Adding video to your content strategy: The impact to traffic and rankings.

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Andy Crestodina
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Our original content strategy was simple: combine a blog with a newsletter. Post an article, send an email and stay top of mind with our audience.

Things have changed since 2007, but the idea of combining channels is still at the heart of the most effective content strategies. Smart marketers combine influencers and SEO, social media and PR, etc.

Also central to most content strategies is the idea of reformatting content, in which the content is adapted from one format into another. Smart marketers turn webinars into podcasts, articles into infographics, etc.

With a new focus on these concepts, we’ve changed our content strategy.

We are now doing more reformatting (turning long-form articles into 12 minute videos) and leveraging a new channel (YouTube).

Here’s the difference.

It was a blogging and SEO content strategy. It is now more of blog and YouTube content strategy. This post will show you the plan, the process and the results of this change. Fun, right? Here goes…

The goals: adding YouTube to an existing content strategy

The idea was to put videos on the articles that are already getting some traffic from search, with three goals in mind:

  • Boost the search rankings of the article in Google: These are pages that are already ranking, but could rank higher. Assumes that dwell time is a Google search ranking factor.
  • Jumpstart the visibility of the video in YouTube: Eventually getting the video to rank in YouTube search or become a suggested video. Assumes that plays and attention are YouTube search ranking factors. Also assumes that YouTube favors videos that pull people into their site.
  • Create another chance to appear in Google search results: The YouTube video might appear in a video carousel or in one of those giant video featured snippets. Assumes that video appears in the SERPs for that phrase.

Nice side benefits might include:

  • Improve the behavior metrics on the article (time on page, bounce rate)
  • Grow our email list (visitors who watch the video may be be more likely to subscribe)
  • Attract visitors from YouTube to the article (we knew this was unlikely)
  • Grow subscribers on YouTube (admittedly, a long term play)

Adding video to the content strategy is a big commitment, there seemed to be so many possible benefits. Here’s what we did.

The process: combining video with high-ranking articles

The idea is simple:

  1. Identify evergreen articles that rank in search and are already attracting visitors
  2. Produce a video version of that article, post to YouTube
  3. Embed the YouTube video in the article, near the top
  4. Put the article back in rotation (top of the blog, new social promotion)

The time required for each video is 3+ hours. That includes everything: plan, record, edit, write the YouTube description, publish, embed and basic social promotion.

We’ve done this 10 times over the last year and a half, so we’re ready to report on the results. We’ve doubled the frequency the last few months. We are following recommendation #21 from our Get Ready for the Rebound post.

We started out with two built-in advantages:

  • There are quite a few articles in our library that already rank well
  • We have a bunch of presentations and decks, giving us a headstart shooting videos

Alternatively, If you’ve already got pre-recorded webinars, workshops and any other video content, those would be great candidates for uploading on YouTube as it’s own video.

It’s 100% possible to build a YouTube-powered content strategy without these advantages, but the results will take longer.

The results: visits and views, engagement and conversions

Here’s the report for one example, our article and video about website navigation. This is a mini-case study about a piece of content. Obviously, this is not an experiment or research study.

This article originally went live December, 2012 and was updated on September, 2018. The video was shot, posted to YouTube and embedded into the article on March, 2020.

1. Video’s impact to traffic and rankings of the article

Here is the traffic (Google Analytics) and the rankings (for “website navigation” as tracked in Moz) combined in one chart.

You can see that updating the video in 2018 made a huge difference in search traffic. But traffic declined over the last year, not because rankings dropped but because of SERP features. Notice that the traffic dropped even when rankings didn’t.

It looks like adding the video may have actually contributed to a recent ranking and traffic lift! More on the possible reasons for that in a minute.

2. Video’s impact to engagement and conversion

We track video views on our website using event tracking (here’s how to do that with Google Tag Manager) so we can measure the impact of these videos on engagement in Analytics.

In this report, we set up two segments: the watchers and the non-watchers. The difference is dramatic.

