Video SEO: A technical guide

Update 19-9-2012: I’ve released my own Video SEO plugin for WordPress. Check it out!

As mentioned in a previous post, recently I have started playing with Video SEO, and found it to be a part of SEO I quite like. It’s a very technical trade so far, so apologies for all the code in the article lying in front of you, but there just is no way around it: you’ll need to know about the technical part of these implementations.

What I’ll discuss:

  1. XML Video Sitemaps
  2. MediaRSS for Video SEO
  3. Yahoo! Searchmonkey
  4. Facebook Share for Video SEO
  5. Conclusion: one or more methods?

Talking about that, it seems as though everyone is focussing on XML Sitemaps, while there’s actually not 1 but 4 methods of getting Google to recognize your video content.

Video SEO consists of 3 parts: indexation, ranking and click through optimization. While I might cover #2 and #3 in a later article, I’m focusing on the technical aspects of Video SEO for this article, and thus on the methods of getting your video’s indexed. I’ll focus mainly on Video SEO for Google, as I haven’t really looked at other search engines so far in testing.

XML Video Sitemaps

There’s several ways to tell Google you’ve got video on your site. The most well known, and probably also easiest, is the XML Video Sitemap. Just like a normal XML Sitemap, this sitemap contains URL’s, and for each URL it contains a video section, outlining all the details about that video, from its location and / or player location to its keywords.

<url>
  <loc>http://example.com/video/</loc>
  <video:video>
    <video:title>Sitemap Example Video</video:title>
    <video:publication_date>
      2010-06-17T18:00:00UTC
    </video:publication_date>
    <video:player_loc allow_embed="yes">

http://example.com/video/player.swf

    </video:player_loc>
    <video:content_loc>



    </video:content_loc>
    <video:thumbnail_loc>

http://example.com/video/poster.png

    </video:thumbnail_loc>
    <video:description>
      example description of a sitemap example video
    </video:description>
    <video:category>Example Videos</video:category>
    <video:tag>Examples</video:tag>
    <video:tag>Videos</video:tag>
    <video:tag>Xml Sitemap</video:tag>
    <video:duration>180</video:duration>
  </video:video>
</url>

Most of the attributes of a video are optional, but you need either a location or a player, preferably both, and a “poster“ image. We’ll touch on the image later on, but remember to add this for each and every video.

Once you’ve created an XML video sitemap, make sure to submit it to Google through Google’s Webmaster Tools. While you can submit it manually, you can also ping Google with the URL of the sitemap every time you’ve updated it. Pinging Google is very simple, just open the following URL (replacing the sitemap URL with your own, of course):

http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ping?sitemap=http://example.com/sitemap.xml

Within Google Webmaster Tools you can also check whether Google understands your sitemap, or if it’s missing any vital components.

MediaRSS for Video SEO

Another way of telling Google that your site carries video, that also uses XML, is by adding MediaRSS tags to your RSS feed, and then submitting your RSS feed to Google as a sitemap.

MediaRSS is a standard conceived by Yahoo!, which Google fully supports for the discovery of all sorts of Rich Media, ranging from images to video. Because it’s an add on to your RSS feed, this has one downside compared to XML video sitemaps: usually it’ll only contain your last 10, 20 or 100 posts, while you might have hundreds of posts and pages containing video. The upside is there too: for a lot of sites, their RSS feed get’s indexed very regularly, allowing for fast inclusion of your video in Google’s index.

<media:content 
    url="http://example.com/video/video.mp4" 
    medium="video" 
    duration="180">
  <media:player 
    url="http://example.com/video/player.swf?file=video.mp4" />
  <media:thumbnail 
    url="http://example.com/video/poster.png"/>
  <media:title type="html">Sitemap Example Video</media:title>
  <media:description type="html">
    Example description of a sitemap example video
  </media:description>
  <media:keywords>
    Examples,Videos,XML Sitemap
  </media:keywords>
</media:content>

Yahoo! Searchmonkey

Yes, I said I’d be focusing on Google, and yes this is the second Yahoo! standard I’ve mentioned. The reason is simple: Google supports it. If you mark up your pages with Yahoo! Searchmonkey Video tags, Google will, as stated here, recognize these and list your video in the search results.

