James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.
Can Adding Videos to Your Blog Posts Improve Your SEO?
Video comes up more and more in the context of modern content marketing. Cisco predicts that as much as 82% of all internet traffic will be video by next year. It’s time to address the elephant in the room: is video something worth using or investing in? Can it boost your SEO? How can you make use of it most effectively? Let’s discuss.
Can Google Index Video?
The first and most pressing question you need to answer is pretty simple: can Google index video at all? After all, if they can’t read video, video isn’t going to do a whole lot for your SEO, now is it?
The answer is a tentative yes, though the situation will vary. See, Google can’t really watch a video and parse what’s inside it. Their algorithms are intelligent, but not that intelligent, not yet. It takes an incredible amount of technology to accurately recognize things like letters in a still image or words in an audio file. It’s way better than it was five or ten years ago, but it’s still not anywhere near reliable enough to be in major use.
Google basically uses a combination of three methods to index video.
- Algorithmic interpretation. Again, this isn’t very good quite yet, but it’s still impressive and they use some data they get from it as part of their index.
- Surrounding data. This includes everything from the title and description of the video, to a transcript you upload, to structured data like VideoObject, to page meta data surrounding the video. This is why they ask for so much information on YouTube when you upload a video, by the way.
- Human analysis. It’s no secret that Google uses human evaluators to oversee their index and spot-check various queries. Humans can watch a brief clip of a video and make a judgment call whether or not it fits a query, and they can use this data to improve both their index and their algorithms.
As you can see, a few different things can get in the way of this. For example, if you self-host your video (more on that later), you might not include all of the surrounding structured and meta data for Google to index, so your video will be more of a black box to the algorithm than it otherwise could be.
Does Video Have SEO Value?
A lot of the SEO value of a video comes from all of the meta and structured data surrounding it. If you upload a transcript – or just make the core of the blog post the transcript, like the Moz Whiteboard Fridays – Google can basically treat it like a blog post with additional accessibility bonuses.
Other aspects of SEO value from video come from user behavior. For example, bounce rate has long been a contentious part of Google’s algorithm, but it’s universally agreed that a low bounce rate is typically better than a high bounce rate, for a variety of reasons.
Video tends to make a user linger on a page. Rather than spending three minutes to read a blog post, they’re spending 5-10 to absorb the same amount of content in video form. This longer time spent on the page is a beneficial signal, and it makes the user more likely to stick around and browse other content on the site. There’s no way this isn’t beneficial to your site in some way.
You also have the organic benefit that many modern web users simply use, appreciate, and prefer video content. The current younger generations of adults and soon-to-be adults were raised watching YouTube and Netflix. They’re used to consuming their media in video form, unlike those of us who remember the days when a 10 second video clip took an hour to load and had a resolution similar to that of a postage stamp.
Videos are more memorable than text. Studies have shown that 8 out of 10 people remember videos they saw a month ago, while remembering a blog post they read last week might be a tall order. Text has to be extremely exceptional to be memorable, while video is a more total sensory experience and leaves a stronger impression.
There are a few downsides to using video, though.
Potential Pitfalls with Video Use
Video isn’t all upside, or else we’d all be using it exclusively. There’s a reason video-focused content like Whiteboard Friday posts transcripts, you know.
Videos have accessibility issues. If a lot of your video focuses on the visuals, anyone who is visually impaired will have trouble consuming them. If your videos focus on the audio, anyone with impaired hearing will have trouble. More importantly, millions of people watch video in public places where they don’t want to turn up the audio. Hell, Facebook even starts their videos muted. You always have to be aware that your video may be consumed in a partial manner, and it still has to function in that mode of consumption.
Videos have a high barrier to entry. For watching, specifically. What do I mean? Videos shouldn’t auto-play. Everyone hates it when they do, and there’s a constant ongoing fight to prevent videos from playing without user input.
That means that, for your video to work, a user has to click to play it. Typically, that means you have to convince them to consume your content based on, at most, a title and a thumbnail. If that’s not enough, your video is ignored. At least with a blog post, the user can’t help but read a few sentences.
Videos take longer to consume. A short blog post turns into a long video. It might only take a few minutes to consume a blog post – or under a minute to skim it – but consuming the same content in video form will take much longer. This means users linger on single pieces of content for longer, but they consume less content overall.
Also, you may run into the user’s patience limit long before they reach your call to action. This is why many YouTube videos with sponsors these days put their shout-out in the first half of the video, or even just after the intro.
Videos can slow down your page load times. Internet infrastructure has gotten a lot better over the last decade, but videos are still huge files compared to text. An entire blog post will almost never reach a megabyte unless you count the images, and properly compressed images might still keep it under that limit. Meanwhile, even a short video can be 100+ mb, and it’s not uncommon for high quality videos to be 1gb or larger.
Modern video technology means you’re not loading the whole video at once, of course. Still, initializing the video and loading the first 30 seconds or so in preparation for a user to watch it is still loading data – potentially from a third party source – that you weren’t loading before. That’s always going to be slower, though how much slower isn’t always consistent.
This means you have to weight the SEO benefits of the video against the SEO detriment of a slower page load time. Most of the time the video will pull ahead, but in some situations that might not be true.
Videos can be expensive to produce. This is in terms of time, money, and resources. To produce a good video, you need to write a script, you need actors or animators, you need cameras and microphones, and you need time. You also need a computer with enough processing power to render the video, which might be more than you think.
