Web video is booming in popularity, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always used properly. Now, you don’t have to be an Oscar-winning director to create valuable video content for your website. You have to have a vision and a plan, though, and without those things, whatever you shoot belongs on a blooper reel—not on your website.

Studies show that consumers and search engines alike value video content—that it helps people find your site, and it helps turn them into customers once they’re there. Whether you haven’t yet considered a video marketing strategy or you’re rolling cameras and uploading video without a clear sense of direction, you’re failing to take advantage of an increasingly critical medium.

Before you boot up YouTube, write out your cue cards or even unscrew your lens cap, consider the biggest and most common mistakes that turn marketing videos into major flops—and what you can do to make yours a hit.

A Nonexistent Budget

Failing to implement web video is one of the biggest mistakes a business can make—and one of the most common.  It’s an easy mistake to make. After all, planning, shooting, uploading and optimizing a thoughtfully-executed video takes time and energy that you don’t always have. And while there was a time when videos were expendable perks that you could easily trim from your marketing budget, you can’t afford to leave them on the cutting room floor anymore.

Online marketing videos are statistically proven to significantly increase your site’s performance, both with search engines and with people. Consider the following:

• On-site video helps websites rank higher on search engine results pages
• 1 in 3 Americans watch at least one web video every week—and that number grows every year
• Websites with video retain visitors for longer periods of time
• 9 out of 10 consumers say that product videos are helpful during the sales cycle
• YouTube attracts more than 1 billion unique visitors every month

Web videos aren’t just a bonus anymore—they’re quickly becoming a necessity.

Poor Production Values

Shooting and editing web video takes time, and cutting corners doesn’t do you any favors. If your production looks rushed or amateurish, viewers may not want to watch it—they may even see it as an unflattering representation of your business, and leave your site altogether.

You know the value of doing quality work, and your web videos are no exception. Tips like these can give your videos are more professional touch:

• Write a script and practice it until you know your lines. Time yourself and speak naturally.
• Use a camera with a quality lens, and mount it on a tripod or another flat, even surface.
• Set up and test proper lighting arrangements before you shoot your video, so nothing looks too dark or washed out.
• Shoot multiple takes, just in case something doesn’t turn out the way you expect it to.
• Take your time editing your video so that it flows naturally.

Steps like these may seem inconsequential on their own, but they all add up to a more professional and more effective video.

Going Commercial

So what do you put in a marketing video, anyway? That’s up to you, but the one thing you should avoid is making your video nothing more than an advertisement.

If your viewers wanted to watch commercials, they could turn on the television. The most popular and effective online marketing videos aren’t advertorial—they’re educational and entertaining. Instead of simply trying to sell a product or service, explain what it is and its value. Show it in action. Give the viewer information that they couldn’t get by reading alone.

Creative, informative and even humorous videos retain and convert visitors more effectively than commercials. Take your time when brainstorming your script and develop a fresh approach that will spark an interest and keep viewers watching until the end.

Ineffective Running Times

No matter how masterful a filmmaker you may be, your marketing videos shouldn’t have the runtime of a biblical epic. Studies show that consumers prefer videos that are 3-5 minutes long, so make things short and to-the-point.

Don’t neglect the mobile market, either. Smartphones have made marketing videos increasingly popular and effective on mobile devices, but mobile consumers have to consider data consumption, dwindling batteries and heavy competition for their attention. For both mobile and desktop users, the most popular videos outside the range of 3-5 minutes skew shorter, even dropping below just 2 minutes long.

Of course, not all businesses can adequately market themselves in that short a period of time. Instead of trying to condense all of your information into one overstuffed video, create several. This way, visitors can choose to watch the videos most relevant to their interests, and you have all the time you need to explain your products and services without rushing.

Lack of Optimization

Many businesses don’t realize that simply uploading your video and calling it a wrap isn’t enough—if you want the best possible results, you need to optimize it.

Just like your site’s written content, your video can be optimized for search engines, making it easier to get noticed. Because search engines don’t actually watch the videos on your site, video sitemaps provide them with critical information like descriptions, tags and subject matter categories. This allows them to understand your video content and display it on search results pages. Video transcripts and captions that you upload do the same thing, making it easier to be found.

Ignoring Engagement Opportunities

Watching movies and videos used to be a passive activity—the user watched what was in front of them, and that was that. If that’s how you treat your web marketing videos, though, you’re leaving money on the table.

With the right content management platform, web video offers highly sophisticated opportunities for leveraging engagement. For example, you can integrate your videos with your email marketing platform, creating a streamlined database of viewers who are interested in your business. A call-to-action built into your video engages viewers when their interest is piqued, and some video management platforms even offer analytics that help you understand viewer behavior.

When you treat your videos like opportunities for engagement, you can see for yourself why they’re an increasingly popular marketing tool—not just a little something to watch.

Forgetting to Share

Your work isn’t done once your video is shot, optimized and uploaded—you have to share it.

Facebook alone streams more than 10 million videos every single day, and 9 out of 10 mobile video viewers use social media to share what they watch. Social networks are the perfect place to integrate and promote your videos, because they encourage the type of user engagement that translates into potentially limitless and zero-cost promotion.

This is how a video goes viral—not just by the quality of the video itself, but by the social engagement of its viewers. When you create a compelling video and effectively promote it on social media, it’s more likely that your viewers will share and promote your video, as well. Shares, likes, comments and tweets all add up to higher visibility online, potentially taking your video far beyond the boundaries of your website.

The Future of Filmmaking

Studies show that a continually-growing majority of professional marketers agree: Web video creates the best return on investment for content marketing. As more businesses become savvy to its potential, rising quality standards are going to make it an increasingly competitive way to market your business. Whether you’re skeptical or just camera shy, it’s time for your business to get ready for its close-up—web video could be just the ticket to finding your audience and giving it what it wants.