Unlike text and even images, video offers an extremely rich, engaging and stimulating experience for viewers. With the increased availability of bandwidth and improvements in video technology, people have started watching and sharing videos on a scale never seen before. From music videos and funny clips of animals to reviews, how-to’s and exciting commercials and movie trailers, people are turning to video for entertainment, information and valuable content.
In early 2013, Google was the world’s largest search engine with almost 19.5 billion searches in January alone representing a 67% market share in the US (comScore, 2013). Interestingly, the second largest search engine was in fact YouTube, the popular video-sharing website. This indicates that people are turning to YouTube with precise, intent-driven behaviour: they’re not just browsing randomly or waiting for a link to land in their inbox. YouTube boasts over 1 billion unique users per month (YouTube, 2013).
Online, we turn to search engines to help us answer questions and find content. That content can be anything, from images to text, and of course, video. Text content can be read by search engines, but content such as images and video cannot be read nearly as well. With more and more people using searches to find video content, understanding how to create videos for online and optimise videos for searching is an important part of any digital strategy.
According to YouTube, there are more than four billion hours of video viewed each month on its website, while every minute, 100 hours of video are uploaded (YouTube, 2013). Videos can come from anyone, and from anywhere. Small home videos can experience massive global reach, as was the case with the popular Charlie Bit My Finger video which has accumulated 558 million views as of September 2013.
Musicians often use social video platforms to share their music videos and, of course, brands use video-sharing platforms to communicate messages via video. People are increasingly interacting with brands via video by creating opinion videos, parodies and responses. More importantly, they have the power to market themselves, their ideas, who they are and what they do. For example, Laura Vitale has created a series of engaging cooking videos right at home – her informative and valuable videos (created on a budget) have garnered over 69 million views and 500 000 subscriptions.
Video content helps you connect with your audience, creating an experience and encouraging engagement.
In this post, you will learn:
- Why video marketing is such a powerful, versatile and effective marketing channel online
- How successful online videos are produced, step by step
- Paid, earned and owned methods of promoting your online video
Video content strategy
Videos are powerful because they can have a strong emotional effect on viewers – it’s no secret that funny, shocking, amazing and inspirational videos do particularly well online. Video is the ideal tool for experiential marketing – giving viewers the chance to experience something alongside the onscreen actors and consider how they would feel or act in that situation. It also helps to show off a brand’s personality, tone and communication style.
Many people are still under the misconception that online videos are expensive and difficult to produce. That’s not the case – the many millions of successful home video bloggers (vloggers) and marketers prove otherwise. Unlike content made for TV, web video content can be filmed at a much lower cost and quality, using readily available home video equipment. Affordable high-quality cameras have made quality content production a reality for everyone.
Viewers don’t necessarily expect a super-slick offering (though even this is possible with some basic video editing software). To get started with making video marketing content, you will need:
- A camera – depending on what you can afford, this can range from a simple webcam or your mobile phone’s camera to a (top-of-the-line) professional camera, though there are many excellent mid-range options available at a low price.
- A microphone – while some cameras have a built-in microphone, it’s worthwhile investing in a proper mic to ensure that you capture better sound quality (built-in microphones tend to catch a lot of background noise at the expense of the main audio).
- Video editing software – you will need a software package to cut, edit and finish your video; there is a wide range of options, including free built-in software (Movie Maker for Windows and iMovie for Mac) and professional video editing suites (such as Final Cut Pro or Adobe AfterEffects), which can be more costly. YouTube also offers an online video editing tool.
Video content versus video ads
Video marketing covers two approaches:
Video content: These are videos made to entertain, inform, share updates or otherwise enlighten or delight the viewer. Much like syndicated articles or blog posts, these are usually not directly promotional, but instead provide shareable content that gives value to the viewer. Some examples of video content include:
- How-to guides and tutorials
- Conference talks
- Video presentations
- Valuable industry updates
- Educational lectures
- Product reviews and advice
Video ads: These are simply adverts that are filmed and formatted for online use. These can be existing TV commercials that are shared online, or custom ads made specifically for the web. We’ll cover a range of options for posting your video ads below, in the section on paid video promotion.
