When I first set out to host the Optimisey SEO events, in my head there were speakers I had in mind that I was like: “Wow… imagine if I could get them to come and speak one day!?”
Aleyda Solis was one of those speakers.
Honestly, I never thought it would happen. Aleyda Solis? Come and speak at my little event? Ha-ha-ha! Good one. Will never happen.
Luckily for me (and for those who attended the talk; and how you if you watch the video and read on) Aleyda likes to ‘collect’ new places around the world by visiting them to speak. And she’d never visited lovely Cambridge before.
Aleyda’s also lovely and extremely generous with sharing her knowledge so, when I asked if she’d come and speak at an Optimisey event, she said: “Yes.”
How do you rank on YouTube?
Aleyda’s at the top of her game because she’s always learning and improving too. So when we discussed topics one of the things she was keen to talk about was video.
Video is playing an increasingly important part in SEO. Good video content is not just great for users but because it’s great for users Google likes it too.
Think of all those times when you’ve had to wade through a blog post to work out how to fix your bike/dishwasher/laptop – when your brain is screaming: “Can’t you just show me?!” That’s where great video comes in.
Aleyda’s been learning by doing – building her own YouTube channel as well as working for clients, finding what works (and what doesn’t work) and how YouTube’s algorithms and rankings are different from Google – plus a whole lot more, including the tips and tricks she’s learned to help you rank great video.
It’s not just a case of “If you build it…” – though if you’re looking for tips on making great video content, do check out the talk which accompanied this one: How to Create Engaging Video Content by Jess Hawkins & Mark Pirrie of Breadcrumb Media.
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Now, on to the video of Aleyda’s talk, slides and a full transcript are all below – with the usual caveat – any errors are almost certainly mine or my typos, not Aleyda’s).
Video & Slides
Hello, I’m Aleyda Solis, I’m an SEO Consultant. I do speak a bit and try video, which I am going to speak about today.
I’m so happy to be here. It’s beautiful right? The whole thing about Cambridge is that when Andrew invited me to come, I retweeted his tweet saying that I was going to come, very looking forward to seeing you all in Oxford!
I’m humbled and excited to be able to speak at the #optimisey January event 🙌☺️ looking forward to see you all in Oxford! Register now… it’s free 🤗😉
PS: it will be my first time in Oxford too! Send your reccos please 😌 https://t.co/jutYZVHguS
— Aleyda Solis 👩🏻💻 (@aleyda) December 10, 2019
You know it’s this type of thing, posh city, posh University – Oxford…Cambridge.
I’m coming here today to speak about a little video optimisation but I’m an SEO, right? How come I end up speaking about it?
It’s because I want to share my journey because at some point at the beginning of last year, I saw these numbers right… more than 1 billion users on YouTube – its impressive, there’s a trend going on and realistically, now we have the confirmation, that this has been happening for a while.
I had the opportunity to interview a few of the Google Webmaster Trends Analysts last December and they were confirming that something that they don’t see people talking enough about but is very important as part of a new trend in search, is media type of optimisation.
And they speak a lot about image optimisations because that is all low hanging fruit that all of the websites have but video is part of that.
And realistically, with video optimisation, we don’t only target Google, which is a main search engine and the most popular one, but also the second one, which is YouTube. The top second website search engine.
So, it’s a win, win type of effort that we will be doing at the end of the day and realistically, even if we don’t tend to think of a video as a format, that will it help with our conversions? That ‘It takes a little bit of an effort’ and ‘will people want to end up buying through YouTube or through the video realistically?’
I have a lot of data… I will be sharing my slides and you will be able to take a look at a lot of data that even Google itself have shared over the years about the role of video to incentivise; to take action through the customer journey and how it will end up benefiting conversions too.
Beyond all of this, it should also be enriching the experience of your users and we all know how in some landing pages for complex types of products, the best way to convince a customer, is by explaining something, showing it.
It’s a win-win from all different sides.
At the end of the day, I realised this last year and one of my goals in 2018 was to take the leap and start testing a bit with video… but of course I had no idea what that was because I was not focused on video at all. So I started to test a few things from an SEO perspective. This is what I want to share with you today.