Visitors who watch the video spent 4x as much time on the article. They are 4.5x more likely to convert. They are also 10% less likely to bounce.

The video clearly has a major impact on engagement with the content.

3. Video’s performance in YouTube and Google

This video doesn’t seem to be ranking on its own in Google (there are no video snippets in the SERPs for the target keyphrases) but it does get a bit of traffic from other YouTube sources. 32% of the views come from browse features, suggested videos, notifications, etc.

But most of the views are from that embedded player in the article.


Inconsistent data? Notice how the numbers don’t match. Analytics says the play button has been clicked 414 times but YouTube says it has 498 views from external sources. Surprised? We are not. Analytics is never totally accurate.

4. Video’s impact on website traffic from YouTube

The clickthrough rate from the video on YouTube to the blog is abysmal. Vanishingly small. This is the link from the YouTube description. It’s just very unlikely that a viewer will click on the “show more” link to see the description and then click on the link to get to the article.

It’s happened only 12 times for this article, according to the landing page report when YouTube is added as a secondary dimension.


To make this more likely, we’ve started adding a little call-to-action in the videos. It sounds like it.

“If you’re watching this on YouTube, open the description to find a link to a step-by-step article that explains everything in this video, in a quick scannable, sharable format.”

This isn’t working very well. Even though total traffic from YouTube is up, it’s still only 200 visits per month. That’s 0.2% of our total traffic.

5. Video’s impact on brand awareness (total views, YouTube subscribers)

There’s more to life that website traffic. Views on YouTube and an engaged subscribed audience on that platform could be valuable. Here are the results in YouTube Analytics.

Since it’s been posted 10 weeks ago, this video has created a bit of brand visibility:

  • 750 views
  • 60 hours total viewing time
  • Around five minutes average viewing duration
  • A dozen or so new YouTube subscribers

That’s not bad! And we expect these numbers to rise for years, all for a 3-4 hour effort.

Our friends who combine YouTube and search optimized articles report similar, strong results.


alexander rus, EVERGREEN MEDIA

“We started combining our usual content marketing efforts with weekly YouTube videos in 2016 and it changed everything for us as an SEO agency. Better Google rankings, more brand searches and a higher conversion rate.


Examples of YouTube content strategies

You can see how this works in a B2B content strategy. It’s easy to imagine how this could work for all kinds of companies. Most websites have a few pages that rank. Some already have videos.

Healthcare / Legal:

  • “It looks like site ranks for our doctors/lawyers names. Let’s add personal bio videos to those bio pages.” – Impact: Engagement, trust

Ecommerce:

  • “We have a few products that consistently get traffic from search. Let’s add product description videos to those few product detail pages.” – Impact: Higher conversion rates, possible rankings in YouTube

Non-profit:

  • “Our homepage is the only page that gets traffic from search. Let’s move the video that explains our mission from the about page to the homepage.” – Impact: Engagement, more views

Does embedded video help articles rank?

Let’s check the data and answer the big question.

They searched for a phrase in Google and clicked on a link on the search results page. Boom. You have a visitor.

But how long does the visitor stay on your page? This is called dwell time and it’s widely believed to be one of the “user interaction signals” that affects search rankings.

How to get visitors to spend more time on the page? Video.

According to Analytics, embedding a video increased the average time on page. So the hypothesis is that adding video can indirectly improve search rankings by improving dwell time.

Does it work? Let’s check.

Here are the rankings for the top keyphrase for three articles that got a little video upgrade. You can see that video doesn’t seem to have a strong impact on the rankings…

In our experience, rewriting the article (bringing it up to date and republishing it without changing the URL) can have a dramatic impact on rankings. But just adding video… not so much.

But the other benefits are enough for us.

Why YouTube?

There is a saying “don’t build on rented land.” Why go through the massive effort of building a YouTube audience? Why not focus on on-site content?

Well, on-site video still needs a hosting and streaming service. And YouTube is a massive engine for content discovery, famously referred to as the second most popular search engine.

