Tag Archives: VIDEO

30 ways to market your online business for free

For many people and businesses, the word ‘marketing’ conjures up visions of pricey marketing strategies and excessive expenditure.

With a high number of businesses all vying for exposure among the vast digital landscape, it can sometimes feel like fighting a losing battle, especially for those just starting out.

However, it doesn’t have to be expensive: there are plenty of free ways to market a business. In this post, we share our top tips for how to market your online business for free – 30 different ways in fact. Here goes…

1.   Capture email data

Ensure that you have a method of capturing email data from website visitors. Integrate an email sign up option onto your site and begin building a database of customer data.

You can then use this data for a range of marketing incentives, such as email marketing or creating custom audiences on Facebook for targeted advertising. (Just make sure you’re GDPR compliant…)

2.   Email marketing

You’ve got the data, now you need to do something useful with it. Start by setting up a free account with Mailchimp, and start distributing those emails.

Avoid being overly promotional and always offer something genuinely useful to the recipients. Keep the emails regular but never bombard, otherwise people will hit unsubscribe quicker than you can say ‘digital marketing’.

3.   Video marketing

You’d be mad to ignore the proliferation of video over the past few years. Jump on the bandwagon and start engaging in some video marketing.

Begin by setting up a YouTube channel. You don’t have to create Hollywood-esque movies – just a simple video blog will do. If you’ve got something useful to say, then say it on video. It also makes for highly shareable, marketable content – plonk it on your website, push it out on social, and include in your emails.

4.   Post to Facebook

It goes without saying that social media is one of the most valuable marketing tools out there. And it’s free. FREE. It’s best not to go signing up for every social media platform under the sun, just focus on those most suitable to your business.

Facebook is a viable option for almost all businesses. Unfortunately, the latest algorithm updates have made it harder than ever for businesses to gain visibility in the news feed without paying. But, you’ve got nothing to lose. Post regular updates – be engaging and exciting, don’t be too promotional, and be genuinely interesting.

5.   Interact with industry experts on Twitter

Twitter isn’t for everyone, but it does carry a whole array of benefits. It’s a great platform for engaging with industry experts and customers, as it’s a place where anyone can talk to anyone.

Respond to customer feedback, retweet the best user-generated content, and offer genuine input to industry discussions.

6.   Create an Instagram

A popular contender among social media platforms, Instagram has an ever-increasing user base.

If your business would benefit from a visual presence, then make sure you are dedicating time to building a strong Instagram account. Remember that it’s a visual platform, so carefully curated content that looks amazing is key.

7.   Generate website traffic with Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t suitable for a lot of businesses, but can work really well for some. The platform has one of the highest conversion rates in terms of converting browsers into buyers.

You can also generate significant website traffic and find out more about what your target users love.

8.   Build your network on LinkedIn

If your business is a B2B company, be sure to have a strong presence on LinkedIn. It’s also a great place for building your network. The same rules apply to LinkedIn as other social platforms – engage with relevant people and offer genuine insight.

9.   Publish to Google Plus – yes, really!

Google Plus, that strange little platform that never quite hit the big time. Yet it’s still plodding along hoping that one day, something, anything will happen that propels it into social media stardom (not likely).

Still, despite the failings of Google Plus, it is still worth getting into the habit of pushing out any new content via Google Plus. After all, it’s a product of Google and if you want to climb those rankings, we suggest keeping Google sweet.

10.   Start using Google Posts

Aim to publish regular updates via Google Posts for greater visibility in the search engine results pages. Posting to Google allows businesses to share content with people that is relevant to the search queries being inputted. It’s a great way of gaining a little extra exposure.

11.   Encourage UGC

User-generated content (UGC) is content that has been created and published by unpaid fans of your business. It’s when someone loves your product or service so much that they take it upon themselves to share their experience with friends and family, usually via social media.

UGC typically occurs naturally, but there is no harm in encouraging it – if you don’t ask you don’t get! You can highlight the best posts every week on your social media channels, and even offer prizes to customers who get featured.

And speaking of prizes…

12.   Run social media giveaways

Running social media giveaways is a sure-fire way of increasing engagement and generating new followers. Not only can it be a nice way of saying thank you to existing customers and fans, it’s also a handy way of reaching potential new customers.

Okay, so it’s not entirely cost free, as you’ll need to give away a product, but there’s no need to spend any money on top of that. Just be sure to follow all the best practices of running a giveaway.

13.   Engage with social influencers

Influencer marketing is a huge industry. For those unfamiliar with how it all works, a business pays or offers free products to a blogger or influencer who has a high following on social media. In return, the influencer shares your product on their social media channels. It’s extremely effective.

The more popular influencers can charge astronomical rates, but those with smaller followings (sometimes called “micro-influencers”) have high engagement rates and are often willing to post something in return for a free product or trial.

14.   Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

If you haven’t already, then make sure you set up Google Search Console (and also Bing Webmaster Tools). Using these tools, you can view valuable information about the search terms people are using to find your website.

You can also index new pages, meaning they will show up in the search engine results pages quicker. Plus, be sure to submit an XML sitemap – it helps the search engines crawl your site.

15.   Update your Google My Business listing

Update your Google My Business listing and check that all information is accurate. Reorganize the images to ensure that only your best side is showing.

Do the same with your local listings for Bing and Yahoo. It’s also worth working on building your Google reviews, as they will help boost your rankings.

16.   Ask your customers for testimonials

On the topic of reviews, be sure to generate as many testimonials and (positive) reviews as possible.

Whether it’s via Google, TrustPilot or for a dedicated testimonials section on your website, people trust other people. You’ll have to ask your customers for these, as people don’t very often give them naturally. Just a gentle prompt will do the trick.

17.   Google Analytics

Make sure that you have Google Analytics linked up to your site. It’s a treasure trove of handy data and be sure to spend some time getting your head around it all.

See how people interact with your site, identify the pain points and discover the most popular pages. With this information you can make considered and informed changes and improvements to your site.

18.   Review Google AdWords

Google AdWords is not free. In fact, it’s incredibly expensive. But if you are already running a PPC campaign then it’s worth taking some time to review your strategy. Try rewriting some of the ads and improving your quality score to generate better results.

Sparing a little time reviewing your campaign could save you lots of money. For most of us AdWords will cost, but if you are a charity you can apply for a Google Grant of up to £10,000 to spend on AdWords!

19.   Use PR

PR is still a very powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal. Without hiring a dedicated PR agency, there are some steps you can take to implement a bit of PR. Following any substantial news or updates, it’s worth distributing a press release as you never know who may pick it up.

Sign up to platforms like HARO (help a reporter out) and look out for hashtags like #journorequest on Twitter, as you may be able to wrangle a mention. PR, of course, goes hand-in-hand with link-building for SEO.

20.   Contribute to forums, blogs and discussions

Part of marketing your business online is to establish yourself as a reliable industry expert and a voice of authority. In order to build this authority, take the time to contribute to relevant forums, blogs and social media discussions.

Offer genuinely helpful insight and answer questions that are being asked. People will appreciate your input and, with any luck, will convert into a customer.

21.   Speak at industry conferences

Another excellent way of building your authority and reputation as an expert within your industry, is to volunteer to speak at relevant industry conferences. It’s a great way of getting your personal and business name out there. If you’re trusted to speak at conferences, then you’ll be trusted to offer a good product or service.

22.   Content creation

It goes without saying that content creation should be central to any digital marketing strategy. If you haven’t already got a blog on your website then don’t wait a second longer. Do it. Right now.

You’ll probably have noticed that there are a disconcerting amount of blogs on the web. So don’t do what everyone else is doing; be different, be helpful and be relevant.

23.   Guest post

As well as creating content for your own site, be sure to integrate guest blogging into your marketing strategy. Only aim for relevant and high quality sites, preferably with a high domain authority and nonexistent spam score.

It’s a great way of ramping up brand exposure, but also securing links back to your website (hello better SEO rankings).

24.   Use blogging platforms

As beautiful as your website’s blog might be, it can be frustrating if your lovingly crafted content is not getting the exposure you think it deserves. Especially if you are only just starting out, it can be crushing to spend hours working on a stellar article, only for two people to read it (probably your mum and your best mate).

This is where blogging platforms, like Medium, can help increase your exposure. Just make sure that you follow the best practices for republishing content on these platforms.

25.   Carry out keyword research

If you are undertaking a full blown SEO campaign, the chances are that you are paying someone to do it, or you are already an SEO whiz, in which case you’ll (hopefully) know what you’re doing.

For the newbies, keyword research is the initial stage of any SEO campaign and can help you identify user intent and figure out what your target audience is searching for. It would take several blog posts to cover this in enough detail, but a good place to start is with this complete guide to keyword research for SEO.

