Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Optimizing Videos for Search

Video SEO is quickly gaining attention as a new way to attract free, organic traffic to your website. Like traditional SEO, the goal of video SEO is to get your content featured on search engine results pages and in front of interested web users. This document will provide you with a strong understanding of video SEO. We will also tell you how to implement it on your own site via 15 unique SEO tips.

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Why Focus on Video SEO?

Video is an amazingly powerful tool. A short video can contain the same amount of information as pages of text. Because of this, video allows visitors to save a significant amount of time finding answers to questions.

Video is also the ideal way to build a brand. It has been shown to increase conversion rates by up to 80%. Similarly, ecommerce pages that feature videos see increased conversion rates, and increased average order value

Finally, video also helps to drive traffic to your website. Google prominently displays video results in their search results, leading to double digit jumps in traffic for some websites. For example, a law firm created a series of videos targeting specific keywords. Once published, the website saw a 14% increase in site traffic. 

Video accounts for over 80% of all web traffic. With such a high consumption of video content, it makes sense to take advantage of every opportunity to capture additional website traffic and exposure with the help of your video content. 

With so many positive aspects to video, it makes sense to put it to work on your website attracting new visitors and building your brand.

Before You Start Optimizing

Before we can work on a video’s SEO, we need to figure out what its goal is, and how you intend to share it with your viewers. These two steps will help you determine the SEO strategy to use that will provide the best possible results.

The Video’s Goals Drive the Video SEO Strategy

The first step in the process is to determine what you want from your video. There are four main goals of a video, including to; Increase Traffic, Increase Conversions, Build Links/Shares, and to Increase Brand Awareness.

Drive Web Traffic With Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are enhanced listings on search engine results pages (SERPs) like Google. In addition to a headline and a couple lines of text, rich snippets feature a video thumbnail. The thumbnail really makes video search results stand out from the rest. Rich snippets help increase click through rates, brand awareness, and more.

If your goal is to drive more traffic to your website or landing page, video is the perfect tool. Users are much more likely to click a video search result than a text result.

An example of how to get video rich snippets
This SERP rich snippet shows multiple videos on the non-video results page.

Increase Web Page Conversions

Videos are quite adept at increasing conversion rates. In fact, some sites have seen conversion rate boosts of 80% after adding a video to a landing page. Many websites use videos as part of the sales funnel. Videos can quickly explain a product or service without requiring the viewers to read paragraphs of text. 

Video improves conversion rates

Build Links or Social Shares

Videos are an easy way to share a large amount of information. They can be used to help build links by embedding on other websites or by sharing via social media.   

sharing videos with a group of people

Grow Brand Awareness

Video is perhaps the best branding tool ever invented. It excels at telling stories and shaping consumer thoughts about brands. Its easy mobility makes it great for sharing.  

Increase brand awareness with video

Select A Video Hosting Platform Based On These Goals

Just because everyone knows about YouTube does not mean it is the best video hosting platform for all situations. In some cases, YouTube could even hinder goal completion. Instead of defaulting to YouTube, choose your video streaming service based on your video’s goals. It is also worth noting you can use more than one video host as part of your overall marketing strategy. 

Video hosting options chart
image via Moz.com

Video Goal: Drive Traffic

If your goal is to increase website traffic, you do not want to send a click to YouTube. You need the link to send users to your website. This is where self-hosting and using streaming video services such as Lucid shine. With the correct SEO strategy, you can have your site highlighted with a giant video thumbnail on search results pages.  

Video Goal: Increase Conversions

It is best to use a video streaming service (not YouTube) if your videos exist to improve conversion rates. These services typically offer users white-labeled video players that are fully customizable to individual website needs. They also stream videos without distracting links to third party content that cause goal abandonment. Some will embed ads in your videos if you request they do so, unlike YouTube that can play ads on any video, monetized or not. 

Video Goal: Build Links & Shares

For those focused on link building with videos, it makes sense to use a video streaming service that offers easy embeds on any website. In this case, YouTube would not be ideal as the video will link the user to YouTube, not your website. Similarly, you want to ensure that a video shared on social media links the user to your website. Building inbound links like this will also help improve your website’s domain authority.     

Video Goal: Brand Awareness

Brand awareness videos should be spread across all platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. The goal of brand awareness is to be seen, and spreading your videos far and wide is the perfect way to gain brand exposure.

Video SEO Tips

Tips On How To Improve Your Video’s SEO

Now that we’ve figured out what our video’s goal is, and how we plan on hosting it, it’s time to focus on the individual video SEO steps that will help your video get found. These 15 tips range from more traditional SEO tasks to video-specific tasks so that search engines can understand what your video is about. 

