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):
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!