Video SEO Tactics to Get Ranked

Video content should be part of your content strategy if it isn’t already as people really like it and it can be easier to rank video content for competitive keywords than ‘normal’ content when video results are incorporated into the SERP.  I wanted to share some tips from my experience. If you have other tips, drop a line in the comments and share!

Don’t Host Your Videos on YouTube

Ok, that’s not always true. YouTube is a good source of getting views for your videos as it is the second largest search engine, but it isn’t always the best place to host your videos.  If the keywords you are targeting cause video results to turn up in the search results, then you should not host the video on YouTube, rather, host it on your own site.

An additional consideration is that YouTube views rarely turn into website traffic. If your main goal is to drive more traffic to your website, you should host the video on your own site.

If you want the video on your site instead of YouTube, you don’t have to host yourself. There are many video hosting services out there, like Wistia, that will not only let you embed the video (as YouTube does), but they go further and provide you with a video XML sitemap, attributing ownership of the video to your site.

Video XML Sitemaps

If you want the video on your site rather than YouTube, create a video XML sitemap and submit it in Google Webmaster Tools. This will help Google to discover this content (but it won’t impact your rankings). If you use a service like Wistia, they will generate a video XML sitemap for you that you can submit.

If you want to make your own, here are some things to keep in mind.

There are five basic requirements for a video XML sitemap – you must provide the following for every video:

  • Title
  • Description
  • URL of the play page – the page you want to show up in search results
  • URL for the thumbnail you want associated with the video
  • URL for the raw file location or the URL for the player location

If you are putting the video on YouTube or Vimeo, you will have to use the URL for the player location rather than the URL of the raw file location. Further, if you are putting your video on YouTube or Vimeo, you should still provide a video sitemap as this will provide more meta data for the video.

Additionally, keep in mind that an XML sitemap can only have 50,000 entries.

There are additional tags that can be included in a sitemap (and you should include as many as possible) – Google provides documentation of these here.

If you are on WordPress, there are a couple plugins you might want to look into:

Keyword Research

Though it seems really basic to state the value in keyword research, it is frequently a process that is overlooked for video content. Here are tools you can use to do some keyword research (though, it may be really rough)

If you are planning on hosting the video on YouTube, look at these tools:

YouTube Keyword Tool

Sometime you can get some good data from this tool, but most of the time it provides a frustrating experience as it is broken most of the time (see screen shots)


youtube keyword tool workingNot Working

YouTube Keyword Tool Not Working

Even Worse

Youtube keyword tool broken

YouTube Suggest

While this doesn’t really show you how many people are searching for terms, it can help you come up with some ideas.

Youtube auto-suggest

If you are hosting the video on your site, use your normal keyword research tools.

Once you have determined your keywords, make sure to use them in the:

  • Video Title
  • File Name
  • Video description
  • Closed caption/transcript file
  • Comments
  • Surrounding text (if the video is hosted on your site)

Transcribe Your Videos

As Google can’t determine the content of a video like they can do for a blog post, Google won’t really know the content of the video unless you tell them exactly what’s in it. The solution is to transcribe your videos and put the content below the video.

Exported in HD

Videos that are exported in HD tend to perform better than those that aren’t. YouTube won’t know the difference between a video that is filmed in HD and one that is filmed in SD and simply exported in HD. That in mind, it is really important to make sure it can scale from 1920 x 1080 down to the actual player size.

There could be a lot of factors playing into this but as a best practice, you will want to film (or export) in the highest quality possible. This is true for both videos that you put on YouTube and host yourself.

 Manipulate the Embed Code

Sure, you can provide your users with the embed code that Wistia or YouTube gives you. Or you can edit it so that you get a link out of it.

This is the embed code that YouTube gives you:
<iframe width=“560” height=“315” src=“” frameborder=“0” allowfullscreen></iframe>

You should edit the embed code that you give your users so that it includes a link back to your site:

<center><p><iframe width=“560” height=“315” src=“” frameborder=“0” allowfullscreen></iframe><br /> Video by <a href=“”>Devin Graham</a></p></center>

Which shows up like this:

Video by Devin Graham

You can take it one step further, and provide a text box that automatically selects the text:

<center><h3>Put This Video on Your Site</h3></center><p style=“text-align:center”><textarea rows=“5” cols=“50” onclick=“this.focus();;”><center <iframe width=“560” height=“315” src=“” frameborder=“0” allowfullscreen> <br /> Video by <a href=“”>Devin Graham</a></center></textarea></p>


This will give you a nice text box around your embed code:

If you have a fancy Wistia account (super embed) or Vimeo Pro, you can edit the embed code so that it will incorporate any links that you need for your optimization efforts.

