Video SEO is the practice of providing the metadata (or "information") for your content to search engines to improve the richness of search results (i.e. "rich snippets") and ultimately drive more web visitors.
Wistia provides both recommended approaches to Video SEO - using what's called a "video sitemap", and also utilizing specific markup in the on-page embed code. As a part of your marketing arsenal, following the proper metadata and markup conventions improves your video asset's presence on search engines.
What is Video SEO?
Confused on what Video SEO is? Not to worry, we'll get you started right. Watch this introduction from Ezra, Director of the Wistia Marketing team.
Some key take-aways:
- Video data can show up in search results in the form of rich snippets.
- Research shows Google prefers videos to other search results.
- Using the recommended markup makes it easier for Google to discover and index your content.
The two recommended ways to help web crawlers find and index your content are on-page markup (which comes in embed codes) and video sitemaps. Wistia provides functionality for both approaches, which we cover below.
Using the Video SEO Embed Type
The Video SEO embed code type has been optimized for Video SEO, including best practices like Open Graph tags and schema.org markup.
Even if you aren't able to set up a video sitemap, you can still get SEO benefits from using the Video SEO embed code type.
The Video SEO embed code includes the following data for the video, which you will want to set before generating an embed code:
- Video Thumbnail (the image that shows before it is played, which can be customized)
- Video Title (which can be edited on the media page)
- Video Description (which can also be edited on the media page)
While you can always edit this information later, you will need to generate a new embed code and re-paste it into your website to take advantage of any changes.
Once this information is set correctly, you can generate a Video SEO embed code by opening the video you'd like to embed, and select Embed & Share from themenu.
In the Embed & Share window, select SEO from the Embed Type list. Copy the generated embed code and add it to your site.
For even more information on embedding, review the embedding a video guide.
Creating a Video Sitemap
Video Sitemaps are a metadata document that must follow a pretty rigid syntax (here's an example). They can be complex to make and a mess to keep up-to-date. Wistia can create, host, and submit your video sitemap for you, and also update it for new content.
To create a video sitemap, we have to go through a few set up steps. These steps are a one-time thing, and you won't have to do it for each video or for each update.
Here are the two steps we need to complete:
- Add Sitemap line provided to your site's
robots.txtfile, then verify it.
- Create a
video sitemap entryfor each video you want embedded and indexed.
The first thing we need to do is authorize Wistia to host your video sitemap and reference pages on your site. This is done through the robots.txt file on your web server.
Robots.txt File Setup
When search engines crawl your web content they refer to a file called
robots.txt in the root of your website. This file tells search engines what
to index on your site and also where your video sitemap is located.
The robots.txt file also informs search engines about sitemaps that exist for
your website. To see your robots.txt file, open your browser and head to
yourdomainname.com/robots.txt (substituting your domain name in).
See the Wistia robots.txt file here: http://wistia.com/robots.txt
A common SEO problem is accidentally blocking search engines from crawling your website with robots.txt. Make sure you allow search engines to crawl and find your content.
- Make sure there is a line that looks like:
- If you see a
Disallow:line in your robots.txt file, make sure it doesn't point to pages where your videos are embedded.
Creating a robots.txt file
Creating a robots.txt file is different depending on the CMS or website management system you are using. In some cases, a robots.txt file might have been created for you, and in some CMS platforms, it is not editable.
If you are self-hosting your site, you can create a robots.txt file, and add it to your site's root directory. To create a new robots.txt file, open a text editor (like TextEdit, Vim, or Word), and add the line:
Add the Video Sitemap link as outlined below, then save the file as
If you cannot create or edit the robots.txt file for your website, you can still get SEO benefits using the SEO embed code type.
Adding the Video Sitemap URL
You will be adding one line to your robots.txt file that notifies Google your video video sitemap is hosted by Wistia. To find the line you'll be adding for your account, open up the Video SEO area of your account, which can be found under the Account menu.
The three steps to getting your sitemap set up are also outlined on the Video SEO page in your account.
