Multimedia forms of content, including images and video, are becoming increasingly important for SEO and content marketing in general. Plain written content is fine for the bulk of your content strategy, but you need to include other mediums if you want to appeal to the widest audience and avoid the possibility of your content becoming stale.
For many entrepreneurs, video marketing is an unexplored front. Small business owners especially, with limited resources and limited budgets, experience difficulty in producing video content that meets all of their goals. Even if the resources are in place to make a great video, they often have no idea how to properly optimize their video content for SEO—after all, Google robots tend to scan the web for text-based content before anything else.
Fortunately, optimizing your video content for search engines is easier than you might think.
If you’re going to make a video, you want to make sure it’s visible to as many people as possible. You also want to make sure your video is available on your core website; as a result, many people consider hosting their own videos. However, hosting your own videos can be somewhat time intensive (and cost intensive if your website does not currently support video hosting functionality). Plus, if something goes wrong with your servers—which is more likely than with an offsite hosting solution—your video could get lost temporarily.
For most business owners, especially small business owners and those with limited budgets and technical expertise, the best option is to host a video offsite, and simply embed that video on your main site to get the best of both worlds. And of course, the best option for video hosting on the web is still YouTube.
It’s fast, easy, and free to upload your videos on YouTube. Create a specific channel and use that channel for all your video communications. If you plan on managing multiple videos over any period of time, you’ll thank yourself later when you have all your videos hosted in one easy-to-manage location.
Uploading your videos to YouTube has an added bonus of visibility; if YouTube were qualified as a major search engine, it would be the second most popular search engine in the world. That’s a lot of YouTube-specific searches you could be ranking for, in addition to traditional Google searches.
Optimizing for YouTube
Optimizing your video to rank high in YouTube searches is simpler than you might think. There are several factors YouTube uses when considering videos for user queries, some of which are easier to control than others. Among those factors include:
Most of these factors can be boiled down to one idea: make your video something that people want to watch, and it will eventually earn its place at the top of YouTube’s ranks.
Google bots and YouTube bots work the same way; they cannot actively watch your video, so they have to use peripheral and text-based pieces of information in order to discern what your video is about and whether it’s relevant for a given search. As a result, you’ll have to include a title and description that are optimized for these search engines—just like you would with a piece of written content.
For the title, write something concise that accurately sums up the topic of your video; don’t try to stuff keywords in there, but do ensure the title is appropriate for the material within the video. For example, if you create a video on how to knit a scarf, the phrase “how to knit a scarf” should probably appear somewhere in your title. You’ll also want to make your title as catchy as possible with action words—this will help your video stand out and attract more views.
Descriptions work similarly, but allow you more wiggle room to get creative. Use long phrases and choose your words carefully to optimize for long-tail keywords and mirror some of the queries your users might search for to find this video.
When embedding the video on your site, make sure the title and description are present. You might also consider including a full written transcript of the audio of your video as well. Not only is it helpful to users who aren’t interested in watching the full video, it’s also a great source of original content that can be scanned and interpreted by search bots.
Tags are an oft-neglected characteristic of your videos, but they are important and they serve an important function. Tags are another avenue that can communicate the purpose and subject of your video to Google and YouTube bots who want to understand how your video should be categorized in the database. Perform a handful of your own searches for videos similar to your own. Take a look at the top-ranking videos and analyze the types of tags they use—mirror that strategy when tagging your own videos, adding in any other additional tags that might be relevant. Just don’t make the mistake of including tags that aren’t relevant for your material—that can only hurt you in the long run.
Creating a schema markup on your website is another way to ensure Google and other search engines know the video is there. This is a type of HTML markup that offers up information on your video in a set, digestible format to search engine bots. It won’t interfere with anything on your site other than making your video easier to see and index.
Once you’ve completed the work of uploading your video and optimizing it for search engines to find, you can start focusing on how your video actively increases the SEO and traffic to your main site. This video is going to be a road to your website, and positioning it for the greatest number of social shares and external link opportunities is the best way to attract that authority and traffic.
Start by sharing your video on all your social media channels on a rotating basis, changing up your introductory copy each time so it appears fresh. Respond to your commenters and build a community around your video content. Eventually, if your content is amusing, surprising, or informative enough, your users will start sharing your material on your own, and you can foster an environment of social sharing and link building that passes more authority to your domain.
If you don’t already have video content as a part of your content marketing strategy or SEO campaign, it’s time to get involved. As the market becomes saturated with traditional content marketing campaigns and users become more demanding of interactive mediums, video is only going to increase in importance in the years to come.
Editor's note: This article was updated in 2019; some tools were removed, and others added, based on what I'm finding…
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