Once you decide to invest in video, you still need to figure out how to get people to view and interact with it. That’s where search engine optimization comes into play.
Follow these 11 steps to optimize your videos for organic search — to improve their ability to rank and drive views.
11 Steps to On-site Video SEO
Choose your topic. Your videos need to provide something the viewer wants. That could be instruction on how to use your products, a 360-degree view, a solution to a common problem — something that fills a need of searchers. It’s unlikely that they want to see your company’s video ad unless you work for a megabrand.
Keyword research, the foundation for all SEO, needs to be one of the first stops for video.
Create quality content. Ensure that your video is well structured and fulfills the need for searchers and shoppers. But quality also speaks to production. No one wants to watch an out-of-focus, choppy video with poor audio. If you can’t afford to hire a company to produce a quality video, invest in a tripod and a microphone. That’s what Beardbrand founder and fellow Practical Ecommerce author Eric Bandholz did several years ago when he started vlogging about beard grooming.
Choose a relevant thumbnail. The default thumbnail often involves someone in mid-speech or is otherwise unrelated to the video itself. Choose your own thumbnail or create a title to ensure searchers understand the relevance and want to click to view. Otherwise you’ll miss the click or searchers will bounce out to a more attractive-looking video. That bounce can be tracked by the search engine, and likely impacts your rankings if it happens frequently.
Match video hosting to your goal. Depending on what you want to accomplish, there are multiple hosting options. They all enable people to see videos on your site, but there are other considerations.
- Spread brand awareness? Hosting on YouTube is the way to go. It’s the second-largest search engine in the world, which means vastly more people looking for videos that could coincide with the topics you’re providing. It’s also the primary source for video search results in Google web search. However, sending traffic to your content on YouTube means they aren’t on your ecommerce site to shop.
- Drive traffic and conversions to your ecommerce site? Host the video on your site, which ensures that any traffic viewing that video experiences your brand. Be careful to ensure that your site can load the video quickly. If it can’t, consider a video hosting service such as Brightcove or Wistia, or a content delivery network such as Akamai or Cloudflare.
- Increase backlinks to your ecommerce site? Host the videos on your site. When people link to them, they’ll be linking to the same domain that your products are on. Those links strengthen the entire site and increase the likelihood that your ecommerce pages will rank as well.
- Have it all? That’s an option, too. You could self-host videos and post them on YouTube. Google will likely choose the YouTube version in rankings. Consequently, your on-site video viewership could be limited. You’ll probably end up with fewer links and visits, but more views overall. This option, therefore, addresses the brand awareness goal.
Structure your video section. Treat your videos like you would a blog. Optimize each video page and assign it to a category as you would with any blog post. Make sure the category page links to every video page so there’s a navigation structure that search engines can crawl.
Optimize your video pages. Optimize each video page with a relevant title tag and meta description to help both searchers and search engines. The title of the video — or the need it addresses — should be the main headline for the page, formatted as an H1 tag. Then comes the video, followed by a short description, which should also be optimized.
Transcribe the videos. Search engine algorithms don’t analyze videos to determine their content, yet. There’s a rich source of natural-language content locked up inside that video, but search engine crawlers can’t access it. Including a full transcript of your video provides additional contextual relevance to your on-page optimization.
Link with products. To accomplish the ultimate goal of selling products, your product and category pages need to acquire links. Thus link from your video pages to the products or categories that they feature. You could also link to your video from the relevant product page.
Mark up with structured data. Mark up your video pages up with video schema structured data. This will encourage video rich snippets on Google’s search results. These are primarily visible on informational search queries but occasionally appear on product-based searches as well.
Post a video XML sitemap. This type of XML sitemap links to every video you have posted on your site to increase its discoverability by search bots. Humans do not see XML sitemaps.
Promote to drive views and links. Start promoting your videos in channels you can control, such as your email newsletter, via links on your blog or home page, and in your social media campaigns. Then team up with your public relations team to identify a strategy for promoting the videos to the media and relevant industry influencers.
Next, switch your focus to external sources. Search for forums where people are asking questions that your videos answer and gently offer your video as a solution. Look for people who have blogged about the topic and offer your video as a resource (requesting that they credit your company as the source).
Devise ways to connect with the people in your industry who influence others — on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or wherever your prospects are. It helps if you’ve been corresponding with those influencers already. All of that networking could pay off in the form of recommendations or, even better, links to your site.