The holy grail of video marketing (and, in fact, any marketing on the web) is having a piece of content ‘go viral’. This means that the content spreads from person to person through the web at a very high rate, attracting an exponentially growing audience as it gains popularity. The key to this viral effect is social media, where each user is connected to a wide network of others and can easily share content with their friends. Because this is a trusted social referral, it’s more likely that they will view and share it themselves (if it’s good enough).
Nobody quite knows the secret recipe for getting content to go viral, and quite possibly there isn’t one – the sheer variety and scope of viral videos shows that almost anything might catch the interest of the Internet on the right day. This means that it’s very difficult to craft a video in order to make it go viral. But there are some principles that can help you make great video content with the potential for viral spread:
Address a currently trending topic. Find something that people are already excited about or interested in, and see how you can contribute meaningfully to the conversation. For example, make your own edited version of a viral video.
Make it enticing. Craft the video’s description, title and thumbnail so that they draw attention.
Make it remarkable. Whether it’s funny, astonishing, scary, shocking or informational, your content has to have value for your viewers – and it has to give them social capital for spreading them.
Make it unique. The Internet loves new, fresh, crazy ideas – so don’t rehash somebody else’s success or stick to a formula. Be truly creative and inventive.
Make it shareable. Include the tools and incentives to make your video easy to share; consider social media chiclets, annotations, encouraging comments and more.
Make it short. With very few exceptions, successful viral videos tend to be short, impactful clips. People have short attention spans, so make sure you get the message across quickly.
Video production step by step
Creating video content for the web is easy and cost effective. Consider the following process.
Step 1: Identifying your audience
As always, you first need to identify the audience for whom you are creating this video content. What are their wants and needs? What video content are they already consuming? How can you engage their attention, provide something valuable, and promote your brand at the same time?
Some solid market research will reveal the answers to these questions.
Step 2: Planning and concept
Now you need to come up with the core concept for the video, which will be dictated by what will resonate with your target audience. Will it be a once-off clip or part of an ongoing series? What marketing message do you hope to convey? Decide on the best style and tone in which to convey this.
Once you have decided these aspects, it’s time to start planning your actual video shoot. You will need to write a script (or at least prepare a breakdown of what the video should include), and schedule the shoot – consider the venue, crew required, actors, and any other props or elements you need. How long this takes will depend on the complexity of the video you’re planning.
Step 3: Producing the video
Now it’s time to get filming! Once you have all the footage and audio, you will need to edit it together, add any special effects and other elements, and save it as the final video.
Step 4: Choosing and uploading to platform
Once you have the video, you need to decide where it will be uploaded to. There are two options for making your video content available online. These are not mutually exclusive and there are techniques for both to ensure the best distribution and search coverage for your video. For example, you could be embedding videos posted elsewhere on your site.
Online video can be hosted on your own site, or it can be posted to one or many video distribution channels. If you post your video somewhere such as YouTube or Vimeo, it is then easy to embed it into your website as well.
The main advantage of posting a video to a third-party site is the opportunity to exploit an already existing audience quickly. These websites also usually have a built-in social and viral media aspect to their user experience. Video-sharing sites tend to have simplified algorithms which are easier to take advantage of, leading to more rapid universal search exposure.
YouTube (www.youtube.com) should be your first port of call when posting videos, since it is the biggest and most popular video hosting site on the web. Rather than posting a video under a normal username, create a branded channel – a YouTube ‘home page’ for videos created by your brand.
YouTube channels allow you to add a logo, background, branded elements, a brand description and links to your other web properties. This means you can customise the page as you see fit. Channels also have a range of analytical features for measuring video engagement, and as an added bonus, they work well on mobile devices, too. Furthermore, you gain many benefits in ranking well on the world’s most popular search engine – Google.
