Howcast Guides Viewer Interest & Discovery with New Site: CEO Jason Liebman Provides Insight [Interview]

Howcast Guides Viewer Interest & Discovery with New Site: CEO Jason Liebman Provides Insight [Interview]

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Probably the most unheralded videos on the web are how-to videos, and yet, they are some of the most popular.  And it’s easy to see why: no longer are people having to rely on written instructions, which can be confusing or be missing vital information, they can actually see the recipe being cooked, or the piano being played, or whatever skill people want to learn., a video destination site that specializes in these videos, announced a retooling of their site today.  We talked to Jason Liebman, co-founder and CEO of Howcast (below), who shed some light on the relaunch and provided some insight into the world of instructional video content.

Howcast has over a thousand how-to videos and just reached a milestone of a billion views which just further validates not only their success, but the power of instructional/how-to video content as well. They redesigned to better guide users towards discovering videos that they may find of interest as well as provide a refreshed UI.  Howcast uses proprietary data analysis tools & algorithms to better understand viewing patterns and they’ve leveraged this data to create topical video guides.  So, for example, if you want to learn guitar, you can type in “guitar lessons” into the search field and get everything on the topic, including a beginners’ guide to guitar and this video:

Insights from Jason Liebman, CEO & Co-Founder of Howcast

Jason Liebman was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the changes to the site and provide some insight into the world of instructional video content.

Instructional Video Trends

ReelSEO: What sort of trends are you seeing with regard to viewership of instructional video?

Jason Liebman: Just as you’ve noticed, we’ve also recognized, since our inception, the critical importance of search in the discovery of how-to, instructional video content.  That’s why we’ve devoted so much time and attention to building really cutting edge data analytics tools to help us determine topics and titles of greatest user interest.

How-to Content, Search & Discovery

RSEO: Do you have any thoughts or insights you can share about the power of how-to video content with regard to search discovery?

JL: User interest is frequently reflected in search query popularity, of course, and we tap into that data – among other data sources that we regularly analyze – in order to ensure that we’re prioritizing the production of topics and titles that are of highest interest to users.  Given the evergreen nature of these topics and titles, the resulting user interaction with them can then help in moving them up in search rankings over time as well.  So we not only start with topics and titles that rank highly in search, but these videos can then continue to climb in search rankings over time in a sort of virtuous cycle.

Liebman continues: We also think that the new Guides format that we’ve deployed on our redesigned site is a particularly good way to present a series of related videos to users, and the viewing patterns that we’ve seen associated with this type of format strongly support that conclusion.  For example, bounce rates for users who land on our Guides pages are significantly lower than comparable rates for users who land directly on video playback pages.  This tells us that our newest Guides format on is doing an even better job of engaging our users.

Tips for Creating Instructional Video Content

RSEO: Do you have any tips as to how content creators themselves can or should think about when creating how-to type video content?

JL: With respect to best practices that we can recommend to video producers of how-to content we would start with the mantra that the quality of the content does in fact matter.  To drive quality there are several things that you can do:

  1. First-off, find great, authoritative experts that not only are knowledgeable on a topic but also great teachers.  For example, Slash from Guns and Roses is an amazing guitar player but he will admit that he’s not a great teacher.  
  2. Outside of finding great talent, be mindful that simple things like clear audio, underlying music tracks and standardized graphic packages can dramatically increase the quality of your video to make it stand out.

RSEO: What else would you like to add about Howcast?

JL: With respect to our site, the features that we’re most proud of can be seen on our topic and playback pages that enable a user to track their progress with checkmarks if you watch a video along with the way we present the content serially on not only the guide pages but also the video page with the carousel that is presented below the video player.

To illustrate this, here’s an example of a guide page from Howcast, which includes how-to-skateboard tips from Bam Margera. Notice that the first 2 videos in the guide have been watched and progress checked.

Howcast Guides Viewers Towards Expertise

So what we’re seeing here are video destination sites trying to make it easier for you to find the kind of video you want to see.  We covered this with the TED-Ed videos, which group educational videos into subjects and serve as supplemental material to an overall lesson.  With sites like Howcast, becoming an expert at something has just gotten that easier.

We’d like to thank Jason Liebman for taking time to answer our questions!


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