In Search [Episode 35]: Winning on Both YouTube and on the Google SERP!
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July 16, 2019 |
The In Search SEO Podcast
The In Search SEO Podcast Community Question of the Week!
Google's video carousel (or video box on mobile) is a highly noticeable and engaging SERP element. How does more video content on the SERP change your SEO strategy?
Summary of Episode 35: The In Search SEO Podcast
This week we welcome SEO consultant, Itamar Blauer
who comes on to share his expertise on:
- Tips, tricks, and general advice when optimizing your videos
- Breaking down video creation barriers
- How to get your videos to rank well on both YouTube AND on the SERP
Plus, why you should start thinking of EVERYTHING from an entity perspective!
Why an Entity Focused SEO Outlook Is in Order [01:57 - 19:09]
Mordy was recently speaking at a meetup in Tel Aviv with some really great folk: Eli Schwartz, Liraz Poston, Igal Stolpner, and Ari Nachmani. A lot of what Mordy talked about was how the mobile first index directly relates to the ccTLD update Google ran in October 2017 and how it all connects to things like the core algorithm updates and of course how it applies to international SEO.
One part we’ll focus on is what Mordy calls entity-centricity. If you look back at what’s changed over the past 10 months and even way before that, maybe the last two years… you can boil it down to Google having a far better understanding of what a topic consists of: what it is and what it relates to.
You can go so far back as February 2018 where Google introduced Multi-Faceted Feature Snippets
. These are a series of two snippets were one sits on top of the other in order to offer a more in-depth look at the topic represented by the query. The original case found was a Featured Snippet telling you what plants need full sun with the second snippet telling you what is considered full sun. So you have one Featured Snippet with Google telling you how to do something and the second Featured Snippet is qualifying it and telling you what it means.
You can even go back to changes in December of 2017 to the Knowledge Panel where Google introduced a carousel of cards showing a person/entity’s "notable life moments.”
This is what morphed into the Google Stories we have nowadays in the Knowledge Panel. Google Stories are where a famous person will get a card inside the Knowledge Panel that gives you this whole visual story of their life and all the most important things about it.
Our point is that you can really look back over the past two years and point to Google having a far better understanding of what an entity is conceptually.
Now for SEOs, these are well-known ideas. The question is what do we do with this awareness? You see, we sort of fawn over Google or even gawk as Google increases its understanding of entities exponentially yet we don’t realize how hot this topic is.
The way we look at how Google understands entities should change how we think about SEO and sites altogether. And we’re not saying that what we do has to change. You’re still going to do keyword research, you’re still going to think about and track your keywords. If you’re doing international SEO you’re still going to translate your content. But… how you think about what you’re doing, what you do with the data you have, and how you think about the data you have, should be a little bit different.
So Google can understand entities better. Let’s use Marlon Brando as an example. He’s an actor and a pop culture icon. Google displays the highlights of his life (Google Stories), who else he relates to, other actors, and others who have won Oscars. In other words, Google has moved way beyond the idea of simply showing a list of movies the actor was in.
However, now you also have this on the site level as well. Now Google asks not only, "What is cnet.com writing about?” but also "Who is cnet.com?” Well, it’s an informational site that offers reviews and in-depth product information that does not ram buying anything down your throat. It’s focused on tech products as opposed to say health products.
In other words, Google is profiling sites
. Who is this site, what does it mean to do, and what is and what is not relevant to the site from a keyword perspective?
And we’ve seen a ton of signs that Google is doing this based on the recent core updates.
It’s too much to get into now… but there are a lot of signs that Google is profiling sites and rewarding keywords that are highly relevant to that profile and demoting rank for keywords that sit at the site’s profile border.
So while what you will do will still be the same, the way you think might be a little different when considering sites as entities.
For example, you’re still going to do keyword research, but instead of just thinking about search volume or developing broad topical relevance you’ll also think about what does and does not fit into your site’s profile. In other words, you’ll think of keyword research from the context of building a really solid and concentrated core profile that really stands out and has tremendous cohesiveness to it.
Let’s say you’re translating content into multiple languages. If you’re thinking about sites as entities you’re not just going to translate your pages, you’re not only going to change a word here and there to ensure regional relevance. Rather, you’re going to think about how the very thing you do, the very content you write, the very product you sell is thematically different from one market to the next. You’re going to think about how a site that does what you do is thought of and related to differently from country to country.
