Video Optimization 101 – SEMI Style

Why all the Hype about Online Video and Online Video Optimization?

Some quick data:

  • Over 80% of internet users will view video content at least once a month this year (more than 150 million people) – emarketer.
  • comScore data indicates that heavy viewers (top 20%) of viewers average 841 minutes of online viewing per month, while the average time spent watching online videos by moderate viewers (next 30%) averages 77 minutes per month.
  • comScore data also reveals that 141 million unique viewers in the US watched over 10 billion videos in December.

While there is much data not yet available regarding online video ROI, CTR and effective target marketing (for example), that data will filter through into the public realm shortly. As with any other medium, if the video answers a need, if it attracts interest, if it facilitates interaction with a site and if it is relevant to the site content, then it will ultimately fall to the landing page and site itself to convert those visitors, not the video … unless that is the express objective of the video and video click through lands on a conversion page.

Regardless, video is an immensely powerful online medium and provide an enormous amount of editorial lee-way to advertisers. You can be funnier in video, more whacky, more extreme, more ‘interesting’. It is ‘likely’ that fewer viewers will take offence if your video is tasteful but not abusive than in most other online advertising media today simply because of the time you have to make your point, and the obvious ‘spoof’ or otherwise nature of your video if, for example, you opt for comedy. At the same time, you are dealing with a somewhat jaded audience looking to be entertained. Creating uniquely appealing and interesting videos is not that easy.

What do the viewers expect?

There are a number of key consumer behaviors driving online video consumer expectations:

  1. automatic grouping of videos based on personal taste (similar to personalization in search results)
  2. increased ability of users to aggregate and syndicate videos
  3. peer introduction, identification and/or assimilation; what’s cool? what’s not?
  4. the new prime time as video replaces TV networking in prime time and other time slots
  5. improved video search and relevance

So, How Do You Go About Optimizing Videos For The Web?

Best SEO Practice

As with every project aimed at optimizing for the search engines, keyword research and appropriate inclusion is of paramount importance. This is a little trickier with video as the spiders can’t ‘watch’ the video or ‘hear’ what it being said.

Best practice video optimization involves the following:

  • Surrounding videos with text (mixing html content with the actual video players) will provide both better usability and greater opportunity for optimization by keyphrase relevance.
  • Optimizing the text surrounding the video to ensure topical relevancy to video content. This involves optimizing for the primary identified search phrase, and the word ‘video’, to identify the video with the associated onpage textual elements. As always, content must be compelling. Catchy titles are very important.
  • Encoding for the right keywords and utilizing both this keyphrase and the word ‘video’ in all possible elements including file name (use hyphens between words not underscores due to parsing issues) tags, metadata and other text as well as html elements including the URL.
  • Optimizing the spoken word is a contentious issue. Admittedly voice-recognition is not ready to be taken too seriously in planning, however it is growing, maturing and advancing rapidly. Optical character recognition (OCR) is the ability to recognize characters. It too is improving. It is therefore advisable to include keywords in the video subtitles, wherever possible.
  • There is evidence that quality backlinks, with more weight on external, are actively influencing Google’s rankings of videos and are a significant part of the current Google video algorithm. The backlinks must contain the primary keyword and the word ‘video’ in the anchor text. One way to facilitate this is to include the keyword and the word ‘video’ in the URL as mentioned above. Many people link by making the URL the anchor text.
  • Create a separate directory for videos keeping all videos in the same directory, but only one video per URL. If possible, create a ‘video’ subdomain – i.e. In this case, if someone wanted to link to a video about cute kittens, the URL would be
  • Create a separate video sitemap and submit to both video and content engines.
  • Create, boost and establish your brand by including your logo (like CNN) via a watermark. It is important that a call to action be included in the creative or the entertainment of watching the video may not result in further interaction with this market. More men watch videos than women too, incidentally.
  • Enable video rating. Both video search engines (VSEs) and users pay attention to ‘popular’ or highly rated videos.
  • Keep clips short, more than 3 minutes is much too long in general. Optimal length depends on the objective of the video. Most video watchers are still trained to expect short 30 second to 1 minute bursts of information when the video objective is sales-promotional in nature. Amusing editorial type videos and educational videos can, for example, be longer. In this case your target audience is likely to be far smaller. If you choose to target the same audience you should expect, in most cases, to lose a lot of viewers before the end of the clip. Recent research suggests that viewers prefer shorter advertising clips and that they are attracted to new clips. Promoting an old clip is unlikely to do you very much good regardless of how well it performed the first time around – generally speaking.
  • Flash, pop-up players, and all-in-one video players should be avoided if possible.

Video File Format – Compression and Export

The video file format determines who will see it. To ensure coverage for the maximum number of end users it is advisable to offer them a number of export versions. For example:

  • For the site – provide three export versions; namely Flash, Windows Media (also the best all purpose choice if you’re limited), and Quicktime.
  • For search engine submission  – provide MPEG4.

Watch the data rate or the viewing experience will not be optimal. For interest, the maximum consumer quality video data rate on YouTube is 256kb/sec, the median US downloads speed is 1.97megabits per second (200kb/sec), and the entry level speed is about 55 kb/sec.

Once the feed is published, make sure it is validated (e.g. Feedburner). Feedburner also has its own RSS validator.

Video Promotion

Video submission to video search engines (VSEs) is vital, and the number of VSE’s continues to grow at an exponential rate. There are three main ways to get content into a VSE:

  1. Crawler based VSEs actively crawl the web looking for video content (e.g Tueveo). For these VSEs keyword prominence appears to be important.
  2. Upload VSEs require you to upload videos. An example is YouTube. These often request specific information for certain fields, this is ideal for including keywords and the word ‘video’ where possible.
  3. The third type of submission that is possible after crawl and upload is RSS. Examples include Yahoo! And Blinkx. They require an HTML RSS feed. With these include title, description, thumbnails, full transcript and category within the RSS structure.

Analysis and Performance

Make sure your performance indicators are clearly defined and that the analytics utilized is capable of measuring the core data; for example:

  • time spent viewing, both individual and gross
  • most popular videos in terms of view completion
  • least popular videos in terms of rate of abandonment
  • best performing videos in terms of conversion (assuming you include a call to action in the video)
  • failure rates in terms of potential viewers who could not open the video

Ultimately, video search is a burgeoning way to gain exposure and interest. Video viewing is gaining in popularity. If you can harness it effectively you will make a difference to both your online presence, and ultimately your online revenue stream.

A great example of how online video has worked for a company is Blendtecs ‘Will It Blend’. It does work. It is viable. It can change your business.

contact Laura: laura at semcanada dot org

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