Maximizing Your SEO with Video

This is a guest blog post by friend and colleague Shawn Lam of Shawn Lam Video Inc.

Videographers are typically very humble when it comes to taking credit for their work.  I can accept that.  But I don’t like it when they just give it away.  As a video community, we often discuss this in terms of what rates we charge our customers. But no one talks about taking credit for our video in terms of video SEO (search engine optimization).

I also hate it when writers start an article with a dictionary definition – or worse, with a Wikipedia definition.  It reads so high school English class to me.  But I guess there are worse things that a writer can do (like start a sentence with a conjunction, which I do lots).  So bear with me as I define SEO, using a Wikipedia definition, because although the concept is simple, most website owners (and especially videographers) don’t realize that they are giving away their most valuable SEO asset with every video they upload to YouTube.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.

The whole point of optimizing SEO is to drive new and repeat traffic to your website.  The best way to do this is with a combination of links that point to your website and getting listed as high as possible on the first page of Google search results for your key search terms.  Getting links that point back to your website is a part of every good SEO strategy; but the ultimate goal in SEO is high search engine results. By the way, your key search terms aren’t your company name – they are the search terms a potential client would type into a Google search and that you would hope to be listed under.  In my Vancouver Video Production company my two most important key search terms are “Vancouver Video Production” & “Vancouver Videographer”.

What matters in a Google search is the terms used that could potentially put your site high on the first page.

So now that we have defined and stated the goal of SEO, let me give you an example of what SEO is not:  Posting a video on YouTube is not SEO.  It can be a part of a link building strategy but it does nothing for your SEO.  In fact, YouTube is robbing you of your SEO potential with each and every video that you post on their website and embed on yours.  Now while I’m not going to go into detail in this post on the different type of links, I will say that a link under a YouTube video serves very little value to you in regards to SEO.

Allow me to explain:  Google indexes videos and places then in search results.  This goes for YouTube videos the same as it does for videos on other hosts or that you host on your own web host – so long as Google can find the video and it has meta data (title, tags, description, etc).  But what is important as far as your SEO is concerned, is what website Google considers is hosting the video.  If you host a video on YouTube, then Google gives YouTube back-link credit.  And if your video shows-up in search results, the link will be to the YouTube page where the video is hosted.  Even if your video doesn’t get listed, there is still huge SEO value in videos, because of their meta data, which contains valuable key search terms and lots of long-tail search terms.

So YouTube hosting helps in getting video views and if you put your website link on YouTube it is possible to get traffic this way. But let me refer you back to the Wiki-definition on SEO and remind you that putting a video on YouTube doesn’t help to improve the visibility of YOUR website in search engine results.   It only helps YouTube with their SEO.

The problem gets even worse when you take a video that you host on YouTube (or most other commercial video hosts, including Vimeo) and embed the video on your website.  Why?  Because if the viewer is already on your website, why the heck would you give them a link back to YouTube (via the video embed) or allow YouTube to display ads, suggest your competitor’s videos, or distract them with LoLcat videos?  Once you have a viewer on your website, the whole point is to convert them in some form (phone call, email, follow on Twitter, like on Facebook, leave a comment, RSS, email subscribe, etc).

Why embed a YouTube video on your site that displays ads and links to other sites?

So if there is one thing you take away from this article, it should be that you should NEVER embed your own YouTube video on your website because you are giving away your SEO potential.

The YouTube Alternative

The best practice for hosting video on your own website is to use a host that allows you to create and submit Video Sitemaps  to Google (see video below about how and why to create sitemaps).  Google will then credit your videos to your website in search results.  You can’t create a video sitemap with YouTube videos that you embed on your website because YouTube has already claimed your video with the meta data that you entered when you named and described your video.  So while a YouTube video you upload may have SEO value, the value goes to YouTube, regardless if you upload the video.

In order to submit a video sitemap, you need a video host that allows you to take credit for the videos you upload.  One method is to use a host like AmazonS3 for your videos – they are the back-end for an amazing collection of websites, which they list on their case studies page.   Then you need to generate a video sitemap manually, which is a tedious process.  Unfortunately there are no video sitemap generators that I am aware of.

The other video sitemap solution is to use a video host that has video sitemap support, can host the video sitemap for you, allow you to add entries in a manner that is similar to how you would create a title, tags, and description on YouTube, and most importantly, points the videos back to the specific webpage where you are hosting the video.  Wistia is the company that I use and their sitemap process is documented on their Video SEO documentation page.

There are other video hosting options that allow you to be credited in Google search results – feel free to add to the two options I’ve already listed in the comments section.  Questions are welcome as well.

Amazon S3 and Wistia aren’t free but the SEO boost and added analytics with Wistia are more than worth it (Wistia does have a free 15 day video hosting trial though).  I’ve also previously written about Video Analytics on my video production blog if you are interested in understanding the benefits of professional video analytics and to reinforce to yourself the value that comes when you stop giving away your SEO value to YouTube and start taking SEO credit for your work by using a premium video host.

Shawn Lam operates a successful Vancouver video production company and is a frequent writer and product reviewer for the video production industry.  You can follow Shawn’s Twitter feed  @shawnlamvideo.

19 thoughts on “Maximizing Your SEO with Video

    1. Not at all. This video is by Google so naturally it’s going to be on YouTube.

      Don’t misunderstand what Shawn is saying here. He is not saying NOT to embed YouTube videos at all. He’s saying that YOUR videos would ideally best be embedded using a service like Wistia. This is not a video by me or Shawn. When embedding somebody else’s video (in this case Google’s), you will use whatever embed player they have. In this case, it’s YouTube. But, let’s say someone wanted to embed YOUR video. If you used a service like Wistia. then when it’s embedded, the link in the video would go back to your site vs. Vimeo or YouTube.