Obviously, there are companies you can work with to have videos produced for you, but that’s even more expensive. Compared to writing a blog post, even if you’re paying a high-priced blog management company or freelancer to do it, is still generally much cheaper.
Methods for Using Video Content
There are a bunch of different strategies you can use for your video content. I’m not just talking about how you produce your videos, I mean how you actually use them as part of your content marketing.
Use videos as the foundation of the content. The Whiteboard Friday posts that I’ve mentioned a couple of times take this approach. They are a video first and foremost, and the blog post is essentially nothing more than a transcript with a few screenshots from the video placed at key points to illustrate frames from the video that are important. This tends to work best when the video content itself is the key feature, and the transcript is there to be incidental and to allow Google to index the video more easily.
Use videos as an alternative to the content. This is very similar to the above, in that the entire content of the blog post and the video are the same. The difference is the origin. Rather than being a video where the text version is incidental, you write a blog post and make the video version incidental.
This is trickier to do, because you often need to adjust the blog post when you convert it into a video to make it more effective as a script. Often you only use it on high profile blog posts, creating the video after the fact to use it as an additional round of promotion. It’s part of what I typically recommend as ways to repurpose content.
Use video as a supplement to the content. This is probably the most common way to use video as part of content marketing. You can start with a video and write a more in-depth post about it, or you can write a blog post and create a video that dives deeper into an individual point.
Use videos from someone else to augment your content. I don’t produce video myself, at least not very often. Whenever you see me using video, it’s typically a link to someone else’s content. This benefits me, in the same way that a link to someone else’s blog post benefits me. My readers appreciate the further reading, the people I link to appreciate the link, and it build circular awareness. The downside to this, of course, is that I don’t build up a video channel of my own.
Types of Videos You Can Produce
So if you’re interested in creating videos to use as part of your content marketing, what kinds of videos should you produce? You have a lot of options.
The video blog post. This is the style mentioned above; you convert a blog post into a script and simply read it with video backing. It can be effective, sometimes, but it can also have major pitfalls. The writing style for video and the writing for a blog post are very different. You can end up with stodgy, bland, boring videos. I don’t recommend using this except as another way to repurpose content that’s otherwise on its last legs.
The video blog post summary. Sometimes it’s more effective to convert a blog post into a video by making it a summary. Blog posts can often ramble, have inconvenient phrasing, or just go off on a tangent that isn’t well served as part of a video. Pruning the video into a more punchy, attractive script can be a great idea.
The video tutorial. Educational videos, particularly with hands-on, tangible demonstrations, are some of the best content you can produce in video form. People love tutorials. Whether it’s replacing the keyboard in a laptop, cleaning a vacuum cleaner filter, or trimming your pet’s nails, there’s always room for an authoritative, well-explained tutorial video.
The Vlog. A casual vlog is usually the kind of thing you see on Instagram or on some of the lower-traffic YouTube accounts, but it can be valuable for businesses as well. Simply keeping in touch with your audience, providing insight into your company, accepting feedback and answering questions can be a great way to foster a sense of community. When your video-watching audience feels like they’re part of your company in a way, they’re more likely to trust your brand and more likely to make a purchase from you.
The About Us video. A video that explains who you are, who your company is, and introduces your team can be a valuable and evergreen asset to your About page. These don’t have to be long, but they do have to be well-produced, otherwise it reflects poorly on your company.
The Explainer video. Explainer videos are typically animated rather than recorded on video, but that’s not always the case. You see these on landing pages the world over, explaining what a service is or what a product does. They’re excellent for delivering a sales pitch, but less valuable for embedding in blog posts.
The video review. Video reviews are excellent forms of multimedia content when you’re in an industry where you can showcase various products. They tend to be best for drop-shippers, affiliate marketers, and storefronts with a variety of products. B2B companies have a harder time using them effectively.
The animated infographic. Animated infographics and “kinetic typography” are some very cool kinds of video that need a talented designer to create, but can go viral very easily. Check out some of these examples to see what I mean.
Where to Host Your Videos
Should you host the video yourself or should you use third party hosting, and if so, which one?
I very much do not recommend hosting the video yourself. Videos take up a lot of space on your web server, and while space isn’t at a premium these days, it can still add up over the course of years. Additionally, while other video hosts use robust CDNs and lazy loading, you might not, and that can slow down your site tremendously.
Now, there are a couple of benefits to hosting the video yourself. You can use a CDN to help ease the load, and it can work. Additionally, it gives you more complete control over meta data for the video. On the other hand, it makes the video harder to share and link to, and people will be more skeptical about allowing a video player they aren’t used to on their system.
The vast majority of people will choose to host their videos on YouTube, and that’s fine for business. YouTube automatically gets you Google indexation, it has easy tools for embedding, analytics, and monetization, and it has a huge audience globally.
Of course, YouTube is also a near-monopoly, makes horrible choices with their ad policies and content filtering, has massive problems with copyright fraud, and in general probably shouldn’t be supported as much as it is.
The primary alternative to YouTube is usually Vimeo, but it’s usually focused on longer films, art projects, and vaguely NSFW content. You can still use it, but it may not be as fluid or as trusted as YouTube.
So there you have it; a rundown of how you can use video in content marketing. If you would like a post about the technical details of how to optimize video marketing, let me know in the comments.
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