26.   Optimize your metadata

Get into the habit of writing an SEO title and meta description for every page and post you publish. This is the information that will be displayed in the search engine results pages, so you need to make it as enticing and relevant as possible.

27.   Mark up your website with Schema.org structured data

In a nutshell, schema markup allows you to label the content on your site for the benefit of the search engine. It helps the search engines provide more detailed search engine results pages.

Although there is no evidence that schema markup directly improves your rankings, it will make your listing more attractive, therefore encouraging more click-throughs. And that can only be a good thing!

28.   List your business in online directories

Ensure that your business is listed in relevant online directories. There are the most popular ones, such as Yell, Yelp and Thomson Local, but there are a whole host of other industry or location-specific directories.

Make sure you add your business listing to only the directories which are relevant to your business, and ensure they aren’t spammy.

29.   Make sure your NAP are consistent

That sounds complicated but it’s really very simple. NAP stands for name, address and phone number. NAP consistency refers to the process of ensuring that all mentions of your business feature the correct information.

Do a quick search and make sure that the name, address, phone number, and any other information about your business listed online are all completely accurate and formatted consistently.

30.   Test your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test

Finally, if you want your website to rank well and offer a fantastic user experience then it needs to be fast and mobile-friendly. Utilize Google’s free tools to check the speed of your website and whether or not it is mobile-friendly. Any red flags should be resolved as quickly as possible.

So there you have it. There’s definitely enough information here to keep you occupied for quite some time. It always helps to have a marketing budget, but these free steps are the best place to start. Good luck!

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other roundups of marketing tools and techniques you can use completely free of charge:

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5 YouTube optimization tips to improve your video rankings

Just how big is YouTube these days? According to a really cool infographic that was released earlier in 2017, there are some pretty incredible statistics:

  • YouTube is available and used in 88 countries around the world
  • It is the second largest social media platform with over 1.5 billion monthly users, second only to Facebook (2 billion) and more than twice the number of Instagram (700 million)
  • 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • Mobile viewing makes up half of the site’s streaming.

In other words, YouTube is HUGE. Not only has it been steadily growing since its initial launch in 2005, it has become the single biggest and most important video service on the web. While there are others that have come in is wake, none have reached the same level of popularity.

With that it mind, it is no wonder that so many people are looking to boost the effectiveness of their content on the platform. However, with so much use comes other struggles, like being seen in the crowd. If 720,000 hours are uploaded a day, you have to do everything possible to stand out and be noticed.

Here are five optimization tips for your YouTube channel and videos that will help you to start doing better in search, get recommended, and gain more traction.

Find the sweet spot with your video title length

There are several things to consider when coming up with the video title:

  • How engaging and catchy it is for the eye
  • How many important keywords you use within your title (those keywords are going to help you rank that video in both YouTube and Google search)
  • Which part of the title is immediately visible when people search YouTube or see your video thumbnail in YouTube-generated related videos.

Taking all of the above in the account, the sweet spot for your video title is going to be around 100 characters. That is enough to give a unique, descriptive title while still showing in search without a cut off.

Make sure that title not only describes what is happening in the video and contains key phrases you have already researched, but it is also attention grabbing enough that people will want to click on it.

When crafting a video title, consider including the following:

  • Include the important names and entities (your interviewee, event name, branded hashtag, featured brand name, etc.)
  • Location (especially if you are targeting a specific locale)
  • Your important keyword you’d like the video to show up for.

To distinguish that important keyword, use keyword clustering technique that allows you to see core phrases behind obscure keyword variations. My own trick is to use Serpstat’s clustering feature that allows you to group keywords by how many identical URLs rank in Google for each specific query:

5 YouTube optimization tips to improve your video rankings

You can read more on how Serpstat clustering feature works in this guide.

You may also to match each keyword group to appropriate keyword intent to make sure your future video content will cover the immediate need and prompt engagement.

Make your descriptions longer

Video and channel descriptions are another valuable resource for drawing traffic to all of your content. YouTube allows up to 5,000 characters, which is between 500 and 700 words.

The rule of thumb is obvious: The more original content you have below your video, the easier for search engines it is to understand what your video is about and what search queries to rank it for.

Not every description needs to be that long, but aiming for around 2,000 characters for videos and 3,000 for channels is a good place because it gives you the space necessary to optimize your keyword use and give some context to viewers. More is fine, but make sure you aren’t filling it with a lot of pointless fluff.

Make the first 150 characters of a description count

Of the words you write, the first 150 characters are the most important. That is because YouTube cuts it off with a (More) tag after the point, so the viewer has to specifically opt in to reading the rest. Not all of them are going to do that.

You should make sure those first characters tell the viewer what they really need to know in order to connect with what they are reading. From there you can focus more on keywords and the rest of the description, as it will still count the same towards searches.

It is also a great place to link out to other channels, your website, etc. Make sure your call to action (CTA) is in the first words, such as liking, subscribing, learning more, etc.

Have a good, high-resolution thumbnail

Thumbnails are pretty standard for monetized video channels at this point. You have probably noticed that they follow a certain pattern: silly face, bright colors, something odd in the background, over the top. Sure, it seems annoying. But they follow the formula because the formula works.

Now, you don’t have to do the same thing. You just want to make sure that you have an eye catching, visually stimulating thumbnail in the recommended 1280 x 720 size. There are a few generators out there to help you make one, but my thumbnail maker of choice right now is Adobe Spark.

5 YouTube optimization tips to improve your video rankings

Keep in mind that you want a standard format across all of your thumbnails. For instance, if you do your face on one then you should do them on all. If you use some kind of animation or logo, use that.

You want to be immediately recognizable to anyone who follows your channel right from the suggested videos sidebar, or the search results. If you have old videos, go back and upload thumbnails to each one to start getting some better click results.

Furthermore, make sure your thumbnails are readable: Viewers should be able to easily see what it is about at a glance when seeing it in the right-hand column of the suggested videos or on a small mobile device.

Utilize playlists – I mean it!

Playlists are incredibly helpful. First of all, they help you group together certain videos right on your channel. So let’s say you did a series on how to increase your YouTube views and it was split into ten videos. You would create a playlist on your channel titled “Super YouTube Tips” so that people could find them all in one place. But that has an additional benefit.

Search leans towards introducing playlists right at the top of the results page. It also allows people to specifically search for playlists. That is great because it can introduce viewers to multiple videos instead of one and many will choose to pop on a playlist and watch straight through everything there.

If you do a creative series with a continued plot you will find this is a huge help and makes it a million times easier to sort it out, even if YouTube screws with the order on your channel (an issue more than one content creator has had in the past, take it from me).

To sum that up, YouTube playlists help you:

  • Increase your chances to rank your video content for a wider variety of phrases (which is also helpful for brand-focused results)
  • Improve engagement rate with your videos by giving your audience collections of videos so that they can sit back and watch endlessly. And we know that engagement is the crucial ranking factor when it comes to YouTube rankings.

To illustrate the point, here’s a quick example of how we were able to grab two spots for our show name with the playlist:

5 YouTube optimization tips to improve your video rankings

Bonus tip: Feature your videos on your site

Finally, an obvious but often missed tactic is to increase your YouTube channel performance by prominently displaying your videos on your site. It’s simple: the more people watch your videos (especially if they watch more of each of your videos), the more exposure YouTube offers to your content through suggesting your videos as related.

One of the most effective ways to generate more views for your channel is to promote your videos outside of YouTube, i.e. use your blog and social media channels. There’s a variety of WordPress themes that aim at doing exactly that: promote your YouTube channel prominently on-site.

Furthermore, promote your videos on social media as much as it makes sense for your audience to build additional exposure, links, and re-shares.

Do you have any tips for optimizing YouTube? Let us know in the comments!

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How videos generate quick SEO results

In January 1996, Bill Gates published an essay titled ‘Content is king’. Seeing where content is right now in the online space, you wouldn’t be wrong in calling Bill Gates a soothsayer.

But he couldn’t have foreseen the kind of content that would dominate the online space: video.

Videos have a hegemonic online presence.

But, why video?

People are more inclined to watch a video. Do this little experiment:

Search for Red Bull or Monster Energy or Vice in Bing. You are sure to get video results right at the top. That’s because these brands have focused their branding on video content, and hence are more likely to be popular as more and more people watch videos.

Now search for Lockheed, Gatorade or Bose, in Bing and you’re way less likely to find a first-page video result.

Not to take anything away from these brands and their popularity, but it shows when your content strategy isn’t as video focused or oriented towards emerging internet consumer trends.

Red Bull and Monster Energy have become inescapable names because they have tapped the potential of video content and published an innumerable variety of content not related to sports and other fields.

What’s in it for you?