According to this influencer research by Izea, an audience on YouTube is worth much more than and audience on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The average cost of hiring an influencer to promote you on YouTube is more than the average cost of all the other channels combined.

Apparently, an engaged, subscribed audience on YouTube is very valuable. We’re going to keep it up.

We’re still polishing it, but if you’re interested, take a look at what our channel looks like on YouTube.

Any and all feedback is welcome!

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Comments (14)
  • Video adds sound and full motion visual from your location…puts your hometown on the map. The viewer hears your voice, sees your face. The connection is more personable than a blog post. Video is toggle the link easy..sit back and watch, listen, connect with the presenter’s message. Cross pollination of your media channels adds to your audience delivery numbers.

    • Agreed. It’s such a powerful format for content. It’s worth considering, if for that reason alone.

  • I have helped clients grow their youtube channels organically and this has always helped their google rank and increased local business. one thing with youtube is you get a lot of tire kickers so you have to decide the best way to respond to them (not put too much cash into it). I have done it a different way though, created the youtube video and then content from that…not the other way around.

  • So what if YouTube does something draconian…like claim all video content as their property? (wait…a tech company would never do that, right?) Can’t you drive traffic to your website by using your own video-embedding technology? Wistia allows that, I think (?) Then, you could use YouTube as just a search engine hook –> click here to watch the rest of this video

    • 4 people have ever read the document (link below) YouTube’s TOS.

      Me, my lawyer and the 2 child lawyers Youtube uses for enforcement.

      Allow me to quote from the document:

      “Rights you Grant

      You retain ownership rights in your Content. However, we do require you to grant certain rights to YouTube and other users of the Service, as described below.

      License to YouTube

      By providing Content to the Service, you grant to YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable license to use that Content (including to reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works, display and perform it) in connection with the Service and YouTube’s (and its successors’ and Affiliates’) business, including for the purpose of promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service.

      License to Other Users

      You also grant each other user of the Service a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to access your Content through the Service, and to use that Content, including to reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works, display, and perform it, only as enabled by a feature of the Service (such as video playback or embeds). For clarity, this license does not grant any rights or permissions for a user to make use of your Content independent of the Service.

      Duration of License

      The licenses granted by you continue for a commercially reasonable period of time after you remove or delete your Content from the Service. You understand and agree, however, that YouTube may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of your videos that have been removed or deleted.

      https://www.youtube.com/t/terms

      Only Facebook does not respect this.

      • Those T’s and C’s sound pretty reasonable, actually! I’m surprised to see myself type that sentence. Basically, you allow YT to play the file and anyone to embed it through YT and play it anywhere. It’s like a syndication contract with anyone who embeds as a potential sub-syndicator. Makes sense.

        To your point, no, I’d never read them before. You are one of the very few, Mitch!

        • Acknowledged

  • Hi Andy,

    Hope you the family and staff are well.

    I know I related to you how YouTube pulled 350 original content videos specializing in pet bird care due to “copyright violations and hate speech”

    After recovering in re-shooting as many videos as possible I move them to WordPress hosting (available for nine dollars per month per site)

    That worked out splendidly until one night a single file XPFCPL.php (don’t quote me) fell off four sites and a thousand videos went dark.

    A 4000 word thread with WordPress support over 13 hours ended with me capitalizing expletives because deleting and reinstalling WordPress or the core WordPress depending upon who you were talking to, was not an acceptable solution to me.

    Fortunately all MP4’s were not residing in Google photos.

    I started moving them one by one (and still doing so) to Smugmug with with unlimited video hosting for $5.99 a month which I used for embedding.

    I tried Flikr but embedded videos resolve back to Flikr.

    And now to your point.

    I firmly believe that a video site map (we use Yoast) helps Google indexing.

    Obviously I’m a big fan of product videos and I’m not sure how much they actually boost conversion of an individual product (make up your own statistic) but wild and crazy guy that I am, I engineered a new form of video blogging.

    I wrote a 676 word blog post about several individual types of pet bird food from a particular manufacturer “Goldenfeast”

    I had been ranking on page 4 for the term Goldenfeast, until I published this post and within 72 hours I found myself on SERP 3 just below Amazon.

    I have slipped to SERP 4 since the videos went dark but now that they have been replaced I’m hoping to see a rebound

    In my spare time, I will start producing similar hybrid content.

    Just an FYI

    https://www.windycityparrot.com/blog/2018/04/25/video-reviews-for-every-blend-of-goldenfeast-bird-food/

  • Will adding videos to your site , will reduce the download time , specialiiy in Mobiles? This can be a major disadvantage if your mobile users and more than 1/2 the audiance.

    • The videos don’t load unless the visitor clicks play, and even then, they stream in so the visitor doesn’t have to download the entire file before viewing. And YouTube has some very advanced ways to throttle back quality if the connection is slow.

      For these reasons, I wouldn’t let slow connections or high percentages of mobile visitors discourage you from trying this strategy!

  • Awesome article Mr. Crestodina.
    Over the past 2 years, I researched and learned the ways of WordPress and the software stack I would need to properly service my online marketing needs. During my research – I developed a personal standard associated with my online content consumption.
    1. The first criteria is to check the date of the post. If the post is more than one year old, I am reluctant to even open the listing in Google. One year old content is old in today’s fast moving game of online marketing and software development.
    2. The second criteria – is there a video in the post? The video must be very close to the top of the page or certainly not far below the fold. I am moderately tolerant if I don’t see a video. The first lines of print content better be what I need/looking for or I am out of there. The first minute of the video is crucial. Company and brand identification must be extremely short. The video has to get to the meat of the subject right away or I am gone. I will often open the video in YouTube as well to see the date of publication. If it is over 2 years old – I’m gone. It is also very interesting that I will not remember the brand/company/video person unless I consume 3-4 really good pieces of content by the same people/person/brand.
    3. If there is no video associated with the content I am looking for – I question the validity, capability and credibility of the brand or company. I know, I know – some people just don’t like doing video and some are not good at it and some people are better writers than they are videors. However, if your company grosses more than 300k per year – you better get out there and hire some video people and do the job up right.
    4. Instructional video (how to set up and run a piece of software) I think is now the standard. Software without explicit training videos – I’m gone.
    Wow – kinda dumped it all out here. Sorry about my exuberant download.
    Again – tremendous article. video will be a big part of our game when I can settle down and stabilize all the tech stuff and get things rolling.
    Cheers
    Andy
    https://donnaandandy.com/

    • Thanks for that input, Andy. It’s appreciated.

      I’d love to do a video for each post, but I just don’t have the time. It’s tough. Most of our articles are 8+ hour content projects. The typical video is 3-4 hours. For now, I can’t meet the every-post-gets-a-video standard, partly because I still do a lot of sales and service work. Marketing is only about half of my role. But I do my best!

      As for dates, we are often criticized for this. We do include dates in many articles (especially research) in the title, header and body text. But we made a strategic decision to not put a date stamp into the template of the blog.

      Most of our content is “evergreen” and has lifespans beyond the 2 year window you mentioned. Many of our highest traffic, highest value posts are much older than two years. When I read them today, I still find them relevant and useful.

      The date-or-no-date question is relevant to the news-or-no-news question, which we addressed in this post. You might find it interesting…
      https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/two-kinds-of-content-strategies/

      I’m glad you clicked on this post, despite the lack of date and video! And I’m grateful you left a commend.

      • Tremendous – thanks for your reply.
        I know – hard to fit it all in – all these jobs we gotta do.
        Evergreen content – always good.
        I clicked on the link in the email because the subject matter is important to us. But most of all, I clicked because of your reputation. I have followed your content for a couple if years. I enjoy your presentations and trust your messages and content. Thanks for all that.
        Cheers!

  • Just want to clarify something. The text says the article was updated September 2018 (it actually cites that date twice). But the chart indicates the update was in 2016. Can you clarify? Am I misreading? Nice article, will need to delve further. Thanks.

 
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