If you’ve been involved in digital marketing in the past several years, you’ve undoubtedly heard a good deal about SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. SEO can be defined as “a set of practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results.”
Of course, digital marketing is not only focused on web pages. YouTube’s omnipresence means that to ignore it would be almost impossible, and certainly ill-advised—with “over a billion users… it makes up about a third of the Internet, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to reach many different people in many different languages across the world.”
Joshua Hardwick defines video SEO as “the process of getting more video views from Google and utilizing videos to increase organic traffic to your website.” Let’s look at some best practices in video SEO to truly leverage the approach for the pageviews and increased engagement that your team needs from its video content.
Thinking SEO Before Production
Sticking with Hardwick for a moment, we can uncover some great ways to improve your video SEO even before you create the video. The first step? “Find video topics with ‘traffic potential.’” Traffic potential means the video has an attractive premise or subject, and Hardwick has two criteria for us to judge that potential:
- People need to be searching on Google for that topic
- The topic must have “video intent,” meaning most searchers would prefer to watch a video about the subject instead of reading about it.
This isn’t too tall an order—just a reasonable assessment of how much people are looking for a topic, and how much people would prefer to watch a video on it as opposed to read about it. Numerous keyword research tools can help you find a topic that fits the bill here if you’re looking to be sure of what people are searching.
Supporting Your Video
Yoast.com’s tips pick up after the video’s creation, and start with an exhortation to “Get your videos indexed.” This means that “you need to provide supporting metadata about your videos to search engine crawlers.” This supporting metadata includes the video’s title, description, length, upload date, location, and thumbnail.
This metadata can be provided in a variety of ways, from an XML sitemap submitted to Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster, or many other tools and plugins that can ensure major search engines are able to easily see and index your video.
Thumbnails, Titles and Keywords
Yoast then suggests improving your video’s ranking by optimizing its title, thumbnail and more. Don’t just provide data—provide data that, in itself, entices viewers. For example, don’t think of your title as a choice you only get to make once—try out a few and pick the one that attracts the most interest. “Tracking clicks over time to the page in question for video search while making adjustments to the title is a simple and very effective way of split-testing an individual title,” the SEO organization contends.
Thumbnails: Contrast, Color and More
With thumbnails, try to “Think of [them] like film posters.” Yoast calls them “the most important promotional asset your video has” and highly recommends creating your own (as opposed to letting your video platform of chance auto-generate one for you).
The best designed thumbnail relies on strong design principles of human forms and accent colors. You want contrast, so using only one accent color (or heavily contrasting colors, if multiple) will differentiate your thumbnail and draw engagement quickly. Using human forms—particularly, including a human face—taps directly into the brain’s attraction to other human faces. Bonus points if you use a smiling human face, or one that’s otherwise highly expressive.
Keywords: The Most Crucial Metadata
Simplilearn also urges the importance of keyword identification and tagging, and while agreeing with Yoast that providing this most crucial of metadata is vital to SEO for video, suggests you start focusing on keywords even before your script is finished. “Keep the information you are presenting focused on what you are doing and utilize keywords.”
This tip is great for a full picture of SEO for video. It’s not a practice that starts after video creation, or one that ends after the video’s initial title has been selected—it’s an ongoing effort to improve a video’s ranking that can start pre-script and continue through late-stage choices like title and thumbnail modulation.
It’s always worth remembering that many of those early SEO-improvement elements can pay off in more ways than you’d expect. For example, Simplilearn says to hold on to your script after you’ve finished your video, as “you can upload your script as well for subtitles, and in that way, you get your keywords into the video.”
An Ongoing Effort
As mentioned, SEO for video is not a one-and-done process, but it is a singularly focused one, meant to drive up visibility of (and engagement with) your video, and by extension, your brand. The elements that will create these benefits begin at topic choice and scriptwriting and continue after production to provide major search engines the metadata that will allow your video to be indexed and better found by searchers.
To close with a personal anecdote—I remember once hearing some musician friends discussing engagement, and one was describing the pain of criticism. The response to this anxiety was blunt but effective: “If you don’t want criticism, then just play in your room—you’ll never get any.”
How does this tie to SEO for video? Instead of criticism, your video will receive no visibility—generating no clicks to your homepage and no increased brand awareness—if you just “play it in your room.” You need to take the steps to get it out and get eyes on it. Video isn’t easy or cheap, so follow through by optimizing each one.