Surviving Without Snippets: Your New Video SEO Strategy

July 24, 2014

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Casey Henry


Starting on July 17th, we took note of a change in how videos are displayed in search results. It seems like Google is no longer showing video snippets for anyone but a few big brands and YouTube. Regardless of whether this is a short-term test or a permanent change by Google, this seems like a good time to re-evaluate how video best fits into an ever-evolving SEO strategy.

Soon, we’ll probably start seeing lots of blogs and articles suggesting you move all your videos to YouTube to get snippets and improve your SEO. We realize many have equated “video SEO” with rich snippets, but in reality, the way video plays into your SEO strategy should go much deeper.

Video snippets were great window dressing while we had them. However, the core of SEO strategy has always been and will continue to be building an authoritative domain that you own and control. You can accomplish this by integrating video with your overall content strategy and focusing on link building, social shares, and brand awareness.

Video SEO ≠ video rich snippets

Video snippets, much like authorship photos and other rich snippets, were part of Google’s constant testing and iteration on the cosmetic appearance of search results. While “cosmetics” are clearly important — video snippets did seem to increase clicks for lots of us — they are secondary to actually getting content and pages ranked highly in the first place.

With video snippets suddenly becoming much rarer, we are reminded that we should never get too comfortable with the search engine status quo. We should always be monitoring and diversifying in case something happens to a traffic source we depend on. SEO is a process, not a project, remember those wise words from Marshall Simmonds.

Your refreshed video SEO strategy

In a way, the paring down of rich snippets is a bit of a gift in itself: it’ll force all of us to step back and make sure our “video SEO strategy” doesn’t exist in a vacuum separate from our overall SEO and content strategy. Some classic SEO best practices have now become even more critical. A few basic tweaks will help you get your site on the right path to becoming authoritative in your niche.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy, and every business should be making their own choices on how to implement a comprehensive SEO strategy that includes video. At Wistia, we believe in focusing on a long-term strategy versus looking for short-term wins. Building an authoritative domain that you own and control over time will always be more valuable than a few rich snippets.

We like to think about our website as our home and YouTube as our playground. We invest lots of time, energy, and resources in our website to make sure that it is the primary destination for visitors hoping to learn more about Wistia, particularly those interested in purchasing our product. We recommend investing in both areas, but always prioritizing the home.

Even if Google’s rich snippet changes are just a test and we eventually see video snippets increase again, we stand behind this as a stronger overall strategy. Here are a few ideas for how you might structure your SEO strategy in a post-snippet world.

Your site, your home: drive conversion with an authoritative domain

The content strategy you have been using shouldn’t change very much. However, you may want to revisit how you’re using video. Continue to make the content that your audience engages with and that will eventually lead to conversions for your business.

When thinking about where to host your videos, ask yourself where your business achieves conversions. If your conversions happen on your website, driving traffic to YouTube doesn’t make much sense, since it’s just another road block that could reduce your overall conversion rate.

If someone searches for one of your products, ideally, they should land on the product page, where a conversion can happen. If you place your product videos on YouTube and your product pages on your site, which result do you think people will click on?

We know that most viewers are likely to click the result with the video snippet. You don’t want to compete with your product videos on YouTube, so don’t put them there! Save YouTube for brand awareness videos and other videos that don’t lead to direct conversions. (More on that later!)

That said, how can video help drive more search traffic to your own website?

  • Videos increase links. Videos have been proven to increase the number of people linking to a given piece of content. I did a study while working at Moz that showed content with a video, images, and lists receiving 4 times more links than those with just text.
  • Video can still improve clickthrough rates. Even without snippets, you can create descriptive meta title and description tags that let searchers know you have a video worth watching on your page, which could drive more search traffic to your site.
  • Videos build social buzz. Videos that are likely to create social buzz or have the potential for being well-linked should most likely be placed on your website to help build your domain authority.
  • Quality content is key. Making content that is valuable and useful is key to building a domain that has authority. Quality over quantity is name of the game here. Make sure that the content you put out is something that your audience will be willing to share or link too. If they won’t share it or link to it, it wasn’t worth spending your time on.
  • Video context is essential. When you’re using video on your site, make sure to use inline transcripts or captions or accompanying text so Google can index your content accordingly.

Putting the time and effort into making great content with great media should be rewarded and helps grow the authority of your site: another reason to lock that media down to your website rather than YouTube. That great content will generate links and social shares which are important in making your site authoritative.

YouTube, your playground: drive brand awareness

Even if your customers convert on your website, you can still use YouTube to build brand awareness that doesn’t compete with your efforts on your own website.

What is a “brand awareness video”? It’s a video that connects with a wide audience and introduces or reintroduces them to your brand. The main goal of this video isn’t to encourage them to buy your product, but to connect with them on a different, human level.

Maybe this video makes you feel like you should call your mom and say thanks, but also thank her for buying all those Proctor & Gamble products over the ages. This one has me thinking about heading to the beach in my best beach gear and just hanging out. Plus it makes me want to stop by and check out some of their clothes.

GoPro is a great example of someone who is using YouTube correctly while still selling a product. Doesn’t this video make you want to go out and do crazy bike tricks or learn to ski and record it on a GoPro?

If you look at GoPro’s entire YouTube channel, there are no product descriptions or reviews of their cameras trying to convince people to buy them. They are creating unique videos that get people excited about their product and then drive that audience to their website to convert.

What are some ways to drive brand awareness on YouTube without competing with your conversion efforts on your website?

  • Treat YouTube like a social network. We wrote a blog post about YouTube strategy recently, and the tips there apply. Make videos specifically for the YouTube channel, where people are primarily searching for entertainment and education, rather than treating it as a dumping ground for all of your video content.
  • Use YouTube to rank with snippets for different keywords than you’re using for conversion. In situations where your videos need to be placed on both your website and your YouTube channel, target different keywords for each instance of the video so you don’t end up with the YouTube video snippet cannibalizing your clicks.
  • Use YouTube for the long tail. There are tons of keywords related to your industry but not necessarily connected directly with your products. Consider making content around these keywords and see if you can get some traction directly on YouTube or via search.

YouTube & self-hosting, together

Building an effective video SEO strategy is a long term game now that video snippets have been removed for most websites. Creating great content with amazing media will build links and social shares to build your site’s authority with the search engines. This will help all of your content rank higher.

Some may say the recent changes mean you should focus your video efforts on YouTube. In actuality, you need to shift your video SEO strategy to include YouTube along with your own self-hosted content.

Using YouTube for brand awareness videos in conjunction with self-hosting for your product videos means you can have the best of both worlds. The audience that’s looking for you on YouTube will find your presence and gain a unique sense of who you are, humanizing your company. The audience that wants to learn more about you and your product and convert will consume your product videos on your website, where you have complete control over the experience.

Do what’s right for you and your company! Both self-hosting and YouTube should have a place in every video SEO strategy. Even if you aren’t planning to directly use YouTube, you should be monitoring it to see how your competitors are and make sure you don’t fall behind if something changes or your customers show up. In the long term, building a website with a bunch of authority will outweigh the short term gain of video snippets on YouTube.

Have your video snippets been affected by the Google changes? What’s the first step you’re going to take towards a refreshed video strategy?

July 24, 2014

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Casey Henry


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