Inside today’s interview, I had the pleasure and honor of picking the brains of one of the world’s most respected leaders and thinkers on SEO, Leslie Rohde. Even though I’ve been doing internet marketing for around 4 years now, I don’t claim to know all that much about SEO, so it was a real eye opener having a chat to Leslie Rohde.
And to make it extra interesting, I asked Leslie a bunch of questions about how SEO relates to online video marketing, and how you can use that knowledge to boost your rankings in the search engines, using online video.
Video marketing wizz kid…
PS: Check out Leslie’s other site about SEO strategies inside their SEO Brain Trust.
Transcripts Of Today’s Video
Gideon: Today I’ve got Leslie Rohde with me and he’s going to help me talk about SEO and how it relates to online video specifically. You may not have come across this information. There’s a lot of detailed stuff that Leslie knows about that I’m sure will blow your mind a little bit.
Leslie, thank you very much for joining me.
Leslie: My pleasure.
Gideon: Why don’t we kick it off by talking about the development of online video and how that relates to SEO and how we can use that to help us gain more exposure for our own websites.
Leslie: First of all, video is huge in terms of traffic. It’s estimated that something like 30% of all online traffic is actually video, and the largest share of that is YouTube, which is truly staggering when you think about the amount of traffic that’s going through video. It’s huge.
A lot of that doesn’t have much commercial appeal. It’s silly home movies and that sort of thing, and that’s fine, but a lot of it does have some real commercial intent. The question is how to actually relate it to your business. What does that actually do for your business?
It’s very clear, and it’s been clear forever, that video is a really good selling platform. People really enjoy video. Still pictures and motion pictures are far more engaging for humans than just text, so that’s the reason the whole multimedia thing is so important in the context of the web, and it’s the perfect platform to do it.
You don’t have to actually send physical media. It’s all bits anyway. From a traffic development strategy, it’s always been a fabulous idea.
Now what is its relationship to SEO? Video occurred late enough in the whole SEO milieu that the people who built the video-sharing sites knew what very dark-minded SEOs would do with it if they could.
This is true of the social communities as well – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and all of those kinds of things – and they also don’t want to be used as a big spam haven for SEO.
With the bookmarking sites like Digg etc, it’s estimated that something like 60-80% of all bookmarking accounts are actually auto-generated spam just for the purpose of driving links to commercial websites, so clearly YouTube doesn’t want to play that kind of game.
They don’t want to be that kind of a platform, particularly since they’re serving up this huge amount of content – that they haven’t figured out how to monetize, by the way – so if you actually want to know what are the top three search engines, two of them are Google. There’s Google and YouTube. It’s a second search engine.
Gideon: It’s quite a wake-up call, isn’t it.
Leslie: Yeah, and they haven’t figured out a way to monetize that, so God knows what the actual loss is they’re suffering on a daily basis in serving all that bandwidth across the web.
But to your point, YouTube and the other video sharing sites don’t want to be that SEO spam farm, so the steps they’ve taken are to no-follow the links, so the links are not sensible to search engines. Search engines won’t actually spider the YouTube links and drive linking reputation and page rank to your domain.
However, there’s a spin-off effect that does occur, and that’s really kind of important where, through RSS feeds and other techniques, things are actually redistributed to other sites where people pick up videos and put them on their own sites or something like that.
You can actually end up getting kind of a secondary or tertiary SEO influence to it, but I don’t consider that a primary SEO strategy, because it is just this kind of spin-off technique, but it’s a fabulous traffic strategy.
Gideon: So when I’m thinking about YouTube, like one example I have is I’ve got a YouTube channel and I’m using that mainly to drive traffic back to my blog or website where I’m building my list, so that I can build an asset just in case YouTube fails or closes my account or whatever.
Do you think it’s a good strategy to think about optimizing say traffic to a specific YouTube channel or even just a YouTube video? Would that be something you’d recommend as a good thing to do to build SEO?
Leslie: No, I would use it the other way around. It really is kind of the pointy end of the spear. Because it is the second most popular search engine, that’s kind of where your searcher starts in a lot of respects.
If I say, “Oh yeah, go find videos of me, they’re all over YouTube,” which they’re really not – there are some, and it’s my own fault; I really ought to get some more, by the way, and you will find a couple I think if you search “Leslie Rohde” on YouTube you’ll find some – so that’s what you would want to expect anyway, particularly given what you’re doing, where it’s all centered around video.
You want to be in the best video search engine, and there are some other video search engines that you should be in as well.
There’s some developing stuff within search, and it’s not just Google that’s doing it, but the other search engines as well – bit players that they are – that involve kind of semantics around video, because here’s the problem.
The first problem is that YouTube doesn’t want to be a spam site. Okay, so they kind of fixed that. The next problem that search has is there’s a video on your page, so what is that video about? They don’t have a clue. They don’t have a way to dig into the video.
So they’re trying to provide ways to add semantics to that with special tagging, in the same way that RSS has special tags in it, MP3 has a header that specifies the artist and title and stuff like that, so there’s this thing called MRSS, which is Media RSS, which is evolving.
Search engines have made a commitment that they’re going to start using it, and they are starting to use it to a certain extent, and we don’t know just how much of an influence it’s going to have within the ranking algorithms yet. That’s still something we’re actively studying.
