YouTube SEO Optimization

Video Optimization & YouTube SEO : Part 2 – Digital Marketing Madness

YouTube SEO OptimizationJohn Maher:  Hi, I’m John Maher, and this is “Digital Marketing Madness.” This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re a digital marketing agency in Massachusetts. For the second time, today  my guest is John Maher. That’s right, I’m doing this myself today.

This is going to be part two of our discussion on YouTube SEO optimization.

Today, I want to talk a little bit about YouTube versus self‑hosting, and then we’re going to get into a little bit of more technical discussion on how to go about doing optimization on your YouTube videos. I want to talk about “Closed Captions” and using those as well, as part of your strategy.

YouTube vs Self-Hosting

The first thing is the YouTube versus self‑hosting. What is that? When I’m talking about using YouTube, you’re filming a video and then you’re uploading that video to YouTube. Whatever you end up doing with that or if you just keep it on YouTube, or if you’re embedding that YouTube video on your website or whatever, you’re using YouTube as the host for your videos.

You do have other options. There are other companies that do hosting. They don’t really have the same kind of platform that YouTube has, in terms of — people don’t go to — for example, one of them is Wistia. I’m going to talk a little bit about Wistia, W‑I‑S‑T‑I‑A. People don’t go to Wistia to watch videos in the same way that people go to YouTube to watch videos.

Wistia is meant as more of a hosting company for your videos. You’re uploading your videos to Wistia, and then you’re using those videos to embed them on your own website. That’s sort of your two options ‑‑ you host it on YouTube or you host it with a third‑party and you put those videos on your website.

What are some pros and cons here? With YouTube, you definitely get better visibility in organic search. Google owns YouTube, they’re more likely to show your video if your video is on YouTube. And then, of course, YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world next to Google. If people go to YouTube, they’re doing a search there, you’re going to come up if you’re on YouTube. You’re not going to come up if your video is not on YouTube, if it’s somewhere else, of course.

It’s visible all across the YouTube platform, whether it’s in Google search or on YouTube, and YouTube integrates with Google+ and Facebook and Twitter by default, so you already have some of those social networks automatically being integrated with your YouTube videos.

For doing third‑party hosting with a company like Wistia, Wistia has potentially better analytics for tracking and better integration with other marketing software like HubSpot or Marketo. It has more customizable video players, better calls-to-action in your videos.

If you put in links and things like that, other calls-to-action embedded into the videos themselves, then you can ensure that your links and social shares point back to your own site in order to drive traffic and improve your overall site SEO.

So again, if you have your videos on your website, then anybody linking to that video is going to be linking to your website, to that page on that website where that video lives, as opposed to if your video is up on YouTube, you could potentially be getting a lot of links to your YouTube video on YouTube, but that doesn’t really help to drive traffic to your website necessarily, so that is something to keep in mind.

Google Video Rich Snippets

In July of 2014, Google changed their Rich Snippets algorithm, and that really sharply reduced the number of video snippets that are showing in what’s called the “universal search results.” When you just go to Google, and you do a search, that’s the universal search. You get some results from images, you get some results from videos, you get a lot of results from just Web pages. Those are the universal search results.

When you click on one of those tabs that are in Google — there are tabs for Images, Video, News, and a few other things. Those are digging down into that one individual section. So I only want to see News results, so you go to News, and you’re doing a Google search there.

Or I only want to see videos, so of course, if you’re on the Videos tab on Google, and you’re doing a search, then you’re going to get all videos in the results. But because of this change in Rich Snippets that Google made last July, July of 2014, the number of video snippets that are showing in the universal search results has gone down, and that goes for whether or not they’re YouTube videos, or whether or not they’re third‑party hosted videos.

In addition, Google has white‑listed their YouTube videos, while removing the snippets from most other sites, which has resulted in it really being harder for sites to get self‑hosted videos in the search results.

