In my first post of this “The Power of Interactive Websites” series, we took a hard look at static sites and where things are going in an increasingly interactive world.
In the second post, we examined ways and ideas that can help you get more “stickiness” on your website.
In this post, we're going to concentrate on the video as a way in which you can engage your audience.
With eMarketer projecting there are going to be 144 million online video viewers in the U.S. this year, and growing to 188 million viewers in 2013 – you can see at some point it's going to be a case of if you snooze, you'll lose, with this one.
Online video projection figures from eMarketer.com.
One of the main reasons you want to look at video and producing content in a variety of formats is the ever-increasing impact blended search is having on search results.
Blended search results are the results that come up as part of search results that are not just web pages themselves. Videos, audios, images and maps are all part of the results that can come back as part of this. This means that if you tag and optimize these elements properly, you can help your organic search engine rankings.
According to Forrester Research, optimizing video correctly is actually the best way to improve your rankings. Here are some tips by analyst Nate Elliott on how to optimize online videos.
So – if for no other reason – you need to include blended search as part of your SEO activity.
The other reason to get with the program on this stuff is that this is sort of thing that adds flavor and interest to your visitors' experience. By increasing their interest, you also increase the length of time they're likely to stay on your site. And, as you'll know if you've been following this series, the longer they stay on your site because it's “sticky” for them, the more likely they are to take some sort of action – whether that's sign up for a newsletter, or go on to buy from your affiliate link.
By increasing the quality of “stickiness' in your content, as well as improving your rankings through improved search results – your overall conversion rates increase.
Let's now look at video and check out how you can use it to increase interactivity and the rankings of your site.
Getting Into Online Video
With the advent of YouTube, anyone with a video camera, editing software and a bit of free time can create a video of just about anything. YouTube's partnership with Google also means that having video on your site gives you extra “points” with those search engines as well.
Flash videos are widely accepted as one of the most easy ways to get video on your website. You don't have the long download times for one thing. Nothing will get your prospect hitting the back button faster than a slow-loading video clip.
Here's a program that used Flash for videos that is bandwidth-friendly, with no great techie skills required to run or install it.
The guys at Flyproducer have some free video lessons as well that will help get you up and running in this department, take a look.
And if you happen to have a WordPress blog, you can use their FLV Plugin, which makes adding a Flash video to your site really easy.
While Flash is a great way to go here, just remember that not all flash movie players work in Firefox, which is increasing in popularity as a browser. So it's important that you do testing across platforms.
One that does work well in Firefox is FLV Player.
Here's a site where you can test your site in many different browsers so that you can avoid browser issues with your site visitors: http://browsershots.org
If you want to dip your toes in the water with online video, you can do a simple PowerPoint presentation that's backed by either music or narration to get started.
And if you've been wondering how to go about getting a video clip from YouTube on to your site, it's really straightforward.
Here's a 1 minute 17 second video clip on how to embed a video from YouTube into your blog from beginning to end![UPDATE: You now have to click on “Share” and then click on “Embed” and follow the instructions. Easy!
Using Live Streaming Video
Using live streaming video is like uploading a video, but with all the pitfalls of live television. Just like reality television, this can be part of its attraction to viewers as it gives the immediacy of the moment.
The name “live streaming” actually comes from the delivery method of the medium, rather than the medium itself.
A “streaming video” is one in which the audio starts playing as soon as your web visitor triggers it, even if it hasn't downloaded yet.
This is a more preferable way to do things, when the alternative means your visitors would have to download the whole audio on their computer before they listened to it. Not a way to keep people happy…
Photo: sergis blog
Some definite drawbacks in terms of conversion there!
Let's take a look at an example of a live streaming site – Ustream
This site allows users to stream live video to their site with an interactive video broadcast platform. Basically, anyone with a camera and an Internet connection can get to broadcast to a global audience.
It's interesting to note that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have used UStream – so it has some serious reach in terms as a potential soapbox!
You can also create your own channel on this site itself, or by broadcasting through your own site. You have the bonus of being able to earn ad revenue generated by your content. Nothing to get excited about in terms of dollars, but if you're going to be creating content anyway, it's a nice plus.
If you are thinking of making the most out of the videos on your site and want to know what's becoming possible now, another site worth looking at is Episodic.com.
These guys have a whole heap of different tools for video publishing and creating web shows. You can format and track the different stats of each video you make too. There's a complete platform of tools that allow you to make the most out of the videos you make – for example video hosting help, video analytics, or a customizable player for your site.
You can publish any format to reach your audience anywhere, on any screen. In fact, you can simultaneously deliver content via the web, iPod/iPhone compatible mp4s, and stream your content to mobile devices, so it's pretty cool stuff.
Bear in mind that this service is not fully functional yet, but you can try out the demo to see if this what you are looking for, and sign up for a free trial account as a beta tester.
The key feature of this service has to be the Syndication option. This means that you can drive traffic and automatically program your content across different channels, and different social networks – in fact, wherever your audience may find your content.
All Video Sites shows you all the video sharing sites around to give you an idea of just what's available in this area. You simply type in your search term…
…and up come all the videos that are relevant to that subject.
Putting Your Videos Online
You have a couple of choices for posting your videos online:
1) posted content
2) hosted content
Posted content is video content that you post to another site, for example, YouTube. Hosted content is the stuff that you host on your own site.
