Video vs. Copy & Infographics
Since users only read an average of 28% of words on web pages, we can conclude that copy just isn’t a great conveyer of information online for human users (although I’ve had to use it along with videos in this post – I hope you read it all!). Copy’s weakness is one of the reasons for the infographic boom, yet video can go further than infographics at conveying information quickly. Consequently, I’m surprised videos aren’t used more widely in SEO. They are probably the most distributable form of content online – this video of a talking dog has 85million views!
The Next Video Boom
Another reason to start caring about video is that things are going to get a whole lot bigger. Since the birth of YouTube back in 2005, it might have seemed like we’ve already undergone a video boom online – YouTube even became the world’s 2nd largest search engine back in 2008. A few things are going to make it even bigger:
- HTML5 <video> element will make it easier to embed video
- Live streaming from mobiles will become commonplace
- Smartphone traffic will overtake desktop traffic by 2014 (smart handsets become ubiquitous)
Check out the projected growth in mobile traffic from Morgan Stanley’s Internet Trends 2011. 69% of mobile traffic (in a time when mobile traffic will surpass desktop traffic) accounted for by video consumption:
All of this points to one thing – massive growth in video consumption. If your content strategy doesn’t include video, then now is probably a good time to do something about it.
Let’s Get Started
The sooner you get video into your content strategy, it will probably be for the better. But before this you should make yourself aware of the common excuses for not doing video vs the actual reality:
Common reasons for not doing video are as follows:
|Video production is too expensive||You can get a flip camera for under £100 and you don’t need to pay for any editing software|
|We don’t have the in-house skills to produce video||You don’t actually need any specialist skills to execute a video strategy|
|Our content / products aren’t suitable for video||All products and services are suitable for video demonstration|
|YouTube is just full of cat videos, it is a silly place||Even if it is, you can gain huge earned media value from it|
|We’ve done video before, but got no views||You probably need to work on a distribution strategy|
It will be best to consider all of these in three categories – production, creativity and distribution.
Video Production Values
It is common thinking the way into online video is polished production values that are equal to TV. But this is a totally different genre. The first ever video on YouTube is testament to the crappy production values that are forgiven in online video. Think about this quote from Gary Vaynerchuck:
“Your content has nothing to do with the mic, the camera, the lighting or the set.”
To give you an example, check out this video from one of the Bauer accounts – Practical Fishkeeping:
Dull huh? And bad production values.But with 1.5 million views, we’re pretty happy with it. The reason for its popularity is because it serves up content that isn’t readily available, to a niche yet global audience who demand it. It would appear that lots of people want to know what Arowana, Flowerhorns and Parrot cichlids look like when they’re swimming around in a tank, so they search for it. We come up top of search as one of the only videos including these fish – 1.5 million times. It didn’t need production values to be succesful.
Motorcycle News is another of our Youtube channels that is a great example for this point. Visit the channel and consider the production values – there aren’t really that many in the top performing videos. It proves you don’t have to have polished creative to use it as a business tool.
Of course, sometimes it does help to have good production values, particularly for product videos. However, they don’t have to be of ITN quality. Zappos.com have 50,000 videos on their site – the picture quality, sound and music is well cut, and looks professional, but you could easily make similarly slick content with a half decent camera (£300+), Final Cut Pro or iMovie. YouTube now has an editing suite built in that you can use without the need for software.
The level for entry is low, but if skills are lacking and you see the demand (and you live in London), then there are short courses at University of the Arts London (Central Saint Martins) in Final Cut Pro. You’ll be a pro by the end of it.
Is it all About the Creative?
So you’ve got that you don’t need slick production, but sometimes it helps. What if your products are totally boring – like steam carpet cleaners? Recently I considered hiring a steam carpet cleaner to clean our grubby carpet (it was getting bad). I came across the below:
Boring Alert – this is not entertaining! However, this is a well-polished and well narrated instructional video on how to use the product. It absolutely serves its purpose, while not being particularly creative.
Some businesses sell inanimate products that just sit there – like audio speakers, desk tidies and ornaments. You’ll need a slightly more creative approach for these, because video demands stuff actually happens. You can’t just have a video of a speaker sitting there – you need to make the product come alive. I think this video from Ideas by Net makes a great point:
It illustrates its many functions in a manner that gives movement, with an appropriate soundtrack. It’s a great video of an inanimate object – and it got 50,000 views.
Make Me a Viral
So far we have low production videos you can just ‘put out there’ and test, along with better produced videos such as product demonstrations – the caveat of these are that they’re not going to significantly improve your reach, and give you earned media value. That’s what virals do.
But what is a viral really? I like Ciarán Norris’ definition of a viral, they are simply:
“Cool shit that people like to share.”