You might not be a media and content-oriented company, but you should still consider the perks of having videos for your products and services. According to MWP, online video now accounts for half of all traffic on mobile alone, and 59% of senior executives say that they will opt for video when given the choice between video and text. 

Incidentally, in understanding the ‘why’ of video popularity, we’ll also get the answer to how videos generate great SERP rankings.

Why are videos so popular?

Strong emotional connection

A video is very accessible, easy to consume and engages the audience’s attention for longer periods of time. A video contains much more information than text and images.

It conveys emotions, actions and can explain concepts and idea very easily. No wonder videos have 41% higher click-through rate than plain text, and high conversion rates and ROI on top of that.

How does it help SEO? 

The ease, accessibility, and immersion of video means that people spend a longer time watching content that you produce.

If you can make an engaging video, people spend more time on your webpage, increasing the what is called the ‘dwell time’. Dwell time was mentioned in a Bing blog way back in 2011.

How videos generate quick SEO results

Source: Bing blogs

More dwell time directly translates to Google recognizing your video and the page it’s featured on as something of value. The more dwell time you have, the better your pages will be ranked. Sweet!

According to Martech.zone, a well-optimized video can increase your chances of getting featured on the front page of Google by as much as a factor of 53.

The inherent engaging qualities of video also means that it has an astounding worldwide audience penetration.

Which brings us to:

The inescapable reach of video

How videos generate quick SEO results

Source: YouTube for Press

YouTube alone has over a billion users across continents consuming content in 76 different languages. Its reach is enormous.

Video is the go-to, easy to consume, preferred form of content for many people. According to research by Hubspot, 62% of people thoroughly consume videos, and 53% people expect more video content from any platform.

Internet video traffic is expected to grow four times and constitute 81% of ALL consumer traffic by 2021.

There is a natural inclination for search engines to favor videos due to the consumer trends in video consumption.

With so many people watching videos all the time, aided by mobile phones and ever-developing tech and techniques, video content is bound to surge your overall brand image to the top of the search results page.

Video advertising was started in Yahoo and Bing as far back as in 2015, and has been massively effective for them and their clients. But you don’t have to spend money on video ads. Simply having a market-relevant video means that your name is more likely to get featured in a top search listing.

How videos are featured in the SERPs

Google has been rolling out and beta testing many video-related features. A mere 7 months back I started noticing Google showing ‘suggested clips’ for various search results. Now, it’s an all-out feature to list relevant snippets of videos in SERPs.

How videos generate quick SEO results

A great way to feature in ‘suggested clips’ results is to make how-to videos. Your brand can be a hundred different things, but there is always room for making how-to videos.

Don’t know what to record?

Make a behind the scenes video of an event or your daily office happenings. Get some groovy editing and publish it with a ‘How to run an (industry name) office’. Whip in some humor and you’re sure to get your name thrown around SERPs.

Google’s image content readability is scarily good, and now it’s in for videos as well.

Still in beta, Google has been experimenting with identifying elements of video content to show relevant search results. It’s sure that this will be a part of their regular algorithm.

How videos generate quick SEO results

Source: The Verge

Your video content will have an immense impact on what the end user gets in their search results. This is perhaps the next peak time for getting your video content published regularly.

You might have seen a variation of this image identifying feature in other places.

If you own an Android phone, you might have come across the Google Photos app grouping together similar faces, places, and things. Or you might have seen various CAPTCHAs across the web asking you to identify sign boards, cars, buses and what have you.

Expect similar machine learning to be applied to video content, if more sophisticated. One single video can carry thousands of image elements. When Google’s Video Intelligence API catalogs all those keywords, that would give your video a huge SEO advantage. Just make sure to include elements in your video catering to the industry or keyword you are targeting.

How videos generate quick SEO results

Source

There are reasons aplenty and means uncountable to get better in video marketing and to get featured in top results. There are many nitty-gritty details to take care of, but through it all, there are some very basic rubrics that establish the foundation for good video publishing.

Up next are some simple ways to phenomenally increase the chances of getting your video content to the top of the SERPs.

Best practices for getting your video higher up the SERP

Make short videos 

Aim for 1-2 minute videos. You can easily shoot up to 4 minutes, but anything after that means you will start losing significant viewership.

How videos generate quick SEO results

Source: Wistia

Transcribe your video script

Even though Google is getting pretty darn good at parsing video content for context-based searches, transcribed text helps its bots crawl your content with more accuracy. Means you are more likely to get featured for a much broader variety of internet searches.

Social shareability and multi-platform hosting

More platforms mean more reach. Make sure your content is omnipresent. Upload your videos to YouTube, Wistia, Facebook, Twitter, your own hosting platform, or cross-share between all the other platforms to ensure your video content is always there when needed.

How videos generate quick SEO results

Source: YouTube

Cross-share only if you can’t natively upload to other social media platforms. You will gain phenomenal relevance, recognition, organic traffic, and SEO from native uploads and virality.

One study actually showed native videos in Facebook getting ten times more shares than YouTube video links.

Optimizing videos

Keep your video metadata relevant and updated. Add relevant titles, subtext, add descriptions, tags, make transcriptions and subtitles so your video is efficiently crawled by search engine bots.

XML sitemaps

Submit a video sitemap to Google along with some information using webmaster tool. It helps you to index your page better.

Custom, high-quality thumbnails

Make custom, high-quality, topical thumbnails that catch the eye. Click-bait thumbnail images might net you immediate views, but are bad for your reputation in the long run. You can even include text to give some context for the viewer.

Conclusion

Great immersion, endless capabilities, conveys emotions, global reach, occasionally no language barriers: videos are your cornerstone for a great marketing strategy. They give you front page results, get more conversions and are rising to be the most consumed online content.

You see, in many ways, a video is much like a trebuchet.

You might have a capable marketing force that gives results, but a trebuchet enhances your tactical abilities. It lets you mount a market assault with ease, from a safe distance and gives great results. Besides, a well-made trebuchet looks pretty, much like a well-made video.

Videos are your trebuchets. They look good, carry huge SEO value and make your brand a force to reckon with. Get them.

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How to optimize your videos for YouTube: Best-practice tips

So you’ve decided to add YouTube videos to your content repertoire. Great, why not?

Online users love videos. In fact, 4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. What’s more, YouTube is the king of video with more than one billion users. That means a lot of eyeballs.

Except, there’s a problem. Making videos is one thing, and getting people to find and watch them is another thing. If you’ve tried your hand at YouTube marketing, you’d quickly realize that it’s not that simple.

Like any other type of content, YouTube videos need to be optimized so that users can find them through search and within YouTube itself.

So how do you go about it?

First, understand that you can’t optimize a bad video

Even if people do watch, they would stop watching as soon as they started. And this will affect the overall performance of your channel in the long run. So before we dive into how to make your videos get found, let’s just take a moment to cover ground on what a great YouTube video looks like.

What makes a good video?

Great sound

Perhaps you’ve heard this before, but it still holds true. The sound of your video matters more than the video itself. Users can forgive a not-so-great picture quality, but they have little patience for poor sound.

In doubt?

Head over to YouTube now and peek at the comments. Although professional YouTubers make great videos, many of the videos uploaded to YouTube are crappy, and viewers vent their dissatisfaction via comments.

Keep in mind that these are users who have the time to spare comments. Most would simply click the back button and pick another video.

Great message/theme

Have a clear, helpful message. Video is still content and you’re producing it for a target audience.

Your message should resonate with that audience. Aim to hook your viewers within the first 15 seconds. Link-building expert Brian Dean recommends using the PPP method: Preview, Proof, Preview.

Preview: First, give the viewer a hint of what the video is all about as soon as the video starts.

Proof: Then, establish proof that you know what you’re talking about and can deliver on the topic.

Preview: Finally, reiterate what the video is about, this time adding a specific detail that the viewer will learn.

Clearly, this means that you have to plan your videos ahead of time and script what you want to say. Without a plan, you’ll not only waste time repeating shots, you may also come across as not being confident.

Outstanding visuals

In the end, visual quality matters. In addition to editing your video for background noise and other distortions, you should add great graphics too. These help to add variety between frames and make for more engagement.

Elements to optimize

YouTube search is a straightforward video search engine that mirrors that of Google. When optimizing YouTube videos, you’ll need to pay attention to these three important elements:

Identify your keyword

You probably already know that keywords are crucial to online visual content getting found, but the truth is, 9 out of 10 searchers make use of search engines when looking for something online, while the latter uses an algorithm that relies heavily on keywords.

Make sure your target keyword appears in the title to increase visibility. Also, sprinkle your keywords sparingly in both your meta and tags. This is your focus keyword or phrase. It is what the entire piece will be centered around.

Title

Experts advise that you spend as much time you spend creating the video on devising your headline. It is safe to say it is the most important piece of information in your entire content.

