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What is video?
Websites are typically constructed with up to three aesthetic elements, used to communicate messages to an audience:
- Visual - created with images & CSS styling.
- Aural - created with music and voice-over.
- Conceptual - created with text.
This presentational format is no accident, as it mirrors the building blocks of artistic and creative expression that have been a constant for thousands of years:
- Visual Art - expressed in painting & sculpture.
- Aural Art - expressed in dance and song.
- Conceptual Art - expressed in literature and poetry.
In its most basic form, video is the integration of these aesthetic concepts — an abstraction of the aforementioned primary art forms into a secondary integrated whole, an artistic work experienced conceptually and perceptually simultaneously. It is image (visual), music (aural) and story (conceptual) all rolled into one. If sculpture could be surmised as three dimensional painting, then film/video is two-dimensional theatre.
This is how video should be approached when we begin thinking about the web — not as a type of content which is an interchangeable format to text and image, but an integration of these elements, demanding full time-bound attention from an audience.
Over the past few years, faster connection speeds have allowed the smooth streaming of HD web video on both desktop and mobile devices, making video instantly accessible to web users and a necessary form of engagement for brands and small businesses alike.
Why is video valuable?
The value of video is threefold:
- Improved User Engagement
- Brand Awareness
- Search Engine Optimization
- Generating more traffic through rich content signals and rich snippets
- Improving conversions
- Building links
- Having a presence on video search engines
Value 1. Video Offers User Engagement
Reading is an active experience. As you are reading this guide now, you are choosing the speed at which you take in the words, the moments where you pause to consider the statements and in which order you view the sections. Your journey through the content is very much self-determined and follows the following cognitive process:
- Appraisal of meaning
- Evaluation of meaning
- Emotional response
This might look like…
- I am reading about online Video Marketing
- Video Marketing is the process of promoting an entity online through video
- This could be useful for my company
- I am excited to learn more
However, video as a medium, allows a user very little freedom in terms of consumption — it’s easy for users to skim read text and decide which sections are most relevant to them. Video offers no ‘skim-read’ option — you either watch the video in its entirety, or it fails to hold your attention and you stop watching. Additionally watching a video is a somewhat passive experience. When users decide to press ‘play’, they are asking to be shown something — asking to be given the content in an integrated, multi-disciplinary form — rather than digging through the content and exploring the meaning themselves.
Video is therefore a different method of engaging audiences than image and text. With video, the experience of comprehension is more immediate, driven by the trio of story-telling elements available and the deterministic nature of the restricted timescale. The amount of information that can be displayed through one second of video vastly outnumbers the amount of information that can be read. This means the emotional response - the kneejerk reaction - often comes before the full appraisal of the content or the comprehension of the meaning.
Consequently, video allows you to generate instant emotional connection with an audience, helping you to build influencers quickly and efficiently from agnostic parties; but conversely can also earn you detractors just as quickly. As such, the video you create must achieve that instant emotional engagement, otherwise you risk turning off potential influencers and customers.
“If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then a video is worth a 1000 words, 25 times a second.”
Case Study of Video & Engagement
Tracking engagement over the past 6 months on the SEOmoz.org daily blog, we can see that posts with videos have a significantly higher average time on site than those without videos.
Posts with videos see an average time on site of 5 minutes 29 seconds, while posts without videos see an average time on site of 4 minutes 46.
The same increased engagement is mirrored when we compare social shares based on media type.
Average number of shares per post:
Video posts seem to perform cumulatively better on social networks than the more traditional blog post format, and this is particularly true on Facebook.
Value 2. Video Assists with Branding
Through video, one is able to recreate the experience of being face to face with someone much better than through audio, image or text. Through moving likeness and recorded image, we can display much of who we are, as people, through physical and verbal expression. For branding, this is extremely important - as it allows companies to display a “human” side considerably more efficiently than through image, audio and text.
Due to the relative low uptake, online video can also indicate professionalism and brand quality - If a company has enough time, money and skills to create high quality video, they are often perceived as a legitimate business with a genuine interest in providing a great service.
Value 3. Video Offers Positive Signals to Search Engines
Video is also an extremely valuable resource for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), as it assists with the following goals:
a) Generating more traffic through rich snippets
In the Google search engine results pages (SERPs), thumbnail images are sometimes attached to the results to indicate that the web page contains a video.
These image augmented results typically have higher click through rates (more people click on them) than standard results, meaning getting “video rich snippets” can be a fantastic way of increasing traffic for a website.