Video SEO Tip 1: Perform Keyword Research First

Video SEO, just like regular SEO, focuses on having a web page be ranked for a specific keyword on Google, Big, Yahoo, etc. In order to optimize for a keyword, we must first select the best keywords to target. This is where keyword research comes in. 

Tools such as SEMRush, Moz, and SpyFu can help you uncover video keywords. Do your best to find a focus keyword (and possibly a few secondary keywords) that are both high in monthly search volume and low in keyword difficulty. With a little bit of time and some luck, you may be able to uncover a hidden gem. One that is easy to rank for and that a lot of people search for every month. 

SpyFu Keyword SEO Results

Once, and only once you have selected your keyword should you begin the process of creating your video. A video that was made with SEO in mind is a video that will excel in SEO. Write the script around your focus keyword and do your best to keep the video to about just that keyword.

You can always make other videos for other pages that focus on other keywords. Don’t feel like your video needs to work for a wide range of focus keywords. This also allows you to keep your video short and focused.

Video SEO Tip 2: Make Sure Videos Already Show For Your Keyword

While it is not impossible to have a rich snippet show up for the first time ever in a search results page, you’ll have an easier time getting your video to show on search results pages that already have videos included. 

Video SEO Tip 3: Make Sure The Video & Web Page Content Match

Google and other search providers look at more than just your video to determine if it should be listed in their SERPs. The content of the page the video is embedded within has strong influence over your SEO ranking. With that in mind, make sure that your web page and video’s content matches. 

For instance, if your video is about how to change a tire on a bike, your video should be about the task, as should the text on the page the video is displayed within. Be sure to do traditional SEO tasks such as including the focus keyword in your H1 tag. It’s good to include your keyword in image alt attributes and where it makes sense in the page’s copy.

There is a whole lot more to traditional SEO than what was listed above. If you are new to SEO, it would be a good idea to brush up on SEO basics here

Video SEO Tip 4: Create An Engaging Video Thumbnail

While an engaging photo will not directly improve your SEO rankings, it can have a strong effect on click through rate. And links with high click through rates tell Google that the link is relevant for a keyword, meaning that a video thumbnail can indirectly improve SEO rankings. 

Create an engaging video thumbnail

When it comes to creating an engaging video thumbnail that will encourage clicks there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure the chosen thumbnail matches the keyword intent. Going back to the tire changing example above, the thumbnail should show a bike’s tire being changed. 

Next, add a small amount of text or emojis to the thumbnail as a call to action. Don’t add too much embellishment, as you want to avoid making it look like clickbait and scaring clicks away. Simple usually wins over complex.

In the example featured snippet above, you can clearly see how the video thumbnail was optimized. The large HOW TO… tells people that this is a how to video. The title on the top left matches the page’s content and search keywords. Anyone who sees this will immediately know that this video will show them how to change a bike tire. That is probably the keyword they used to find the video. Such a high keyword-result match virtually guarantees a click.  

Video SEO Tip 5: Create A Video SEO-focused Title & Description

Just as a page’s title should reflect the focus keyword, so should the video’s title (and file name, for that matter). It is best if the focus keyword appears exactly in the title. For example, going back to our tire changing video, if our focus keyword is “How To Change A Bike Tire,” we want to have that exact keyword in the title. Avoid using something similar, but different, like “Changing a Tire is Easy.” 

Be sure to keep your video titles short, so they fit on one line in the SERP. If it makes sense, adding numbers or statistics to your title can help encourage a view. Titles with “3 easy steps” or “10 tips for success” tend to perform well. Sometimes using a questions as the title can help drive traffic as well. 

clear title and description

Try and include the full keyword in the video’s descriptions as well. Use the keyword so that it naturally fits in the description’s sentence. If that’s not possible, be sure to at least include the main words of the keyword (how to, change, bike, tire). This way, Google at least sees them listed in the description, even if they are not in the original keyword order. This is also your chance to get some other long tail keywords indexed. 

Ultimately, your video title and description should give someone a reason to want to watch your video. If your keyword is a question, your title and description should offer a solution. If the keyword is an informational search, you should let the searcher know your video is informative. 

Video SEO Tip 6: Add A Video Transcript To Your Page

Google and other search engines do not process your video to understand its contents. Instead, it relies on the web site owner. It is our job to give the search engine the information it needs to understand the contents of the video. One easy way to do this is to include a transcript of the video on the page in which the video is embedded. 

To make this even more effective, be sure that the focus keyword is spoken in the video where it makes sense to include it. Just as you would perform SEO on a web page’s text, you should also perform SEO on a video’s script for best SEO results. 

Video SEO Tip 7: Only Optimize For The First Video On A Page

Google only looks to the first video presented on a page for SEO purposes. Going back to our bike tire example, you would want to make sure that the How To Change A Bike Tire video is listed first. Any videos further down explaining, for example, how to patch a tube would be ignored by a search robot. 

