As the second-largest search engine in the world, YouTube is a premier video sharing platform. Significantly, out of 10 video search results 8 are YouTube videos. The numbers keep growing, every minute over 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. With the number of uploads increasing on a day-to-day basis, how can a video uploaded by a user stay afloat and be noticed?. The only way it can be done is publishing the videos, and optimising them for search, through the best video SEO practices implementation.
Having an active YouTube SEO strategy provides positive outcomes. Other than the basics of including keywords in title, description, and tags, and considering that search engines can only crawl text, having a full accurate transcript of the video.influences the search results for YouTube videos.
Designing web content that will rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) is a key element in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Similarly, YouTube SEO entails optimising channel, playlists, meta data, and description. Besides the video itself can be optimised for search within YouTube, and outside it. Anything in text in the form of transcripts, closed captions, and subtitles associated with the video is a key factor in YouTube SEO.
The YouTube Search Functionality
After Google’s ownership of YouTube, the outreach of videos in video search has increased dramatically, since data is seamlessly shared between the two companies. Uploading videos to YouTube gets it a beneficiary advantage of being indexed by Google immediately. The bots crawl the videos in the shortest period of time, and submitting a new video site map is no longer essential.
Nonetheless, despite the close partnership between Google and YouTube, the fundamentals of SEO still apply for the growth of the viewership of videos. An optimised content is an essential element for search engines to index and find YouTube videos. In the context of the videos to go viral, Google must have the necessary information of the content of the video. Therefore, the search engine bots are guided by the accompanying data for indexing them methodically.
The title of the video, description and tags are the key elements. Not many YouTube users however realize that closed captions and transcripts positively influences user engagement, watch time, viewership, and obviously SEO.
The nine key fundamentals to increase viewership on YouTube and improve video search rank are:
Doing Away YouTube's ASR Captions and Adding Accurate Closed Captions.
An automatic transcription option has been added by YouTube, however the auto-caption tool has the capability of delivering only 70% accurate captions, which at times become difficult to comprehend. Remember Google has a policy of rewarding helpful and informative content, and penalizes spam.
One of the classification of spam is defined as ‘automatically generated gibberish’, in other words, the automatic caption files fit that description aptly. It certainly would be a risk uploading or using inaccurate captions, this would lead to the video being determined as spam, the search ranking as a result would be lost for the whole YouTube channel.
In order to prevent the detrimental effects of adding ASR captions for YouTube SEO, adding accurate closed captions to YouTube videos would be an ideal solution. Since search engines are not programmed to watch videos, they can only crawl text, having a video transcript with relevant keywords added to indicate the gist of the video will have Google crawl the content and rank it in accordance.
Auto Speech Recognition (ASR) captions can be unfavorable for the cause of YouTube SEO, it is always desirable to add accurate closed captions to videos. Having a keyword rich transcript will have Google crawl the content, and rank it in accordance.
If it is time sensitive or the user is not inclined to work on something beyond their realm of activity, a transcription and captioning company can be called upon to fulfill their needs.
Improved Search Ranking
Adding captions to videos contributes to better SEO ranking, a prominent media company found out doing research, the views increased by 13.48% in the first two weeks after captions were added, and overall views increased by 7.32%. As a means to better understand the relevance of keywords, the company searched for a keyword phrase that was only available in their video captions, with no trace of it in the title, description, tags, or metadata. They found that Google had crawled the caption text, and the video received a favorable ranking for the phrase.
Improved User Engagement
Adding closed captions to videos results in improved user engagement, getting more likes, shares, and comments than videos that do not have captions. More engagement, improved the video search rank, it results in more views, as per a study by YouTube, captioned videos receive 4% more views.
Improved Web Accessibility
Adding closed captions to videos makes it easily accessible to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Besides, with sound muted in public places or workplaces, captions make it possible for viewers to watch and enjoy the videos, without ‘silence’ protocols being breached.
Transcript of the Video Has A Marketing Outreach
YouTube allows adding 4,580 characters including space in the description field of the videos.This feature enables displaying the transcript of the video, potentially for a 10-minute video that is heavily dialogue oriented. If the transcript exceeds that limitation, a shortened version can be displayed, with a link to the full version on a different webpage.