If you are having your videos posted on Wistia and then embedded on your own website, it’s going to be much harder for you to get those videos to show up in the search results in Google. It’s mostly going to be YouTube videos, and even the YouTube videos aren’t showing up as much in universal search.

Google has definitely changed the game a little bit and made it in their favor, so that’s just something to consider. One of the guys that I really respect a lot if from a company called Distilled, in the UK, Phil Nottingham, and Phil said in July of 2014, after this change was made to the Rich Snippets algorithm, that, “As of now, if you have an SEO strategy that doesn’t include YouTube, you’re doing it wrong.”

That just says it right there, that even if you want to do some videos on Wistia or another third‑party platform, if you’re not including YouTube as part of your SEO strategy, you’re really, really missing a big part of it. He goes on to say that just in terms of getting results in the Google search engine results pages, “YouTube is one of the most powerful tools in the arsenal of any search engine optimizer.”

If you’re trying to cement your brand as a key player, you really need to be using YouTube as part of your overall marketing mix, so thanks to Phil for all of that information. It really is kind of eye opening that just having YouTube as part of your SEO strategy is just so important now, and if you’re not using YouTube, you’re just missing out on a big part of what search engine optimization or SEO is right now, in 2015.

YouTube SEO Optimization

Let’s just talk a little bit about the process for putting videos on YouTube, and doing it properly in terms of optimization. You want to, of course, upload your video to YouTube. You have to create an account, create a channel on YouTube, and then upload it, and you want to use keywords in the title.

YouTube SEO Keyword Research

A good way to do this, if you’re looking to do some keyword research and see what it is that people are searching for so that you can include good keywords in your titles — if you don’t have one already, start a Google AdWords account. Go into your AdWords account and go under “Tools” and then go to “Display Planner,” the AdWords Display Planner.

This is a little bit different than the AdWords Keyword Planner, which is their standard keyword research tool that they have within AdWords. The Display Planner is a little bit different. It gives you keyword research for display ads and other types of ads. One of the things that you can do is you can put in keywords into the display planner, click on “Get Ad Group Ideas,” and then over on the left side, you’ll see an area that’s called “Filters.”

Under here, it says, “Ad Formats and Sizes,” and if you click on that, you can choose a number of different ad formats. One of those is video, so if you filter out everything else, and just have the filter set to “Video,” then when you look at the individual targeting ideas or the keywords that people are searching for, it narrows it down to just those searches that people are doing on video, whether that’s on YouTube or on the Video tab on Google.

So you’re getting a list of all of the keywords that people are searching for, specifically for video, and that can be really useful in terms of seeing what the keywords are that people are searching for, and then trying to use those keywords in your video title.

YouTube SEO Description

The next thing you want to do is create a description. You’ll see when you upload your videos to YouTube that you need to put in a description, and in the description, you just basically want to write a summary of what the video is.

It does not have to be, and shouldn’t really be, a full transcription of what’s being said in the video. Just keep it to a summary of the video, and you want to use the URL of your site in that description, so that people can potentially click on that link that will go to your website.

If people do discover your video on YouTube, there’s at least a chance that people might click on that link in the description and visit your website to learn more.

The only way to make that a link is by using the full URL, with the, and you have to use that full URL in the description. When you do that, Google or YouTube will automatically make that into a link that links to your site.

That’s important. If you just put it as, that text will appear, but it won’t be a link. Make sure you include the full http at the beginning. Ideally you want to put that URL kind of near the beginning, in the first sentence of your description, because you want that link to show up in the description without people having to click that “Show more” link to expand the description.

By default, YouTube only shows the first line or two of the description, and then it has a little “Show more” tab that pulls down, so that you can see the full description. People might not do that, so you have to have that URL right at the beginning so that it’s visible before people have to click that “Show more.”

YouTube Closed Captions

Then the next thing that you want to do is upload the transcript of the video, what’s being said in the video, to the closed captions. I’ll talk about that a little bit in a minute. Then you want to post the transcript also to your blog, or wherever it is that you’re posting that video.

