Video sitemaps can cleanse your soul

Ian Lurie

This post expands on one of the ten blogging tips I presented at the SEOMOZ pro seminar yesterday. I’ll be writing about the others over the next few weeks, and will tie them all together when they’re done.

I’m not a video guy. I know I use screencasts a lot, but the idea of having to watch myself on screen is about as itch-inducing as sleeping in a pile of rotting vegetables.

But, video has its place. First, getting a video to rank for a given phrase is a hell of a lot easier than getting a page to rank. Second, videos can grab attention where text just can’t.

So, when I do post a video to a site, I want it to get indexed, right the heck now.

Alas, a video I posted a few weeks ago felt anti-social. I cajoled. I bribed. I promised it candy and screen time. I bought it presents. But it stood at the door to the Google index, stamped its foot and said “I’M OPPOSED TO YOU DAD”.

Actually, that’s what my then-two-year-old son declared when I refused to buy him a chocolate chip cookie, but it’s a great line and I wanted to use it. So there.

The video just refused to get indexed. In a moment of total desperation, I threw together a video sitemap and pointed Google Webmaster Tools at it.

Twelve hours later, the video was indexed and ranking for its title:

ranking for huzzah video training

I even grabbed a ranking for ‘intermediate SEO training’ for another, equally stubborn video that I included in the map:

ranking for huzzah video training

That can’t be a coincidence. It’s not even happenstance. It’s a bona fide correlation.

So be sure you use video sitemaps. They clearly have a huge impact on video indexation. My only qualifier: It’s possible video XML sitemaps only seem to have a huge impact, because there are far fewer videos out there than, say, images or HTML pages. But I’ll keep testing and post updates as events warrant.

Best practices for video sitemaps

A few quick tips, and sample code:

  1. Use a video hosting service. It doesn’t have to be YouTube. I use Vimeo in the example below. But there are some nice benefits, not the least of which is Vimeo will generate a thumbnail for you. Since Google requires a thumbnail, it’s a major timesaver.
  2. Write good descriptions. I included ‘intermediate SEO training’ in the video:description tag of my sitemap. That has to have helped me rank for that phrase.
  3. Use accurate tags. Don’t just slap in a few video:tag tags. Make sure you write useful ones.
  4. Use a separate XML sitemap for videos. Yes, Google lets you mix ’em all together now. But Bing doesn’t. Plus it’s a lot easier to manage.

Here’s the code of the sitemap I did, too. Feel free to rebuild it using your own info:

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Ian – thanks for this soul cleansing article on video sitemaps. I am taking you up on that offer to use your code as a template. Can you shed some light on the ‘allow embed’ portion of the video player location tag? If my goal is to drive traffic to our website, wouldn’t it be better to enter ‘no’ as the value?

  2. That’s a Vimeo setting, not a sitemap setting. I use it because there’s evidence that lots of embeds will make it easier to get a video ranking.

  3. Does the google take the videos from video-sitemaps to the in-content videos? I mean: Sometimes it happens you see organic search result with a video attached left to it.
    I got one such on my website search results for one page, though Google added it without a videositemap – so I wonder if adding it could help other my pages in getting a video attachment in the search results.

  4. I don’t understand how you recommend using a video hosting service such as YouTube or Vimeo. My understanding has always been that you can only create a video sitemap when hosting the video on your site. Please clarify. Thanks!

  5. @David Actually, you can create a video sitemap for any pages on your site that embed a video. Google wants to know when videos are embedded on other sites – this is another important signal as to the importance of the video, AND, if your site’s the most authoritative, it might get your site some love, too.

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