Talking Video Search: Q&A With Wistia's Phil Nottingham

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a moving picture should be worth even more. With the explosion of video roll on social media (and everywhere else on the Web, it seems), it’s time for marketers to begin thinking about how to use searchable video in their plans. Search Insider spoke with Phil Nottingham, video marketing expert at video hosting company Wistia, about this growing field.

To begin, how do you define “video search”?
There's a few different layers to how you might think about video search, as opposed to other types of search. When you think about how people treat media overall, it considers text content as contributed to a page. If you search for images, you’re going to get certain pictures; if you search for shopping, you’re going to get listings; if you search for news, you’ll a different kind of article that’s pre-defined. Video is different from all of those things. When we end up thinking about video search, what we’re thinking about is page-based search with a video as an element to garner traffic through both universal search and through Google video search.



There are also search engines that are video based, the biggest of which is YouTube. That is a different kind of search to be optimized for, and that is a secondary part of video search marketing overall.

What do we see happening with video search in 2017?
The first thing is Google is going to get much better at working out what is video [content]. The main thing we’re going to see changing is they’re going to get better at identifying videos, and they’re going to get more selective about what type of video goes with what type of query.

I think video search is going to start to look more like social network optimization. Facebook has become the second-most dominant video platform on the Web, and I believe Facebook is likely to outpace YouTube in video consumption in the next year. That’s going to mean a lot of brands deciding to start investing in Facebook video marketing, as opposed to just YouTube. And the consequence of that is YouTube is going to really start pushing descriptions and to encourage brands to more regularly publish content. So the search media professionals are going to have to start speaking to the social media professionals to make this work moving forward.

What do marketers need to know? How should they approach their video and video search?
The first thing to work out is where to be present and why. A few years ago, there was a lot of talk about tech content on your Web site, like landing pages, product pages, blogs. And particularly in search, how to create those different pages to optimize for different queries. I think the same thing is going to play out in video.

I think people have a habit of thinking video is essentially a commodity, that they’ll make the video and then they’ll optimize against it. What we’re going to find is that the companies that will win out are the companies that are thinking far more strategically. They’re going to start by understanding where the gaps are in their opportunity, what people might be searching for and where they’re going to get video results. And using that data to inform the actual creative.

We’re going to see brands having to do a lot more smaller videos. Instead of investing $50,000 in one high-quality produced video, they’re going to have much more bang for the buck when they invest $50,000 in 50 different kinds of videos.

How do search and video interact?
As things stand now, it’s optimizing clicks through the title and the thumbnail associated with the video. We can see a future world where essentially [they] take the videos themselves and they’ll be able break it down and parse it. They’ll be able to break down the images that make up the video and the audio, and then be able to index this, which allows you to think about search in a far more serious manner.

We think about the future where technology will deconstruct the elements of the video, and people will be able to query that. If we look five years down the line, everything will be a mixed media. We’ll stop talking about things as “text” and “video” and “audio.” We’ll not be searching for a type of media, but [instead] searching for the answer that we want. So, businesses are going to have to start thinking about creating a ton of video pretty soon, or they’re going to be left in the dust.

How does that apply to marketing?
Marketers will have to start considering the processes they’re using to determine the content they create. It needs to be disruptive. And they need to start bringing in that question of “What is the appropriate media type to deliver this message?” very, very early in their planning. Right now, it’s often siloed or considered a separate budget. What they need to start doing is to integrate video so it’s not just the province of marketing, but it’s also customer support and sales and human resources. And to think about video making and distribution in every aspect of the business.

How is video search different from text-based search?
The first thing they need to determine is what kind of queries are going to be delivering video results. You’re not going to get video search results for every kind of query. If I search for “breakfast,” the first things that are going to come up are local breakfast places. It’s unlikely a video search is going to be relevant to that query. You have to understand what kind of queries and topics are going to get video search results. Then you need to figure out if you can create a video that’s going to be useful for this kind of query.

How should you start developing a video search strategy?
I would start with the numbers, knowing your particular landscape or niche and how that fits into the way in which both Google and YouTube are thinking about video content. Use the tools available to find out how many people are using video results, and then use that to understand where you’re going to get the biggest bang for the buck.

From there, you work out where you have unique expertise and perspective, and where you can create something that you think is going to be better than the other videos out there. The ideal opportunity is one where you see a lot of search activity and a video that is seeing returns that is of low quality. That’s where you can ask, “What can we create that’s going to help the user in that instance?”

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