You can trace video SEO back to May 16th, 2007 – the day Google introduced “Universal Search.”

Today, we take blended search results – video, text, PDF, blogs, and images – for granted, but just a few years ago people used to have to dig for video online. I know, it sounds barbaric.

But what’s more shocking is that here we are, seven years after blended results changed the way people search, and most marketers still haven’t realized how important video SEO really is. Or how to use it.

Rob Toledo, a user engagement and bounce rate specialist at Shutterstock, says:

No longer just an interesting add-on, video has become an important feature for anyone concerned with SEO, conversion rates, or brand recognition. That’s pretty much everyone, then.

So how exactly does video affect your site’s SEO, and how can you use video in your content marketing strategy? Below are four key video SEO metrics, and some best practices for using video to climb the search engine rankings:

  1. Improved SERP rank
  2. Higher CTR
  3. Lower bounce rates
  4. Quality backlinks

Videos Rank in SERPs

video marketingRanking on the Google’s first page is an SEO’s top priority, so it’s difficult to ignore the 2009 Forrester study that says “pages with video are 53x more likely to rank on the first page of Google search results.” Yes, that study is five years old, but the point remains – Google SERPs prioritize video results.

Why is video 53x more likely to rank than plain text content? A number of factors influence ranking, but a big one is Google’s latest algorithm update – Hummingbird – which prizes “quality content” over keyword optimization.

Eric Sui at describes the shift in search results:

Google now cares less about whether you’ve optimized each individual page on your site to a particular keyword and more about whether your page’s content answers the question presented by the search user.

Gareth Davies at WordTracker, claims that as much as “80% of the video content served up in SERPs are informational videos.” So, the results aren’t simply lolcat videos, but rather useful video that answers a user’s query. Enter the explosion of explainer videos.

Google’s Head of Web spam, Matt Cutts, estimates the Hummingbird update in September 2013 affected over 90% of search queries. The way that most people use the internet fundamentally changed, and the shift toward useful video content in SERPs is still in full swing.

Best Practices for Video SERP:

  1. Keep Your Video Short – Less than 4 minutes (engagement rates fall after 4-5 minutes)
  2. Create Rich-Video Snippets – This is the thumbnail beside the description of the content on the page. Follow this nitty-gritty guide to create a video sitemap.
  3. Transcribe Your Script – Even though Google is getting pretty darn good at parsing video content for meaning, transcribed text helps the spiders crawl your content for relevance.

Videos Make People Click

video marketingAn aimClear study shows that search results with video have a “41% higher click-through rate than plain text.” This happens primarily because of rich-video snippets beside search results.

These video thumbnails advertise quality video content and make results with embedded video stand out in a text-only wasteland.

YouTube automatically creates these thumbnails (they understand how powerful snippets are), but don’t rely on YouTube to do the dirty work for you. Rich video snippets from your YouTube channel take users directly to YouTube – not your domain. You don’t garner any SEO benefits from lost traffic, even if you’re getting lots of views.

You’ve worked hard to create a valuable video, so reap the rewards (read: traffic) by embedding the video directly to your site – like on a landing page with a clear call to action. YouTube, Vimeo, and self-hosting providers like Wistia, offer increased reach, but nothing beats the SEO benefits of landing page video marketing right on your domain.

Best Practices for High CTR:

  1. Embed Video Directly to Your Site – Don’t let your video host steal your SEO traffic.
  2. Create Rich-Video Snippets

Videos Make Your Pages “Sticky”

video SEOThe average online attention span is less than eight seconds. A high bounce rate – people leaving your domain after viewing a single page – will hurt your site’s SERP ranking, not to mention people leaving isn’t the best way to sell a product. Videos make people stay.

In 2012, Google introduced a new metric into their search ranking algorithm called “dwell time,” which monitors the amount of time users spend on a website after click-through from the SERP. The longer a user spends on a site, the more likely the content is relevant to their query. Google gives relevant sites more clout via “Page Authority.”

In 2013, Moz released their most recent Search Engine Ranking Factors – a comprehensive look at what makes pages rank well. The #1 SEO factor?

Page Authority.

While dwell time isn’t a perfect system for determining Page Authority (or the only factor by a longshot), it greatly enhances the algorithms’ ability to identify quality content – a key metric in Hummingbird. Video buys your site those crucial seconds that make all the difference.

One Comscore study of retail site shows that “visitors who view video stay two minutes longer and are 64% more likely to purchase than other site visitors.” Combine high dwell time with low bounce rates, and you’ll have a killer one-two SERP ranking punch (not too mention increased conversion rates, but that’s a story for another article).

Best Practices to Reduce Bounce Rates:

  1. Embed Video “Above the Fold” – The fold is the imaginary line where users have to scroll to see additional content. On most browsers it’s around 600 pixels.
  2. Use Accurate Video Titles – Don’t deceive users with sensationalized headlines. No one likes being lied to, and they won’t be back.
  3. Don’t Panic – A 50% bounce rate is ok.

Video MarketingIn the same Moz 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factor study, the next 12 top factors directly related to SERP ranking had to do with links. Casey Henry at Moz summed up video SEO and link building when he said, “Having a video compared to just text will almost triple the average number of linking domains.” Awesome, video generates links. But why?

People are the ones linking back to your content – not bots – and people like video.

As much as we SEOs like to get in our own world of optimization, it’s easy to forget that all the content we create is for users (you know, “people”). In a world where even thoughtful articles get scanned and skimmed, videos are beacons of brevity, but also a signal of intent that, “Yes, I want to communicate something to you.” Videos are informative, yet easy to consume.

In another Forrester study, Dr. James McQuivey said, “A video is worth 1.8 million words,” and he wasn’t just being cheeky. If a picture is worth a thousand words, and video shoots at 30 frames per second, then a 60-second video really does contain the equivalent of 1.8 million words.

But a video’s value goes further than just being information dense or shareable. People like video because it’s useful.

Josh Hardwick’s great video SEO article at Kissmetric urges companies to make “videos that offer something to the viewer.” He goes on to say:

People don’t link to or share any old rubbish these days. So, to get the success you’re looking for, it’s important for you to really think about who you want sharing the video and who you want to linking to it.

Video communicates useful information quickly, and allows people a chance to sample content before committing to lengthy articles, but quality video with a specific marketing goal creates great backlinks to your site.

Gemma Holloway at Koozai wrote a brilliant post on using short video introductions to increase engagement with her written articles.

Her experiment compared two posts – one featuring a 25-second video introduction, and another on the same topic with only text. The video introduction post received 200%–300% more pageviews and social shares (Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, and Twitter) than the text-only article.

Best Practices for Link-Building:

  1. Embed Your Video – Building links to YouTube won’t help your SEO
  2. Focus You Video on a Single Topic – Niche videos get shared
  3. Create High Quality Video – Amateur video makes you look unprofessional

Video SEO isn’t a search engine hack, tip, or secret – it’s a strategy that involves creating the best content you can with your target market in mind. Supplement your inbound marketing strategy with video, and watch both your SEO and your business climb the rankings.