Video SEO – Optimisation, Promotion & Strategy Made Easy

Video SEO - Helping e-Commerce sites sell more

For some of you, video is already a crucial value proposition in the absence of a face-to-face service or is even a necessity for really showing off the benefits and functionality of your products. Others will have realised that video is just the next content format to be abused since infographics, blogs and memes. Either way I’m glad you’re here as I intend to take you through Video SEO: Optimisation, Promotion & Strategy – by Reload Digital.

Visual content, and videos especially should form part of your content strategy now that we’re well into 2013. People digest content in many different ways and if you are not presenting content to them in a way they enjoy consuming they will simply move on without a further thought. This means you can lose out on links, shares, sales and future visits. This article looks to explain how to get the most out of your existing videos, or build a sound video content strategy from scratch…


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Video SEO Strategy

Producing videos is costly and time-consuming and doing so with no forethought could lead to pointless footage that is un-findable by the intended audience and simply yields no end gains. On the flip side, many site owners who put love and care into producing videos don’t even realise the full potential of their videos! I have listed four possible strategies below:

1. Increasing brand awareness

With so many competing businesses operating online, doing something to stand out from the crowd and burn your brand into the consciousness of your customers is important. Videos can be a great medium for this aiding brand recall – providing the videos themselves are memorable. Videos that solicit humour, controversy, awe or shock value work particularly well and hosting these videos on YouTube or other popular video platforms will mean people will naturally find them, engage with them and share them. This viral effect can work wonders for getting your brand in the public consciousness.

2. Showcasing products/services to improve conversions

People often say a picture is worth a thousand words – if this is the case, videos are worth a million, seriously. Text and images often can’t explain a product as effectively as a video can. Videos can help bring the viewer as close to the product as possible without physically touching it and research suggests that conversions can dramatically increase when supplementary informational (and not overly promotional) videos are used. However, product or service-specific videos often need the context of the product website and supporting information to work effectively in getting a sale and as such won’t work well on public video sites, so consider self-hosting these videos rather than posting to YouTube.

3. Achieving a ‘rich snippet’ in the search engines

When a XML Video Sitemap is submitted it is possible to obtain small video thumbnails in Google’s search engine results. Where YouTube videos are embedded, the link will more-often-than-not point to YouTube itself meaning traffic is potentially lost. However, rich snippets of self-hosted videos will point to your site that command an excellent CTR, regardless of ranking, as the eye is drawn to the thumbnail over standard text snippets. Combining self-hosted videos and XML Video Sitemaps to obtain rich snippets is a great way to drive traffic to your conversion pages.

Pro Tip: Even poor quality videos can achieve a rich snippet (Google can’t read video content yet) – keep in mind that poor quality videos can be detrimental to conversion rate. [Tweet This]

4. Attracting links and shares

As with any stand-out, memorable and unique content, videos have the potential to attract links. Most video players will have embed functionality so that viewers can place the videos straight into their blogs and websites, which can be an excellent opportunity to ask owners for a link. In addition, players often have in-built functionality to share and promote on social media channels, while most social media platforms also make it extremely easy to post videos direct to feeds which can mean even more views of your content.

Getting eyeballs on your content is key to success and fortunately video is a very versatile medium that attracts attention almost by default. Think about what you are hoping to achieve with your videos before committing to the clapper board.

Video Hosting Options

There are two main ways to present your videos and both have their merits depending on what you are looking to achieve; You can self-host your videos on your own website with custom players integrated into your key pages or you can use public hosting channels such as YouTube and Vimeo.

Self-hosting is great for videos that have limited appeal – i.e. those that will be enjoyed by your website visitors but largely ignored by the general public. These may be videos that promote a specific product or service you sell for instance, or solve FAQs on a niche topic. They are not videos that will have mass appeal outside your customers, evangelists and fans and therefore will not likely attract many views and ‘thumbs up’ on YouTube. However, showcasing your products, service or knowledge with videos CAN greatly increase conversion and appreciation of your brand. Additionally, with Video Sitemaps (more later) you can achieve a ‘rich snippet’ in the search engines which can increase SERP CTR to your website in the first place, meaning more potential customers.