If you’re posting the video onto your website just like a product page, or something like that, maybe you don’t want to include the full transcript of the video right there, but if you’re putting it on a blog post by itself on your website, go ahead and put the whole transcript of what’s being said in the video, so that people can read the transcript.

Maybe they’re at work, and they can’t watch the video with the sound on — they can just read the transcript. Also, that transcript then becomes indexed by Google. Google can read that transcript, and you’ll get some credit for having that content on your website.

Those of you who might know, duplicate content is a problem with Google. You don’t want to have the same content on your website that exists somewhere else on another website, because Google just sees that as being duplicate content, and doesn’t really give you credit for that content.

If you’re concerned about whether or not having the transcript of your video appearing on the blog post where the video is embedded on your website, and also in the closed captions in YouTube itself, don’t worry about that. That’s not duplicate content, because closed captions are in a totally different format than the text on your website, and they serve a completely different purpose.

One is really for hearing impaired people, or for watching that video with the sound off. The website text is for people to read when they come to that blog post. They serve different purposes, and Google doesn’t count that as being duplicate content.

Again, the closed captions are good for users who have the sound turned off. They’re good for people who are hearing impaired, and they are indexed by Google as the text version of what’s being said in the video. Google doesn’t trust the automatic closed captions.

If you go to some YouTube videos, and you click on “Closed caption” to see the closed caption text, Google does this on all of their videos. They automatically go through and basically listen to what’s being said in the video, and do their best to, with a computer, transcribe what’s being said in the video.

They use that in the closed captions by default, but Google doesn’t trust their own automatic closed captions, and therefore they’re not indexed by Google as being the text that’s being said in the video, because Google knows that they can’t trust those automatic transcriptions.

You know why? Because Google knows that they are really bad. It’s an automated robot that’s trying to do a transcription of a human being talking. They do pretty good, but if you look at some of them, some of them are just almost unintelligible. I watched one video where on one screen it said, “The total I think the book has nice enough the zero to take a seven isn’t super.”

That just makes no sense whatsoever. I don’t even remember what it was that they were trying to talk about in this video. The closed caption that Google put in there, that YouTube put in there automatically, was just awful. Big brands aren’t even any better, in some cases.

There was a video that I saw on eHow that was talking about car insurance. On one screen, the guy said, “Very important for your however even if you’d be in pine car insurance for years,” and then he went on. “Pine car insurance”!

If you’re hearing impaired, and you’re reading that, you’re just reading it and going, “What?” Like, “What is he trying to say?” It just makes no sense at all. One of the things that’s very important for you to do with your YouTube videos is to edit your closed captions.

It is very easy to do. All you have to do is go into your creator studio on your YouTube channel, click “Edit” on your video, then click “Subtitles and CC,” which stands for closed captions. Then you want to choose to — “Add subtitles or CC,” is what it says. “Add subtitles or CC.”

Then you want to choose to add an English subtitle, or whatever language it is that you have in your video. You do that, and you can select a method of uploading a transcript. You can either upload a file, and if you want to upload a file, it doesn’t have to be — it can be a timed, special subtitles file, or it can just be a text file that has a transcript, and then Google will match that to what’s being said.

If it’s a relatively short video, what you can do is just choose, “Transcribe and set timings,” and then what you do with that is just type or paste in a full transcript of the video, and then YouTube will create the subtitle timings, and set those automatically.

You don’t have to have a special, timed subtitles file that says, “OK, at 2:03 into the video this is what’s being said, and then at 2:10 into the video, this is what’s being said.” You don’t need that. All you have to do is click on this “transcribe and set timings”, and then YouTube even gives you this cool little editor, where over on the left side you’ll see the video, and over on the right side there’s a box for you to type in the transcript.

It’s really great and useful, because when you type — you hit play on the video, and then when you’re typing, YouTube will pause the video. You type in what was being said, and then you hands off the keys, and then it will automatically start playing the video again.