An average video with an eye-popping headline will lure huge amount of viewers, while the best content with a dull headline would struggle to get a few clicks. Simply put, your headline should be short (not more than 66 characters so that Google will display it easily), intriguing and compelling. 

Meta

A full description is necessary to help viewers understand what the video is about. Just keep in mind that most people don’t read the descriptions; they are more interested in the video. Keep the descriptions short and succinct.

Tags

Although tags are not compulsory, they help YouTube associate your video with text. The tip here is to keep tags to a minimum and avoid irrelevant tags.

A short description and tags on a YouTube video

Other elements to look out for

Video thumbnail

Custom thumbnails that are consistent with your videos will help you create a memorable brand that your target audience can easily identify. To get custom thumbnails for your videos, your account needs to be verified.

Subtitles and Closed Captions (CC)

It has been suggested that closed captions can boost YouTube SEO. Discovery Digital Networks found an overall increase of 7.32% in views for captioned videos. Subtitles and closed captions also allow viewers to watch the video in various places such as a noisy or quiet environment.

Encourage user engagement and feedback

User interaction with videos is an important metric by which YouTube judges and ranks videos according to relevance and quality.

One metric is watch time, which YouTube defines as “the amount of time that a viewer has watched a video. This gives you a sense of what content viewers actually watch (as opposed to videos that they click on and then abandon).”

We have already mentioned engaging the viewer within the first 15 seconds, and keeping up the engagement throughout the duration of the video. Here are some other ways you can encourage user engagement with your video:

Add a Call to Action

Use a Call to Action (CTA) to encourage users to like, subscribe or comment on your videos.

Make use of YouTube cards

YouTube cards come in handy here. You can use channel cards to encourage your users to subscribe to your channel or like your video. Link cards can be used to send users to your website or other pages.

Add an end screen

Like cards, end screens can also be used to drive engagement with your channel. According to YouTube, “end screens are a part of the video that shows during the last 5-20 seconds of a video.

You can add up to four elements to promote your content, channel, and websites. Elements can expand to show more information on hover on desktop and on tap on mobile devices.”

Conclusion

YouTube is a great content channel. To make the most of it, videos should be optimized not only for search but also for users. And there are several elements to look out for when optimizing videos.

One thing to always remember is that to find the most effective method, you need to regularly A/B test to determine what works best for you.

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Google videos vs. YouTube: Which is the best video search engine?

Video is booming as a content marketing medium.

People love watching videos online, and producing great video content is quickly becoming one of the most surefire ways to command attention and grow a following. In fact, by 2019, video is expected to drive an astonishing 80% of all internet traffic.

Clearly, it’s important for businesses to start working on their video content sooner rather than later. And while producing great content is essential, that’s only half the battle. For your videos to benefit your business, people have to be able to find them, and that involves optimization.

So which video search engines should you focus on optimizing for? This article will explore the differences between YouTube and Google Videos, the two biggest video search engines on the web.

Keep reading to learn more about the types of traffic these search engines will bring you – and why your videos might rank well in one but not the other.

How do people find your videos?

There’s no shortage of video search engines and video hosting sites on the Internet. YouTube, of course, is the web’s video giant, with 300 hours of new video uploaded every minute. Other video hosting sites like Daily Motion and Vimeo also get a significant amount of traffic.

Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat incorporate short video into their platforms as well. Social videos are gaining steam, and they may become a threat to YouTube in the future. For now, though, YouTube still dominates the online video world the way that Google dominates other search engines.

And while plenty of video searches happen through Google, most of them return YouTube videos. If you produce video content, there’s a good chance your watchers are finding you either through YouTube’s built-in search function or through Google Videos searches.

Google Videos returns mostly (but not exclusively) results from YouTube. This search for “video content marketing” also returned a video from lynda.com.

Comparing YouTube and Google Videos searches

If you search for the same keyword on YouTube and Google Videos, how similar will your results be? Not that similar, as it turns out. Take a look at the following example. Here are the first few results from a Google Videos search for “how to improve video SEO”:

Google videos vs. YouTube: Which is the best video search engine?

The top Google Videos results for the query “how to improve video SEO”

And here are the first few results for the same query on YouTube:

Google videos vs. YouTube: Which is the best video search engine?

The top YouTube results for the query “how to improve video SEO”

In this case, there’s no overlap at all between the top four results. Clearly, these two search engines don’t use the same criteria for ranking videos.

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “Doesn’t Google own YouTube?” Yes it does. In fact, Google has owned YouTube for more than ten years. However, the two sites serve distinct purposes. Someone who visits YouTube probably isn’t looking for the same thing as someone who types a question into Google.

Thanks to this difference in user intent, Google Videos and YouTube don’t use the same algorithms to rank videos, so it makes sense to think about them as two different search engines.

Why YouTube and Google Videos display different results

Earlier this year, Stone Temple released a study that found that YouTube and Google Videos return different top results for the same query more than half of the time. In fact, the more YouTube results show up in a Google Videos query, the more dramatically Google’s results differ from YouTube’s.

Google videos vs. YouTube: Which is the best video search engine?

Stone Temple found that the more YouTube videos appear in Google Videos results, the more results for that query vary between the two search engines. Source

The study goes on to explore the reasons behind these differences. In a nutshell, it comes down to both user intent and monetization.

Google as a video search engine

Specific searches

When someone goes to Google, they tend to be looking for something specific. They want to find out how to do something, track down a particular fact, or research the difference between several options. Google is most often used as a tool for finding other things, not as a medium in itself.

Immediate resources

The videos Google displays tend to be to-the-point and useful. Google’s video results tend to favor how-tos and other specific, immediate resources. Videos made for entertainment purposes are probably less likely to rank highly in Google, although of course this is dependent on the search query and the individual video.

Quality results

Google also places a great deal of importance on user satisfaction, since that’s what keeps people coming back. Thus, they’re likely to favor higher-quality videos over lower-quality ones, even if the creators of those lower-quality videos are bidding higher in AdWords than their competitors.

Of course, “quality” is a vague and somewhat subjective metric, and Google is famously tight-lipped about how their algorithm determines quality. The important thing to understand, though, is that Google won’t sacrifice good results for more ad money.

YouTube as a video search engine

Entertainment-focused

On the whole, people go to YouTube to find entertainment. Google wants to solve people’s problems and send them on their way as quickly as possible, but YouTube wants to keep users watching.

This is partly because view time is an indicator of a video’s quality. If people stick around and watch a whole video, it’s a good sign that that video is interesting, useful, or entertaining. View time also tends to be correlated with user satisfaction. People who find and watch lots of enjoyable, high-quality videos will probably keep coming back to YouTube.

Longer videos favored

For YouTube, view time is also linked to making money. The longer someone watches a video, the more ads YouTube gets to show them. This is also why YouTube tends to favor longer videos over shorter ones in its rankings.

These differences shed some light on why Google Videos and YouTube use different algorithms, but unfortunately, we still don’t know exactly what the differences between those algorithms are. Considering how closely Google guards its secrets, we’re not likely to find out anytime soon, either.

In the meantime, though, it’s important not to forget that the two search engines often have a lot of overlap in their results, even though they’re not exactly the same. Thus, it stands to reason that there are some general principles for ranking well in both places.

How to rank well on video search engines

First, and most obviously, create great content. Your bounce rate says a lot about the quality of your videos. If a lot of people hit the “back” button within the first ten seconds of a video, YouTube and Google will both assume it’s not very good. So do your best to start each video with a compelling opening, and then give people a reason to keep watching.

Include plenty of text-based information with your video. Search engines can’t watch a video and determine what it’s about, but they can read the accompanying text. Your title is important – it should be descriptive and use your main keyword, preferably at the beginning.

Take the time to write an in-depth description of your video as well. Captions and transcripts aren’t necessary to include, but they improve accessibility, and they could give you a keyword boost. Finally, tag your video with some useful and relevant tags.

Getting views and comments will help your rankings, but don’t be tempted to purchase these. YouTube has gotten smarter about figuring out when views and comments are fake. Promote your content through social media to get more engagement, and be patient – if you do great work, people will discover it in time.

So, which is better: YouTube or Google Videos?

At the end of the day, it’s hard to say whether YouTube is “better” than Google Videos, or vice versa. The two search engines tend to be used differently, but both of them are very popular, and both of them are valuable sources of traffic if you optimize your videos correctly.

The type of content you create could have an impact on your rankings in each search engine. For instance, if you make short videos geared towards answering specific questions, you might have an easier time gaining traction in Google. If you make longer, more entertainment-focused videos, you might see better results from YouTube. This is far from a hard-and-fast rule, though.

