Last month, I participated in a webinar forall about optimizing e-commerce video for search. I presented on both optimizing video landing pages (onsite) for search as well as SEO for YouTube. In reality, these best practices are applicable to any video strategy and not specific to e-commerce with the exception of the examples used. The following is a summary of the 8 tips/best-practices that I provided with regard to onsite video landing page optimization, starting with some background on the ever changing nature of search.
Search is evolving at such a rapid clip that it is even difficult for SEO experts to keep up with the pace. According to SEOMoz, Google changes its search algorithm up to 500 – 600 times each year.
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen recently is the incorporation of social elements into search results. Social factors have always supported SEO in an indirect way, in that if you have good content, people want to share it and link to it. However, in December 2011 Google confirmed that it was using social signals such as likes, retweets and +1s for search engine ranking.
Earlier this year, Google announced a radical shift in personalization, Search Plus Your World, where the default search looks at your social connections. If you’re signed into Google with Search Plus Your World turned on, you see different search results than everyone else, which makes it a little more difficult to determine how well you’re ranking.
In this ever evolving world of search, what are the most important steps to take to optimize your video content for search engines?
Tip #1: You MUST Brush Up on General SEO Best Practices First
Optimizing video for search engines isn’t its own discipline, but simply an extension of SEO. Standard SEO best practices such as well-planned navigation, site structure, internal site links and title tags are important to drive traffic to your website. Once you have a well optimized website, then your video results should rank better as a matter of course.
Take Spanx.com, for example. After completing an SEO audit with Liveclicker and subsequently improving its page titles, metadata and links, they saw a visible uplift in video page views:
A few of the best places to learn about the latest search engine news and guidelines include:
Tip #2: Start with Keyword Research
It doesn’t help to rank first for phrases that no one is searching for. For that reason, you always want to start with keyword research when optimizing video, or anything else for that matter.
YouTube is a great keyword research tool for video (with the exception of their own dedicated keyword tool which is quite useless). Even though we’re talking about on-site video SEO for Google, it helps to get an idea of what folks are searching for when specifically looking for video content (which is all you can search for on YouTube) If you go to youtube.com and do some searches, it’s easy to unearth related search queries being used to find video content.
When you filter your search, you see even more examples:
Google’s keyword suggestions are also helpful in determining what people are searching for in Google (regardless of whether looking specifically for a video), as are other keyword research tools that you might have access to:
Tip #3: Submit a Video Sitemap to Google
It can be quite difficult for Google to find videos on your pages. The best way to ensure that Google can find your videos is to:
- Create an XML video sitemap that tells the search engine exactly where your page is, and where your video is, along with some information about it.
- Submit your video sitemap through Google’s webmaster tools.
- Once you’ve done that, Google crawls your page to verify that the video exists and in most cases, indexes your video where it can appear in the universal search results.
How do you know if Google has indexed your videos? The easiest way to check is to go to Google Videos and do a search using site:yourwebsite.com with no spaces to see how many videos on your site are indexed and determine if there’s a mismatch.
Tip #4: Test adding Video Transcripts to Landing Pages
Many e-commerce sites don’t have much text, in which case it may be worthwhile to include transcripts of your videos. Liveclicker studied 37 pages before and after adding transcripts. Pages with transcripts earned on average 16% more revenue than they did before transcripts. Why? The uplift was likely related to increases in traffic through long-tail keyword searches resulting from matches in the transcripts.
How should you include a transcript? Ideally, you want it to be in the source code rather than hidden from your viewers. It’s ok to put the transcript of the video at the bottom of the page, but it must be representative of the content of your video and not stuffed with keywords. Of course, you can use that same transcript for YouTube, which we’ll cover in another post.
Tip #5: Help Viewers Share your Videos with Opengraph
In most cases, it’s sensible to make videos on your website shareable through social widgets such as Facebook like and Twitter retweet. Did you know that you can also allow your videos to be viewed on Facebook directly when someone likes your page? For example, if you were to go to the blog post shown below and click “Like”, the video thumbnail along with the description would show up on your Facebook wall for all your friends to see. When a friend clicks the video thumbnail, the video will then play directly on their wall. If you have a player with integrated Buy Now buttons, that will show up on Facebook as well.
If you want to do this, you can use the following code in the top of your page to tell Facebook where to find your video and its size:
<head> <meta property="og:video" content="http://example.com/video.swf"/> <meta property="og:video:secure_url" content="https://example.com/video.swf"/> <meta property="og:video:height" content="640"/> <meta property="og:video:width" content="385"/> <meta property="og:video:type" content="application/x-shockwave-flash"/> </head>
Tip #6: Leverage your Video Content
The more content you have on your pages that can be ranked within the different verticals in Google – image search, organic search, video search etc… – the more traffic you can drive to your site.
E-commerce retailer, eBags, added several still images from their videos to the bottom of the pages that had video on them. A lot of the images were indexed in Google Images and, as a result, they experienced a 115% uptick in traffic to the video pages.
Tip #7: Create Compelling Thumbnails
This is a no brainer as the thumbnail is the first thing that people look at and the most important. Make sure your thumbnails are eye-catching, relevant and high quality.
Thumbnails should be:
- Clear, bright and in-focus with good composition
- Visually compelling to attract a click (close-ups work well)
- Accurately representative of your video content
Tip #8: Ensure your Landing Pages Load Quickly
One of Google’s new ranking factors is how long it takes for a page to load. Essentially, Google wants people to find what they are looking for. Faster pages improve the user experience while decreasing bounce rates, whether or not they contain video.
Some helpful, free tools that you can use to evaluate your site speed include:
- PageSpeed – an open source browser add-on
- YSlow – suggests ways to improve speed
- WebPagetest – shows a waterfall view of performance
- Webmaster Tools – Site Performance Lab