Video can provide four distinct values for SEO. Rich Snippets can improve your click-through-rate, a presence on social video platforms can improve your brand awareness, product videos on commercial pages can help to increase conversion rate and lastly, video can be used to increase the number of links and social shares back to your site. In this post, I’m going to focus on the last of these and explain the methodology behind using video specifically as link bait.
There are essentially only two ways in which people commonly link to video content:
- 1) Link out to the page - when the page offers a credible source of information, entertainment or features resources that will be valuable for the audience of the site linking out.
- 2) Embed the video - When the video adds value for the audience within the specific context of the page in question.
Because the motivations behind the links in these two examples are distinct, so are the strategies you can implement in order to successfully build them - you can either create a “linkbait page” that will garner links through recommendations in a traditional manner or you can produce a video that you will outreach to people with the aim of getting them to embed it on their site. In this post, I’m going to explain the form of the content and the technical implementation required for each strategy.
Creating a “Link Bait Page”
Video is a media type, a form of content delivery, rather than a “type of content” as such. As the old adage goes, “form follows function” and this is exactly the approach you should be taking when building out content for link bait purposes. While video may be part of the sum, the page itself is the overall creative and so your task should be thought of “building a content driven mixed-media page”, rather than building a “video” per se.
An example of this approach executed successfully is The Simply Business Guide to WordPress, where a series of videos are interspersed with links to articles and presented in a step-by-step interactive flowchart. While the videos themselves are reasonably useful, the real value is in the structure and presentation of the page - which drives links rather than the YouTube videos themselves. This type of content gets links because it is a useful resource for those unfamiliar with WordPress and meets the need of educating a non-technology savvy business owner audience about creating a website.
Creating a Video That Others Will Embed
If someone embeds a video on their site - it has to be because they want their readers to stop looking at their own content and spend time watching yours instead. If you’re a company trying to build your presence and reputation online, rather than individual promoting the latest humorous cat video, this means that your content has to be exceptional. Mediocre isn’t going to cut it.
With video, exceptional does not necessarily mean that the production quality has to be ground-breaking, but rather that the content must meet the needs of a specific user base and do so exceptionally efficiently and creatively.
This could be as simple as providing a tutorial for something that others’ have been unable to work out - or it could be an exceptionally creative way of delivering a message that provokes thought or action. Video infographics are a typical form factor for this kind of content, and generally work best when the video and audio tracks counterpoint each other to deliver a multi-layered narrative.
Hosting and Outreach Strategy
If you’re building a multi-media web page which utilizes video as one of the form factors - then the hosting methodology ultimately doesn’t matter. If the video isn’t valuable outside of the context of the page (as with the Simply Business example - the value is the curated guide and step-by-step process), then few individuals will choose to link to a specific video - rather preferring to link to link to entity as a whole. Your outreach process will broadly consist of contacting site owners for whom the content will be valuable and asking them to link out to it.
Conversely, If you’re trying to get links to a specific video - then the hosting platform you use matters a great deal.
When people embed videos from YouTube, Vimeo or any other social video platforms, they don’t typically link to the domain of the creator in the process, but instead the profile of the user on the YouTube/Vimeo domains. This is fantastic for the platforms themselves, but clearly sub-optimal for any business trying to do SEO and build links back to their site in order to improve rankings. Whilst these social video platforms are a fantastic way to seed your content and get it in front of a wider audience, you don’t want the likes of YouTube taking your link equity.
10 Steps to Maximize the Use of Video as Link Bait
I therefore recommend the following hosting and outreach methodology for this kind of video linkbait.
- Self-host your videos (or use a secure third party provider) and put it in a big frame (I recommend 720 x 405 for most desktop sites) on a dedicated page on your site.
- If you’re using Vimeo Pro, Vzaar, Viddler or any other platform which allows you to publish your video outside of your domain - turn this functionality off for now
- Create a custom embed code for your video, using the following free tool. So the video has an "embed" call to action at the bottom of a page (NB ensure the in-built “embed” button is turned off for any hosting platform you may be using, as this typically won't include a text link back to your site)
- Include social share buttons on the page, with a custom message specific to your campaign (depending on your video hosting platform, you may also need to disable the standard social buttons included with the player and include customized versions separately)
- Outreach to sites who may be interested in linking to your video, ensuring you include the above embed code within the email (to make it easy for the outreach target to link to you)
- 3-4 months later, or once the return from your outreach work has dried up - put the content on YouTube, Vimeo and any other social video platforms relevant for the content you’ve created.
- Seed the content socially and try to get as many shares and links as you can to the YouTube/Vimeo versions of your video.
- After the buzz dies down from this - mark the content up "private" on YouTube and set up domain restrictions on Vimeo (so it stops working for anyone who has embedded it).
- Outreach to all the people who embedded/linked to the YouTube/Vimeo versions of your video, explaining that this link now doesn’t work and ask them to link to the version of the video on your site instead. You won’t get a 100% return from this, but most of the leads will be fairly strong - as after all, they’ve already linked to your content.
- If your video is still relevant and valuable six months down the line, then you can always rinse and repeat steps 6-9
Ultimately, the core principles behind using video as linkbait successfully are simple:
- Allow form to follow function: only use video as your medium when it’s the best way to tell the story in question
- Carefully target your audience: create something that’s going to be valuable to a specific group of users around the web
- Avoid leaking link equity - Ensure you minimize the amount of links pointing to domains outside of your own.
Make no mistake, getting these three things right consistently is not easy and it can take many attempts to see a reasonable return on investment. If one element is missing, the campaign will inevitably fail to deliver, but the rewards are there for those with the creative nous and technical understanding to give it a go.