Instructional Videos and SEO Advantages – The Howcast Interview

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sanjay-howcastIn our continuing series on marketing with instructional videos and how-to video websites, ReelSEO’s Grant Crowell interviews Sanjay Raman, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product Development for Howcast. Sanjay talks with Grant about the special SEO benefit with instructional videos, and some special tips for how to present your “how to” video content.

Background on Howcast

Howcast originally launched its instructional videos website in February 2008, and by the end of the year was voted by TIME magazine as one of the 50 best websites. Howcast was co-founded by Sanjay and 2 other ex-Google employees, who previously worked together in various roles on the Google Video and YouTube teams. Sanjay himself was one of the initial members of the Google Video Team, and also worked as Googles’ Product Manager for Google Apps.

The Howcast Interview

Why did you and your partners decide to get into the business of instructional online videos?

We saw an opportunity to provide users with high-quality instructional videos, which we believe are increasingly in demand as the online video industry matures.

How many videos are there on your site today? Where do they come from?

We have hundreds of thousands of videos on our site today. There are several sources for content on our site: content produced by Howcast studios, content from our Emerging Filmmakers Program, content from large partners who already make their own instructional content, and content aggregated from across the Web.

Are there any unique SEO advantages with doing instructional videos?

Search traffic is often dominated by instructional or how-to queries, which traditionally has been served by text content.  With the growth of online video, we saw a great opportunity to satisfy this demand with high-quality video content, which, in many cases, is far more useful than reading a text guide on how to do something.  Instructional content, especially the high-quality content that we produce, is extremely friendly for advertisers and users.  We believe that this content lends itself extremely well for high-performing, targeted ads that users will also find useful.

What marketing advantages are there for businesses to put their instructional videos out on the Howcast website?

We’ve invested a great deal of time in building technology that helps showcase instructional content, specifically in our player.  Users can navigate a video by jumping to specific steps in the video, play a video in slow motion, zoom in to specific areas, watch in an interactive full-screen mode, and scan the video’s steps via our player sidebar.  We also offer additional functionality that allows video owners to overlay graphics and music on their video, all within the browser.

Businesses can leverage Howcast in several ways: (1) As a distribution partner, businesses can set up a brand channel on our site to feature instructional videos about their products or services, or (2) Businesses can leverage our technology to power the experience of watching how-to videos on their site.

What are the special features that makes the Howcast website stand out from its competitors?

Several of the player features are explained above, which are differentiated.  We make our content available on several platforms, including cable, broadband, and mobile.  We have a highly successful iPhone application where users can search for and watch videos in our library.

We also allow our community to edit the metadata for videos in the index in an effort to motivate the community to improve the utility and accuracy of our how-to library.

We offer a wiki guide platform where users who may not want to produce a video can write a text-based how-to.

What is the selection process for your videos? How much is automated, and how much is human review and selection?

We curate videos from across the web and spend effort finding compelling and accurate instructional videos.  We also allow users to upload content to us and we review this content for accuracy and instructional value. We will take any video that has instructional value, does not promote violence or pornography, and is not a blatant advertisement.

What are the most popular categories on your site?

We find categories such as Technology/Gadgets, Food and Drink, and Sex and Relationships as some of our most popular categories.


Do you also feature business-to-business instructional videos on your site? Are those easy to find?

There are certainly these types of videos on our site and can be found by viewing specific categories and searching on our site.

Why should companies engaging in a SEO campaign that have instructional videos submit and optimize content to your site?

Our site is highly visible to search engines and we frequently find long-tail queries referring traffic to our site.  We are crawled fairly frequently and believe that most of our content pages are picked up by search engines.  Specific popular pieces of content are frequently in the top 3 results for certain keywords.  We also submit sitemaps to Google and all the major search engines, both standard and video-specific. We believe that companies can leverage our site to quickly gain exposure to their brands and products via instructional video.

What content and production tips have you found to be successful with instructional web videos?

We’ve found that a “trust factor” is extremely important in a “how-to” video, so producing higher-quality content will certainly help drive views and distribution.  Also, clearly showing a task and being genuinely helpful is much more beneficial than solely advertising a product.

What parting tips do you have for those looking to feature instructional videos as part of their marketing campaign?

Howcast should certainly be a one of the primary channels that people use to distribute their instructional videos.  Not only will you benefit from visitors on our site finding your content, but it will also help promote your content in organic web search.


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