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BACK TO BASICS: Videos, YouTube and Being Found Online, Part 2

by Jessica Lee, December 22, 2010

Online video is not going away. Before you dismiss it as part of your marketing efforts, consider the facts:

  1. Video can increase the chances your business will be found on the Web.
  2. Video consumption is ever-increasing; YouTube reports more than 2 billion videos watched per day.

In last month's video-focused Back to Basics, we covered important items such as understanding the impact video is having on the search engine results pages (SERPs), overcoming common roadblocks to video production, getting started with videos and optimizing videos for search. This month, we'll go into keyword research for videos, YouTube's algorithm and conversion tips for videos.

Keyword Research for Videos

Optimizing a video for YouTube or otherwise should be given the same care and attention that is given to optimizing a Web page. Last month, Part 1 of this article talked about Meta data-like practices that can be applied to the title, description and tags when uploading a video to YouTube. But before that can happen, consider what keywords will be included.

Keyword selection matters for videos. And some of the same tactics can be used for keyword selection for a video as can for anything else. In last month's Part 1 a couple tips for video keyword selection could be:

  • Think about using keywords that are in your targeted set (if one exists) or other keywords that would be relevant.
  • Look to other videos that are ranking for a similar product, service or topic and use the same or similar words.
  • Include any additional keywords that would help the video to rank such as the business brand, city and/or the topic of the video and so on, but be careful not to keyword stuff. Keep tags succinct. For example "homemade pizza". With local being the focus these days, it might be a good idea to consider optimizing with geotargeted words.

In a recent guest author post on the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog, Brent Rangen of Optimize Guyz, a full-service SEO firm in Minnesota, shared with readers his top keyword research tools in 2010 along with reviews.

Among the tools Rangen reviewed was the YouTube keyword research tool, which allows users to evaluate demand for particular keywords. And while Rangen points out that the suggest feature does need work, it can still identify the "flagship" keywords. A person can additionally search by demographic and video.

If you don't have ideas for videos yet, let keyword research be your guide, just as you would for content on a site. Keep in mind though that the way people search in YouTube is different than the way they search on the Web.

YouTube Algorithm

YouTube's algorithm, just like Google's algorithm, has been a bit of a mystery. But we do receive clues now and again as to what can help us rank better. A recent announcement of a ranking system YouTube was trying out called "On the Rise" is not just a clue, it's an equation. On the Rise is a ranking system that allows users to make it on the home page of YouTube.

The algorithm, of sorts, pulls together channels on YouTube on a monthly basis that have a total number of subscribers less than 100,000 plus a rate of subscription that has accelerated in the past 30 days. What the rate of acceleration is, is not clear. Those who qualify will be pooled into a group, widdled down by YouTube (again, based on what, we don't know) and then opened to the community for voting. This allows the user to be featured on the YouTube home page and be promoted through YouTube's social media channels.

An article on featured highlights from a presentation at Search Engine Strategies in 2009, a yearly search industry conference. This session in particular highlighted what the presenter believed to be YouTube ranking factors beyond just title, description and tags. Just a few of those factors included:

  • Views
  • Ratings
  • Shares
  • Embeds
  • Comments
  • Links

Other clues about what's important to YouTube come by watching how the company makes updates to its services and features. Last week, a redesign of the YouTube home page rolled out, with personalization being a part of the user experience.

This is making the video consumption experience, just like the search experience, more social. This move isn't surprising, since Google owns YouTube. So, we have to ask ourselves, is what's good for Google, good for YouTube? Perhaps taking clues from Google developments in search would serve us well.

Conversion Tips for Videos

What good is making a video if once it's found, it's never looked at? Or it's watched for a few seconds and the person leaves? Conversion is an important part of any online marketing strategy. Components like search engine optimization are a way to be found, but what happens next is the all-important conversion. And conversion is something that needs to be considered not only with websites, but also with videos.

A conversion is what you want people to do once they reach your content, whether that content is a Web page, a video or anything else. Conversion goals vary from anything like having someone fill out a form to clicking through from a video to a business website and more.

Let's say you have two basic conversion goals for your video: a click-through to the video is the first, and the second is that the user watched the video in its entirety. Any of the following factors and more could affect conversion goals for your video:

  • The thumbnail of the video. YouTube generates three thumbnails to choose from as the main image of a video before a user starts it. While YouTube says a person does not have a choice beyond these three, a person can potentially create the video to have the image they would like to appear as the thumbnail by ensuring that image is present in one of the three timeframes in the video YouTube pulls from.
  • The title of the video. Just as the Title tag in Meta information is important to drawing users into your site from a SERP, the same is true for video. Not only should a title include important keywords, but should also be catchy. Think of it in terms of a marketing tag line.
  • The video quality. While creating sophisticated videos isn't necessarily a factor that plays into the success of a video, there are basic components that may affect if someone continues to watch the video after pressing play. Think about the lighting, sound and composition of the video as three basic items you'll want to spend a little extra time on.
  • The length of the video. This point was touched on briefly in Part 1 of this article; while there's no hard and fast rule, it's important to keep in mind the attention span of people who watch videos online. Do your research, then test different lengths.
  • Calls-to-action in a video. Think about incorporating calls to action throughout the video. What do you want your viewer to do next? There are several ways to do this, including telling your viewers where to go and also including annotations in your YouTube video, which is free for users.

The testing and improving upon of videos is an ongoing process. Once you are past the basics of making videos, optimizing them and taking full advantage of YouTube (which is a big job), start creating more conversion goals, conducting more tests and looking into ways to monetize your videos.

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