Video SEO: Tapping In to a Captive Audience

Over the last few years, video has become a powerful form of media for brands. From Instagram Reels and TikToks to YouTube and vlogs, people are watching more video online than ever before – in fact the amount of online video they watch has almost doubled since 2018. The number of businesses using video as a marketing tool has risen as well, from 61% of those surveyed in 2016 to 86% in 2021. In a previous article, we covered the basics of using video marketing, but did you know that you can use SEO techniques for videos as well? When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), video can play an important role. In this guide, we’ll outline how video works for SEO, why you should consider adding video to your marketing strategy, and we’ll share some some additional best practices for making the most of video marketing in 2022.

What is Video SEO?

Traditional SEO focuses on helping your website show up in search results when a user looks for your products and services, enticing users to click on your website to learn more, and then encouraging those users to take action, like becoming a lead or making a purchase, once they get to your website. In comparison, video SEO involves optimizing the content and metadata of your videos to increase their rankings on YouTube and video search results, but has also extended to optimizing for the algorithm on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Unlike traditional on-page SEO, however, only about 15-25% of video views come from a user searching for a specific topic, service, or keyword. The majority of video views come from suggested videos and other browse features in video platforms. Instead of generating website traffic and leads, most videos are best suited for generating brand awareness via views and engagement (likes, shares, comments).

Additionally, there’s a vast difference in how people consume video content compared to search content. Let’s use a local bakery as an example to demonstrate. With traditional SEO, a user might find the local bakery’s website by typing in “cookies near me” or even simply, “bakery near me.” On YouTube, the user is more likely to be looking for “how to” or “DIY” types of topics, such as “how to make cookies.”

The difference in user intent doesn’t mean that video doesn’t work – it just means you have to take a different strategic approach to optimize for customer awareness or consideration than you would if you’re optimizing the contents of your website to drive customer action.  We’ve listed a few common types of videos and where they fit into a strategy below, and you can find some additional examples of video production ideas here.

Basic Best Practices of Video SEO

Choose the right place to host your video

For most brands, YouTube is a great place to start if your goal is brand awareness. You can host your videos on YouTube and optimize to help YouTube recommend them to users who engage with similar content. If your goal is to drive engagement, a social video platform like TikTok or Instagram may work better. If you want to host the video on your website, hosting platforms like Wistia include the capabilities to implement SEO tags that help search engines better understand your video and how it relates to the website page. As with all marketing endeavors, it’s best to think about your ideal customer and how/why they would watch your video first; the answer to this question should guide your strategy.

video-marketing-funnelSet your video up for success by filling out metadata

Ever wonder how YouTube, TikTok and Instagram choose the videos they recommend for you? Essentially, video platforms use an algorithm that “follows the audience” and observes what each user watches and doesn’t watch, how much time they spend watching, how they engage with videos, and other interactions to curate content at the individual level.

This means that a search on YouTube for “how to bake” cookies might provide the same video result for two different users, but the suggested videos that automatically play afterward will be unique to each user. In the background, the algorithm is looking at each video’s title, tags, descriptions, thumbnails, transcripts, title cards, end cards, publication date, calls to action, the brand’s information and level of activity on the platform, user engagement on the video, and other elements to determine what the video is about and who it should be shown to. If you want to learn more about the intricacies of the YouTube algorithm, we recommend this great article from Search Engine Journal or this historical guide from Hootsuite. Otherwise, make sure your video includes:

  • A transcript: 92% of consumers watch video without sound, so it’s important to make the content accessible.
  • Use your target keyword in the title and description of your video and adhere to character limits
  • Create a relevant, custom video thumbnail that will entice users to click on your video. The thumbnail is arguably the most important part, as this case study shows that custom thumbnails are 30% more engaging.
  • Use relevant hashtags
  • Use chapters to direct users to specific sections of the video
  • Make strong calls to action to encourage viewers to take your desired action
  • Use playlists, links, cards and end screens to suggest the next video to watch, giving your brand some level of influence over the user’s next choice
  • Keep content fresh, upload new videos consistently
  • Optimize your profile page, regardless of the video platform.

Best practices for adding video to your website for SEO

  • Embed only one video per page on your website. If you must upload multiple videos on a page, make sure the one you want Google to potentially show in search results is first.
  • If you embed the video on a page, it should be the focus on the page.
  • Don’t embed the same video on multiple pages as it will compete with itself
  • Optimize the website for search first, video second (unless videos are your product)

How to get started with video marketing

Besides the technical optimizations for SEO, the most important part of a video marketing strategy is the content itself. We’ve shared a few best practices in a previous blog for how you can use video to connect with customers, but even before you write the script and plan the storyboard, take some time to plot out what you want the video to achieve and determine the type of content you should produce. For some more information on how to use video in your marketing strategy, check out our guide here.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that SEO is just one part of digital marketing and you shouldn’t rely solely on SEO to promote your video. Keep in mind that over 500 hours of video content is added to YouTube every minute. And YouTube is just one of several dozen places people go to watch video online. No matter how well optimized your video is, it simply cannot compete organically against all that content. Additionally, search engines like Google are constantly changing their algorithms, video is evolving at a lightning-speed pace, and relying on search bots to rank your videos is not a consistent strategy to guarantee eyes on your videos. If you’re looking to add video to your marketing strategy in 2022, we recommend a combination of paid strategies (Google/YouTube ads, Facebook/Instagram/TikTok/SnapChat ads), SEO, and additional strategies like influencer marketing.

Video can be an extremely valuable source of traffic for your site, but only if it’s done right. While one video won’t boost SEO by itself, in the grand scheme of things it can be one more arrow in your marketing quiver. For more information about CyberMark’s SEO services, check out the video below and then contact us if you’d like to learn how we can help your business!

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