so make sure you do everything you can to maximize views, ratings and influence.
Optimizing Hosted Video for SEO
Optimizing hosted video is like optimizing video for YouTube. However, there aren’t hard and fast rules that can be formulated in a handy checklist with specific instructions on fields to use, maximum character counts, and other tidbits of tribal knowledge. Not much has changed with respect to optimizing hosted videos  — it’s a lot like optimizing normal web pages. You have to consider the three main tenants of organic search success:
- Delivery: Accessibility, geo-gating, speed, video sitemaps, media RSS, multiple formats such as HTML5 vs Flash vs Silverlight, iTunes and iPod/iPad-friendly video types, etc.
- Content is King: Organization of player code should be as good as a well-optimized web page. Relevance is still important. Use metadata wisely. User experience (especially from organic search) should be paramount.
- Links: Encourage sharing, allow embedding, watermark your video, submit video to video-specific engines, seed lists and bookmarking sites.
Although video isn’t new to the web, many marketers and businesses fail to make the best use of tools and social networks that will take their video and SEO results to the next level. If you’re going to invest time and money in boosting your SEO efforts this year, do yourself a favor and consider video in your marketing mix. You’ll be glad you did.