Video SEO: Understanding the Power of VideoShawn Forno 08.02.2017
A great explainer video raises brand awareness, educates potential customers, and…you know…explains what your company actually does. But online video is about so much more than just engagement and education. In fact, a quality video on your website is perhaps the single-most effective way to drive traffic to your site and outrank your competition for the web’s most sought after keywords (aka the words your customers are Googling right now). The right video can have a huge impact your entire business model. Here’s why video matters for your SEO strategy, and four key metrics you can track and boost to reap the benefits of video today.
Video SEO Basics: Blended Search Results
You can trace video SEO back to May 16th, 2007 – the day Google introduced “Universal Search.” Today, we take blended search results like videos, shopping links, PDFs, blogs, wikipedia, and images for granted, but before universal search (and YouTube) you had to dig for online video. Barbaric, right? But what’s more shocking is that here we are, a decade later, and most companies and marketers still haven’t realized the importance video SEO and how the right video can put your website—and your company—on the map.
There are only two real reasons to create a quality explainer video: to increase brand awareness and/or conversions. That’s honestly it. Rob Toledo, a user engagement and bounce rate specialist at Shutterstock, simply says:
No longer just an interesting add-on, video has become an important feature for anyone concerned with SEO, conversion rates, or brand recognition. That’s pretty much everyone, then.Click to tweet
Sure, you can (and should) pursue other video metrics like increasing signups, building links, and getting more social shares, but increasing conversions and building your brand remain paramount. And explainer videos on your website or landing page, accomplishes both of these goals simultaneously. So how exactly does video affect your site’s SEO, and how can you use video in your content marketing strategy? Here are the four key video SEO metrics, and some best practices for using video to climb the search engine rankings all the way to the top:
- Improved SERP rank
- Bounce Rate & Dwell Time: Engagement
- CTR: Click-Through-Rate
- Quality backlinks
Video SERPs: Today’s Internet is Mostly Video
YouTube has over a billion users. 500 million people watch video on Facebook everyday. According to KCPB, online video will account for 74% of all online traffic by the end of 2017. This growing trend toward video results means that Google search algorithm updates prioritize websites with quality video content in SERPs. These prime spots generate an incredible number of unique visits and high-quality backlinks from reputable sources and social shares while also increasing CTR, ultimately leading to more brand awareness and thus, more conversions than nearly any other marketing strategy. That was a mouthful, but basically, good video > more website traffic > more conversions = hurray.
Ok, so Google prioritizes quality online video. Great. But what’s even more important than all the video SEO gobbledygook about CTR is understanding how people use the internet so that you can create the videos that people want to watch.
Here are just a few stats that show the importance and effectiveness of video on your search ranking and conversion rates:
- 50% of users look for product or service videos before visiting a store (Think With Google)
- Online shoppers who view demo videos are 1.8x more likely to purchase than non-viewers (DMB Adobe)
- Customers are 4x more likely to watch a video about a product than read about it (Animoto)
Forget the algorithms and the metadata. The right video can transform a “unique visitor” into a life-long customer or brand advocate in mere minutes. People will visit your site if you have a great video, and if you’re lucky, they’ll even share your video and do all the hard work for you.
Video SERP Best Practices
Ranking on the Google’s first page is an SEO’s top priority. Eric Sui at Entrepeneur describes the importance of video in search results ranking as a shift toward content, not keywords. “Google now cares less about whether you’ve optimized each individual page on your site to a particular keyword and more about whether your page’s content answers the question presented by the search user.” Translation—people just want their questions answered, and video is fantastic at that.
Gareth Davies at WordTracker, claims that as much as “80% of the video content served up in SERPs are informational videos,” and Google’s own Head of Web spam, Matt Cutts estimates the Hummingbird update all the way back in September 2013 affected over 90% of search queries. The internet has shifted to video. Heck, the internet has shifted to mobile video People use the internet to find useful video content, and SERPs reflect that.
- Keep Your Video Short: 30 – 60 seconds is ideal. Engagement rates fall sharply after 4 minutes.
- Create Rich-Video Snippets: A good thumbnail, short video description, and video sitemap helps bots and users find your video.
- Transcribe Your Script: A video transcription helps Google crawl your content for relevant keywords.
Video SEO: Dwell Time, Bounce Rate & Engagement
When Wistia looked at the top 100 highest trafficked pages from 2016 they found an interesting trend. “People spent 2.6x more time on pages with video than pages without.”
That’s a massive jump in engagement, and while engagement doesn’t always translate directly to conversions, video content can directly benefit your organic search ranking on Google through the engagement metrics—dwell time and bounce rate.
Video SEO: Dwell Time
In 2012, Google introduced “dwell time” to measure how long users spend on site. It’s a roundabout way of measuring keyword relevance, and while it’s not perfect, it’s a great filter to catch sites gaming the keyword system and promote actually valuable sites aimed at helping users get the answers to their questions. While it’s not new, this shift toward usefulness and overall UX of landing pages begs a simple two-part question that is essential to your video marketing SEO strategy:
- Is your website helpful/valuable?
- Does your website communicate that value in a clear, timely manner?
