Optimizing Videos for Search: A Complete Guide

Whether you host your company videos on your brand’s website or upload to YouTube will have dramatically different search results with Google. Each platform has its distinct benefits to the marketer, with distinct optimization strategies and tactics to follow in order to rank well, and maximize search visibility and conversions.

Google’s diverse search landscape contains several different search algorithms, including Google Search, Google Video Search, and YouTube; each offers different ways of showing video results. This presents some hefty challenges for search marketing professionals. This two-part series on video search will present insights and tips gained from our own experiences, industry collaboration, experimentation, and reverse engineering – first on Google Search for video (here) and next time on optimizing video for YouTube.

Tip No. 1: To gain high video views, strong brand impression, and visibility online, post the video on YouTube.

Tip No. 2: In order to optimize for Google Search and achieve strong ranking on Google.com, consider a triple play – host your video on your website, on YouTube, and embed the YouTube video on your brand’s website as well.

Optimizing Video for Google Search

The bottom line is this: your website will beef up its Google Search credentials with video that is of high quality, relevant to viewers and key phrases, and self-hosted.

Hosting optimized videos on your website means all organic traffic will go to www.MyBrand.com, and your site will gain inbound links and conversion. It may also return rich snippets in organic search if prepared properly with video schema and with a defined custom thumbnail (more on schema later).


Here are the key guidelines to follow for your video SEO success.

  1. The more relevant the video is for users, the higher the rankings will be for those pages. Relevance is crucial for effectiveness and search data. Be sure your video is of high quality and rich with content that engages viewers, encourages longer page visits, and becomes a linkable or shareable asset to your brand (depending on your audience).
  2. The first 48 hours are critical to your ranking success. Engagement metrics such as views, comments, likes, searches, shares, and even press coverage create cross-channel buzz, video virality, and search virility.
  3. Video increases time spent on pages.We live in a picture-crazed society and people prefer videos over reading (sorry, writers!). Video encourages longer view times and more engaged site visitors, which will boost your analytics.
    • “Length of visits” is an indication of relevancy (see number one).
    • Longer visits via highly engaging video content can yield higher conversions. This varies across industries but the search statistics show that viewers are 64 to 85 percent more likely to buy after watching a product video.product-video-stats
  4. Embedded video links create more relevance about your site to users.Which will catch Google’s attention and reward your site in Google Search. Embedding video presents a great opportunity to build your site’s authority, your brand’s digital footprint, and your business.
    • Nearly 180 million U.S. Internet users (about 74 percent of the U.S. Internet audience) watched over 36 billion videos online in January 2013 alone, according to comScore.comscore-video-content-2013
    • Video is now used by 70 percent of B2B marketers as an inbound marketing tool, up from 52 percent a year ago, according to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report.
  5. Self-host your video on unique, optimized landing pages.We recommend you:
    • Use only HTML-based templates – no Flash unless the page is iPad-compatible and has a video thumbnail image.
    • Host only one video per landing page and optimize the hell out of it.
    • Follow basic SEO best practices – unique, short, keyword-rich URLs; target key phrase in title; no iFrames; analytic tracking enabled; sharing widgets utilized; cross-channel promotion; proper meta data.
    • Embed video on a page with existing content for added value and engagement. Rich, diverse pages typically rank better and will invariably improve conversion rates. Not everyone consumes web video with the same enthusiasm, so the more text, images, and diverse media on a page, the better it will appear to both the algorithms and potential viewers/customers.
  6. Get increased SERP “share of shelf” with optimized search terms. Video must be highly relevant to the entered key phrase in order for Google to return it as a universal search result. Capture Google’s attention with positive keyword intent – informational keywords (not transactional) help your video gain credibility.
  7. Create and submit a video sitemap. Include a unique title, description, embed location, thumbnail, and content location for each video on your site. Make sure the keyword phrase and description matches the content on the page where your video is embedded.
  8. Get a rich snippet in organic search through video microdata. Your snippet will come up as a hit if you mark up the page with proper video microdata from schema.org and/or video schema providers. Video tagging must be highly relevant for the entered key phrases. Don’t forget the thumbnails!
  9. Increase site relevance and links through social media. Social media is the fastest way to turbo-charge interaction and site authority. Varied, regularly updated, creative social media content will boost engagement, return visits, and viral sharing. In January 2013, Facebook streamed more than 425 million videos, according to comScore. You get the picture.

As we have shown, there are many factors involved in optimization for self-hosted video. Working with a professional SEO firm that manages video campaigns on a regular basis will ensure that your online video is being viewed, shared, and a vibrant part of your audience’s Google Search.

Next time: optimizing video for YouTube.

Video image on home page via Shutterstock.

Related reading