Video hosting sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, MetaCafe, DailyMotion and other niche/industry video sites allow you to reach a much wider (previously unobtainable) audience and increase brand awareness and referral traffic to your site. Public hosting is great for quirky/humorous/attention-grabbing videos (did someone say Old Spice?) where the ultimate aim is to get your video content in front of as many eyeballs as possible. People often forget that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in existence with many hours of footage being watched daily, and natural reach is aided by ‘suggestions’ and links to similar videos. Additionally, blended search means that popular videos can even be found directly in Google.

However it is important to remember that Ads are served with YouTube videos which can interrupt your message and any links that your video attracts will often point to the hosting site and not your own website.

Pro Tip: Got a long video? Consider creating a chapter list – a list of links which each point to a different start time within the video. [Tweet This]

Creating a Video Sitemap

Video Sitemaps help Google index information about your video that it otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain, and is crucial to achieving a rich snippet. You can add information such as duration, a keyword-rich description, title, a custom thumbnail image and more. Here is how to manually create a Video XML Sitemap in a .txt file.

How to create an XML Video Sitemap manually

Video Sitemap Upload & Tips

  1. Create Sitemap (as above) and populate red areas with appropriate data
  2. Save as .xml and upload to server (Save the file in your root directory or wherever your index file resides)
  3. Check URL (e.g. go to
  4. Upload to Webmaster Tools (Webmaster Tools > Optimisation > Sitemaps > Add/Test Sitemap)
  • If you have more than one video on a page there is no need to duplicate the <url><loc></loc></url> sections. Simply repeat the inner tags for the next video
  • Image thumbnail should be 160x120px upwards
  • Save file as a .xml (with an appropriate file name such as “video-sitemap.xml”)
  • Avoid special characters such as ‘&’ as your file won’t be properly parsed when uploaded
  • It doesn’t matter whether you combine your video sitemap with your standard XML sitemap – whatever works best for you
  • Make sure you get the right video URL from YouTube – the URL should not contain the words [embedded] [share] or [list]

Optimising Video for YouTube (and Organic Search)

“YouTube is the second largest search engine, so don’t get lost in the mix, let people find you. Our algorithms are good, but they can only read, they can’t watch your videos. So in order to properly classify your video and index it for search, we need your help.”YouTube blog


Like any optimised content, conduct research to identify the best keywords to make sure your video is found. Beware, the language and queries people use to find videos may differ from content in other formats so be sure to check out the YouTube Keyword Tool.

  1. File Name – Before upload, make sure the video has an appropriate file name and not simply “video1.mp4”.
  2. Title – The title is extremely important and must intrigue the viewer. Along with the thumbnail, this is the most prominent element that shows in YouTube in listings, related videos, playlists etc. Like a website page title, include keywords towards the beginning and limit to < 60 characters.
  3. Description –  The amount of visible text description varies from Google search results, YouTube search results, mobile search results etc. Use as much of the 5000 character limit as you like, but bear in mind often c120 characters will be shown. Include link in first line if objective is to draw traffic to your site.
  4. Tags – Use 5-10 appropriate keywords to describe your video.
  5. Geo-tagging – Great if your video/website has a location-based audience. In Advanced Settings add lattitude and longitude co-ordinates by configuring the interactive map.
  6. Closed captions/Transcription – Uploading a .txt file containing a transcript of the content including timings is great way to give crawlers something to index: How to make a transcript
  7. Thumbnail Image – When uploading a video to YouTube you get given the option of choosing one of only 3 generated thumbnails. With self hosted videos you have much more control; YOU upload a chosen thumbnail image to your server and tell Google via a Video Sitemap.
  8. Category – Chose your video category wisely as it can appear in related playlists.
  9. Popularity – Views and comments are powerful ranking metrics so promote as much as possible on external sites.

