Optimising your online video content

by Philip Webb on 14 November 2008

Online video's now one of the best avenues to engage and market to an online audience. Video enables publishers to communicate a message on multiple levels - via visual images, the spoken word, music and visual text. Online video enables website owners to reach a huge growing audience for minimal investment and with video now being incorporated into universal search results on Google this presents a major commercial opportunity to boost traffic and SEO performance.

Below is summary of tips to maximise your video optimisation.

Video sitemaps / MRSS / RSS

If you host videos on your site, you need to direct the search engines to your video content via a separate video sitemap, RSS (Really Simple Syndication), or media RSS (MRSS) file.

Creating a video sitemap could improve Google listings by allowing the search engine to access content and metadata that will enable it to add the footage to Google's video index.

The video sitemap is an extension of the Google sitemap protocol that ties together your video content and the metadata required to get it noticed. For each video you can add a duration, title and keyword rich description to help drive traffic to your video and also help Google properly index it. The included videoURLs will then be searchable via Google's video index and may even appear in other search products offered by Google.

Example video sitemap structure:

Surrounding HTML/optimising meta tags

If you want your video to rank well, you must give the search engines something to index and rank. Surround videos with relevant on-page HTML that is easily indexed by the search engines. Optimise for key phrases that reflect the content and the terms users search on. You could even tag each scene.

Descriptions / title tags / URLs / video file names

Descriptions and titles should be optimised with relevant key phrases.

Video titles should be catchy to encourage users to view the video. They should include key phrases that are relevant to the video, and where possible, to your product/brand.

Max out the tags, title and description for every site

The more metadata describing your video, the more likely someone is to find your video. Many uploaders waste opportunities by adding few or non-descript tags. Tags and the category you choose should be relevant to the video. Video creators can go from little viewership to regularly featured producers simply through a better choice of category. Remember to place keywords in the keyword tag portion of the website the video is on and anywhere else that requests 'tags'.

<title>BBC NEWS | Business | US unveils $250bn banking rescue</title>
<meta name="keywords" content="BBC, News, BBC News, news online, world, uk, international, foreign, british, online, service" />

Add the keyword “video”

Lots of people add the word “video” to their search query. Make sure you add the word “video” to your title, h1 tag, description, metadata etc.


A great way to give the crawlers something to index is to provide (or publish) a transcript.

Add a transcript to each video file via the video status page. Create a keyword-rich title for the transcript and a brief synopsis of its subject matter.

Google prefers it if the format of the transcript is time-coded and saved as a .txt file. A time-coded transcript breaks the script of the video into segments. Each segment includes the time the words in the script are being said in the video followed by the actual words of the script.

The time of each segment should be listed in the following format: HH:MM:SS.mmm. An example of how the time-coded transcript should appear follows.

Each timestamp is relative to the start of the associated video file:

Be careful about Flash video

Search engines have a hard time crawling video content inside Flash players. If you have to have Flash videos, place them on HTML pages containing text for the search engines to index and a navigation scheme they can follow.

The next-most compatible format is an .mpeg format, since if a user has either Windows Media Player or QuickTime they'll be able to view it. Note: compatibility comes with a price: .mpg files are much larger than modern formats for the same amount of quality - sometimes up to twice as large.


Online video in 2008 provides fantastic ROI and relatively uncompetitive marketing opportunities to boost natural search performance and traffic.

This article was written by David Reilly. David Reilly is Managing Director of Barracuda Digital. Based in London, Barracuda Digital is a dynamic, performance based Search Engine Marketing consultancy specialising in areas including natural search optimisation, search consultancy, SEO training, paid search management, and video optimisation.

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