Video currently is the “wild west” of the SEO frontier – with its open landscape is similar to where HTML page SEO was in the late 1990s – high prospects, and high uncertainty. Most search marketing specialists, including veterans, have been adopting a wait-and-see attitude. That’s clearly understandable, considering that entering this vertical space requires additional education and connections about video production as well as the marketing side, along with time and resources for educating clients on the video space. That helps explain why that even with the explosive growth of online video, Video SEO specialists (or as I refer to them, “VSEO Specialists”) are still very small club.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to snag a few search marketing specialists and have them share their experiences on the video search space. One such interview I did was with Jeremy Clem, Manager of Natural Search for DoubleClick Performics, and speaker at a search marketing conference’s video panel. He shared his perspective on the opportunities and challenges of video search, tips and forecasts, and what it will take for the web search engines to make it truly viable for more search marketers and clients to get involved.
OPPORTUNITY: Wide open market
“We’re really in the inception phase of video search.” [At Performics] we deal with a lot of retailers, and they’re not even optimizing the video content that they need to.” says Jeremy.
OPPORTUNITY: Cross-vertical marketing opportunities
Jeremy believes that video enhances the experience with practically all other search verticals, and especially lends itself well to local marketing, an opinion shared by many local search marketing specialists. “With local video, you have a better understanding of what the user needs. You know they need something local and you know their target demographic better… and have a better opportunity. I think we’ll see more of a consolidation of certain aspects of video search, where will see things like local and video combined, plus combining your video content with the Internet Yellow Pages.”
CHALLENGE: Search results spam
Jeremy compares video content on the web today with where we were in the late 1990’s with organic web search, with all the spamming going on then. “Keyword stuffing is absolutely an issue. YouTube has made a lot of progress, but we still see many videos that come up under a particular keyword that have nothing to do with that keyword. Hopefully YouTube will continue to improve their algorithm to fix that, and maybe it will take a strong manual effort on their behalf.”
CHALLENGE: More complex strategies and tactics required?
Jeremy acknowledges that working with quality online video content is more likely going to require more resources than traditional SEO. “You have to think about producing the video content, who to partner with, what format is important, what distribution channels are important. What is the true objective of your video campaign? For example, If I’m a major retailer and created a glossy, sexy video, I don’t want this on a viral marketing channel; I want it on a professional channel with the search engines.
CHALLENGE: Client apprehension
Jeremy’s experience is that all his clients know is that there is this world of video out there, but some of them are wary about the unpredictable nature of video results, such as “having their brand next to some guy lighting himself on fire. They don’t understand that there is a differentiation where their videos can show up in professional search results.”
Jeremy explains that client will need a proper education on the different avenues to feature their appropriate content. “They need to understand what’s appropriate – when a video that’s viral goes in the entertainment section vs. business section but there are many business opportunities. The challenge is getting businesses to understand that.”
“Clients understand that there is a world of opportunity with video and video search, but do not understand how to effectively approach the opportunities. It is easier to develop ideas for clients that are willing to ‘push the envelope’ and have their brand associated with edgy content because the sky is the limit on viral video campaigns; however, it is also important to educate the more brand sensitive clients that not all video has to take a viral approach. There are myriad professional video channels available to marketers as well. In the end, if the content is interesting, people will seek it out.”
CHALLENGE: Search engines’ shortcomings
“There are a couple of search engines that are able, to some degree, to understand video content through their video and audio recognition. But I don’t see those technologies as really being apparent in the major search engines.” say Jeremy. “We’re still seeing most of the results in the major search engines (and video search engines) being affected by the HTML content on the page, without the metadata or the tagging so much.”
Jeremy believes that there will need to be better consolidation of video search partners, such as when a company with better technology (blinkx, Everyzing) combines with a larger publisher (Google/YouTube) which has a much larger repository of video and user base. :Once that happens, then people will likely take more time to think about optimizing the video file metadata than just the content on the page.”