By including video on your site and implementing the correct technical mark-up, It’s possible to get these augmented search results.
b) Improving conversions
Through increasing engagement and trust, video content can be a great way of driving greater conversions, particularly on commercial pages. This is the main reason why product videos have become popular in the E-commerce world – as a method of improving the rate at which users click “add to basket” and complete a full purchase.
c) Link Building
Links continue to be an important metric with which search engines determine the authority of a piece of content, seeing referring links as akin to “votes” for various pages around the web. Search result rankings are then based on a combination of relevancy (determined by the content and terms used on the page) and authority (determined by the number of referring links and social shares).
Casey Henry from SEOmoz ran a study in October 2009 which calculated the number of inbound links pointing to SEOmoz blog posts based on media type - discovering that pages with a mixture of media types and form, particularly those containing video, generated more inbound links than plain pages with only images and text.
d) Presence on Video Search Engines
YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine (after Google). The only way to get a presence on YouTube (and Vimeo) is to have video content and a channel, which you can use to rank in both YouTube and Google search, which will drive brand awareness, referrals and sales.
When does video work?
The most common mistake made by individuals and companies creating video is to view video as content akin to blog posts or interactive graphics - rather than as a form and media type.
Video is an integration of text, image and music towards a unified goal, functioning effectively when these elements are symbiotic rather than disintegrated.
Therefore, video is not necessarily an appropriate form for every kind of idea or story. If you ever find yourself trying to “convert” content into a video, rather than developing the video idea organically, then it’s often an indicator that things have gone awry in the creative process.
Luckily, there are two easy ways of determining whether or not an idea will work well as a video. The first is to ask:
Would this content lose something if it were just text and image?
A great example of this is with the “Will it blend” series of videos from BlendTec:
It’s quite clear that simply displaying images of an iPad being put into a blender along with accompanying text would not have the same appeal or visual punch as the physical demonstration of blending an iPad.
The second question which should give an indicator of appropriate content type is:
Does the idea or content require aesthetic as well as conceptual engagement?
If an idea requires a visual or aural element in order to be interesting - this is a clear indicator that it could work well as a video. Conversely, if you find yourself adding in the visuals as an afterthought - this is a clear indicator that the idea will not work well as a video.
This is the case with the GAIQ videos created by Google for those practicing for the Google Analytics Individual Qualification.
The content here is ultimately not appropriate for the form. It’s text heavy, conceptual and poorly paced to aid the primary purpose of the content - comprehension and learning. The visual display adds nothing to the experience, being just a list of text. The GAIQ videos (sorry Google) are prime examples of videos that would work better as text blog posts with accompanying images.
The key to coming up with a killer idea, irrespective of style or goal is adhering to a rigorous creative process that lets the story, rather than the medium of story-telling, drive decisions about appropriate form and core goals.
- Content Gap Analysis - What do people care about? What might work in your niche? What have other people done in different verticals?
- Form Gap Analysis - What style of content is appropriate for your idea? Is video really the right form?
- Work Out What You Want to Achieve - Pick out the core purpose of your content. Should you build different bits of content to achieve different aims or can you hit all your goals with one bit of content?
- Develop Your Idea – Who is your target audience? What style of content will work well to achieve for your goals?
Content Gap Analysis
While video can be an extremely valuable asset for businesses with an online presence, it’s not always going to be the best form for every kind of content and every type of business.
Typical failings in the creative process come when companies decide to do video before they have relevant and appropriate idea for the content it will contain.
The skill to creating great video is in working out when and where to use it, focusing on identifying and filling content gaps rather than form gaps.
Core content gaps are usually readily identifiable; typically determined by the needs and wants of your target demographic against the knowledge, expertise and USPs you have within your organisation.
A great example of successful content gap analysis is the online retailer, Zappos. Zappos recognised that individuals often struggle to make decisions about purchasing shoes and clothes online – as they are unable to determine by technical specification alone, whether or not the items would fit or would work well for the purposes they had in mind. Zappos observed that individuals need to make an emotional connection to personal products such as shoes before committing to a purchase.
Zappos figured out that a great way to close this disconnect and improve the experience of their customers would be to offer personal advice and testimonials from their staff – such as you might get if you were to walk into a physical store and ask for fashion advice. To date, Zappos have created over 200,000 product videos.
