How to Optimize Video for Search Engines

Everyone knows that video is the most effective type of media for marketing. But what about search engine optimization? Search engine optimization with video may sound tricky, but it’s actually simpler than it initially appears. Moreover, it’s actually critical. To get the most out of your video marketing — and to get the highest ROI — you need to be conscientious about your SEO.


Working With What You’ve Got

Obviously you can’t make your entire video searchable, but there are very specific items that you can control. When you’re uploading videos to your website (or on social media accounts) you need to focus on:

  • File names and titles. Your video file should have full descriptive text in both its name and title, though these usually shouldn’t be longer than about 60 characters. Make sure that you hit upon any primary keywords here, as it will tell the search engine what is being discussed in your video. Your file names don’t need to be human readable, but your titles do. Your titles should be interesting and compelling enough for a user to click in addition to containing the relevant keywords.


  • Descriptions and captions. Though your video itself may not be searchable, anything that you connect with your video will be. This includes descriptive text, captions, and other information. Some people even put full transcriptions of their videos in their text; this isn’t a bad idea, especially if the content is especially valuable, or if you already have a script at hand. When optimizing your descriptions, you should treat it exactly like you would treat ordinary search engine optimization. The content should flow naturally and should not be stuffed full of keywords.


  • Tags and categories. In blogging and on social media sites, there’s often the option to add tags and categories to your video. These tags and categories make it much easier for your video to be found — just don’t over use them, or it will limit the effectiveness of each individual keyword. Tags should be as specific as possible; consider using long-tail keywords in this section.


  • Visibility. Keep in mind that when you upload a video to a social media site, you’ll usually have to list its visibility. Many marketers make the mistake of making their video unlisted because they want to use their content on their website and their website alone. This will only reduce the amount of users that are driven to the video; it’s better to reference the website in the video’s description and leave it “public.” Uploading a video privately will keep it from being seen by anyone but you.


As you can see, optimizing a video for search engines really isn’t difficult at all; it’s just a set of steps that you should follow every time you upload a video. Finding your keywords and key phrases is the same with any content; find search queries that you need to target and move on from there. You can tweak and adjust your keywords based on video popularity and then focus on developing the videos that seem to resonate the most with your readership.


Distributing Your Videos

Video distribution can occur anywhere. You can upload your video to your very own website, if you want to. But there are certain distribution channels that are better than others for the purposes of SEO. Two of the most popular distribution channels are YouTube and Vimeo, though of course there are many others. There are advantages to uploading to a more popular site; you can take advantage of their audience in addition to your own.

Both YouTube and Vimeo operate both as video distribution sites and social networks, allowing other users to find and connect to your videos. More importantly, these sites are indexed by search engines very regularly, and your videos will quickly be found on the “Video” tab of most major search engines. The more popular your video becomes on their site, the more highly it will rank both within their site and on search engines. This also has an interesting impact: it means that the more you engage with your audience and promote your videos on the social media site, such as YouTube, the more you can potentially build up your search engine rankings. By engaging users and responding to comments, you can actually make your videos more popular.

Distribution channels such as YouTube and Vimeo also have their own internal search engines, through which your content will be found. Again, your content will be discovered on the basis of tags, categories, titles, and descriptions, so you need to make sure that all of your bases are covered. And after sharing your content on YouTube and Vimeo, you can also distribute it through other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook. When you do interact with these social media sites, you’ll gain followers — and these followers will also give your newer videos a boost when it comes to popularity and visibility.

One note: even if you’re interested in hosting your video on your own website, it’s usually best to upload it to YouTube or Vimeo and link to it from your website. There are two reasons for this. It exposes your video to a different audience and it can improve your search engine ranking. Slow loading video leads to bounce rates, and bounce rates lead to lower search engine rankings. Video is very bandwidth and resource intensive, so hosting it on your own website will eventually lead not only to higher costs but potential performance issues.

Search engine optimized video content is one of the most powerful marketing tools available. Not only will it draw in traffic for your website, but it will increase the conversions of the traffic that you acquire. Even better, video content continues to accrue returns on your initial investment for as long as it is kept live and distributed. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can put up just any video. Video media still needs to be professionally produced if it is to have the right impact. A combination of solid production values and good marketing will lead to a valuable advertising campaign.


Article by Joe Forte, co-owner and producer at D-Mak Productions, a professional video production company based in Phoenix, Arizona.