If the answer to either question is “No,” you’ll have low dwell time and a a lower Google SERP ranking no matter what keyword voodoo you employ. Improve your dwell time and you transform your SEO.
“Wait. Isn’t ‘dwell time’ just a fancy word for bounce rate?” Good question. No.
Video SEO: Bounce Rate
Dwell time–or time spent on-site–and bounce rate are closely linked, but bounce rate measures irrelevance of search results, while dwell time is a marker for engagement levels with appropriate content. Long dwell time (at least 1-2 mins) is recognition that a search result is relevant to a query.
For instance, a search for “The Mighty Ducks” might display several different sites. An IMDB page for the Disney film, a Tumblr fan sites for the movies, and a National Geographic article about the fighting mallards of Timbuktu all contain those keywords. A user searching for clips from the film would bounce from the NatGeo site within seconds, but would engage with both IMDB and possibly the Tumblr fan site—if the content was valuable. Google measures the dwell time on the IMDB and Tumblr pages to determine which is more relevant to the search term. The bounce rate on NatGeo, however would only penalize them for that keyword, making them less likely to appear in the future for the same search term.
This relationship between CTR and dwell time is so vital to SERPs that Google even toyed with a “block domain” tool, which allowed users to permanently block a site from appearing in future search results once they bounced back to the SERP from the irrelevant domain. Google never took the feature live, but the fact that it existed speaks volumes about their commitment to relevant search results. Talk about bad for SEO!
When your bounce rate lowers and your dwell time increases, Google prioritizes your site for searches that contain your keywords. This equals more traffic, more links, better engagement, and higher Google search result rankings. “Time spent on site” is a quality and relevance metric. Luckily video is a great way to keep visitors around for a while. Oh and EyeView Digital found that “including video in a landing page can increase conversion by 80%.” So there’s that too.
Explainer Video and Conversions
As great as engagement is, your video needs to move the needle with results. That means increasing conversions. Luckily, video is great at increasing your bottom line. According to Invodo, “52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them feel more confident about going ahead and making a purchase.” But how does that confidence translate into actual sales? When people can see a new concept—and understand it—they’re far more likely to buy it. Take Dropbox for example.
We’ve talked about the Dropbox explainer video before, but it’s such a great example of the immediate impact an explainer video can have on conversions that it bears repeating. Dropbox increased conversion rates by over 10% by adding this single animated explainer video to their website in 2009. A 10% conversion rate increase might not sound impressive, but it’s incredible. To put that into perspective, Dropbox’s homepage received around 750,000 visitors a month in 2009. This video added thousand of signups every single day. That’s incredible ROI for a single video, and it’s still producing results. As of August 2017, this outdated explainer video has over 4 million views on YouTube. That’s evergreen SEO value.
Video & CTR
The right video (and video SERP thumbnail) can increase your click-through-rate (CTR) by as much as 50%. These video thumbnails advertise quality video content and make results with embedded video stand out in a text-only wasteland. Which of these results looks the most helpful for building a deck? Which would you click?
YouTube automatically creates these thumbnails (they understand how powerful rich snippets are), but don’t rely on YouTube to do the dirty work for you. Rich video snippets from your YouTube channel take users directly to YouTube–not your homepage or landing page. If you’re driving all the clicks and traffic to YouTube, you’re not supercharging your domain, and you’re adding extra steps for leads to perform before they convert. Shorten the buyer’s journey by optimizing your rich video snippets on your own site, so that videos on your url rank in Google search results. You don’t garner any SEO benefits from lost traffic, even if you’re getting lots of views on YouTube.
Embed video directly to your site–like on a landing page with a clear call to action. YouTube, Vimeo, and self-hosting providers like Wistia, offer increased reach, but nothing beats the SEO benefits of landing page video marketing right on your domain.
Best Practices for Improving CTR with Online Video:
- Embed Video Directly to Your Homepage — Nothing beats the sweet SEO juice of a great homepage video
- Embed Video Directly to a Dedicated Landing Page — Drive CTR for a timely campaign or track growth for something like newsletter signups
- Create Rich-Video Snippets — Thumbnails and metadata matter. Take the time to do it right.
Video SEO: Link-Building
According to SEO expert, Casey Henry at Moz, “A video will almost triple the average number of linking domains compared to just text.” *mic drop* Seriously though, how important are links to your video SEO strategy?
Every two years Moz asks 150 leading SEO experts to rank the most influential factors for Search Engine Ranking Factors. The most recent list (2015) ranks Domain Level Links (quantity of links, trust, and domain-level page rank) as the #1 most important ranking factor. The next most important factor according to the experts? Page Level Links (aka landing pages, blogs, FAQs, and dedicated video pages on your site.
Links matter. A lot. The content that you publish online is about more than just your site. If you create quality, useful, helpful content you add value to your target users and viewers. And people like value. A great video can create thousands of high-quality links from industry professionals and community sites with high buying intent. It can garner national reach with the right media and news outlets, and it can reach influencers that amplify the reach and trust-factor of your brand and your site with social shares and backlinks. Good video is a driving force in SEO, perhaps the biggest driving source if the experts are to be believed. Make sure your video is good enough for people to link back to it.
