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Revisiting The Basics Of Video SEO

According to web metrics company comScore, 183 million U.S. internet users watched online video during the month of May, watching nearly 34 billion videos. Marketers hoping their video assets fall into that 34 billion can improve their odds by revisiting and updating their strategies to improve search visibility. Many marketers post their branded videos to the video sharing site YouTube, sometimes using a branded channel page to host commercials or promotions for their brand, which may also be found on the marketer’s own domain. This represents just one of the many opportunities for marketers seeking greater visibility, site traffic and increased exposure online.

People usually find videos online in one of two ways: through search engines and video sharing/aggregation sites. Optimization shouldn’t be discounted outside of the big three search engines—ample consideration should certainly be given for optimization inside YouTube and other video sharing sites, especially considering comScore considers YouTube the second largest search engine. To secure high ranking listings for videos on target keyword searches in any of these channels, marketers must optimize, link and build independent pages on their own domains, intertwining them with YouTube’s powerful video presence. The following strategies will help:

  • Take ownership of brand-oriented YouTube videos
  • Optimize key site elements on video pages for targeted keywords
  • Leverage controlled domains to direct inbound links and embed video files from sharing sites
  • Submit a media sitemap (Media RSS) to search engines to organize and identify all video assets on the brand’s site

Take ownership of YouTube videos

YouTube is the most popular destination for video viewing on the internet, so marketers should consistently upload new commercials, brand-oriented videos and other clips to the site to ensure access for the general public. Optimizing for YouTube helps videos get found and enables marketers to be proactive with their efforts.

Proactive monitoring of videos also lets marketers manage their videos reactively. YouTube provides companies a “content identification and management system” that tracks branded content across its website. While this service offers several useful features, one in particular helps monitor the ownership of branded products and the distribution of videos containing infringement. This provides marketers another way to find and take ownership of content pertaining to a brand’s intellectual property (i.e. duplications of a brand’s commercials, videos, etc.) that has not been endorsed by the company.

Optimization of key site elements for targeting keywords

Optimizing a video for YouTube visibility will increase that video’s chance of being discovered on search engines and, subsequently, shared with other users. Ranking well on YouTube relies on a combination of social outreach (for flags, subscribers, ratings, views, shares, etc.), branded or user channel design, and organic linking. Much like any SEO program, this requires a dedicated effort. To best leverage YouTube for keyword optimization, adaptable elements of each YouTube video page need to be re-focused for target keywords. Although there are many customizable elements of a branded YouTube page, a few of the most effective include:

  • Branded channel information
  • Titles tags
  • Branding box

Customizing channel information on video sharing sites like YouTube, where the brand describes its channel focus, should be optimized with target keywords pertaining to video content. Many search engines use approximately the first 150 characters of the beginning sentence of this site element as the META description. The META description tag is traditionally considered a space where a brand can describe itself in its own words, unrestricted by the expectations of technical search engine visibility. Since search engines index this tag, it should contain proper targeting keywords to help users decide whether to click the link.

Search engine users will often read the contents of the snippet when they see a title tag that interests them. META description tags should be periodically reviewed to determine whether revising their contents could increase click-through rates. Use succinct marketing sentences for the YouTube META description, with the intention of promoting higher click-through rates.

Search engines also tend to give title tags high authority when it comes to the text used in describing a Web page or video. Title tags take the form of the clickable link in SERPs, and serve as the description for the page as seen atop the browser window (or browser tab). On SERPs, target keywords used by the searcher will appear in bold in the title tag, and since this line of text happens to be larger in size than the META description below it, its influence on click-through conversion is important enough to continually address. Marketers should use target keywords at the beginning of the title tag and place all branding elements at the end of the tag, since search engines tend to distribute more importance to the words at the beginning of the title tag.

In addition to these staples of the branded channel page, video marketers can take advantage of YouTube’s branding box, which enables them to specify promotional text and provide links associated with the brand. Within the branding box, the title can run up to 100 characters in length, and the main body text up to 4,500 characters, including the implementation of links and specific HTML markup. Using this box as an additional conduit improves target keyword density and conveys a succinct marketing or informational message about the purpose of the marketer’s brand and products.

Leveraging controlled domains and embedding content

Marketers may host video assets either on their own domain, or—as many organizations do—use YouTube as a video host. If a marketer chooses the latter option, all video assets get uploaded and distributed to YouTube, whose viewership is massive and social. This isn’t an exclusive option—these same videos can also be embedded on the marketer’s site.

Embedding a video on a separate domain automatically creates an incoming link to the video on the hosted domain (in this case, YouTube). This passes incoming link equity authority from the separate domain for that particular video on YouTube, but also illustrates more information about the video’s content to search engines.

To implement this strategy, marketers should build individual pages for each available video, surrounding the video with descriptive text, optimizing title, META descriptions, and an <H1> header tag, and using target keywords in the URL structure. Individual pages for video enable incoming links to point to specific video content with target keyword anchor text and, as a result, can attract inbound links from other relevant websites. The number of inbound links with optimized anchor text a page receives greatly contributes to its visibility on search engines. Ideally, these videos should be embedded from their host site on YouTube.

Marketers may embed videos in one of two ways, both of which require that all relevant video assets—particularly commercials, informational videos and brand-related content—are hosted on YouTube. The first option includes building separate pages in the commercial directory for each video asset. Target keywords need to be picked for each available video asset, using “video” as a modifier to the target keyword to ensure they match relevant search queries. The second option includes embedding relevant subject videos into established, optimized pages on a brand’s own domain. This permits the flow of strong link equity and an optimized page to not only host the relevant video, but also point to the same video on YouTube. Thus, each video asset, and all future video assets, should be placed on relevant landing pages.

Create a media site map (media RSS)

Once these basic optimization steps are in place, it’s time to let the engines know these resources exist. Another effective strategy for optimizing video assets includes creating a media sitemap for videos hosted on a marketer’s website. This organizes and identifies all video/media pages on a website via syndication. Since it’s difficult for search engine crawlers to access and identify videos on a website—oftentimes because they are hidden behind JavaScript for Flash—a Media RSS allows them to parse videos directly. In addition, it provides search engines with richer metadata, enabling them to better understand content for better ranking and—particularly on Bing—generate its “smart preview” feature.

Revisiting and implementing these important optimization strategies can help marketers improve communication with search engines and enhance visibility of their video assets.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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