The main thing to remember? High-quality videos have a good chance of doing well in both search engines, regardless of other factors. We don’t know exactly which metrics Google Videos and YouTube use to determine rankings, but we do know viewers prefer well-made, informative, and entertaining videos.

Focus on making the best video content you can, and you’ll probably find that your rankings take care of themselves.

Have you noticed a difference in your videos’ rankings between different video search engines? Share your observations in the comments!

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for NoRiskSEO, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her services at amandadisilvestro.com.

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What we learned from SEO: The Movie

Have you ever wished for a nostalgic retrospective on the heyday of SEO, featuring some of the biggest names in the world of search, all condensed into a 40-minute video with an admittedly cheesy title?

If so, you’re in luck, because there’s a documentary just for you: it’s called SEO: The Movie.

The trailer for SEO: The Movie

SEO: The Movie is a new documentary, created by digital marketing agency Ignite Visibility, which explores the origin story of search and SEO, as told by several of its pioneers. It’s a 40-minute snapshot of the search industry that is and was, focusing predominantly on its rock-and-roll heyday, with a glimpse into the future and what might become of SEO in the years to come.

The movie is a fun insight into where SEO came from and who we have to thank for it, but some of its most interesting revelations are contained within stories of the at times fraught relationship between Google and SEO consultants, as well as between Google and business owners who depended on it for their traffic. For all that search has evolved since Google was founded nearly two decades ago, this tension hasn’t gone away.

It was also interesting to hear some thoughts about what might become of search and SEO several years down the line from those who’d been around since the beginning – giving them a unique insight into the bigger picture of how search has changed, and is still changing.

So what were the highlights of SEO: The Movie, and what did we learn from watching it?

The stars of SEO

The story of SEO: The Movie is told jointly by an all-star cast of industry veterans from the early days of search and SEO (the mid-90s through to the early 2000s), with overarching narration by John Lincoln, the CEO of Ignite Visibility.

There’s Danny Sullivan, the founder of Search Engine Watch (this very website!) and co-founder of Search Engine Land; Rand Fishkin, the ‘Wizard of Moz’; Rae Hoffman a.k.a ‘Sugarrae’, CEO of PushFire and one of the original affiliate marketers; Brett Tabke, founder of Pubcon and Webmaster World; Jill Whalen, the former CEO of High Rankings and co-founder of Search Engine Marketing New England; and Barry Schwartz, CEO of RustyBrick and founder of Search Engine Roundtable.

The documentary also features a section on former Google frontman Matt Cutts, although Cutts himself doesn’t appear in the movie in person.

Each of them tells the tale of how they came to the search industry, which is an intriguing insight into how people became involved in such an unknown, emerging field. While search and SEO turned over huge amounts of revenue in the early days – Lincoln talks about “affiliates who were making millions of dollars a year” by figuring out how to boost search rankings – there was still relatively little known about the industry and how it worked.

Danny Sullivan, for instance, was a newspaper journalist who made the leap to the web development in 1995, and began writing about search “just because [he] really wanted to get some decent answers to questions about how search engines work”.

Jill Whalen came to SEO through a parenting website she set up, after she set out to bring more traffic to her website through search engines and figured out how to use keywords to make her site rank higher.

Rae Hoffman started out in the ‘long-distance space’, making modest amounts from ranking for long-distance terms, before she struck gold by creating a website for a friend selling diet pills which ranked in the top 3 search results for several relevant search terms.

“That was probably my biggest ‘holy shit’ moment,” she recalls. “My first commission check for the first month of those rankings was more than my then-husband made in a year.”

Rand Fishkin, the ‘Wizard of Moz’, relates the heart-rending story of how he and his mother initially struggled with debt in the early 2000s when Moz was still just a blog, before getting his big break at the Search Engine Strategies conference and signing his first major client.

The stories of these industry pioneers give an insight into the huge, growing, world-changing phenomenon that was SEO in the early days, back when Google, Lycos, Yahoo and others were scrambling to gain the biggest index, and Google would “do the dance” every five to eight weeks and update its algorithms, giving those clever or lucky enough to rank high a steady stream of income until the next update.

Google’s algorithm updates have always been important, but as later sections of the documentary show, certain algorithms had a disproportionate impact on businesses which Google perhaps should have done more to mitigate.

Google and webmasters: It’s complicated

“Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] were fairly antagonistic to SEOs,” Brett Tabke recalls. “The way I understood it, Matt [Cutts] went to Larry and said… ‘We need to have an outreach program for webmasters.’ He really reached out to us and laid out the welcome mat.”

Almost everyone in the search industry knows the name of Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s webspam team who was, for many years, the public face of Google. Cutts became the go-to source of information on Google updates and algorithm changes, and could generally be relied upon to give an authoritative explanation of what was affecting websites’ ranking changes and why.

What we learned from SEO: The Movie

Matt Cutts in an explanatory video for Google Webmasters

However, even between Matt Cutts and the SEO world, things weren’t all sunshine and roses. Rand Fishkin reveals in SEO: The Movie how Cutts would occasionally contact him and request that he remove certain pieces of information, or parts of tools, that he deemed too revealing.

“We at first had a very friendly professional relationship, for several years,” he recollects. “Then I think Matt took the view that some of the transparency that I espoused, and that we were putting out there on Moz, really bothered him, and bothered Google. Occasionally I’d get an email from him saying, ‘I wish you wouldn’t write about this… I wish you wouldn’t invite this person to your conference…’ And sometimes stronger than that, like – ‘You need to remove this thing from your tool, or we will ban you.’”

We’ve written previously about the impact of the lack of transparency surrounding Google’s algorithm updates and speculated whether Google owes it to SEOs to be more honest and accountable. The information surrounding Google’s updates has become a lot murkier since Matt Cutts left the company in 2014 (while Cutts didn’t formally resign until December 2016, he was on leave for more than two years prior to that) with the lack of a clear spokesperson.

But evidently, even during Cutts’ tenure with Google, Google had a transparency problem.

In the documentary, Fishkin recalls the general air of mystery that surrounded the workings of search engines in the early days, with each company highly protective of its secrets.

“The search engines themselves – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo – were all incredibly secretive about how their algorithms worked, how their engines worked… I think that they felt it was sort of a proprietary trade secret that helped them maintain a competitive advantage against one another. As a result, as a practitioner, trying to keep up with the search engines … was incredibly challenging.”

This opaqueness surrounding Google’s algorithms persisted, even as Google grew far more dominant in the space and arguably had much less to fear from being overtaken by competitors. And as Google’s dominance grew, the impact of major algorithm changes became more severe.

SEO: The Movie looks back on some of Google’s most significant updates, such as Panda and Penguin, and details how they impacted the industry at the time. One early update, the so-called ‘Florida update’, specifically took aim at tactics that SEOs were using to manipulate search rankings, sending many high-ranking websites “into free-fall”.

Barry Schwartz describes how “many, many retailers” at the time of the Florida update suddenly found themselves with “zero sales” and facing bankruptcy. And to add insult to injury, the update was never officially confirmed by Google.

Fast-forward to 2012, when Google deployed the initial Penguin update that targeted link spam. Once again, this was an update that hit SEOs who had been employing these tactics in order to rank very hard – and moreover, hit their client businesses. But because of the huge delay between one Penguin update and the next, businesses which changed their ways and went on the metaphorical straight and narrow still weren’t able to recover.

“As a consultant, I had companies calling me that were hit by Penguin, and had since cleaned up all of their backlinks,” says Rae Hoffman.

“They would contact me and say, ‘We’re still not un-penalized, so we need you to look at it to see what we missed.’ And I would tell them, ‘You didn’t miss anything. You have to wait for Google to push the button again.’

“I would get calls from companies that told me that they had two months before they were going to have to close the doors and start firing employees; and they were waiting on a Penguin update. Google launched something that was extremely punitive; that was extremely devastating; that threw a lot of baby out with the bathwater… and then chose not to update it again for almost two years.”

These recollections from veteran SEOs show that Google’s relationship with webmasters has always been fraught with difficulties. Whatever you think about Google’s right to protect its trade secrets and take actions against those manipulating its algorithms, SEOs were the ones who drove the discussion around what Google was doing in its early days, analyzing it and spreading the word, reporting news stories, featuring Google and other search companies at their conferences.

To my mind at least, it seems that it would have been fairer for Google to develop a more open and reciprocal relationship with webmasters and SEOs, which would have prevented situations like the ones above from occurring.

Where is search and SEO headed in the future?

It’s obviously difficult to predict what might be ahead with absolute certainty. But as I mentioned in the introduction, what I like about the ‘future of search’ predictions in SEO: The Movie is that they come from veterans who have been around since the early days, meaning that they know exactly where search has come from, and have a unique perspective on the overarching trends that have been present over the past two decades.