This is literally brand new stuff. We’re actually researching it now and it should be available within a partner program that we’re working in, and within our own membership site as well.
Gideon: Is it going to be similar to tagging? Will the user be involved?
Leslie: Whoever puts the video on the site, yes. When you put the video on the site, it’s kind of like right now there’s an object tag and all that stuff when you embed the flash. It’s the same kind of thing.
The more that people adopt that sort of thing, the more impetus there will be for the search engines to actually use it, because there is a chicken and egg issue. “Should we use _____?” and fill in the blank.
There’s a whole bunch of different things in terms of semantic methods that just never caught on, so the search engines didn’t have a forcing function to actually use them.
Gideon: Very interesting.
Gideon: … Now I’ve noticed that on the political channel on YouTube, they’re doing this web recognition thing where you can actually search for words inside a video. I’m not sure if you’ve seen that.
Leslie: I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t actually used it.
Gideon: Do you think that that could be something for the future that YouTube would want to get into as well, so that the actual words inside your videos would become searchable?
Leslie: Marissa Mayer at Google has actually spoken on this. It’s been a couple of years ago actually I think, that what they want is they want to have essentially automated transcription so that whenever you put video out there, whenever the Google bot finds video on a website it will schedule that for automated transcription, and then they’ll take the transcription and make it fully searchable.
There are obviously some challenges there. Speaker-independent transcription is not really here today, and that was part of her presentation from quite awhile back, so that’s certainly a goal.
If you look at where we are now and where we were five years ago, five years from now could we be doing that? Possibly, I don’t know, but that’s certainly something to consider.
Before that actually happens though there will be an opportunity made available to you to make your transcription searchable. You can sort of backdoor that even now by just making your transcription available on the site.
There are various ways you can arrange to do that. You can take a long transcription like this one’s getting to be and bust it up into multiple pages and each one of them can lead to the video, or the video can be hosted on those pages, so you can break it up into topical areas.
Gideon: If I understand you right you’ll have your YouTube video embedded on your site, but then you’ll have the actual transcript on your site?
Leslie: On your site, right, so now you’re using search the way it currently works.
Gideon: And then inside your post, link back to your actual video on YouTube?
Leslie: I wouldn’t link back to YouTube. I would put the video on YouTube and use that to drive traffic to your site, but once it’s on your site don’t let them go. It’s like Hotel California – they can check out, but they can never leave. [laughing]
What you’d like to do is actually once they get on your site, you can be hosting it from YouTube by just doing the YouTube embed, but then around it what you’re doing is you actually have a transcript, so when I say, “You’re a flibberty-jibbet,” you’re going to rank for that word because of the text on the page.
It happens that the video is also there, and you can do excerpts this way. You can say, “For the full thing, watch the video,” or you can do the entire transcript – whichever way you want to do it. You can do it on a single page or break it up into multiple pages, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
There’s so many services that will transcribe a soundtrack, and for two people it’s probably a couple bucks a minute, something on that order. For a single speaker, a buck a minute, buck and a half a minute will get you very high-quality transcription by English speakers. No Australian speakers that I’m aware of. [laughing]
Gideon: [laughing] Well, I’m South African, Kiwi, and Australian actually, so they’re going to have trouble with mine.
Leslie: Oh, probably so. There’s an extra charge for you, about $4.
Gideon: I guess if you’re not into typing or being an author and stuff, there really is no excuse not to be able to create content that is searchable by the search engines.
Leslie: Exactly, just get it transcribed. In fact, if you have something in written form, then there’s every reason to do a podcast of it as well. That’s something that I haven’t done either, but anyway [laughing]
Yeah, put it in iTunes and downloadable so that people who exercise – not me – will put it on their iPod and listen to it on the treadmill and that sort of thing.
The more different ways you can make that available to people, absolutely. Then more and more, like all the videos that my partner and I are currently doing in SEO Brain Trust are done in iPod format, in that size and aspect ratio, for exactly that reason.
We get direct feedback from folks who say yes, they want to put it on their iPod and take it with them.
Gideon: Awesome. We’re probably getting to the 10-minute limit on YouTube for this channel, so why don’t we just quickly summarize the main points of this discussion.
We talked about YouTube and search engine optimization, and the main thing really is to get people to your site and keep them there.
Leslie: Yes, it’s primarily a traffic strategy, but there’s a little bit of SEO throw-off that happens from it as well.
Gideon: The next big thing I got from this – I mean I knew about it – is transcribing your videos.
Leslie: Huge, absolutely huge.
Gideon: If you don’t, the search engines won’t be able to find your site. And then the next thing is to make it available in as many possible formats as you can.
Leslie: Right, and finally plan for the MRSS capabilities so that you’ll actually be able to tag and provide some details about what’s in the video, even without the transcript, so there will be more information for Google and the other search engines to use to rank the content properly.
Gideon: Cool. Any idea of when that’s coming up, the MRSS?
Leslie: They’re talking about it now. There’s actually some evidence they’re currently using it, and we’re working on testing to see how much influence it actually has.
Gideon: Awesome. Leslie Rohde, thank you very much for the interview and for the really great information. I wish you all the best for you future endeavors, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Leslie: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.