Video is the most popular and engaging form of content. Marketers have recognized the opportunity that video presents. That’s why they are creating and including more video on their sites and blogs.

But many well intentioned marketers don’t realize that rather than attracting visitors to their site, they are driving traffic away.

Video content may be acting like a detour sign and sending visitors away from their site to YouTube and other video hosting services. Or their video may be a hidden treasure buried so deep on their site that it can’t be found.

I learned this lesson the hard way. If I had taken a few simple steps, I could have benefited from a major bump in traffic to my site.

This is what you need to know to make your video content pay off.

My Story: How I Lost Thousands of Visitors

A couple of years ago I bought a new tablet. I wanted to take it to coffee shops to work on blog posts.

I’m a fast touch typist and typing on a tablet was slow for me, so I decided to get an external bluetooth keyboard. I had a heck of a time getting my new keyboard to work and no amount of Googling turned up the answer to my problem. I solved the problem and decided to make a video and do a blog post giving my solution.

I posted the video on YouTube and embedded it on my site. To date, my video has been viewed nearly 2,500 times. I should be happy right? Turns out I missed a critical step. I forgot to tell Google where to find the video on my site.

When people search for my video, Google sends them to YouTube to watch it. Almost none of of the people who watch the video on YouTube come to my site.

I’m sure I helped sell lots of the bluetooth keyboards and the software App I recommended in the video, but that wasn’t my goal. So I decided to figure out where I went wrong.

A Quick Lesson: How Search Engines Find your Content

I promise not to get too geeky, but you need a bit of background to understand how search engines find content and videos on your site. After that, I will give you the steps you need to take to make video discoverable on your site.


To crawl and index the content on your site, search engines depend on a specially formatted file called a Sitemap. This is different kind of sitemap than the webpage you’ll see on some sites designed to help visitors navigate your site. This sitemap is a file specifically designed for search engines, that your visitors don’t see. It tells search engines about your content – how it is organized, when it was last updated, how often it is updated and how important it is.

Most sites and blogs have sitemaps. Here is an example of the sitemap for this MediaVidi Blog.

MediaVidi Sitemap

If your site does not have a sitemap there are many free and paid third party tools to help you easily create a sitemap. Google also has excellent information on how to build and submit a sitemap.

If you have a WordPress blog one of the most popular sitemap generators is Yoast SEO.

Video Sitemaps

Video is more complicated for search engines to detect than text. It has unique properties that the search engine needs to know such as video title, description, duration, video URL, thumbnails, etc. You can tell the search engines about video on your site in 3 ways:

  1. Create a separate video sitemap listing your video content
  2. Add information about your video content to your existing sitemap
  3. Add tags to the page on your site that contains the video. This is called on-page markup.

You can easily create a video sitemap using one of many free or paid tools. A Google search for “video sitemap tool” will give you loads of choices.

If you have a WordPress blog, Yoast Video SEO is a popular sitemap generator.

Here is a simple video sitemap from Bon Appetit magazine:

BA Large Sitemap

Here is an entry for a video using video tags in a more complex video sitemap from Forbes. I have highlighted the video tags.

Video Sitemap Forbes Magazine

You can see from these examples that video sitemaps provide good directions to the search engine about where to find the video. And video tags provide more indepth information about the contents of the video itself.

How you Benefit from making your Video Discoverable

If you create a video, post it to YouTube and embed it on your site, but don’t tell Google how to find it, Google will direct your traffic to the YouTube link in search results. Search traffic will be directed to YouTube, not to your site!

If you don’t use a video sitemap or video tags, Google treats your site as a referring link to YouTube rather than the primary home of the video.

You end up throwing away search traffic to YouTube. People will watch your video on YouTube and probably never visit your site. And when they finish watching your video, the next suggested video YouTube will give them is probably not one of yours.

When you use a video sitemap or video tags, you clearly indicate to Google that your site is the primary home of the video and traffic should be directed to the link on your site rather than a link on YouTube. You benefit by getting traffic to your site and if visitors play the video on your site you still accumulate view counts on YouTube. You also gain the opportunity to get your marketing message to these visitors who may stay on your site and explore.

The same principles apply when you embed somebody else’s video on your site. If it is included in your video sitemap or it is properly tagged, the traffic will be directed to your site rather than to YouTube or whatever third party site where the video resides.

The Unique Problem of Hidden Video

People sometimes choose to put video on a webpage on their site, but the video may be hosted on a third party site or at a different URL. In this case, they often put the video inside something called an “i-frame” on their webpage.

An iframe acts like a window in your webpage. The i-frame points the search engine away from the webpage and points it toward an alternate location where the video resides. Although the video can be viewed on your webpage Google disregards the contents in the iFrame and doesn’t index its contents.

It is best to avoid using i-framesi if you can, but if not make sure you use a video sitemap or video tags.

How to Get More Exposure for your Video Content

For all of the reasons I have outlined above, video content is hard to find. But video is in high demand. This creates an opportunity for savvy marketers who make their videos easy to discover.

Besides search engines, there is another source of traffic that is under the radar for many marketers.

Content Discovery services are hungry for all kinds of content, including video. These services use the same techniques to discover video as search engines. My video content discovery service, MondoPlayer, is always looking for great videos to promote to social media marketers who share videos with huge audiences.

If you make your video easy to find Content Discovery services could pick it up. Your video may be exposed to a much larger audience than you can reach on your own. Just think about all of that organic traffic for free.

If I haven`t already convinced you to take action, let me remind of you of the reasons why you need to make sure your video is discoverable by search engines and content discovery services.

  1. Your video will get better exposure on search results and content discovery services
  2. Google search results will include enhanced information about your video, such as title, description and thumbnail image
  3. Visitors will have an easier time finding a particular video on your site
  4. Traffic will be directed to your site rather than to YouTube or other third party sites:

Make sure your video content gets noticed and captures visitors instead of acting like a detour sign or a hidden treasure buried so deep it can’t be found. All it takes is a few simple steps.