During the past year-plus of working with scores of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) on testing and then launching online video advertising campaigns, we have compiled a short list of common myths associated with online video advertising, implications for search, and what it means to the SMB sector.
Gleaned from our own experiences, as well as a substantial combination of news, discussion and hype surrounding the online video ad sector, we thought it would be useful to identify and dispel the most commonly held myths about online video and SMBs. So, in the spirit of late-night talk shows, and without further ado, here the list:
Myths about video
Video has to be expensive. Video ads don’t have to be expensive productions. We’ve deployed hundreds upon hundreds of video ads, syndicated them to the major video search engines, deployed them on SMBs’ web sites, and run them in ad networks. Across all these contexts, we’ve seen authentic, informative video ads outperform highly stylized (and much more expensive) corporate produced commercials. This is not to say repurposing high production value creative is bad, just that people find 30-second spots to be less relevant to what they are searching for: ultimately in-depth and relevant information, which search engines tend to prefer as well.
Good videos are always video. As opposed to simple rich media banner ads, video ads have a beginning, middle, and an end—and thus, intrinsic to the format, tell a story—but it does not have to be in a video format. Photos stitched together with music, captions, and call to actions can actually perform as well and, in some cases, better than video (think “Ken Burns effect”). For example, several clients who are exclusively repurposing existing photos in our VideoAd player are seeing view to impression ratios that average around 30% to 40% (some achieving ratios of 70%+) for just photos.
First impressions aren’t important with video. After tweaking hundreds of video ads, we’ve seen that the first frame can make the difference between viewers clicking on the video ad or not—to the tune of 30 to 40 basis points. Whether it’s the color of the play button, or the actual thumb, extend your thinking about relevance to that first impression. If your users are arriving from search engine referrals, this first impression is especially important.
Myths about SMBs
SMBs are not smart marketers. SMBs aren’t unsophisticated about marketing, they just lack time to do it all themselves. Many SMBs deploy agencies to help them market, knowing that they handle all the details and, in the case of interactive agencies, are driven by performance. Funny, come to think of it, a lot of the BIG brands do exactly the same thing!
SMBs are cheap. SMBs aren’t cheap; rather, SMBs are results-focused. We’ve worked with lots of businesses who saw the initial promise of video, but wanted to “dip” their big toe in first with trials. Now that they are getting positive results, they are shifting their budgets online from offline, and to video ads from display ads. They are also pushing video search engine optimization, both on their site and through landing pages, knowing that the time they invest in VSEO now will yield benefits over time (something we’ve talked about in prior columns).
SMBs have little to say. When it comes down to it, video is all about story-telling and we have found that SMBs have much more relevant and informative stories to tell about their brand than one might think. Product demos, tours, and testimonials involving owners, doctors, restaurateurs, and others talking about what makes them special are coming out in our clients’ video ads—and are increasingly showing up in search results, based on relevance. As the quality and relevance improves, viewers are increasingly finding these video ads and watching them all the way through and clicking for more information deep into the story.
Myths about search marketing with video
Freshness doesn’t count. Businesses change. Viewers come to web sites more frequently than you may think. Potential customers see your advertising at different stages of the buying process. All of the above statements speak to the fact that driving effective video SEO is more than just offering relevant content, but FRESH content. On several client campaigns we’ve run, we’ve seen drop-offs in performance for video ads that have not been updated over time. Now, the time frame of what is “fresh” depends on the business and web site traffic composition, but the meta point is “keep it fresh!”
Video SEO is a license to spam. We talked about this before, but we’ve seen declines in search rankings based on “over-submitting” to every sharing site known to humankind. Instead of plastering videos everywhere, we suggest focusing your energies on the front-end, that is, determining the communication and marketing objective of your video ad, then setting keywords that are tied to getting discovered against those specific objectives.
Once you have published your video online, you are done. Sure, on video sharing sites, there are some good stats on views. SMBs, however, want more than the cozy feeling of knowing someone saw their video ad—they want performance. Our clients are more interested in data that shows how many of those viewers took action (we’ve seen 50% actions to views, in some cases). Views are just a means to that end and SMBs have to be willing to adjust and update their videos for effectiveness, whether in being more attractive to search engines and users or in motivating action from the users once they’re on your video.
In conclusion, it bears repeating that video has the promise to not only alter the rules of search engine marketing but also online marketing in such a way that can tip things in the favor of SMBs
Like most things in life, it seems, there really aren’t shortcuts to getting what you want out of incorporating video into your SMB marketing mix. It takes focus, and maybe even just as importantly, knowing what action you want generated by video. From a search standpoint, remember that our friends at Google, Yahoo!, and elsewhere continuously update their algorithms to ensure that they are focused and relevant, and not overwhelmed by the sheer flash factor of emerging media, like video. While there are a ton of and exciting applications for online video advertising, it is also useful to keep some of these myths in mind as we move toward the second half of 2008 and beyond.
Glenn Pingul is VP of marketing for Mixpo, an online video advertising company dedicated to small- and medium-sized businesses. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.