The basics of video SEO

video SEO optimisationTo achieve success with video marketing takes a lot more than some simple video SEO optimisation; primarily you need to have videos that are interesting and carry value for your viewers. However, we are going to dedicate a bit of time to helping you get the SEO basics right so that you can factor these into your video production process.

With so many videos currently circulating, it is important to do your groundwork properly to ensure that your video gets the exposure it deserves.

If you are keen to understand what content you need in your video in order to get it distributed around the web efficiently then you may want to refer to our article on the essence of a viral video.

However, on the more technical side of things; this article aims to help you get a wide range of interest and engagement with your video through considering the following video SEO optimisation factors:

Views & frequency
Likes, dislikes
Playlist additions
Age of video
Video Responses
Embeds & inbound links

Note: We have written this article based on the assumption that you will be hosting your videos primarily on Youtube.

Video SEO Title creation
As with any on-page SEO, the title of your video is one of the most important factors in determining the exposure that your video will receive naturally (without any shares etc). Before you upload your video onto YouTube, or indeed any other video hosting site, a good question to ask yourself is: ‘what would I be searching for, if I was looking for this video?’ This will give you an idea of what others will be searching for.

After asking yourself this question, it is also important to do some general research to find out what already exists, within your niche area. This means using helpful tools such as the Google Adwords keyword tool, the Youtube keyword tool and YouTube Suggest, (‘Suggest’ refers to the terms that drop down as you’re typing a search query into YouTube.) All search engines use this function.

Using the Google Adwords keyword tool and “chocolate cake” as the keyword example, here is a screenshot of the top results that come back from Google Adwords:
using Google Adwords keyword tool for video seo research
And on YouTube Suggest:
YouTube Suggest screenshot

YouTube Suggest uses predictive text to display popular query suggestions (in order of search volume) in the YouTube search box. This gives you an important insight into how users are searching on YouTube and which queries are most often performed.  These keyword suggestions can then be used to add to your video title in order to increase the chances of targeting the most relevant audience with the terms that they are using to search for this type of content. Pay attention to the competition column as this will give you an idea of the difficulty of getting visibility on that keyword.

How Video can beat textual search
It is worth bearing in mind that the Google Adwords keyword tool’s competition data is based on all results for the term and cannot currently by checked solely for video content. This means that if you see high search volume and high competition then it may not be an easy win for a typical webpage. However, for a video it may be worth trying to optimize for the high volume keywords with your video as there may be some quick wins.

You could get a feel for this by going to Google search and before you enter your search term, select the “videos” option in the black bar at the top of the browser window as this will restrict your search solely to video content.
Video search on Google
If we look at the initial research on the Google Adwords keyword tool we can see that “simple chocolate cake recipe” is the 8th most searched term that is related to “chocolate cake”. It is also low competition on Adwords; this is mainly because advertisers do not want to pay for traffic on this keyword as there is low purchase intent (there are free recipes all over the internet). Now if we check that term in video search then we can see that the top 5 videos do not match on the page title. Therefore this is an opportunity. Simply call your video “Simple Chocolate Cake Recipe & How to Make” or something very similar.

An effective title must tell both the viewer and search engine, exactly what the video is about.

Here is an example of a clearly titled video taken from YouTube’s homepage at time of writing:
Michelle Obama Press-ups
Once you have come up with a relevant title it is time to think about all the other factors that determine the ranking of your video.

Video SEO Description:
Remember to treat the video description area almost like a blog post. Don’t be afraid to include a lot of content. Both Google and YouTube will be using this information to check that that your video is relevant to the searches that are being made on either search engine. Try to write a description of at least 100 words.

In order to benefit from the success of your video in terms of web traffic it is essential to have your website address included in the description area so as to drive traffic on to your site from Youtube. Use the following format to create a link: and include it in the first few lines of the description so that it is visible to users without them having to expand the description.

Here’s an example of a good video description:
Example of a good Youtube Video Description
Video Tag Optimisation
You need to make sure that your tags are well utilized and clearly related to your video’s content. The best way to find out the keywords that relate to your niche is to use the search function on Google Adwords or on YouTube (as has already been explained). This function shows you what people are already searching for on YouTube. A good tip to remember is to include spelling variations. For example when uploading a video on tea mugs you may want to add the tags “tea mugs” and “tea cups” as the meanings are used pretty much interchangeably.

Here is an example from Google Webmasters channel on how they optimized a video with tags for their topic on Rich snippets. The description is not amazing but does give the viewer a clear understanding of what the video is about before they watch it.
Tagging of Youtube Videos
You can see that the video below ranks no.1 on Google Search (not just for video search) for the term detailed above.

Ratings can help to boost a video’s ranking on YouTube. Whilst positive ratings (Likes) are not always the clearest indicator for rankings, generally the more people who like a video, the better chance it has of obtaining a good ranking.

The Volkswagen Force 2011 is a campaign that did particularly well in terms of the number of views and likes:
Volkswagen video likes and dislikes
Here is a list of other Video SEO ranking factors to take into consideration:

Leveraging the Youtube community – Youtube has a large community of users; it begun as a site where there were strong ties between producers and has grown in this way too. It may seem like a mammoth at first sight, and well it is actually a mammoth I suppose, but the point is that there are communities within Youtube that can help you to get visibility of your content. Take time to get to know the other users on Youtube as they will be keen to watch your videos when you upload them. If the videos are good then they will also share them and give you a good push towards high visibility.

Getting +1/Shares/Tweets/Facebook shares/Blog Embeds. YouTube measures the amount of embeds a video gets as a key metric. Lots of embeds will definitely boost your ranking. As well as embeds just simple shares and +1’s either from the page itself or on the embedded video in the Google+ network.

