Video is often referred to as the king of content, and so Video SEO will naturally be a critical part of any good content strategy. It can also be a costly and time-consuming thing to produce, and so getting it in front of as many people possible will be key in getting that return on investment
So, how do you go about getting more visibility for your video content on organic search? There are three essential steps in Video SEO:
- Get your videos indexed
- Improve your videos ranking
- Measure traffic to your videos from search
That’s it in a nutshell, but let’s go into these three steps in greater detail.
Step 1: How to get your videos indexed
Unfortunately, major search engines cannot discover an embedded video on a website and immediately understand all the relevant information. So to help search engines index videos, marketers need to do a little bit of extra work.
Specifically, you need to provide supporting metadata about your videos to search engine crawlers.
To index your videos, the search engines need to be able to discover and parse:
- The title of the video
- A description of the video
- The length of the video
- The upload date for the video
- The location of the video file or embeddable player
- A thumbnail image for the video
Step 2: How to provide the information needed
There are a couple of ways to do this. First of all, you can provide a video XML sitemap external to the page, which details all of the videos across your website. This is then submitted to search engines via products such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Or, alternatively, included as a sitemap link within your robots.txt file.
You can also include the metadata about the video on the page, using Schema.org markup. This can be presented through microdata, in the <body> of the HTML on the page, or via JSON-LD within the <head> of the page.
If the page appears, complete with a video snippet, search engines will have successfully crawled and indexed your video.
If not, you can use Google Rich Results Tester to identify the issue preventing your video from being included in search. This tool will tell you whether your page is eligible for video results and showing the metadata that Google has been able to parse related to your video.
Step 3: How to improve your videos ranking
Once search engines have indexed your video, the next step is to help it rank better for relevant queries. There are a few tools to do this, many of which are familiar to those doing SEO elsewhere.
Content that gets more clicks from search is likely to improve its ranking for the related terms in question. Either directly or indirectly via tangential ranking factors. Therefore, one of the most important video optimising tasks is improving video titles to increase clicks.
Tracking clicks over time to the page in question for video search while making adjustments to the title is a simple and very effective way of split-testing an individual video title. Alternatively, simply comparing the click rates of multiple different videos of a similar style and topic gives you valuable insights regarding the title structures that work best for your content.
Perhaps more important than the video title is the thumbnail image, which appears in search alongside it. This visual element has the potential to be extremely eye-catching and help you stand out from the crowd. The same methods for measuring the click-through rates from titles apply here. Therefore, it’s often better to test changes to the thumbnail and titles separately. Still, there are also some best practices to bear in mind when optimising thumbnails.
Create a custom thumbnail for every video
Think of thumbnails like film posters. They are arguably the most important promotional asset your video has, and as such, should be given extra time and attention. While most video platforms allow you to pick an automatically generated thumbnail from the video itself, we’d recommend creating one yourself that really sells the content of the video and encourages users to click through.
Consider a text overlay to add more context
The thumbnail is also an opportunity to provide more text to support the title and meta description. For some videos, including stylistic text within the thumbnail can provide more information and add visual appeal. See below for a couple of examples:
The video description
A meta description helps provide the context in search results that can increase clicks, so too can the video description. Google often chooses to support video results with a description consisting of other content from the page in question, rather than respecting the stipulated video description. However, this extra text is another area to consider and optimize from an editorial standpoint. For example: using YouTube tags or hashtags in your description could give your video an edge.
The video length
There is no particular optimal length for video in search, but the video’s length should match the user’s broad intent. If the content is a product video to introduce a service or feature, keep it under two minutes if possible. When you want the video to rank for a query related to reviews or demos, perhaps 3-5 minutes is more appropriate. With a lecture series or podcast, users expect the content to be 20 minutes and above.
Edit the video in line with the query type it’s intended for, and consider recutting (or using timestamps to create Chapters) if the content doesn’t perform over an extended period. As a broad rule of thumb, videos should be no longer than they need to be. But also no shorter than is required to tell the story. Let the form follow the function.
The upload date
For certain topics, recency is going to be a benefit for ranking, particularly those affected by “query deserves freshness”. In these cases, regularly updating the video will increase its likelihood to rank. An update needn’t be a whole reshoot but maybe a small re-edit to include some extra detail as necessary.
The captions for a video, which you can reference in the Schema.org metadata for a video, provide additional context for search engines, which you best consider akin to page copy. It tells crawlers unable to readily parse video files what’s included in them from an editorial standpoint. Include accurate captions on all videos (uploaded to the hosting platform and referenced in the metadata). This is a clear way to increase relevance for appropriate terms and increase the number of searches on which your video appears.
As with wider website SEO, the links pointing to a specific page can greatly impact its rankings. This is no less true with video. The links and references across the wider web play a part in calculations of its authority. Therefore, it’s also wise to focus on this via PR, influencer marketing, and wider promotional efforts. Another quick win here is optimising internal linking so that the content is well-referenced throughout your web properties.
Step 4: Schema implementation for Video
Once you’ve created your video it’s great to implement schema markup. While Google tries to automatically understand details about your video, you can explicitly provide information, such as the description, thumbnail URL, upload date, and duration, by marking up your video with VideoObject. Videos can appear in Google Search results, video search results, Google Images, and Google Discover. More on VideoObject implementation can be found here.
Step 5: Produce a blog post or page about the video
Alongside the video on Youtube, you can also create a blog post or page about the video. On this page you can explain what the video is about, products used (internal linking opportunity) and images. This is also a create content opportunity for Google as you are creating more content for it to crawl and index.
Step 6: Measure traffic to your videos from search
A critical part of optimising videos is measuring results to see the return from the work undertaken. The best tool for tracking results over time is Google Search Console, which allows you to segment traffic across vertical search (Web, Video, Images) and thereby see the traffic you are acquiring for different terms across Video Vertical search and which pages. As a result, you can track performance over time and see the impact of optimisations made.
Summary: Key Takeaways for Improving Your Video SEO
- Provide metadata and use sitemaps or Schema.org for video indexing.
- Optimize titles, thumbnails, and descriptions for ranking.
- Adjust video length and update regularly.
- Use captions and linking to enhance relevance.
- Monitor with Google Search Console.