Other good options for video hosting include:
If your video is hosted on your own website, the obvious advantage is that you have control over the whole website and environment in which it is hosted, from the look and feel to on-page text, meta data and user experience. When it comes to advertising and related content, you control both, and you decide how to monetise it. Traffic and links go directly to your website, and can therefore be integral to a longer-term search strategy. However, consider embedding your videos from your account on your chosen video-sharing site. Not only does this allow you to crosspollinate content, but you will also gain more views via more points of entry.
Step 5: Optimising
At this point, you need to optimise your video for easy discovery on the web. Most searching on the web is keyword based: you type keywords relevant to your query into a search box, and the results of the search should list content that matches your keywords. Whether you are using a search box on a website, on YouTube, or Google, this outlines the very basic way in which we expect the search function to work.
The search engine tries to match your keywords to the content it has indexed, and is also trying to determine how to rank the results so that you get the most relevant content at the top of your search results page. This is all covered in great detail in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) post. Optimising video for search involves understanding the basics of SEO, and then the particular challenges and tactics of optimising video content.
Search engines rely on being able to use text in the content to determine what itis about, and other indicators to determine how relevant that content is. When it comes to web pages, search engines can ‘read’ the text on the page to determine what the page is about, and can measure the links coming in to determine how relevant the page is. When it comes to video, the search engine cannot ‘watch’ or ‘read’ the video in the same way that a human can (though there are technological solutions that are starting to make this possible). Instead, it must rely on other text on the page, as well as the meta data added, to determine what the video is about.
The search engine also needs to look for ways to measure relevance. Marketers and website owners now need to optimise all their various forms of content – be they text pages, images or videos – in order to achieve better rankings. Video search engine optimisation (VSEO) involves the use of basic SEO foundations and additional creative optimisation methods to ensure that online video content appears higher up on the SERPs.
Optimising video for video-sharing sites such as YouTube means that you will appear not only in search results on the video-sharing site, but also on SERPs such as Google. While each video-sharing site will use its own algorithm, the guidelines below can be considered best practice across most of the video-sharing sites.
- Video title is very important.
Video title is one of the first things a user sees when clicking through to a video, and is used first and foremost by the video search engines to determine the relevance of your video to the search query. Your most important keywords should appear in the first three words of the title. Longer, descriptive titles are better than short, concise and obscure ones.
- Use informative, long descriptions.
Descriptions will contain key terms that search engines should be looking for to determine what the video is about. Use your most important keywords here! You can include as much information as possible, but put the most important stuff in the first 25 characters. You can include a link in your description, enabling you to direct users to other content that you have.
- Use the tags to input several keywords.
Put your most important keywords first. You can also capitalise on popular search terms and piggyback on popular or topical phrases. YouTube will use your tags to help categorise your video. Ensure that these are relevant to your video and utilise terms from the same category.
- Encourage comments, subscriptions, ratings, embedding and sharing.
Get people to engage with your video in any way you can, and don’t forget to respond to relevant comments – it’s critical that your budding community feels that they matter and that you are taking them seriously. This is a key point to remember if you want to create a thriving community. Engagement is a massive factor in search engine rankings, so it is very important to focus on content – strong optimisation is no substitute for weak content.
To incite discussion, consider posting a comment as soon as you have uploaded a video, or adding an annotation to encourage feedback. Pose a provocative question to spark discussion and lead the conversation – the absolute key to success in the social media space is engagement.
- Optimise the thumbnail.
Consider adding an enticing thumbnail frame. YouTube allows you to choose any moment in the video to be the thumbnail. Simply optimising the thumbnail image can encourage increased clickthroughs and views, which helps to increase search visibility.