OK, you’ve got the second half of that sentence, so now you start typing that, and you can finish typing. Then when you finish typing, you’d stop typing, and it will start playing the video again, etc. You keep going back and forth between listening and typing, and listening and typing, until you have the whole transcript done right there.

Then you just click on this button that says, “Set timings,” and Google takes a minute to match the transcription to the audio, then will give you the timed transcription file, which shows that, “OK, from 0:01 to 0:06, it says this, and then from 0:06 to 0:13 it says this.”

You can go through that, and you can edit it, and make any changes to it. You can watch in real time what it looks like on the YouTube video, and when you have it all exactly the way that you want it, you just click, “Publish,” and that adds that closed caption to your video.

Then you can just have that one checked off, and shut off or delete the automatic transcription. Just uncheck that, so that that won’t display, and now YouTube sees that, “OK, this is an actual transcribed text of that video.” When Google sees that, Google indexes that closed caption text as being the actual text that’s being said in the video.

They know that you’ve gone through the effort of typing it in, and they’ve matched that audio to what’s being said in the video. They know that that’s an accurate transcription of what’s being said, and then that makes it more likely that if somebody is searching for something that’s being said in your video that that video will show up in the search engine results.

Then you want to post that video to your site. If you want to post it to a blog post, I recommend just having a heading with the video name at the top, maybe a little bit of a summary, or introduction, or description about what the video is above the video, then embed the video from YouTube, and put the transcript underneath the video.

It’s OK to use the same transcript as the closed captions, because that’s not considered duplicate content. Then you want to, ideally, if you can, create and submit a video XML site map to Google. We won’t go into that in detail today, but that is a good idea, if you can.

YouTube Optimization Summary

The takeaways here ‑‑ YouTube is the number two search engine in the world. Video humanizes you for potential clients. It’s the first step to local and national TV and PR.

It’s harder than ever now, because of some changes that Google made, to get listed in Google search with third‑party hosted videos. YouTube is just more important than ever.

If you have any questions on that, I’d really start with having videos on YouTube, and then if you want to also have a strategy where you have some video on YouTube, and some videos that are hosted by a third‑party, and just only placed on your website, then you can do that.

I’d just start with YouTube. YouTube is great for having a lot of informational and educational content. If you have videos where the video itself really wouldn’t make any sense outside the context of your website, then that maybe is a good place to self‑host that video, with Wistia, or another company, and only have that video appearing on your website.

If it’s just not going to make sense if somebody comes across that video on YouTube outside of your website, then having it only on your website might make sense in that case.

Maybe you have a mix of that in your strategy, you have some educational and informative content that you have up on YouTube, and then you have some information specific to your products or your company that makes sense mostly on your website, that you have only on your website. You can kind of combine things, and have some videos on YouTube, and some on Wistia, if that’s your strategy.

I’d start with YouTube as a default. If you can only do one, do YouTube. If traffic to your site matters most, or again, if it only makes sense in the context of your site, use Wistia.

Go fix your closed captions today. That’s probably, if you’re going to take away one thing out of what I’m saying here now, that’s the one thing. Just go out there, right now, and fix your closed captions, and add your own closed captions file. Don’t just rely on the automatic closed caption transcript that YouTube provides for you.

Go and put in your own closed caption file, so that Google will index that content, and anybody watching the YouTube video with closed captions on doesn’t see just absolute gibberish, and can actually understand what it is you’re saying in your videos.

I hope that’s all helpful information for you. I appreciate you sticking around and listening. For more information about digital marketing in general, you can visit our site at, and make sure you subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

Generally most weeks I’m interviewing other people who work here at McDougall Interactive about various topics; search engine optimization, and paid search, and all kinds of things like that; link building. We have a lot of great information to share with you.

Thanks again for listening. I’m John Maher. I’ll see you next time right here on Digital Marketing Madness.

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