Today, many companies resort to video production as a means of telling their brand story, educating their customers or promoting their next deal. However, by far not all of them know how to make the most of their videos, that is, how to expose them to larger audiences on Google, YouTube and other search engines.

One may argue that "Oh, we just want this tutorial to sit on our site in case someone needs it". If this is the marketing philosophy you have, you could be missing out on lots of Web traffic and branding opportunities out there. Brands that don't pay enough attention to video optimization could be handing over their Web traffic to other players outranking them in search for their very brand keywords!

For instance, let me search for QuickBooks tutorial (accounting software) on Google and YouTube. Here are the results I get:

On Google

Video SEO

On YouTube

SEO tips for videos

As you can see, ranking at position 1 on Google is a video by mjsiemer, while on YouTube it's a video by TheMegaNiche1. Is this because QuickBooks don't have a tutorial of their own? They do, actually. But I was able to locate it only after investing some effort into it.

So, while QuickBooks do have tutorials for their products, it appears that they're missing out on quite a lot of Web traffic, because third-party videos outrank the company's own demos in both Google and YouTube.

Why do some videos underperform?

OK, if we try to analyze the 3 QuickBooks videos (by QuickBooks themselves and by the other two producers), we'll see that: 

search ranking for videos

Even at a glance, it's obvious that the video by mjsiemer is the oldest one and has the biggest number of views and likes. It's also of importance that the channel itself is highly popular with YouTube audiences (has 2,275 subscribers). Voila - in Google's opinion, this video deserves to be ranked #1 in video search.

At the same time, on YouTube, the #1 spot is occupied by a video by TheMegaNiche1, which could be due to it being available in HD or having gotten the biggest number of social media shares (it may well be that, for YouTube rankings in particular, social media shares are more important).

So, what can QuickBooksGlobal do to improve their video's rankings on YouTube and in Google? In fact, how can any video producer optimize their video in such a way that its odds of being ranked high for the right keywords are great right from the start?

Ways to improve one's video rank

Depending on whether you're targeting Google or YouTube, you'd need a slightly different strategy for propelling your creation in the search results.  

Optimizing a video for YouTube

Did you notice that the only advantage of QuickBooks' own video I highlighted in the table above was its shortness? These days, YouTube takes into account "time watched" when estimating a video's importance and quality. So, the shorter your video is, the more likely it is to be watched through, and hence, the higher it is likely to rank on YouTube.

So, Tip #1 - make your video as short as possible. Then, when you upload your newly made video to YouTube, take the following steps:

1. Determine your target keywords

Most likely, you don’t want your video to rank for just any keywords - you'd need to know which terms people actually search for on YouTube. For that, you can either leverage YouTube suggest:

SEO

Or you can use YouTube's keyword tool. This one will also let you know how popular each keyword is with the searchers:

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 2. Use your keyword in critical parts of the video

Once you know what keyword your video should rank for, use your target search terms in these parts of the video:

  • Video file name
  • Video title
  • Video description
  • Video tags

Plus, it is generally believed by SEOs that the closer to the beginning of the element the keyword it is, the higher your video will rank.

*I did not include keywords into the comparison table above, because the three compared videos have similar titles, descriptions and tags. But, generally, if your title and desciption are keyword-richer than those of your competitors, this definitely gives you a leg-up.

3. Proofread your video transcript

By default, YouTube creates a transcript for your video with captions that can be viewed upon pressing the paper sheet sign right underneath the video. However, sometimes these automatic captions are anything but accurate.

For example, here is YouTube's version of "I'll be your guide today" from this video:

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So, if you see that the automatic captions are innacurate or missing, it's worth to upload your own transcript of the video. To do that, go to Video Manager - > CC  -> Add Captions:

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Many video optimizers believe that a keyword-rich, coherent transcript helps a video rank higher on YouTube (and Google).

Besides, good-quality captions could be of great help to users: for instance, to hearing impaired folks or to foreign viewers. I believe it is also helpful to prepare a video script before you make the video (as opposed to making it on the spot). This way, you'll be able to use your target keywords in the transcript the way you'd like, and will be able to almost effortlessly upload the captions to YouTube.

4. Share you video on social media

Why is it important to solicit as many social shares, embeds, links and other "media love" for your newly published video as possible? Thing is:

  • It helps you get more views
  • It helps you get more likes
  • Embeds works like links in video SEO (to an extent).

So, once you're ready, go ahead and share your video with your social media followers. If you can, include it into your latest email marketing message. The more people share it, view it or embed it on their pages - the better your video will rank on YouTube.

By the way, you can automate some part of that process by taking the steps described in this guide to YouTube marketing that we recently put together.

Optimizing a video for Google

It is possible that Google uses a slightly different algorithm than YouTube to rank videos in search results. However, many things you need to do to "prepare" your video for Google’s Video search are basically the same.  

Now, some people choose not to post their videos in YouTube, but prefer to host them elsewhere (on Vimeo, Metacafe, on their own site). This could be for various reasons:

  • You don't want the related videos snippet displayed at the end of the vid
  • You don't want YouTube advertising on your videos (these could be turned off, by the way)
  • You'd like to publish your vids on multiple platforms (YouTube, your site, etc.)
  • You just don't wish to depend on YouTube as a video host

Whatever your reasons, if you're planning to host your video content on your own site, here is how you can give it a bit more exposure on Google and other search engines:

1. Optimize the page with the video

I've definitely seen this happen to images (i.e., my images were showing up for the keywords present on the pages they were posted), and I suppose videos are not an exception.

  • Use your keyword(s) in page title
  • Use your keywords in page  headings
  • Wherever natural, highlight your keywords on the page with bold text/italics

2. Remember the transcript

If you have a transcript of your video on the page where it's published, this will spare you the need to create keyword-rich copy for it (unless this is required to fulfill the page’s goal).

So, just publish the transcript right underneath the video. You can provide your views with the option of expanding/collapsing the script.

3. Have the embed code ready

As I said previously, embeds (hotlinks) supposedly help videos rank higher. So, do make it easy for your visitors to grab an embed code and to put a video on their site. For instance, here is how MouseFlow encourages people to embed their video presentation:

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4. Utilize schema markup for videos

Schema markup for videos is supported by all major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo!). If Google can correctly parse a page that contains this format, a snippet of your video may get displayed in the search results (which will definitely encourage click and look just as good as a video result).

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There is more than one way to implement this type of markup, but Google recommends using a VideoObject Schema for these purposes. Detailed instructions on how to implement video markup are also available at Webmaster Central Blog

5. Submit a video Sitemap

If you publish a video on your own site, you can also submit a video Sitemap that contains the information about your video to Google. Please note that Google is able to crawl videos in any of the following formats:

mpg, .mpeg, .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .ra, .ram, .rm, .flv, .swf.

Besides, when you submit a sitemap, there are certain fields that must be filled out for each video:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Play page URL
  • Thumbnail URL
  • Raw video file location and/or the player URL (SWF)

To submit a video sitemap to Google in Webmaster Tools, go to Crawl - > Sitemaps.

Conclusion

So, this is what you can do to increase your video's rank on both Google and YouTube. This way, not only will you capture the Web traffic that could be going to other video producers (that’s rightly yours), but also grow your brand awareness and the number of your YouTube channel subscribers.

Know another video optimization trick? Do share your marketing wisdom in comments!

Image credit: studiovision at iStockPhoto