Other than XML Video Sitemaps and MediaRSS enhancements, Yahoo! Searchmonkey code goes straight into your pages. This has the benefit that Google will recognize your videos without any additional submission of feeds or sitemaps. Depending on how you embed video, this might be fairly easy to add or might take some more work. The reason is that it starts with attributes on the object element, and some JavaScript based injection methods might not have an object element.

Let’s have a look at what it looks like (example stolen from Google’s example page):

<object width="512" height="296" 
  rel="media:video" 
  resource="http://example.com/video_object.swf?id=12345" 
  xmlns:media="http://search.yahoo.com/searchmonkey/media/" 
  xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/terms/">
    <param name="movie" value="http://example.com/video_object.swf?id=12345" />
    <embed src="http://example.com/video_object.swf?id=12345" 
      type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="512" height="296">
    <a rel="media:thumbnail" href="http://example.com/thumbnail_preview.jpg" />
    <a rel="dc:license" href="http://example.com/terms_of_service.html" />
    <span property="dc:description" 
      content="Example description." />
    <span property="media:title" content="Example title" />
    <span property="media:width" content="512" />
    <span property="media:height" content="296" />
    <span property="media:type" content="application/x-shockwave-flash" />
    <span property="media:region" content="us" />
    <span property="media:region" content="uk" />
    <span property="media:duration" content="63" />
</object>

Most of these aren’t required, and some are even outright not needed at all. There’s only one valid media type: application/x-shockwave-flash. It’s not required, there’s only one option for it anyway: pretty safe to leave it out. You can easily leave out width and height as well for as much as Google is concerned, and you probably won’t need the regions.

Of course, if you use javascript to embed your video’s and thus don’t have an object tag to add this RDFa to, you could add a <noscript> tag with an object tag in it. This object element in the noscript element would have the SearchMonkey RDFa added to it: this is an adequate (and perfectly legal) fallback, for both search engines as well as people browsing the web without JavaScript.

Facebook Share for Video SEO

Facebook Share is probably one of the simplest methods of telling Google about video on a page. It uses meta elements in the head section of a page to point to a video file, poster image, size etc.:

<meta name="title" content="Example title" />
<meta name="description" content="Example description" />
<link rel="image_src" href="http://example.com/thumbnail_preview.jpg" />
<link rel="video_src" href="http://example.com/video_object.swf?id=12345"/>
<meta name="video_height" content="296" />
<meta name="video_width" content="512" />
<meta name="video_type" content="application/x-shockwave-flash" />

Like with Searchmonkey, the video_type is kind of bogus, as are width and height, so you could narrow this down a bit. The Facebook Share method of embedding has the added benefit that it’ll sometimes allow people to share your video on Facebook and play it directly on Facebook too.

Conclusion: one or more methods?

It’s perfectly possible to mix these methods of telling search engines about your videos, in fact you could even use all 4 of them, and there’d be nothing wrong with that. If you ask me which one to use, I’d say: at least use XML sitemaps, and as many of the other ones as you can. In my tests, MediaRSS has been very fast in indexation, so I’d highly recommend using that if applicable to your situation and if speed of indexation is an issue to you.

Something to keep in mind: independent of which method above you use, Google will try to verify whether the video you claim to have on the page is actually on the page, so it’ll look for an object tag, or at the very least a JavaScript element with the link to your video file and / or player in it. If it can’t find these, it won’t index you video.

Please do let me know in the comments how this works for you, and what you’ve been testing with!

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68 Responses

  1. AdubBy Adub on 21 June, 2010

    Is it just me, or do you have the player_loc and content_loc switched in the example XML sitemap on the top of the page?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 21 June, 2010

      Nope, you’re right! Thanks for noticing, just fixed it :)

      • AdubBy Adub on 21 June, 2010

        My pleasure! Glad to help.

  2. mondex1By mondex1 on 22 June, 2010

    Thanks for this very detailed help on Video SEO. I hope you will continue helping newbies like me. Keep it up!

  3. Dev BasuBy Dev Basu on 22 June, 2010

    Thanks for the comprehensive guide Joost. I’m going to be looking forward to the your video sitemaps plugin in the coming months.

  4. Scot ManaherBy Scot Manaher on 22 June, 2010

    I have been using a WordPress addon Yoast called MediaRSS. The biggest drawback here is that if the video is not hosted on your webserver then it will not display in the xml sitemap. So trying to find a way to egt all the videos to show up on my sitemap without having to worry about were they are hosted.