As Rae Hoffman puts it,

“If you had asked me ten years ago, ‘Where are we going to be in ten years?’ Never would I have been able to remotely fathom the development of Twitter, or the development of Facebook, or that YouTube would become one of the largest search engines on the internet.”

I think it’s also important to distinguish between the future of search and the future of SEO, which are two different but complimentary things. One deals with how we will go about finding information in future, and relates to phenomena like voice search, visual search, and the move to mobile. The other relates to how website owners can make sure that their content is found by users within those environments.

Rand Fishkin believes that the future of SEO is secure for at least a few years down the line.

“SEO has a very bright future for at least the next three or four years. I think the future after that is more uncertain, and the biggest risk that I see to this field is that search volume, and the possibility of being in front of searchers, diminishes dramatically because of smart assistants and voice search.”

Brett Tabke adds:

“The future of SEO, to me, is this entire holistic approach: SEO, mobile, the web, social… Every place you can put marketing is going to count. We can’t just do on-the-page stuff anymore; we can’t worry about links 24/7.”

As for the future of search, CEO of Ignite Visibility John Lincoln sums it up well at the very end of the movie when he links search to the general act of researching. Ultimately, people are always going to have a need to research and discover information, and this means that ‘search’ in some form will always be around.

“I will say the future of search is super bright,” he says. “And people are going to evolve with it.

“Searching is always going to be tied to research, and whenever anybody needs a service or a product, they’re going to do research. It might be through Facebook, it might be through Twitter, it might be through LinkedIn, it might be through YouTube. There’s a lot of different search engines out there, and platforms, that are always expanding and contracting based off of the features that they’re putting out there.

“Creating awesome content that’s easy to find, that’s technically set up correctly and that reverberates through the internet… That’s the core of what search is about.”

SEO: The Movie is definitely an enjoyable watch and at 40 minutes in length, it won’t take up too much of your day. If you’re someone who’s been around in search since the beginning, you’ll enjoy the trip down Memory Lane. If, like me, you’re newer to the industry, you’ll enjoy the look back at where it came from – and particularly the realization that there some things which haven’t changed at all.

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How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

Video has become an important tool in the marketers’ tool box. Video storytelling is a useful and increasingly popular way to engage customers.

But if your video doesn’t work properly or cripples your website or app performance it will become a major frustration to customers, marketers and techies alike.

In the previous two parts of this column on data and download speed and autoplay and audio we learned:

  • Video dominates mobile data traffic
  • When implemented correctly, mobile video should not impact the speed that pages load on a mobile device
  • Mobile users start to become impatient after waiting just two seconds for a video to load; by 10 seconds a fifth will have given up.

This column will explore how to detect, avoid and remedy issues with videos to give your viewers the best possible experience with your video content and keep them engaged and watching your videos.

Jump to:

How to detect problems with video
How to avoid problems with video
How to remedy problems with video

How to detect problems with video

Detecting issues with video, audio or any other web or app issue a) can be straightforward; b) should be everyone’s responsibility, from the CEO down; and c) helps to keep agencies, techies and marketers on their toes.

1. Use it

Blatantly obvious – but when was the last time you checked out your site and videos from a bus, train or bar? Incentivize employees to use the site/app (during beta testing and routinely after goes live) and report issues and suggest improvements.

Check for:

  • How quickly did the site/page load? (Count the seconds)
  • How long did you have to wait for the video to start?
  • How good is the quality?
  • Does it stall / (re) buffer during playback?
  • Was it worth watching/watching to the end?
  • How do you feel about these conclusions?

2. User test it

Recruit customers and monitor their behavior and reactions as they use your web site, using different devices, networks and locations. Score against the above checklist. If this cannot be conducted in person use a remote service such as UserTesting.com.

User testing should occur at each stage of the development process. For more on why user testing is so crucial, see my previous column for our sister site ClickZ on Why user testing should be at the forefront of mobile development.

3. Test it

There are different types of testing, including:

  • Page performance – tools such as WebPageTest (free) show how/if the video is impacting how fast the page loads. It shouldn’t. The image below shows the WebPageTest results for how quickly Sam Dutton’s mobile video explainer on YouTube loads on a mobile device. The page took 6.6 seconds to load 809kB.
  • A/B testing – tests alternative experiences with different groups of web (or app) visitors. For example, test hosting the video on the homepage versus on a dedicated page.
  • Video testing tools – AT&T’s Video Optimizer (formerly known as Application Resource Optimizer) is a free-to-download tool used by developers (requires technical knowledge) to detect issues such as delays with start-up and the frequency and duration of stalls and optimum segment size.

4. Monitor it

  • Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, track visitor engagement with video – e.g. number of views, who viewed, how long, and with the webpage itself, including dwell time and bounce rate. See this introduction to using GA to assess video engagement.
  • Heat map tools, such as Clicktale and Crazyegg provide a visual representation of how users interact, or attempt to interact, with webpages and video.

How to avoid problems with video

Following best practices while creating/producing the video or coding the page, website or app that will host it should help avoid many of the common issues – videos that won’t play, are slow to play, or have broken playback.

Industry guidelines on mobile video are thin on the ground, considering the increasing popularity of the format. What guidance is available tends to be a bit techie and thus a turn off for non-techies.

The following recommendations have been compiled with the help of:

1. Make it worth it

There are many costs involved with video/audio:

  • For the producer: the cost of production and distribution; impact on web performance
  • For the network: the impact of network congestion
  • For the viewer, in terms of data consumption, battery life and time it takes to consume.

This makes it imperative that the video is meeting a known user need, contains quality content, is the right length, optimized in terms of bitrate, segments and compression.

2. Be aware: video is greedy; HD greedier; 4K much greedier

When it comes to bandwidth, standard video is greedy, requiring 0.5 Megabits per second (Mbps); high definition (HD) is five times as greedy as SD; and 4K is 30 times as greedy.

Cisco’s Usha Andra explains:

“Mobile video and multimedia applications have higher bandwidth and lower latency requirements than non-video applications. The requirements can range from a low of 0.5Mbps for standard definition (SD) to 2.5Mbps for high definition (HD) and over 15Mbps for 4K/ultra-high definition (UHD) downloads and much higher for virtual reality (VR). Latency requirements can range from 100 milliseconds (ms) to 15ms for UHD VR video applications.”

3. Know the limitations of mobile networks in your target markets

Even among developed telecoms markets, the capability of mobile networks varies considerably. Check the Cisco GCI Global Cloud Readiness Tool for an averages of each country.

The stats suggest that download speeds in the US and UK are 40% lower than Norway and South Korea, and 25% lower than Canada:

  • South Korea – download: 31.0Mbps; upload: 14.3Mbps; latency: 68ms
  • Norway – download: 29.1Mbps; upload: 11.6Mbps; latency: 40ms
  • Canada – download: 24.2Mbps; upload: 9.0Mbps; latency: 51ms
  • UK – download: 18.2Mbps; upload: 8.0Mbps; latency: 55ms
  • US – download: 17.1Mbps; upload: 10.0Mbps; latency: 88ms.

Usha Andra adds:

“Please note that these are average speeds and latencies, which means many users experience higher or lower speeds compared to the average speeds. When the speeds and latencies are lower than what an application warrants, the end user experiences delay in video, garbled audio, etc.”

4. Home page or own page?

Few of the most popular sites, including those that have a strong video focus – YouTube, Vimeo, BBC and CNN – host videos on the homepage or category pages. These sites promote their videos on the homepage as image links (often with play button icon overlaid) and text links, which when clicked or tapped go to a page dedicated to that video.

Why? Keeping video off the homepage keeps it leaner and faster to load on mobile devices. See the Twitch example below.

5. Avoid autoplay

Forcing mobile web visitors to view video whether they want to or not, is:

  • Frustrating for the customer (especially when it happens in a quiet environment)
  • Prone to using up the customer’s bandwidth and battery life unnecessarily
  • Liable to slow down how quickly the page loads
  • Contrary to accessibility best practice (as it can interfere with the screen readers used by visually impaired people)
  • A common technique for artificially inflating video view stats.

There is a (vaguely plausible) argument that sites such as YouTube are an exception to the no autoplay rule. As the visitor is clicking through to the video on a dedicated page it is implicit that they intend to watch.

Consider Twitch, the surprisingly popular site where fans watch gamers playing video games live, captured in the image below. On the desktop homepage, Twitch.tv has a live game on autoplay, while on m.Twitch.tv, there are no videos hosted on the homepage.

