Video SEO: 13 Ways Video Boosts SEO

Shawn Forno 11.21.2017

A great explainer video does more than just explain what your company is all about. Online video boosts your SEO so that your site gets more links, more views, and better results for the keywords that matter most to you and your target audience.  And it gets better, once people click over to your site, your explainer video improves other SEO metrics like dwell time, bounce rate and CTR so that your website stays on top of the Google pile. Video is the ultimate one-two punch for any SEO strategy. Video gets your site to rank for competitive keywords and video keeps people around for long enough to engage with your high quality content (which Google loves). But don’t just take my word for it. Here are 13 ways video boosts SEO and why video SEO is so important for your brand, your conversions, and your company growth.

Video SEO Basics: Blended Search Results

You can trace the importance of video SEO back to May 16th, 2007, the day Google introduced “Universal Search.” At the time it was ground breaking to see images, shopping sites, videos, blogs and corporate home pages all displayed on the same page (in competition with each other for that prime digital real estate), but today, we take blended search results for granted. Depending on how relevant the content is, any site can rank for just about any keyword query. Shopping sites and blogs are competing against video tutorials and wikipedia pages for search engine results page (SERP) rankings, and ultimately for clicks. How do you stand out from the crowd of sites and signal to both Google’s enigmatic search bots and to users looking for content and solutions that your site is the most relevant and helpful? Video.

Simply put, sites with video content are more likely to rank for competitive keywords and show up more prominently in search results. A video link is all the SEO you need to put your website—and your company—on the map for bots and buyers. There are only two reasons to create a quality explainer video: to increase brand awareness and drive conversions. That’s it. Rob Toledo, a user engagement and bounce rate specialist at Shutterstock, simply says:

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]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. [/tweet_box]

An explainer video on your website or dedicated landing page, accomplishes both of these goals at the same time. 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 13 best practices for using video to boost your SEO:

  1. Improved SERP rank
  2. Bounce Rate & Dwell Time: Engagement
  3. CTR: Click-Through-Rate
  4. Quality backlinks

video SEO metrics

Video SEO: SERPs

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. Even more interesting is the explosive growth of mobile users. 2016 was the first year when the majority of online traffic came from mobile devices. And if there’s one thing mobile users love, it’s video. This growing trend toward video results and mobile devices means that Google search algorithms prioritize websites with quality video content. Video creates an SEO cascade effect.

These prime SERP rankings generate an incredible number of unique visits, and relevant video content works to keep users on-site long enough to signal to Google that “yes, this is a good website for x keyword.” This high volume and quality feedback (both important), generate better authority and continued SEO value. Established websites then generate even more authority with high-quality backlinks from other reputable sites and even more volume from social shares while also increasing CTR. The end result is great SEO, increased visibility and brand awareness and more conversions than nearly any other marketing strategy.

That was a mouthful, but basically: Good video > More website traffic > More conversions = Hurray. Just look at what video did for Dollar Shave Club.

This one explainer video not only (awesomely) explains their business model, but additionally generated an incredible amount of SEO juice for the fledgling startup. Millions of people watched the video, increasing on site “dwell time” and visibility so it ranked well in relevant keyword searches, but the video did a lot more behind the scenes work. This video garnered thousands of quality backlinks from sources ranging from the NYTimes to marketing content sites. Each think piece and review was free marketing that continued to generate authority and value for the Dollar Shave Club domain. The end result: millions of people signed up for the service, and Unilever bought the startup for $1 billion in 2016. Not bad for a minute and a half long explainer video and a little SEO magic.

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:

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 first page of Google search results for keywords your company cares about is what video SEO is all about. 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.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]”People spent 2.6x more time on pages with video than pages without.”[/tweet_box]

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.”

video SEO

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:

  1. Is your website helpful/valuable?
  2. 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.

video SEO

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?

video SEO

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.

video SEO

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.

Future Proof Video SEO: Link Diversity

No one—and I mean no one (not even Rand Fishkin)—can predict Google search algorithm updates and changes. Google keeps the precise factors that influence SEO a closely held secret, but that doesn’t mean we can’t interpret the results to find ways to improve SEO with video. Forget the black hat SEO hacks and keyword stuffing. Google is hip to most SEO shenanigans these days (even link farms),. Instead of gaming the system with short-lived SEO pops that fade the second Google adjusts their algorithm, create long-lasting SEO value with video SEO via link diversity.

SEO Rank Specialists describe link diversity as, “A healthy, natural looking link profile.” That means

It’s good advice not to put all your eggs in one basket, so why would you base your entire SEO strategy on one type of content? Written content, viable backlinks, page authority, and a number of other metrics each signal to Google bots that your site is worthwhile. However, a diversity of metrics and content sends a number of signals that your page is great for a lot of keywords and searches. Diverse content (videos, blogs, images, and even audio) mean different things for different queries, and an SEO strategy buffered by video content will shield your site against any sudden changes in your target demographics and user base should the algorithm or even the content market shift.

Essentially, if all of your SEO value is rooted in one old landing page (without video), and Google suddenly changes the algorithm that prioritizes that specific page, your domain will plummet from SERP results.   However, if you have a site-wide SEO strategy built on written content, up to date landing pages, quality link structures, and video content, you are most likely immune to any behind the scenes SEO updates that Google can implement.

Link Diversity Best Practices

  • Domain Diversity: Video creates inbound links from different domains and landing pages, which strengthens your search engine authority
  • Link Type Diversity: Links from different kinds of content
  • Anchor Text Diversity: This relates mainly to written content, but experiment with different keywords in video titles and descriptions. Its more natural to try to rank for a variety of related keywords rather than a small handful of keywords, especially if they don’t organically flow with your video titles or content
  • URL Diversity: Your home page is important, but it’s not the only page you want to create video SEO for. Make dedicated landing pages with dedicated video to help other parts of your site rank for specific keywords. This site-wide video SEO approach will strengthen and reinforce your site as a whole

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.

video SEO

If SEO and keyword tracking is confusing, look at long tail video marketing through view count. A lot of companies measure their video’s success by the view count, and that’s alright. However, you have to be patient. A viral video is great, 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. Even a modest B2B video provides steady value for years 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

Video SEO is powerful. Here are five ways to optimize your video for the long tail.

Keyword Driven Video Titles

An engaging or timely title is important for social shares and engagement. However, your video title should try to rank for evergreen keywords. Don’t stuff your video title with buzz keywords. Just promise value with a title that explains what your video is about. This video for CEB is about performance management (and it says so in the title).

Create a Custom Video Thumbnail

Never let a video hosting platform—like YouTube—choose your thumbnail for you. Ever. You’ve spent a lot 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 SEO.

video SEO thumbnail

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 use mobile video to make purchasing decisions from start to finish, not just the discovery phase. That’s a big deal.

B2B video marketing long tail

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 and relevant keywords in the video meta description, 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

B2B video marketing

It’s tempting to get caught up in the latest viral video trend. Just remember that successful video marketing isn’t 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.

Old videos can still be strong video marketing assets, as long as they’re well made and still provide value.

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 erodes credibility. Even if you manage to rank for the right keywords, a baad video will ruin all your progress. A high bounce rate will lower your SERPs, and you’ll disappear from the rankings in no time. You’ll get fewer leads, less engagement, and ultimately fewer conversions. When you make your video ask one simple question: Would I share this video?

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.

Shawn Forno

Shawn Forno is a massive Studio Ghibli fan who does content marketing. In that order. Find his other writing and extensive travel blogging here.

Similar Stories