    I asked the author of the addon if he was going to be adding support for non-hosted videos tonight so we will see were that goes.

    For me I’m really a begineer to coding so an addon that does this automatically would be helful. Either way thanks for the great information Yoast!

    Signing off…Scot Manaher

    • Lou Anne McKeeferyBy Lou Anne McKeefery on 28 June, 2010

      I had a redirect setup for a wordpress page to link to an external site. The xml sitemap plugin inserted the external page in my site map. Google webmaster tools bounced my sitemap as having an error. the site url didn’t match the one line item for the external page.

      My conclusion is that sitemaps can only include urls for the domain you are submitting the sitemap to. I don’t know about mediaRSS and whether that has to all be of the same domain or not.

      So be careful with that.

  5. TaletidskortBy Taletidskort on 22 June, 2010

    Excellent post. I want to try toying around with video as well, however the coding part seems a bit advanced for me. I hope that I’ll catch up.

  6. Smart VideoBy Smart Video on 22 June, 2010

    Excellent information here – really helpful. Automating this process if you don’t use wordpress etc but have multiple videos is the next step I guess.

  7. Amber KhanBy Amber Khan on 22 June, 2010

    This is great information and, being new to video SEO, I really appreciate the post.

  8. IngoBy Ingo on 23 June, 2010

    Excellent post. Indeed i little bit technical for most of us but i will definitly have a closer look at
    the info. I do want to mention that there is a new plugin that automates the video site map
    creation. It’s created by Mark Dulisse……

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 June, 2010

      I know, it’s quit ok but it doesn’t work with other video plugins yet, which is a bummer.

      • DB BakerBy DB Baker on 26 June, 2010

        What do you mean it doesn’t work with other video plugins? and why is that a bummer?

        Thanks.

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 26 June, 2010

          As far as I’ve seen (mind you I might be wrong), it doesn’t recognize video’s you’ve inserted with a plugin like Viper’s Video Quicktags or oembed…

  9. Charles CcliftBy Charles Cclift on 24 June, 2010

    Very nice article I found it very informative and learned a few things myself and I’ve been utilizing Video SEO for a while. I see that your in Dallas as am I? Maybe we could meet for lunch somwtime and pick each others brain on some of this Video SEO stuff? You can reach me at 469-450-8740. Have a great day!

    Charles Clift

  10. Anjali SharmaBy Anjali Sharma on 24 June, 2010

    Link Building is all about finding quality back links and optimizing its usage for your businesses. Give your website the advantage of ranking on the top page of Google through Link Building. To get Visit Us at http://www.seorank.com/link-building-campaign.php

  11. SteveBy Steve on 28 June, 2010

    I’ve just started using Google XML Video sitemaps, and as a first shot i have 8 videos in my
    sitemap. I messed around with it quite a bit to get it to where Google is indexing my video
    sitemap. But, after several weeks of that, they are only indexing 7 of my 8 videos. I have carefully studied the syntax of my XML sitemap file, and everything looks OK – no special ASCII characters, apostrophes, or anything like that.

    Is this a freak of nature? Or, is Google freaked out? That is my question to you, Mr Yoast.

    My sitemap is at http://startuptrek.net/sitemap-video.xml

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 28 June, 2010

      Which one is it? Could it be that Google can’t detect the video on that page?

      • SteveBy Steve on 28 June, 2010

        I don’t know how to determine which of the 8 entries is problematic – don’t seem to be able to isolate that, using Google webmaster tools. Can you use Google : commands to figure that out, or determine which videos have been indexed?

        Here is the location of my xml video sitemap:

        http://www.startuptrek.net/sitemap-video.xml

        I’m getting a new warning message about the video sitemap (in Google Webmaster tools), this is what it says:

        URLs not followed
        When we tested a sample of URLs from your Sitemap, we found that some URLs redirect to other locations. We recommend that your Sitemap contain URLs that point to the final destination (the redirect target) instead of redirecting to another URL.

        It also is telling me that it’s getting a 301 Error from this link:

        HTTP Error: 301
        URL: http://startuptrek.net/part-2-brad-feld-interview-angel-investing-and-venture-capital/

        Problem detected on: Jun 28, 2010

        • SteveBy Steve on 28 June, 2010

          I just noticed that the “.swf” extender is missing from the url in that one!

          Maybe that is all that is wrong with the file.