Tips on video kit
I love how professionals share a little bit of their kit; this is the one that I use. Very straightforward, entry-level type of thing.
I love how you share actual websites where we can look for music and intros and everything. I ended up going to Fiverr and there is a guy, he is amazing and has thousands of 5 stars reviews because it seems that he spends his days like doing music for intros and I pay €29 or so.
There’s a little bit for everybody and there’s no excuse to not start.
My purpose was to answer a few key questions in order to identify how I could maximise my effort, how I could grow the views of my videos, how I could better engage with my audience.
So, I asked some of the typical questions that we ask in SEO through the optimisation process but applying it to video optimisation:
- I wanted a better understanding of the ranking factors
- I wanted to better identify opportunities from measuring the video results and how I could use the videos to better improve the rankings of my website etc.
So, let’s go through the journeys and a few things that I actually discovered.
Answer your audience’s questions with video
The first thing is that YouTube videos discovery goes beyond a YouTube search.
In my SEO mind, I was like: “I want to optimise for relevance, popularity, I will end up ranking the first position for everything, I will grow like this.” like we tend to try to do what Google do.
But realistically YouTube is not only a social channel but a social platform too and 70% of their activity and traffic that they have within the platform is actually recommended by their own algorithm.
YouTube search is one of many others in platform and out platform type of channels so you can see that we have playlists, channel pages, advertising, video cards, notifications…
I’m going to go through a few of these and even channels that come from external traffic sources.
So if we dig a bit, we are going to see how for example Google search sends non-trivial traffic to YouTube.
One of the reasons? Surprise, surprise if that we dig a little bit of the data for example from SEMrush and Rank Ranger, we are going to see that unknown trivial share of the videos that end up shown in Google search results are from YouTube.
In fact, more than 80% of the videos that are included within the video carousel in Google are from YouTube.
I won’t say what it might be or if they give preference or not, but this is the reality.
It will be overlooking a huge opportunity to leverage this to grow your YouTube discoverability.
Relevance, retention and Engagement
You need relevance, retention and engagement.
This is the thing; YouTube’s algorithm has two goals: the first is to help each viewer to find videos that they want to watch – yeah reasonable – and the second is to get the viewers to keep watching more of what they like again and again and again.
They are actually really good at it.
The recommendations keep mobile users engaged for 60 minutes at a time; that is a lot.
And these principles are used everywhere in YouTube. In your suggested videos, the search, home videos, trending videos, subscriptions, tabs, notifications…
There is a whole series of functionalities to make this happen and YouTube will tend to follow the audience’s behaviour: what users watch, they’ll watch what users like and dislike, how much time users spend watching the video, the engagement and retention of the video or the non-interested type of feedback to you.
We can see this if we pay attention a lot across the different areas of the YouTube functionalities and options that they provide to the user, that they provide topically related videos that viewers watch along the current videos, videos from viewer’s past history to that they will tend to like more, even in the homepage.
If we see here how often the channel or topic is viewed by the user, how well the video has engaged and see satisfy similar users than you or how many times the video has been shown.
We can see that in every single area of YouTube, these principles to engage the user and retain the user are playing again and again.
There have actually been a few studies, large-scale type of studies that SEOs have done in the past – for example there is really good one and the Briggsby website and they analysed the correlation of many of the structures and we can see the views, the channel structure, the likes, the comments are not really a surprise.
We are going to see how there is consistency among many of these.
YouTube is a Social Platform
This is another study that ran in backlink a while ago, and there’s a lot of consistency.
At the end of the day, we end up realising its not only the relevance and that the video should match what the user is looking for; title, description etc. but the engagement and the retention and this is where it hit me.
It is true, it’s not only a search engine, it’s a social platform and it’s funny because I ended up asking people who have a non-trivial number of views and subscribers to their own channel, for example those who are also into SEO, so they know how to optimise well.
I asked Anton from SEMrush and I also asked Craig Campbell, who has his own channel too and coincidentally they both mentioned that the search personality or search as a driver of traffic is not solely the most important one for their YouTube channels that have a few thousand subscribers, in any case, many more than mine.
