Video expands SEM reach for marketers

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Creating videos for business can help land you on the first page of search
Creating videos for business can help land you on the first page of search

From how-to videos to viral, marketers find video can have a big impact on SEO strategies, at a time when YouTube has established itself as the No. 2 search engine

Standing behind a table covered in shirts and hats, the president of the Queensboro Shirt Company, with a hands-free phone headset affixed to his ear, describes himself as Fred “Billy Mays” Meyers before making a pitch about his products.

The amateur video has been viewed more than 9,000 times on YouTube, presumably by both people who already were familiar with the Wilmington, NC-based retailer, as well as some who weren't. It's just one marketing approach Queensboro has taken.

While the results of video use in search engine marketing are difficult to gauge, marketers largely agree that companies that are not posting videos are missing out on a golden opportunity to boost their visibility on the Web.

When Google introduced its Universal Search in 2007, it allowed results beyond Web pages — video, news, images — to land on its first page, the Holy Grail for search marketers.

“With all of those combined results, you can have a big impact with having video in the results page,” says Brian Goffman, CEO and cofounder of Seattle-based Optify, which provides software for businesses to generate leads through search and social media.

“And if you think of it as a zero-sum game, you want to be on a page around a particular result that your competitor is not.”

Optimized for search

Creating a video for a business is only half the battle. Finding an audience for it requires some effort.

Here are several tips that Optify CEO Brian Goffman and Seer Interactive president Wil Reynolds offered for helping a video's chances of being found on search engines:

1. Develop a keyword target list. Which search terms should be associated with the video?

2. Use the keywords in the title, description and tags. Take advantage of every fi eld that is available.

3. Lead the description with the company's URL. If another website reposts the video, the URL could become a link, one of the most powerful tools in Google's rankings.

4. Post the video to a Web page that also includes the keywords. The search engines are more likely to associate the video with those terms.

5. Keep the video short. A brief video allows a company to be more specifi c in the title.

6. Submit the video to search engines. Google, Yahoo and Bing are the most popular traditional engines.

Because of less competition, a video is about 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of results than a text page using the same keyword, according to Forrester Research analyst Nate Elliott.

YouTube, meanwhile, has established itself as the No. 2 search engine.

Companies have leaned on video in many different ways. The Home Depot offers do-it-yourself tips. Gibson USA posts interviews and performances of musicians playing its guitars. Kodak's YouTube channel includes more than 600 videos, including commercials, photographer profiles and contest entries.

“A lot more traffic is driven by the use of video than static visual content,” says Jeffrey Hayzlett, who was Eastman Kodak Company's CMO until May and now runs his own consulting firm. “Video has a lot more traction to it. People love to watch people and love to watch action, as opposed to reading about it. While reading about it is still very positive, the more and more video that is being incorporated helps the viewership.”

Most of the videos by the Queensboro Shirt Company are lighthearted. One shows employees dancing to celebrate National Dance Like a Chicken Day.

Another gives tips on how not to interview for a job, in which the candidate shows up dressed in a suit jacket, tie and Bermuda shorts and incessantly waves his finger in Meyers' face.

“The more important thing is to create a personality for the company so they don't feel like we're just some plain, vanilla company; that we have a personality,” Meyers says. “There's something a little more human for our customers to connect to.

They can put names with faces. We send out a lot of e-mails that are from me. I feel like if that helps them see who Fred is, that gives them a little more of an inclination to read their e-mails, [and] go to the website.”

While Meyers says videos have had little impact on traffic to Queensboro's website, he does believe the productions give the company a greater online presence and a better chance to be found in searches. A search for “custom embroidered shirt” on YouTube, for example, produces a Queensboro video on Page 1.

SEO experts agree that Google's search formula for videos is enigmatic.

Wil Reynolds, CEO of Philadelphia-based Seer Interactive, posted a video of himself discussing search engine optimization at a conference. The video has been viewed more than 28,000 times on YouTube and appears as the fourth result on Google's Universal Search for “SEO best practices.”

Seer Interactive does not offer video SEO as a service because its clients generally expect increased Web traffic to result in improved sales, Reynolds says.

“They are not coming to us for some sort of straight-up brand-building effort,” Reynolds says.

“For us, to get them a bunch of additional views on YouTube, if we don't have a strategy for how that's actually going to increase their ranking, that's not really a conversation I want to get into.”

But there is still much that companies can gain through video, says Goffman.

“If you're a business-to-consumer company or a business-to-business company that has a broader reach, video can be very effective,” he says. “And I think you also have to measure it more on engagement and not necessarily on conversion.”

Procter & Gamble's recent Old Spice advertising campaign, Hayzlett says, is an example of a video that has helped a company's search marketing efforts.

The spots, which show former NFL athlete Isaiah Mustafa transitioning from a bathroom to a sailboat to horseback, have been viewed more than 15 million times on YouTube and spawned a wave of parodies. Hayzlett says, “When people do parodies of it, you know you have something going. They get more clicks on it, they st

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