  1. Thanks for the reminder Ron!
    I just went and fixed all my company blogs we’ve done. I was reminded that SEO is not your company’s name (yet) but how people search the web. I knew this going in and got lost in the writing, video and coordination.

        1. You’re welcome Phil. Happy to help and glad I was able to suggest a few easy steps for you to refine your SEO strategy. Often it isn’t about making massive changes but doing a few things well.

          Sorry I haven’t been able to be active in this discussion sooner. My twin girls were born the day before this post was published so, understandably, I’ve had some demands on my time and those little demands are sooooo cute.

  2. Ron and Shawn,

    Great information in this post.. no doubt… but I would add…

    Youtube has been the second most searched website just behind Google for quite some time (Did Facebook just bump them?). I have helped quite a few clients generate great leads and direct business conversions from using Youtube specifically. It’s a different approach to Video SEO, but should not be dismissed.

    Another area not mention in Shawn’s article was the fact that you are competing with the Youtube videos in Google’s SERPs, so depending on the keywords, you could end up buried deep out of site.

    I do get the philosophy of trying to gain ranking in Google results by self hosting, but you can also get great results by posting on Youtube and then making a clear link to your website in the description area.

    A great tip if posting on Youtube is to put the link of your website as the very first word in your video’s description. If you use “http://” before your domain, Google will make this a clickable link.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dan. Great points. And great minds must think alike b/c I made similar points in my follow up article (the one right after this). But it’s good to have the info here too. Thanks! 🙂

    2. Hey Dan,
      Thanks for the comments. Sorry I haven’t been able to reply sooner – as I mentioned above, my twin girls were born the day before this article went live.

      The YouTube hosting strategy isn’t one I’d call “different” because it is what most companies default to because they believe it will increase their search engine rankings and drive traffic to their website.

      Your tips on adding your website to the description in a manner that will allow it to be a hyperlinked, or clickable link are great for when you are hosting on YouTube but that doesn’t mean that hosting and embedding videos that will appear on your website with YouTube videos is a good idea, because it is not.

      Let’s be clear that posting a link on YouTube does not contribute to positive Google SERP. The reason is that YouTube, like many sites (including the links in the comment section of this blog) utilize rel=”nofollow” HTML coding. This “no follow” code tells Google not to give that link SEO credit. Bing and Yahoo respect this coding as well.

      So if you host a video on YouTube and then embed it on your website you are hurting your own website SEO potential by not putting a video on your website that Google can credit to your website. It actually is a bit worse than just that – you were concerned that by “competing” with YouTube your website would appear out of (sic) site in Google search but if you post a video on YouTube you are actually contributing to an extra search term in YouTube’s favour, although I would bother yourself about that too much, regardless of the butterfly effect.

      By hosting with a service that allows proper Video Sitemap creation you are contributing to your page’s SEO value. You wouldn’t put a photo on a video page and leave its title img20003.jpg and a blank description because you know that if you title the photo and description with similar terms as your content, this is good for Google SEO. So why would you consider embedding a YouTube video there because Google won’t even see it – all they see is something like (non-functioning link on purpose) htttp://… and that doesn’t tell Google what the title, description, and tags of the video are.

      Now while I think that all videos that are one yours or your clients’ websites should be professionally hosted with a host that allows video sitemaps, I don’t think it is a bad idea to also put the video on YouTube and add the links back to your website. As you have described, this can lead to some traffic and even sales. YouTube is still the 2nd largest search engine.

      But Google is number 1 and getting people on your website should be the ultimate goal.

      And if you are concerned about “competing” with the power of YouTube – don’t. I have been able to get videos that I created and hosted on Wistia to appear in Google SERPs above the same video that my client put on their YouTube page. The nice part about this is that both results appeared with video thumbnails and this shut-out competing videos from page 1 results. My client was obviously happy with this result in that I was able to beat YouTube, which means they can keep one step ahead of their competitors.

  3. Great article! As a video production company in Boston, we usually tell our clients that while posting on YouTube has it’s value (Dan posted some above), anything on the clients website should be done through a paid video host for a variety if reasons. It looks more professional, optimized for bandwidth, customer service, etc. You’ve just given us another great one to point to.

  4. This has been a great thread and given me a lot of insight to YouTube. One question though. If I host a video on S3 and put the same exact video on YouTube, does it detract from having the S3 video on my site? I mean in terms of SEO juice?

    OK, maybe two questions. Any recommendations on an easy (read free) viewers for my WP site?

    1. Having your video in both places will not hurt your SEO juice. The more places you have your video, the better.

      What do you mean by free “viewers” for your WP site?

    2. Ron is correct – having your video on YouTube and using S3 for hosting on your own site will not hurt your SEO juice. The YouTube video might show-up higher in Google SERP than the video on your website because Google’s algorithms are moving and dynamic, there is no definitive answer and if all you care about is SEO value then YouTube gives you none but most people care about a balance of SEO value and views and in that case a dual hosting strategy makes sense.

      The JW Player is a really good player that allows you to create Google Video Sitemaps. There is a small one-time license fee for commercial website use but it is well worth it compared to what most people waste on Google Adwords every month with no lasting SEO benefits.

      1. Thank you for your reply. Someone mentioned to me that Google looks at video like they look at other content and duplication is not a good idea. They suggested that I change the first few frames and the last few, as this is all Google sees. Is there any truth to this?

        Of course, since I get no “juice” from YouTube I should not care. But will they look at the site in general and think there is duplicate content.

        (A lot of words to ask “Will it hurt the site’s ranking to have a copy of the video on YouTube and S3”)

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