This also means that, if your site contains a video header or slider, Google may never notice your SEO-optimized video below if in the page’s main contents. If this is the case for your site, be sure to change the video header to a still image for pages that you want to try to target for video SEO. 

Video SEO Tip 8: Embed the Video Front & Center

If your main goal is to get people to your page to watch a video, you should feature this video prominently. Often we see pages that have a large amount of text and images at the top, and then they include a video version of the page’s content at the bottom. Given that most people will never scroll to the end of a web page, there’s a good chance that a video hidden down there will rarely be seen. 

Instead, embed your video towards the top of the page, above the fold. Make it as easy as possible for someone to see it and watch it. Interestingly, the very top of a web page sees about 20% fewer views than slightly lower down. This is because many users start scrolling before the page finishes loading. With that in mind, you should keep your video towards the top, but not at the top of the page.

Video is a great time saver for web visitors. It’s easier to get your message across via video than asking a visitor to read long paragraphs.

Video SEO Tip 9: Only Embed your Video on One Page

Just as we want to avoid keyword cannibalization in our web pages, we want to do the same with our videos. If your video is truly designed with SEO in mind, it should only be on a single page. This way you don’t have multiple pages on your site fighting to rank on the same video keyword.  

Video SEO Tip 10: Use Video Schema Markup

There are very few things we can do as a web site owner that we KNOW will help with SEO. Google simply does not publish the details of how they choose their rankings. Instead they choose to provide us their best practices. They do, however, offer a few things you can do that will definitely help with SEO. One such example is enabling SSL encryption on all pages, and not just checkout pages. Another is to use schema markup to get video on Google. 

schema markup for video seo

We’re not going to go into the exact details of this structured data’s syntax, all of that can be found in Google’s schema markup documentation. Rather, we suggest that you either brush up on your javascript to implement JSON-LD metadata or HTML for microdata. 

Be careful. Google already knows that you can use the videoObject markup for blackhat SEO. Be sure that your schema markup follows their guidelines and you won’t have a problem. You may validate your video schema markup using Google’s Rich Results Test

Video SEO Tip 11: Share Video Sitemaps With Search Engines

Technically search spiders do not require a sitemap to find content that is linked to from other pages. However, it’s still important to provide a video sitemap, to quickly announce site changes and added videos. Again, there’s no need to go over the exact syntax of a video sitemap. You can find all of it on Google’s video sitemap page

One nice thing about video sitemaps is that Google is fine if you make a video sitemap that is separate from your main sitemap. That means you can continue to use whatever sitemap tool you currently use, such as Yoast. You would just submit another sitemap with links and descriptions of your videos. 

Video SEO Tip 12: Don’t Ignore YouTube

Earlier we explained that hosting your video with a streaming service is your best course of action if you are looking to increase website conversions or drive more traffic to your website. And that’s still true. However, that does not mean you want to completely ignore YouTube. 

Instead of using YouTube as the ultimate host of your video, you can use YouTube to drive traffic to your self-hosted video. There are many ways to do this. One such way is to share a shorter preview on YouTube and then link the user to your website for the full video. If you do things right you could even earn two rich snippets. One linking to your website, and one linking to YouTube that then links to your website. 

Video SEO Tip 13: Optimize For Mobile

The days of optimizing your website for the desktop user alone are past. We must always think about mobile usability when creating content. This holds true for video as well. With more than half of all video consumption occurring on a mobile device, we must make sure to optimize our video content for mobile viewing. 

Most streaming services will automatically create multiple video files and stream the correct version. The do this based on information such as client device, screen size and connection speed. If you prefer to self-host your videos, you should look into video plugins that allow your site to stream mobile-optimized video content. 

Video SEO Tip 14: Allow Your Video To Be Embedded Anywhere

Most self-hosted videos do not allow third party embedding, meaning that the video can only be seen on your website. In many cases, this is perfectly fine and even preferred. However, video content can be used in many ways, including as a link building tool. 

You can easily gain inbound links or backlinks from other websites if you can create quality content that other people would want to embed on their own website. These backlinks go a long way towards increasing your website’s domain authority. A high domain authority correlates with an improvement in your site’s SEO. 

Video SEO Tip 15: People Now Expect Video, Don’t Disappoint

With the growth of work from home, video on social media, and ecommerce shopping, consumers have come to expect video to be part of their entertainment, research and purchase processes. Don’t disappoint them! Even a quick, low cost video can help improve web page performance metrics. Adding video can improve time on page, page abandonment rates, conversion rates and click thru rates of a page. Each of these metrics has a direct impact on your SEO. Adding a video to your web page can help improve your SEO outcome.