Video not showing in search results: why?

In helping out people who are using my Video SEO plugin, I’m finding that some sites get “hit” by what I now call the “Not really a video page” effect. While it’s a pretty rare phenomenon I thought it was a good idea to share with the wider community and see what one can do about it.

After installing my video SEO plugin there are a few things that can happen, usually after having waited for about a week / two weeks:

  • It works, and the video thumbnails start showing as universal search results (most common).
  • It works in universal search results for some, but not for all of the videos, but all of the videos can be found on the videos tab in the search results.

That’s really only the two options I’m encountering now, I’ve yet to see a site where my plugin works (as in, it detects the videos and generates a good XML video sitemap etc) and Google doesn’t show the video in the search results at all, so that’s encouraging. I have been wondering and researching the second option though. What is the difference between posts that Google shows a video snippet for, and posts that it doesn’t give that treatment?

Video SEO research: why it doesn’t work sometimes

The pages where I found Google wasn’t showing a video snippet all shared one trait: they were all heavy content pages. Which is why I started thinking about those and what could be the cause of Google not showing a video result but a normal text result.

Then it hit me: what all of the posts that have videos, but aren’t getting a video snippet in the search results actually have in common, is that the video is not the primary content of the page. The video is “added on” as a bonus, of sorts, instead of being the primary piece. It makes sense for Google to not want to show a video snippet when what the user gets is actually textual or image content, with the video being only a tiny portion of the page.

Your videos back in the search results: the solution

The solution is, as you might have guessed, rather simple. It’s a hard balance to get though: Google still doesn’t understand the video itself, so it needs some content around the video to understand what the video is about. Give it 2-300 words, meaningful tags and a good title and you’ll be a long way there. In theory, if the content is just the transcript of the video, it shouldn’t hurt you, but I haven’t tested that yet.

Now if I had a long piece of content and a video, I would create not one, but two posts. While doing that you have to make a judgement call: if you think your site is strong enough to rank with two results in the top 10 for a given query, target the same keyword. You might get a text result and a video result in the same search results page.

If your site isn’t strong enough to rank with even a text result, optimize the video post for your target keyword and link from the content post to the video result. You might be able to boost your own video result into the search results, as ranking with a video tends to be easier than ranking with a text result.

General tip: be sure to use the word video!

Related to all of the above is one very simple tip: make sure to add the word video to titles of posts that contain a video, and to mention the word video a couple of times. People are actively searching for video content quite often, make sure they can find yours!

That last tip and the fact that you shouldn’t have too much content actually got me thinking: my page analysis functionality in my WordPress SEO plugin, which is needed for my Video SEO plugin, is actually giving you slightly the wrong hints in that regard, as it urges you to write longer copy, when a bit shorter copy would actually be beneficial. So I decided to fix that. If you have the latest version of both plugins, the page analysis functionality will now give you hints about the length of your copy and it will hint you to use the word video in your title.

This means you might get a notice like this (click for larger version):

Video SEO notices

If you have any other ideas of checks I could add to make it easier for you to optimize your videos, do let me know in the comments!

Read more: How to optimize your WordPress video gallery for SEO »

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36 Responses to Video not showing in search results: why?

  1. swanie
    swanie  • 9 years ago

    I’ve been using this plugin for one of my clients for the past month or so with delightful results. I went the Vimeo route which has worked great. I also noticed that the plugin can only handle ONE video per page or post. Thus, when I created new sub-pages with the other videos, they started ranking alongside my first page … so, definitely right now, one video per page is the way to go … if you have more videos, create new sub-pages/posts for them.

    And yes, I preceded my video embeds with an H3 tag that had “video” in it along with a short intro paragraph before the video embed.

    Very cool that the schema stuff is automatically inserted on the page!

  2. Lang
    Lang  • 9 years ago

    Yes, I might have to do that. I was hoping to use thumbnails that open videos in a lightbox when clicked. That way I could create some very slick educational pages containing multiple videos that don’t require the user to open separate pages to view each video.

    Another way to include multiple videos per page is to use a player such as the JWPlayer with a playlist that includes thumbnails.

    But of course I’d like to get good SEO from all those videos and not waste their potential. So one video per page does make sense, even though it would be quite a hassle for viewers to keep jumping between pages.

    • Lang
      Lang  • 9 years ago

      dang, I somehow flubbed getting my last comment to show up in the right place.

  3. Lang
    Lang  • 9 years ago

    Dear Joost:

    In checking out your Video SEO plugin, I found your list for “Testing Video SEO” on the product description page. I opened each of those 15 links to make sure the blog entry title was correct and then “googled” the 15 titles. The majority (9) showed up in my search results without video thumbnails, showing only your photo from Google Plus. In other words, in 9 out of the 15 tests, it appears that your plugin is not working.

