Apple’s iMovie ‘08 Software with YouTube Export – a Video SEO Review

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Much of the media has been glowing over Apple’s iMovie ’08, the consumer-grade video editing software (and part of the iLife ’08 package), for featuring a new YouTube export option. Apple has advertised this as a turnkey solution for online video publishing, providing full integration with YouTube accounts for one-click uploading. In essence, it is attempting to become the first video software program that combines editing, exporting, tagging, and uploading to the largest video publishing site online. That’s something none of its professional-grade video software competitors have yet.

As one news agency reported, “Apple has axed good features of past iLife releases to focus on Web sharing in an apparent belief that its users want to be authors and publishers.” And now, Apple is touting in its own press releases that it wants “to make more inroads with businesses as well as consumers” with its new products.

But the question is, does Apple’s plans include the needs of search markters? Can iMovie ’08 (aka “iMovie 4”) really be consider even a basic turnkey solution for optimizing videos for YouTube? Or is it too “dumbed down” without any real consideration for even adequate video search optimization?

Over the past couple months, I’ve put my own copy of iMovie through a barrage of search optimization-specific tests for the YouTube space. The following is a performance breakdown of each of the key segments of SEO video optimization – editing and publishing (metadata and uploading).

Video editing

Video editing in iMovie is purposely meant to be basic; perhaps too basic, in that it can be problematic for SEO purposes:

  • No marker features. Even though iMovie is meant to be a quick-and-dirty video editing solution, their latest release has no marker features and no means to tell what time point you are in a video project with multiple clips? Why is this important to know? Because YouTube provides its time stamps (i.e., video image icons) at ¼, ½, and ¾ of the project. You would have to be willing to measure and re-measure each single clip in a video project to gauge where those time stamps will fall (and thus know what image icon you can have appear for your YouTube image icon display for your video), which defeats the purpose of having a simplified solution.
  • No time-limit warning. iMovie does not warn you if your video is over 10 minutes in length. (YouTube will deny video pieces over 10 minutes.) Instead, you’ll find that out after the fact. Considering that iMovie averages about a 4:1 time ratio (i.e., 4 minutes to every one minute of video) for conversion and upload of your final video project, not meeting that important spec could waste a good deal of your time with no video to show for it.

Video tagging and metadata

Metadata is the means of how the video has relevant information that can be located by both YouTube and other video search engines, and mainstream search engines. For YouTube, this consists of 3 key areas – The title, description, and tags (equivalent of keywords). Since YouTube does not accept RSS feeds of any kind, these are the essential fields for optimizing your video for YouTube and other search engines.

iMovie does not save your metadata entry for each video project, instead only showing what appeared for the last video project you worked on. Also, if you try to resubmit a video project, you will need to first duplicate it before you can add new metadata.

Compared to manually uploading video metadata to a YouTube account, there are some glaring limitations with iMovie’s YouTube export feature:

  • No punctuation allowed. iMovie rejects periods and other punctuation in movie-project titles.
  • Title tag cutoff. YouTube typically has a display limit of 62 characters (including spaces), yet in iMovie there isn’t any stop-gap to prevent from going over. The result is truncated titles in the actual video once its up on YouTube.

Video uploading from iMovie to YouTube

Now, for something being advertised as a one-click solution for video uploading, I hadn’t expected to encounter any problems with this part, but yet I did.

  • Unwarranted error messages. In about one out of every 5 or 10 video uploads (sometimes several times in a row), after I would enter my YouTube metadata in iMovie and hit the submit button, I would receive an error message saying that “The YouTube server is experiencing server issues,” and that this could be eliminated by decreasing the amount of metadata entered. Yet this would happen even when metadata was minimal. That and the fact that doing a manually upload of my video to my YouTube account indicated no problems at all, made me think this was really a problem with iMovie that they were passing on to YouTube.
  • No batch uploading. iMovie doesn’t allow for multiple video project exports, nor can you work on one file while another is uploading. Apple may be touting simplicity with this product, but the tradeoff can be a serious decrease in efficiency.

