Video Search Engine Basics

One of the sessions I attended at SES San Jose was the Video Search Engine session. Presenting were Cris Pierry from Yahoo, Stephen Baker from EveryZing (formerly PodZinger), Onil Gonawardana from Blinkx, and Tim Tuttle from Truveo. For many, it’s tempting to think that this may not represent a great opportunity for SEO, but there is plenty of evidence that this is not the case.

For example, Cris Pierry told us that 57 percent of Internet users have watched a video. That’s an outstanding number. Equally interesting is the fact that 74 percent of all broadband connected Internet users have watched a video. With this is mind, it becomes interesting to think about how you can take advantage of this for your business.

Coming Up With Topics

The first question that must be answered is what types of videos related to your business would make sense to potentially produce. And it is key that it be related to your business. The more so the better. You want any link love you get, or any visitors you get, to be people who may become interested in the rest of your site as a whole.

The best way to come up with that list is through brainstorming. While doing this, keep in mind that Universal Search adds a new twist to the upside. Videos can potentially be shown in web search results on Google, or together with the web results on Yahoo and Ask. So if you are selling web design software, you might want to create a video on “How to Design a Web Site.” Creating this type of video may cause you to get traffic from one of the video-only search engines, and it may also get you traffic from web search.

Video Optimization and Promotion

Optimizing for video search is much like optimizing for image search. The video search engines can’t easily see the video content (note the exceptions covered below), so you need to use manual tagging in the video file metadata itself. Use a good title, a good description, and a solid list of keywords.

Using keywords in the file name of the video is also useful. Note that file format you use for your video does not matter, as long as you use one of the standards (e.g. MOV, AVI, WMF). Do be careful to not use Flash only, or use entirely dynamic players. You can run into duplicate content issues if you offer your video in multiple file formats, so make sure to steer away from that by using robots.txt to pick one version as the focal point for the search engines.

Of course, the context of the web page where the video resides matters a lot too. That page should have its own abstract, links to other related content, a supportive title, etc. Anchor text of links to the web page is supportive too. See the videos on for a good example of this.

Promotion starts with submitting your videos to video search engines, placing the videos on readily accessible web pages, and getting links to those web pages. That’s the easy part. You should also create a video site map, and use an H1 tag of “video site map” in that file.

It’s also important to embrace the social web. Having people tag the video, share it, rate it, and comment on it is valuable. For one thing, this type of activity has the potential to go viral, which is one of the beauties of video. Make this easier by providing an RSS feed of the video, complete with appropriate tags and a transcript (or a summary).

Looking Inside Video

Video search engines are starting to look inside the video itself. Here are some of the things that were mentioned during this session:

  1. Detecting flesh tones to find adult content
  2. Checking for audio match with the sound track
  3. Logo detection
  4. Face detection
  5. Object detection
  6. EveryZing generates a transcript from the audio
  7. On screen text recognition

It will be fascinating to see how this marketplace unfolds. As broadband usage expands, and as more and more people become aware of the quality and quantity of videos which are available, this market will continue to grow. Also, technology advances will have a real impact too. As video search engines get better and better at looking inside videos, the quality of their results will improve. This should drive adoption even further.

Eric Enge is the president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy outside of Boston. Eric is also co-founder of Moving Traffic Inc., the publisher of City Town Info and Custom Search Guide.

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