Search engines are pushing the universal search movement to evolve results into a multimedia-rich blend of images, maps, local and video. As a result, search engine algorithms will look more favorably on video content for the top spots on their result pages, meaning the opportunity for exposure increases for any video producer that is on top of its SEO game.
So says my friend and Kelsey Group analyst Michael Boland, and I have to agree when I see searches like “reclaimed fireplaces lewes” yield eight out of the ten first page spots on Google taken by video (at time of writing). What you’re seeing there is a small business practically owning the first page of Google for it’s chosen long-tail keywords, and it’s not difficult to do if you know how.
If you’re hoping to get your videos to rank well in search results, there are three things you’ll need to consider (you might call these the basic elements of video SEO):
- Video production (how, production quality, duration, formats, etc)
- Landing page (where will your video drive traffic?)
- Distribution (getting your video out there, keywords, descriptions, links and SEO)
The first thing to realize is that most video production companies have only about 30% of the solution that’s needed for any small business. The other 70% you need to do yourself, or get someone to do for you. Why? Well, they think the benefit is all in the production and the finished article, but it isn’t. It’s what you do with video that counts—and that’s to do with the distribution and landing page. So, my advice is this: pay only about 30% of your attention to the video production. The rest comes after that.
You have a wide range of options for getting video produced these days. Here are just a few.
Local video specialists. You’ll find companies like Turnhere, Jivox, Spotmixer and Adfare (to mention just a few of the many!) that specialize in video for local and small businesses and who offer you a turnkey solution for production of a variety of formats and durations. These tend to be well priced and focused on fast turnaround of a well-thought out web-friendly video. You’ll find these guys in the Google organic search results.
Mid to large-tier corporate video production companies. You’ll find these companies are less geared up for the fast turnaround and low-cost option you’re after, plus their historically high-production values make their end product often look too much like “advertising” with less of the sort of personal connection you should be seeking. You’ll find these guys with glossy ads in videography magazines, specialist press, marketing rags and also in PPC Google results.
Small and local videographer, one-man-bands, colleague grads, etc. With advances in technology, making it cheaper and within reach of smaller operations, you’re as likely to get the sort of video you want from a one-man-band as you are from a larger corporate video specialist. You’ll find these guys through word of mouth, in Google organic results, via Twitter, LinkedIn, or services like freelancers.net.
DIY – yes, you can even do it yourself. Grab yourself a camera, or even a camera phone and just talk about your business. That’s all it takes.
For local and small businesses, high-production quality does not bring the customers (in fact high-production quality is as likely to alienate customers!). Traditional videographers will sniff at this, but it’s simple, down to earth production where your prospects can really see you that has the greatest impact. What you should be aiming for is a “good, but not too polished” result. Your video should be authentic, real and down to earth. As soon as it gets too polished you lose that personal connection with people and they’ll see it as just advertising.
There’s a lot of science and research out there that will prescribe the “ideal” length for short form video ads, but there is no exact formula. The rule of thumb is that you need to be somewhere north of 30 seconds to provide sufficient information to motivate a contact action, and somewhere south of 3 minutes so as not to bore everyone to tears. Of course like any rule there are exceptions, but remember this is about getting interest and encouraging a click or contact. You don’t need to tell everything in one video.
There are as many formats as there are companies marketing them, but you can roughly break it down into a few general styles.
Photo montage. This is a set of photos and transitions, which will most often be accompanied by music or a voice over. Generally the cheapest option and not strictly video in the sense of human understanding, although very much video in the sense of technology and search engines. Photos with music is generally easiest, and there are some great online engines for taking photos and stitching them together for you with royalty free music. If you’re thinking about voiceover then you introduce more complications, because you need to write a script, and then you’ll take longer in production because of the additional variables.
Q&A. This format works quite well for many small businesses because you get a chance to do a sort of mini-interview so you can highlight important user selling points about your business. You may have an interviewer asking the questions, or you may have no audible questions at all, or you may use text overlays to ask the questions or reinforce the answers.
Documentary style. I’d describe this as a more free-form style which may take in several parts of your business. If you’re a car dealer you may include some scenes of your showroom, as well as your service bays, and maybe you have a few different people presenting, like you, your sales manager and your service technician.
Stock or custom? This is not really a format, but a question of whether you’ll be using stock images and video, or your own “real” images and video. Personally I’d always go for real images and video of your business, anything less just feels a little fake and transparent.
Crafting your landing pages
So, you’ve made your video, but what are you going to do with it now?
Well, before you read ahead to “distribution” you need to decide where you want to direct people who view your video. What I mean here is, because the web allows people to click and link to another website, where do you want the people that see your video to click to. I’ll call it a landing page, as a generic term to mean your website, blog, Twitter page, business page in your choice of directory, or wherever.
