Google made headway in the early search engine wars by pushing relevance and authority as key components of its algorithm. SEO became less about the keywords and more about the popularity of the content. The idea is simple: the more sites with clout that link to your site, the more relevant your content must be. Search 101.

Google as video king

Google’s $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube in 2006 was a pivotal move for the technology giant. Aside from owning the largest repository of digital video content in existence, the benefits from a pure search standpoint are massive. YouTube is now the second-most-used search engine behind Google. And because YouTube’s inner workings have evolved over time similar to Google’s to best serve the user with relevant content, the implications for brands are clear: drive discoverability and distribution.

Discoverability is crucial, given YouTube’s dominance. YouTube now serves more than 4 billion hours of video to over 1 billion users every month. According to a recent study by eMarketer, nearly half of those surveyed said they “rarely” or “never” go outside YouTube for online video viewing. Facebook — the #2 video-serving site — has less than 40% of the monthly viewers of YouTube, and among those viewers, average time spent with video is a fraction of YouTube’s (16.4 vs. 388.3 minutes per viewer).

The YouTube brand landscape

We are living in an age where the term “viral” is being increasingly muddled by social networks seeking to monetize content. Successful brands pay big dollars to seed video content, sponsor posts, and otherwise pay for engagement and exposure. Many of the biggest so-called “viral” campaigns have had millions of views paid for. YouTube is not a level playing field where the best content is guaranteed viral stardom.

A recent Pixability report took a look at Interbrand’s Top 100 Global Brands and their trends on YouTube. It found that most of these brands are overspending on content creation without solid media strategies. How much overspending? Despite billions of dollars of investment to publish YouTube content, over 50% of the videos produced by the Top 100 Global Brands have less than 1,000 views. The brands with the most success are using an always-on media strategy with targeted advertising within YouTube, and embedded placements outside the YouTube platform. They’re optimizing their video tagging and search terms, publishing a wide variety of content consistently, and utilizing embedded placements.

Engagement as “votes”

Like that basic SEO premise of popularity driving relevance, popular videos must be more relevant than unpopular videos. Each view, thumbs up, and subscription is a vote of confidence and increases the visibility of your content.

When brands promote original content solely over closed video platforms, they are missing out. The exponential effect of engagement-building via the YouTube platform is not realized, and the video’s exposure is ultimately limited. Reach is achieved, but there is little momentum.

P.O.S.E. as a video strategy

P.O.S.E. is a simple premise: Publish Once, Share Everywhere. It’s a nod to the philosophy of Create Once, Publish Everywhere — but with more discretion on the “publish” aspect.

It entails focusing your content within YouTube, and embedding and sharing video in as many places as possible. Traditionally, online video advertising may have had your video playing within a Flash rich media banner, which essentially acts as a closed environment. With P.O.S.E., the YouTube video itself is embedded within the media placement to drive up views and engagement. Targeted YouTube placements are used to build reach, engagement, and subscribers. The video is embedded in social media, blogs, news articles, and more. Those eyeballs you paid for now help your video gain momentum.

Not one-size-fits-all

Many brands want to maintain strict ownership of their content, have more control over ad monetization, or struggle with rights management complications. This is especially true of entertainment publishers, where content is a valuable commodity and an open channel like YouTube isn’t necessarily the most profitable means for distribution. In addition, online video advertising on other platforms using pre-roll, post-roll, interstitial, and other placements can be very effective.

Organic exposure is the cheapest exposure. In an increasingly frugal advertising landscape, P.O.S.E. can be a powerful strategy for brands vying to maximize their original content.

Originally published on Mediapost