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SMBs, Video and Search – Looking Backward & Forward
I’ve been writing monthly articles for Small is Beautiful for about almost a year now, offering observations and insights into what we’ve seen working with small and medium sized businesses from the front lines but will be winding down a bit in 2009.
Our focus is still very much on serving the SMB advertiser, but we are finding that the best way to serve them is through partners. We’ve also found that, although our advertising platform is very useful for helping SMBs optimize their search efforts with video, our technology is more complementary to the smart “blocking and tackling” things businesses should already be doing to optimize their basic search efforts.
As my final monthly column for Search Engine Land this year, I thought it would be both fun and interesting to take a look back at some of the items I’ve written about throughout 2008, to see if they are still holding true today. I will return to Search Engine Land from time to time, with occasional postings from the world of online video advertising, but for now let’s take a quick look back.
Early this year, I pondered the basic characteristics that make online video, with a focus on both SMBs and search, important:
It’s obvious. Video is and always has been among the most powerful ways to advertise. Video can enable businesses to leverage sight, sound, and motion to create an emotive and more memorable connection with potential customers. Coupled with the fact that people are bombarded every day with emails, text-laden web sites, and oftentimes annoying flash banner ads, the early opportunity for small businesses here is that online video ads have the ability to break through the clutter and communicate meaningful information.
For example, if I’m a consumer searching on a major engine for a type of local small business, say a real estate agent or car dealer, chances are good I’ll naturally gravitate to a search result that has a video, where most others do not: In short, much of the power of online video lies in helping small businesses stand out.
IS THIS STILL TRUE? Absolutely.
Another obvious but critical point is that video is just more accepted and accessible online now than ever before. According to a study by comScore, consumers viewed more than 11 billion videos online in July 2008 with roughly 75% of total internet users having watched video online. Consumers are finally getting used to accessing video online. The projections that US broadband penetration is expected to break 90% by mid-2008 adds fuel to the notion that the 11 billion figure will surely be surpassed year’s end.
STILL TRUE? Video is indeed more accepted and accessible now than before, but just not quite to the extent mentioned – Pew Research reported in mid-2008 that 15% of Internet users still only had dial-up access available to them. Back to the comScore July report that the average online viewer watched 235 minutes of video, and although there still are some internet households that don’t have broadband, those that can access online video are watching more and more.
For years, when it comes to video, there’s been a series of unfair advantages in favor of big companies: Video creation was expensive. Buying media was even more expensive. Clients relied heavily on agencies to get the message right – because once you paid the hundreds of thousands for creative, it better be built to last.
Today, creating compelling videos is very accessible to small businesses at a fraction of the cost that big companies pay. And the definition of compelling is changing. No longer is good advertising narrowly defined as messaging crammed into high production 30 or 15 second spots We’ve seen SMB success with all forms of content: photos and/or video, customized stock video, testimonials and product demos – all with the common framework of wanting to inform rather than just entertaining viewers. Yes, repurposed commercials DO work but the meta-point is SMBs now have creative options that make online video affordable and thus more accessible to the long tail of advertisers.
But beyond just making video accessible, small businesses crave the ability to measure and alter the creative in order to maximize their return. It’s having the ability to get more out of their video online without huge “change order” costs that makes it accessible for small business.
STILL TRUE? Absolutely and time will showcase the many (effective) ways smaller advertisers tell their story.
Sure, a computer monitor is smaller than most new flat screen televisions, but most people view a computer about a foot away from their screen, versus television watchers who are most likely sitting on a barcalounger across the room. Online video forces attention, and the Internet offers the capability for small businesses to directly leverage this.
In a recent Bits article in the NY Times entitled: Online Videos – and Our Attention Spans – Get Longer, some interesting observations where made about how viewers interact with online video vs. offline:
“This offers a bit of confirmation to a theory I’ve had for a while: that the Internet will reverse the dumbing down of news that was caused by television. One reason that TV reduces most news segments to two minutes is that everyone watching a newscast has to watch all of them, even the topics that bore them. Video on the Internet is more like reading a print publication. You decide how much you want to watch and when to switch to the next topic.”
In other words, attention brought by the “lean forward” mode of online video means viewers are more engaged but consequently demand more control and more choice. Web technology allows online video advertising to be more than a passive show, offers a more lasting impression (since it is not limited to a 15 or 30 second commercial), and is a way for viewers to interact and take action in ways they still cannot with television.
No other online marketing avenue is that more evident than in search where internet users make self-directed choices all along the way. Video can augment that discovery.
STILL TRUE? Check!
And finally, one more look at perhaps my favorite case study of 2008:
My friend and SEO guru Mark Robertson reported that research from the folks at FindLaw showed that video marketing, which in this case meant adding an online video to a law firm’s web site, can help increase, to a somewhat dramatic extent, conversions from prospective clients.
The research reported that consumers typically visit an average of nearly five Web sites (4.8 actually) before deciding which attorney to select. When lawyers added video to their respective Web sites, however, this number decreased fairly substantially, to 1.8. Studies like this are great. They show the promise of how video can help small and medium sized businesses and point to the importance of placing video strategically throughout the “buying funnel” with the right messaging at the right time—and in the legal case above, accelerate people down the buying funnel.
So, the bottom line equation in November 2008 is the same as I’ve been writing all year: Online video advertising plus search engines equals an opportunity for SMBs to tell their brand story.
Looking back provides some validation to the promise of online video as a ‘game changing’ medium by making video more affordable and more accessible for SMBs, but it is still early in the game. The current economic environment may have a ‘slowing’ effect on how quickly the long tail of advertisers adopt online video. However, the smart ones – the ones that want accountability for all their marketing spend – in tough times as well as good – will take advantage of video to move their brands and business forward when most others will retreat.
It has been a pleasure sharing my perspectives throughout 2008 and I wish everyone the best for a healthy and happy holiday season.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.