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Does Online Video Pay? And How Much, Exactly?
Grant Crowell’s article about video promotions through Internet Yellow Page programs raises a point that’s probably on the mind of any serious marketer. The hype surrounding online video is deafening, and getting louder: its bizarre mix of content, the experiments by mainstream broadcasters, the sporadic announcements of success from vendors and agencies. But really: does video pay off? Are there ways to generate a measurable business outcome? And if so, what exactly are we measuring?
Follow the crowd
Let’s start with the fact that, as with any marketing channels, you have to go where the audience is. Right now, viewers flock to portal sites like YouTube, Google Video, and Metacafe. The challenge for marketers is that these video portals are not a controlled environment:
- Videos are hosted by the portal site, so your web analytics can’t collect traffic info
- Videos are played on the portal site, so getting traffic back to your site is an issue
- No control over playback (if you’re a content producer, your commercials won’t play first)
- No control over blog-style feedback from the portal’s viewing audience. (You can turn it off, but that’s about it)
Services such as TubeMogul can help you collect metrics from these sites. Views, comments, and favorites can be counted and compiled into baseball cards-style tables. But while this is a useful way to measure activity, there’s no action being performed that you can tie to a business outcome: no sign-ups, no PDF downloads, no purchases.
Make the crowd follow you
To get those actions, you need to get viewers back to your site. Fortunately, viewer behavior hints at the ideal method. Online videos are like Lay’s potato chips: the typical viewer can’t just watch one. The promise of more video content can bring them back to your website. This sort of teaser strategy can take many forms:
- Watermarks on the video itself give the user a next step, particularly in conjunction with a final frame containing your full URL
- You can also replicate this info in the text description area that accompanies the video on most portals
- In addition to providing URL info, you can give them a reason to visit your site. When you upload your Brad Pitt video to YouTube, you’ll want to mention that there’s an Angelina Jolie video back on your website—both in the description, and in the video itself.
The important things to count with video
Once viewers are back on your site, you can bring all your site metrics to bear. Play the landing page game, as you would for any other marketing campaign. Here are some key items to look at:
Click-through ratio. As with banner ads, CTR is a metric that helps us monitor the bottleneck between YouTube activity and on-site activity. Even with a great teaser strategy, only a small percentage of viewers will actually come back to you. But you can test your videos for click-through, and rotate out the underperformers.
Conversion events. Once a viewer clicks through to your landing page, this is where conversion events (on-site video plays, sign-ups, purchases) can occur. Deciding which conversion events to place on your landing page is a fine art, but you can rely on your previous landing page experiences to give you a head start.
On-site activity. Even if incoming viewers avoid your conversion events, their subsequent actions can teach you a lot about their wants and needs. Their tendency to drift off to certain content areas, or to jump ship when they hit a particular page, can help you fine-tune your site’s structure and messaging.
Experienced marketers will note that nothing in these three bullets is a new invention – and that’s the point. Online video can function like any other form of promotional outreach: pulling interested visitors back to your site, giving you a chance to make your pitch, and allowing you to quantify the result.
Sherwood Stranieri is Director of Natural Search at SMG Search, a dedicated search unit of Starcom MediaVest Group. Based in Chicago, SMG Search creates integrated search strategies for some of the world’s largest companies. The Video Search column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.