Does Apple care about search marketers?

I really had to wonder, with all of these glaring discrepancies, did Apple even bother working with any search professionals, or at least attempting to understand video search optimization, before putting out its iMovie product? I thought the best way to answer that question is to contact Apple’s Media Help Line, which is supposed to be a direct line for journalists and Apple’s PR department.

My talk with Apple’s PR department confirmed my concerns, but did nothing to allay them. They informed me that “Consumer level products like iMovie are not built for professional level promotional work,” including search marketing.

But then, why don’t Apple’s professional grade video editing and publishing products – Final Cut Pro 6 and Final Cut 6 Express (both recently release), didn’t even carry a YouTube export feature in their newest edition? To this, I was informed by Apple’s PR department that they aren’t considering a search engine marketing strategy into their software products at this time, other than for consumer-level publishing purposes (such as where iMovie ’08) is right now.

Apple had an excellent opportunity here to provide a real turnkey solution, but by leaving search out of their marketing plans with their software, they’ve missed out greatly on it. For a company that wants to be taken seriously in the business space, they certainly haven’t shown any interest in dealing with the industry professionals – that being search marketers – who would make their video software products much more appealing for businesses than they are now.

The verdict on iMovie for search marketers

Apple’s iMovie sports a handy feature that can make video search optimization easier in some circumstances – mostly around basic video editing and single project uploading Yet it lacks many necessary features to be considered a turnkey solution for serious video search marketing professionals, and without knowing of its limitations, can present considerable problems for proper optimization of YouTube video content.

If Apple wants to start getting serious about appealing to the business market with their video software, they need to start talking to search professionals about how they can improve on their current versions. Here are some recommendations I would give myself:

  • Provide a batch upload and tagging solution. Right now, iMovie’s YouTube export feature only allows video at a time to be tagged with metadata. Apple and YouTube should work together and provided a batch-and-tag upload solution similar to Yahoo!’s Flickr photo sharing widget, which would greatly increase SEO efficiency.
  • Incorporate an video RSS feed solution. Apple could work with any of the existing RSS feed software partners out there. Some suggestions are FeedForAll as a Mac-based desktop add-on, or FeedBurner for a widely-used 3rd party resource.

Apple is on the right starting path by partnering with a video search publisher. Now they need to really “think different” and make some major strides by utilizing the expertise with video search marketing professionals. That way, they can expect to see a huge increase in the business adoption of its video software products by search marketers and other online marketers, who are in the best position to monetize the rapidly-growing video publishing and search space for not just themselves and their clients, but for Apple and the video editing software industry as well.

About the Author

Grant Crowell is the CEO for Grantastic Designs, a search marketing and usability firm, and Senior Analyst of ReelSEO.com, a video solutions publication for online marketers.

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4 Comments

  1. So, what product do recommend then for search engine optimization using an iMac if the Apple solutions aren't up to the job? Any real recommendation that's way better and consumer level $ Thanks,

  2. Brice, I'm not willing to recommend any current video editing software as a turnkey solution for search optimizers. Final Cut Express 4 for Mac recently came out, but to the best of my knowledge the program doesn't have a video search engine submission tool. I would instead recommend you stick with whatever program you're comfortable with for just video capturing and editing, perhaps a separate transcoder program (Like Sorenson or Flip4Mac's Telestream Episode Pro), and do the submission via manual uploading to YouTube.

  3. FCP or FCXHD are the way to go for you vidheads besides that I have actually had fantastic luck with the FLiP offerings. Hell anyone could figure those out. But of course there huge limitations to the FLiP. But if you have a free month of weekends grab FCXHD and poke around not only will you learn a app that is sought out on resumes but your learning a tool for the future of search marketing so get on it! Final Cut Express HD

  4. So the suggestions above are for the editting and as Grant pointed out over a year ago, theres no great automated tool for submissions...there are however lists... This morning I came across a fantastic post for noobs to advanced users (I know amazing right). Basically its a list of sites that you should think about submitting any of your video content to. So take a look and good luck. Video Submission Sites