    For example: Do a google search for “Vimeo oEmbed test” (where the results do not include the video thumbnail) versus “Viddler oEmbed test” (where the video thumbnail does appear).

    Any explanation for the 9 tests that seem not to be working?

    • Joost de Valk

      Ho there Lang, you’re drawing conclusions you can’t draw. Search for each of those titles in video search, then you’ll see it works.

      The reason you’re seeing my author image is because you’re finding my page not as a universal / video result, but as a normal web result. Google determines what to show to whom based on a variety of variables, some of which are unknown. So it’s not that the plugin is not working, “just” that your test is invalid…

      • Lang
        Lang  • 9 years ago

        One other question. With regard to, I assume that your Video SEO plugin simply pulls the required schema “itemprop” descriptions directly from info provided through your main WordPress SEO plugin. Is that correct?

        In your tutorial for Video SEO, there is no indication that additional info is required when embedding a video. Yet schema does have several required itemprop fields. So somewhere that information (about the video) needs to be entered. Right?

        • Joost de Valk

          Also: for Google to show the video snippet, it wants that video to be the main content of the page. There can’t be several videos that are each the main content of the page, so I doubt it’d ever work.

          • Joost de Valk

            I think you’d be better off splitting those into several posts / pages / subpages, might be worth a test ;)

          • Lang
            Lang  • 9 years ago


            Thanks so much for your almost instant responses. Plenty of food for thought here!

            I will be posting lots of videos on my web site in the future, many as part of educational pages that will feature multiple videos, so that’s why I’m grappling with these issues.

        • Joost de Valk

          That’s all drawn from the post, if there’s no description, the plugin generates one based on the post, but all the other details are mapped to post details.

          • Lang
            Lang  • 9 years ago

            Yes, I might have to do that. I was hoping to use thumbnails that open videos in a lightbox when clicked. That way I could create some very slick educational pages containing multiple videos that don’t require the user to open separate pages to view each video.

            Another way to include multiple videos per page is to use a player such as the JWPlayer with a playlist that includes thumbnails.

            But of course I’d like to get good SEO from all those videos and not waste their potential. So one video per page does make sense, even though it would be quite a hassle for viewers to keep jumping between pages.

          • Joost de Valk

            It needs more testing, but right now, this plugin only optimizes one video per post. XML Video sitemaps allow for only one video per URL, that’s the underlying reason. I’m not saying it’s perfect, I’m saying that’s what it does right now :)

          • Lang
            Lang  • 9 years ago

            Wow, so google ignores schema information for anything but the first video in a post? Of this is the case, it means that if someone searched using the title of the third video on a page, google wouldn’t return the page at all.

            Or does it mean that google would spit out the page (because it has seen the title of the third video) but only display the thumbnail of the first video on the page? If this is the case, there would be an argument for providing accurate schema info for each video on a page.

          • Joost de Valk

            There is only one video per post as far as the plugin is concerned, because that’s the only thing Google can handle. Right now it picks the first.

          • Lang
            Lang  • 9 years ago

            oops … I forgot that schema also needs the title of each video. That should be added to the list:

            itemprop = title

          • Lang
            Lang  • 9 years ago

            But what if a post includes several different videos? Schema, as I understand it, is looking for the following item type designation, and item properties, which would describe each individual video:

            1. itemtype = videoObject
            2. itemprop = description
            3. itemprop = duration
            4. itemprop = url of video
            5. itemprop = url of thumbnail (if one is provided)

            Also, is a video sitemap really necessary if all the schema information is provided for each video? In other words, wouldn’t schema alone be sufficient for decent SEO of embedded videos?

      • Lang
        Lang  • 9 years ago

        thankee for explunation! : >)

  4. Jeff
    Jeff  • 9 years ago

    I have lots of videos on my site and want to purchase your plugin, but I think I have 2 things going against me. #1) I use thesis and if remember correctly your required SEO plugin and thesis don’t play nice. #2) A lot of our videos are Easy Video Player code.

    Any work arounds? Thanks! Would love to support your awesome plugins!

  5. Thomas Langenbucher
    Thomas Langenbucher  • 9 years ago

    Video thumbnails are unfortunately added to the post attachements and therefore displayed on the live site when using the gallery shortcode as well. Deleting the thumbnail from the post attachments seems to also remove them from the Google search results.

    Any idea how to keep the thumbnails in the search results without having them displayed in the post gallery?

    • Joost de Valk

      Yeah sure, add this in wp-config.php:

      define('WPSEO_VIDEO_NO_ATTACHMENTS', true);

      • Thomas Langenbucher
        Thomas Langenbucher  • 9 years ago

        Thanks Joost, that worked great!

  6. Gadgets 4 Guys
    Gadgets 4 Guys  • 9 years ago

    Really enjoyed the article. It seems that SEO is quickly becoming less of SEO and more of just pure marketing.

