Video search engine optimization is like a kid going through puberty – weirdly awkward, unsure and growing like hell

 The first song MTV ever played was “Video killed the radio star.” Well, depending on who you talk to, video might just be ready to kill again.

Internet, online, or web video marketing…whatever you want to call it, it’s banging on the door. The thing is, it seems like no has figured out which key opens that door.

When it comes to viral online video marketing, YouTube is a radical game changer, but can it survive with what amounts to a choose-your-own-adventure business plan? Quality video cameras are so cheap to make now, even your crappiest of crappy cell phones shoot decent footage. But do people respond to more polished, produced video or lower-quality, grittier footage? Traditional organic SEO techniques prove quite effective when it comes to optimizing web pages through text-based meta-data and page content, but will search engine optimization for video actually work?

Despite what some modern-day, techno-hucksters might have you believe, we don’t really know those answers to most video SEO questions…yet.

What we do know is that tons of people watch Internet video. And we kinda know how to implement video search engine optimization. Add some creativity and quality content and we have a fledgling industry here.

The thing is, how are Google and any other search engines going to treat video as we head towards a fully developed online video marketing industry powered by video SEO? One shift in treatment by Google of how they return video results, and this young trade could be turned on its ear.

The point is, there are a lot of variables at play that will determine how the relationship between web video and SEO turns out.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts on why video is awesome and what we know so far on souping up web video marketing…SEO-style.* 

Why Internet Video Is Awesome

  • Google’s “Universal Search” was introduced in May 2007, but already one-fourth of U.S. Google searches (and more in other parts of the world) return videos in the results. (htt2) According to market trends expert Brian Haven, over fifty percent of Internet users are viewing at least one web video per month. (htt3) 
  • Internet videos are 53 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than text pages
  • “On the keywords for which Google offers video results, we found an average of 16,000 videos vying to appear on results pages containing an average of 1.5 video results-giving each video about an 11,000-to-1 chance of making it onto the first page of results. By comparison, there were an average of 4.7 million text pages competing for a place on results pages with an average of just 9.4 text results-giving each text page about a 500,000-to-1 chance of appearing on the first page of results.”      

                                       ~ study by Nate Elliott, now with Forrester Research (FORR). (htt2) 

  • U.S. video views have (as expected) surpassed searches-there were 12.7 billion video views in November 2008 and 12.3 billion searches. (htt2) Internet video marketing is predicted to be a $3 billion dollar business by 2010 (source: eMarketer), the use of video for search marketing, while still in its infancy, is growing at a tremendous rate. (htt3) 
  • In a PermissionTV survey of more than 400 executives, 67% said online video would be a primary focus of their 2009 online marketing, with 52% expecting to start or extend web video marketing projects in the second quarter of this year, up from 32% at the time of the study in December. (htt2) 
  • Video isn’t king, just yetvideo production is expensive and intensive, and watching a video takes time, which may cut down on conversion, it’s most appropriate for visual industries and branding efforts, not direct response. (htt2) 
  • Market Experiments Journal produced several amateur style videos for posting on the web that would serve as experimental viral online video marketing. These 28 videos pulled over 80,000 views in one month, and by sixty days they had received over 300,000 views with no additional work or investment. (htt3) 
  • There are already some search engines like Blinkx that use speech recognition and visual analysis instead of just metadata in order to determine the nature of specific video content. Capabilities like these and further advances will continue to change the way video can be used to create online exposure, but the value of video SEO for the future is clear. (htt3) 
  • Video allows the video creator to communicate a message on multiple levels – visual imagery, spoken word, music and text. This is the way people learn, and the way legendary brands are created. When was the last time that a paid search listing or banner ad raised your blood pressure or induced you to forward something to a friend? (htt5) 
  • The ROI of online video marketing can be astounding. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau; more than 50% of the US population will watch video online next year. That’s 155.2 million people, just in the US! According to comScore, Americans watched 9 billion online videos just in the month of July. (htt5) 
  • Online video is a powerful medium for marketing because of its engagement potential, SEO value, and measurement opportunities. (htt5) 

Video SEO: How to optimize video (or, more accurately, how to optimize for video):

TEXT: Surround your videos with on page copy that can be indexed by the search engines.

