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You might have already dabbled in content marketing and SEO, but times have changed and now you need the same growth magic for video. After all, no one wants to plan an entire video marketing campaign only to end up in the red.
To the uninitiated: Great SEO is a low-cost way to ensure that your content is always on top of search trends—earning you organic traffic from the right people at the right time (i.e., exactly when they want or search for it). In this article, we’ll show you the ropes based on how much effort you can commit. If you’ve already published some great videos, you can calibrate them to gain traffic; or you can start afresh and build a new strategy using an SEO approach. You can even do both!
But take it from us, if you use SEO research as a foundation for your video content from the very beginning, you’ll intentionally be creating the kind of videos search engines reward with ranking. And the higher your search traffic, the better your chances for converting organic visits to sales. On that note, here are the checkpoints on our highway to higher video traffic:
An SEO approach to creating videos
Applying your SEO research on-page
Checking your video’s performance
1. An SEO approach to creating videos
SEO is a method of reverse-engineering great content. Using SEO research, you can peek into what your potential customers are searching for online and which search results are served to them. Top search results are content deemed worthy by Google’s algorithm—they’re prime examples of content marketing that work.
So for video, as for every other type of content, the top-ranking results should be your reference when it comes to quality and relevance. Here’s how to research for SEO:
Step 1: Keyword Research
There are many keyword explorers: free ones like Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest or the basic Keyword Tool; there are also premium ones like Moz, Serpstat and Backlinko. Note your keywords down because they will come in handy down the line.
And then it’s a matter of typing in the words that match your service with user intent. Say, if you’re marketing an Asian fusion restaurant, you would want to try the keywords “Asian food” because those are the specific terms that capture the interests of both business and customer.
Your keyword tool should show the specific word combinations searched for and their search volume—try different words and take the ones that drive the most traffic. Type them into Google and look into both the universal search tab and the videos tab. The videos there should serve as your reference or baseline for what kind of videos and angles work in your industry. (Also check out what other types of content rank because you’ll get marketing ideas from there, too.)
Step 2: Content Planning
Now that you have an idea about which topics you should cover, you’ll need a framework for planning your video content. YouTube’s playbook on Programming and Channel Strategy suggests using the Hero-Hub-Help framework shown above to form your pipeline.
Volvo is an example of a brand with video campaigns covering all three video types. They went viral back in 2013 for featuring Van Damme performing a split in between two reversing trucks. That’s what hero content looks like—a “wow” video going for a massive advertising push. Volvo also regularly publishes hub content, or videos meant to keep the brand top of mind, like this short one on their three-point seatbelts. For their help content, an example is their informative short on Volvo trucks’ dual clutch. It’s an evergreen video meant for core audiences searching for that particular feature.
Ideally, a comprehensive video marketing campaign should cover all three types of videos, but they don’t have to be on the production level of Volvo to work. The important things to remember are:
Hero video is a major feature centred around brand image and is meant for driving high-impact awareness. They usually command higher production costs than other video types and are less frequently produced. Hero videos should also be maximised and supported with a full campaign—paid advertising, social media marketing, influencer support, etc.
Hub videos, on the other hand, are meant to be regularly produced because their objective is to keep brand top-of-mind. Your audience for this video is already aware of your brand so it keeps them engaged by featuring a wide variety of their interests.
Help videos are meant to address the specific needs and problems of your core audience. As such, they need to be optimised for YouTube and Google searches—this is why they’re regarded as “pull” content.
Step 3: Quality Control
At the video production stage, insist on the best video and audio quality possible. Don’t forget that quality also applies to your style of narrative and storytelling.
A SEO specialist doesn’t stop after a few searches—it’s a perpetual process of researching, creating and publishing the best content. If your video isn’t up to snuff and people don’t stay long enough to watch it, Google will drop its ranking and move a different video up. Quality is key.
For quality video templates, check out Clipchamp’s video template library and find a video you can personalise for your business. Like this one:
Loading time is also important. Even with its high quality, remember to make sure your video loads quickly on the page, to keep your audience from giving up on it and moving on. Our Ultimate Guide to Video Formats should brief you on the ideal formats across the most popular platforms.
2. Applying your research on-page
Google surfaces content that is deemed of high quality and relevance. When it comes to videos, this includes the visual as well as written content. Here’s how you can ensure that the text accompanying your video keeps you on top of search results:
Step 1: Copywriting
Your keywords, for example, Los Angeles SEO should be in the video title and description. But remember not to fall into the trap of keyword stuffing. Your copy should be engaging and informative, interesting and clickable. This infographic has some tips on what your copy should look like:
It’s also worth linking to and from your videos, so find a way to link your video content from or within other credible and relevant pages. The character limit for your YouTube videos is 1000 words but most of it is hidden after the first few lines until the viewer clicks on “show more”, so make sure to load your important links (link building) and keywords in the first few lines to generate more click-throughs.
Step 2: Transcribing
Unlike titles and descriptions, a transcription of your video is not a requirement. But it’s definitely a good idea. Transcripts and captions are still “indexable” text, and they make your video more accessible to people who can’t access audio.
There are a ton of transcription services out there, but Tech Radar has a great list of the best ones for anyone looking for human or machine-generated transcriptions.
Transcripts and captions are still “indexable” text, and they make your video more accessible to people who can’t access audio. It's always advisable to add subtitles to your videos. If you don't want to do it manually, you can use a subtitle generator to automatically generate captions for your footage.
You can auto-caption your mobile videos for social media and TikTok with Clipchamp's iOS app. Our captioning tool will automatically scan your video and create captions.
Or you can include helpful copy cues in your video, like in this ASMR video template:
Step 3: Designing
You really don’t want random screenshots for video thumbnails. These are the opening visual representations of your video so they need to be as compelling as possible. Especially since Wistia found that videos with custom human thumbnails are rewarded with 30% higher play rate. Do what The Economist does and create thumbnails with intriguing copy complementing their video titles. It’s even branded with their logo.
Nowadays it’s easy to customise YouTube thumbnails using design applications like Fotor.
3. Checking on your video’s performance
The one thing you really need to set up—if you haven’t yet—is Google Analytics. To know if your video is performing well, look into the traffic section and check if your website or landing page is actually getting traffic from your video platforms.
Also check the queries section and go through what people are finding you for. If your videos aren’t among the top items listed under these two tabs, your video strategy or campaign might need a little tweaking.
For a detailed guide on how to track your video’s performance, Jeff Pelletier has an updated post on using Google Analytics for video. And for those who are now very curious about how search engines do their thing, Google has an animated infographic on how search works.
Over to you
Looking at your strategy from an SEO perspective shapes the kind of content you produce and publish. The more you use SEO research, the more your brand becomes reflective of audience intent. Google is also an expert at finding abusive tactics that exploit its algorithm (like keyword stuffing and comment spam!), so you can bet any decent SEO strategy will have to account for quality alongside useful information based on relevant searches.
Ultimately, the best way to rank is to make quality videos and complement them with genuinely informative content and keywords.