“The goal behind Zappos product videos is to help establish an emotional connection with our customers and it’s really to help them make a better decision.”Laurie Williams, Senior Manager of Photo & Video for Zappos
Does your product fulfil a need demanded by the market place? Do you have experience or talent in your company that others would be interested to learn from? Is there anything your target audience requires, not currently provided on the internet? Further content gaps can be discovered using the following methods:
Using the Google keyword research tool you can find demands for both commercial and informational content within your vertical. To discover content demands, input a selection of keywords with “broad match” selected and explore the ideas Google offers up alongside the relative search volume to determine possible gaps. For more information about undertaking effective Keyword Research, check out the module in our online training platform DistilledU.
What successful marketing content have your competitors created? Are there any obvious knowledge gaps which are yet to be filled by your competitors, both online and offline?
Analysis in Different Verticals
Look for successful content in other industries that you can replicate. Have you seen anything excellent recently that could easily be transposed to a topic in your industry?
Form Gap Analysis
Once you’ve identified a content gap, you should have a fledging idea in the making. It’s at this point where you work out whether or not your idea is going to be best served in a video or another media type. Oftentimes you may begin the creative process imaging a video or a blog post, and later to decide that a different form may be the most appropriate method of communicating that story.
Ask yourself - Would this content lose something if it were just text and image?
If the honest answer is no, then video probably isn’t the right form for this idea. However, if you cannot imagine your idea having impact in any other form than video; if combining imagery, text elements and audio feels integral to the concept – then you should feel confident in picking video as your chosen form.
If you’ve decided your idea is going to be best served with video, you can begin to visualize some finer aspects of how this video will look, where it will live and how it will be structured. Should this be an episodic series, or a single linear piece? Something for a stand-alone webpage or content designed to augment and improve an existing page? Will the audience require certain knowledge prior to watching the video?
Work out What You Want to Achieve
The next task is to formalize what you hope to achieve, based on this aforementioned list of marketing values achievable with video.
- Improved User Engagement
- Brand Awareness
- Search Engine Optimization
- Generating more traffic through rich content signals and rich snippets
- Improving Conversions
- Building Links
- Having a Presence on Video Search Engines
If you’ve selected more than one of the above values, you should also start to think about whether you can achieve those different aims with a single piece of content, or whether you’ll have better success splitting the goals and targeting each with a different kind of video. The decisions here will define both the appropriate technical implementation for your video and the key performance indicators with which you will measure its success.
Developing Your Idea
The style and type of your video should be developed organically starting with the core aim(s) you’ve defined.
1) Improving User Engagement
To do this, content will need to be thought-provoking, provide useful information or creative value and invite further action following playback.
An important factor in improving user engagement is working out the appropriate placement of video content on the page -- optimising the user experience and design to encourage people to watch and respond to the video. Additionally, when launching the content, making space for things such as social responses and comments can be a great way to elicit better user engagement.
A fantastic example of this achieved successfully is the SEOmoz whiteboard Friday series
Whiteboard Friday is a weekly release from SEOmoz, where short-form informational tips are given out by a speaker in front of a whiteboard. The ideas espoused within the videos are covered point by point, and therefore serve as a fantastic starting point for debate and discussion in the well-orchestrated community framework.
To improve brand awareness, you either need to create a fantastic and engaging “ad” for your company and service, build out some extremely creative pieces that will generate buzz as a consequence of the creative value or create informational content valuable to your target community. Invariably, you’ll want to be putting such content on YouTube and social sharing sites, where it will get in front of the most eyes, so you should also consider what kind of content will work specifically well for those forums and communities.
For more advertorial pieces, interviews with members of staff work well to improve brand trust, especially if you’re a new organisation without a strong identity. If you can combine this method with slideshows or animation for informational (not heavily promotional) content, then you can create great content very simply that works to express brand identity and convince potential customers of a USP. These videos can be humorous, subversive, serious or somber – but ultimately always need to emotionally engage with an audience instantly in order to generate traction. For paid placement “pre-roll” or “in-stream” ads specifically, time restrictions mean these videos need to be short, to the point and get the message across fast – ideally having the core of the message played out within 30 seconds.
The following examples stand as excellent videos for branding:
3) Search Engine Optimisation
a) Conversions and/or Rich Snippets
Improving conversions is usually achieved through the product video model; with videos created specifically for relevant commercial landing pages to aid users in their decisions about purchasing, or taking the next step in a conversion funnel. The importance here is about enriching an existing page or section on a site with content that provides easily digestible information or entertainment.