More and more people suggest including transcripts with the on-site hosted video. This transcript will not only provide valuable text threading, but it can also include anchor text links specific to key phrases. (htt3) Regardless, the text should be keyword rich and relevant, including links to other relevant content on your site. (htt4)  For on-site videos, it’s advisable to have just one video per page with a simple text title and description place near the video itself. (htt5)

URLS:  Put site URL into video description and into video itself. URLs should be optimized for keywords

METADATA and TITLE:  For video pages the focus should be on the video content. (htt4) For offsite, conflicting views on how dense KW usage should be. Some say cram it all in for maximum impact. Others say that method red-flags your content as spam. Maybe going with SEO best practices for video search engine optimization would be better until it’s clearer. Some also suggest including information like title, length, keywords, and authorship associated with a particular video clip. (htt3)

SITEMAP and PLAYLIST: When it comes to a video sitemap and Video SEO there are no doubts how important they are. Why? Google does not accept mRSS feeds, however they do accept Video Sitemaps through their webmaster interface.  Put all your video in one directory. When it comes to videos, utilizing a simple playlist can accomplish spiderability and useability. You want them to be crawlable and relevant to the content on the page. A video page is also a great place to bring in all related content, including: articles, photos and audio. (htt4)

SHARE and LINKAGE: allow comments and ratings. (htt7) Share everywhere you can, dammit. The most important component of a Social Media Strategy as it relates to Video SEO, are blogs. (htt4)

  • Inbound Links: Allow visitors to embed your videos into their websites, blogs, profiles and social networks. Provide an HTML wrapper which enables you to utilize SEO optimized anchor text that links back to your website. You should contact websites and blogs that are relevant to your topic and work on developing a linking partnership. (htt4)
  • Internal Links: Spiderable links like video play lists, related links and breadcrumbs not only help search engines build a good picture of your websites infrastructure but can aid your visitors with content discovery. (htt4)


  • RSS feeds do not directly impact video SEO/search engines but should be used as part of an overall traffic building strategy. (htt4)
  • mRSS feeds directly impact video search engines by allowing a website to submit their video content directly to video search engines. MRSS feed components contain standard RSS elements like meta data, URL to content and thumbnails, but the key differences are the important additional elements that can impact rankings. These elements, which include video ratings, play count and tags, should be included whenever possible. Each of the video search engines that accept mRSS feeds have different requirements when it comes to building a mRSS feed but the best example and standard comes from Yahoo: Yahoo mRSS specifications. (htt4)

VIDEO FILE NAME:  Whenever possible you should name your video file in a keyword descriptive manner. (htt4)

THUMBNAILS: If your thumbnail is bad it often doesn’t matter if you got all of the other components of the formula right. Typically thumbnails that are relevant and match the video title, description and tags are all you need.  Beyond this, try to select the image that best captures the essence of your video. The thumbnail that you choose for your video is one of the most important factors in terms of the number of people that choose to view your video. (htt5)

KEYWORDS:  Do key word research as usual. Don’t forget to encode the keywords you are targeting into your video. Try to use the word “video” as much as possible, make sure the word “video” is used in your title, description, meta data etc. (htt7) For off-site placement, after you’ve uploaded your videos add the related keywords (tags) you discovered in your research. Don’t overuse them; if there are too many, the search engines see them as spam. Use them naturally in descriptions, and use the URL to your website in the first sentence of your video’s description. (htt6)

And, as always, NO FLASH PLAYERS!!!!! Google still hates flash.

It’s pretty clear that video SEO has come quite a ways and that video search engine optimization still has a long way to go.

 Like I said before, internet video marketing is still flailing around, trying to find its bearings. New techniques and changes in practice are happening almost daily. Stay tuned to the DragonSearch Marketing blog for more on the present and future of video SEO.

*This is an aggregate of the best information available on the Internet from experts in the field. This document is designed to be updated and modified as needed to respond to the changes in the industry.

 Works Cited

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 and is filed under Search Engine Optimization.

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