          • Tim CrossBy Tim Cross on 28 June, 2010

            You can use site:www.startuptrek.net to see which pages have been indexed – if you use this in google video it will show any videos that have been indexed for that URL.

            You can combine this with a search phrase so site:www.startuptrek.net brad feld interview will show any pages/videos that have been indexed for those keywords.

            At the moment I don’t see any of your videos there – what are you using to establish that all but one have been indexed?

      • SteveBy Steve on 29 June, 2010

        Tim and Joost, thanks for the information about using the site: command at Google.com/video I did search for my videos and clearly, they are not indexed by Google.

        However, if I login to my Google Webmaster tools account, it shows 8 of the 9 videos as indexed. I have posted a screenshot of that page on my site – take a look at this!:

        http://startuptrek.net/google-webmaster-tools-report/

        So Google says my videos have been indexed, but i cannot find a trace of any of them searching for them using Google video, regular Google, or the site commands. Any idea what’s going on here? Thanks again.

        • Tim CrossBy Tim Cross on 29 June, 2010

          Hi Steve,

          Okay so it looks like hopefully there is just a delay of some kind and hopefully those videos will start to show up soon. When did you submit the sitemap?

          I would also check for any crawl errors in webmastertools.

          Tim

          • SteveBy Steve on 29 June, 2010

            Thanks a bunch, Tim. I checked for crawl errors and there are about 25 of them – but they are just from old, low-traffic blog posts that i’ve recently deleted. I will redirect those url’s tomorrow.

            re: how long ago i submitted the sitemap, it was 3 to 4 weeks ago. It’s been a while. I am surprised that Google didn’t quickly index them, because they are all over my site when i modify posts or make new posts (text) — i have seen a post get indexed in an hour. And my text gets ranked well. But the video, it’s like it doesn’t exist.

            My hosting company is Fliqz in Emeryville, they are a top-drawer video hosting startup; and they are very Google video and seo savvy. That’s where i learned at first, about video sitemaps.

            I still think there is something bigger wrong here. But it’s just a hunch.

            Thanks for your pointers, much appreciated!

    • Tim CrossBy Tim Cross on 28 June, 2010

      I don’t see any of your videos currently indexed in Google? Which one is it specifically that is causing issues?

      It can be very hit and miss in the early days of getting Google to index videos but if you persevere you will generally find that Google will begin to index your site more frequently and with more consistent results.

      There are a few things you could do here to increase the possibility of those videos ranking well when Google does find them.

      • SteveBy Steve on 28 June, 2010

        Tim, I am wondering how you can see that they haven’t indexed any of my videos.

        I just fixed that error in the video sitemap – a “.swf” extender was missing, per above, added a 9th video entry into the sitemap, and re-submitted it using Google WM tools. Maybe that one error, kept them from indexing ANY of the videos?

        Thanks for your interest, it’s great what you’re doing to educate about this aspect of seo. I hear you are going to offer a video sitemap generator, looking forward to that.

        I definitely would like to learn how to tell when Google has indexed a video. I have noticed that none of my videos show up in their search results; although the accompanying text articles rank well in normal (text) search results. Long-tail stuff that should be showing up. So I’m not surprised you’re seeing that they’re not getting indexed.

        Feels like the cusp of a breakthrough, for getting my videos indexed! Which is a big deal for my blog, since most of our effort goes into producing and publishing videos (interviews). But the need to get found:)

      • SteveBy Steve on 29 June, 2010

        Tim, I was using Google Webmaster tools, which was telling me that all but one of the 8 was indexed. I fixed that one – it was the missing .swf.

        I don’t think any of them are being indexed, though. I searched Google video for “mes seattle startup” and all it shows is my YouTube posting of that video. Nothing from my site.

        • Tim CrossBy Tim Cross on 29 June, 2010

          Hi Steve,

          Webmaster tools should show two numbers – how may URLs it finds in the sitemap AND how may are indexed – normally you submit a sitemap and once it has been read provided there are no errors it will show you how many URLs in are the file – it will then take a period of time for those URLs to actually index and start to show in the search results.

          As I metnioned above – you can check what is being indexed by typing

          site:www.yoursiteurl.tv into google and seeing what is returned.

          if you do this in google video you should see any videos that are indexed.

          If you want to find a specific video just use

          site:www.yoursiteurl.tv the title of the video

          this will return any pages with that title – if you don’t see any videos that its likely that its not indexed yet.

