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Video SEO: Optimizing Videos for Findability

Video SEO: optimizing videos for findability

Video is a gigantic player in the media landscape today. YouTube, Google’s video platform, is the second largest search engine on the planet. People go to YouTube to find everything from music videos to understanding machine learning. So it’s important for us to have a presence on video platforms if our audiences are there.

Watch this webinar with Christopher Penn to learn more about video SEO.

Video SEO Webinar

Video SEO Webinar

There are seven steps behind video SEO process.

Video SEO 7 Steps


We need to ask ourselves about the business goals we are trying to achieve and what we plan on having to do: educate, entertain, etc. How do we create video that will be useful to our audience, so that it drives traffic, awareness and conversions?

Video SEO Checklist

Make your video content discoverable


We need to do extensive research to figure out what to create video about. Just making video about our products and services is not going to be impactful, because we’re not helping our audience, but ourselves. So we need to do a research to figure out what video can we create that will be of benefit to our audience.


As for the video creation, there’s a great framework by YouTube called “Hero-Hub-Help”.

hero hub help framework

It involves doing one big video production a quarter, monthly campaigns with anchor videos, and daily high-frequency tactical content.


Once we’ve created the video, we have to distribute it to many different platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia. Also, almost all social networks accept videos as well: Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You can also publish a video internally for employees on internal portals. All these are different distribution channels that you might want to look at for your video content.


How do we get people to pay attention to our video? Video SEO is a major portion of getting people to find our video.


How does our video do? Did we get results out of it that were aligned to our strategy and goals?


And finally, if we’ve done a great job of creating video and following this process, how do we improve it? How do we turn that video into a series or a book, or a webinar. How do we uplevel it, so that it really becomes an anchor for us that we can build on, we can iterate on it, we can make improved versions of it?

So that’s the overall content distribution framework of which Video SEO is a major part.

Video SEO is about making our video findable in search engines and video platforms. So what do we need to do for video SEO?

Well, we need five sets of ingredients.

Video SEO 5 Ingredients

Ingredients for a Great Video SEO


We need a great quality video: it needs to be clear and free of disruption. It needs to be a good enough quality that the different services can upsample or downsample it as needed. So those who have high-speed internet connections can watch it at blisteringly precise 5K, and for people who are on low bandwidth networks or have small devices that video can be downsampled appropriately.

We also need to have still images we can use for social promotion, we need custom thumbnails. This is especially important for YouTube, where those custom thumbnails appear in many ways like a miniature ad of your video.


“Great video begins with great audio” – David Thomas, phenomenal video teacher, says that. There are two reasons for this.

One, in a bar, or an entertainment center, or a waiting room when there’s a TV, people will watch a TV even with not a great picture, as long as they can hear the audio.

On the other hand, if you put up a big 5K TV and turn off the sound, people will look at it, not being really engaged. So having the audio makes it multisensory.

Great video begins with great audio.

The other reason to have great quality audio is that artificial intelligence and machine learning software, which is built into services like YouTube, will use the audio to make transcripts and closed captions automatically.

You also need the separated audio files, if you’re going to use a third-party AI-service to generate your closed captions.


Search engines still crawl text the most easily and index it the most robustly. YouTube will index off of closed captions. So, in order to assist search engines with that, we need to provide AI-generated or human-generated transcripts of what’s been said in the video.

In order to assist search engines with crawling text, we need to provide AI-generated or human-generated transcripts of what is being said in the video.

We also want to isolate what keywords our videos are about using regular SEO tools. It will help us figure out what we should title our videos, might even form the content of our videos and help in writing robust video descriptions. YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. can accommodate a lot of texts and rich descriptions so that your video posts are filled with good quality content.


Great video SEO is predicated on great engagement with the video. Long watch times, repeated watches, many watches will help your video show up in suggested videos. In order to do that you need to activate your video and that requires people. This is how you can do it:

  • leverage your social networks
  • promote organically or paid on social media
  • use your email list
  • contact advertising audiences like retargeting and remarketing for promotion

These are all important aspects of video SEO.


