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What’s the Secret to Video SEO?

by Kevin Newcomb

Ever since Google, Yahoo and Microsoft went "universal" with their search results in 2007, search marketers have been looking for ways to optimize their non-web-page assets, like images, press releases, blog posts and videos.

Getting into the video OneBox results can be an effective alternative route to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs), especially for competitive keywords. Google is now showing videos in search results in at least 11 different OneBox formats, ranging from a single video to a "7-pack," and Bing is experimenting with video units beyond its standard 4-pack as well.

To better understand how search marketers can optimize videos to increase their chances of appearing in Google and Bing universal SERPs, Minnesota-based online marketing agency aimClear undertook a study in Q1 2011 to perform keyword research for video optimization on behalf of its multi-national clients.

The study, conceived by aimClear account manager Manny Rivas, looked at 978 keywords in 24 categories, selected by YouTube search frequency. Categories included Business, Games, Home & Garden, Sports and Travel. The keywords were tested by data extraction in Google and Bing to see which ones triggered the inclusion of video results.

The same keywords were also tested on Google Video, Bing Video, Yahoo Video, YouTube, Daily Motion, Vimeo and to see where the videos included in the Google and Bing universal search results ranked on each video site.

Some of the goals of the study were to find out which video sites were worth submitting and optimizing videos for, to see if rankings on video sites had any correlation with inclusion of a video in Google and Bing universal SERPs, and to see how keyword intent would affect inclusion of video in universal search results, according to Marty Weintraub, CEO of aimClear.

The results of the study, which aimClear is releasing in a whitepaper, found that successfully ranking a video in Google or Bing’s universal search results comes down to 3 main factors: platform distribution and ranking, video site-specific optimization, and keyword query intent.

New Study Reveals Secrets to Successful Video SEO

Video Platform Distribution

While YouTube results dominate both Google and Bing SERPs, the study found that other video sites like Bing Video, Daily Motion, and Metacafe are worth pursuing. This is especially true when you consider that, in addition to broadening your audience and reaching more potential customers distributing your video on multiple platforms can also help you rank on Google and Bing.

As aimClear discovered, universal video SERPs platform allocation extends beyond YouTube, especially in Bing.

Videos that showed up in Google’s universal search results came primarily from YouTube (84%), but they also came from Daily Motion (3%), Metacafe (2%), Google Video (1%), and any of 100 others, which collectively made up 10% of videos in Google SERPs.

For Bing, YouTube supplied just 38% of videos in its SERPs, followed by Bing itself (37%), then several professional music video and news sites, including Vevo (9%), Fox News (4%), CNN (3%), Blastro (2%), and Reuters (2%). All other sources combined supplied the remaining 5% of videos.

These results show that there are options beyond YouTube, and distributing a video to multiple video sites can increase the chances of its inclusion in universal search results in Google and Bing.

Video Site-Specific Optimization

One of the goals of the study was to find out if there was a correlation between a video’s ranking on a video site and its inclusion in Google or Bing SERPs. As it turns out, aimClear found a direct relationship – all of the videos that were included in Google and Bing SERPs for the keywords that aimClear tested also appeared on the first page of the video site that Google or Bing got it from.

The results that were shown in universal SERPs were not always the top results on the video site, but they always appeared on the first page of results, the study found. Spending the time to optimize titles, descriptions, and keyword tags can pay off in first-page placement, which the study determined is the first step in getting a video to rank in Google and Bing SERPs.

Keyword Intent

Some of the most groundbreaking elements of the study look at the relationship between keyword intent and video inclusion. For the results of the keyword intent study, as well as additional findings, you can download the whitepaper here.

Understanding how query intent impacts whether videos are returned in universal SERPs can eliminate weeks of misguided optimization work, Weintraub said. "Everybody’s tagging their YouTube videos trying to get into keyword spaces without taking into consideration the keyword’s query intent, but sometimes that’s just not going to happen," he said. "If you choose the right keywords you have a much better shot at placing the video in Google and Bing’s universal organic SERPs."

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Kevin Newcomb is a freelance writer specializing in search and internet marketing topics.

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