It’s something to keep in mind that to become successful in YouTube, we will need a little bit more than who’s optimising for relevance.
It’s important to not only be relevant, but to make sure that our videos will retain the user and keep the user engaged to be referred again and again.
To get even more subscribers and grow this relationship, this community, with our audience. It’s important in order to do that, to understand our audience’s preferences and what’s going on already out there with our competitors.
For that is it’s actually pretty straightforward because again, we use SEO principles, but with a few other sets of tools.
We can start with those tools that we use as SEOs, that also support YouTube as another search engine.
We can identify the videos with more engagement, also where tools like BuzzSumo, we can also use other tools like vidIQ that are specifically for YouTube to refine the terms by using the search volume within YouTube, they will tend to show and have other metrics to show the type of competition or the level of competition that each one of them have.
These tools, like Tube Buddy and vidIQ will overlay and provide this Chrome Add-on and they will overlay to show you which tasks are being used across all those videos already ranking well for the type of queries that you will target, to identify more ideas.
Or Google Trends this also has a YouTube filter if you want to identify trends or seasonality of any topic.
Analyse your competition
I went and searched for SEO related channels and which are the top ones. I wanted to understand what behaviour these channels have:
- How often do they publish?
- When do they publish?
- What are the topics that they are already covering and the ones that are most viewed?
- And the ones that have a better engagement are working better for them
- What are the terms are being used to optimise each one of these videos?
To take that as an input and then we can use tools like SEMrush to identify which topics feature videos are being shown or videos as thumbnails with their own organic results are ranking or targeting this type of queries to identify extra opportunity within Google. In these terms, it is already YouTube ranking there within the Google carousel.
We can already use many of the tools that we use and the type of rationale and steps that we use already in SEO to identify opportunities, to run better with content and connect this with our own website.
For example, I will say: ‘Okay what are the topics from this potential type of topic that I have already identified? Which I already have content for…’
It will be far easier for me to just repurpose the content that I already have so that I don’t need to start from scratch. I will be able to reuse it in my current page to support the text content that I already have.
Based on all of this, I will come up with this list of criteria, the search volume, low competition, or medium competition, high topical relevance for your audience, high expertise – I should be able to talk about it of course – the visibility to produce and cover with a video, where I intend the video to be shown in Google search results, the possibility to repurpose, or, if it is aligned with my marketing and business goals of course.
For me this was to try to avoid too generic topics where for example, the competition was very high already and they were very well-established channels ranking for them.
Realistically, this is not what I usually speak about or share in general but going for more specific technical, strategical types of topics that I usually cover will connect better with what I can offer of value and differentiate myself.
We need to remember that this is about being relevant and not going for the size of the topic, or the audience.
Based on this, what I did is establish a video publishing schedule.
For example… I will record the video for next week every Sunday. On a Monday I will publish videos like this, on Tuesday I will promote it, on Wednesday I will repurpose, and I will publish it on my own website etc.
So you can do a schedule to try to keep consistency. I ended up producing 24 videos and by doing these about topics – remember when I told you so I wouldn’t speak about too generic types of topics but those where I will be able to actually deliver more specific value, that I had more expertise about? So these are the type of topics that I have already covered.
Coincidentally I identified that all the players also do this, like SEMrush, have their video series weekly. As you can see, they keep consistency with this. Barry Schwartz does the same with his own vlog so it’s not only me who says this or who does this, but this more of a standard within the industry.
Another important aspect is to have a good video tracking system from the start. We need to make sure in order to better identify opportunities and optimise your process of course.
YouTube already comes with very powerful analytics. You can see all of that they will be able to show even the keywords even better the Google Analytics that are being used to find our videos within their own search engine, so I won’t stop too much – you just need to go through it but it’s very powerful.
VidIQ, they allow you to track your own analytics evolution versus your competitors.
You can even be alerted of trends, when a topic starts trending or a new video is being searched a lot and a new video has been published you can use Rank Ranger.
It’s amazing because Rank Ranger allows you to track the rankings of your video within YouTube, not only Google [but] within YouTube.
And then also they allow you to track the search features that are being shown in Google with your videos and even the position within the carousel so that you can understand how it evolves over time and which are your competitors within the carousel too.