So what are the benefits of each of these options?
Posting Your Content On Your Own Site
There are some real pluses for this option:
- You increase the traffic directly to your site – not someone else's.
- You control and own your videos – not someone else's, so your videos are under your full control.
- You can optimize things so that your content is highly relevant to your page copy.
- You're also in the driver's seat in regards to the monetization and advertising of both your site and your video.
- Your hosted content creates increased interest in your site (Again, not someone else's). This means you're on the road to also increasing inbound links.
Let's look at posted content now…
Posting Your Content On Other Sites
- You can get the chance to benefit from viral marketing, especially if you have some outrageous, controversial, or unusual content. The high level of social networking on big video sharing sites can really assist you in creating your own hub or community.
- When you go down the route of posted content on sites such as YouTube or Yahoo! you have the opportunity of tapping into millions of users and existing traffic. However, let's be realistic. Some videos receive millions of views. Some receive almost none.
- With a posted video, you have a better opportunity to get a better place in blended search results. Plus, you can also rank higher in the “normal” search engine results pages. What's not to like?!
So it's up to you which way you want to go in showcasing your video – whether that's posted, hosted or both.
If you use both options, you can get the best of both worlds.
Now you want to get creating! What you want to produce is something that captures people's interest. Your aim is to provide something new in some way, or useful to those watching it. You also want to make sure it reaches the biggest possible audience.
Making A Successful Video
So what makes a successful video online?
Generally speaking, they need to be short (30 seconds to 3 minutes is about right). Web users have short attention spans. If your video does end up being a bit on the long side, chunk it down into “bite size” pieces.
One way to bring more traffic to your site and also get the opportunity to tell your full story is to do one video that tells viewers what's in it for them if they visit your site to “view our full length video”.
Videos obviously need to be interesting, and sometimes humor can help with this. Don't try to imitate a TV ad – that's not what this is about. You have limited time to draw people in, so you need to create enough interest with a few key points that your viewer wants to know more about. You can always create a series of different videos to cover different things.
You need to make sure you use a low bandwidth to allow as many people as possible to download or view on a broad range of devices. The more options you provide, the wider your potential audience.
It's important that you consider your search engine optimization tactics when you're doing online video. This is even more vital when video is hosted on your own site, because this can have an impact on your results.
Here's how you can make sure your videos are optimized for the search engines:
Optimizing your posted videos:
- Make sure you have a video “thumbnail” on your web page. This helps draw a viewer in – they're curious about what they're about to find. Research has revealed that web users will look down at text lower in the results pages if video thumbnails are included as part of that result.
- Encourage comments from viewers to increase site stickiness and community. The responses and comments you receive can add value to the site.
- If you get a video channel (from somewhere like Ustream that I mentioned earlier), encourage your visitors to subscribe to it.
- To help the viral marketing aspect of things, you can also encourage visitors to embed your video's code in other places online.
- Use the Google XML sitemaps for videos to make sure as many are indexed as possible, and easier to find.
Google offers some helpful info on creating video sitemaps.
Optimizing your hosted videos:
This is where videos can create problems if you're not careful, as they can mess up the right optimization of page text.
When you embed a video on a page, make sure you check that your source code stays clean and doesn't decide to have a bit of hissy fit behind the scenes!
Here's how to do things properly:
- Make a separate page and unique URL for each video. This means you can do some tailored SEO for each page of content. Doing things this way also helps boost the amount of content you've got for the search engines to find and index as well. Having a whole heap of videos on one page will not allow this.
- It's a good idea to place all your video files all in the one folder, so that the URLs are all consistent.
- Make sure your videos are all encoded with their title, date, author, description and keyword.
- It's important that you offer videos in multiple formats (.mov, .mpeg, .avi). This means people can watch your video without being redirected away to download a video player that they may not want. You take the risk that if they leave your site, they may not come back. Don't risk this!
- Have your main or relevant keywords as well as the word ‘video' in the file name for a more powerful URL.
- Have a caption for your video with your on-page content. You want to have relevant keywords included in the text that reflect the content of the video.
- Add the most popular social bookmarking tools so that viewers can let others know about them.
- Embed the video in the webpage so that visitors' popup blockers do not block your video
Now you're good to go!
Submit your videos to as many different places as you can find that offer a decent level of quality video that will work for you.
You can use syndication feeds such as Media RSS (MRSS) to feed your videos into as many different places as possible. After some time of doing this consistently, you'll soon see what's working for you and what's not.
However, if your videos have been online a while and still don't appear when you search for them in Google Video, here's what could be going wrong for you:
If Google's spiders miss a site on which a video appears, it's often because your site…
- Isn't well connected through multiple links to other sites on the web
- Was submitted after Google did its most recent crawl
- Is designed in such a way that it's challenging for Google to go through your content.
- Might have been unavailable at that time, or Google got an error when crawling it
So there you have the Reader's Digest version of what you need to consider when getting into video! We've gone into the “ins” and “outs” of posted versus hosted content, and what you need to do to make sure your videos are optimized for the search engines.
Now it's time for you to start making the most of your opportunity with blended search and get that video camera out. Let us know how it all goes for you – we'll be keen to hear!
Look out next week for Part 4 of this series: “How To Increase Sales Through Online Video.”