Once you have added the line to your robots.txt and typed the URL, click thebutton. This will retrieve your specified robots.txt and verify that the information is viewable by Google.
Robots.txt do need to follow a certain format! Make sure yours is correct by reviewing the guidelines.
Next, we'll embed the video using the SEO embed code type.
Making a video sitemap entry
Once you have verified the entry in your robots.txt file, you will be able to add entries to your video sitemap. Once a video sitemap entry is made, it will be automatically picked up by Google and your content will be indexed according to Google's indexing queue.
Making a new video sitemap entry is the fun part of the process! You get to talk all about your content and why it is valuable.
After you have embedded a video on your website, go to your video's media page
(i.e. the page in Wistia where you can view the video, which has a URL like
<youraccount>.wistia.com/medias/12345). Select Add to SEO Sitemap from the
Before adding a Video Sitemap entry, make sure you have embedded your video using the SEO embed code type.
This will then bring up a dialog box where you can enter the relevant information about your video (like tags, description).
Enter your video's information, and click. Your sitemap will then be automatically updated and the new changes that should be indexed.
Making Better Sitemap Entries
The title should be relevant for the video. Don't try and make it overly wordy or contain too many tags, just focus on appropriately naming the video for a viewer's experience.
Be as descriptive as possible but make sure you are not going overboard with keywords you want your video to rank for. Make the description useful for viewers, not for bots.
We’ve found that having 3 to 4 word descriptive tags works best for our videos. Don’t get too wordy with your tags and keep it simple.
Managing your video sitemap entries
Video sitemap entries can be managed from the video SEO dashboard within your Wistia account. Select Video SEO from under the Account menu.
This will take you to the video SEO dashboard where you can:
- See all videos currently in your sitemap
- Edit the sitemap entries by clicking the "Edit" button on any entry
- Remove any entries that may no longer be valid using the "Remove" button
Optimizing After Indexing
In the end, the goal is to drive more traffic back to your website. Optimizing your video content for search engines means the pages show in results with a video (which gets clicked more often) and in video-specific search results as well. When a searcher clicks the video still in results, they will be taken to your website, which is a major advantage over YouTube SEO.
We recommend keeping a close eye on your traffic during the SEO indexing process - see if you notice an uptick after your video content is indexed. From that baseline data, you can experiment with changes to improve incoming traffic.
First, make sure you have related content on your page so that search engines have context surrounding the video. If you notice an increase in traffic from specific searches, add more content for those visitors.
Second, the thing that drives folks to click on the video is the thumbnail! Choose a thumbnail that looks attractive for the topic at hand. If you update the thumbnail of your video, you will need to re-embed it, because the SEO embed code contains a direct URL to that image. Google will automatically update their index every few weeks.
Adding Additional Domains
Adding more than one domain to your Video SEO in Wistia is easy to do. After adding your first domain, a button will appear on the right bar in your Video SEO account section for adding additional domains (see the image at right).
You will be prompted to walk through the same steps as adding your initial domain.
Host Your Own Video Sitemap
The functionality we have designed is meant to reduce headaches around using Video SEO. There are some situations, however, when you might want use Wistia to build your Video Sitemap file, but self-host it somewhere else. This section will cover the steps to hosting and submitting a Video Sitemap file yourself.
Build your Video sitemap
In order for these steps to be useful, you must first go through the normal Video SEO setup steps. You'll need to confirm your Robots.txt file. Once that is complete, you can use the “Add to SEO Sitemap” function under the Media Actions menu to create new entries for your videos.
Export your Video sitemap
The next step is to export the Video sitemap Wistia built based on your metadata entries. To save the contents of your Video Sitemap file, navigate to the Sitemap URL (i.e. http://app.wistia.com/sitemaps/26547.xml), and then save that webpage.
To track down the URL of the Sitemap, look under the help bubble (question mark icon) on the Video SEO tool page. See the screenshot below.