- Use annotations
Use annotations to link to and from other video properties. Annotations allow you to add text boxes with clickable URLs (which are crawled by the search engine spiders as well) at points of your choosing in your video. Annotations in already popular and current videos can be used to drive traffic to new videos, although it should be standard practice to include them in a video as soon as it has been uploaded. It’s also a great way to encourage viewers to subscribe to your YouTube channel.
The nature of YouTube is such that the number of views for pages on which videos are watched is always higher than channel views. However, if a paid search campaign is being run, the option to play clicked videos on the channel page exists. This is optimal as it could boost interactions with the branded channel header image, increase engagement with the playlist, and raise the channel view stats.
- Upload videos regularly
Upload videos regularly to ensure continuous channel activity and topical interest. Consider the nature of the brand and what you are trying to communicate to your viewers; you must decide how often videos are uploaded. But remember, the more videos you upload, the higher your channel will rank as a result of Google picking up on your fresh content. Think of it like a TV schedule – let people know when your ‘show’ is on so they know when to come back.
The amount of content you upload is also dependent on the service or product your brand offers, and your video budget. It’s a careful balance of not overloading your channel with useless media and keeping content fresh and engaging.
Step 6: Promoting
We’ve covered promoting your video in detail in the next section. There are three ways you can promote your video – using owned, earned and paid media channels.
Step 7: Engaging the community
As we mentioned earlier, it’s essential that you engage with your community to keep them coming back for more. Respond in a timely manner to any comments or questions, and take feedback on your content into account when planning new videos. The audience won’t stay hooked for long – after all, there are millions of new videos being added every day – so ensure that you engage with them to create a sense of community, the ability to relate to them, and genuine interest.
Step 8: Reporting
As with all digital marketing tactics, in video marketing it’s essential to track and analyse data about your activities, and then optimise your strategy accordingly. When creating video content, use the various measurement options available to determine what you can do better going forward.
YouTube Analytics is a free tool that enables anyone with a YouTube account to view detailed statistics about the videos they upload to the site. You can see how often videos are viewed in different geographic regions, as well as how popular they are relative to all videos in that market over a given period of time.
You can also delve deeper into the lifecycle of videos, such as how long it takes for a video to become popular, and what happens to video views as popularity peaks. YouTube even breaks down the specific seconds when people stop watching the video.
Using these metrics, you can increase your videos’ view counts and improve popularity on the site. For example, you might learn that your videos are most popular on Wednesdays, that they have a huge following in Spain, or that new videos that play off previous content become more popular more quickly. If you see people dropping off halfway into the video, add an annotation to mix things up. There are many creative ways to approach this.
With this information, you can concentrate on posting compelling, fresh content that appeals to selected target audiences, and post these videos on days when you know these viewers are on the site. You could even go a step further and customise the video, dubbing it in Spanish (closed captions also support SEO efforts). The range of possibilities to customise – and optimise – your content is limited only by the brand’s level of willingness.
Furthermore, you can access a breakdown of how viewers discovered a specific video, which can then be used to optimise the keywords, tags and descriptions of videos.
There are four main ways in which users find content and video online:
- A user knows what sort of video they are looking for and goes directly to a search engine to search for content. This relies on SEO (or search advertising, if you decide to promote the content on Google).
- A user follows recommendations from others, found through emailed links, social bookmarking and sharing services, or social media such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. This relies on social sharing.
- Someone knows exactly what they are looking for and navigates to the appropriate URL directly. This relies on good branding and market awareness.
- The user finds the video through paid advertisements and promotions. This relies on paid advertising.
We covered the general guidelines for optimising your video for search earlier in this post. Here are some specific considerations for YouTube search optimisation, as well as social sharing.
YouTube video search optimisation
YouTube, which is owned by Google, is the dominant player in the video-sharing market. While we focus in this section on optimising for YouTube in particular, many of the same approaches apply to other video-sharing sites.
Once you’ve determined how users are already accessing your videos and where they appear in SERPs, you can use various techniques to improve your rankings. While YouTube, like Google, keeps its search algorithms a closely guarded trade secret, digital marketers can speculate and experiment to see what works (and what doesn’t).
Firstly, the following components are evaluated on a keyword and key phrase level by the search engine spiders:
- Playlist additions
- Inbound links
Additionally, YouTube defines relevance in accordance with the popularity of a given video as well as the interaction taking place around it. The following factors play a dominant role in the algorithm:
- Video views
- Channel views
- Age of video
Keeping YouTube content current and entertaining is vital if a video is very new. This will allow the video to engage with viewers. Remember, a new video growing in popularity (that is, views), will take preference in the SERP over an older video with more views.
You should initiate and encourage social sharing – ask your viewers to post your video on social networks, aggregators, social bookmarking sites and other channels. The more people share, the wider an audience you can potentially reach – and the more likely your video is to go viral (or, at least, spread far and wide). Social sharing and recommendations are also increasingly relevant ranking factors for search engines.
In the same way as with Google’s search advertising, you can pay to have your video recommended on YouTube. You are able to bid on searches or popular videos, show pre-rolls on other videos, and have your video content displayed alongside the search results of other videos.
Paid promotions on YouTube are a cost-effective and quick way to promote video content, especially if the content is topical. It’s targeted and controlled. For InStream, you pay only when a user watches 30 seconds or more of your video, or, if your video is shorter than 30 seconds, you’ll pay only if they finish watching the entire clip. For InSearch and InDisplay, you pay per click on your video. This is a great opportunity for brand awareness, coupled with a potentially lower cost.
However, some users find this form of advertising highly intrusive, particularly in markets where bandwidth is slow and expensive, and it may take several seconds for the ad to load before it can be skipped. Some ad blockers block YouTube advertising.
YouTube offers a wide variety of video ad types:
- TrueView In-Search: These video ads appear to the right of the search results on the YouTube search pages. These ads are triggered by keywords, so it’s important to know what users are searching for and ensure your ads contain the right keywords.
- TrueView In-Display: These ads appear to the right of the YouTube video the user is currently watching.’
- TrueView In-Stream: These ads appear at the start of regular YouTube videos. Viewers have the option of skipping these ads after five seconds.
Be sure to check out the YouTube Trends dashboard (www.youtube.com/trendsdashboard) to stay on top of the most popular videos at any given time.
If you are hosting your video content yourself, you can and should still optimise the content around it for best search opportunities. As with posted video, it’s the text content on the page with the video that is so important.
Make sure that your page title is descriptive, as well as the video title and the video file name. The text on the page with the video is important, so optimise it to reflect the content of the video.
You can also use speech-to-text software such as Blinkx or Spinvox to transcribe the video. The text can then be used in the video meta data. Use social media sharing chiclets to make it easy for visitors to share the video on their social networks, aggregators and blogs. If you have a Facebook page, post it there. If you have a Twitter account – tweet about it!
And don’t forget to drive website visitors to your video content – put a link or strong Call to Action on your home page or main landing pages, to encourage visitors to view and engage with your videos.
Video has become an integral part of the online world. The potential for exposure – as well as interaction – is massive, and brands that fail to capitalise on this risk being left behind as competitors build thriving communities.
As with most content, it is up to the brand to decide how to represent its video content. Videos can be hosted on popular video-sharing websites to capitalise on already existing audiences and developed interfaces, or on bespoke websites that allow for free reign in customisation. Brands should then aim to optimise their videos on the chosen platforms to increase their visibility on search engines.
Creating a healthy community is also important in increasing exposure. Very rarely, if ever, does an audience come to video content without input from the creators. On top of optimising for search and other tweaks, brands should upload content regularly or risk losing any ground gained. Social media should also be considered as its platforms allow for the sharing of content, as well as commentary.
Overall, brands should be aware that there is no quick fix for video. It requires planning and investment as well as long-term commitment to creating brand advocates.