CHALLENGE: Overhype of the social space (around video)
Jeremy believes that many companies are misled to believe that just building social media profile on a MySpace or a Facebook is an effective video strategy. “I think there are a lot of companies out there that think all they have to do is create that profile and don’t even have to maintain it, just get it out there with a single video and their have the visibility they need. They just set it and forget it. Those who take that approach end up with a lot of wasted energy. People who come to those social media sites want the latest information and current data. Unless there’s a team that’s going to keep that information current, then there’s just way too much hype around it. They need to understand what makes the site model successful and how to monetize that.”
CHALLENGE: Understanding video performance analytics
Web analytics software is slowly incorporating video for specialized performance tagging, such as the new version of Google Analytics (current only available to beta testers). Also, services such as TubeMogul can be set up to provide tracking reports on submitted video. And for those who feature their video on a streaming media servers, additional metrics are available that show average length of time a visitor watches each individual video piece.
However, Jeremy says that the challenge is knowing how to measure ROI with video search. “What are the proper metrics we should be looking at? Most clients don’t understand how to track that in the analytics tools. Another thing we need to be able to track, what is the relationship between someone seeing that video, then going to an organic search, or paid, — the whole clickstream data. Until we can truly understand what gives the best ROI, its hard to decide where to spend your time and your dollars.”
Others would argue that any success metrics for video will need to lend itself more to than just a pure-play ROI transaction. One notable local search marketer stressing that is Zorik Gordon, Co-Founder and CEO of ReachLocal would attest, online video can provide clients with a better subjective impression. “Video online has the greatest vanity factor… it’s a great to imprint and deliver a lot of valuable information.” says Zorik. For that reason, he explains, businesses can afford to give up some trackability with video.
Video SEO Tip #1 – Understand the channels
Jeremy does consider it important for search marketers to at least dabble in video search, and the place to start with their education is how to distribute the video content through as many channels and the right channels. “Will you be doing a viral marketing approach? Or will you be doing a glossy, sexy looking video? Or will it be a how-to/tips? The approach you take will affect what channels you distribute to.”
Video SEO Tip #2 – Don’t do video just for SEO’s sake
Offering video SEO depends on who the client is. “Clients who are news publishers should be in this game already.” says Jeremy. “On the other hand, say if it’s a retail client that doesn’t have a lot of video content, then it’s not as essential to get in at this point.”
“If a typical client doesn’t already have a bunch of video content, I would probably tell the to hold off right now. You shouldn’t just create video content for content’s sake, just to get it out there.” says Jeremy. He also says that if there is not a clear plan for how the video will convert into traffic or dollars, it may not be a good idea for a particular client.”
:You need to first understand if video content is advantageous for reaching and resonating with the client’s target audiences.” says Jeremy. If you’re doing video SEO for the purpose of just showing up in the video search results, that’s not reason enough yet.
But what if your client is already producing video content for offline areas (television), and they have a fan base for their commercials? “Then I think that IS a huge opportunity to create video content that is just for the online space, because you already know that there are interested parties to leverage that offline interest into the offline space, and brining more people to your site.” says Jeremy.
Video SEO Tip #3 – Just experiment
Online video is still in the early stages, where there are no hard marketing standards in place just yet. This leaves you with a good opportunity to just experiment in the video search space. “Because if you’re not even trying out these new video search technologies and social networking sites, you’re not going to truly understand video search unless you practice at it.” says Jeremy. “Its not something you can really understand just by reading the next article that comes out, because there’s going to be new information and articles coming out every day. You need to get in the trenches to really leverage these opportunities, or you’re going to be left behind.” Jeremy recommends for search marketers to set aside a small development budget, experiment in the space with non-essential work material, and follow the results.
Grant Crowell is the CEO for Grantastic Designs, a search marketing firm established in 1997 and specializing in search-optimized, user-friendly web design and multimedia content, including video and podcasting solutions for commercial enterprises, non-profits, academic and government institutions.