You can see the trend over time like this is amazing granularity of the information they provide.
Of course, we know that Google Search Console has risen to publish all these video related features and in the Google Search Console, opportunity of the granularity is not yet. But we can play around this and realistically the pro of the Google Search Console is that it also allows us to troubleshoot structured data issues with our videos that we are going to see that we want to have when we embed them on our website.
Optimise your youtube channel and videos
Once we have all this ready, finally we can optimise in the key areas of videos for relevant and better structures.
For example, we should start with our own channel, with the base of everything, the description, the keywords and we publish in every video.
If we use these tools provided by vidIQ, they will directly suggest semantically connected relevant types of terms that we can use within our title, description and the tags, which are the three main areas that we can optimise, and we can start with. And as you see we have a good suggestion system here.
We can use all the tools that I mentioned before as a support system.
We can add relevant hashtags. Take a look. When we develop the description of our video in our channel, and you can see that this hashtag (that we include in the description) will later be highlighted above the title. And we can use hashtag without a title too.
This will become clearly clickable and generate a YouTube search for whatever we use as a hashtag.
We can also upload our own higher-quality, closed captions. Closed captions weren’t covered before. And you can use platforms and tools like Rev, which are rather cheap.
Let’s take a look at which are the top-ranked videos for the queries that we want to run – and identify what the gap is; with our own titles, with our own description, with our own text, to identify opportunities; if they are using any terms that we are not.
When I was doing all of this, I was like ‘Oh my god, this is a lot of effort – Should I be spending my time doing this again and again?’
So I wanted to test which of all of these elements actually play a role in the rankings within YouTube i.e., the title, description, hashtag, closed captions that I mentioned before. So, I tested.
And as a good SEO, I started to include some dummy text, testing all of these elements to see which videos ended up ranking for this dummy text.
The results suggested after a while, when I started to see consistent results, that it is actually the title, description and hashtags that play a role and evidently not tags or closed captions.
But realistically closed captions should be used for other reasons – for hearing-impaired to watch, music videos, non-native audience support, people like me sometimes.
When I hear people from Scotland speak, I don’t understand at all unfortunately!
Untapped opportunities in YouTube
Another new opportunity has started within Google search results, because Google has started to show timestamps in their run videos.
So, in order to generate those, you just need to add like this, the labels for the different topics that are covered within the video, in the description within YouTube.
The label and the time stamp here where you start covering each one of the topics and with this, you see that our really trivial to generate.
Google will end up like taking this and showing instead of just the single video within the video carousel, they will highlight the video in this way which is rather nice from a picture perspective.
That only happens on mobile.
On Desktop it is still shown like that, so for example this is the same result in mobile and this in desktop, so in order to be able for it to be shown like this, we need to be first able to run within the carousel.
So, relevance is important to be able to be included there, the search relevance.
We need to optimise and promote the video in order to be able to get that engagement and retention that I spoke about. And the first step in order to do this is… when you are ranking already like this, how do you start engaging or retaining the users to be able to grow your subscribers further?
The first thing is the thumbnail. Take a look. This is how you can differentiate yourself among many old videos and to improve your culture rate among many of them.
The thing about thumbnail as ads for your video and to make them to stand out. When I started, I created these thumbnails that were rather generic, and I realised I needed to start taking photos of it for every video in order to do something funny or descriptive enough for the video.
Then I realised that I was wearing the same shirt every time with the video, and I needed to invest a little bit more on clothes after I got a couple of comments about this.
We definitely need to replace the default thumbnail that will be generated with one of the screenshots of the video like this, and actually the tools that I mention about vidIQ will help you and can highly facilitate this process.
Even with TubeBuddy you can run A/B tests with your video. If you have enough views, you will be able to do A/B tests to see which thumbnail has better engagement.
Another recommended functionality that you need to make the most out of is playlists.
You should create playlists like this, once you have enough videos, in order to organise them and to make them easier to browse, from our topical and relevant perspective.
YouTube Cards and End Screens
We can also add info cards within the video and all of these options are included within YouTube studio.
In order to include these little cards, where we can refer to other videos or playlists, we can promote channels if we want, we can include a poll for something that we are covering within the video.
