The SEO Benefits of Video on your site

I recently participated on a discussion (on LinkedIn about the advantages/disadvantages of having a video on your home page.

The discussion was an interesting one, bringing up various aspects including accessibility, brain-mapping, and general layout pros and cons, but one thing struck me forcefully – the ‘received wisdom’ that video has no seo benefits for your page at all. One commenter went so far as to say

” is a bad idea. Distracting, absolutely a loser for SEO (The guy ** [referring to an early contributor to the discussion] has no clue).”

Now, aside from the arrogance of that answer, it’s also completely wrong. Adding video to your site can dramatically improve your ranking for some results, if done correctly.

The confusion around video seo comes from a simple and recognised fact – the search engines cannot automatically and independently determine a video’s content. Great strides are being made in voice recognition and image recognition (see this interesting interview Charlie Rose did with Marissa Mayer of Google), but for the moment the search engines when faced directly with a video draw a blank as to what it’s about.

So there are plenty of people out there that have translated that fact into a presumption, that adding video on your site is the same as adding nothing for the search engines.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, and yet again wrong. You just need to go to the search engine results themselves to see how misguided this is. Do a search for almost anything these days, and check the front page results and you’ll get mixed media results that include image thumbnails and video thumbnails. Videos are appearing on the front page results (and not just in google video search, nor just from youtube and other big video hosting sites like vimeo etc). Not only that, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence out there (including testing we’ve done ourselves with clients including iguidez) to suggest that it may be easier at the moment to rank highly for some keywords using video rather than a straight seo’d page.

And as with so many seo issues, the best place to start here is with the search engines themselves. Take a trip over to google’s webmaster centre and there’s plenty of information about how to set your videos up so that the search engines can make sense of them, and so add them to their index.

Key to this are general seo best practices –
1) Give your videos relevant filenames
2) Where possible caption your videos – this may/may not help with the seo side of things, but will improve your accessibility and benefits the end user, and we all know that benefitting the end user in many cases carries an seo advantage.
3) Submit a correctly formatted video sitemap – this allows you to give a better picture of the video to the search engines, including keyword tags, description etc.

These are just some of the ways to ensure that your video content is playing its part in your overall seo strategy.