Best Practices for Video SEO: Trade Secrets from Hubspot’s Master Class

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.

Basic YouTube Optimization Guidelines

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.

Driving total view time for YouTube videos

From Hubspot

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.”

YouTube sidebar is key for video SEO

High-ranking videos appear on the YouTube sidebar, extending organic views even further

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.

Native Facebook video player

Native Facebook video player

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.”

Kickstart Your Startup By Taking Marketing Notes from Crowdfunding Successes

I was wasting valuable time on Facebook yesterday when I noticed an acquaintance promoting her Kickstarter campaign. I’m all about supporting small business ventures and clicked the link, only to realize she was requesting donations to “better herself through an educational trip to Paris.” In between heavy cringing and judgmental thoughts, I did have to admit to myself it was bold and somewhat innovative — and began thinking about how crowdfunding platforms have evolved into quite powerful and accessible marketing tools for all types of ventures.

Kickstarter has become the de facto crowdfunding platform for launching successful businesses, new products and, apparently, even vacations. In 2015, Pebble Time set the record for the most money raised in its Kickstarter campaign for smartwatches, coming in at just over $20 million. Even a less technically innovative project, such as the Exploding Kittens card game “for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats” cracked the top ten most successful Kickstarters list, raising nearly 88,000% of its initial goal.

How does this relate to you and your startup? Because regardless of whether you’ve got a great idea for an innovative tech product or an innovative card game, your marketing strategy can play a key role in making, breaking or surpassing your business goals. While crowdfunding to create a toy isn’t exactly the same as looking for backers to launch your own business, there are quite a few strategic marketing lessons startups can glean from the most successful Kickstarter projects.

Video is worth…well, more words than anyone is willing to read these days

Recent studies say humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish…but then again, I only paid attention long enough to read the headline. This means you’ve got a limited amount of time to capture potential customers’ attention to get them interested and invested in your brand. The most popular Kickstarters of the past show your best bet to accomplish this is by creating a video.

Kickstarter projects that include a video have a much higher success rate than those that do not (50% vs. 30%), and also tend to raise more money. The same is true of businesses, as seen by video conversion rates whether they’re utilized on social media, emails or on your website. One-third of all online activity is spent watching videos, and putting a video on a landing page can increase conversions by 80%.

Kickstarter suggests following three simple guidelines to film a quality video: clear audio, ample lighting, and footage of you and what you’re making (your story). Incorporating these three elements are that basis of creating any great video, regardless of budget or experience.

That third element is something startups sometimes struggle with. It’s not enough to tell the “what” of your business; you have to tell the “why” behind the brand to get viewers to care. Kickstarter recommends asking yourself these six questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you planning to make?
  • Where did this project come from?
  • What’s your plan and schedule?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Why do you care?

By incorporating these elements into your video, you can show the personality and passion behind your efforts, which is what gets viewers invested. Enjoyment of video ads increases purchase intent by 97% and brand recognition by 139%. And if you still need to further quantify it, note this: the latest research estimates a one-minute video is worth about 1.8 million words.

Here’s an example of a well-done video for the record-setting Pebble Time campaign that incorporates the suggested elements.

Take your startup’s supporters behind the scenes

There is a reason Kickstarter recommends you start your video by answering who you are. When you are asking people to invest in a young, unestablished idea, you are really asking them to invest in you. Make your early backers feel they are responsible for and part of your business’s success in a few ways:

  • Show the product or service in action through video or photos on your website.
  • Update your blog regularly with insight on production and progress from your perspective.
  • Give followers sneak peeks of upcoming product launches or news on social media.
  • You can even throw an event or walkthrough at your startup for your first customers / investors or followers to thank them for their early investment.

For a great example of the “behind the curtain” technique, take a look at this Kickstarter for a short film called “Wonder.” The filmmakers of “Wonder” took backers behind the scenes by introducing the cast and crew, explaining the passion behind the script and laying out the budget. They even included a section on the risks and challenges they faced filming a movie on a tight budget for complete transparency, which created empathy and trust with supporters.

Make like Oprah and give something away

Give away content like you're Oprah.

Take it from the piles of free branded t-shirts I received in college that are still hanging proudly in my closet — people love giveaways and it hardly matters what the piece actually is. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a physical piece of swag, such as a button or poster. My personal favorite part of checking out Kickstarters is what they offer supporters, and I’ve seen creative giveaways range from credits on a movie to a band’s hand-painted old Volvo for the highest backer.

From a business standpoint, content can be one of a startup’s most effective giveaways. Free educational content that’s relevant to your industry is a great giveaway for a few reasons: it creates a relationship with a potential customer, builds recognition and respect for your brand, and grows your email list all at the same time. Think about what type of content your brand could offer that would be valuable but also leave the customer wanting more. This could range from an eBook to an email series that teaches them something new or a webinar that presents you as an industry thought leader.

Talk to your startup’s customers early and often

Let’s say you’ve followed the steps above and have already made a sale. Congrats! Now, don’t spend too long celebrating before reengaging with this customer. One of the reasons Kickstarter campaigns are so successful is because they constantly update supporters on the project’s progress, successes and even failures.

Create a marketing strategy focused on keeping customers engaged once they have made a purchase from you. This should involve engaging your customers soon after they first make contact with you and on a recurring basis. One proven way of doing that is to send out a drip campaign to customers after they make a purchase or sign up for your service. This content can be a combination of promotions and personalized interaction.

For example, ask your customers to take a survey of their experience working with you to improve upon pain points in the checkout or customer service process. If your business depends on a one-time sale, you can send your customers a thank you note for their support and a discount code to encourage them to return to your business. If your startup is a SaaS, you can send customers information on getting the most out of your offering along with recommendations for related services. You’re not only educating the customer, you’re learning what elements of your business might be most valuable to their broader needs.

On average, repeat customers make up 40% of a business’s total revenue. Not only are they valuable in terms of revenue; it take less time and marketing effort to sell to someone already in your funnel than to find and convert new customers. By following up with customers and keeping them in the loop regarding updates on your startup, your brand will stay top of mind and also appears transparent, building trust and respect.

Deliver on your promises

How often have you backed a Kickstarter project only to find yourself receiving it a year or more after it was promised (or not receiving it at all)? Sadly, a lot of well-intentioned startups end up with similar reputations.

Don’t be that startup. Don’t get so caught up in creating an out-of-the-box marketing strategy that you deliver a substandard product or fail to deliver your product on time. Make your business and project timelines transparent from the get go, and continue to update customers on progress in the ways suggested throughout this post. The underlying motive behind all of these tips is to build your customers’ trust in a yet-to-be-proved idea. Once you break that trust, there’s no gaining those jaded customers back. It takes years to win a customer and only seconds to lose one.”

Check out Kickstarter’s Creator Handbook for more tips you can leverage into your startup’s marketing plan. And if you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level, contact Dreamtown Creative and let us help you kickstart your business.