Predictive analytics research helps us figure out when to publish our video for maximum impact. The question we need to ask ourselves is the following: did the overall process of creating this content lead to traffic that lead to tangible conversions of some kind?

These are the ingredients we need for great video SEO.

Do Your Research for Great Video SEO

Let’s start bringing some of this to life by talking about the research we’ll need to do. I typically like start with qualitative research to understand what is it that people are even saying. So here I’ve typed in “Video SEO” into the website to see the questions that people are talking about:

  • “How does video SEO work?”
  • “What are the best free video SEO tools”
  • “Tips to improve my YouTube video”

So we can see very common language here that we know we will need to use in order to make the most of our video SEO efforts.

Quora on Video SEO

The second thing you’re gonna want to do is keyword research. You can go to a free tool like Ubersuggest or a paid tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush or Moz, any SEO tool of your choice, and put in “video SEO” here to take a look at what are the most searched for terms.

Ubersuggest on Video SEO

So as we publish our content, we’re going to use a lot of these terms in title and description. So that covers the basics of the research stage.

Video Distribution

Now let’s talk about how to start using some of these assets – the distribution process. So we know how to put the keywords together. Now we need to have still images.

Play the video in your desktop, so it fits the screen, manually find an appropriate thumbnail and just take a screenshot for the thumbnail.

Then, I recommend using a service like Canva to create video thumbnails easily by putting a big obvious text that’s easy to see over the screenshot.

Turn Your Video into Text

In terms of audio, there are some great free services to turn a video file into an audio file. I personally use one that’s open source package called

For transcripts and closed captions, there are a number of transcription services: Amazon transcribe, Watson speech to text, Google Speech API. I’ve really enjoyed that takes your *.mp3 file and transcribes it reasonably nicely, it can include speakers and timestamps to be used for the closed captions.

Add text to your video with

Easy-to-use online video maker

Make sure on your website that you are using the native players and that you’re not putting video directly on your website. The reason for this is that we want to get those views and engagements on the videos on video platform. So if we were to load this video to WordPress directly, we would not be accomplishing that goal, we’ll actually be taking views away from our platform.

Make sure you are using native players on your website.

Advanced Research Techniques

And finally, in terms of the research, my company, BrainTrust Insights does a lot of predictive analytics using search data. So with the keywords found earlier and our predictive algorithm today on May 22, 2018, I know that Video SEO is going to hit its peak on the week of June 25th – July 1, 2018.

Olga Bedrina
Olga Bedrina
Product marketer

This predictive analysis helped us schedule this post to be published during its peak week.

So we are creating content in advance using predictive analytics to figure out when to publish for certain terms.

If you are publishing on YouTube, you should spend some time in Creator Studio. There are enormous numbers of analytics such as:

  • your watch time
  • view duration
  • subscribers
  • video playlists
  • demographics

Watch time and retention are some of the most important metrics: how long do people watch your videos, so if you’re creating, for example, 20-minute videos every day and your average retention is three minutes, then you’re getting too much video for people watch.

Watch time and retention are some of the most important metrics.

The last thing you absolutely must have set up is Google Analytics to measure the impact of your video: how much traffic do you get directly from video platforms, acquisition source, what platforms are sending you traffic.

The other place you’re going to want to look at is in your search. Your search queries and what people find you for, your name or your brand, etc. What are your goals? Your Google Analytics will tell you if you’re achieving those goals.

So you’ve done your research using SEO tools and predictive analytics, created great video and great audio quality to go with it, built your keyword lists, descriptions, transcripts and distributed your content on all of your video platforms.

Now you activate with email, social, web and measure to figure out what works. That’s the video SEO process.

Be aware that building a video audience and building a video platform as a marketer is difficult. It takes a long time. Give yourself lots of time and patience to create great content and then as you deploy that video, it’ll start to work for you.

About the author: Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped four key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, modern email marketing, and artificial intelligence/machine learning in marketing.

Video SEO: Optimizing Videos for Findability

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