Use Open Graph To Get Video Thumbnails Into Your Search Results
Joel Harvey is, among other things, the Video Scientist at Conversion Sciences. Over the past four years, he has developed video strategies for a large number of online retailers. We’ve found that video is great for drawing and converting qualified search traffic, so I asked Joel to tell us his tricks for getting video ranked on Google. He doesn’t disappoint.
Search marketers are always looking for strategies to give them an edge. Ever since Google first announced Universal Blended Search results in 2008, search marketers have been looking for ways to consistently use the blended results to their advantage.
According to Joel, one of the most mysterious and difficult universal channels has been video, particularly getting video thumbnail images associated with the search results that you rank for with your domain.
It’s important because these thumbnails capture searcher’s attention and can “make a number three ranking perform like a number one ranking” in terms of click through rates and traffic.
The criteria for getting Video Thumbnails in your search listings has never been transparent, but Joel says that videos must be indexed and associated with our domain in Google Video for there to be any possibility of thumbnail associations.
He warns that even if we’ve done this, there is no certainty, but only “increased probability.” Apparently, factors such as industry, geography and search terms all influence which type of blended results are displayed, if at all.
In the beginning of Universal Search, Joel used a process that was relatively easy:
- Add unique video to your site.
- Ensure the video player and video file are on the URL you want that video’s thumbnail to rank for.
- Submit Video Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.
Beginning in 2008, he saw thousands of videos ranked using this simple process. But over the course of the next 18 months, videos that had been previously ranked began falling out of the video index and fewer non-YouTube videos were being added to the video index, he says.
With the addition of one step, Joel says we can significantly increased the likelihood of getting a video thumbnail in our search results.
- Add unique video to your site
- Add Open Graph Video Tags
- Ensure the video player and video file are on the URL you want that video’s thumbnail to rank for
- Submit Video Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools
Ok, so number 1, number 3 and number 4 look familiar, but Open Graph tags for Video SEO? Really?
Joel says, “Absolutely.” Open Graph is a protocol developed by Facebook that allows any webpage to become a rich object in a social graph.
At their most basic, Open Graph tags allow you to define and categorize the objects on your site that you associate Facebook Like buttons to. Think of them as social media meta tags.
My question was, “Why do they matter?”
First, says Joel, Google has made a conscious effort to get more social. Open graph tags are currently key components of that.
Second, he points out that many video players today are buried in java script. It can be difficult for the spiders to verify the existence of a video file on such a page. This is important because when you submit a sitemap to webmaster tools, you’re telling Google that you have videos on specific pages.
Enter open graph tags. Though not perfect, Joel believes that they are viewed as an adequate video verification signal.
Adding Open Graph Video Tags to Your Site
Placed before the </head> tag:
<meta property="og:video" content="http://example.com/yourvideofile.extension" /> <meta property="og:video:secure_url" content="https://secure.example.com/yourvideofilename.extension" /> <meta property="og:video:type" content="application/yourvideoapplication" /> <meta property="og:video:width" content="xxx" /> <meta property="og:video:height" content="xxx" />
Joel showed me some domains found “in the wild” that rank video well, we see that most (not all) utilize open graph video tags. You Tube – anyone who wants to get video ranked in Google Video would be wise to look at how You Tube works.
Below is a universal video result. Take a quick look at the source code on any given video page and what do you see…
These guys have consistently ranked video since 2009. Let’s take a look:
I was glad to see hime choose Zappos as an example. This company is the granddaddy of eCommerce video and has one of the longest running track records of successful video SEO. Let’s take a look at the source code for a page where they have a video thumbnail in their results:
“Wow,” he says. “Not only do they have a video open graph tag, but it’s the only open graph tag.”
There’s Smoke, But Is There a Fire?
Evidence suggests that open graph tags, when used in conjunction with video SEO best practices, play a strong role in getting video thumbnails in your search listings. Are they the single most important element? Probably not. If you use them, are you guaranteed to get video thumbnail results? No.
But, if you want to leverage your video assets to get thumbnails ranked and increase search traffic, Joel makes a strong case that this is your formula.
Thanks again to Joel Harvey, who is a Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences, LLC, for his contributions to this piece.
Analytics news and expert advice every Thursday.