Finding new ways to attract viewers has always been a challenge in the SEO world. When it comes down to it, ranking a website in the long term is not just about building a large number of links. It’s also about creating high-quality content that will attract links naturally over time. It’s the age-long battle of quality vs. quantity, and it has become fairly clear that the newest contender in SEO is online video.
Do your Marketing Basics
The first step in any effective communications-style campaign is understanding your audience. To ensure effective communication, think primarily about the people you want to view the video. Whether you’re targeting prospective students, student parents, undergrads, or professors, each video will serve a unique and distinctive purpose that should not be transparent throughout your other demographics. By putting yourself in their shoes, you will gain insight into what they want to know and how they want to be addressed. With this in mind, the distribution and formulation of your videos should correlate with each respective goal and message in mind. By appealing to these audiences, a video’s sense of quality will increase which will, in turn, lead to more visibility from an SEO standpoint as well.
Time is Money
Lets talk about Google for a second. One way that Google recognizes sites that are high in quality is by measuring how long a viewer stays on the page. Obviously, if it is an interesting and high quality site, someone’s going to stay for a longer period of time. A high bounce rate could be an indicator of a lower quality page, while a ‘long click’ — more time spent on a page — identifies a better domain in the eyes of a search engine. Needless to say, video offers an unprecedented opportunity to capture and engage viewers in a way that other forms of media simply lack. Placing program overview videos, digital tours or faculty interviews is a great way of implementing this strategy and can be done at a very low cost.
This is a great example of an interactive campus tour video provided by St. Michaels College:
Allowing the viewer to engage with your site is proving to add more and more value as quality is becoming more targeted.
Video on the SERP
Aside from the added viewing time and quality given to your programs pages, video helps to differentiate your brand on the search engine results page (SERP) through a video thumbnail result. Zappos, for example, created 50,000 product description videos in 2009 and doubled their linking domains. It should be unproblematic to take lessons like this and apply them to a schools program/department. Here is a step-by-step walkthrough for getting these video results on the SERP:
- Add keywords in a video title such as “Tutorial”, “Review”, “Explanation”, “Tour”, etc. to help identify/organize content and provide a shortcut to what your potential viewers are looking for. Keep it simple and to the point.
- When hosting your videos, be sure to use sites such as Vimeo Pro, Wistia, Vzaar or Viddler. Do NOT use a regular vimeo account or youtube as their domains will rank for your video on their site rather than your own domain.
- Embed videos via an HTML5 player with flash fallback. All of the listed hosting recommendations above should include this option.
- This one’s important. Surround the video with information. Images, links and text help search engines recognize a quality page, so make sure your video at least comes with a text description. A page with only video content on it can look very thin. An easy way of doing this is to provide faculty bios/pictures or student testimonials.
- A video sitemap is the main way of giving search engines rich meta-data about your video. Wistia offers sitemap generation at the price of a $25/month subscription. Refer to this video for further sitemap guidance:
Make it Sharable
Let people spread your content. Placing linked social icons on your video page only facilitates the endeavor to get your video into the world. If you’re looking for the basics I’d recommend getting the code from Twitter, Facebook and Google directly or throwing the “AddThis” widget on any page. Additionally, make your video embeddable, so others can throw it up and you can get further SEO value. For a quick guide on getting inbound link benefits from embedded videos, see here.
When it comes to video, as with all other content, quality is key. With search engine algorithms getting tighter and tighter, it’s crucial to stand out not only for branding purposes, but to enhance your algorithmic SEO value as well. Along with these simple steps for recognition, having quality content should provide you with a multitude of benefits that can be translated into both the physical and digital worlds.