Customer-obsessed marketing

The Easiest Way to a First-Page Ranking on Google

Nate Elliott
January 9, 2009

[UPDATE, 8 AUGUST 2012: As much as I appreciate seeing this research continue to circulate online, I'd like to note that these findings are now almost 4 years old, and are almost certainly no longer accurate. Just as you wouldn't rely upon Nielsen ratings from January 2009 to tell you what's popular on TV today, nor can the data below tell you how Google is handling search results today.]

If you're like most interactive marketers, you probably don't think much about search optimizing your online video content. Less than 20% of marketers tell us they insert keywords into the filenames of the videos on their site, and even fewer use more advanced tactics like writing keyword-rich captions and annotations, or creating online video libraries.

But if you're not optimizing your videos, you should start. "Blended search," the practice in which search engines display videos, images, news stories, maps, and other types of results alongside their standard search results, has become increasingly common on major search engines. And optimizing video content to take advantage of blended search is by far the easiest way to get a first-page organic ranking on Google.

Recently, we conducted a little experiment to learn more about how search engines respond to common queries. We created a list of 40 of the most-searched keywords — pulled from the search engines' own lists of popular and fast-growing search terms, like Google Trends — and ran those searches on Google in the US and the UK, as well as on MSN UK and Yahoo UK.

MSN and Yahoo (both of which we studied only in the UK) still present only standard results for most of their searches. But Google blended non-standard search results into a large majority of the keywords we studied: nearly three-quarters of the searches we ran on Google in the UK, and well over half the searches we ran on Google in the US, returned blended results. In both the US and the UK, Google was more likely to blend videos into its results than any other type of media. (Images, in case you're wondering, are only rarely blended into any of the engines' search results.)

Not only are video results increasingly common in Google's search results, but your videos stand a much better chance than your text pages of being shown on the first results page. On the keywords for which Google offers video results, we found an average of 16,000 videos vying to appear on results pages containing an average of 1.5 video results — giving each video about an 11,000-to-1 chance of making it onto the first page of results. By comparison, there were an average of 4.7 million text pages competing for a place on results pages with an average of just 9.4 text results — giving each text page about a 500,000-to-1 chance of appearing on the first page of results. Now that's a lot of math, but here's what it means: on the keywords for which Google offers video results, any given video in the index stands about a 50 times better chance of appearing on the first page of results than any given text page in the index. Those are some attractive odds.

Best of all, so few interactive marketers focus on video optimization that most of the videos in Google's index aren't very well optimized — so if you optimize your videos well, your chances of success will increase even further.

So how can you optimize your online videos? The agencies and search engines I've talked to offer a number of different tips:

  • Insert keywords into your video filenames.
  • Host your videos on YouTube, and embed those YouTube videos into your own site. Google says its algorithms consider how many times a video is viewed, and any views embedded videos receive on your own site get added to the 'views' tally on YouTube. (And yes, nearly every video we saw Google blend into its results came from YouTube.)
  • Optimize your YouTube videos by writing keywords into your videos' titles, descriptions, and tags.
  • Embed videos into relevant text pages on your site. The context provided by the text on those pages (which is hopefully already optimized for search as well) will help the search engines figure out what your videos are about.
  • Also create a video library on your site, so Google knows where to find your video content. (Google Video Sitemaps can help with this too.) Write keyword-rich annotations for each video in the library.

Clients can read more about this topic, including some examples and further best practices, in our reports SEO for Blended Search (a Europe-focused report) and Video and Image Optimization (which is US-focused).

I'm also curious to hear about your experiences. Do you optimize your video content? If so, which tactics do you use — and which have worked best for you?

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