Ideally you’ll decide on one page that you’ll always drive people to. This gives you the benefit of concentrating your SEO efforts plus, assuming you have some analytics on that page (e.g. Google Analytics) you’ll see what sort of traffic your video is driving.
A key point to realize is that the moment your prospective customer is viewing your video he’s entering your sales funnel, and it’s your job to lead him through it to the other end, one step at a time. Someone once said to me that a CV or resumé doesn’t get you the job, it gets you the interview. It’s the interview that gets you the job. And the same principle applies here. The purpose of your video is to engage the viewer sufficiently to get them to click through to your landing page, and the purpose of the landing page is to give them sufficiently more to encourage them to pick up the telephone, send you an email, or maybe even drive to your store or office. Remember this and you’ll see that what you present on your landing page is as important as your video content. I’ll talk more about click-throughs in the next section on distribution.
This really is the “what” in “what will you do with it,” and this is crucial to your whole strategy—you could make the best video and have the greatest landing page, but miss this step, or do it half-heartedly, and you’ll miss out big time.
What’s your aim? Simple: To get your video found when prospects search for your keywords on any of the leading search engines. So, getting your video onto YouTube is not necessarily about getting it found by people searching on YouTube. The same holds true for MetaCafe, Revver—everywhere you can get your video distributed including local directories, forums and blogs. I’ve written about this previously—see Breadcumbs and Business Directories.
When you’re doing this sort of distribution you’ll find that the sites you distribute to variously allow you to accompany your video content with attributes like: Author, title, short description, long description, URL, category, keywords or tags, etc. They don’t all include all the attributes, so you have to be a bit bespoke in your approach. Generally however my rules for optimizing your video content are these:
Keywords (keyphrases), or tags. Use something like Google’s Keyword Tool to experiment with different key phrases. What you’re looking for is not the most popular key phrases, but long tail key phrases. It’s about quality not quantity. I’ve written about this previously here so I won’t re-cover old ground here.
Title. Come up with a keyphrase-rich title that’s less than 75 characters long. Why 75? Because that’s about the lowest common denominator across most of your potential target sites, and it tends to be readable on most page layouts as well as the browser title bar. Some of your target sites will incorporate your title into their page meta tags, and a shorter title will work better for you so long as it is keyphrase-rich. Remember to make it human-readable too. A simple list of key-phrases and keywords looks like spam, and you won’t get people clicking to watch your videos, so they won’t even enter your funnel.
Description. As with your title, make this keyphrase-rich and human readable, except now you’ve got around 200 characters. It’s crucial here to make your landing page URL the very first thing in your description—e.g.: “http://www.mylandingpage.com – [keyphrase-rich long description].” This is because most of the sites you submit your video to will truncate your description, and you want that URL to be seen. Furthermore many of the sites will automatically convert that URL into a link. And we like links, don’t we? Since not all sites will do this with links, and even if they do not everyone will click, I always recommend including contact details and a call to action in your video, giving viewers a straight-forward way to call, email, or visit your website.
URL. For sites that allow you to associate a URL to your video use the landing page URL.
Short description. This is distinct from the description described above. Work back from your long description to make shorter versions as needed on a site by site basis.
Author. Use your landing page URL.
Profile. most video upload sites require you to have registered and have a profile. Use the same rules above to give prominence to your keyphrases and landing page URL in profile descriptions.
I briefly mentioned tracking before, and it’s important that you know how effective your work is to determine if you should do more of the same or something different. Ideally you’ll make your landing page a unique page that’s only referenced from your video distribution—that way you know that any traffic comes directly as a result of the video work you’ve done. Alternatively, if you’re sending traffic to an existing page, use your analytics package to track your referrers, although this is more difficult as you’ll have to wade through more data to reach the same conclusions.
By way of a roundup I have a warning note and a note of encouragement.
Warning: It’s too easy to get carried away with science and reports. They’ll make you think it’s tougher than it is, and before you know it you’ll be boggled into inaction. In days when TV was the only form of video advertising, it cost big bucks, and therefore marketers needed a ton of research and information to justify their decision to embark, indeed to protect themselves if it all went wrong.
Encouragement: These days it costs so little, that you can probably produce and distribute the whole thing at lower cost than doing all the justification research. And if you’re a small or local business forget trying to justify a project with research—you’ll end up doing nothing.
My advice then: Video advertising can be effective for local businesses, and if you’re a decision maker you can pretty quickly produce and distribute your own video advertising to test the actual results. You don’t need to rely on second hand research. You’ve heard of fail fast? Here you can put it into practice. Try it, test the results and then modify your plan accordingly. I’ll leave the last word to my Kelsey friend Michael Boland when he talks about the opportunity for getting your video ads found in universal search: “there is some prime real estate for the picking,” so go get some for your business.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.