Video streams and podcasts have exploded in popularity on the web, but how do you search to find this type of content? And if you're a content owner, how do you make sure your multimedia files can be found?
A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, August 8-11, 2005, San Jose, CA.
In this session, speakers presented information about multimedia search engines currently available and how to prepare files for inclusion in the audio/video search engines.
"Audio/video search technology is fast becoming a must for today' s digital lifestyle as more consumers gain access to high-speed Internet connections and consume more audio/video content that ever before," said Karen Howe, Vice President and General Manager of AOL' s Singingfish.
"Video search is still difficult to use right now," said Peter Chane, Senior Business Product Manager at Google. "You often can' t find the video you want. Playing back videos can be a little weird—you can have problems hearing audio with video. And many files might not be Mac-compatible."
"We launched Blinkx in December 2004," said Suranga Chandratillake, Co-Founder and CTO. "Our basic aim is to find areas on the Internet that aren't gatherable by traditional indexable search." Searchers can also go to blinkx.tv to view current video headlines.
"When people don't provide a lot of description around their audio and video content, you need to employ a smarter way of searching for it," Chandratillake continued. "We use speech recognition on every single computer to listen to audio and video clips that are submitted to our system. We will actually understand word-for-word what is being said in the clips."
Singingfish has been in the audio/video search arena for over seven years. Unlike traditional search engines, Singingfish only indexes multimedia formats, including Windows Media, Real, QuickTime, and mp3 files. "When our crawler grabs your files into our index, it gets categorized," said Howe. "Indexed files also get pushed throughout the AOL network and other networks as well, including InfoSpace, Lycos, and Real Networks."
Yahoo's video search offers both simple and advanced search capabilities. "Advanced video search goes by search query and popular file formats for audio and video—AVI, MPEG, Quicktime, Windows Media, Real and Flash," said Bradley Horowitz, Director of Technology Development at Yahoo. "When you click on one of the thumbnail images on your Video Search results page, you will go to a page containing additional information about that particular video."
"The upper part of the page displays a thumbnail image from the video, as well as its name, file size, and file type," Horowitz continued. "You can click on the thumbnail image or 'Play Video' to launch the video file from its hosted location."
Yahoo uses Media RSS, a new RSS module that supplements the enclosure capabilities of RSS 2.0. "Media RSS extends enclosures to handle other media types, such as short films or TV, as well as provide additional meta data with the media," Horowitz explained. "Media RSS enables content publishers and bloggers to syndicate multimedia content such as TV and video clips, movies, images and audio."
Podcasts and audio search
Podcasts are a method of publishing audio programs that is similar to RSS. Listeners can subscribe to podcasts via "podcasting" software, which periodically checks for and downloads new content automatically.
According to Chandratillake, podcasting experienced a 25-fold increase from January through May of 2005. Currently on Singingfish, the most popular searches are for podcasts, music and radio programs. Other types of audio searches include sound effects, interviews, ebooks and speeches.
Yahoo launched its audio search in August 2005. "We do music specifically, which is a more structured database of content that you can navigate through, such as bios, discographies, tour dates, etc.," said Horowitz." We also do podcasts, which is an increasingly important category of audio on the Web.
Submitting Audio and Video Files to Search Engines
Video files can be uploaded to Google at upload.video.google.com. "All you have to do is set up a free Google account, capture the video, and publish it to us," said Chane. "We will even give you the free bandwidth, and your video will be posted and playable."
You can suggest your video and audio files for free inclusion in the Yahoo Video Search index by submitting your Media RSS Feed form at search.yahoo.com/mrss/submit. "You will need to enter the URL of your RSS feed, including the http://," said Horowitz. "Dead feeds will be automatically detected and removed on an ongoing basis. Also, if you don't want your audio and video files crawled, include them in your robots exclusion file (robots.txt)."
Yahoo also offers a paid inclusion program called the Content Acquisition Program (CAP). "Participation in CAP or Site Match does not guarantee placement or ranking in video search results," said Horowitz, "but additional information made available through the direct data feeds may increase or decrease relevance depending on the search query."
Blinkx.tv crawls the Web for podcasts and video files every day, but you can also submit your files at blinkx.tv/beta/PodcastSubmit/. "Or you can create a folder online with all of your files and notify us via our new smart folder feature," said Chandratillake.
Singingfish's submission form is available at search.singingfish.com/sfw/submit.html.
Optimizing video and podcast files
Keyword-rich, concise and accurate meta data is the key to optimizing audio and video files. "The richer the data, the better off you' re going to be," said Howe, and "the more likely your files will be found."
"We have worked with the Yahoo extension to include information that were missing in the RSS 2.0 specs," Howe explained. "Information such as file type—is the information an audio or video file? We are also looking for copyright, duration, and other types of descriptive information that you can put into the meta tags."
"We look at descriptions of a clip, summaries that are entered or that you may have just added to a clip," added Chandratillake. "We also look at things like transcriptions or closed captioning, looking at the words supplied along with the content. We use that description for a content match in the search results. At worst, people will lie about what their content is about. This leads to a very bad search experience."
Amanda Watlington, founder and owner of SearchingforProfit.com, offered the following podcast optimization tips:
- Use landing pages for each audio episode. "If you are producing a podcast, let users download and listen to podcasts directly from the landing page," she said.
- Use standard SEO tactics for landing pages. "Make them a part of your SEO mix," she continued. "Use keyword-rich descriptions of content - wrappers" for audio. Even if you are using an audio blog, always use a nice wrapper.
- Use a separate RSS feed for all your audio content. "Keep all RSS audio content focused," she said.
- For blogs, be sure blog software supports RSS enclosures. "This normally comes with recent versions of blog software," she said. "Enclosures tell you all of the data that comes with a file: URL, length, type, etc. You can see this right in the source code, which you can pull up from your Web browser.
Jon Leicht, Senior Project Manager at SiteLab International, offered the following video file optimization tips:
- Be careful how you optimize titles, descriptions, and copyright. "They are viewable by users," he said. "If you only put in keywords, it can look creepy, and people might think you are only trying to sell something to them.
- Add meta information during video encoding. "If video is encoded from one format to another (i.e. mpeg to Windows Media)," he added, "meta information must be re-added. Old meta information will be lost when you re-encode.
- Meta selection can include campaign keywords, but be much more descriptive of video contents. "People are looking for content in your video, not your company," he said.
Grant Crowell is the CEO and Creative Director of Grantastic Designs, Inc., a full-service search engine marketing, Web site design, and usability firm.