Take rank tracking. You can check your rankings, you can check how volatile those rankings are as we’ve discussed in the recent past
… but now I think you should also look and see what that data says about your profile.
Let’s say you’re a travel site. You have all sorts of topical content on your site. You have pages upon pages on hotels, pages upon pages on flights, and pages upon pages on location attractions, etc. What Mordy suggests is to categorize your keywords by topic tags. Have all your keywords about flights in one tag, all of your hotel keywords in another, etc. By grouping your keywords by topic you can now view your overall rank tracking by topic.
By doing so, you see that perhaps your hotel keywords are doing poorly in a specific market while your flight and attraction pages are doing quite well. In this case, your lack of top rankings is most likely not the result of a technical error that just so happens to be on all of your hotel pages but not on any of your flight pages. What’s more likely is that Google believes your site is more relevant for flights and attractions and not for hotels. That in this country, for whatever reason, your pages are not what Google expects to see when dealing with hotels in that market.
In our "hotels” case, Google’s conclusion is your site fits the bill for this market when it comes to flights but not when it comes to hotels. Now, there may be a million reasons why this is the case, but unless you’re tracking your keywords by topic you won’t know how Google is looking at your sub-profiles. Every profile has layers to it. Just like you can’t characterize a person in just one word, so too a site has a very nuanced and layered profile.
If you don’t organize your keywords by topic you might see a ranking loss here and there and won’t realize that there might be an issue with how Google views your site for this particular sub-element.
So say it with us… same actions, same things we’ve always been doing… but in a bit of a different context.
Creating the Best Video Content & Getting It onto Both YouTube & the Google SERP [19:09 - 44:12]
[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]
Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast exclusive interview. Today we have video marketer extraordinaire, Itamar Blauer. He is an SEO and video marketing consultant
out of the UK!
So you’re a musician, right?
Yeah, I play guitar. It’s good fun.
Good for you. The only thing I play is the Play button.
Let’s get started here. How does YouTube’s algorithm differ from Google’s SERP video placement algorithm?
That’s a good question as people think the fact that Google owns YouTube that their algorithms work similarly. But from YouTube’s perspective, they have signals of how good they perceive a video to be and this can be the clickthrough rate, the engagement metrics such as likes, comments, and shares. The main metric is watch time in the YouTube algorithm as to how highly they’ll rank a video. Metadata is also a key factor such as the title, description, tags, and closed captions.
With Google, their SERP video placement is mainly related to how well a particular video can satisfy a user based on their search. This is obviously different depending on the search query and the need for there to be a video in the results because Google doesn’t always put a video in the SERP results. Those are the two main differences. Although they’re quite similar they’re not exactly the same.
One of the common misconceptions I hear is that YouTube is very concerned with watch time and wants to be the new form of television. The longer the content the better which is why you want videos between at least 15-20 minutes long. Regarding the SERP, people are saying that the SERP is a different form of user that Google is targeting who wants shorter content. My issue with this is that I’ve seen videos on the SERP that run for 9 or 10 minutes so does a video’s runtime matter for the SERP?
Absolutely not. Google is only going to show videos that are relevant and that will satisfy the user whether it’s a 2-minute video or a 10-minute video. As an example, if you search on Google Alice in Chains concert there’s a video carousel with the first three videos being an hour long. That obviously shows the intent of the person searching for the concert as they are usually over an hour long. So it’s definitely a myth that Google is showing shorter videos on the SERP. It’s rather about the intent.
Right. The best part of it is you can see the multiple intents on the SERP. One person might want a 2-minute video while another needs one for two hours.
I did a study last August on just how wide the gap is between a video’s spot within the SERP’s video carousel/box and YouTube ranking
Is there then a way to both rank well on YouTube and get prominent SERP placement within Google’s video features? Is there a sort of "optimization overlap”? How does intent play into all of this?
If you are ranking well on YouTube, then there is a high chance that your video is better suited at satisfying the user base than the intent for the Google video SERP. If that is the case that you’re ranking high on YouTube and YouTube considers your video to be relevant for that term then there’s a better chance that Google will also display it high within the video carousels.
Back to the Alice in Chains example, the first two videos that show for that query on YouTube are included in the first three video carousel results in the SERP for the same query.
Right, and that does happen, but from what I found the average rank on YouTube of the first video carousel was 14. So what would explain a gap?
I think at the end of the day it’s all about the intent from Google’s perspective. Although the algorithms can be similar I think it really comes down to the search query.