It’s a sound definition, but it doesn’t explain a formula. Fortunately I’ve come across a number of elements that create virality in online video (I’m sure there is more science to it than this, but let’s just talk content elements). Take a look at Time’s 50 Best YouTube Videos. All of these videos are ‘virals’ with huge numbers of shares and views. But what is it about them? It’s not just pot luck, most of these videos fulfil one or more of these criteria:
- Technology focus
Animal (particularly cats) and baby videos are often viral gold because they are cute and funny. Keyboard cat (number 8 in the Time list) is cute, funny and musical. Let’s take this one step further, and film a cat playing a piano app on an iPad (which fulfills all of the criteria).
Lo and behold, 9,000,000 views.
Extraordinary Resolutions of Mundane Events
There is one element of virality missing from the list above, and we can consider this a ‘silver bullet’. Successful virals usually occur in familiar surroundings or with familiar products – mundane and every day. If you then take the mundane and every day, then give it an ‘extraordinary resolution’, then you have a potential viral silver bullet.
Take a mundane object or event, and then do something truly extraordinary with it, something that it would never be used for – the more elaborate the better. An example of this is Blendtech’s zany Will it Blend? series which earned Blendtech a vast amount of earned media value. They used their mundane product – a blender – to blend a number of normally inappropriate objects. This was both funny and had a silver bullet, but they took it further when they began to blend the latest Apple products. Here it is:
Content is King, but Outreach is Queen, and She Runs the Household
Virals are well known for their rapid natural distribution through email and social sharing, but it would be a mistake to think that people will do it all for you.
Consider these words from Steffan Aquarone for Econsultancy:
“Create something so compelling, so interesting, funny or insightful that people genuinely enjoy your content, and you’ll find that people might even recommend it around.”
So they might but there’s no guarantee. Video normally needs a distribution strategy. Thankfully, SEO skills are perfectly aligned to solid video distribution strategies. Basically you need to have a quality video, optimise your meta data and then consider outreach – it’s very similar to standard SEO.
Distribution Basics: Ranking on Search
Just like onpage SEO optimisation, video needs meta data optimisation too. Titles are vitally important for YouTube optimisation, but make sure you fill out the obvious forms such as video description and tags – as always, every little helps.
If you have a video on your site, then make sure the page it sits on has strong onpage optimisation. It will never hurt to build a few links to it either. User engagement is also a strong ranking factor on YouTube. If large numbers of viewers switch off after five seconds, then you will find yourself taking a nosedive. It means that the quality of the video itself is interlinked with the ranking of the video. For more on YouTube ranking factors, and a comprehensive guide to YouTube publishing, I recommend reading the YouTube Content Creators playbook.
Distribution Advanced: Finding the Tipping Point
The next part of getting your video found is more like link building, and it’s also wise to include link building in your distribution strategy. In a nutshell, you find relevant blogs and websites who would be interested in the video and hustle them into posting it.
However, having a far and wide distribution strategy isn’t really necessary when it comes to virality; basically you don’t need to please that many people to get ideas to tip. I’d suggest reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point to get a good understanding of how ideas spread, but one third of his theory is that ideas tip due to ‘the law of the few’. Ideas spread because a few extraordinary people spread them. From syphilis to Hush Puppies, Gladwell argues that it’s early adopting well connected individuals that make ideas tip – it is not a reliance on pleasing the everyman.
We can take this theory into video distribution by pin pointing major websites. You want to go well out of normal link building comfort zones and think the sky is the limit if your idea is good enough. Think about the big guys – if you make it onto just a few mainstream media sites, then you stand a high chance of getting your idea to tip. At Bauer, this occurred for our best ever performing YouTube video without us even realising it:
This will almost certainly be the raunchiest video to ever appear on SEO Gadget. I can think of two reasons why it’s been so successful!
Basically this video was a strong performer for a long time, but nothing particularly special. Our sites are quite highly trafficked, but the video got squirrelled away, and it gathered about 300,000 views in its first year. Then a large Dutch website picked it up and put it on its homepage. Thousands of amused Dutch people shared it and the idea tipped – after that it went viral, garnering millions of views a month. It was the law of the few in action.
Building Links through Distribution
While you don’t necessarily need to reach out to many people to get your idea to tip, you can also meld your distribution strategy with link building pretty easily – in a similar manner to distribution strategy for infographics.
Here you’ll want to target as many quality sites as possible, build a relationship and then send them the HTML of the video embed with link back to the page where you originally published the video. Make sure you have the video published on your site so you can link back to it – you won’t get much value out of linking back to your YouTube channel.
There’s a neat example of how to do this on the Distilled blog. In my experience, barely anyone bothers removing the embedded link when they place the video.
For more on distribution, I really like this video from Gary Vaynerchuck. Watch Chapter 6 – Hustle and the Work community – for what is the best explanation of the importance of distribution I’ve seen.
Conclusion: Start Doing Video!
It’s never too late to start, but the sooner you move, the stronger position you’ll be in when video gets even bigger. Just when you embark on a strategy, make sure you consider the following:
- Are you allowing low production values so you can create more?
- Are you ensuring product videos are of good quality?
- Are you regularly trying and testing new stuff?
- Have you tried a viral with the formulas mentioned?
- Have you optimised your video meta data?
- Have you got a distribution plan?
And here’s me again, thanks for reading (and watching)!