Creating Video For Search Engines

My job has lately had me producing a lot of video content for the Web, and I suppose my timing couldn't be better. Google just decided to roll out auto-captioning, which will vastly improve the accessibility of video files to search engines. And while Web videos are hardly a novelty, they're starting to influence conversations more and more. Here, then, are a few observations about what (and what not) to do when producing video for the Web.

Videos Rank!

One of the biggest surprises I found after producing a few videos was how quickly they ranked on Google's Video Search. While everybody and his brother have spent years optimizing their pages for Google Web search, a far fewer number have deployed video assets. While it's an overstatement to say that Video Search is virgin terrain, there's clearly an opportunity here if you have something to say -- and a way to say it with video. Does the fact that we decided to host these videos on Google-owned YouTube influence their rankings? Well, it clearly doesn't hurt.



Short is Better

Numerous studies have shown that Web video watchers prefer short over long-form video content. So what do you do if you've shot a 30-minute interview? Cutting it into four or five topic-themed segments, from roughly four to five minutes in length, is labor-intensive, but it's worth your while to do so, because each segment can be titled with a unique topic name, which will boost your rankings. Once you've created the clips, you can easily organize them on YouTube using its playlist system, which lets you control the running sequence of each clip.

Traffic Spikes Are Great, But Plan For The "Slow Tail"

There's nothing better than having a video "go viral," but this doesn't happen often. However, over time, a video that starts out with a middling performance can rack up many thousands of views over a period of weeks or months. Keep this long time horizon in mind and make sure your videos are date-stamped. Somebody watching your video a year from now won't mind if it's old, as long as you forewarn them of the recording date. Your first Web video may not nail a prospect in its first month, but a year from now may land a big fish. Think of each video you make as another "hook" in the water that may be nibbled on next week, or many months in the future.

Inexpensive Productions Don't Have To Look Cheap

As someone with an extensive A/V background, I'm still amazed at how powerful today's NLE (Non-Linear Editing) systems are. Adobe Premiere is preferred by many digital video professionals, but has a fairly steep learning curve. Unless your production needs are particularly fancy, you can probably achieve equivalent results with less expensive software such as Sony Vegas. There are tons of great online video production resources on the Web that can help you set up temporary or permanent video production environments. In my view, the biggest mistakes that people make when doing Web videos is failing to light properly and to produce quality audio.

5 comments about "Creating Video For Search Engines".
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  1. Mary Spio from Next Galaxy, November 30, 2009 at 10:41 a.m.

    Steve Great Stuff
    This is right on par with what we are seeing. Online video is a great opportunity for brands to provide valuable information when their customers are looking for it. Not only do search engines reward video with fast indexing, searchers reward video too, by actually engaging with it. I noticed that more and more people are adding the word video to their search strings.

    Makes sense, most people would rather watch a short video than read pages of text.

  2. Ruth Barrett from, November 30, 2009 at 11:35 a.m.

    In our work aggregating video content on the topic of sustainability, we have reviewed and included in the collection a wide variety of formats - interviews, speeches, panel presentations, documentaries, performances, news series - long and short forms. Duplication is the biggest problem (60% plus with poor sound quality a big challenge for those recording in-situ. No matter, it still comes down to having something important to communicate. Content remains king.

  3. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, November 30, 2009 at 3:44 p.m.

    Another great use of video is to capture 'testimonials'. You only need a small digital camera and although some may not like Microsoft they do provide an very good free software called 'Movie Maker' which will allow editing, subtitles and changing to correct formats for posting to the web. I post to YouTube and then inbed the video into my blog or send out the link in email campaigns.
    Cheers Kurt Johansen Email Mastery

  4. Betsy Ditrinco, November 30, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.

    Great information. Once we heard YouTube is the #4 search engine it became evident that video is taking over the Internet. While interactivity constantly reinvents itself, most markets will be less interested in reading and more interested in pressing "play." The only real trick lies in Ruth's reply: "Content remains king." Don't just make a video because you heard its innovative... make one because you have something valuable to share.

  5. Sam Scaman from WideSkreen.TV, December 8, 2009 at 10:58 a.m.

    Hi Steve...

    I love the article!

    Before Thanksgiving we launched a $99 "Starter Video Package" for marketing a product or business:

    The response has been great up to this point. The goal was to get small to medium sized businesses into video--without costing them an arm and a leg. Granted, some businesses have someone smart enough to learn how to light, mic, shoot and edit. However, most do not. As you mentioned, it is a steep learning curve. Thus the idea of the Starter Video Package.

    As an SEO aside--last year we did a featured video for the ICA Foodshelf. If you Google, " ica food shelf " ... you will see first hand the power of video within a search. If you do a video search of " ica food shelf ", the ICA Foodshelf video is the top 7 video returns.

    I hope some of this information is helpful.

    Have a wonderful Holiday!!!

    Sam Scaman

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