Video SEO: Long Tail Marketing
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, long tail marketing is essentially the other side of keyword SEO. Think of the long tail as by-catch. Long tail keywords aren’t the search terms you desperately want to rank for, but they still drive traffic to your site. When HubSpot tracked visits to their site, they found a few massive spikes (on the left) with popular pages, their homepage, and a few “viral” blog posts got the most visits. However, when they added all their site visits, the majority of HubSpot’s inbound traffic comes from a few hits on all the “other” pages—not one or two keystone pieces of content. Successful long tail marketing is about the aggregate. And video is great at the long tail.
If SEO and keyword tracking is a little confusing, another way to look at long tail video marketing is through view count. Many companies and brands measure their video’s success by how many views it gets. Often companies are impatient, waiting just a few days or weeks to see if the video is a failure, but that’s just not how online video works.
It’s great to have a viral hit right out of the gate, but it’s rare for B2B video. A much more valuable metric for your video’s ROI is the video view count over the long tail. Does your video consistently get views every month? Is it always quietly working to funnel potential customers to your website and eventually your sales funnel? If so, then your video is a success. What’s more, it’s a long-term success providing steady value for years to come with little or no input on your end.
Remember that today’s viral video is tomorrow’s tired re-run. Gimmicks might capture attention for a few days, but a video that adds consistent value to your potential clients will get views, shares, and backlinks for years. Measure the success of your video on a longer timeline for more accurate results.
Serialized Video Marketing for the Long Tail
Google’s algorithms are opaque, even to SEO pros, but they all agree that regularity is a key factor for SERP ranking. Rand Fishkin, from Moz, is the king of all things SEO and thanks to his top quality weekly video series, Whiteboard Friday, Moz ranks for practically every keyword that has to do with SEO.
Every week Moz adds to the cumulative value of their site with more and more helpful video content. This strategy is “death by a thousand cuts” and it works—if you have the ability to create quality video on a regular schedule. Not everyone does, and that’s ok.
5 Simple Steps to Optimize B2B Video for the Long Tail
Now that you know the SEO power of video, here are five ways to optimize your video for the long haul:
Keyword Driven Video Titles
An engaging title is key for social shares and engagement, but your video title has to contain keywords that you want to rank for in the long term. Don’t go overboard stuffing your video title with keywords, but make sure that it clearly declares what the video is about.
Create a Custom Video Thumbnail
Never let a video hosting platform—like YouTube—choose your thumbnail for you. Ever. You’ve spent a considerable amount of time, energy, and money on this animated explainer video—don’t drop the ball at the end zone. Create your own engaging, customized video thumbnail and reap the rewards of your great video.
Find an engaging moment in your video and highlight that. Stay away from someone talking to camera if at all possible, unless they’re doing something interesting (like yelling, smiling, etc.) You can include some graphic text, but don’t overdo it. Use large, bold, white text that’s easy to read when your image gets shrunken down to thumbnail size. The size of your thumbnail varies on each site, but 115 x 65 pixels is a good “rule of thumbnail.”
Optimize for Mobile Video
Video has well and truly gone mobile—and not just for entertainment. According to an extensive Think with Google Insights study, “42% of researchers use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process. Of those users, there has been 91% growth over the past two years throughout the entire path.” Basically, B2B buyers are using mobile video to make purchasing decisions, and they’re using mobile video throughout the entire buyer’s journey, not just the discovery phase. That’s a big deal.
Optimize your video for mobile viewers to engage highly motivated B2B buyers when they make purchasing decisions.
Optimize Video Metadata
The metadata and video description is where you can really target long tail keywords. Include links for more information, as well as several relevant keywords in the meta description of your video, but keep the description under 160 characters. The right metadata keywords will give your video a huge SEO boost.
Video Doesn’t Have to be Social to Be Valuable
It’s tempting to get caught up in the latest viral video trend, but successful video marketing isn’t always about immediate results. Tubular Insights notes:
“B2B companies generally have higher-ticket items and longer sales cycles than B2C. Clients research future partners as much as they can on Google and YouTube, and watch multiple videos about the products. Almost all of your views from a given week will be of your “greatest hits,” the old videos.”Click to tweet
Some of your strongest video marketing assets can be your oldest videos—as long as they are well made and provide value for the long term.
Video SEO: Quality Matters
Video SEO is essential to your marketing strategy, but keep in mind that quality video gets quality results. The pendulum swings both ways. A low-quality explainer video aimed at a few keywords will erode trust in your brand, eliminate consumer confidence, increase bounce rate, and lower your SERPs. You’ll get fewer leads, less engagement, and ultimately fewer conversions. When it comes time to make your video ask yourself one simple question: Would I share this video if I saw it?
If the answer is “no,” redefine your target audience and try again. Remember why you’re making this video in the first place. You want to add value to potential customers and cultivate leads. A video is all about awareness and widening the sales funnel for more conversions. A high quality explainer video does both.
For more info about how you can succeed with animated video, download our new eBook, How to Succeed with Animated Video, and get started supercharging your SEO strategy with high quality video.