There is an important fact about today’s most successful websites: they’re using video, and outstripping text-based sites in popularity by an increasingly wide margin.
Google gives higher page rankings to websites that show the most “user engagement,” and there is no doubt that sites with video are reaping the biggest rewards. This isn’t entirely surprising – more and more people are routinely making use of the latest technologies to watch TV on their PCs and laptops, and videos on their smartphones. ComScore estimates that every day across the world, around 3.5 billion videos are viewed – and that is just on YouTube. Intel predicts that by 2015, there will be a staggering 500 billion hours of video content available online.
Although social media and entertainment will drive much of this, it’s equally true that many of the more canny businesses and content suppliers are jumping on the website-video bandwagon. Online video, e-commerce entrepreneurs and bloggers are realizing that it has the same power as TV advertising – but at a fraction of the cost. According to research by Cisco, video will generate a staggering 400 per cent increase in internet traffic by 2014.
We can break down the appeal (and power) of online video into three broad categories: consumer engagement, link baiting (producing provocative video content that makes people want to share it with others) and reference (evergreen video content that doesn’t need frequent updating and generates a steady flow of traffic from Web searches).
A successful website will incorporate all of the three elements – providing freshly updated video content (such as a series of video blogs) along with evergreen content, and the occasional provocative/controversial piece that incites people to copy the link and send it on to friends, colleagues and family. The video content must be of good quality – it really has to be “watchable.” Research suggests that viewers will either engage or wander away after 20 seconds. But three minutes of good quality online video has the same impact as 30 minutes of text, so it is potentially a highly useful and lucrative medium.
So, what are the best mechanisms for hosting video content on a website? There are two main approaches – using a third party host (YouTube or Vimeo), or self-hosting. Third party hosting has the advantage of granting access to a potentially massive search audience (just think of the millions of people that search YouTube every minute of the day). It is also far more able to cope with peaks in viewing demand than is self-hosting.
But do not dismiss self-hosting out of hand. It is a lot less cumbersome for visitors to the website than third party hosting. No one has to click on another link to open the video, it’s just there on the site itself, ready to be played. There is strong evidence that this helps get visitors directly to the site – people don’t like to make too many clicks to get to what they want to access.
If you have read our feature article called “How to find your keywords,” you will appreciate that embedding selected keywords in text content is crucial to search results. Exactly the same principal applies to video content. Create (and maintain) a Google video sitemap, which will provide the search giant with all the information it needs about the video content hosted on the site. This will include the URLs of pages where the videos are located, the keywords relevant for the video content, the video duration and any thumbnails.
If third party video hosting is preferred (such as via YouTube), make sure that the content contains a link back to the original website.