Remember about the engagement, there is a very cool way to generate engagement.
We can also add end-screens at the end of the video to recommend the user to keep watching and see more of the videos and also the platform here.
YouTube allow us to choose specific video to recommend, a video that we might think that is relevant, but they also allow us to select whatever video from your channel they think might better fit the audience preferences – to optimise, I guess.
It’s about not being shy. We need to ask the audience to keep watching, to get answers at the end, don’t stop don’t go like: “You will get all the answers at the end of the video keep watching! 15 minutes.”
Like, Subscribe and engage!
Anyway, like the video, leave comments with questions to subscribe to the channel.
Yes, it’s a community, it’s a social network at the end of the day.
I try to do it as you can see here, like: “Thanks for the comment that is great to hear!”
I need to improve my community management skills definitely. I’m not the best.
But if we were to go and see the super popular channels of YouTubers, this is Juanpa Zurita, which is one of the top YouTubers in the Spanish-speaking world, we can see how, take a look at this in the description, the first two things that you can see above the fold without having to click is: “WATCH MORE” – with a link to the playlist; “SUBSCRIBE HERE” – trying to get the users to be subscribed because of course next time he publishes a video, that will be by default recommend with an alert to that user.
The first comment is his comment: “Happy New Year! Thanks for watching, don’t forget to LIKE this video!” It’s super useful and he pinned the comment too so that the comment will be always shown at the top.
We need to be a little bit of Community Managers in order to promote our videos and incentivise subscriptions and think this shouldn’t happen only within YouTube but also outside YouTube.
From social media to your newsletter, email signature, website etc.
I try to do this a little bit offline too, with stickers! I sponsored a little bit of an activity that I was giving away and I know that for example Barry Schwartz is very well-known in the SEO world.
He ran this giveaway and I’m going to speak a little bit more about this in order to get subscriber.
It’s not like it’s in SEO and in Google where you shouldn’t buy links. In this case, it’s okay to do this in YouTube.
What I started doing was to invite authoritative guests, in this case the Google Trends Analysts, who will have other types of coverage of course, and an influencer for example Barry who speaks about everything in Google.
He ended up covering the interview!
He could have taken a better caption of my screenshot of the video because this image like this ends up ranking in Google Images – everything is connected.
So, whenever someone interviews you, ask for the image of the video, please make it a good picture of me!
Anyway, you get links you can get good links and bad link from other websites and we need to try to do this at the start because of the freshness factor that has been validated and improved many times.
Engagement and retention are required to use conversion and community management skills as you can see here – but there’s much more into this. We want to expand our purpose. YouTube video for Google search rankings as good SEOs do.
Where to Embed your video content
So what I will recommend is that if you have already an e-commerce website and category pages, landing pages, for the pages you can whenever it is relevant, embed the video there.
But if you are not a professional, or you have a blog, you can do this with a blog. I created a section within my own blog and after a couple of days I will embed the video from YouTube first in the blog post along a video description.
If you already have an article or a content for the video topic you can embed it there directly instead of creating a separate post or article to avoid cannibalisation and like this, you will support the existing content that you already have.
When you embed the video from YouTube, I recommend including a ‘rel=0’ parameter, to show all of our related videos only from your channel and not all the channels and then you can also link.
And I will recommend that you link to your channel saying: ‘Did you like this video? You can subscribe right away and receive the videos here’ and the link can include this parameter saying that the user will get a little window requesting to subscribe directly to the channel.
This might be a little bit intrusive but anyway, let’s do a little bit of everything just to try to push this forward.
We can include these little logos at the bottom of our videos, the watermark in our entire videos so anybody can easily subscribe just by clicking on it.
And of course remember that I mentioned before about the captions? You can also generate with Rev, for example the transcriptions of the videos for really cheap.
However, if you want this for free, what you can do? Because YouTube also generates the captions automatically within their system. You just need to wait for a few hours, after a few hours this will be enabled so you can go here to the open transcript and you can toggle the stop the timestamp, you can copy, paste and you have free content. (Note: YouTube does not cope well with people that speak as quickly as Aleyda! – Andrew).