This Whiteboard Friday video from SEOmoz contains some great tips on YouTube Optimisation:

Pro Tip: People often include the word

in their search query. Make sure to include this in tags, description, meta data and title where appropriate. [Tweet This]

Pro Tip: Encourage users to rate/comment on the video by incorporating an annotation towards the end of your video [Tweet This]

Promoting Your Videos

Spending time, money and effort to produce your videos is a waste if no-one will see them. Ensure you promote the hell out of them to ensure as wide an audience as possible;

  • Email/Newsletters – When a new video goes live, send an intriguing email shot or newsletter that contains the embedded video or a link to the video page depending on your strategy goals.
  • Social Media – Utilise as many platforms as possible to get your video in front of fans
  • Affiliate Sites – Videos can help affiliate sites sell more for your products for you while also notching up views – win, win.
  • Bloggers/Journalists – Reach out to influential bloggers, and those that have written posts based around the topic of your video and ask them to embed it. Be sure to argue why this visual content can make their blog more engaging.
  • Supplement Existing Content – Is your video related to your existing content? Inject your site with this appealing content.
  • Organic Search – Make sure you optimise all available elements (explained above) of your videos so they are as visible as possible in the search engines
  • Pinterest – This fast growing social media site has a dedicated video section – use it!
  • Multiple Platforms – If your strategy is findability, upload your video to MetaCafe, Vimeo, DailyMotion and any other public/niche video sites you can find. Else concentrate on building views, comments etc on one platform only.
  • In-showroom – ‘Virtual Salesman’ style videos work great in offline situations such as in showrooms and shop floors. Consider where else you could benefit from playing your videos.

Pro Tip: Playlists tend to rank well in YouTube’s results. Consider creating a playlist including popular, hyper-relevant videos including your own video for extra views and exposure. [Tweet This]

Video SEO F.A.Q

Q. What formats does YouTube support?

A. .MOV, .MPEG4, .AVI, .WMV, .MPEGPS, .FLV, 3GPP and WebM

Q. Can you upload the same video to YouTube, Vimeo etc without duplication issues?
A. Right now, the search engines cannot understand video content so duplication is not the issue. However, if # of links, views, shares, embeds, ‘thumbs up’ etc on YouTube is your goal, this could be cannibalised by the various other platforms.

Q. Should I self-host my videos and post on YouTube?
A. No, as YouTube will likely outrank your self hosted videos. Also as mentioned above this will result in cannibalisation of links & shares etc. More importantly your website and YouTube have different audiences (e.g. product videos will make little sense outside the context of a website) and unpopular product/specific videos can potentially hinder the success/visibility of the rest of your YouTube channel.

Q. Which is better; Self hosting or YouTube?
A. It depends on what you are hoping to achieve. Use YouTube for maximum viewership, self host for direct traffic to your website.

Q. How long should my video be?
A. Ultimately it depends on the subject and goal of the video. However, research suggests that digestable bites work best, so consider breaking up your video in part 1, part 2 etc. The other great thing with online video is your audience will effectively TELL you how long videos should be. Check Analytics for drop off points and engagement stats and create future videos accordingly.

Video Ideas & Inspiration

So by now you may be convinced about the power of video content but don’t know how you could utilise videos on your own site. Consider these video ideas for content…

  1. Video Infographics & Typography – Make data and stats come alive with infographic-style animations that come to life. You can even re-purpose any of your popular infographics as videos.
  2. Encourage your happy customers to send in review or testimonial videos that can be used on your product/landing pages. Not only is this excellent social proof, but other potential customers get to see a product in action (eg GoPro). Consider incentivising this with a contest.
  3. Showcase boring & plain products in fun ways. A little imagination (like the guys at can go a long way!

  4. Video resources – Boring text-based documents such as manuals, articles, case studies, FAQs etc can be brought to life and re-purposed as videos

Final thoughts:

  • Surround videos with relevant, readable on-page content to stand the best chance of ranking for relevant searches
  • Consider include words such as

    [demo] [review] [test] etc for added ‘findability’ in blended results

  • Worried about the cost/learning curve of producing videos? Advertise for a video production intern at your local college/university. They will be thankful for the real-world experience (and you may even get a link from the college/university!) [Tweet This]

Resources & Further Reading – The best of the web!


Rick Eliason

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

Rick is Reload's most senior SEO expert, and started his digital marketing journey way back in 2007 as an in-house online marketing executive. Now with over three years under his belt at Reload Digital, he handles search and conversion campaigns for a wide range of clients from e-commerce and start-ups to large service-based businesses and not-for-profits.