There is a great deal of advice about optimising written content for search, but finding similar information for video is more difficult. That’s why Google has recently stepped up with its own ‘Video best practices’ recommendations in the Advanced SEO section of its Google Search Central hub.
Google notes that video has become a core area of content creation in recent years and that it goes through the process of indexing clips from “millions” of different sites to deliver the best offerings to searchers.
Video is a little different from a standard blue link in SERPs that usually points to a blog or article. Videos do show up in the main search results page though, and Google says that they are also included within the video section of search, Google Images and Discover.
In order to give your videos the best chance of showing up in search, Google has recommended the following as best practices that can be used as a checklist:
- Helping Google to find videos by using tags and a sitemap.
- Ensuring that videos can be indexed by including a thumbnail.
- Allowing Google to fetch the actual content files by using the right encodings and URLs.
- Enabling specific video features such as key moments.
- Managing videos afterwards “as needed”.
Understanding SEO signals
During the crawling process, Google starts to look for signals that it can latch onto and decipher in order to understand what is contained within a video. Communicating the right signals will make it easier for videos to show up in search for relevant queries.
There are four main types of signal that are noted by Google:
- Page text
- Referral links
- Structured data
- Video files
On–page text signals include simple elements such as titles and headings, while structured data covers the markup for video-related features. You should optimise each of these elements accordingly so that important information is communicated clearly.
Make your videos accessible to Google
Arguably, the most important step is actually ensuring that Google can access your videos. With limited visibility, you will find it difficult to get your content onto the first page of SERPs or in rich results.
Google recommends checking that there are no robots.txt or noindex tags that can block the video page. You should, however, include a relevant HTML tag with <video> or other appropriate phrasing to help Google to identify video content.
To improve visibility further, test and submit a video sitemap via Google Search Console, and use a webpage with a URL that is straightforward and does not include fragments.
Google says that videos should not require “complex user actions” to access, and that they should always be visible and easy to find on webpages. This means using a standalone page where necessary, with a descriptive title.
Make your videos visible for indexing
Now that Google will be able to find your videos easily, you need to consider indexing and including information that will make it eligible for video features in search.
First, make sure to include a high-quality thumbnail image using a supported format. Google says that without a thumbnail, video content could be indexed and presented in search results as just a blue link, which can limit its impact.
You also need to provide structured data for the video. Structured data is used in an SEO context to provide important additional details about the content on a page. It is effectively a way to describe your site and usually involves implementing ‘markup’.
Google says that this markup helps it to understand what is actually included in a video so that it can align it more neatly with search intent and queries. It recommends only using structured data that tallies with the video content, so don’t include anything that is not relevant to the clip in question.
Markup should include information related to the title, description and runtime, among other things. You can also use structured data to turn on features that are specific to video in search, such as badges.
Allow Google to fetch content files
After making your video easy to find and to index, Google then needs to access the actual video file to fully understand its contents.
To allow Google to fetch the relevant files, it recommends providing a ‘contentURL’ value using structured data, ensuring that the server that is streaming the video has bandwidth available for crawling, and double–checking that there aren’t any tags that block Google from getting to what it needs.
In a specific subsection, Google also highlights the importance of stable URLs. By using a “single unique and stable URL”, you will be giving Google the green light to find, index and process clips on a regular basis. Videos should also be encoded in a supported format such as MP4 or MKV.
Enable video features
Video features are crucial for visibility in search. For example, Google will show a short video preview when users hover the cursor over a thumbnail in search. Other video features include key moments, which are akin to chapters in a book, and live badges for live streams.
You can use structured data again here to turn on these specific features, so make sure to implement the appropriate markup before publishing your video.
Remove, restrict and manage videos
The final step relates to video management and the need to remove and restrict videos where necessary. You can use restrict-based commands via structured data if you don’t want a video to be surfaced outside a particular country or region.
To remove videos, Google says that the quickest method is to file a removal request for the host page, and any other pages where the video may be embedded.
With all this done, you will have implemented a list of best practices that can improve your success when trying to get videos ranked in search. Try to refer back to each of the practices and run through them periodically to ensure that everything is up and running, and ready for Google to index and rank content accordingly.