With the rise of user-generated content sites such as YouTube and MySpace Video, and traditional media content sites such as CNN and the BBC, it's becoming more difficult for consumers to find what they are looking for. With increased consumer appetite for online video content, the search engine optimization industry is quickly adjusting.
So what is video SEO? Simply put, video SEO is the art and science of ensuring that your video content attracts as much traffic as possible. Here's how to take advantage of current technology to increase the odds that your Web video can be found by people searching for clips on the Web.
Tip 1: Make your tags relevant
Tip 2: The more tags the merrier
Tip 3: Use consistent tags
Tip 4: Use adjectives in tags
Tip 5: Use tags that describe categories
Tip 6: Match titles and descriptions to tags
Tip 7: Don't use natural language in tags
How to Present Video
First-generation video search solutions depended entirely on metadata, the textual data that is applied to a piece of content in order to accurately describe it. This can include user-provided tags, an editorially written title or summary, a transcript of the speech in the video or information stored in the video file itself pertaining to its resolution, frame-rate and creation date.
Second-generation video search engines emerged as a reaction to the faults of the first generation. As well as spidering textual metadata, second-generation video search aims to understand and extract meaning from the video itself.
Second-generation video search engines use methods such as speech recognition, visual analysis and video optical character recognition to allow software to listen to, watch and read the text appearing on the video content itself.
Second-generation video search is still primarily used in government and enterprise settings, but Blinkx.com and Podzinger exist as examples of technologies that have been applied to general, consumer Web video search. Podzinger, as the name suggests, focuses more on audio and video podcasts, while Blinkx indexes all audio and video content on the Web, whether amateur or professional.
Regardless of the technology involved, both first- and second-generation video search engines exist and are popular today. For the purposes of a successful video SEO campaign, it is important to be included in both types of engine.
The 'Super Seven' Must Do's
There are seven absolute essential guidelines to follow when providing the metadata to a video-sharing site:
1. Make sure your tags are relevant to your content. This might seem obvious, but it takes some planning and requires you to get into the minds of your users.
2. The more tags the merrier. There's no penalty for using all your available tag space.
3. Reuse specific tags across your clips. A handful of search terms are already being used regularly to draw visitors to your content, so it's to your benefit to include these terms when tagging your clips.
4. Use adjectives. Remember lots of folks are browsing and they'll use adjectives to find what they are in the mood to view.
5. Have some category descriptor tags. Tag your content with the topic area(s) it belongs to (comedy, mystery, sports). It's important to remember YouTube's default search settings are Videos, Relevance and All Categories.
6. Match your title and description with your most important tags. Basic search engine marketing (SEM) practice applies here as well.
7. Don't use natural language phrases and waste tag space on words such as and or to.
Presenting Your Video for SEO
As discussed above, both first- and second-generation video search engines consider metadata. Not only should you create metadata, but you should apply it each and every time your content goes onto a new service or is converted to a new format.
The media content creation and publication tools used to create video files often dump large amounts of irrelevant metadata into the files that are created. You can use a cleaner to rid your files of this distracting information. Examples include Sorenson Squeeze, Autodesk Cleaner and CastFire.
Titles and Descriptions
Titles and descriptions are the text most commonly applied to videos. If a video is hosted on a structured hosting or sharing site such as YouTube, insert this information in the provided specified title and description fields. If hosting on your own Web site, the title and description usually will be extracted based on proximity.
If you are linking to a specific file that is hosted on a Web server, ensure the filename is a sensible and descriptive one, ideally with hyphens or some other form of separating character between words. For example, use "climate-talks-video.wmv" rather than "videofile.wmv" or "climatetalksvideo.wmv."
Tags are growing as a facet of search and navigation, both for video and for the Internet as a whole. If you use a video sharing or hosting system such as YouTube, you will be given the opportunity to provide tags (and are strongly encouraged to do so).
Sitemaps, URLs and RSS Feeds
Most video search engines allow the provision of a sitemap, starting-point URL or RSS feed. This invitation should absolutely be taken advantage of and used to provide the engine with a simple list of URLs that point to individual pages that host video.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an XML (Extensible Markup Language) based standard for publishing time-oriented feeds of information. The RSS specification can be found here.
Depending on the tools you use to produce and encode your content, you often will be able to input metadata into the video content file itself. Similar to the popular id3 tags that exist in mp3 music files, in-format metadata tags are encoded into the media file itself and, thus, are readable to any engine that indexes the content.
Where to Submit (and How)
Next, we cover the key video search engines in the market today, types of content they typically index and how to submit to them.
Amateur Video Sharing Sites
Key sites in this area include YouTube, Google Video, MySpace Video, Yahoo! Video, AOL UnCut, MSN Soapbox, DailyMotion, MetaCafe, Revver and others. A good list can be found here.
Video Search Engines
Once your video content is hosted, whether on your own site or at a hosting service, it is important to further publicize it on the Web through SEO of the video search engines themselves. An overview below spotlights the key traffic-generating video search engines in the market today. Each search engine's approach to indexing and search is covered as well as how best to submit content to each.
AOL Video is hosted at two distinct URLs, http://video.aol.com/ and http://www.truveo.com/. Beyond hosting your content on AOL, however, AOL Video will accept submissions for content stored elsewhere in the form of an MRSS feed.
In order to submit video to AOL's video search engine, you first must create a director account here and then submit your RSS feed from your director home page. AOL provides details of exactly how it expects the MRSS feed to be formatted on this page.
As discussed above, Blinkx doesn't just analyze your metadata; it also uses audio and visual analysis to extract information from your video content itself. Blinkx supports submission in the form of Media RSS and RSS files, which can be provided (and checked for validity) at this form. Assuming your feed passes the test, Blinkx automatically analyzes your feed, ensures it has the appropriate adult flag setting set and will commence indexing the content within 12 hours.
Although now part of Yahoo!, AltaVista runs its own submission service and it's worth submitting your content there. AltaVista's video search technology is based on the company's underlying, regular text search-engine technology and, as a result, the submission process is identical for both. Simply provide a top-level URL to your site (www.yourdomain.com) on the following form.
Yahoo! operates the world's single highest traffic Web site and, therefore, it is an essential place to submit your video content. Much like AOL, Yahoo! today focuses on a user-generated content hosting and sharing service, but still operates a basic metadata video search engine. Submission to this service is in the form of an MRSS feed and can be done here.
Podzinger's search engine also applies speech recognition in order to better index the content in your video. Befitting a site with "Pod" in its name, Podzinger expects your content either as an RSS feed or as an iTunes or Yahoo podcast URL (these are essentially heavily modified versions of RSS that you can ignore unless your content happens to be hosted on Yahoo or iTunes).
Top Video Search Engines
Given recent findings about the increased use of video search, I'd be remiss if I didn't provide some brief descriptions of the current options available to consumers and viewers.
-AOL Video. As mentioned above, AOL's acquisition of Truveo drives the video search capabilities for AOL.
-Blinkx. Quite simply the best video search engine out there. Bar none. ;-)
-Clipblast. Provides the ability to search, browse and personalize the video search.
-Dabble. Dabble keeps a record of where Web videos are located, descriptions about the video, who made it, what it's about, how popular it is and so on.
-Metacafe. Metacafe specializes in short-form original content from new, emerging talents and established Hollywood heavyweights alike.
-Pixsy. Pixsy focuses on customized multimedia search solutions for Web sites of any size, including private-label video and image search engines and portals.
-Podzinger/EveryZing. Brings the benefits of SEO to online audio and video content.
It's exciting to watch video SEO emerge as an industry unto itself over the past year. As with any new technology, much still needs to be clarified. Hopefully, the foregoing will provide a solid basis of best practices for video SEO, but the best advice is to closely monitor this process, as change may be the only constant.
Onil Gunawardana, vice president/general manager of Advertising at Blinkx, leads the company's initiatives in advertising. Most recently he was chief operating officer and VP products at Searchforce, which provides a search engine marketing platform for centralizing and optimizing pay-per-click advertising campaigns. Gunawardana previously managed the marketing and analytics products at Siebel in the communications vertical, where he developed an advertising server to match relevant offers to consumers using real-time data. Earlier in his career, he was a strategy consultant at the Monitor Group, where he was a senior case team leader advising technology companies. He has a BsC in electrical engineering from Yale and an MsC in electrical engineering from Stanford, where his research focused on transmitting video through public networks. He also holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School.