How to Make a Search Engine Happy
The true story of how one of my videos changed everything.
Warning: This video is 35 minutes long. That said, if you are a video producer or business owner with a website, you’ll find the information here informative and useful. And you’ll probably find stuff you never even heard about.
It’s free to watch. There will be no, “but wait, there’s more”, or any other of the usual clues that you’re being lead down a garden path to buy something.
You can google anything I’ve said here (like “Google has been ignoring meta tag key words for years”) or any of the statistics and trends.
This is the story of how one video dramatically increased my Google profile, subscribers to my blog, YouTube channel and Facebook page in the space of one year. And how all that resulted in a dramatic increase in business video commissions on my regular business website.
I didn’t set out to do this deliberately. Actually it was all sort of a fluke.
But since it did happen, I went back to evaluate the component parts of this success and I’m sharing it with you here.
Nothing mysterious. No assistance from Adwords, or any of the dozens of schemes out there that promise you the moon with their exclusive software.
In fact all I did was please the search engines. And the search engines were pleased because they saw that those searching for the topic of my video were pleased. And the more people that were pleased, the happier the search engines got.
How the search engines achieved this happiness in the midst of the dull drudgery of their daily, often thankless, often disparaged work, is the subject of this talk–which could have been alternatively titled, “How to Make a Search Engine Happy”.
For those businessmen and women who are going to ask, “But how is this going to help me sell widgets?”, the section after the video answers that question and covers a few points not covered in the video. But it won’t make sense if you haven’t seen the video first.
As a note, I more recently did a review of the Sony PXW X70. It was uploaded 3 months after a raft of initial reviews on the camera. It started off on page 26 of Google and in less than 2 1/2 months it reached the number 1 position–despite the fact that it was considerably longer than any other review. Why? Well, the content was considered good as measured by the engagement metrics. If you were to compare it to the other top reviews on that camera, you will see that it got far more comments and likes. Furthermore, the comments were all relevant. None of them were drivel.
“So how is this going to help me sell my widgets?”
The Sony video talked about above made it’s way quickly to the top in a very competitive market. That is, there are a lot of sites that review photographic, video, computer equipment and so forth. And generally speaking, it’s a pretty gung-ho and internet switched-on market that they are reaching.
I’ve done many videos for large industrial companies, also in a niche market. They are hoping to close multi-million pound contracts with their products or services.
So who looks at their videos?
Two kinds of people do: 1) Businessmen looking for that specific product or service, and 2) the competition.
In either case, these are not likely going to be the type of people who “share”, “like”, “comment”, etc. They might share it via email to a colleague or boss, but that’s about it in terms of engagement.
Then how does engagement apply here?
Creating a viral video is one way and many multi-national well-known corporations can actually create a viral video with confidence. Old Spice, BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo, Redbull and many others have done this. But these cost a fortune. A group of some very clever people come up with some very clever ideas and no expense is spared on pulling off each unique concept.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that kind of approach and budget is out of the question.
So what counts?
The Audience Retention Analytic
There are more metrics at play then mentioned in the video, but one of the more important ones is called “Audience Retention”. You can actually go into the backend of your video on your YouTube analytics page and see exactly minute by minute what percentage of people watched the video. In other words, it starts off at 100%. Maybe 20 seconds in it drops to 60%. You can see the percentages for every minute of the video and the overall average.
It might be disappointing to see that some people don’t watch the whole video.
For example, in that Sony video, the audience retention was 30% for the whole 14 minute video. That means, as of now, about 10,000 people watched the entire video–and that’s pretty good considering its length. Interestingly, the graph pretty much drops to the 30% mark in the first minute or two and then stays consistent right to the end. That’s very unusual. But it does tell me the audience I was actually looking for locked onto it and found it interesting and informative enough to watch all the way through.
There can be a number of reasons people don’t watch it all the way through. The primary one is it wasn’t what they were looking for. They realised early on it wasn’t relevant. Or perhaps they realised this was about a BMW and they were looking for a Aston Marton. And finally, here’s the real killer. If it’s a bad video (low quality production, hard to hear, amateur-looking, etc.) most people will turn it off right there–unless they perceive the content to be extremely relevant and important in which case they will grab a scotch, squint up their eyes and persevere the torture of watching the video. But that would be a rare exception.
But here’s the good news. It isn’t the number of VIEWS that the search engines consider important any more. (they used to, but like in Blackhat SEO, people found ways to “game the system” and inflate their view counts.) Instead what the search engines consider important is the audience retention analytic. And that tells them what percentage of people found the content relevant.
So, if you think about it, your competition is in the same boat in trying to sell their widgets. Their market is not the type of market that is going to do anything more than watch the video to see if it suits their company, their needs, etc. in order to put forward a purchase order or arrange further meetings to obtain the service or product.
So if you both have videos on your respective widgets, who has the advantage? The advantage goes to the company whose video (or other web page content) appears to be most relevant to the search and that is determined by how long people watch the video or otherwise engage on your site. If, in the case of video, it sees the percentage is 5% or lower (bad video), that’s struck off the list by the search engine. Bad or amateur video not only doesn’t pay, it’s destructive because it gives a poor impression of your company no matter how good your products and services really are.
Occasionally I used to check the views of my clients videos on their sites (not my Youtube channel where they are tagged and titled for my purposes more than theirs). One client had over 6000 views of three different videos featuring multi-million pound industrial installations in the first year of their upload, and one of the three videos at the time had been uploaded only a few months earlier. I’m not able to look further into their analytics for audience retention, etc., but that was an impressive view count for that particular product. Even a small percentage of those 6000 views leading to further contact would have meant a LOT of money for that business.
So the moral is, in terms of video, do everything I said above anyway. And make sure it’s a good, professional video that’s pure relevant content for what it is you’re trying to sell. And that is what will rank you higher than the competition.
It still stands true that video is the best engagement object out there.
Used correctly, the return on investment will make it one of the most cost effective advertising methods you have ever employed.