Video is fast becoming the content medium of choice for US consumers, especially younger ones. Video consumption increased 23.3% in 2015, according to ZenithOptimedia’s Online Video Forecasts, and it’s expect to grow again in 2016—by 19.8%.
Even though you may already be producing videos, you may not be getting the maximum ROI if you’re not optimizing them for search on both Google and YouTube.
The work of SEO-optimizing video is complicated because you need to optimize not only for Google but also YouTube. YouTube ranking criteria are different from those of regular Google search, according to Jeff Martin, vice-president of YouTube audience development for Touchstorm.
Speaking at the recent Search Marketing Expo, Martin said YouTube video optimization should include not just the video’s metadata and thumbnail but also its performance. The components of YouTube performance are views; video watch time; session watch time; and engagement, which is the number of likes, adds, and subscribes, as well as dislikes.
You should shoot for high rankings on both Google and YouTube, so use the following 16-item checklist to make sure your videos rise to the top of search results.
1. Relentless and deep keyword research
First, identify the best keywords for your industry and your company, based on search volume and competition—just as you would for regular Web pages. If you’re using a keyword research tool, make sure it evaluates not only Web pages but also YouTube pages.
For example, our Rank Tracker treats individual YouTube URLs as site addresses. It can automatically generate keywords and key phrases from any YouTube URL. You can also use Google Keyword Planner, YouTube Results, and Google Trends for YouTube, according to Martin, as well as KeywordTool.io.
You should also look for search terms in categories for which Google is more likely to deliver YouTube results, according to Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko. The categories most likely to produce video results are these:
- Fitness or sports
Using those topics as a guide, Dean advises, look for keywords in your niche that deliver YouTube results and then optimizing for them. (If you don’t have a suitable video, you’ll need to produce one.)
2. Host video everywhere
The more places your video is available, the more likely it is that someone will encounter it without searching. If you embed the YouTube video on your website, YouTube will count those views and user engagement in its performance metrics.
If you also host the optimized video on a dedicated landing page on your website, your site will benefit from organic traffic, perhaps gaining inbound links and conversions, according to Benjamin Spiegel, CEO of MMI Agency.
3. Optimize the mobile experience
Mobile is increasingly the platform of choice for video, but issues such as slow downloads will turn mobile users off. On the other hand, speedy, sharp video that was shot with the small screen in mind will increase watch time and engagement.
4. Optimize the title
The video title should be optimized two ways, to appeal to search engines and to human searchers. For search engines, of course, use your keyword or keyphrase near the beginning of the title. Be descriptive, so that people understand the video content they’ll see. To attract humans, if it’s relevant, add one of magically alluring words such as “free,” “new,” “secret,” or “amazing.”
5. Make the description work harder
Think of the description as being two descriptions in one. The first 100 words or so of the description will appear on YouTube search results, and that is what will make searchers decide to click through. Provide an intriguing and accurate description. Don’t forget to use those engaging words like “how to.”
Viewers have the option to read a much longer description by clicking on “More” at the bottom of the initial portion of the description. Content in this area is indexed by Google’s searchbots, so using relevant keywords can help the video’s ranking. It’s a good idea also to add links to your website, social media, and other places where searchers can find you, according to Fullscreen.
6. Tag well
The art in tagging videos is to use relevant keywords without stuffing. Begin with longer phrases and then keep narrowing them down. For example, tags for a cooking how-to video might begin with “how to make Indian chapatis,” then “making Indian chapatis,” and finally, “chapatis.” (Note the inclusion of the Google-attractive “how to” phrase.)
Tags should include the names of people appearing or mentioned in the video, and ditto for brands, and, of course, your company name. If doing so is applicable to the video, you can include competitors’ brands in your tags.
7. Manage metadata
Mark up the HTML for your video descriptions with metadata from schema.org, a markup vocabulary that lets Google and Bing better index your video. Doing so gives your video more of a chance to be shown as a rich snippet in search results.
8. Aim to appear in rich snippets
Increasingly, Google has been answering queries right on search results pages. Rich snippets use structured data from multiple sources to answer queries. Google supports rich snippets for several types of data:
- Software application
If your video contains information of this kind, marking it up using schema.org tags gives you a shot at premiere placement on SERPs.
9. Choose an attractive thumbnail
We’re becoming more of a visual society, and many searchers look at thumbnails to decide what to click. Your thumbnail image should be a close-up that can be clearly seen even on a smartphone.
10. Include annotations and cards
Annotations are clickable text or images that appear on desktop video only. YouTube says they’re an excellent way to direct viewers to another of your videos, a playlist, or more content on the channel.
Cards are preformatted notifications that appear on desktop and mobile videos. They show up as teasers that expand if users hover over them.
Use an annotation or card on one video to refer viewers to a second, potentially increasing the second video’s number of views. Be sure to include keywords in annotations and cards.
11. Create playlists
Sorting your videos into playlists can increase the views of individual videos and overall watch time; at the end of one playlist video, YouTube automatically plays the next one in the playlist. In addition to the potential for more views, playlists increase your time-on-page and time-onsite metrics, according to Guillaume Bouchard, CEO of iProspect Canada.
Another tip: instead of sharing a link to an individual video via social media, share the URL for the entire playlist.
12. Provide or create transcripts
Taking the extra step of producing a transcript of your video greatly benefits your SEO because the text is naturally rich with keywords, keyphrases, and key concepts. Transcripts are also useful for people who may not want to watch the whole video but want the information it contains.
Bonus tip: Since you have this lengthy transcript, you might as well repurpose it in the form of one or more blog posts. You should of course edit the transcript to clean up the language.
13. Create closed captions
For most videos, Google can use its speech recognition technology to provide closed captions for your videos. Doing so allow the hearing impaired and those that don’t speak the language of the video to enjoy them. Google can create closed captions in 10 major languages, allowing international viewers to understand your video. There’s an added benefit in that it’s still another way to enrich the keyword density of the video. Because speech recognition isn’t perfect, take the time to edit the captions (see links in checklist item No. 12).
14. Try for backlinks
Even though Google’s search algorithms have evolved over time to de-emphasize backlinks, they are still important, according to Gene Skazovski, chief marketing strategist for FairSquare who also spoke at Search Marketing Expo.
He advises using relevant anchor text and allowing others to embed your videos. Encourage sharing by posting the video to social media and, if you reference any experts or sources, make sure to not only give them credit but also tag them.
15. Add social-media follow buttons
This tactic is an easy way to expand your audience and, over time, increase overall views and engagement with your videos.
16. Publicize the video
Plaster your video’s URL anyplace and everyplace. Try to get mentions on traditional media, as well as on websites, forums, newsletters, and blogs. This tactic might be free, but it can be labor-intensive; however, it’s an excellent way to draw in those who are not regular YouTube users, potentially increasing views and engagement.