The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

The Video SEO War is Over … and YouTube Won!

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The last time I mentioned a Universal Search study by Searchmetrics was at SES Toronto 2012 during the Q&A session that followed the panel about Developing a Video Optimization & Marketing Campaign. Evan Carmichael captured the moment and posted the photo below to The Entrepreneur Blog.

So, be forewarned: What I’m about to say may shock you.

Greg Jarboe and Jonathan Allen at SES Toronto 2012

If you’re optimizing videos on your website so they can be found in Google universal search results, you’re probably wasting your time. Even if you’ve created a video sitemap “to make sure that Google knows about all your rich video content,” you’re probably just spinning your wheels.


As Google itself says, “When you submit a Sitemap to Google that includes video information in a supported format, we will make the included video URLs searchable on Google Video.”

Although submitting a Sitemap is easy, getting your video content indexed by Google doesn’t get it a high ranking in Google search results. To get high rankings, your videos also need to be relevant, get more views (or more viewing time), and obtain good ratings.

As Carl Von Clausewitz wrote in his book, On War, “A small jump is easier than a large one, but no one on that account, wishing to cross a wide ditch, would jump half of it first.”

Now, Google Video,, was the largest video search property on the Web … once upon a time, many years ago. But, have you taken a look at Google’s video site lately?

According to Compete PRO, got 10,760,803 unique visitors in March 2011. A year later, got 1,457,400 unique visitors in March 2012. And two years later, got just 98,828 unique visitors in March 2013.

Google Video chart

By comparison, got 143,670,312 unique visitors in March 2011. A year later, got 148,973,688 unique visitors in March 2012. And two years later, got 163,342,267 unique visitors in March 2013.

YouTube chart

In other words, the video SEO war is over … and YouTube won!

So, if you aren’t publishing your videos on YouTube and then embedding your YouTube videos into your website or blog, then your videos aren’t very likely to get enough views – or watch time – to rank very well in Google Universal Search results.

That’s what I said almost a year ago at SES Toronto 2012 that shocked, shocked Jonathan Allen, the other speaker on the panel about developing a video optimization and marketing campaign.

Universal Search Results in the Google SERPs

And that’s what I’m going to continue saying, now that I’ve read the latest study by Searchmetrics, which is entitled, “Universal Search Results in the Google SERPs – Review 2012 and Forecast 2013.”

Since some of the findings may shock you, let me begin by examining the quality of the data. Searchmetrics based its analysis on search results for several million keywords analyzed over the course of 2012. And the data pool generally consisted of the first five pages of search results.

And Searchmetrics found that the proportion of keywords with at least one Universal Search integration in Google search results declined in the US over 2012. At the beginning of the year, the proportion was still about 86 percent. But the percentage dropped to about 75 percent by December.

According to Marcus Tober, the founder of Searchmetrics, “It seems that Google is optimizing Universal Search and is actually only displaying additional results when the user is expecting them.”

Online video marketers may be shocked to find that there’s been a reduction in the number of video integrations, which have long been the most frequently displayed integration in Google search results. At the beginning of 2012, the proportion was about 76 percent. But that percentage dropped to about 62 percent by the end of the year.

Searchmetrics 1

According to Tober, “The integration of videos peaked slightly after March, before falling back gently in July through August to the starting figure of the spring. Since then the percentage share of video integrations in Universal Search has fallen continuously.”

He adds, “The reasons for the increase include the (sporting) events in the summer of 2012 – firstly the UEFA European Championship in Poland and Ukraine (8 June to 1 July), closely followed by the Olympic Games in London (25 July to 12 August).”

Searchmetrics also took a closer look at video integrations and found that YouTube was the market leader. About 8 out of 10 video integrations in Google Universal Search in the US are from YouTube.

Searchmetrics 2

Tober says, “In the USA, there was little movement in 2012. A slight upward trend in YouTube at the expense of its competitors is barely noticeable.”

He adds, “Both halfway through the year and at its end, the proportion of YouTube integrations rose in comparison to the competition. As you might expect, this trend is reversed among the competitors.”

Searchmetrics also took a look at video rankings by provider. The chart below compares the average initial position of a video integration from YouTube with that of its competitors. The basis is the first two search result pages.

Searchmetrics 3

According to Tober, “In the USA, the average first video integration of YouTube is about two positions ahead of the average first position of a competitor’s video. In February, both curves dropped by two positions, but towards the end of the year climbed back to the starting level; the relative distance tended to remain constant, except for the October and November figures.”

So, what’s the net-net?

First, videos weren’t being found in Google Universal Search results as frequently at the end of 2012 as they were at the beginning of 2012. So, if you are counting on your videos – wherever they are hosted – to be found in Google search results, you’re sailing against the wind.

Second, 8 out of the 10 videos that are found in Google search results are hosted YouTube. Oh, and these YouTube videos rank about two positions higher than videos hosted on any other site.

Third, if you really want or need to host your video on a YouTube alternative, then check out Dailymotion, which got 11,637,980 unique visitors in March 2013, according to Compete PRO.  Even videos hosted on eHow, which got 72,245,957 unique visitors that month, rarely appear in Google search results. That’s why there’s also an eHow channel on YouTube.

I realize this isn’t conventional wisdom. But don’t shoot the messenger. Every time a paradigm shifts, even YouTube gurus and video marketing experts get headaches.

Greg Jarboe thinking at SES Toronto 2012


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