Informational videos are an excellent way for local businesses to get positions with the natural search engines, through the trend toward blended or universal search results which mix video in with traditional results. Videos are also becoming an attractive way to bring in leads, sales, and new customers from viral and social marketing. While most search engines and marketers have adopted a “wait and see” attitude with local video products, the major internet yellow pages have taken the initiative, offering some interesting opportunities for search marketers to jump in early when competition is relatively scarce.
Superpages.com has already done a nationwide rollout of its video advertising products to help their advertisers reach local shoppers online, and YellowPages.com has rolled out their own video ad program in 28 states, nearing completion for the rest. Yet while the IYPs may be best suited for taking the lead in the local video space, many questions have been raised about IYP video advertising. Are the videos findable? Are they search-friendly and conversion-friendly? Do they bring in more traffic, leads, sales, customers? Or should there be less emphasis on search criteria over branding and social/viral marketing strategies?
The situation right now is that even after a good number of months into local video promotion, the IYPs do not appear to have executed a strategy to make their video content findable in their own on-site search results, and much less the mainstream web search engine results or specialty video search engines like YouTube. Considering that the video production quality is certainly of professional standards, it is a huge missed opportunity that the IYPs have not done anything with the organic search space.
Over the past few weeks, I interviewed the customers participating in the IYPs’ video advertising programs and learned about their experiences, and found the results a mixed bag (which, in fairness, is expected with any new marketing technology). But of the customers I interviewed who expressed positive results, very few attributed those results to an increase in their search traffic. This was peculiar, since the IYPs say they give better placement in their directory listings to advertisers who feature video.
What appeared to be a much more telling factor in a local advertiser’s success with the program was if they took the initiative to promote the video on their own.
Keith Larsen, Property Manager for Abington Woods Luxury Apartments in Massachusetts and YP.com video profile advertiser, received more leads from featuring his video (which YellowPages.com produced for him) in the online classified advertising space Craigslist. Michael Baez, Chief Manager of the IT/computer repair company Lucky Gorilla, says that although after one month into the program he hasn’t yet gotten enough leads from the YellowPages.com site to cover the cost, he has been getting more business from “going viral”—sending the video to his friends who put it up on their MySpace and Facebook pages. “The viral marketing and social marketing I’ve done more than pays for the video itself,” says Baez.
Is that to say that local video is more suited to social/viral/word-of-mouth marketing than organic search? Not at all. The problem is, the IYPs still haven’t leveraged the organic search space and leave their customers to handle their own social marketing activities. Those customers who rely solely on their IYP are more likely to find themselves with less than stellar results. A fair number of customers I talked to even said they were discontinuing or had already discontinued the program—and that was from the client list provided to me by the IYPs themselves!
When I had the opportunity to talk with one of my IYP contacts at a recent search engine marketing conference, I asked why there was no push to get all of their quality video content out into the organic search space. Her response was that they didn’t yet have enough video inventory. That answer demonstrated a lack of understanding about how video search optimization works. You don’t need thousands—or even hundreds—of videos to build a video SEO program. Even a single video can generate sizable traffic, including targeted customer traffic. The fact that these IYPs have at least dozens, if not hundreds, of videos they are promoting in national press releases but not doing anything organically with, is a huge missed opportunity for the IYPs and their customers.
For IYPs to jumpstart interest in the local video space, they need to make their own video content fully indexable and optimized for web search results. The first place they should start is with their own site, and here are some recommendations:
On-site optimization. Since the web-based search engines still rely primarily on text for optimizing video content, IYPs should build a separate video directory and site map. Every time a new video ad is produced, it could dynamically be added to the site map and directory, along with a title, description, and tags. This strategy covers the search engines who spider the web for video content, such as Google.
Video RSS feeds. The IYPs can start off with a single Video RSS (aka Media RSS, or MRSS) feed for all of their video content. When it reaches critical mass, they should start specialty video feeds for the categories more popular with video advertisers. This strategy covers the search engines which accept RSS feeds into their databases, such as Yahoo and AOL.
Automated distribution. IYPs should include a basic video SEO submission program as part of every video ad package—especially since every popular video place you can submit to today is still free. Programs such as tubemogul offer a single point for deploying uploads to the top video sharing sites, including YouTube.
On-site search results. The IYPs need to implement at least a basic means of being able to find business listings that feature video content on their own site. Right now, if you added the word “video” in your search query for a business on the IYP sites, you will be no more likely to turn up results with video content in them. By including “video” as an indexable tag for advertisers with video ads, that would greatly improve the quality of their own search results, and with minimal effort.
Online marketing videos. Simply doing in-house SEO won’t be enough for the IYPs to truly take advantage of the local video search space. And the reality is, they can’t count on their sales groups to train their customers on how to market their video content online. By producing their own training videos on SEO and social/viral marketing, they can directly educate their customers and empower them on how to distribute and promote video content to the web search engines and popular social media sites for local establishments, such as Facebook and Craigslist. Considering that customers have full redistribution rights to their video, teaching them how they can best serve as their own sales force is a win-win situation.
It is ironic that the best opportunity for some IYP customers is not how their videos are currently being promoted by the IYPs, but how those customers take the initiative to promote their own videos themselves. The IYPs still have a wide open opportunity to truly capitalize on the local video market—they can start by learning from the experiences of their own customers.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.