Good Headline

Like any link bait that you release, your video should have a good headline. Instead of rephrasing what is already written, I will recommend that you read Magnetic Headlines.

More Resources

If you want to explore the technical details, check out these posts:

A guide to Youtube SEO by David Sottimano

A guide to creating awesome videos for SEO by Phil Nottingham

Geoff Kenyon

Geoff Kenyon

Geoff Kenyon is a senior consultant at Distilled where he leads the strategy and execution of online marketing strategies to drive traffic and revenue for his clients.  Geoffh264 // Geoff joined Distilled in 2010 after working in-house and...   read more

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  1. I think you're already behind in 2012, video has reached the point where there is enough content out there that most short/medium tail keywords are already taken. Still lots of room to play in the long tail thought!

    Good post...

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  2. Kamran

    Videos are now dominating SERPS. Major search Engines, including Google is working at large pace to enhance their capabilities to index the video content in a better way.
    In a recent development markup for Videos has been launched.

    Here is Google Blog Post regarding new markup code for videos.

    This markup support along with XML sitemap will surly make it easier to index the video content.

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  3. Michel Ozzello

    Great tips and advice.

    However I don't fully agree when you say "YouTube views rarely turn into website traffic". My website's videos are currently hosted on youtube and embeded in the website. On a monthly basis I get a constant flow of traffic from YouTube, which, althoughlrelatively low in volume (1-2% of total visits), has very good quality. In fact the Bounce rate is only 31.85% , and the traffic has a 32.26% goal conversion rate, over 5 minutes Time on Site and 5.34 Pages Viewed.

    Your tips will definitely help me further optimize video and boost traffic, for sure.

    BTW, Justin Hammack wrote a great post on the SEOmoz blog which makes a good "companion" for this post.

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    • Great insight - I'm glad you're able to get great traffic from YouTube. I wasn't super clear, I was getting at relative to the number of views (from my experience), traffic is really small.

      Thanks for the link to the moz post :)

  4. Great article. Question: do you host videos both on your site AND on YouTube? There seems to be great opportunities to title for YouTube to appeal to YouTube search, and then embed on your own site via Wistia with a title that is based on Google search.

    reply >
    • Hi Josh,
      This can be a good strategy but I would edit one of the videos so it is a different length. I'd also use different content for all the meta data/fields (file name, title, description, etc) for fear of Google seeing the two videos as the same.

  5. Great article and I have just submitted my first video.xml sitemap. Thanks to you guys. But I am still unclear about the seo benefits of using a service like Wistia vs YouTube. I understand that Wistia will generate a video sitemap. But if I manipulate the embed code and submit a video sitemap for my YouTube videos that i have embed on my site haven't I just matched the seo benefits that a service like Wistia can offer.

    reply >
    • Good question James - The problem with creating a video sitemap based on videos you have uploaded to YouTube is that Google won't recognize your site as the owner. It always recognizes YouTube as the owner of the content and ranks them.

  6. I tend to agree with Keith. But great article regardless. Thanks for the great read.

    reply >
  7. A thoroughly written & a well researched article!
    Bear in mind that there are still 'hacks' that will directly link YouTube hosted videos directly to your site from the SERPs.
    Embedding your YouTube video in an self hosted video player and referencing rather than in your Video Sitemap might yield this result. As you must specify at least one of or in your site map and not both.

    In your Video Content Markup, you can either reference your YouTube video URL or a self hosted video file in the "contentURL" item property

    Thanks for the video embed tip - Shall be using it!

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  8. Thanks for the article. Great Points. I am using it right away on

    I am trying to use text box around the embed code but unfortunately WordPress is stripping out the code. Any idea.

    Thanks agian.

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  9. Video content looks like a serious motivation to improve my spoken English :)

    reply >
  10. This is my SEO tactic - My brain :). I white more unique content and post more articles and blog post every day or min 3 times a week. I link my sites with anchor text - brand name, url, phrase -everything that is not a money keyword. Submit my articles in social bookmarking sites like digg, reddit, etc.

    reply >
  11. Geoff, these are some great tips. I love the part about manipulating the embed code to link back to your site.

    reply >
  12. Mosonday

    Thanks Man!
    that's help me a lot!

    reply >

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