  7. [keyword deleted]
    [keyword deleted]  • 9 years ago

    “the video is not the primary content of the page” this is correct as you can see on about Recipes Rich snippets google says: “When using recipe markup, the main topic of the page needs to be about a specific recipe.” I’d think the same would be true for videos!

  8. Mark Lewis
    Mark Lewis  • 9 years ago

    I’ve had success with video in the SERPS…if you optimize them correctly you can even get a 2-for-1 because the actual page will appear as a separate website. Video optimization is awesome and a HUGE benefit that everybody should be doing.

  9. Brendan
    Brendan  • 9 years ago

    After having the plugin for a week and not seeing snippets I’ve dug into the problem a bit more – seems that adding the video sitemap separately into webmaster tools sorted it for some of our sites – might be an easy way to speed up the snippets showing..may be because it triggers a reindex faster

  10. Sanitair
    Sanitair  • 9 years ago

    Thanks, that is a great tip for later use! A lot of great articles on this site anyway.

  11. Oscar
    Oscar  • 9 years ago

    I have three point to make:

    1. I have multiple long and short articles with video. Some of the long ones (1500 words +) have video snippets, others don’t. So there is also an exception to the lenght of posts of showing video snippets.

    2. I think it also has to do with placing the video above or below the fold in the blogpost. When seeing video snippets in the search results, people are really used to land on a youtube video page where they can immediately see the video. When Google would show video snippets for blogposts where there is a video all the way at the bottom of a page that will confuse or even mislead the user because they were expecting to see a video right away. Unfortunately, this rule doesn’t apply to all my blogpost.

    3. In addition to that, I think there is also the question in Google’s mind that says: are you now posting video’s (or adding ones) to your blogposts to get rich video snippets or do you really want to give the best user experience? But, here are also some exceptions when I look at my blogposts.

  12. dmsr
    dmsr  • 9 years ago

    then plugin too expensive for random results …

  13. Dalton Funeral Home
    Dalton Funeral Home  • 9 years ago

    I did some SEO work for a company and setup a Google+ account. I created a video (loaded to YouTube) and loaded it from YouTube on the Google+ account along with photos. The video does not show on the search page of Google for the company & competitors when searching for the keyword for the company. Part of the photos show (limited space including the Google map image) but the video does not show up at all. Why offer a place to load 5 videos on Google+ if they will not show?

  14. Kyle Clouse
    Kyle Clouse  • 9 years ago

    Here is some feedback about the plugin that might help others get their pages and posts indexed with the video thumbnail.

    One thing that we have noticed is that the Video SEO plugin works much better in the SERP’s when the embed code of the video is interested into the post before the post is published.

    If you publish a post and then come back (even moments later) and add the embed code of a video to the post after it’s initially been published, the results are not as good.

    Upload you video first to Vimeo or YouTube and then include the embed code in the post before you publish it; not as an after thought add-on.

    • Boo Radley
      Boo Radley  • 9 years ago

      I really appreciate the tip. But, now I’m a little torn.

      I’m about to purchase (as soon as I get done typing this!) the video plugin, but I’m still not sure where to host my videos.

      The idea of hosting the videos on my own site and using something like JW Player is most appealing to me for a number of reasons; particularly the fact that I can can use videos as a link building tactic that will give my site, not YouTube or Vimeo, the “link juice”.

      On the other hand, Vimeo (or something of that sort) seems to be much easier for beginners to video (like myself) and would seemingly rank better/quicker.

      I guess my question is…does this (the general of Google choosing which video snippets they show in the results) effect what video hosting/playing platform I should use?

      Which video hosting/playing platform would you suggest (keeping in mind I don’t have a several thousand $/year budget to host them).

      I realize I’m not going to get close to perfect starting out, but any advice about the implications this might have on choosing a hosting/playing platform would be much appreciated.

      Thanks ahead of time!

      • Joost de Valk

        Hi Boo,

        good question. I’d go for Vimeo Pro, cost effective and so far pretty excellent results with videos ranking.

    • Kyle Clouse
      Kyle Clouse  • 9 years ago

      TYPO: video is *inserted into the post before the post is published.

      • Oscar
        Oscar  • 9 years ago

        You got a good point. I was noticing that too but there are some exceptions.

  15. Xavier
    Xavier  • 9 years ago

    What about adult video (porn)? Are they displayed in the serp?

    Is it better to place the text before or after the video?

    If i place some outbound related link at authorithy site (wikipedia, gooogle / yahoo news, hi pr blogs) in the same post as the video, will it have a negative impact?

    I saw that having targeted kw in title or h1 is a negative factor for google now, do you agree?

  16. Brad Dalton
    Brad Dalton  • 9 years ago

    I put the video at the end of the posts and put the word video above it.

    My video’s and images are ranking really well but my text has vanished completely.

    Not sure why.

    I also include the url to the post at the end of the video description on Youtube and share it from there to social networks.