Right now we’re monitoring online video websites based on many views they can get us (and, of course, if they share the ad revenue). The single most important thing to drive views is an online video site liking your content enough to feature it. But do you know what the SINGLE most important thing will be for online video in the next 6-18 months? Search.
Content is pouring online. New distribution channels are emerging. There are countless videos online and the growth isn’t slow. How will you and I find what videos we’re after? How will hungry viewers find us? Search.
There’s a reason some of the most popular websites are search engines- Yahoo, Google, MSN. When’s the last time you found something new online without starting at the search engine? Despite the popularity of online video sites, your average American will start with a search engine and include the word “video” in their search to find a video. So the automatic “spiders” search engines send to index video sites are extremely important. In my day job, I refer to search-engine spiders as a customer. (No, it hasn’t caught on).
There’s an entire industry built around search manipulation – er, search placement. It’s called “search engine marketing.” A great source of knowledge is SearchEngineWatch.com. Roughly 90% of searches are done on Google and Yahoo combined, and MSN is small but growing. Vendors will help your website get high “organic” rankings (in the natural search results where 80% of the eyeballs go). Where that’s not possible, they help you create compelling copy and bid on text search ads. Those appear on the top and right margins and cost advertisers each time they’re clicked (pay per click). Early in my online video days I was buying keywords for CubeBreak. Then a founder of a major search firm politely told me it was unsustainable because generally you can’t afford to bid on keywords if your only revenue source is advertising. He was right.
So let’s focus on “organic” optimization. There’s a whole discipline to natural search optimization and you’ll rarely beat the people that sell products because they will work very hard for “free” traffic. Where they have to pay each time a customer clicks their paid ad, the organic leads have no variable cost. Here’s one example where I’ve managed to out crift the advertisers. I’ve held the #1 spot for Healies (a misspelling of Heelys) for a while. They’re all paying for top placement. This was dumb luck because I can’t spell very well. Too bad I don’t sell Healies from my video.
So let’s review some of the things that will make your video rise in the busy world of Google (which is about 60% of the market):
- Don’t manipulate. Google has ways of detecting spider spammers, and punishes them accordingly. There was once a practice of “cloaking” which created multiple fake sites that got indexed by the engines separately but all went to one place. That’s a no no.
- For videos, concentrate on your keyword and description. You’re writing for two audiences. First for the viewer (but remember viewers rarely read the description and instead make their view based on title, placement and thumbnail). So arguably your description is more for the search engine!
- To make the description “pop,” be sure you use a few synonyms for the main topic. Add a few misspelling too. Unless there’s a text contraint, write a long description. The engines will (if they don’t already) put more emphasis on your first words and may decide not to crawl beyond, say, the first 50 words. But the engines don’t reveal rules like this. In any event, the first words are the most important.
- Get realistic. In August via Yahoo/Overture alone there were more than 1 million searches for the word “video.” You won’t place number one for the word video. But as you go deeper, there are 33,000 searches for “crash video.” Maybe you have a chance there. Be specific as you can. The keyword selector tool on Overture can help. It gives you the quantity of searches for each word, then lists sub or related categories.
- I don’t know if this works or not, but I add the word “video” to my keywords. I do so on the assumption that if someone types “topic x AND video” I want to make sure I surface for that combination. I believe the video sites are doing this for us (adding the word video to our tags), but I’m being safe.
- Get your videos on Blip. For reasons I can’t explain, Blip does well by the search engines. Revver too. But Blip videos seem to place highest on search engines, and my Blip videos even surface on Yahoo Video searches BEFORE my Yahoo videos!
- Try Mark Day‘s approach. He makes topical videos so he benefits from the spikes of searches for timely topics. If you’re quick this can work. If, for example, a big news event occurs and you’re first with a video on it- you’ve got a temporary window to rank prominently. The guy that did the fake Mel Gibson arrest video was riding high for a while. And if people find your video relevant you may just stay in the top 10 (which is all you care about because after that it doesn’t matter). That Gibson video is still a top-page listing for a search on “mel gibson arrest video.” Want to know what topics people care about at this very moment? Visit the Yahoo Buzz Index for ideas. Make related videos and you’ll get more traffic. I tend to avoid topical humor, however, because it puts an expiration date on my content.
- Keep in mind that the field of search engine rankings is a lot like radar detectors. As soon as you develop a better radar detector the police forc develops one it can’t detect. So stay on top of it.
As the world progresses, it’s going to matter less WHERE your video is and more on the WAY people find them via search engines. Despite the proliferation of niche video search engines, I’ve got my money on the existing players. I don’t think it’s practical that I’ll use one search engine for all of my needs and another for video.
So for now, focus on title, keywords and description. And if you’re not as lazy as me, go ahead and put in the transcript too. A game changer, of course, will be a site that turns the spoken word into a transcript (Blinkx.com was supposed to be doing that).
I know some of my readers (and you know who you are) are more proficient at this than I. Please post some additional suggestions.