In a world where more than three billion internet users watch videos online, harnessing the power of video marketing has become indispensable in capturing your audience’s attention. But with video content saturating the internet, simply creating and publishing videos doesn’t guarantee they’ll be seen. This is where video SEO comes in.
What is video SEO?
Video SEO (video search engine optimization) is the practice of optimizing your video content to improve its visibility and rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). Much like an ecommerce SEO strategy, video SEO involves taking actions to increase the organic, non-paid traffic to your videos. Common steps include keyword research, optimizing titles and meta descriptions, and implementing schema markup to provide structured information about your video content. Many of the line items on a standard SEO checklist apply to SEO in video marketing, but there are a few extra considerations to keep in mind, like highlighting video thumbnail images.
How to optimize your video content for search engines
- Choose the right video hosting method
- Use a compatible video file type
- Highlight a compelling video thumbnail
- Write relevant video titles and descriptions
- Include a transcript
- Review your HTML
- Promote your videos
Use the following steps as a guide for your video SEO strategy:
1. Choose the right video hosting method
The right video hosting method for you depends on your goals and budget. Are you prioritizing video views, website traffic, lead generation, or brand awareness? If video views and brand awareness are your main goals, YouTube might be your best bet, due to its huge user base and suggested videos feature. If your YouTube videos become suggested videos, they’re likely to get a lot of views. Posting videos to YouTube is free.
If your goals are to increase traffic to your website and generate sales leads, you might opt for a professional hosting platform like Wistia or Vimeo Pro, which offer more control and advanced analytics. Wistia offers a free plan that allows for 10 video uploads per month; paid plans with more capabilities range from $19 to $319 a month. Vimeo has a free plan with limited capabilities; paid plans range from $12 to $65 per month.
YouTube, Wistia, and Vimeo all allow you to embed your videos on your own website as well as post them to their platforms. (Here’s more on YouTube SEO.)
2. Use a compatible video file type
When posting your video on your website or another platform, ensure Google can find your video by using one of the following compatible video file types: 3GP, 3G2, ASF, AVI, DivX, M2V, M3U, M3U8, M4V, MKV, MOV, MP4, MPEG, OGV, QVT, RAM, RM, VOB, WebM, WMV, or XAP. YouTube accepts the following file types: MOV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG4, MP4, MPG, AVI, WMV, MPEGPS, FLV, 3GPP, WebM, DNxHR, ProRes, CineForm, or HEVC (h265). These are the file types Google can index.
When in doubt, MP4 is the most commonly used video file type and will work anywhere.
3. Highlight a compelling video thumbnail
The video thumbnail is the small, clickable preview image for your video. When your video comes up on a SERP, it’ll be the first impression people see. Choose or create an eye-catching, relevant thumbnail image that encourages users to click on your video. You can simply pull a screengrab from the video, but a custom thumbnail can give you the best chance at capturing your target audience’s attention. Custom thumbnails also allow you to reinforce your brand identity by using your brand color palette and typography.
Upload an eye-catching image with faces (if relevant) and add a text overlay with the title or additional context to capture browsers’ attention and entice them to click.
4. Write relevant video titles and descriptions
Before you write any SEO-driven copy, conduct keyword research to ensure you’re including the words and phrases people are using when searching for content related to your video. Use Google Trends and other keyword research tools, like YouTube Studio, Semrush, and Ahrefs, to determine which keywords to add to best reach your target audience.
When writing video titles and meta descriptions, you can follow the same rules you would to SEO-optimize a blog post or landing page. Make your video’s title clear and compelling, and include relevant keywords near the beginning. Your title should be no more than 60 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search results. Include other relevant terms and information in your video description.
5. Include a transcript
Providing a transcript for your video content helps search engines index the content and improves accessibility for hearing-impaired viewers. YouTube, Wistia, and Vimeo provide fields where you can easily enter your video’s transcript.
6. Review your HTML
To help Google’s search engine crawlers find and index your video, speak their language: HTML. You can submit a video sitemap so that Google can understand the video content on your site. A video sitemap is a specialized type of sitemap that provides search engines with information about the video content—typically an XML file that lists the URLs of video pages on a website along with metadata about each video, like its title, description, duration, and thumbnail image.
You can also include relevant information with HTML tags—markup elements used in web development—directly on your video’s landing page using schema.org markup.
Make sure your video’s title, meta description, duration, and thumbnail URL can be found in your page’s HTML. If you’re uncomfortable editing code, you can always hire a customization expert through Shopify to help with this step.
7. Promote your videos
Increase the odds of potential customers seeing your videos by sharing them on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Embed your videos into any relevant blog posts on your website.
4 popular tools for video SEO
If you’re looking to optimize videos for search engines, these tools can help you track your performance, monitor competitors, and find keywords:
1. Google Trends
Google Trends is a free keyword research tool that can help you determine which keywords are worth competing for on the internet’s biggest search engine. You can find out which search terms are popular and view the data over time or break it down by region.
2. YouTube Studio
If you choose to host your video on YouTube, take advantage of the platform’s powerful (and free) built-in analytics tool: YouTube Studio. Here, you can find all sorts of YouTube analytics around your audience and video performance, including views, watch time, impressions, likes, dislikes, comments, traffic sources, and more. You can also find out whether your videos rank for YouTube keywords.
Semrush is an advanced SEO tool with paid and free options. You can discover how your video ranks for certain keywords (free up to 10 keywords), conduct an SEO audit of your site (free up to 100 URLs), and monitor competitors (free up to 10 competitors). If you want greater access to these resources and other tools, you can sign up for a subscription starting at $120 per month.
Ahrefs is another excellent SEO resource with a variety of free and paid tools. Most notably, Ahrefs offers a free keyword generator that can help improve your video’s visibility on Google, Bing, YouTube, and Amazon. To get an SEO dashboard for tracking all your projects (among other benefits), you can sign up for a subscription starting at $99 per month.
Video SEO FAQ
How can I track the performance of my videos?
You can use Google Analytics to track the performance of your videos and find out where your traffic is coming from. If you choose to host your video on YouTube, you can also use YouTube Studio to see in-depth data on viewer retention.
How long should my videos be for SEO purposes?
There is no one perfect length for a high-ranking SEO video—it depends on the topic and content. Focus on holding the viewer’s attention and delivering what’s promised in the video’s title and description.
How important is video schema markup for SEO?
Video schema markup is essential because these HTML tags (including title, description, thumbnail URL, duration, and transcript) help search engines understand the content of your video, increasing the likelihood it’ll end up in search results.
What’s the difference between video SEO and YouTube SEO?
Video SEO refers to optimizing video content for all search engines. This can include YouTube, but also search engines like Google and Bing. Even if your video is not hosted on YouTube, you can use video SEO to help people reach your video content through Google search results. YouTube SEO, on the other hand, refers strictly to optimizing videos for discovery on YouTube. As part of a larger YouTube marketing plan, you would optimize your video for YouTube search and its suggested videos feature.
How do I check if my video is indexed?
You can check whether your video is indexed by pasting your landing page URL into the search bar on google.com/video. If you find it, your video is indexed. If not, you can troubleshoot using Google’s Rich Results Test. It may be that your video is tagged incorrectly, doesn’t have a suitable video thumbnail image, or has an incompatible video file type.