Since the Google Penguin and Panda updates, a lot of SEOs finally have realized that ranking a website in the long term is not just about building a large number of links. It’s also about creating high-quality content that will attract links naturally over time.
However, one type of SEO that still is underutilized is VSEO: video search engine optimization. Although a lot of brands are incorporating video content into their overall online marketing strategies, most SEOs don’t place a high priority on it. Usually, they opt for creating various other types of content (e.g., infographics, images, written content, etc.).
If used correctly, video can be an extremely powerful form of content and make a significant contribution to your overall SEO strategy, in more ways than one.
Avoiding a Common Trap and Defining Your Goals
Although the idea of producing a video might seem like a “nice” idea, it’s important to remember that it must compliment your overall SEO strategy and generate a return on investment (ROI).
If you fail to define your goals in the early stages, not only will the video end up costing you (or your client) a hefty chunk of money, it will be money down the drain that could have been spent better elsewhere.
Failing to clearly define goals is a common SEO mistake and one that often is seen with content such as infographics.
Many SEOs will commission the creation of an expensive, cool-looking infographic without putting enough thought into the overall goal. They get blinded by the idea that “infographics build links” without stopping to think whether they want the infographic to increase conversions, increase high-quality traffic (i.e., visitors who are likely to convert to paying customers), or simply provide off-page SEO benefits (i.e., links).
It’s the same with video content. You need to know what you want to get out of it. Without knowing this, it will be difficult to conceptualize/commission a production that has any hope of successfully captivating the intended audience and leading to your desired goals.
What Are Your Goals?
From an SEO point of view, there really are only two main goals that you possibly could have – to build links and generate social shares or to increase conversions.
Let’s start by looking at the first benefit mentioned above…
1. Build Links/Generate Social Shares
If it’s done well, a video SEO can generate a large number of links for a website; and often from some pretty reputable domains, too. I’m not just talking about a few links, either. I’m talking about hundreds or thousands of high-quality links in some cases.
The problem is there’s so much online video content that unless you create an exceptional video and have a great outreach/marketing plan, its success is going to be limited.
People don’t link to or share any old rubbish these days. So, to get the success you’re looking for, it’s important for you to really think about who you want to share the video and who you want to link to it.
Essentially, your video has to offer something to the viewer. It might make them laugh, educate them, amaze them, shock them, or annoy them (or even a combination of these). The point is it needs to evoke a strong enough emotional reaction that they’ll want to share it, either by clicking the Tweet/Share button or by writing a post about it on their blog/website (with a link back to your site, of course).
Perhaps one of the best examples of a video that generated a massive amount of backlinks is the “viral” video from DollarShaveClub.com (above).
Before the commercial, hardly anyone had heard of Dollar Shave Club, but shortly after they produced and marketed the video, that all changed.
Strangely enough, the Dollar Shave Club video wasn’t produced for link building purposes. It was produced with the aim of raising brand awareness. But in the modern world of SEO/marketing, brand awareness and link building are directly related, at least when it comes to online content.
Let me explain with this example.
According to YouTube, the Dollar Shave Club video was uploaded on March 6, 2012. Following the upload, it didn’t take long for the video to start going viral. Partly due to a great PR/outreach strategy and, in large part, thanks to its very amusing concept, it started to gain a lot of attention for the company.
Within hours, it was featured on leading news sites across the web, including Mashable (pictured above), The Next Web, Techcrunch, and literally hundreds of others. Within a month or so, it also had been featured on many other leading sites that most SEOs would work extremely hard to obtain links from, such as Forbes and BusinessWeek.
Obviously, this is great for brand exposure, but what has this got to do with link building?
Every single one of those leading news websites mentioned above linked out to Dollar Shave Club in their articles, as did the hundreds of other sites that reported on the video.
In fact, this screenshot (taken from MajesticSEO back in the day), shows just how successful the video was for Dollar Shave Club in terms of SEO.
As you can see, around March 2012 (when the video was uploaded), Dollar Shave Club attracted approximately 18,000 backlinks and has continued to attract relatively large numbers of links every month since then.
If you take a look at the cumulative view of backlinks gained (pictured below) since the video was uploaded, you’ll see that it has attracted almost 90,000 links to date and the site still is attracting links naturally every month as people continue to write about it (like me).
The reason for this is the video struck a chord with its intended audience, and, as a result, went “viral” and attracted links. It was funny, original, and kept its target audience in mind.
There also was an excellent outreach/PR strategy in place, which was responsible for getting the video off the ground and starting the link building process.
These are all things to note if you’re looking to improve your video SEO.
Moz Whiteboard Friday
As I mentioned earlier in this guide, videos don’t necessarily have to be funny to attract links. They just have to offer viewers something they want to see. One good way to do this is to create a video that’s educational.
Every Friday, Moz posts a “whiteboard” style video on their blog. Due to the regularity of these videos, they’ve become known as the “Whiteboard Friday” videos. These videos not only attract a lot of attention from SEOs around the world, but also attract a significant number of links, embeds, and social shares; therefore increasing traffic for SEOmoz.
According to Open Site Explorer, a particular Whiteboard Friday video received 402 links from 37 referring domains and well over 1,000 social shares. Once again, proof that people love video content.
What Should I Learn from All of This?
In both instances above (DollarShaveClub.com and Moz), video content has been responsible for successfully attracting a substantial number of inbound links and social shares for the website in question. This proves that, when used correctly, videos really can provide a huge boost to your SEO campaign.
However, both of these videos successfully attracted links for different reasons.
For Dollar Shave Club, it was all about the video seeding/outreach strategy. Mike Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club, came from a video seeding background, which obviously played a big part in the success of the video. No one knew about Dollar Shave Club in the early days, so the outreach process definitely played an important role in getting things off the ground.
With Moz, it’s likely that there was no outreach conducted in order to attract links/social shares, as Moz already has an extremely large, loyal community of followers who are likely to share their content naturally. For them, simply producing a high-quality video targeted at their fan base is enough to attract links.
It’s important to consider this when using videos for SEO because all sites are different, and, therefore, will require a different approach. Ask yourself: Do I have enough high-quality traffic already to attract links automatically, or do I need to conduct outreach? And, if so, how much?
It’s also important to remember that it doesn’t matter how good your outreach plan is if your video isn’t of exceptional quality. If that is the case, it’s not going to attract a large number of links.
It’s tempting to cut corners and produce a sub-standard video in order to keep costs down. But, in the long-run, this won’t pay off. Ask yourself: Is my target audience going to be interested in this? Would I link to this if I came across it? Does it evoke an emotion? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, go back and rethink things before you produce your video.
One last thing: To get the full SEO potential of your videos, consider hosting videos on your own website (instead of Youtube or Vimeo). The reason for this is to get people to link back to your domain, which will help your overall SEO efforts as well. The possible downside would be reduced exposure or shares.
Also, on most video hosting sites you can link back to your content from the video webpage. Don’t forget to do this! It’s a free link