Complete Guide to Video SEO

Guide to video SEO optimization

Video is trendy, video is on the rise, and it seems like everybody has something (good) to say about video. “Video this, video that, video killed the radio star…”- there are an awful lot of stats that show why video is taking such a central place on the marketing stage. Let’s look at just three as an appetizer:

  1. In 2019 the average internet user spent 6:48 hours a week watching videos online.
  2. 99% of people who use video for marketing say they’ll continue using video in 2020.
  3. Video is expected to make up 82% of internet traffic by 2022.

When marketers talk about video, it’s usually in the context of social media or paid video advertising. But there is another extremely important channel where video is slowly but surely taking center stage – organic search.

How prominent are videos in SERPs?

As mentioned above, marketers tend to neglect organic search in the context of video, so there is no actual research to shed light on just how prominent videos are in search. A Searchmetrics 2018 study indicated that at least one video integration is displayed for 23% of mobile search results. Here are some comparisons: Moz evaluates ~26% (March 2020), SEMrush  ~11%, Rankranger ~16% (only Video Carousel), Searchmetrics 60-65%. 

The variance in these evaluations can be traced back to the way they define a video result (more on video result types coming up), the number of keywords they analyze in their database, and how they calculate desktop vs. mobile.

What types of organic video results are there?

There are three main types of video results:

  1. Thumbnail Video (AKA Basic Appearance) – a “normal” search result that features a thumbnail image and a link. This result doesn’t show enhanced features such as video preview or content parsing.
  1. Video Carousel (Enhanced appearance)  Video carousels are numerous videos grouped together in a row (desktop) or a column (yeah, not exactly a carousel but it’s the same type of result).
  1. Featured Video (Enhanced appearance) – A featured video is a video that takes the top of the SERP (position zero, if you will). Much like a featured snippet, this type of video result usually returns an answer to a question with a link back to the source, mostly YouTube.

What keywords trigger video results?

Google is all about answering the intent of the searcher in the best way possible. In order for a query to return one of the video result types mentioned above, the query needs to reflect a searcher’s intent to watch a video. Meaning, the majority of the searchers would happily engage in a video about the subject.

The best way to tackle this question is by conducting a thorough video keyword research. There are two ways to do this: YouTube keyword research, or check what keywords will trigger a video SERP. The first one is amazing in order to promote a video on YouTube, but it won’t work in silo. The reason is, high volume YouTube keywords will not necessarily trigger videos in search results.  

The best way to take a swing at this is to use YouTube keyword research only for understanding how people search for videos, and conduct your research in a tool that provides info about the appearance of the video in SERPs, like Moz or SEMrush’s keyword magic tool. Just set your “Advanced filter > SERP features > Video” to find keywords that trigger video results.

SEMrush, Keyword Magic Tool

How to optimize your videos for maximum visibility?

  1. Upload your video to YouTube: Regardless of which video service you will use to upload your video to your website, it’s always a smart move to upload it also to YouTube, for three main reasons:
  • Greater organic visibility: YouTube has ~92% share of video results in Google. 
  • Overall, 83% of consumers worldwide prefer YouTube to watch video content.
  • Analytics provided in the creator studio.
  1. Implement the video on the designated site page: DO NOT use the YouTube built-in embed feature using <iframe>. Not only is this feature costly in terms of performance, the <iframe> can’t be picked up by search engine bots. Instead, use the <video>, <embed>, or <object> tags.
  1. Provide a killer thumbnail image: You can do so by adding the poster attribute to your <video> tag. Preferably use an image with a 16:9 aspect ratio min. 1200 px wide (1920×1080 works great). Remember, the thumbnail is your first impression on the viewer.
  1. Supplement the page that contains the video with text-based content: Just how much content depends on the subject. A great rule of thumb is to create enough text-based content that a person who has a visual impairment would be able to understand what’s in the video via a screen reader. Another way to do it is to add transcription.
  1. Transcribe your video: Transcribing a video is a bit time consuming, but it is not a complicated process, and the ROI is high on the positive side. If you want to rely on YouTube’s auto closed caption, great! Just make sure you edit them. There are ways you can do it yourself, and there are third-party services, depending on your resources. Just make sure you upload the transcribe file to YouTube.
  1. Add Structured Data ( VideoObject): Structured data is a snippet of code in JSON format that provides Google information about your video. Using structured data helps not only to rank your video better but also differentiates between basic appearance and enhanced appearance in SERPs. You can easily generate this code snippet here. You should paste this snippet in the source code of the page that contains the video.  After implementing, be sure to check it using the structured data testing tool.
  1. Timestamp links: This is a relatively new feature, and it is by far an underutilized one. Timestamp links can be created on YouTube by adding timestamps in the video description. Or by defining those using the clip property in your Schema markup (see above).

How to measure your video organic impact?

Google has recently added a Video report to the search console, where you can see how your site videos are performing. This can be found under the search appearance tab in the performance report. 
To check how your video is performing on YouTube, use the analytics report found in your creator studio on YouTube. It’s possible to connect YouTube to Google Analytics, so you can slice and dice your data too.

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