You can have the transcriptions like this for your own blog post and this is for the first few weeks right? After a few weeks you want to replace that YouTube embed with a Wistia one because Wistia will allow you to include structure data for video object.
Structured data that would generate much more easily a thumbnail for your own blog post that you where you are embedding that video that’s in one hand. On the other hand, I will show you in a minute, the other outcome of this alone, the results. A lot of effort, a lot of work, which are the results.
You can rank for those not yet so crazily competitive queries by doing this but highly relevant for you, so for example, you can see all of the rankings that I have within YouTube. You can rank as well in Google search results with your YouTube videos and embedded videos in the blog post like this…
Ranking in Google search results with the post, with a video thumbnail, which are much more easily generated with the Wistia embed that I showed before, or be ranked twice within the carousel!
Because this one is my Wistia embed in my own blog post, and this other is my video in YouTube. I was able to do this only when I didn’t use YouTube in both websites, in both presences.
I guess that for Google, it is much more straightforward to identify that this is the same video if you are using YouTube. But if here it is Wistia, you can get away with it, it seems – at least for now! And then of course you can if you are shown first in the carousel and you include the time stamps, you can be shown like this:
So, this is cool right?
You will say: “Aleyda, this is amazing, you’re a winner, here, congratulations!” poppers like ‘YouTuber of the year’, whatever.
Unfortunately, you need much more. I’m not Casey Neistat, even if I am ranking, because how many people search for ‘progressive web app optimisation’? Not that many. I am first of course, but not that many.
I will be able to rein by myself, to be able to speak about more popular types of topics. At the end of the day, realistically, I am being effective with my audience.
I won’t start speaking about how to do an avocado wherever, because everybody is searching for an avocado. I don’t know about it I’m not an authority about it, so unfortunately, I will need to stay with SEO topics.
I’ll tell you something, food for thought.
Phil Nottingham he’s an expert in video content. He works at Wistia, and he was retweeting this the other day that it was someone complaining saying like some 53% of YouTube video have fewer than five 500 views.
And he was thinking, it’s like ‘Why do you need to think about these huge numbers for your videos?’ This shouldn’t be about raw numbers. It shouldn’t be about volume but to connect with your audience. And if your audience is niche – as it is technical and strategical SEO that’s mine – well the numbers won’t be as big.
Conclusions and next steps
So remember about Barry’s giveaway?
He was giving away a lot and he was complaining and said: ‘Oh my god. I think I suck at YouTube giveaways. I only gained 227 new subscribers, what is this?’.
He was giving away $25k in tools and passes etc and somebody told him something that really resonated with me: ‘Your target audience, like semi or pro SEOs are already there. You could get probably to 500k by producing clickbait videos like ‘rank in two hours for free’ or something like that, which shouldn’t be the purpose of the video in any case. It should be something more about what your actual goal is for your relevant audience.’
If it is niche, your results will be the numbers there are. Numbers are likely be niche, so we need to keep in mind relevance, engagement of attention. In order to learn a little bit from this journey – I don’t want to stay with less than 2,000 subscribers because that is too bad – so I’m trying to incentivise and be more of a Community Manager this year.
My goal will be to continue with the videos but my goal alongside the videos I realised, is the importance of the social aspect, the community aspect.
Instead of only trying to optimise and try to rank in the first position for the terms, since they are very specific anyway, I will grow my newsletter for my community and subscribers because it’s much more straightforward to push and promote the videos within my newsletter like this.
Let’s see what happens by incentivising more and trying to connect more outside YouTube to refer and to gain subscribers in these other ways. This is going to be one of the ways, but I will try a few other ones too to see what happens.
So, thank you very much for listening, hopefully this will be useful for you and remember – subscribe, subscribe! I need to refer you to subscribe!
Thank you Aleyda! So much knowledge, information, data and examples packed into one talk! If you were lucky enough to be present for this one, it was a ‘blast you back in your seat’ barrage of awesomeness.
You can, of course, subscribe to Aleyda’s YouTube channel, Crawling Mondays here and, if you enjoyed this content and would like more of this sort of thing, you should subscribe to the Optimsey channel too!