It's time for a wake up call if you have not yet embraced the web and what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can do for your videos. So, what are you waiting for? In this article, we will take a look at what you need to know about producing web video and learn about search engine optimization for video, to help drive more traffic to your productions.
Web Video Production Techniques Primer
The general rule for web video is keep it short and sweet. People on the Internet have a short attention span. Any detractors, such as inaudible dialogue, confusing transitions, and poor video quality can send them away to the next option. A high-quality video production captures your viewers' attention and can help you attract more visitors (we'll discuss this concept later).
Do a quick search on YouTube for a home improvement project of your choice (e.g., "building a deck"). You'll find that the top ranked videos are from Lowes and The Home Depot and the production quality is broadcast TV worthy. That's tough competition, but you can certainly meet the expectations of users with a few simple rules.
Tripods: A Leg Up on the Average Joe
Many YouTube videos are shot entirely handheld. Using a tripod to stabilize your shots and perform thoughtful pans and tilts will easily set your production apart. Certainly there are times when a shot calls for handheld shooting, but when in doubt keep the camcorder stabilized. Your loyal viewers will thank you for it as they watch multiple videos from your channel.
Mic It Up
The average set of computer speakers is horrible. Laptop speakers are even worse. And mobile devices have equally (if not worse) speakers, if the user is not equipped with headphones. This makes capturing the best audio possible an absolute must for you. Don't cheat on this one. Learn how to mic up your talent the proper way and record good audio levels. Videomaker has a collection of articles that can teach you how to use a mic properly. Good audio will save you from quite a few nasty comments on your video as well.
Get Close-Ups Closer
Before broadband Internet and HD video were commonplace, most web videos were at best 640–by-480 pixels. That's a relatively small viewing area. While there has been many improvements in resolution, for the most part, screens connected to computers and laptops are smaller than the typical behemoth HDTV sets. Furthermore, the rise of smart phones and tablets put smaller screen sizes in the hands of viewers these days. Knowing this, it's generally a good idea to push in a little closer in your shots. Don't go overboard, but do keep in mind that smaller details are harder for your web viewing audience to see on smaller screens.
If you want to be found, put your video on YouTube. On May 25, 2011, Youtube.com reported that more than 3 billion views a day were occurring on their site. That's a lot of eyeballs. YouTube is the obvious choice for anyone who wants to be seen. Plus, loyal viewers can subscribe to your YouTube channel and be notified when you upload new YouTube videos.
With brevity, good production quality, and a consistent stream of new videos to your YouTube channel, you're on your way to building a great web video experience. Now let's take a look at that all-important technique of search engine optimization to help get the most eyeballs to your production.
Web video is a hyper-competitive market, but the good news is that most videographers can find their niche and reap the benefits with some simple SEO tricks. It used to be that SEO techniques were just the focus of webmasters and Internet marketers. Not so anymore. Let's dive in.
What is SEO?
SEO is the process in which an individual or organization tries to improve the search rankings of their content (i.e., the position in which your content appears in search results for a certain keyword or keyword phrase) in order to obtain more traffic to their content (or video for the sake of this article). The main idea is that if you can rank higher in search results, you get much more visitor traffic to your video. Before we get off and running, however, we need a better understanding of how search works.
How Search Works
Search engines, such as Google Video, are like business partners. They want to better understand what you have to offer web visitors and then try to connect that content with the right search query from a user. For example, when you do a Google Video search for "Dog Show Sacramento, California", you expect to find relevant videos about dog shows in the specified geographical area. You might see a news story from a local TV station covering a recent dog show. You would not expect Google Video show results for the local hot dog vendor in downtown Sacramento, California. So, how do search engines prioritize the content and make sure you get relevant results? Well, the answer is both simple and complex. Let's cover the simple explanation first.
Our first search engine optimization tip is to make great video content. The old saying "Content is king" is still true. And it works out quite naturally with search engines. They're looking for good video. Just make good video and your set, right? Yes, but there's more.
Search engines like Google Videos catalog video on the web with bots that go crawling the web routinely, looking for URLs, links and other metadata (i.e., data about data) regarding your video. All these things add up to determine the search ranking of your video for a certain search query. The two most important aspects of relevant and important video content are keywords and links to your video. Keywords are used to build the basis of relevancy and links mainly establish the level of importance for any video that should return in search results. We can take a closer look at both keywords and links.
Keywords and Relevancy
Search engines want to take a guess at what your content is about and to do that they look for what words or phrases are repeated frequently. In the SEO world we call these keywords or keyword phrases. To optimize for search engines you need to figure out what the important keyword or keyword phrase is for your video. Think about what your viewers would type into Google Videos to find your video. For example, if you produced a video about a local dog show, you can put "Dog Show" as the title. Now you've given Google Video an idea of the topic of your video. However, it's unlikely you'll rank high in search results on this very broad topic. It's best to drill down a little bit more and try to create titles that fill unique niches. "2011 Sacramento Dog Show Winners" is a much better title as it gives a more detailed description of what your video is about. Remember, we are trying to play to the search user. What would someone who wanted to see a video like this type in for their search query? The more precise we can be, the more likely we will be found by those looking for this kind of video.
Write Better Titles & Descriptions
Write those precise titles and repeat the important keywords throughout your content. Don't just copy and paste the keywords a bunch of times. Search bots can't be fooled that easily. Instead, write thoughtful, meaningful descriptions of your video that utilize the keywords in a reader-friendly way. Don't forget that while we're trying to optimize our content for search engines, we should always optimize for human readers first and foremost.
In addition to YouTube distribution, you can also go a step further and embed your YouTube video in your website or blog. Doing so will allow you to write even more content around your video which search bots will crawl and catalog accordingly. Blogs are a great way to add more depth to your descriptions and add more context to your videos. These blog entries can also return in search results and in many cases may perform better than just the video on YouTube.
Links Are Critical in Relevancy and Importance
How do you get links to your content? The simple answer is to create compelling, great video, and ideally, it will happen organically. People on the web are always looking to share great content on their sites, but you also need to do some leg-work and find people who would like to be link partners with you. Link partners agree to share a link for a link. Back to our dog show example, you could agree to share links with a local dog groomer. They put a link on their dog grooming site to your video, and you put a link on your blog to their dog grooming website. Try to find partners who have well-established websites with relevant content. Also, make sure the text in the link is based on your keywords. A link that says "see this cool video" is not as meaningful as a link that says "2011 Sacramento Dog Show Winners." Search engines also look at the names of links to build its understanding of what you have to offer.
With these search engine optimization tips and a commitment to make high-quality productions, you'll be on your way to being found in search results. Good web producers name their productions using informative and descriptive text, they write thoughtful, meaningful descriptions of their videos and they find partners on the web who would love to share video via a link (reciprocal, of course). Ideally, if you create compelling content, focused in your niche of expertise, much of the signifiers that determine great video will happen organically. So, go forth and make great video!
Sidebar: Building Link Partnerships
You can establish partnerships by reaching out to colleagues, friends, family or webmasters of other sites. You can also find web services devoted to helping you establish links, but do this cautiously as some search engines frown upon the practice when the links are coming from web sources that primarily only do link building. In many cases, search engines view these services as links to spam and it can actually hurt your search rankings. Make sure your partnerships are legitimate and are good for both audiences. Remember, it's the human readers we're going after first and foremost. If it's good content for the human readers, than the search engines will likely see it that way too.
Contributing columnist Mark Montgomery is a web content specialist and produces instructional videos for a leading web application developer.