This article will cover best practice tips and tricks for optimising your video content for Search.
To begin with, it is important to acknowledge that a major component of video SEO is YouTube SEO specifically. YouTube is the largest video streaming site, and it’s owned by Google. It is not a social media platform in the traditional sense but rather a video search engine and your efforts are best spent on using it as such.
Which video platform is best for SEO?
With that in mind, the first decision to make regarding video SEO is to decide which video platform to use. Choosing the right video hosting platform is dependent on your specific video goals. Is video engagement your key metric? Overall number of video plays? Percentage watched? Traffic to site?
Broadly speaking, it’s best to use YouTube if you’re looking for your video to rank for viewership metrics (on Google as well as YouTube itself). Or, you can self host the video on your own site if gaining organic traffic to your website is your focus. The distinction is important. People use Google and YouTube for video differently. It’s naive to expect people to go from your YouTube hosted video to your website. That is not how people typically use YouTube; autoplay, suggested videos, playlists and 'recommended for you' are all designed to keep people on YouTube and not following outbound links.
If you’re looking to use video to drive traffic to your site, self hosting the video on your website is best. Whether it’s on a key service page, landing page or blog page, the on-page content must reflect that of the video, be relevant and optimised for Search.
Ensure the video is the focus of the page. Ideally, you’ll only have one video per page rather than multiple different videos on page because that will dilute the keyword targeting efforts and consequent chances of that video ranking. NB: this is from an SEO perspective - not a call to remove your video resource pages as these function from a UX perspective, offering a place for people already on your website to find video content rather than driving traffic to your website from video Search Engine Result Pages (SERP).
If you must have more than one video on your landing page, ensure that the video you want ranked is the first video on the page.
Importantly, you should not embed the same video in multiple places if you can avoid it. You wouldn’t do this with copy, so don’t do it with video.
Optimising videos for YouTube
YouTube offers lots of methods for optimising for video content based on important video metrics that include audience retention as well as total (session) watch time:
Improve your audience retention time by creating playlists as well as specific series playlists. Series playlists are a way to indicate to YouTube the chronology of your videos, ensuring the order of episodes remains correct. YouTube cards (mid-video CTAs that drive action) & YouTube end screens (up next / watch next videos) are two other tools to keep your audience engaged with your channel.
Ensuring a total watch time involves creating engaging videos that keep attention - consider formats such as “at the end of the video…”, “we will discuss that in more detail shortly” etc. High quality recording, eye catching graphics and transitions are attention grabbing; dull, meandering monologues are skip worthy.
This blog is focused on video SEO (post-production) rather than best practice on how to create good video content. For more information on how to create engaging videos, check out the content from our pals at Life Media UK. The first 5 seconds are often cited as the most important for any video and this remains true. If you don’t pique a user’s interest immediately, you’ll lose them quickly.
Pay attention to the title and description of your video. The title needs to include your keyword and to attract the click.
Regarding the video description, the same logic applies as to any SEO-focused copy. Write descriptive, optimised and, relevant descriptions as this text is crawlable by search engines.
Be mindful of the fold: many video platforms offer a description field that is truncated with a ‘Read More’ button. Keep this in mind in the same way you’d do for blog / text content with a summarised and optimised sentence appearing above the fold.
As with the video description, video transcripts are crawlable. Transcripts are important with regards to SEO and accessibility. Transcripts are a fantastic way for your page/video to gain relevance for the stuff you actually talk about in the video. Highly recommended.
Adding video schema (JSON LD) is a must and is specifically noted by Google Search as a method of getting Google to rank your video:
While Google tries to automatically understand details about your video, you can explicitly provide information, such as the description, thumbnail URL, upload date, and duration, by marking up your video with VideoObject. Videos can appear in Google Search results, video search results, Google Images, and Google Discover.
Video schema templates are easy to find if you’re not confident in writing it yourself and some platforms will do this automatically. Wistia is one such platform that automatically adds video structured data for you. The Yoast Wordpress plugin for videos is another good tool for this.
Make sure your video thumbnail is click worthy and reflects the video content! Whilst this won’t directly impact the rankability of your video, it can influence your CTR, which does.
Creating timestamps to get suggested video clips
Suggested clips are a type of featured snippet where the most important section of a video is demarcated on the SERP. These most often appear on “how to” or informational videos (see below).
Timestamps are a link to a specific moment in a video, allowing a user to jump to the most important bit of content. As well as improving user experience, timestamps are what search engines use to create these Key Moment featured snippets.
If your video contains a multi-step process, consider including multiple timestamps in the description to each step so users can jump back and forth as required. Obviously, list timestamps in chronological order otherwise you’ll confuse both robots and humans. Labeling the timestamps with descriptive copy is another tip - “put pasta into the boiling water” rather than 1 min 4 secs, for example. Up to 40 characters is generally accepted as the optimum label length.
Currently, Key Moments on Google SERPs are limited to YouTube videos, but the value of timestamps for your users is a good business case to setting these up whilst we wait for Google to display Key Moments from non-YouTube content.
Example of timestamps in a YouTube video
Keyword Research For Video
How to find keywords for video
Finding keywords for video content ideation requires a nuanced understanding of intent that you don't always need when doing keyword research for straightforward blog content. Remember, people use Google Search and YouTube differently and only certain search queries have video intent. Google Keyword planner does not reflect this. To identify search terms that have large monthly search volumes and video intent, look for SERPs that contain videos already.
Creating a video around a keyword that doesn’t already have a video SERP is a risk - there's no way of gauging your chance of success - breaking news/hyper new content or information excluded. Understanding the video indent of your keywords is vital to your video marketing strategy.
Format wise, 'How To' videos are always a good shout.
A final top tip regarding video SEO best practice is to publish your videos only when everything is in place. The world of video is fast paced, and the first 48 hours is often cited as the most critical. Don’t publish and schedule adding schema for tomorrow morning - you’ll have missed the boat.