Comparing the download size and page speed of Twitch homepage when downloaded to a mobile and desktop device on HTTP Archive (April 15 2017) delivers dramatic results:

  • Mobile homepage (with no video) took 5.8 seconds to load 354kB of data over 24 requests
  • Desktop homepage took 19.9 seconds to load 16,255kB of data over 275 requests. Of that, 11,827kB is video content.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

6. Viewer experience (VX) and choice

Make sure the video and host page is intuitive. Let the viewer take control. Make it easy to:

  • Choose video quality – low quality, HD or 4K
  • Select and exit full-screen view
  • Change device orientation change
  • View and operate. Ensure the video fits the device screen and that buttons are intuitive
  • Allow playback when the device is offline.

7. Make the video accessible

To make video/audio accessible for:

  • Visually impaired people, provide a written transcript of the audio.
  • People with hearing impairments, provide subtitles.

For more advice on making mobile content accessible to a wide audience, the BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines are an excellent resource.

8. Minimize video start-up delay

The delay to start-up is caused by two essential processes:

  1. The authentication process (including digital rights management).
  2. The downloading of the video. Video files are subdivided into segments. A sufficient number of segments need to be downloaded to the buffer (temporary store on the client device), before the video starts to play.

A delay is inevitable, but the video should be optimized to ensure delays are kept to a minimum.

As can be seen from the 2016 data from Conviva study below, videos tend to take longer to start on mobile devices, both on WIFI and Cellular, than Tablet or Desktop. It’s no coincidence that mobile has the highest proportion of exits per attempt.How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

9. Keep the user informed

While the authentication, downloading and (re) buffering occurs, tell the user what is happening and/or distract them. Watching a spinning wheel icon can be frustrating.

10. Minimize video stalls

Stalls occur when too few video segments stored in the buffer to allow playback to continue. The video will not continue until sufficient segments have been downloaded (called re-buffering).

The key is to find balance between slow start and stalling, says AT&T’s Doug Sillars:

“The 2 biggest metrics for video are:

  1. Startup delay (how long from click to stream).
  2. Stalls (video stops, maybe a spinner).

These are (of course) interrelated.  If you startup too quickly – there will not be enough video stored locally on the device… and you might get a stall.  Or you can take too much data at the start (long startup delay), but have no stalls later.

There is a magic “Goldilocks” point in the middle – not too hot, not too cold – that balances the two factors.” 

11. Optimize bitrate, compression and segment size

Optimize bitrate, compression and segment size for the device and network connection.

  • Re-buffering typically occurs where the video is played at a speed, measured in bitrates (bits per second), that is too fast for the download speed (bitrate) of the network connection, so the buffer is emptied quicker than it is being filled.
  • Digital videos are divided into files, called segments, of 2 to 10 seconds, which are downloaded to the buffer and then played in order. Segments of optimum size for the connection will download, buffer and play faster.
  • A Codec (coder/decoder) is a tool for compressing and decompressing audio and video files. There are a number of different compression formats, e.g. MPEG-4, each with pros and cons. Different video quality and the client device/connection will influence choice of format.

12. Use adaptive bitrates.

Adaptive bitrate streaming creates and stores digital video at a number of different quality/speeds/bitrates. The video player on the client device requests the most appropriate of these based on a) network speed, b) device capability, and c) capacity of the buffer.

There are two types of adaptive streaming, DASH and HLS, because one industry standard that worked on all devices would be just too easy (find out more here).

13. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

A content delivery network speeds up how quickly web media, including video loads and plays on a mobile device by reducing the that the video has to travel between the original web server – e.g. your webserver in California, USA and a viewer in Timbuktu in Mali – by replicating and storing the video on servers around the world.

According to BuiltWith, 53.8% of the top 10k websites use CDNs.

Akamai Edge, which was one of the original CDNs, founded in 1999, remains one of the most popular. According to BuiltWith, Akamai is used by 11.4% of the top 10,000 sites, followed by Amazon CloudFront at 4% and MaxCDN at 1.3%.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

14. Host or embed?

Hosting websites on a third party network, and embedding the file, removes several headaches, including video compression, adaptive bitrates and engaging a CDN. This helps to explain why 15.2% of top 10k websites embed YouTube videos and 3.6% Vimeo, according to BuiltWith.

How to remedy problems with video / audio

1. Page weight or load speed issues.

Regularly check the key pages using a testing tool such as WebPageTest (this is the tool used by HTTP Archive).

If this highlights issues of excessive page weight, slow download speed, and it appears that video is a contributing factor (rather than oversized images or inefficient use of JavaScript), the options are:

  • Kill autoplay
  • Ensure the video is not preventing the page loading correctly
  • Move the video to a dedicated page (with a prominent picture and text link)
  • Use A/B testing to verify if this solves the issue.

2. Video fails or is slow to start or stalls during play

If the video performance is an issue, here are some troubleshooting tips to try:

  • Try loading the video to a dedicated video service such as Vimeo or YouTube. Compare the performance of the video on the third-party site, embedded on your site and with the self-hosted version to highlight if problems lie with the video, as opposed to the website, webserver or CDN (or lack of CDN)
  • Test the video with a tool such as AT&T’s Video Optimizer (requires development skills) to detect issues with video segmentation, compression, buffering etc. and fix them
  • Have the video re-edited to make it more concise; and optimized to improve bitrate and compression
  • Use or replace the CDN.

If video performs better on some devices and over different connections e.g. PC on cable versus smartphone on 3G:

  • Prepare a number of versions of the video in different formats, with different quality, bitrates and compression to suit the most common scenarios of device and network type
  • Use device detection to discover the client device, its capabilities and the type of connection to serve the most appropriate version of the video
  • Use adaptive bitrates.

Resources (and sources)

These resources are aimed at developers, but are useful for all (if you ignore the techie bits):

 

This is Part 3 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the previous installments:

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How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio

Mobile video is a major up-and-coming trend in content, with brands everywhere converging on the new and lucrative mobile video market.

Mark Zuckerberg said on a recent shareholder conference call that he sees video as “a megatrend on the same order as mobile” – which makes mobile video, the intersection between the two, the ultimate sweet spot of engaging content to draw in new consumer eyeballs.

But sadly, there are still some technical hurdles to overcome before the mobile video experience is as smooth as companies would like it to be. In our previous installment we looked at how video can be a massive mobile data hog, and why it shouldn’t (but still does) have an impact on download speed.

In this part we’ll look at the contentious subject of autoplaying videos and their impact on mobile webpage performance, as well as how audio can delay page speed, and what kind of conditions make for a poor viewer experience (VX).

Our third and final part will consider some solutions that webmasters can enact to counter the issues with mobile video.

Video autoplay and page performance

Comparing the data on HTTP Archive for average content for the top 100 most popular sites (according to Alexa) with the top 1 million (shown above) reveals some interesting stats.

On average, video content is just 17kB (rather than 128kB) which is 2.1% of total page size, which, is a (comparatively) slender 828kB.

There are three reasons why this might be:

  1. Top sites avoid using video. (Considering these include video specialist like YouTube, BBC and CNN, this is the least likely of the three reasons).
  2. Top sites avoid using video on the (mobile) homepage. (The homepage of YouTube, for example, is made up of image links to videos, rather than videos themselves. Each video has its own webpage).
  3. Top sites use video more efficiently (as Dutton suggests).

Querying this apparent anomaly of video usage between all sites and the top 100 with the web performance experts at HTTP Archive, we received the following answer from Rick Viscomi, a leader of the HTTP Archive project and Developer Advocate at Google:

“I think the answer is: efficiency. To be more specific, I think it comes down to autoplay. HTTP Archive just visits a page and records the page load without clicking around. Autoplay videos would be captured on those visits, while click-to-play would not.

“Autoplaying is wasteful for everyone involved because a page visit does not always demonstrate intent to watch. One notable exception is YouTube, where visiting a watch page is definitely intent to watch. Keep in mind that only home pages are crawled by HTTP Archive. So my theory is the top sites choose not to autoplay in order to keep bounce rates low and conversions high.”

Notably, autoplay video and audio is also frowned on from an accessibility perspective. See these BBC guidelines for example. The reason for this is that people with visual impairments rely on screen readers to read aloud a webpage. Clearly if audio or video media starts to play (including advertisements) it will interfere with the screen reader and will make tricky for the user to find out how to make it stop.

The impact of audio on page performance

One of the most useful features of HTTP Archive or WebPageTest (from where it is captured) is the filmstrip which shows how a website loads on a mobile device second by second.

The loading process for New York Times mobile site on May 1, 2017 is captured by HTTP Archive in the image below. The audio story The Daily is at the top of the mobile page, above the fold, allowing us to see clearly how audio may delay page speed.

The audio does not finish loading until 22 seconds, when the play button finally appears and the site is visibly complete.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio

Poor viewer experience (VX)

Assuming there is no autoplay, a correctly coded website should not require the video to be downloaded until the user requests it by clicking on the play button.