Number and quality of subscribers. A channel’s subscribers get an email alert every time you publish a new video. This is invaluable. Get a few hundred and they are an easy way for your videos to get a good number of  views the second they go live. Do everything in your power to build YouTube subscribers as part of a long term YouTube strategy. The quality of your subscribers and their individual authority will signal to Youtube that you have great content as it is consumed by highly reputable people.

Video Sitemap
This is not one for within Youtube but if you do have a wide range of video content on your website then it is worth submitting a video sitemap to Google o ensure that your videos are found. Here is Google’s guide to video sitemaps
I could not find any information on submitting a video sitemap to Bing so perhaps the functionality does not yet exist.

Speed & consistency of interest
If you have a video that quickly and consistently gains views, shares, favourites and embeds etc then it is a strong signal to Youtube and Google that the video is good and has long term appeal. It is not easy to optimise for this other than by creating great video and through managing to gain awareness from some key players in your vertical on Youtube.

Playlist additions
How many times your videos are added to playlists, both in your channel and in others will signal to Youtube how important that video is for the terms that it is relevant to (title, description etc).

Flagging Youtube Videos
Flagging refers to videos being reported for inappropriate content. The flagging process can be started by any registered Youtube user and they can report a video for a number of reasons. Once a video has been flagged then Youtube will review it to determine if the video has broken any of the terms of service. If your content gets flagged frequently then it will surely damage the trust of your Youtube channel. Here is a video by Youtube on how video flagging works.

Age of video
This is not a ranking factor in it’s own entirety but Youtube will factor in the age of a video when looking at views, shares, responses etc. It makes sense that a video uploaded 6 months ago will have more views and shares than one uploaded yesterday but it doesn’t necessarily make it better. However, if you can get fast momentum on a new video then it will signal to Youtube that it is a cut above the average.

Video Responses
It is certain that Youtube can read the sentiment in the comments on your videos so therefore it makes sense that they factor the volume and the nature of these comments into their ranking algorithm. Again, this means that you will need to have great content. Also, if you get abusive or negative comments then handle it well; this will not affect your search engine rankings but it will do your branding a lot of good if you come across as mature and practical. Getting constructive negative comments is probably the best thing that could happen as you will really learn from there; be thankful when people leave them, and let them know that you are thankful.

The more people that favourite your video the better. You can see statistic on this in the Youtube Analytics.

Channel Views
Popularity of your overall channel sends a signal to viewers, as well as to search engines that you have been producing worthwhile content over a long period of time and are not just getting some short term results from a single video.

Close Captioning/transcriptions
You can upload closed caption files to your Youtube videos to target specific keywords. Here is a video from ReelSEO explaining the benefits of doing this:

Social Bookmarking for Video SEO
If you have accounts on Reddit, Digg, Stumble Upon, Delicious etc then take the time to add your videos to these sites. You may find that when you set up a new account and add your video to your account that nobody notices it and you only get the 1 share (your share).

This is because you do not have a network or community within the site yet. This takes a bit of time to do but it is worth connecting with other individuals with similar interests on these sites. Form relationships with other like minded people through commenting on their links, liking their links and get in discussions with them. If you can get a few influential people from each network on your side then it will mean that when you post content to the bookmarking site that it gets some support and visibility at the beginning. Without this start you really do not stand a chance (read; much less of a chance).

Optimising your video to its full potential and getting a good ranking is all about making sure that your video is correctly labeled from the start with relevant titles, descriptions and tags. Once this has been achieved, your subscribers and viewers will boost rankings further via their activities on your Channel and social media accounts elsewhere.

We will follow up with future articles on other optimisations that you can make to increase your viewership.

To finish up here is a great little tip from Kaleb Nation who is a Youtube partner and a well established member of the Youtube community on how to increase the views to your videos:

MWP are a video strategy, production and marketing company with a focus on delivering measurable results.

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8 thoughts on “The basics of video SEO

  1. Lorraine Grula

    That was an incredible in-depth article that covered the subject well. Thanks for such a good job!
    Video SEO is so important as the high volume of daily video uploads makes it critical for your video to stand out from the crowd.

  2. Equine Massager

    Definitely a big help and the clearest, most comprehensive write up I’ve seen on video SEO. I’ve been researching this for a while and I appreciate you making it so simple to go through all the steps. Now I just need to get 100′s of Digg, Reddit, etc friends…that should be easy, right!

  3. Joel

    Hi Equine Massager
    That’s a very unique name you have! Not by any chance a stab at an SEO link?
    Anyway, that aside. Although it is not easy to get content shared around socially it does become easier. If you can keep the faith so to speak. You need to keep contributing good content, even through it feels like you are submitting it to a blind and mute world and to keep sharing it. You will slowly start to have people notice you, follow you and share the content. We are at a point where we have been contributing a lot of content for a good number of months and only just starting to be noticed for it.
    Best of luck with it.

  4. Earl

    We haven’t really gotten into video content that much yet, although we have started. The things I found here are certainly something to keep in mind – especially the video descriptions. I haven’t really thought about it that way. Thanks for this!

  5. Joel

    Hi Earl
    Thanks for the comments, if you need any advice on your strategy then just let us know. With the descriptions the main thing is to be very descriptive (funnily enough). If you planned your content around the needs of your users well then just explain this well in your description you cannot go far wrong.

  6. inder

    Thanks for your insights. Truly helpful information. I’m trying to find out however if there’s any benefits to my channel’s SEO using another channel’s content in my featured playlist?

  7. Joel

    Hi Inder
    I am not sure if there will be any SEO benefits other than Google being able to better understand the theme of your channel and therefore categorise your videos. I guess it is similar to linking out of a website to reputable related sites. Sorry that I cannot be more specific on this.

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