Video SEO in 2017 Best Practice Guide
Jared Amyakar Apr 14 2017
According to a HubSpot survey, video is now the most popular kind of content consumed online (when text based content types are spit into categories). Users are certainly more likely to consume it thoroughly since skimming a video takes more effort than written text. They either watch it or they don’t.
Companies like Google and Facebook have paid attention to video’s rise, and are making changes to adapt. Google SERP’s feature more video results and rich snippets than in the past, and Facebook is constantly tweaking how video plays on their platform.
All of this means getting video right is more important than ever. The rewards are greater than ever, and the competition is only increasing from here on out (at least until everything is VR). This post will outline the basics of Video SEO and its implementation.
One of the big questions to answer when deciding on a video strategy is where to host your videos. Every method has trade offs that marketers should consider when planning for video. When making this decision it is key to keep in mind what role videos play, or will play, to your business.
Note that many companies use different hosting services for different types of video. A site can host important lead generation videos on a professional service, and smaller videos that support blog content on Youtube.
YouTube has become the go-to video hosting service of the modern web. Videos are hosted for free, and are guaranteed to be indexed by Google (since they own the service.) YouTube also has a large user base within the platform, which can be a source of discovery for your videos and brand.
YouTube video pages receive preferential treatment from google for video results. This can work for you by getting your video seen, or against you by outranking the video page on your website.
YouTube tends to be lackluster as a source of referral traffic. While their users can generate millions of views for your videos, they can be hard to convince to leave YouTube. Use their advanced features to increase your odds of generating referrals. Link back to your site in the description, and possibly in the video itself (with in-video links at the end). Plan the destinations for those links around the UX of users who have just seen the video.
Optimizing your videos in YouTube
Optimize the following elements within YouTube for best results:
- Title: Focus here on both keywords for searches and CTR for views.
- Description: Start your descriptions with a link to the most relevant page on your site to create the potential for referral traffic. Use long descriptions (more than 250 words) within YouTube to provide information to their search engine about the content of the video.
- Tags: Include the primary topic of the video as a tag, and include 3-5 related topics as tags as well.
- Transcript: Upload a transcript directly to YouTube for closed captioning and relevance. Use their transcribe and auto-sync option for simplicity and time savings.
Self-hosting videos online is a tricky process. There are many ways that things can go just wrong enough to cost you a conversion, and a handful of ways for things to go worse. Take on this challenge only when you have the dev resources to ensure that it will go smoothly.
If you are in a position to do this, then you either already know or are already doing it, and can skip to the next section. Otherwise, stick with professional hosting services.
YouTube isn’t the only player in town for video hosting. Currently their two chief competitors are Vimeo and Wistia. Both are paid, professional services, and offer things like customer support that are expected of this kind of company.
They both have a free plan with a limited feature set, but most of their advantages kick in when you upgrade to the paid options. Their mid-range plans feature customizable video players, improved customer support, and custom analytics.
The high-end plans feature even more advanced options, things like custom lead generation tools and integrations with hubspot or salesforce. Some plans can even be used to find video professionals to help create your content. The services aren’t identical, so look at the plan pages linked to above for more details on what each offer and which better suits your needs.
One important feature that both services provide is that videos can be hosted on your domain. This means your site will appear in the video search results, rather than YouTube.
Facebook has also been investing in its video capabilities. If you intend to use video content as part of your social strategy, then hosting your videos within Facebook (in addition to your web-based hosting) will get you the best bang for your buck.
While most Facebook video traffic comes from Live sessions, or from ad buy promotions, we recommend having a video repository that mirrors what we’ve recommended for YouTube.
Broadly speaking, the move addresses several potential points of interest down the road:
- It creates another content hub where users can interact with the brand.
- It begins garnering search authority around specific pieces of content (when copy is written appropriately).
- It provides a repository for promotable content.
- It establishes a foundation should Facebook video prove to be a major conversion path as the platform itself continues to receive investment.
The time investment should be relatively minor. The Facebook library can mirror your YouTube library in almost every respect. Things like video format, copy, and tag optimizations should translate between the platforms. While there is a time investment required to set up and maintain a video repository on Facebook, it should be streamlined if the work is already occurring around your YouTube page.
Every video will need a page on your site that represents that video’s main page. This can be a page dedicated specifically to that video, or can be a topical page (like a blog post, article, or brochure content) that the video makes a meaningful contribution to.
Creating dedicated video pages is a common tactic, most often used when the video is destination content. These videos should be able to stand alone, and deliver information or an experience that covers a given topic without the need for further context.
A great example of this kind of content from the SEO world is Moz’s Whiteboard Friday.
Optimizing a Dedicated Video Page
As the page itself is dedicated to the video, the following elements should be in place and optimized:
- Page Title: Should be the same, or close to, the name of the video.
- Page Description: Should about the topic and approach of the video.
- H1: Should be the same as the name of the video.
- Transcript: Should be included under the video as the text copy of the page. Don’t just include an ugly block of text though. Apply proper formatting to make it easy to digest and skim. Include stills from the video as images for those who prefer to read or are unable to watch.
The transcript treatment above should guide your efforts to create destination video content. If reading your transcript is disappointing, your video is probably light on substance. If turning your transcript into a longform blog post doesn’t make sense, it is likely too thin to be a content destination.
In this circumstance, there is a page that covers the topic of the video, and the video enhances or expands on information already on the page. This is a common tactic for shorter videos that convey information that is easier to communicate visually than with written text.
Optimizing a Video Embedded in a Larger Page
The normal SEO best practices for a web page all apply to a topical page. The largest special consideration is in regards to the video transcript.
In these cases an on-screen transcript will often disrupt the flow of the page. We recommend using the transcript schema markup to add this information in a way that won’t impact user experience (particularly when using JSON-LD). This is, of course, in addition to the schema markup discussed below.
Metadata is the information that exists about your video on your site. It provides most of the information available to search engines about the content of your video, since they can’t understand it directly. As such, getting it right can go a long way to determining your success.
If you host on YouTube then this item isn’t relevant. If you have more control over the URL of the video, then make sure that it reflects the topic of your video. One common tactic is to use the title, or a stripped down version of it, as the basis of the end URL. If you’re self hosting then this is just a heads-up to use the title of your video as the name of the file on your server.
Video XML sitemaps use the XML sitemap protocol to deliver information about the videos on your site. Rather than listing the pages of your site it indexes your videos, their locations, and allows you to include other pieces of metadata about them. Like other sitemaps, you can upload it directly to Google Search Console. For best results, host it on your own servers and link to it from your robots.txt.
Every entry in a video XML sitemap requires the following:
- Primary Video URL
- Thumbnail URL
- URL of either the hosted video file, or the source URL of the embedded video, as shown in the embed code.
Google has documentation on formatting XML sitemaps which should be enough for a competent dev team to create and maintain the file. Plugins also exist for several CMS’s that can streamline the process.
This review should be enough to get you started with video SEO. Doing it well relies on having some more advanced features like schema markup set up on your site. There are plenty of resources out there to help get things up and running, including my own breakdown on JSON-LD.
Did you find this helpful? Did I miss something you find essential? Let me know in the comments.
Jared has been an SEO since 2013, and joined Portent in 2015. He is a motivated, nearly obsessive learner who loves the challenge and fast-changing landscape of digital marketing. In short, he's the perfect kind of geek for life at Portent. In the last 10 years, he's lived in the UK, Israel, and now Seattle, WA, USA. He's consulted on SEO and digital marketing for a wide range of companies from international consulting firms, to iconic guitar makers, to mom-and-pop e-commerce shops. Read More