As a marketer, you know the power of video: it’s one of the most effective ways to engage your audience, get your message across, and stand out in crowded social channels. You also know that successful videos have a certain formula: they have to be interesting, informative, visually appealing, and concise, among other things. But what you may not know is that beyond creating great content, there’s a lot more that goes into ensuring a video’s success.
Read on for some pro tips and terms to know before you embark on your video project.
Optimizing Your Video at Every Stage
When we talk about optimizing a video, we don’t just mean for search engines—there are a few areas to consider, all of which contribute to how a finished video looks, loads, and performs online. As a client, having a firm grasp on the following can help you when planning your video, discussing specs with your video professional, and publishing it to the web. When creating a video, make sure that you do the following:
- Optimize for viewing, ensuring that the footage is high-quality, in the resolution you need, and formatted to look good on targeted platforms and devices.
- Optimize for loading, a technical step your editor will handle but that might involve some creative decision-making and compromise to ensure the file size isn’t too large.
- Optimize for search, where your marketing and SEO expertise comes in. YouTube is the second largest search engine on the web; you’ll want to be strategic about the title, file name, description, metadata, tags, and even the opening dialogue.
While the third step will be most relevant to you, considering all three is crucial to a high-performing video.
Optimize your video for viewing
Depending on how much creative control you’d like over your video—say, areas where you’d like super high-quality slow-motion shots or time-lapse or hyper-lapse shots—you likely won’t need to get too granular with your video knowledge. Frame rates, for example, can affect the quality when editing (e.g., shooting in a higher frame rate setting allows for very smooth slow motion in editing, but shooting in a low frame rate locks you in to a certain quality), so be sure to discuss any specific shots you’re looking for upfront so you don’t end up having to reshoot.
The videographer you engage will handle the technicalities to turn your vision into a polished product, but below are a few helpful terms so you know what you need.
- Resolution. You’re probably familiar with standard resolutions for video: 1920×1080, 1366×768, 1280×1024, etc. Resolution is one of the biggest contributors to file size, which is always something to keep in mind when creating videos for the web. The lower the resolution, the lower the clarity (and the smaller the file size).
- HD resolutions. You might recognize 1920×1080 as the standard resolution for HD video. A good rule of thumb: You can always export to a lower resolution, but you can’t “upsample” to a higher resolution without a loss in quality.
- Frame rates (FPS). This indicates how many frames are shot per second: 24p, 25p, 30p, 60p, 120p, 240p, and on. Your producer will handle this, but be sure discuss shots with your video professional so they know what you need.
- 4K (2160p). You’ve probably heard of 4K as one of the highest-quality resolutions you can shoot. While the average YouTube user likely isn’t viewing a video in 4K, video-centric companies like GoPro use 4K across the board for the highest quality. Note that most HD monitors aren’t 4K, either.
Tip: Be sure you’re clear about any specifications you have for resolution, especially if you require 4K. You’ll want to make sure the professional you hire has the video and mic equipment, software, and processing power to handle your project.
Optimize your video for loading
When the final footage is edited and approved—including adding background music, motion graphics, and any on-screen text or lower thirds—rendering and encoding brings it all together.
Think of a video like a cake. The editing software is the mixing bowl where all of the ingredients are assembled: the clips, the audio, music, titles, and any other effects. Encoding is the oven that bakes it all together, and exporting packages it up to the shelf.
This is when you decide the size, quality, and file format of your finished video file. File size is particularly important because video files are typically so much larger than other files shared on the web. The larger a file, the longer it will take to load—whether it’s on a homepage, a mobile site, YouTube, or Facebook. The smaller a file, the faster it will load—and the better the user experience, engagement, and retention.
Also, bear in mind that a majority of people are consuming online content on their mobile devices, so optimize your video to minimize the frustration of buffering that causes some to close a video before they’ve even watched it.
Here are a few other things to know about rendering, encoding, and video file size.
- Compression is how video file sizes are made smaller during encoding. You can opt for “lossless compression,” in which no quality is lost from the original file, or “lossy,” where quality is lost to achieve a smaller file size.
- Encoding formats your video for output. It’s also when you can add metadata, subtitles, filters, and chapters to your video. Note: the higher the resolution, the more computing power you’ll need (including better processing, memory, and graphics cards), and the longer the upload and export times.
- Bitrates are another contributor to file size. These will vary between SDR (standard dynamic range) and HDR (high dynamic range) frame rates. Audio bitrates can be adjusted, another trick to decreasing file size if you don’t need ultra-high fidelity vocals.
Tip: Some other ways to decrease file sizes include hosting the video on a third-party video-sharing site; shortening the video, which is easier said than done, but can be done by breaking a video into parts; or lowering the resolution. (Be careful not to decrease the pixel count so it’s not supported in HD, if that’s a priority.)
Optimize your video for search
Your next concern is getting eyes on your video. YouTube is second largest search engine behind Google, and around a third of online activity is spent watching video content. That’s a crowded market with stiff competition.
No matter where your video gets published, a few important things to consider are:
- Add metadata and a great title. Metadata and your title should both include relevant keywords. Your title should be clear, compelling, and concise—preferably fewer than 60 characters.
- Add a description. Focus on the first 100 characters and put the most important information there (including a CTA if you have one).
- Add tags/keywords. Only use keywords relevant to your video. “Stuffing” too many irrelevant tags can hurt your rank. Include both short- and long-tail keywords.
Consider closed captions or subtitles. Don’t lose viewers who are watching video with their volume off at the coffee shop.
YouTube Tips: There’s a wealth of YouTube-specific tips and tricks, articles, how-to videos, and tutorials to help you navigate the complex, difficult world of YouTube rank. Here are a few must-dos if you’re uploading your new video to the popular platform.
- Create and publish longer videos, which tend to perform better.
- Focus on hooking your viewers in first 15 seconds.
- Make keywords audible. Search engines can listen to and process language; they’ll give better rank to those videos that are about what they say they’re about.
- Incorporate ways to boost “user interaction signals,” like watching, commenting, liking, and subscribing by adding annotations asking viewers to “like and subscribe.”
- Create custom thumbnails.