Right, as when I did my study there were keywords that had matched results for YouTube and Google. It’s very much like search itself. How do you deal with a given keyword or a given URL at the page level? We sometimes speak of intent at the niche or industry level but intent is really at the keyword level and that would seem to imply to YouTube at the query level.
You got to think about how machine learning is progressing. You did your study last year and in a year’s time, Google got better at processing different types of content. They’re getting better with their algorithms. And because video is getting more popular it’s maybe a sign for Google to find the need to adapt to this increased use of video within their search engine. Over time, I think Google will get better at displaying the best video results for the search queries.
That is a good point because there was a point in time where video carousel placement was a bit erratic. I remember Glen Gabe doing a study on video placement on the SERP for commerce queries which were all over the place. I still think there’s irrelevant video placement on the SERP but I see it is getting better.
When creating a video, is there an optimization overlap when considering YouTube and the Google SERP?
Yes, you can optimize for both YouTube and the Google SERP and one of the main ways to do that is with the signals I mentioned earlier (engagement signals, etc.) and the signals to both YouTube and Google that your video is relevant for that query.
Which is harder, in your estimation, ranking well within YouTube or getting your video on the Google SERP?
I think it’s harder on YouTube because on YouTube there are 300 hundred hours of video that is uploaded to the platform every minute. It’s very competitive nowadays much more than a decade ago. People forget sometimes that you don’t necessarily need to rank in the Google SERP and people will often make search queries on YouTube where they’re anticipating to watch a video rather than searching on Google.
Getting your video on the Google SERP is more of a luxury than a necessity, but it does depend on the industry and the search query because it sometimes can be beneficial to rank your videos with search terms like how to
as these buzzwords have shown to show more videos on the Google SERP. So I definitely believe ranking on YouTube is harder because on YouTube there are no pages rather it’s an infinite scroll just due to the vast competition on YouTube’s platform.
Yeah, and that’s exactly my problem with an infinite scroll. And while Google got rid of pagination on mobile search having an infinite scroll will change the entire ranking paradigm exactly like it is on YouTube.
Yeah, with an infinite scroll it’s harder to track your progress over time. It’s just so easy for someone to keep scrolling and miss your content completely without even seeing your title or your thumbnail.
Yeah, that would definitely be a game changer.
In terms of necessity on ranking on the Google SERP, should you upload to other platforms other than YouTube like Vimeo, for example? Obviously, the more places your video is being seen the better but in terms of placing on the SERP is it a good idea. Yes, Google shows videos that aren’t from YouTube, but once your video is on YouTube is there really any benefit to having the same video on Vimeo?
YouTube is the most popular platform, but different platforms have different use cases. For example, Vimeo is used a lot for high-quality professional content especially for large corporations like car manufacturers, etc. But while Google is always down to satisfying the user, Google may be biased in showing YouTube videos more than anywhere else. Then again, you need to think about the scale. YouTube has more videos uploaded on its platform than probably all the other hosting platforms combined. It’s a tough call. I think because there are so many videos uploaded on YouTube there’s a higher chance there will be a relevant video on YouTube than another platform that has way fewer uploads about a particular topic. So when Google has to pick the videos for its video carousel on the SERP it may be more likely that Google will find a relevant video on YouTube.
Again, that’s not always the case as you do see videos from other platforms like Vimeo or DailyMotion, but as I said, it comes down to scale.
You brought up an interesting point. I’m assuming there are video platforms for specific niches. Is Google aware of that? Does Google consider the platform vis-a-vis intent? For example, if there was a video platform just for cars should you upload to that platform?
Does Google consider the intent of the platform itself when ranking videos on the SERP?
I think it might be the case. I think because of YouTube’s popularity and the scale of the platform will take the edge over more niche and relevant hosting platforms. At the end of the day, YouTube is a host of all types of video content and even if there are niche platforms I’m sure you’ll find on YouTube millions of videos in that niche. But I do think that if Google sees a video hosted on a platform more relevant to that niche that it will place it on the SERP, but I haven’t seen too many of these niche specific platforms. Theoretically, it makes sense, but in reality, I don’t think it happens.
Well, considering the way Google now improved its ability to understand things at the domain level it would make sense.
I heard that to have your video rank well in Google SERP you need your YouTube videos to be embedded on a page. Is that a myth or a fact?
I think it might help your web pages rank higher for relevant keywords, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a higher chance of ranking in the video carousel on the SERP. As a rule of thumb, you should embed videos on relevant pages or blog posts to improve the overall engagement of that page and in terms of rankings, but I don’t think there’s a direct correlation between embedding pages and ranking on video carousels.
