November 9th, 2010 | 4 MIN READ

7 Deadly Sins of Video SEO

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Video content on ecommerce sites has helped many retailers improve their conversion rates, reduce returns, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Video can also attract more search engine traffic, thanks to Google's Universal Search, which mixes video, image, Google Shopping and news results for certain queries.

While we've all seen Youtube results appearing in Universal Search, but some online retailers are winning top slots in search pages with well optimized video - showing their own URL for a branding boost.

Unfortunately, too many e-tailers that use video on their sites are missing their SEO opportunity. A recent study by SundaySky examined the use and promotion of ecommerce video on the top 50 sites of the Internet Retailer 500 Guide. While Amazon and HSN manage to get 100% of their video content indexed on Google, only 1 in 3 videos on Overstock were crawled by Google, 1 in 20 on Systemax and roughly 1 in 250 on QVC (a site that's known for its video content).

Here are some common mistakes that might be hurting your video SEO:

1. Not submitting a video sitemap through webmaster tools

You should take advantage of Webmaster tools provided by the major search engines. Among other wonderful things, they accept XML sitemap submission, which directly tells the search engine about every web page on your site you wish to be indexed. This can help your site get crawled deeper than if you left the search engine spiders to their own devices. A video sitemap does exactly what you think, it helps search engines find all your videos.

Here's how you do it for Google.

You can also submit an mRSS feed (media RSS) to Google or Bing. Bing recommends you create a Bing-specific mRSS feed through Bing Webmaster Tools for maximal indexing.

Some online video platforms like Treepodia offer dynamic sitemap creation as part of their offering.

2. Sloppy tags

Tags must be entered properly. Any omitted tag or incorrect format will return an error. If you don't have a value to enter into a tag, you can't leave it blank. Instead, use double parentheses (""), which is an acceptable format. Another common gotcha is incorrect date format. Google requires date to be YYYY-MM-DD. If you enter 10-11-12, your sitemap will be rejected. Similarly, 11-21-2010 would not be accepted.

3. Using a video format that is not supported

Google sitemaps accept .mpg, .mpeg, .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .wmv, .avi, .asf, .ra, .ram and .flv files. However, if you use both the player_loc (location) and content_loc tags (only one is required, but Google recommends you use both) you can get around this.

4. Not giving your videos unique URLs

You may have pages that contain multiple videos (e.g a software product with demos and tutorials). But each video must have its own URL for Google to be able to index individual videos. You can workaround this by using a URL parameter like a hashtag to make each video's location unique. E.g.

5. Improper use of Robots.txt

Google is very respectful of your wishes in your robots.txt files. If you disallow User-agent "Googlebot" anywhere on your site, Google will not crawl those pages. So it's important to be triply sure that all the URLs included in your site map allow Googlebot access.

6. Not using keywords in title tags and descriptions

This goes back to basic SEO 101 for web pages. The title tag is so important to ranking - it's all about keywords, baby! For example, your product video might be titled "Overview." Oof. Better to include the product name, and append it with words someone might actually search for, like "[product] demo" or "[product] video" or "[product] video review." Your sitemap includes these tags so make sure they're optimized!

7. Use a CDN or other means to speed up performance

Hosting your own video can help you outrank Youtube for your own content, but it can slow your site down. Using a content delivery network will help your pages load super-fast, which is now a search engine ranking factor. Google doesn't want to send searchers to slow landing pages!

Once you've turned from the deadly sins, it's time to move forward with acts of righteousness. Tune in on Friday, I'll share the 5 Heavenly Acts of Righteousness you can apply to your video SEO.


*From time to time I find stats in vendor papers interesting and cite them on Get Elastic. I don't take compensation for mentioning research by other technology vendors.)

**In my research for this post, I found this webinar very helpful for understanding Google's requirements for sitemaps. is a great resource for online video marketing. Tips 2-5 were mentioned in the webinar.

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