The search engines reference the video description field of the videos to index them, a keyword-optimised transcript will boost the SEO efforts of the YouTube videos
How can video transcripts help marketers?
Many marketers fail to explore the full potential of transcripts, unlike a few prominent brands that have realized its potential value and through it have extended the reach of their videos. As a Content Marketing Manager of a media company pointed out that interesting videos can be a beginning for content creation and a valuable component for targeted inbound marketing efforts. She explains that video content can be leveraged for content marketing through video transcripts as secondary content.
SEO can be optimised, using a video transcript, it can be shared, either as blogs, infographics, whitepapers, fact sheets or even website copy. In a way, a video transcript can be a handy component for a marketing shortcut.
Offering Multilingual Subtitles Through A Translated Video Transcript
The audience reach can be further expanded providing subtitles in other languages in a similar way as English captions that enable video accessibility to more viewers. As Brad Ellis, the YouTube Product Manager at Google explained in a streaming media conference that 80% of views on YouTube come from outside of the United States, which is huge, and much of it is non-English. He stressed on the importance of translating captions, emphasising that it was a huge opportunity for growth. Further stating that their organization is also seeing a huge demand from non-English uploaders as well to get their content translated.
Videos receive an extended reach when foriegn language subtitles are added enabling non-native English speaking viewers to understand and enjoy them. An added advantage is attained, the search engines index the translated caption files to include them in search results of those languages. This will have a great potential for YouTube SEO, providing an opportunity of ranking higher for non-English keywords with limited competition to confront. It is important however that translations are absolutely accurate.
An Optimised Keyword, Title, Description, and Tags
An important SEO element is determining appropriate keyword and keyword phrases that accurately corresponds with the video description, and words and phrases users were most likely to enter in search engines that match the content of the video.
As an example, if videos about hair styling are published, the title, description, and tags must correspond to it accurately as ‘hair styling video’. Search engines have smart filters to identify overstuffed keywords, the urge of over-using keywords or variations of keywords to hack the system should be desisted, making sure that keywords are targeted at humans, not robots, or the user will have to bear the consequences of getting penalized.
YouTube offers a free video analytics tool to determine what phrases and keywords are being used in search. It offers a range of effective keywords for targeted audiences. Most importantly, a variation of keywords should be chosen which has less competition, this will have the potential of favorable end result.
Google Trends and Google Adwords Keyword Planner are important tools for reference to determine phrases that are popular in search queries.
‘Long tail’ keywords would be more appropriate for individual videos, being more specific and targeted. Just as an example ‘hair styling videos for boys’ will have a better keyword target value than just ‘hair styling videos’.
After selecting the keywords, they need to be entered into the following fields.
-Title: Consisting of 100 characters, shortened at 66 characters, with important information included in the first 66 characters. Better results can be potentially accomplished using persuasive or compelling language, for example “how to,” “advice,”
“tips,” or numbered lists will have a better click through rate
-Meta Description: 5,000 characters can be accomodated, but Google generally shortens snippets to ~155–160 characters. However keeping the meta descriptions long enough for it to be sufficiently descriptive is a good practice, so the recommended descriptions can be between 50–160 characters.
-Tags: 120 characters can be accommodated into the meta tags. Google however displays 50-60 characters of a title tag. So keeping the titles under 60 characters enables an accurate display of 90% of the title.
If a video is supposedly posted on several domains other than YouTube, the keyword phrases need to be slightly varied, unless a user wants to setoff a competition within his own domains across different sites.
Using honest and relevant terms is a good SEO practice, rather than harping on trending topics that may not be relevant to the user’s video content, and which would invite a negative score later.
Targeted Keyword A Part of the Video
As mentioned earlier, the targeted keyword should be a part of the title, description, tags, and the transcript. Since YouTube too ranks the video referencing the transcript and captions, the importance of an accurate transcript should never be ignored. Auto-Captions cannot be relied upon, the inaccuracies would result in keyword advantage being lost.