Upload Video sitemap to your own host
Upload to your web host, the same way you might for a new web page or web page image. Doesn’t need to go anywhere in particular, just needs to be accessible by Google.
Submit Sitemap URL to Google Webmaster Tools
Follow this guide to make sure you submit your new Video Sitemap correctly.
When you add a new video to your sitemap, you will need to re-export, replace the version you have on your end, and re-submit to Google. Annoying, but if our hosting paradigm doesn't work for some reason, this might be a good solution!
Video SEO FAQ
Video SEO is tough, but valuable. Customers have asked us lots of questions about using our Video SEO tool for their video. We'll attempt to compile them here.
Do I still need to create an sitemap, or submit something to Google Webmaster Tools?
Wistia tools take care of that process automatically for you. We create a sitemap, add the videos you designate, and submit it through Google Webmaster Tools, all automatically.
I thought only YouTube got indexed on Google search results? Should I have my video on both platforms?
Google has continued to support an open market, indexing videos that follow their SEO guidelines, regardless of where they are hosted.
That being said, you don't really want to have your video on YouTube and use Wistia Video SEO. Because YouTube videos are indexed by default, your content will compete with itself in the rankings if you use both.
If the most important metric for your video is views, YouTube is a great place for them. If your goal is to encourage a conversion event, like a sign-up, subscription, or a share, then you want to drive viewers to your site to watch your video. That is where Video SEO can be a valuable tool.
I can't update my robots.txt file. What should I do?
We don't create a sitemap for your account unless we can verify the robots.txt file is accurate. That being said, the SEO embed code type can still provide plenty of value. Because it is optimized to use Open Graph tags and Schema.org markup, we've seen videos get indexed without the need for a sitemap. While the sitemap is still considered a best practice, it is no longer a must-have for Video SEO.
Can I use popover (lightbox) or playlist embeds?
At this time, we don't provide search engine optimized embed codes for the popover (lightbox) or playlist player types. We made that decision because in our tests it seemed required for the Google bots to have direct access to the video on the page, and immediately accessible to the visitor, in order to reap the benefits of video on page rankings.
Is hosting my video sitemap with Wistia ok? Will Google accept it?
Yes. Google has made cross-submission support via a robots.txt file an accepted and efficient part of the SEO workflow. See this article from the Google Webmaster Central Blog for more.
It's been several days, when can I expect to see my video ranked in SERPs?
It can take up to 2 weeks for Google to index new content.
Because Google can be a bit of a black box, it's not possible to determine exactly when new content will be indexed for video results. In our experience, a waiting period of 10 - 15 days is not uncommon.
If you have been waiting for a considerable amount of time, double-check the list of possibly bad practices below, to make sure your content doesn't fall into one of the areas of content that Google doesn't index reliably.
What can prevent videos from being added to Google search results?
There are a few practices that we have seen prevent indexing.
- Redirects are a tricky practice, and more often than not, they seem to cause failures. Google might not follow the redirect when crawling, or the redirects might be set up incorrectly.
- Disallowing content in the robots.txt file would result in everything appearing "successful", but your content never appears in search results. Double-check that any "disallow" blocks in your robots.txt file do not point to content you want indexed.
- Putting video farther down the page can have a negative and even negating effect on the content. Where possible, make sure your videos are embedded at a good viewing size (at least 600px wide) and near the top of the page.
Can I use Wistia embeds to build links for SEO?
The Social Bar includes an embed button, which allows viewers to embed your video in other places. Wistia includes a customize option for adding links that point back to the original site into the embed code your viewers can access.
So if one of your viewers re-embeds the video, new viewers can track down the original source of the content, which Google and search engines also value. Phil Nottingham from Distilled, who is a real SEO expert (we just play one on video), posted at length about using this for your content. Building links back to your original content can be hugely powerful for building your audience.
For more on building SEO links using for your content, see the Customization docs.
Can I hear Ben talking about SEO?
Yes! Our Video SEO expert, Ben, got up-close with the camera to talk about the business benefits of using Video SEO properly: