Apr 26, 2011

Using Video in Social Media and Search Engines

Video is one of the most popular and engaging content formats on the Web, and in social networks, today. In addition to offering a compelling experience to viewers, video offers communicators an important way to present visual messages. And – maybe even more importantly – video is given extra weight in the algorithms search engines and some social networks use to select the content we see. Consistently using good video as part of your communications strategy can deliver immediate – and lasting – visibility benefits. Understanding how to integrate video into your online messages, optimize the related content and distribute video is a key skill set for PR and marketing pros.

Search engines and video

Video sharing sites – especially Google’s YouTube – are irresistible fodder for search engines.   Video posted on your web site can also be indexed by search engines – however, creating correct and effective display of videos on a company web site is more advanced SEO work and is something we’ll leave for the pros.  That said, there are plenty of brutally effective ways one can drive awareness, branding and message visibility using video.

Posting videos on YouTube (or other sharing sites like MetaCafe and Vimeo) and then embedding those videos on another page – such as your blog or web site – delivers two very important benefits, including:

  • Your video is accessible to the huge – and social – audiences on those video sites.
  • Embedding the video hosted on the video sharing site (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo et al) on your web site creates a link between the page on which you’ve embedded the video, and the sharing site.   This is important, because search engines see the link, and the content on either end of the link – which informs them more about the video content, and can affect how the video is displayed in search engine results.

While the engines can’t read and index the videos themselves, the information surrounding the video is indexed and defines how the video is displayed in search results.

This metadata includes the video title, description and tags. The publisher of the video also sends a signal to the search engines – those have built out branded YouTube channels complete with descriptive information and site links, and then go on to build popular video archives focused on specific subjects will be seen as credible sources of information for those topics, another factor that may influence search rankings.

YouTube's upload form invites you to add a lot of detail about the video you're uploading.

Best practices for tagging and describing videos on video sharing sites:

  • Fill out all the fields available to you completely.
  • Just as you do with other content, use descriptive language – and target keywords.  But don’t sound like an automaton.
  • Descriptions should also be specific.  For example, if you work for a haberdasher and are uploading videos offering advice on tying ties, don’t just settle on a generic title like “How to Tie a Tie,” if the video shows how to tie a Windsor knot.  Don’t just think about search engines.  Consider your audience, too – because your real goal is to post videos your audience loves, finds useful, and will share readily.

Once the videos have been uploaded to the sharing site, you’re ready to embed them into your blog or web site.  Taking the time to include descriptive language is beneficial at this point, too.  Instead of simply embedding the video and leaving it at that, surrounding it with a relevant description and other content (and even links to still more content) will provide important context for your readers – and for search engines.   Anyone (or anything) looking at the page should understand at a glance what the video is about.   And, as always, keep SEO basics in mind.  Employ keywords in the page headline, and within the descriptive text.

Facebook – video is the key to super exposure

When you log onto your Facebook wall, chances are good that you don’t see everything posted by your network.  Most people use the default  “Top News” news feed view, which cherry-picks the most interesting posts – i.e. those with the most likes, comments and shares – from the people in your network.  Facebook doesn’t want to you to be bored.

The rules of engagement on Facebook start and finish with interactions – those likes, comments and shares – and nowhere is this more evident than in how the news feed works. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm dictates what content makes it into the news feed – where it can be seen by your fans’ friends. Emphasis is placed on the quality of the action (e.g. a comment is more valuable than a ‘like,’) and the timeliness of the action, as well as the affinity between the interacting parties.   Simply put, items that generate little or no interaction won’t make it into the news feed, and won’t be seen much beyond the poster’s wall.

On Facebook, video is your secret weapon – it’s more engaging for your audience, and appears to be weighted highly by the Facebook algorithms.  Plus, videos uploaded to Facebook directly (versus being embedded in other players) carry a bonus – when they’re shared by fans, a “like” button for your page appears in the Facebook player in your fan’s newsfeeds – effectively creating a mini-ambassador that recruits new fans for your Facebook page.

Good content

As always, it’s important to keep the cardinal rule of social media firmly in mind when creating video and other content to share in networks – be interesting, and be useful.  Content that isn’t of value to your audience won’t be shared, and won’t gain the exponential visibility awarded by search engines and social networks.   Keep the bar high on content quality, and be meticulous in the descriptions surrounding your videos, and you’ll enjoy a higher level of visibility for your brand.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president, social media.

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