However as soon as the mobile user clicks on that play button, the level of expectation changes…

There are three potential VX problems with video:

  1. The video is too slow to start.
  2. It fails to start.
  3. It stalls during play back – this is due to (re) buffering or a dropping connection, typically shown by the spinning wheel.
  4. Poor video quality – or quality that is less an optimal for the connection.

Research by Conviva and nScreenMedia (November 2016) illustrates the difference in VX quality when a viewer is indoors (WIFI) or outdoors (cellular) failures for videos to start increases from 1.5% to 2.9% and buffering issues rises from 7.9% to 14.3% of views.

This has a noticeable impact on user satisfaction out of home 11.8% exit before the video starts versus 9.0% in home.How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio

Research carried out by University of Massachusetts and Akamai, of 6.7 million video viewers, in 2012, also shows a growing intolerance to slow, stalling video.

Ramesh Sitaraman, Professor of Computer Science, UMass, Amherst tells ClickZ:

“Mobile users are impatient and abandon videos that do not start up quickly. However, they are more patient than users who have high-speed Internet access (say, Fiber), since their expectations of speed are lower in comparison.

“Mobile users start to abandon a video after waiting for about 2 seconds. By the 10 second mark, if the video has not started, roughly a fifth have abandoned.”

And on stalling:

“We don’t have data split out just for mobile. But, we studied a cross-section of users that included mobile. Overall, people watch videos for a shorter period of time when the video stalls than they would have otherwise.

“Roughly, a 1% increase in stalls leads to 5% decrease in the minutes watched.”

 

This is Part 2 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the previous installment: How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed.

Or read on to the next part: How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues.

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How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed

Mobile video is great. When it works.

Implemented correctly, video or audio *should not* impact the speed that pages load on a mobile device and when the play button is pressed, it needs to start quickly and work well.

Video content is top of the agenda for many brands. It is proving a great way to engage customers and visitors, but when viewed on mobile devices, particularly those on cellular connection, video (and to a lesser extent audio) should come with a health warning.

Users are increasingly impatient with slow-to-load and stalling video and will start to abandon a video after waiting just two seconds, research from UMass and Akamai shows.

This column, the first of three parts, will take a close look at how and why video affects page performance. In the second part, we’ll look at the impact of video autoplay and audio on page performance, as well as what makes a poor viewer experience (VX).

Finally, we’ll explore how to detect, avoid and remedy issues to prevent users tuning out.

Video is a massive mobile data hog

The provision and consumption of video on mobile devices via web and apps is growing rapidly. Mobile video is already 60% of total mobile data traffic worldwide and is expected to be 78% by 2021 according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI).

All other elements will grow over the next five years, but their proportion of overall traffic will be less. Audio will be 5% compared with 8% today and mobile web will be 14% compared with 30% of traffic today.

Video – and audio – used wrongly or inefficiently will impact mobile user experience (UX) – or should we say: “viewer experience” (VX) or “listener experience” (LX) – massively, but not necessarily in the same way as oversized images and poor or inefficient use of JavaScript.

Images and JavaScript, as seen in previous columns, are the biggest causes of slow loading mobile web pages. As discussed below, video can still contribute to page size and therefore contribute to page load delays, particularly (it seems) where autoplay is used, as we will discuss below.

But the biggest impact on VX comes after page load when the video is slow, or fails, to start or stalls.

The two charts below are from HTTP Archive, which twice monthly records the page size and download speed of the homepages of the top 1 million sites to desktop and mobile devices, using the excellent WebPageTest.

The first chart shows the breakdown of content types by bytes – images, JavaScript, video, stylesheets, HTML and fonts – as an average of all homepages recorded on April 15, 2017.

Video is 128kB or 5.5% of the total bytes loaded (2312 kB or 2.3MB). This might appear small, until you realize that 97% of pages monitored by HTTP Archive have no video content (we examine this surprising stat below).

Pages that do have video content will therefore show a higher proportion of video content.

The second chart (captured April 15, 2017) shows the content breakdown for the homepage of the US digital agency Huge. Here video content is 727kB or 14.5% of the total bytes. The total weight of the page is 5MB, which is a homepage worthy of the company name, and, when measured, took 25.8 seconds to load on a mobile device, according to HTTP Archive.

To be fair, many agencies (digital, media, advertising et al) have surprisingly slow loading, heavy weight sites (considering the importance of digital to their businesses), though Huge is exceptionally large. A trimmer example is Young and Rubicam. On the same date the Y&R homepage took three seconds to load 783kB on a mobile device (on other dates it took nine seconds) according to HTTP Archive.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed

Video shouldn’t affect page load size or download speed

Implemented correctly, video (or audio) should not impact the size of the webpage or the speed that pages load on a mobile device, according to the experts.

Even when video is present on the page, to render the page, the browser only needs to load the video container, teaser image, start button etc. it doesn’t need to download the entire video (as the visitor may not want to watch it at all). Thus video and audio ought not to be a significant proportion of content recorded by HTTP Archive / WebPageTest – as we will see when we look at the most popular sites.

Sam Dutton is a Developer Advocate at Google who provides educational materials and workshops for techies in mobile video. He explains:

“Video is not a big issue for page loading, since in general video shouldn’t be part of the cost of loading a web page.

“HTTP Archive measures the bytes to load a web page, not the total bytes crossing the internet. When you load most web pages, you don’t load a video (but you do load images, HTML, CSS and JavaScript).

“Top sites are less likely than less popular sites to require video for page load since (hopefully) the top sites realize the detrimental effects on page weight and (therefore) bounce rates, etc.”

 

This is Part 1 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the next installment: How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio.

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Investing in video: when and how to succeed

In digital marketing, we’re always trying to keep up with the hottest new thing – advertising methods, ad types, targeting types, etc. – being pitched heavily within the industry in general.

Whether it be the “year of mobile” to the “year of RLSA,” there is always another trend to consider investing heavily in.

Over the last year-plus, video has been most frequently cited as the new digital frontier. Whether it’s important to a comprehensive marketing campaign isn’t the question, though. The question is, how do we best make use of it?

In this post, we’ll talk about when – and how – to put video in play for your marketing campaigns.

First, you need to determine if video will even be beneficial for your company.

Videos are best used as an educational/informational tool to help relay info to your audience. If you have a business that requires some explanation of the service or product, or have a variety of advanced features that need to be showcased, or even need to establish credibility and trust for the user to move forward, video can be key for your growth.

If you’ve determined that your business would indeed benefit from adding or expanding on video, how should you leverage it in your advertising efforts? What are some strategies to do so?

Well, below are some tips to make the most out of Facebook and YouTube video for direct-response/performance-driven efforts:

Start with Facebook

Facebook is probably the best platform to leverage video from the direct response perspective. You can get extremely granular with its targeting capabilities and ensure that you are reaching highly relevant audiences to whom you can introduce your brand and explain its value proposition.

As a reminder, the best practice is to keep video length less than 30 secs; that’s about as long as you can plan to keep a user’s attention.

Initially, you’ll want to use Facebook videos in your prospecting efforts. These videos will serve as a first touch to audiences who haven’t heard of you or don’t know you well.

The goal of these video ads is twofold: educate the user and also determine which users are actually interested in what you have to offer.

How do you determine that? Well, Facebook creates audience lists based off how much of the video users have viewed. If someone has completed your full video, they likely have a relatively high level of interest in your product or service.

Once you’ve identified this group, take that audience list of users who have completed the video and begin serving remarketing ads towards them to drive them onto your site and get them to convert.

Now perhaps someone came to our site from another method – paid search, organic, etc. You can also leverage Facebook video ads to help further convince users who haven’t converted why we are right for them.

One powerful ad type within Facebook is Carousel Ads, which let you show 3-5 images, concepts, and messages to help get your point across, deliver value props, and get people to convert.

What many people don’t realize is that you can actually incorporate video into one of your carousel cards. This becomes extremely effective with remarketing as it allows you to relay numerous different messages while also providing the user an educational video to further convince them.

Use YouTube for remarketing

We all know about YouTube and its huge traffic numbers. Of course you should consider advertising here, but note that YouTube is often seen more as a branding play than a direct-response. The one way to really make YouTube effective with DR in mind is to leverage for remarketing.

My recommendation is to develop and segment audience lists of users who visit your site but do not convert based on their interaction with the website (for example, people who get to a sign-up page have shown higher intent than someone who has only gotten to the home page).

Investing in video: when and how to succeed

Then test various different audiences using different video assets. Essentially, you should aim to further educate these audiences via YouTube and test which videos tend to work better with higher-intent audiences vs. those in research mode.

Videos can be an impactful format when trying to reach your audience and scale your business – but not before you determine when to use it, what channels to leverage it on, and how to strategize to invest your budget wisely.