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Call for Production Value Standards in Search Marketing Videos

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The search community was abuzz this week over a well-produced television commercial appearing on national cable news television networks promoting a search marketing industry player with an obviously big budget for traditional media advertising.

Granted, a well-produced advertisement isn’t necessarily commensurate of that company’s actual reputation in the industry. But it turned enough heads to denote a mention from some major search players, including Danny Sullivan on his Webmasterradio.fm show, and in the search marketing vendor's own search forum and blog post.

First SEM TV Commercial

It’s a strange feeling for an industry over a decade old to finally have what may be its first major advertisement in television media – a video commercial of real professional quality, created by an ad agency. That’s in considerably high contrast to most of the current batch of videos online by search marketers today, which while appearing at the top of targeted results, leave a lot to be desired in production quality.

Granted, a poorly produced video doesn’t mean someone is a bad search marketer. But we know that the credibility of your message is often directly related to the quality of what you produce, whether you’re trying to make a positive impression with potential clients or establish your brand within the industry. And unless you have the advantage of prior branding within your target audience that established the quality of your search marketing expertise, the excellent search marketing advice and presentations shown in your online videos will always be negated by the terrible video production.

Review of SEM Videos on YouTube

A review of the search marketing videos on YouTube, today's most popular video search engine, shows that most SEM videos fall short in production value. With the assistance of our video production department, we put together a comparison chart on YouTube’s first page of results (top-20 results) for the single keyword term, “search marketing,” and reviewed nearly all the videos in the top-20 slots one-by-one, rating them for optimization tactics, on-site visitor activity, production quality, and overall persuasiveness and effectiveness. Our research revealed several interesting findings:

  • 5,640 video search results appeared for the term “search marketing.”
  • All of the top-20 results used clear video search optimization tactics, and were originally submitted between 2-15 months.
  • Most videos in the top-20 results suffered from production quality issues.
  • Even the videos with medium-to-high levels of production quality showed a need for improvement in format and marketing message.
  • A good number of the videos appeared to be produced by the search marketers themselves.

Areas that video search optimizers are sorely lacking in skill and experience include:

  • Talent – handling oneself on camera.
  • Settings – the features in the video, both visual and audio.
  • Equipment – camera and mic quality, and proper lighting.
  • Post Production – editing the footage into a concise, professional-looking, persuasive message.

Search marketers already know better than to optimize a Web site that looks and performs terribly; but it wasn’t always that way in our industry. It took most search marketers a few years to accept that if they didn’t know how to do Web design, they should hire a professional to do it.

Unfortunately, many of them are making the same mistake in the video space. Having a well-optimized video with lousy production quality is the equivalent of talking to a packed auditorium without wearing pants. No matter how good your advice, people are going to notice your shortcomings. Having quality video production is essential when you’re trying to reach an expanded audience that includes client prospects, media types, and industry peers.

Here are some key tips for any video search marketer doing video production in-house.

Consult With a Professional Videographer

Don't do it yourself the first time. Unless you’ve come into search marketing already possessing a professional background in video production, you are going to do terribly on your own. Give yourself some good direction with people who do this for a living. Ideally, have a videographer produce a pilot clip for your company so you can have a professional package of essential template items – an intro and outtro that you can always re-use and insert with any future video productions.

Invest in Basic Video Equipment

The right equipment makes all the difference in the world.

  • Use a lapel mic. Even a cheap lapel mic will make you sound a lot better than most camera mics and be less likely to pick up ambient noise.
  • If you’re not using a very well lit room and don't have special lighting equipment, have a camera that can handle low-lighting situations. (Look at camcorders that have a 3CCD, which work a lot better in low lighting.)
  • Soundproof your room. Soundproof foam blocks are inexpensive, portable, and will help remove much of the echo sound you typically hear with people shooting video from any office or home office.

Look Good and Sound Good

Obviously, you'll want to put your best foot forward.

  • Dress professionally. (No t-shirts with Star Wars logos, please.)
  • Rehearse what you’re going to say. Practice and say it often enough by talking with someone in the room so you sound natural and not like you’re reading from a script. (Having a second person on camera to have a dialogue and banter with can help bring out a natural conversation.)
  • Be animated. Don’t sound monotonous by using a monotone. Have your passion come out as you persuade people with your message.
  • Don’t appear to be a talking head. Using a single camera angle can appear very dull the longer you talk. Try more than one camera angle. If you only have one camera, do several takes at different angles, which you can cut between in final production.
  • Be concise. This is online video, where attention spans are short. Having just one to three points is ideal, and try not to go over five points in a single video. (You can always break multiple points into videos focused on individual points, which also results in better optimization).

Our industry needs the same professional standards to apply to search marketing videos as we’ve come to expect of our Web sites. No matter how good your search marketing and video optimization expertise may be, you will thrive or dive based on the production value of your videos. With high quality production value videos, you’re not simply ranking well and getting some short-term traffic, you will also generate great word-of-mouth marketing, conversions, and a much better brand for your business.


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