7 Deadly Sins of Video SEO

Video content on ecommerce sites has helped many retailers improve their conversion rates, reduce returns, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Video can also attract more search engine traffic, thanks to Google’s Universal Search, which mixes video, image, Google Shopping and news results for certain queries.

While we’ve all seen Youtube results appearing in Universal Search, but some online retailers are winning top slots in search pages with well optimized video – showing their own URL for a branding boost.

Unfortunately, too many e-tailers that use video on their sites are missing their SEO opportunity. A recent study by SundaySky examined the use and promotion of ecommerce video on the top 50 sites of the Internet Retailer 500 Guide. While Amazon and HSN manage to get 100% of their video content indexed on Google, only 1 in 3 videos on Overstock were crawled by Google, 1 in 20 on Systemax and roughly 1 in 250 on QVC (a site that’s known for its video content).

Here are some common mistakes that might be hurting your video SEO:

1. Not submitting a video sitemap through webmaster tools

You should take advantage of Webmaster tools provided by the major search engines. Among other wonderful things, they accept XML sitemap submission, which directly tells the search engine about every web page on your site you wish to be indexed. This can help your site get crawled deeper than if you left the search engine spiders to their own devices. A video sitemap does exactly what you think, it helps search engines find all your videos.

Here’s how you do it for Google.

You can also submit an mRSS feed (media RSS) to Google or Bing. Bing recommends you create a Bing-specific mRSS feed through Bing Webmaster Tools for maximal indexing.

Some online video platforms like Treepodia offer dynamic sitemap creation as part of their offering.

2. Sloppy tags

Tags must be entered properly. Any omitted tag or incorrect format will return an error. If you don’t have a value to enter into a tag, you can’t leave it blank. Instead, use double parentheses (“”), which is an acceptable format. Another common gotcha is incorrect date format. Google requires date to be YYYY-MM-DD. If you enter 10-11-12, your sitemap will be rejected. Similarly, 11-21-2010 would not be accepted.

3. Using a video format that is not supported

Google sitemaps accept .mpg, .mpeg, .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .wmv, .avi, .asf, .ra, .ram and .flv files. However, if you use both the player_loc (location) and content_loc tags (only one is required, but Google recommends you use both) you can get around this.

4. Not giving your videos unique URLs

You may have pages that contain multiple videos (e.g a software product with demos and tutorials). But each video must have its own URL for Google to be able to index individual videos. You can workaround this by using a URL parameter like a hashtag to make each video’s location unique. E.g. http://www.yoursite.com/category/product-XYZ#how-product-xyz-works.

5. Improper use of Robots.txt

Google is very respectful of your wishes in your robots.txt files. If you disallow User-agent “Googlebot” anywhere on your site, Google will not crawl those pages. So it’s important to be triply sure that all the URLs included in your site map allow Googlebot access.

6. Not using keywords in title tags and descriptions

This goes back to basic SEO 101 for web pages. The title tag is so important to ranking – it’s all about keywords, baby! For example, your product video might be titled “Overview.” Oof. Better to include the product name, and append it with words someone might actually search for, like “[product] demo” or “[product] video” or “[product] video review.” Your sitemap includes these tags so make sure they’re optimized!

7. Use a CDN or other means to speed up performance

Hosting your own video can help you outrank Youtube for your own content, but it can slow your site down. Using a content delivery network will help your pages load super-fast, which is now a search engine ranking factor. Google doesn’t want to send searchers to slow landing pages!

Once you’ve turned from the deadly sins, it’s time to move forward with acts of righteousness. Tune in on Friday, I’ll share the 5 Heavenly Acts of Righteousness you can apply to your video SEO.


*From time to time I find stats in vendor papers interesting and cite them on Get Elastic. I don’t take compensation for mentioning research by other technology vendors.)

**In my research for this post, I found this webinar very helpful for understanding Google’s requirements for sitemaps. ReelSEO.com is a great resource for online video marketing. Tips 2-5 were mentioned in the webinar.

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22 Responses to “7 Deadly Sins of Video SEO”

  1. You forgot to mention the use of Video Transcripts.
    Thank you for your very helpful blog.

  2. Nice post Linda..

    Video is something that I have been learning a lot about in the last couple of weeks..

    This post gives a good insight into the things that need to be considered

  3. matteo says:

    Nice one !
    Kw research and Title optimization for videos is definitely one of the most overlooked aspect
    For video transcripts the problem i think is that for lots of videos the transcripts might be a little be out of context (from a UX/non SEO perspective)

  4. Rahul says:

    Your post contains really good information about video optimization, I learned some new factors about video optimization here.

  5. It would be interesting seeing some detailed research / cease study on hosting videos at YouTube or hosting them on your own website. Beside the obvious reasons mentioned in this video, one must wonder with YouTube being the world’s 2nd largest search engine, might you be missing on a lot of search traffic if you host videos on your own site instead of hosting them with YouTube?

    • Hi Toni,

      You can do both – I give a tip in Friday’s post on syndicating to other sites while hosting on other video sharing sites. The advantage to using Youtube embed on your site is player views on your site feed back to your view count on Youtube, which might help you in Youtube search algorithm. You have to decide whether you’d rather be found in Youtube by Youtube searchers or in Universal Search sending traffic directly to your domain. This may depend on your product, but I’d much prefer customers coming to my site than Youtube in most cases.

  6. Thanks for the resourceful article Linda. I was just talking with a client yesterday about the need for video on their e-commerce site. This list will be very helpful.

  7. I have been wanting to add a video on my product pages, like me describing the product itself and showing the product and the same time. But I am not sure where to place the video on the page for maximum effect and if doing the ‘product description video’ would be worth the effort of shooting, editing and coding to get about 85 product videos done….

    Is there any test results, research or opinions about this?

  8. I am looking for a content delivery network company to host my audio download files and video if I decided to add some. Can anyone recommend someone good at a reasonable price?

  9. mark says:

    Thanks for the mention in this great article. Im glad the webinar helped. I also wanted to point out that we have a ton of articles on the subject at http://www.reelseo.com/seo-for-video/ Hope that helps and good luck to you all in your video SEO, video marketing efforts.

    @audiobible – There are a ton of great options. Im using http://www.maxcdn.com/ which Im very pleased with (they also power mashable). You might also want to check out Amazon S3 as it is a very inexpensive solution and works great as well. Other than that – there are tons… akamai, limelight, etc…

  10. Dawn says:

    Just starting to look into videos and after reading this article can see I have a great deal to learn. Most of it was “new” news to me!

    Ah well – that is why I subscribe to you – to learn.

  11. Jack says:

    Interesting point about whether you should go for the size and large audience of YouTube, or give your own domain a go for hosting videos. If you have the time to implement full video SEO on your own website, then you’ll soon find the benefits can far outweigh YouTube. You should always try and get your readers (or viewers!) on your own website’s domain.

  12. Anything that is put out into the online space should be optimized so that it can work for you. Great post outlining the mistakes that most make, it’s important to spread the knowledge we have for others to learn from.

  13. What is the best size to give the user a video sample?

    I have 3 options for my .flv files

    320 X 240 Optimal Quality
    384 X 288 Normal Quality
    480 X 360 Best Quality

    Please help………..thanks.

    • There’s a couple things you can do, you may be able to apply connection type detection to serve up the best media for dialup / broadband. I would typically opt for the best video quality so long as it doesn’t affect performance too much.

  14. Amanda says:

    Very interesting, what is the best software to use to actually create the videos?

    • You can just shoot videos with your digital recorder and format them for various players/sites. There are also vendors like Treepodia and LiveClicker that can do more robust things.

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