As video continues to gain a foothold as the medium of choice for consumers, marketers are also adjusting their strategies to not only create more video content, but also to optimize it for the biggest ROI.
As with any other piece of content, there is so much more work to be done than simply creating the piece itself. But while promoting and repurposing video content doesn’t differ much from other types of content, many marketers are wondering how to get the most out of their video content, particularly when it comes to SEO.
Hubspot recently hosted a master class on this topic featuring Eric Enge, co-author of Art of SEO, who revealed some important ways YouTube differs from Google when ranking videos, and how you can take advantage of these differences to boost your SEO on each.
1. The SEO basics are the same, regardless of content medium.
While the idea behind video SEO optimization is similar to written content SEO, the application process is obviously different in that Google can’t scan your content for written keywords.
“People assume SEO is something you don’t have to pay attention to; they assume YouTube or Google takes care of it,” Enge said. “The reality is it’s very hard to process content of video and understand everything that’s in it, so we have to do work to make it easier on the search engine.”
As with blogs, your video title should strike the balance of being compelling enough to entice users to click play, but also contain the keywords you want to rank for. This same level of care should be taken when crafting your meta-description and choosing a video category, which helps you rank but also shows up in search descriptions. Add video tags, putting the most relevant keywords first.
You can take the basics one step further by writing out a full transcript of the video. This can be time-consuming, but allows you to upload captions, which helps YouTube understand more about how it should categorize your video’s content. (Tip: If you have a little bit of budget, use a transcription service like Rev.)
Tips and tricks aside, don’t get so lost in the SEO game that you forget the real purpose of creating a title and tags: to attract and entice users to watch your video.
2. YouTube and Google search results are not always the same.
Enge noted that Google and YouTube search ranking results are often not in the same order.
For example, if your video is the first result on YouTube, it may still appear as the tenth (or any other position) result on Google. This is because each site is grading your content differently (more on that later), and that’s why it’s important to consider both on- and off-page optimization to boost rankings as much as possible on both.
You can combine the power of YouTube and Google’s search engines by embedding your YouTube video within a blog post, and crafting a blog title that is different from the video title. This can help the blog and video each rank for different keywords you’re trying to hit. This also allows you to highlight multiple topics that the video covers by creating two varying titles, rather than cramming all keywords into a single title.
3. Your viewers’ total time spent on YouTube is the most important ranking factor.
One of the most interesting SEO tips Enge shared is that YouTube rewards you for bringing it engaged traffic.
“It’s really about the total time people spend watching videos on YouTube that you enable,” Enge said. “If they come to my page and watch my whole video, that’s a great ranking factor. But what’s even better is if the user that started a session watching our video and they go on to watch more videos, even if they’re not mine, a big part of the YouTube algorithm that is about maximizing total view time created by your videos. It’s not just how good is your video; but do [the viewers] go on to watch more videos after.”
This is one of the biggest ways Google and YouTube differ from each other as search engines. While Google’s purpose is to quickly find an answer to your question and move you to a third-party site that can assist you with what you need, YouTube wants viewers to stay on YouTube as long as possible.
Part of the reason for this divergence is the contrasting ad models of the two sites. When you search for an answer on Google, the ads that appear are content geared toward answering the user’s query. For example, if you search “how can I lose weight” on Google, ads for gyms or diet cookbooks may appear, answering your query at least partially.
YouTube’s goal is to entice viewers to stay and watch as many videos as possible, because that also means viewers will be watching the ads that run before or in-between those videos. If your videos can keep viewers around, they will be rewarded with higher YouTube search rankings.
One way to keep your viewers on YouTube is to add your videos to playlists, enticing people to watch more related content. Of course, simply creating a great piece of content is the best way to keep viewers’ eyes on the screen, at least for the duration of your video.
4. Paid promotion on YouTube enhances organic traffic.
When you use paid social promotion to drive video views on YouTube, it will also lift your organic social promotion. This is because running ads drives up the number of views on your video, which in turn makes your video rank higher, and therefore reputable enough to search engines that you no longer have to run ads to continue earning organic traffic.
While this is also the case on some social media sites, this is not the case for Google, another reason attributing to the different search rankings that appear on YouTube and Google for the exact same video.
“We’ve been told for years that AdWords doesn’t interact with Google organic search results,” Enge said. “But with YouTube, it’s very different. Paid promotion does get you more organic traffic.”
5. The video you upload to YouTube should be different than the video uploaded to Facebook.
Facebook is another place marketers often opt to repurpose their video, due to the large pool of potential viewers browsing the site for new and interesting content. But many wonder, is it better to embed YouTube-hosted videos in Facebook posts or should you upload the video to Facebook directly?
Facebook has its own selfish reasons for wanting viewers to directly upload content — and you’ll be rewarded in increased engagement rates if you do so. In fact, native Facebook videos are shared by users 10x more than YouTube embedded videos. This is because Facebook displays native videos more prominently in newsfeeds, and autoplays native videos while YouTube videos must be clicked to play.
However, Enge challenges marketers to think about the different needs of the Facebook audience as opposed to the YouTube audience, and to leverage those differences to create various pieces of content that will work together for you rather than compete.
“While a three- to five-minute video range is comfortable for YouTube, Facebook is a different animal,” Enge said. “For Facebook, ask yourself ‘What’s the 30-second thing I’m doing?’ If you have a four-minute video on YouTube, think how you can extract four to five snippets and post them as separate videos on Facebook. Three minutes is way too long for Facebook.”
Use Facebook to gain interest for your content with your shorter snippets, then push viewers to the full YouTube video with a linked call-to-action.
6. Get social to build up your video’s SEO for free.
On Google, ranking for videos is determined by two major factors: the relevance of the video to the user’s search query and whether or not the video has attracted third-party links, especially from high-authority sites.
If you can figure out how to get your video embedded on third-party, high-authority websites, this is a free way to boost your SEO. One way to do so is by reaching out to a high-authority site owner and offering to write a guest blog for them with your embedded video. You can find high-authority sites by setting up Google alerts for various keywords, or by visiting sites you already trust (like local government organizations) and seeing who they link to.
You can also ask high-authority blog owners to review your video, share it if they feel it is good content or have the person guest-star in your video, as they will then write about it or link to it to spread the word.
7. Most importantly, your video should contain valuable content.
All of the marketing tips in the world can’t help you if your video is, well, worthless.
A valuable piece of content will always speak for itself, and today’s online audience is worldly enough to quickly see through sales ploys or other pieces of content that will simply waste their time.
“Even if you’re a smaller business, make videos with helpful information on how people can use your products or services,” Enge said. “Don’t ‘sell,’ but answer the most common questions people have. As you get some traction from that, you can, over time, do things to make the ‘window dressing’ better, like investing in a backdrop.”
He added: “Add value. Answer questions. Help people. That’s where it starts. If you’re not doing those things, then there’s nothing you can do to become influential.”