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Optimizing Video for Search Engines

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With the explosive popularity of video content on the web, savvy search marketers can be among the first to catch a prime trend this coming year by optimizing video content to outperform in search engines.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, December 4-7, 2006, Chicago, IL.

The Video Search Optimization session was designed to educate marketers on how to make relevant video content highly accessible to searchers. Moderated by Chris Sherman, the presenters included Jon Leicht of Intuit, Eric Papczun of Performics, and Gregory Markel of Infuse Creative, LLC. All experts in the field, these three brought invaluable data, strategy, analysis, and anecdotes to help SEOs start mapping the contours of the video terrain.

Video, the wild west of search 2007

As Jon Leicht illustrated, video search is still a new and relatively cumbersome niche. That has its pluses and its minuses. Leicht first and foremost advises that marketers map out a plan and develop what he calls a meta toolkit for a business' video developers. A video developer may understand the importance of good meta information but it's entirely possible that he or she may not know how to do it right. Don't leave it to chance. Give developers solid instructions before they get started. As with any optimization campaign—and even more so with video—it is always better to do it the first time around then to have to go back and do it all over again.

Video search engines are like any regular content search engine. To be successful, and to avoid making mistakes, know where you are submitting your content and what information you need to have for each individual engine. Search engines are all different and results will be enhanced when you understand the medium and can play the field according to the rules. Those rules, however, are rapidly changing. A smart marketer will keep an eye on the trends in the industry, and stay just ahead of the field.

As Leicht reminded us all, video is very new content delivery medium. So new in fact that most people are still doing little to no optimization. Just applying the basics will put a search marketer leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else.

Leicht's top 3 tips include:
  • Name your files accurately, with keyword rich filenames. For example: October-space-shuttle-launch.mov rather than 345654-lb.mov

  • Optimize the content on the webpage that launches your video

  • Submit, submit, submit
"The Search Engines themselves are very open to working with you. If you have good content, they are happy to help. Call them!" said Leicht.

The power of video site maps

Following Leicht's overview of basic video SEO technique, Eric Papczun recommended optimizing not only for content related keywords, but for generic keywords related to video. "News video," "ipod video," "[location-specific” video." Even popular terms like "travel video" are still relatively easy to rank for. Now is the time to create a name, a niche, and some rank equity while the field is still fairly open. Papczun predicts that early-comers will have about a year to rank on generic video terms, though it depends on how widely and quickly early adopters flood the field.

In addition to optimizing single videos, Papczun recommends creating a separate video site map. The site maps can be submitted to both video and content engines, show off your wealth of video material, and encourage the engines to come back looking for more.

Papczun encourages SEOs to implement 5 fundamental video optimization techniques:
  • Always add a keyword-rich video title tag and description

  • Don't forget to capitalize on anchor text opportunities

  • Include RSS feeds

  • Bundle your video with a keyword rich synopsis — and transcripts if you have them, you'll capture more spider attention and endear your brand to V-searchers.

  • Create a video site map, with under 1000 links
Although this panel primarily covered organic video search tactics, Papczun also encouraged marketers to capitalize on paid search for video. It's a fast and effective way to start establishing your organization as an authority, with timely content delivery in the video space.

Paid search is particularly effective for news organizations that need to get time-sensitive content placed before searchers within the 24 to 72-hour prime slot following a big news event. Strategically working the paid space offers agencies good opportunities to become known as the first movers and shakers. As the field is still relatively wide open, bids on generic video keywords are still relatively affordable.

Video search engines: Keys to proliferate and protect your content

Greg Markel of Infuse Creative wrapped up the session with a whirlwind of information, and a voracious appetite for the new frontier of video search. "There are more people searching for 'video' than for 'news,' 'love,' or 'religion,'" said Markel, citing search counts for those terms on Google.

More and more videos are showing up in regular search results. And we know what that means. More crowd to regular SEO space, but more actual SERP places and value afforded to video.

Video is simply a great content driver. It's viral by nature, and good video can be one of the most effective tools to spread message, brand, product, or campaign far and wide in an instant. Just consider a couple classic examples: The video strategy used by environmentalists against Chevy. The meteoric rise and discovery of new video stars through YouTube.

Just as with any organic optimization campaign, those marketers who want to use video to drive brand recognition, traffic and revenues must take the time to build simple but effective lures into their content.

There are a few key strategies: Watermark your content. So when viral takes hold of it and flings it far and wide across the internet, your site and brand will be carried along with it. Also, follow your video with an easy conversion prompt-a "send to a friend," "visit this site," or other straight forward call to action. No need to get complex or cute.

To save time vetting the various engines, Markel gave a list of the top video search engines. His top engines were Yahoo Video, YouTube.com, AOL Video, Google Video and Singingfish.com (owned by AOL).

What about monetization of video? As Leicht sees the industry, early entrepreneurs in the video space are best to distribute their content for free at the moment. With the proliferation of free uploads, viral pirating of private content, and many kinks to work out in video search algorithms, video content providers will gain visibility and market share more effectively by uploading high quality, well-optimized content than by trying to profit monetarily from every view. At least for the time being.

But Leicht also includes this caveat: As the quality of the content online increases, people will be willing to pay for it. And when that shift happens, the early adopters of best practices for video SEO will be in prime position to capitalize on it.

Conclusion: Key strategies for video SEO

1. Capitalize on metadata content: Titles and descriptions for video are heavily weighted by the engines. Use them wisely.

2. Encode your video using multiple file types for ease of download and viral spreading. Don't forget the ipod revolution.

3. Piggyback on popular content or news items.

4. Watermark. Watermark. Watermark.

5. Proliferate your content on the video engines.

6. Embed auto refresh tricks into your video to update your content. The engines will reward for recency, although they primarily reward for relevancy.

7. Research. Test. Study results. Find out why your content ranks well. Then replicate it.

8. Rely on your favorite keyword research tools. They work equally well for video. Pay attention—if you don't already—to YahooBuzz for keyword suggestions. It's current. It's fast. And it's underused so you'll have a leg up.

9. Play both types of engines-content and video. Optimize your clips for ripe terms to capture your niche market and the broader video search terms.

10. Hook up RSS and Atom feeds.

And enjoy charting the new terrain of this next development in online media and search targeting.

Amy Edelstein is the founder of Ascent Copywriting and the author of numerous articles about innovations in Search Marketing.

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