Videos created to extol the virtues of a specific product or service can be great for this, but what shouldn’t be used with the goal improving conversions are promotional “ads”. Ads are an invasive, outbound form of marketing, designed to attract attention to a product or service. If a user is already on your website, then they have already partially bought in to your company and are at the very least, interested to know more. In this case, hard-selling the virtues of your company is typically unnecessary and can turn an otherwise captive audience off.
Below are two examples of content working well to secure rich snippets and improve conversions.
Amazing Gravity Defying Phone Holder – Ideas by NET
“The video was a great success for us, not only did we receive lots of links and increase our social media engagement, we saw a considerable effect on bottom line sales, with an increase of 300% which helped us achieve new contacts and subsequent sales. We also saw a shift in our rankings. The home page jumped up 2-3 spots on some of our key terms and the product page now ranks number #1 for the product name.”Lianne Froggatt, Digital Marketing Executive - Ideas by Net
SearchLove Trailer - Distilled
“Having a trailer on our events page allowed us to get a video rich snippet result and jump from fifth to third in the Google rankings for the term “SEO Conference” in the UK. This increased our organic search traffic for this term by 32% month on month.”Tom Neville, Product Owner - Distilled
Google is essentially impartial about the style of videos it will reward rich snippets for – However, it is normally the case that pages you are most concerned with improving rankings and click through rates for are commercial pages with a monetary value attached to them. These pages are normally best served with a product video.
b) Building Links
In order to get links, content has to be relevant to a specific audience demographic who have control of a wider presence across the web. It has to engage with this community well enough so that they will see specific value in promoting it via links or embedding it on their site.
More than any other goal with creating video, building video for links dictates that the content must be absolutely exceptional. People don’t embed mediocre videos. If someone embeds a video on their site - it has to be because they want their readers to temporarily disengage from their own content and spend time watching yours.
However, exceptional does not necessarily mean exciting or flashy. People will link to and embed useful resources as much as they will beautiful imagery. Below are some examples of content styles which work well for this “video as linkbait” approach:
b1) News Releases
Video News Releases can be a great way of getting links from high authority news sites, as the added media element helps to ensure that your press release makes it to the top of a journalist’s pile. VNR’s can be relatively cheap and easy to produce, typically combining a mixture of interviews and testimonials with shots and footage of the subject matter in question.
“VNR, Videos News Releases hold a new focus in today’s news world where publications are trying to do everything they can to make their news dance more online. The realms of static text predefined by the nature of print publication no longer exist in an online world.
In bygone times the most exciting thing an editor could do to jazz up a story was place a cracking image with it. Equally PRs looking to get their clients placed in the public eye would often go to great lengths to secure a good image to go with their story, knowing that a good image would give their story a competitive edge, providing video clips to the media to use online can provide similar leverage.
News publications are fighting to make themselves profitable, resources are tighter than ever before. If you can provide good video content to go with your story and sell it in with your story (via VNR) you are helping them do their jobs better.
Many sites are creating video only sections (if they dont have them already) yet they do not get the same amount of video content sent to them as they do ‘story ideas’ and images, hence the market for getting onto this area of the site is less saturated, should you be able to professionally pitch your video content (hence VNR)”Lexi Mills, Head of PR - Distilled
c) Presence on Video Search Engines
The YouTube and Vimeo communities value a plethora of content, from answers to informational queries to pictures of cute cats – but, no matter what the style of the content, successful videos invariably always do one of the following:
- Provide useful or interesting information
Entertaining videos normally offer one or a combination of the following elements: humour, visual aesthetic appeal or an impressive display of skill. Humorous videos usually keep to a simple structure, following either a repeated gag in numerous different circumstances, or follow a traditional aural joke structure with a narrative build-up to a single punch-line.
Videos that instruct can come in the form of tutorials, tips, lectures or visual guides, while those that provide useful or interesting information exist to serve a particular community or interest group.
To succeed on these sites - you need to think about targeting a specific subset of the overall audience - who will want to search for and watch your video? Consider that most people who view your videos through video sharing sites are unlikely to have prior knowledge of your brand or marketing efforts. This means that you need to consistently work for their attention - ensuring each creation is interesting or entertaining in it’s own right. Examples of this done successfully:
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- Technical Implementation
- Creating Great Content
- Launching Your Videos
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- Measuring Success
- The Future of Online Video
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