YouTube offers a tool called ‘Search Suggest’, typing a word or phrase into the search bar, outputs a set of keywords. These are based on terms that users would be searching for. Keywords can also be determined through the YouTube Search Report (under Traffic Sources > YouTube search). The value of a good keyword can also be known by searching for it on YouTube, the “About results” generated can help determine the popularity of the key word, and how many users may have used it. However, choosing a low-competition keyword makes better sense.
Video SEO Embed for Improved SERP
As stated earlier, videos are prioritized in Google search results, however if the meta-data is not appropriate, it won’t be prioritized by the search engine. An automation tool can be used to provide information to Google understand details about the video, such as a detailed description, thumbnail URL, upload date, and duration.
This tool embeds all the information into the head of the webpage. In marking up the information of the video with Google search, it becomes easier for people to discover and watch the videos. This will have videos appear in Google Search results, video search results, Google Images, and Google Discover. In addition to optimising the video on YouTube, if it is also optimised in Google, the videos get 2-5x more views.
Improving User Engagement
Viewer responses to a users content is of prime importance to Google, they look at the following aspects:
Watch Time Data
Watch time reporting provides an insight into the amount of time people spend watching videos or video ads. This data helps understand the interaction of the people with the video ads, and which are the videos viewers watch the longest, besides how long the content is keeping people engaged, even after the ads are skipped.
Assuming a viewer watched a 10-minute video for 5-minutes of duration or until 50 percent completion, this will get the video a higher ranking than a 3-minute video that was watched one-hundred percent.
This makes it important that the first 15 seconds of the video is packed with teasers to hook the viewer. If the video is about a DIY project, the finished product should find a place in the beginning of the video, to sustain the interest of the viewer
Session Watch Time
This is another important measure of user engagement. The contributing factor that YouTube takes into account is the overall time spent by the viewer during the viewing session. All aspects of the viewing session are taken into account, was the video viewed until the end, or did the viewer leave the site midway, or in fact watched a couple of more videos.
The more time viewers spend watching videos, it meets the objectives of YouTube. However, as website owners, this goes against their SEO goals, because the videos created were to bring visitors to their website, but it was moving them away to YouTube instead.
Analysing User Intent
Analysing user objectives is something Google does with extreme diligence, they have a perfect understanding of searchers needs. In this context, compelling video titles play a decisive role in search rankings. Desist the temptation of using plagiarized titles, just because they happen to be the top ranking searched phrases or terms. It makes better sense to answer a user’s question in the title of the video, while the search term can be included into the description, Google will be more appreciative and rewarding.
Extending Subscriber Base
Videos generate a lot of watch time during the first week they are published. The first seven days are crucial for productive user engagement. It’s a good practice notifying subscribers to provide them regular schedules, and letting them know when they can expect the publication of a new video.
Making Good Use of Playlist
This is another way of boosting user engagement, creating relevant, short sub categorised playlists.This facilitates sharing multiple videos simultaneously by sharing the playlist instead of sending the subscriber a link to one video.
Video Marketing Best Practices & YouTube
How YouTube Can Be Explored As A Productive Marketing Platform?
An online survey of 600 online respondents that included senior marketing personnel provided their feedback to the WVMC and ReelSEO. They shared their marketing strategies, many of the personnel believed that videos had great potential, and were assimilating it into email marketing, social media and content creation.
Over 65% of respondents in the survey stated that they had posted YouTube videos on their websites.
What options can companies follow for embedding videos on their websites?
Looking at the options of optimising websites through video, there are two possibilities that can be explored, both will provide different results. If a company’s marketing goals are set at driving viewership and branding, YouTube will fit their needs, because eight out of ten videos results are assimilated to YouTube. It would be absolutely naive on the part of any marketing strategy to overlook the importance of YouTube as a marketing platform.
Standalone media player on the company website
Nonetheless, marketers also need to take into account the negative fallout of web marketing cannibalization, driving visiting audiences away to YouTube, is not the best of marketing policies. A simple work-around would be to embed videos on the company website through a standalone media player.
The video landing page can be optimised, through relevant keywords and a video transcript. For better results, visitors can be provided with a clear path that will guide them towards a goal.
After a period of time, when promotion and traffic to the video page has slowed down, the video can be placed on YouTube, optimising the YouTube video page, following the same principles of adding keyword variances, captions, and transcript.