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.
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.