Many articles have been written on marketing and optimization strategies for online video. But for video search marketers to be able to use any of these tactics efficiently, they must first have knowledge of some key technical aspects involving online video and search.
This article will provide some video optimization and viral linking tips focused on the technical aspects of all four work steps associated with video projects: plan, produce, promote, and prove.
Step 1: Plan
Planning keyword research for your video content is not as straightforward as with standard organic search or other search verticals, since there are no keyword research tools yet specialized to measure video search results. However, the research data is just as accessible and can be considerably better than what keyword tools normally provide, as long as you know how to combine your research. What you want is a multi-tier search strategy.
First, put together your keyword list. This can be based on standard search results, but supplement it with results from news search engine results pages (SERPs) for more timely content. Next, look for results across the top video search platforms with the highest performances in overall views, ratings, and latency (how recent the videos were submitted). Keep in mind that, unlike with standard SERPs, you are not looking to determine the level of “competition” in the search space. Instead, use these criteria for determining how to optimize your video around your targeted keyword terms.
- View count. Make sure the audience is already searching for your targeted terms. If not, find the closest related terms being searched.
- User feedback. People who provide user feedback are more likely to take action on your video, including visits to your actual Web site and end-point conversions (i.e., the final action you want visitors to take while on your site.)
- Latency. If the most popular videos in the video SERPs were included months ago, this can be a good opportunity for you to submit fresh content.
- Relevancy. You don’t want your video content to simply repeat what’s already out there. (Unfortunately, this is something I’ve seen often when search marketers optimize and put up their own videos.) Find a fresh “content space” for your target keyword term, rather than rehashing what’s already out there.
Step 2: Produce
Once the final video footage has been completely recorded, the video search optimizer should be involved in the final stages of the production process as follows:
- Create short clips from your longer version of the video. Not only are people more apt to watch short clips online (1-3 minutes) over longer ones, but also, these clips can be legitimately submitted to the search engines along with your longer clips without being considered duplicate content.
- Put the actual branding inside the video, especially as a backlink (i.e., put the domain name or specific URL as a graphic in the video). Instead of pointing to the home page, the backlink can point to the original video on your site, to a longer version of the same video, or to your entire video archive. Ideally, you can make this a subdomain for easier reference. (Example: video.subdomain.com) This works well for both video search optimization and viral linking.
Compression and Exporting
- Video player. Video file format is extremely important to understand because it determines whether or not your optimized video will be seen at all by end users. For maximum coverage, offer four export versions: three for your site (Flash, Windows Media, QuickTime), and one for search engine submissions (MPEG4). If you can only do one version, Windows Media Files are your best all-purpose choice.
- Data rate.You want to use a speed that is the largest common denominator for your target users. What happens when you don’t pay attention to data rates? You get choppy video and audio, or worse, extended interruptions in the viewing experience, or it stops altogether.
According to a recent report by the Communications Workers of America, the median U.S. download speed is 1.97 megabits per second – which translates to roughly 200 kilobytes per second. (The U.S. speed is actually considerably slower than in other developed countries.) And if you’re going for the entry-level speed in many areas, the data rate is even lower – 55 kilobytes per second. Compare that with the maximum consumer quality video data rate on YouTube, which is 256 kilobytes per second.
Because Web hosts can’t really track the bandwidth rates of your site’s visitors, the best recommendation is to provide two data rates – one smaller data rate (200-300 kbps), and one larger rate (600+ kpbs). If you can only do one, go with the smaller version.
- Saving files. Use a keyword-rich file name. A dash in between words also works well.
Step 3: Promote
Use a publishing tool that supports a Media RSS output, and the optional Media RSS enclosures related to SEO. My video search expert colleague, Amanda Watlington, PhD, has had a great deal of experience with her own clients on the following Media RSS tools:
- Creation and Publication – FeedForAll software. (Note: The most important fields for optimizing video data are the title, description, and keywords.)
- Publication and Search Engine Submission – The FeedBurner Web site (recently acquired by Google).
Once your feed is published (usually uploaded to your site), be sure to have it validated so the search engines can index it properly. FeedBurner also has its own RSS validator. Userland is another good one, and there is also a validator at feeds.archive.org that handles a variety of RSS versions.
But do you need to have an RSS feed to have your videos indexed in the video search engines? Fortunately, no. Google recently announced that it is crawling videos on the Web, along with other Web content. Because YouTube already owns half of the total video search traffic, many of the videos in its database are picked up by other video search engines (and automatically by Google Video).
So if you are looking for the maximum possible optimization, do Media RSS. Otherwise, the smart bet is to include clips of all of your videos on YouTube, which is automatically (and very quickly) picked up by other video search engines. (Not so much by social media sites like MySpace and Digg, however.) For batch video uploading that also allows for large files (100+MB) and long file format, Google Video Upload Program is your best choice.
Step 4: Prove
Prove simply means that you should measure the performance of your videos with your audience. For measuring activity of actual subscribers to your video feed, the recommendation again goes to FeedBurner, which is particularly good in this area for offering both basic and advanced traffic analysis. Trackable items in FeedBurner’s free package include measuring total subscribers and total downloads. FeedBurner's Pro Stats upgrade also shows how many subscribers are actively reading and clicking on individual items within a feed.
However, measuring only the subscribers will not tell the whole story. Usually, people who watch a video are not actual subscribers to its video feed. This is why you should also have a Web analytics software program in place. By creating a special section for your video content (subdomain, video site map, video archive on your site, etc.), you can effectively measure how many people are watching your videos before they commit to subscribing.
Even Google's free stats package, Google Analytics, provides adequate data for video performance. (However, I recommend setting up a third-party Web analytics tool for more accurate measurement.) Metrics to monitor for video activity on your site include:
- Overall and individual time spent
- Most watched videos
- Videos with both the highest conversion rate (call-to-action) and the highest abandonment rate
- Failure rates (number of people who could not open the video in their browser)
Admittedly, not all of these technical aspects to video search optimization are particularly glamorous. But following these tips will greatly improve the likelihood that all your video optimization and marketing work will pay off measurably.