Video SEO: worth the effort?

A recent discussion with a client, and coincidentally an article from Agency Post (Why Video Is Online Marketing’s Best Kept Secret) led me to investigate the claim that adding videos to a website will result in improved search engine results, and increased sales.

My first response was scepticism: given that search engines such as Google can’t ‘see’ the content of a video (unless it’s captioned), why would they give extra credit to a page containing one? Any why would a video necessarily increase sales?

Video SEO

The Agency Post article quotes impressive figures: ‘If you have a video on your website, it’s 50 times more likely to be ranked on the first page of Google.’ Unfortunately, the research on which this claim is based is more than three years old (The Easiest Way to a First-Page Ranking on Google). It might still be true, but then again it might not.

Benjamin Wayne (in How To Use Video SEO To Jump To The Top Of Google Search Results) advises that since Google can’t see the content of your video, you can post it multiple times with different titles to attract different search queries. This sounds very much like the ‘black hat’ SEO technique of publishing multiple copies of text content to artificially boost search engine ranking: a technique which has become less successful as search engine algorithms have become ever more sophisticated. If enough people try to game the system, search engines will learn to ignore them.

Converting visitors into buyers

I’m not a patient person, and my internet connection isn’t always as fast as I would like it to be, so if I’m going to play a video it needs to provide a return on the investment of my time. It takes longer to watch someone talking than to read the same content, so I’ll watch a video of a talking head only if I have reason to believe there’s something pretty special about what they have to say.

If your video shows me something that’s hard to explain in words – how to cut a mortise joint, or judge when a custard is cooked – then it may well be worthwhile waiting for the video to load, and the video in turn might help to persuade me to buy the mortise saw or double boiler you’re selling. If it’s a video of someone telling me how wonderful your product is, I’m not going to waste my time. A testimonial that looks slick will be discounted as ‘marketing fluff’; one that looks amateur is just embarrassing.

Accessibility

If you care about accessibility (and you should: read Access all areas) any video on your site must be captioned or have a text equivalent. In addition to meeting accessibility guidelines, this ensures that search engines can understand your content. (Of course it also means that you can’t publish multiple copies with different titles and expect to fool them into treating each copy as a unique piece of content.)

Conclusion

If video is relevant to your visitors, by all means use it. Provide captioning or a text equivalent to ensure that it’s accessible. Follow Forester’s advice (The Easiest Way to a First-Page Ranking on Google) and Google’s (About video content in Sitemaps) to ensure that it has the best chance of appearing in search results.

But don’t add video for its own sake and expect instant improvements in your search engine rankings.

Instead, publish content that helps your visitors complete the tasks that matter to them: contact me to find out how.