          Tim

      • SteveBy Steve on 29 June, 2010

        Tim, what would those things be?

        tia…

      • SteveBy Steve on 29 June, 2010

        There are a few things you could do here to increase the possibility of those videos ranking well when Google does find them.

        Tim, what would those things be?

        tia…

        • Tim CrossBy Tim Cross on 29 June, 2010

          I would suggest you perhaps look at the relationship between the page and the video. Google uses the video Title and Description primarily to establish the nature of the content – the page that the video sits on and the video details should be as closely matched as possible.

          • SteveBy Steve on 29 June, 2010

            for the sitemap, i pulled the “description” and “title” text right from the page that the video sets on. So they are tightly integrated. If you did a transcript of the video, it would also match.

            Good thought, but i think everything is coherent on that front.

  12. DanBy Dan on 28 June, 2010

    Hi Yoast love the podcast and blog – can you tell me what about BING! What methods do you recommend to improve chances of getting indexed and ranked on Bing?

  13. Lou Anne McKeeferyBy Lou Anne McKeefery on 28 June, 2010

    I found that my google xml sitemap could not include any external domains. So if videos are hosted on youtube and you include them in your video xml sitemap will that sitemap even process or will you get an error?

    Even if you can get this to work now, I would think in the future google would only want to index a video to the source and not redundantly at every site that includes it, so I would propose that all self-owned videos should be hosted at your own domain and not posted with an embed from facebook, youtube or external storage systems like Amazon S3.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 28 June, 2010

      That’s nonsense. You can’t self-host video’s without using a CDN if you’re on a larger site like this. A video sometimes gets 100.000 views in a short amount of time… Try that without a CDN.

      • Tim CrossBy Tim Cross on 28 June, 2010

        Yep – CDN is a necessity if you expect any kind of volume. You can’t just submit URLs in a sitemap willy nilly but you certainly can submit URLs from third party URLs – they just need to be correctly “Authorised’ using the appropriate tools.

        • Lou Anne McKeeferyBy Lou Anne McKeefery on 28 June, 2010

          Maybe my experience linking to a different domain in the menu using a custom field and having the site map error isn’t the same situation. This was not a video link and I could not authorize the site. I’ll just start like I have no prior information.

      • JimBy Jim on 6 July, 2010

        Please pardon my lack of knowledge, but what is a CDN?

  14. Scot ManaherBy Scot Manaher on 29 June, 2010

    “CDN is a necessity if you expect any kind of volume”

    For me my situation is just starting out so a CDN is not worth it if your serving only 200 visitors a day. Some of my videos I like to include in my sitemap would get watched only once per viewer, such as an about page video explaining who we are. Posting videos/podcasts like this for the visually impaired with accompanying text for the hearing impaired.

    I know you all said third party videos can be authorized and their are tools out there to do this. Does anyone have any links they could drop me on these tools your talking about?

    • Scot ManaherBy Scot Manaher on 29 June, 2010

      I should have been more clearer I meant a paid cdn. What I mean is if you want your videos to be looked at as being professional and have any kind of authority then you certainly will not host all your videos through youtube.

  15. sterlingBy sterling on 2 July, 2010

    Great post… I have been trying to get better seo results from my Videos.

    Won’t a normal site map show the videos??

  16. CraigBy Craig on 7 July, 2010

    A great post! I must say that I do not really use videos; however, your post will come in handy when I do decide to, thanks.

  17. BropasBy Bropas on 7 July, 2010

    Very helpful post Joost. I look forward to reading more from your hand :) This gave me some inspiration to try out video seo :)

  18. Nile CruisesBy Nile Cruises on 8 July, 2010

    Thanks Joost and Tim. We have a whole bunch of videos on our site but none seem to be
    indexed. Although the pots is a bit technical for me I will work through it to see what we can
    do to imprve our chances of our videos being indexed. Videos play a big part in our
    marketing due to the nature of our business.

    I’ll hope you will develop aVideo sitemap plugin as an earlier post mentions. Thanks for a great blog and podcast.

  19. MarkBy Mark on 16 July, 2010

    It never crossed my mind that there’re sitemaps for video! As far as our Flash content goes, we always thought that google would just index the content inside swf’s and that’s it… Thank you for the info, Joost!

  20. FaisalBy Faisal on 21 July, 2010

    This is great information….

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