My favorite Red Sox fan, Greg Jarboe, extolled the virtues of videos and YouTube.
While Google Video will crawl your website and find/index any videos hosted there, they account for less than 5% of the market in terms of video viewage. YouTube doesn’t crawl sites – all videos must be hosted on their site – but since they have 84% market share, that’s the way to go.
In December 2009, according to ComScore, there were 9.7 billion core searches on Google and 13 billion videos watched on YouTube. So anyone not getting into video and YouTube is missing today’s biggest online opportunity.
How are people finding videos to watch now? Forty five percent discover them directly on video sites (including YouTube); only 6% find them with traditional search engines. Forty four percent find videos because they’re embedded in blogs. Two percent each discover videos through social networks or social bookmarking sites. Less than 1% use specialized blog search engines.
YouTube’s mission is for people to be able to discover, watch and share videos. These are three distinct tasks.
Getting Your Videos Discovered
The best way to ensure your video is discovered is to optimize it for YouTube’s search function. YouTube says that they “combine sophisticated text-matching techniques to find videos that are both important and relevant to your search. Our technology examines dozens of aspects of the video’s content (including number of hits and rating) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.”
Many people use the same keyword research tools that they use for traditional SEO in order to determine which keywords to target on YouTube. That’s not necessarily bad, but people do search differently on YouTube (one simple example is that they don’t include the word “video” when searching on YouTube). YouTube does have a keyword suggestion tool, but currently it’s not very good. The best thing to do is to look at their search suggestions – start typing queries into the search box and see what YouTube. That’ll tell you what more people are searching for.
Where should you put your keywords? Optimize the video’s title (120 character limit) – think of it like a headline and if you include your brand name, put it last.
Also optimize the descriptions (5000 character limit). Be as detailed as possible here (including keywords), short of including an entire transcript. Include URLs (important – with the http:// part) to your website or other online properties. Links are nofollowed, but they do generate traffic.
Sidenote: the description is not just for SEO purposes – it also plays a role when someone shares videos with their friends. They’ll often use the description to give the backstory to their friends. So tell a great story that’ll be likely to get retold.
Also use keywords in tags (120 characters maximum). Be as detailed as possible, because YouTube lives and dies by tags. This is very different from the keyword meta tag on sites for SEO.
Categories are a factor in optimizing videos, but YouTube doesn’t always have good categories. Optimize each video individually. If you’re optimizing your YouTube channel, the same tools are used, but the character limits are different.
Getting Your Video Watched
Some large percentage of viewers drop off during the first 10 seconds of viewing. Fifty four percent leave after 60 seconds. So just because someone discovers your video, it doesn’t mean they’ll watch it, absorb your message, or share it. Your video must be compelling – don’t optimize garbage.
Select your video thumbnail carefully – YouTube will give you three choices. The thumbnail tells part of the story in the SERPs and can affect how many people decide to click and watch it. Note that the videos displayed on the right side of YouTube’s search results page are paid, similar to pay-per-click ads on traditional search engines. These ads are “dirt cheap” right now because not many people have used them yet.
Videos that rank high on YouTube also tend to rank high on Google due to Universal Search. Google pulls videos from a number of sources, but 85% are from YouTube.
YouTube’s Hot Spots tool compares viewership of a video to others of a similar length, so you can see when people drop off on yours or others. Greg’s takeaway for his videos is to cut out lengthy intros and get right to the meat of the video.
YouTube channels can also be incredibly powerful. Greg showed the example of a young man named Ryan Higa, who has 2 million subscribers to his channel. These people have asked to be notified when he has a new video, so they’re not just watching his current content, but they’re asking for future content. He even sells ads on his channel.
Getting Your Video Shared
YouTube is a video-sharing site. When a video is shared, it’s endorsed – people are putting their credibility behind it. So your goal is to make videos that people want to watch and share.
Again, including a compelling story in the description helps. Consider buying ads on YouTube to promote your video and get some traction behind it. Promote your YouTube videos and channel on your website, your blog, your other social media platforms, and in public relations efforts. Use YouTube’s new annotation function to ask viewers to rate your video. You can also list your URL here. Google is not currently indexing annotations, but it may in the future.