How important is the verbal content of your video for SERP placement relative to YouTube ranking? I ask because Google does know what content is in your video. For example, Google uses the video’s transcript to create a more effective starting point for the videos within Featured Snippets. Applying the same logic, does Google look at the verbal content when trying to rank you on the SERP? If it’s doing it for the Featured Snippet why not for the video carousel?
That’s a great point and much like structured data is important to give signals to Google regarding what your site’s content is about so too with YouTube’s subtitles and closed captions as they play a similar role. People forget that the YouTube bot can’t actually watch your video. What it can do is get signals as to what your video is about which includes the metadata but more importantly the subtitles. When you have the subtitles within your YouTube videos you can get the YouTube bot to get a better understanding of your video content to see if it’s actually relevant to that search query that you’re trying to rank for within the metadata like the title, the description, and the tags.
I think it’s so important because then YouTube can actually see based on what you’re actually saying in the actual video. There are so many keywords that could be thrown in if you’ve got a video that’s very relevant. When you’ve got those subtitles it makes it easier to be higher in the search results for both YouTube and for the Google SERP video carousels. They’re definitely the way to go.
I want to go into my last topic for today, video creation. What do you say to someone who is too overwhelmed to get into video content due to "equipment barriers?”
I think you shouldn’t rush into video content creation without a plan and part of that plan is equipment. So if someone says they can’t do it because of equipment barriers, the fact that there are so many choices nowadays makes it kind of like an excuse. I don’t want to be harsh but that’s the reality. Solid video content equipment shouldn’t cost you more than 1000 pounds. Overall, it’s an investment, but it’s a pretty safe one because the equipment that you get can be used for so many years and you’ll see it pay dividends. There’s so much you can get and the more competition means the lower the costs. I will definitely say that equipment barriers aren’t really a thing nowadays.
Okay, we’re in the lightning round. Can you shoot off your most recommended video creation equipment? Best camera, best microphone, etc.
Best video camera: Panasonic Lumix G DMC-G80. It’s really nice for video recordings. It shoots in 4K. Quality is great. Manual focus looks fantastic.
Best microphone: Blue Yeti. It’s the one I’m using right now I’ve had it for years. It has a lot of great settings. You can record yourself when you’re talking directly in front of it, from both sides in an interview, or omnidirectional (surround sound).
Optimize It or Disavow It
If you could do only one, would you create a custom Image Thumbnail sure to catch the user’s eye or an optimized title for your video?
I’m going to give the classic SEO answer of it depends. If we’re assuming the optimized custom image you put up is guaranteed to get clicks then I’d say definitely the image thumbnail. The reason I didn’t choose an optimized title is because there are so many optimized titles on YouTube that are very similar. At the end of the day, what makes people click is the thumbnail.
Alright, Itamar. Thank you so much for coming. I really appreciate your insights and your time, it was really invaluable.
Thanks for having me, Mordy.
SEO News [47:15 - 51:14]
New SERP Changes and Tests:
A lot of changes/tests to the SERP to discuss. First and foremost, Google has rolled out its AMP Visual Stories
at the top of the mobile SERP.
Also, the Mobile Knowledge Panel was spotted sporting a tab containing interesting finds
which are normally a standalone SERP feature.
Disappearing Reviews Bug:
Another Google bug… this one had reviews disappearing from some Local Panels
. Some suggested this was because of the @shortname, the URL for your Google My Business profile. However, Google has said that is not the case.
Customer Review Images Being Displayed in Ads:
Google is starting to roll out images in its reviews that appear as a part of an ad
. Meaning, if a consumer uploaded a review via a certain review partner, Google may show the image as part of an ad’s review section.
Google News Sports a New Look: Google News has a new look on desktop
. The new format uses cards along with a series of People Also Search for Boxes that show topics related to the original search.
Fun SEO Send-Off Question [51:14 - 56:13]
What would Google’s wrestling name be?
Sapir admits to never watching a wrestling match in her life, just wanted to put it out there. The wrestling scene from the 2002 Spiderman movie with Tobey Maguire is all she knows about wrestling. So she guesses Google will want a weird and lousy nickname, so maybe World Dominator
Mordy is stuck between two choices: The Rank Robber
or The Searchabilly Kid
. Mordy does add that if the had to give a name to the whole SEO industry it would be The Fluctuation Avenger
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast